A letter to Pam Wilkinson…

You don’t know me and, with any luck, you will never know me. I was the confused teenager going through high school in the 1980’s. No one raised a rainbow flag back then.  What we raised for was religion. We still were standing for the Lord’s Prayer. Too bad for the kids who weren’t Christian but it wasn’t an option to avoid. We could stand in the hall but we were still standing for the prayer no matter where we went. And there was a teacher in the hall to make sure of that. I bet you loved those days.

My classmates all grew up with Three’s Company and Jack’s over the top pretending of being gay. Being gay was a joke… when it wasn’t simply disgusting. Fellow classmates and even some of the teachers talked about driving into the gay section of Toronto just to throw rocks at people on the side walk. It was fun, they said. I hardly thought it was fun for the people getting pelted by stones but they didn’t matter. This was the 80’s.

I don’t have fond memories of school in the 80’s.

I started having suicidal ideation in high school, strong urges to jump over the railings in our local mall, strong enough that I walked by the wall at all times, just in case. I pushed those thoughts away, just like I pushed away any romantic thoughts about girls. I was already being teased, I wasn’t going to be a joke too. Those weren’t my thoughts, they were an aberration.

Sexual education was strictly cisgender and heterosexual. We learned how to make babies and the names of the genitals. Thanks to that education, I learned that what I was feeling was wrong. I didn’t know my own sexual orientation until I was in my mid 40’s. And I certainly never saw a rainbow flag until I was an adult with children of my own.

You were interviewed in an article claiming the rainbow flag is a wall. I disagree. The wall in my school years was built with ignorance, hatred, and ridicule and it kept me from learning who I was for decades. The rainbow flag is a bridge and a sign of community and hope. Countless faith groups support it, it’s not anti-Christian.

The sad part is you have taught your own daughter hatred. The part of the song you disagree with? The song that was played at flag raising?

If you preach hate at the service/those words aren’t anointed/and that holy water that you soak in, is poisoned.”

It’s not anti-Christianity, it’s anti-hatred. He’s saying that hate is not part of Christianity and God will not accept those words. How much hate is in your religion that both you and your daughter felt personally affronted by this.

You said that the rainbow flag builds “walls, not bridges. You can’t get groups to respect each other that way. You cannot broker peace if half the stakeholders have left the table in anger.”

I say that if someone sees a flag, which is widely known as a symbol of love, hope, and unity and see nothing but a wall, there wasn’t going to be a chance to broker peace in the first place. If you can’t handle the symbol of LGBTQIA unity, how can you handle the reality of talking to actual gay, lesbian, and trans people? What are you going to do when a drag queen wants a say, in all their glory? How about when a lesbian couple wants at least one book in the library with same sex partners so their child doesn’t feel invisible? Or a gay thirteen year old wants a Gay-Straight Alliance in his elementary school?

How can you broker peace with someone who wants you to be less than yourself, wants you to hide yourself to make them feel comfortable? You can’t. First it’s the rainbow flag but that won’t be last. You don’t want peace, you want ignorance. You want to not have to face any sign that the LGBTQ community even exists. And that’s not going to happen. So many of us struggled to simply be ourselves and we’re not going to let you push us back into being less than we are.

The rainbow flag is staying. We are staying. Get used to it.

rainbow_flag_insert_by_torbakhopper_via_Flickr

Advertisements

Suicide Prevention Month…

I stood at the patio door and stared into the distance, my hands leaving sweaty prints on the glass. The space between the door and railing was empty and then there was nothing but air between me and the ground seven stories down. Eight if you included the slope to the basement. Seven or eight stories down to concrete or the dumpster if I aimed well enough. And in that case they wouldn’t have to do anything with me at all, just take me away with the trash. That’s all I was, wasn’t I?

I backed away carefully. Was it far enough of a drop? I figured it was but what if it wasn’t? I didn’t want to end up a quadriplegic, unable to try again.

Was it or wasn’t it?

