A second covid birthday…

Colin's birthday cupcakeIt’s Colin’s 24th birthday today. I’m not sure how he feels about that age but I’m feeling pretty damn old! For once the stars aligned and the extreme part of our lockdown ended yesterday, which meant my parents and I could drive into the countryside and visit Colin today. Yesterday I got all the bits and pieces of his present tucked away in a gift bag, baked a batch of vegan chocolate cupcakes, and checked my email umpteen dozen times. I’d ordered Colin a Doctor Who t-shirt which has been slowly meandering up from California. It made it through customs on the 10th at 9:41pm and was processed at the “local distribution centre” according to the email, but that had been the last I’d heard. Actually that’s still the last I’ve heard, I had to setting for showing Colin a picture on my phone after he’d opened the rest of his gifts then I assured him that just meant we’d need to make another trip to bring the shirt to him.

Colin and his cardWe lucked out and today was gorgeous. Sunny and quite warm. We sat on Colin’s patio and looked at his little garden with it’s lavender and some sort of succulent (and a bunch of grass which had gone to seed because Colin thought it was awesome). And we ate burgers from A&W… and fries… and my chocolate cupcakes (I made sure to bring plenty of extras for him). He loved all his goodies from me and his morning glory from his grandparents, and was thrilled to pieces with his Super Mario game from them. I’m sure he was playing it before we fully backed out of the driveway. He sent me a photo of the game screen pretty quickly!

Once the lunch, present opening, and cupcakes were done we all were getting more than a little wilted. There was no shade anywhere in the big yard, all the trees seemed to be casting shade elsewhere, and the cupcakes were melting. The cupcakes were an easy fix, Colin brought them inside to the air conditioning. We, however, were not. No one other than staff or clients were allowed in the building, not even to use the washroom. Speaking of which, it’s an hour’s drive home and I have a bladder roughly the size of a walnut. If we could go inside and sit in the air conditioning on his couch and nip into his bathroom that would be one thing, but we couldn’t so we really needed to go. We took a quick look at one of the two ponds on the property, which is seriously right beside his patio. No wonder I can hear the frogs croaking during phone calls! And then we went back to the driveway.

I don’t think I will ever, could ever, get used to covid goodbyes. I should have wrapped my arms around him and squeezed as hard as I could, said “I love you” by his ear, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He should have kissed my forehead, patted the top of my head, and called me his “pocket sized Mom”. Instead, we stood six feet apart, waved, and said goodbye, pausing awkwardly before heading towards the car and the house.

It might have been different than usual but I am so glad I got to see my birthday boy today. I can’t wait to see him again soon!

Colin and I by the pond1

Planning a long distance covid birthday…

I have always planned the kids’ birthdays well in advance and this was still true for Colin’s upcoming 24th birthday. I found a handful of neat things I knew he’d like but was stuck for a main item to put in the gift bag. No biggie, I knew I’d find one soon. And then the lockdown hit, complete with it’s essentials ban. In previous lockdowns I could browse through stores like Walmart and Dollarama but, in this one, I couldn’t browse anywhere! I began to panic then reminded myself the ban lifted at the beginning of June so I’d still have time. Then the ban got extended until two days after Colin’s birthday. I have ordered him something online and it’s on it’s way. According to the website, it’s heading towards a “DHL ecommerce distribution centre” and has been since May 28th. Deep breath… deep breath… it’ll get here when it gets here. Everything else is tucked away in my room.

And whatever’s left is up in the air. Will we be able to go up and visit him once the lockdown’s been lifted? I know we won’t be able to go inside (thanks to covid I’ve only seen his apartment via zoom and photos) but could we stay in the front yard or sit on his patio? It would be nice to see his patio. If we can physically go there I can whip up a batch of cupcakes (so much easier to serve on a lawn than cake) but will they let someone deliver cupcakes from a local bakery if we’re stuck at home an hour away and can’t be with him? There’s no point in even asking until I get a bit more information. And so I wait. And think maybe I should start pinpointing out which bakeries are even near his country home and which bake cupcakes soon. I looked a little earlier, long enough to know not to bother asking about cakes as everyone is all about the theme cakes and I don’t have a theme cake budget. I have a plain, no sprinkles, chocolate cupcake budget. Luckily that’s Colin’s favourite.

present timeI wish so much that things were back to normal (whatever that is) and that in 1 1/2 weeks Colin would be showing up here all set to play with the cats and camp out in the living room. That I could take him in the backyard and show him where the rabbits live and take him on my neighbourhood walk by the creek and show him the duck pond (with a crane, swans, and geese), the tiny waterfall, and the farm. We’d take the bus to visit all the family and stuff ourselves with burgers and fries. And he’d sit at my kitchen table, pulling out item after item with excitement, eager to see what was next until all that was left was remnants of tissue paper and the bottom of the bag. Then we’d watch Doctor Who, or go visit my friend, or stuff ourselves silly with cupcakes, but we’d have fun at the very least.

Hopefully we can do some semblance of this next year for his 25th birthday but for now we’ll just have to piece the days together as best we can and make this his best covid birthday yet!

The road to hell…

The road to hell…

blog post blurred photo(All quotes, unless stated otherwise, are written by Sarah Plake)

A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday. Okay, that part isn’t new or newsworthy, it’s why that matters. Someone on a Kansas City News Facebook page shared an anti-transgender meme that featured her then nine year old child. Even now her child is, just that, a child. She thought about ignoring it but, well, this is her baby. So she called in reinforcements. That’s where I came in.

I very rarely enter the comment section. I joke that’s where the trolls live but, in reality that’s pretty close to the truth. My first foray into the comments years ago was a shock and a half. I’d expected it to be the online version of The Letter to the Editor. Heavily moderated and edited for brevity. What I found was the online version of a drunken college party but with worse grammar. But I do make exceptions on wading in there for friends.

I found the offending comment right away and my friend’s request to please remove her daughter’s photo, stressing that she was just a child. I took this photo hours later, obviously he didn’t care. And that’s why his name has not been edited out of the image. I’ve edited the girl and I’ve removed everyone else’s names. I even removed my friend’s profile picture. But him? Pfft. If he can’t be bothered to remove a child’s photo off the internet, so be it.

blog post retortThe comment was on an article regarding transgender youths and medical procedures regarding them plus transgender athletes. It quickly became obvious that pretty much nobody had a frigging clue what the hell they were talking about. I mean here’s a quote about the bills being proposed in Missouri and Kansas.

“Kansas House Bill 2210 and Missouri House Bill 33 would make it a crime for doctors to perform any gender-reassignment services, procedures or surgeries for transgender children under 18, which includes puberty blockers and hormone therapy.”

Puberty blockers for pete’s sake. They’ve been used for decades to treat precocious puberty. You know, like when a five year old girl starts getting her period or an eight year old boy grows a beard? They are not new or experimental or dangerous or permanent. There is no reason to stop them. Absolutely none.

A Republican, of course, introduced the bill in Kansas to protect children because, in his words, “I don’t think a child would ever think about something like that if their parents or others around them weren’t telling them that they can choose to be the opposite gender. I think this is something that’s just being forced on kids.”

Meanwhile his co-sponsor is only opposed to children being “surgically altered”. She goes on to say that “if a child has a tendency or curiosity, or there is a ‘fad’ to be gay, the child [needs] a parent who is open to conversation with the school, [their] pediatric physician and then an experienced child therapist to work with the child before permanent decisions are made.”

Really? Really??? I mean totally ignoring the whole bizarre “fad to be gay” thing, what did she think happened? Sadly the reality is she doesn’t have a clue. I bet she’s never spoken to a single trans adult or the parent of a trans child let alone a trans child. Neither of them have reached out to a paediatrician or any other doctor who works with transgender youths. I mean that’s all just patently obviously. No one who’d done any amount of research would think children are being “surgically altered”.

blog post commentAnd they’re not the only ones. The more I read, the more I find there’s a whole swathe of people who claim to be fighting against kids transitioning on their behalf. They can’t believe a trans child would know their gender at seven years old; someone must be forcing them to think they’re transgender. Meanwhile they’re just as likely to say that of course their five year old son picked the blue ball, he knows he’s a boy. It’s only the trans kids who don’t know their gender. The cis kids not only are allowed to know it but they have their noses rubbed in it (gender reveal parties anyone?).

And multiple people, like the co-signer, are there wailing about the six and seven year olds getting surgery and how it’s abuse and it needs to be stopped immediately! Umm… it never started to begin with. I have no idea where they come up with this idea but there’s always someone new who’s positive a kindergarten student is going in for gender confirmation surgery.

And the people who just want to be “reasonable” and let trans kids minds have a chance to mature before starting any kind of treatment. Kids and teens change their minds so often and they shouldn’t be allowed to make such life altering decisions at such a young age.

Wait… what??? Teens can join the military and see live action. They can get their driver’s license and take control of a several tonne vehicle which could easily kill themself and/or the people around them. They can take out a massive loan for post secondary education, one that will take decades to pay off, and one which they could end up taking out on a program they ultimately don’t like. They can get married. They can have a baby (or more). They can have a tattoo and/or piercing in a variety of places. They can have sex, which, depending on the person they’re with and the STI they have, can be very life altering. Where the fuck are these people at recruitment centres with their signs reading “Getting blown up is a life altering decision”? Why aren’t they protesting student loans? Especially in the States where they can’t be forgiven no matter what circumstances you’re in. Why aren’t they fighting against child brides? But, no, it’s only against trans people.