My mind flipped between the two as I sat down to write a rambling note on Facebook. Within half an hour my sister was on her way to pick me up and take me to the hospital. Within four hours I had a diagnosis and a psychiatrist. Then I went to my parents’ house to stay safe for a week.

medsI’ve been admitted to the hospital around four or five times since then, luckily not in the past year, and take enough pills each day that I’m surprised I don’t rattle. I still struggle daily with anxiety. Some days I can’t make it out of the house. Some days I panic in the grocery store. And I have down weeks where I struggle to keep up with the chores and make semi regular meals. Everything seems too much. English muffins get turned into a meal far too often and, even then, they seem so complicated. I’ll stand in the kitchen, near tears, hoping the muffin will be toasted soon so I can scurry back to my room. And did I turn on the microwave for hot chocolate? Maybe… maybe not… and a five minute chore turns into a half hour.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and today is National Suicide Prevention Day and I want to tell you something. Depression lies. It lies hard and it lies deep, hitting at every sore spot it can. It tells you that you’re worthless, that no one cares, you don’t matter, you’ll never matter, no one will ever love you, you’re ugly, stupid, lazy. Meanwhile it’s the one that’s lazy because it tells those same lies to everyone. It’s not just you. I honestly felt the same way too. I didn’t think my family cared. Meanwhile I’d been pulling away from them and they thought I didn’t care.

Reach out for help. There is help available. Check my resources page above for phone numbers and websites. Go to your local PFLAG meeting for community. And go to your ER if you are at the end of your rope and just can’t manage any longer. It will be a long and boring wait but they’ll have staff there to help you.

Be honest with your friends. You’ll be surprised by how many of them are suffering themselves and are looking for someone to talk to. You’ll be surprised by how much support you can get.

You are valuable. You are important. You are worth it. You matter.

Save a life today. Save yours.

tattoo no flash

Breastfeeding…

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about breastfeeding these past few days. It’s not a subject I’ve thought about much in a while but definitely one I have experience with seeing as I’ve nursed for five and a half years total, albeit many years ago.

One of the very first things I learned when I started breastfeeding was to stroke the baby’s cheek. One gentle stroke from cheekbone to the side of the lip and baby will turned toward that side and open their mouth. This is the time to squish your nipple and shove the whole thing, areola included, right toward the back of the baby’s mouth… aiming for the throat. They won’t choke, they’re expecting it. That lets the baby put pressure on the milk ducts and squeeze milk or colostrum out.

The second thing I learned was how to remove the baby. This is more important when baby has teeth but is still good to know just in case baby doesn’t latch on correctly. Stick one finger into the back jaw, just about where the wisdom teeth will eventually come in, and twist very gently. The baby will open their mouth.

If the labour was rough for you then it was rough for the baby too. Expect some exhaustion and disinterest in things like nursing. Don’t worry too much (the nurses will worry for you) the baby has extra fat for a reason. Just keep plugging away. Try a different position. They might nurse better while lying down, goodness knows Kait did. If you want to try this position, lie on your side then put the baby in front of you and on their side. Put your bottom arm above the baby’s head then use your top hand to guide your bottom nipple into the baby’s mouth. It sounds more complicated than it is. Your partner can help if needed.

The milk comes in around the third day. You will not sleep through this. Your breasts will become hard enough to chisel concrete and your nipples will be flatter than pancakes, which makes nursing interesting but still doable. Grab a nipple, just below the areola and squeeze, it’ll squish enough to push into the baby’s mouth and will immediately start leaking milk. This tends to perk up the “I’m not that hungry” baby. If you can’t squeeze it into shape enough, just hand express a bit. You don’t need to know how, your breasts are so full you could probably just poke one and it would be like, “You want milk… okay”. They’ll be dripping all on their own. But rubbing in gentle circles just below the areola will help.

The milk coming in is the part that actively hurts. If you want a break, step into a nice warm shower and let the water run across your breasts. You’ll let down enough for some relief. Expressing milk helps too but is a bit of a vicious cycle because you’re telling your breasts that you need more milk when you really want them to make just enough for the baby and not the whole neighbourhood too. It’s a good idea to sleep with a towel under you because you can (and will) leak through your breast pads. Your body will eventually adjust.

Early breastfeeding feels like you’re nursing with two left hands while riding a unicycle. And the unicycle’s on fire. Neither you or the baby know what you’re doing and you’re going to feel like you got half an instruction book and the baby got completely different instructions. Just give yourself time. You will be a pro at it by the 4th week and, by a year, you can nurse a baby who’s standing upside down and half behind your back… with a finger in your ear. And you will. But, for now, enjoy your relatively immobile wee one.

20180908_184941

Kait as a newborn

The hues of September…

Yesterday was steaming hot, the sort of day where you feel like you walked face first into an athlete’s sweaty gym sock, a huge, all encompassing one. I eyed the outdoor pool wistfully, its quietness a reminder that it’s been closed for another year.

boat at the Peterborough lift locks crop

A boat at the Peterborough lift locks

Today is a different day entirely. Today brings to mind brilliant fall leaves, the smells of cinnamon and nutmeg, crisp autumn apples, and crisp new schedules. While I happily celebrate New Year’s Eve at the end of December, September seems to me like another New Year. I’m sure all sorts of Jewish people agree with me on this 🙂

Colin’s home sick today with a nasty cold but he was back at school yesterday, getting his schedule and starting his math class. Something he’s quite excited about. And Kait will soon be entering the wonderful world of trying to get a baby on some sort of schedule. Meanwhile the baby’s belly will be calling the shots. It’s amazing how insistent something the size of a shooter marble can be.

All my programs start again next week. Yoga on Monday evening, Social Recreation on Tuesday afternoon, and Wellness on Thursday. There’ll be some anxiety while I get back into the routine. There’s some anxiety right now even thinking of it. But I know I’ll get used to it soon and I’m already looking forward to the walks to and/or from groups.

Last year Colin signed me up for a site which offers Google Play credits in exchange for completing surveys. The one thing he didn’t take into consideration is how rarely I actually play games. So the credits have been accumulating since then, reaching a grand total of $44. That was when I discovered the Play store has the newest Doctor Who series. So I bought it and splurged and got the high definition version. Now I’ve got something else to stick in my schedule. I can’t wait to find out how the new doctor’s going to manage falling to a planet from an exploding Tardis.

Spoilers dear

I can’t wait for apple pie and new activities and family time and Thanksgiving and fresh new baby snuggles and apple picking and homemade vegan butter tarts.

Welcome autumn. I didn’t think I had but I missed you.

Two different types of people…

There are two different types of people in this world; those who plan for holidays early and those who say “Why are you buying presents so soon?”… right up until they change their mantra to, “OMG I can’t believe the holiday came so quickly! I barely have enough time to shop!”

I’m firmly in the first category.

Christmas presents

A few of the presents I’ve bought already

At this point I have several presents for Colin, a present for Kait, a present for the little sproglet, presents for both my nieces and one of my nephews, my Mom’s gift, and I know what I’m getting for Kait’s boyfriend. Phew! And almost every single person I mention this to is shocked because it’s so early. Why would I buy presents this soon? Like gifts have an expiration date.

Then there’s the people in my group who give me a knowing nod and smile, one that says, “You’re not alone. I have bags in the closet too.” I like talking to these people. They know the thrill of finding the perfect gift at an amazing price then tucking it away for four months.

My absolute favourite stores to shop at are Dollarama and Marshalls. Dollarama gets some amazing stuff, like that word art picture above, which was originally from Hallmark for $19.95. I love wandering the aisles in search of treasures and am thrilled to pieces when I find one. Marshalls is my favourite place for birthday cards and unique gifts. I already have the sproglet’s 2nd birthday card from there and he hasn’t even been born yet. But it was so cute!

So the earth will continue to spin and I’ll continue to buy presents months in advance. And people will continue to criticize because it’s “too soon”. And I will sit in my swing chair in December, sipping a mug of hot chocolate and thinking about all the people struggling their way through the crowds in search of the perfect gifts, and will decide that my way is a pretty good choice.

Searching for sex ed in Ontario…

When Kait was in her early teens, I agreed to send her to a sex education program run through our Unitarian Universalist congregation. This program was comprehensive, informative, and LGBTQ friendly, something that couldn’t be said about the school’s program at the time. When he got old enough, Colin got sent to the same program for the same reasons.

In 2015, after several years of research and discussion, our then premier, Kathleen Wynne, unveiled a new program. It was comprehensive, informative, and LGBTQ friendly. Young children were taught the names their body parts, including their genitals, while older children learned about consent, sexting, and online bullying. And LGBTQ students were addressed as well.

We have a new premier now, a buffoon named Doug Ford. He’s not only scrapped the new program but has set up a snitch line so parents and students can report any teacher who uses any material from the now scrapped program. The old program, written in 1998, did not include online bullying, which makes sense since we were on dial up. The new program does. So if a teacher addresses online bullying, they could be facing disciplinary actions.

Meanwhile a generation of students need education.

That’s were the Canadian Unitarian Council comes in. They are offering to teach any student in Ontario the OWL program (Our Whole Lives). From their press statement

The Canadian Unitarian Council is deeply concerned that the loss of comprehensive sexuality education in Ontario schools will leave children and youth vulnerable at a time when they most need accurate information and empowerment to make good decisions. Asha Philar, OWL Coordinator for the CUC states, “The Our Whole Lives program gives youth the tools to make healthy and age-appropriate choices and helps LGBTQ youth find self-acceptance and support. Without access to accurate information and learning opportunities, Ontario students are put at risk and we fear that LGBTQ youth will face even more barriers to acceptance.”

The program is not free, the price for a several day program is $250, but it is worthwhile, especially considering the education our children are (not) receiving. If this program sounds like something you’d be interested in, please email owl@cuc.ca. OWL programs are available at many UU congregations from September through May and have age appropriate programs from kindergarten to adulthood.

Hopefully Ford will back down on his decision, especially faced with so much opposition but, until then, the Canadian Unitarian Council is there to fill the gap.

Colin and Kait at Niagara Falls

Colin and Kait. Happy, healthy, and educated

Exhausted to the bone…

I struggle to keep myself busy. Washing the never ending pile of kitchen dishes, feeding the cats, cuddling the cats, going out for a daily walk. I sing karaoke with a friend every Saturday, sometimes at her place… sometimes at a bar. I visit my parents every Sunday plus my groups all start in another few weeks. And I’m depressed through it all.

Depression leaves me bone weary, like someone filled my marrow with cement and left it to harden. Every chore, every task is that much harder. I’ll go to message a friend or call a family member and realize I just don’t have the energy. I still manage to take my walk most days but need a nap afterwards, just so I can function, something that irritates the heck out of Colin. The nap… not me functioning.

medsIt’s frustrating and a bit scary. I’m already taking Effexor, Abilify, and Lithium for depression (and clonazepam for anxiety). How much more can I take? What if this is the best I can get?

Every day I force my mind away from catastrophic thinking. If there’s a worst case scenario my mind has already come up with it and two alternatives. Will the bus crash? Will I get attacked on the trail? Will I fall and badly hurt myself? Will a train fall on me? Yes, that’s one of my concerns.

Every day I give myself reasons to live. It would hurt my parents endlessly. It would scar my children for the rest of their lives. My grandson would never know me. I’d wound my friends. Blackie and Lara would never understand why I didn’t walk through the front door to pet them again. Then there’s the person who would find me and the ambulance attendants. Too many people hurt for a moment of selfishness. Peace at too high a price.

So I stay away from the balcony, take my meds twice a day, go for a long daily walk, eat healthy food, get plenty of rest, and tell my negative thoughts to fuck right off. And I take my half hour nap, desperate for a tiny handful of oblivion.