I just read a tweet by someone who goes by the name Tamra Bonvillain, which reads, “Not allowing trans teens to go on blockers/hormones is also an irreversible choice”. This is absolutely true and absolutely never mentioned in these bills or in conservative discussions regarding transgender youths. These people are saying they’re trying their hardest to protect the poor innocent children and teens but have never spoken to a single transgender youth. They’ve never thought of the ramifications of their actions. Why not? Maybe it’s because they’re not trying to protect transgender children. They don’t want to believe trans children even exist. They don’t like trans people. They don’t accept trans people. They think of trans people as being horrible and abominations of nature. And there’s no way innocent children could be any of that.

So they claim it’s adults causing it and try to legislate them out of existence. If they’re not having name changes in the classroom, or using the correct washroom, or playing on their proper team… those people don’t have to think about trans children at all. They get total ignorant bliss. Unless they have to notice because a child simply won’t just go away and then it gets ugly. I read one story a year or so ago where a child, a literal prepubescent child, wanted to use the girls washroom. Parents of her classmates got together and she was called such things as “it”, “the thing”, and “half baked maggot”. Fathers were bragging about how it was going to be their son who beat her up. Parents. Of children her own age. How could they tuck their children in at night, kiss their foreheads, and marvel at how young and precious they were while literally referring to another child that same age as insect larva? It just doesn’t make sense.

Or, well it does. They don’t like trans people. They don’t know anyone who’s trans and they don’t want to know anyone who’s trans. Children are innocent and therefore can’t be trans, someone must be forcing them. Unless they prove they really are trans and then it’s fair game to call them a maggot and share their picture in a meme that mocks them. And, well, the kids get ignored until they’re adult and can’t be legislated out of existence anymore. And then they’re mocked and harrassed for looking different and not fitting into gender norms, like they picked the wrong puberty on purpose. And so on and so forth and I’m sick of it and furious.

Friends talk and share stories about health care woes. Of having to teach even the good doctors how to treat them. Of being called “it” and “he-she” by medical professionals. Of having doctors simply refuse to treat them. Of a man who died of ovarian cancer after a three year struggle to find a doctor willing to treat him. A woman hemorrhaging from her leg who was made to walk downstairs to an ambulance, while the attendants mocked her, because they didn’t want to touch her enough to help her onto a stretcher. I even found my own psychiatric intake papers from 2016, shortly after I broke up with my then fiance, stating I had a “recent breakup with a ‘boyfriend’, who was actually a transgender female to male”. She went on to state that the relationship “was perceived to be romantic in nature”. I really doubt she’d have written any of that if Lenny had been a cis male. The psychiatrist literally recoiled when she found out.

For the love of all we hold holy and/or dear can we not just listen to other people, care for other people, and accept other people? Can we stop trying to make decisions for people without finding out what they want and actually need first. Can we accept people as, you know, people instead of othering them in a derogatory fashion? And… this should be complete and utter common sense here… can we please not take the picture(s) of children, make derogatory memes about them, and spread them around the world wide web? It doesn’t cost us a single thing to be kind.

Finding joy in the spam folder…

Every couple of weeks I wade through the spam folder on my blog to make sure no one got stuck in there. I have had a couple of legitimate posters get stuck in there so I figure it’s worthwhile to wade just in case.

Usually it’s the same old garbage; overly generic and polite messages that say nothing.

“I love your writing. Readers are sure to get your point and you come to a decisive conclusion. I would like to read more of your work.”

Buddy, you replied to a post about shopping at Dollarama. The only conclusion there is I spend a bit, although not as much as Colin. Not exactly groundbreaking.

Lately I’ve picked up arms length porn messages detailing every kind of sex imaginable (and quite a bit I couldn’t imagine). So you could understand my happiness when I came across this gem…

The Reader's Path text2

Isn’t that pretty much the nicest, most thoughtful spam ever? Sadly I had to delete it because posting spam on my blog leads to a ten-fold increase in spam in my inbox. But it’s saved now as a reminder on days I feel down. Feel free to safe it to your own computer for your blue days. And remember to always follow your heart (I’m following mine into the living room with a mug of hot apple cider and a peach).

My story is still being written…

I sat in the corner of my bedroom and typed furiously on my phone. Facebook was open and I’d scrolled through my list of friends for someone who could help.

“Please can you stay and chat with me until my son gets home?” I begged. “He’s due back in a half an hour but I can’t stop thinking about jumping off the balcony and I don’t think I’ll make it until he gets here without someone to talk to.”

And she did. She stayed on and chatted about inconsequential things until Colin came bounding back in the door from youth group. I really don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for her. And I would have missed so much.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, a day meant to remind people that every death was someone who mattered and every life is someone with dreams. We all have a story and, as the 11th Doctor said, we should try to make it a good one. Otherwise it’s our narrative to write.

tattoo2

Many of us need help to keep writing that story. Here, in Canada, we have a variety of services like COPE and CMHA, both of which provide support. Friends and family can be a good support but lots of people struggle with one or both. Social media’s taking over the role of friendship. This makes for easy communication but it also makes for easy breakups, I’ve found that out far more than once. One minute you’re chatting with someone regularly and the next they’ve blocked you over a hamburger. And if those people online are your only friends the breakups can be brutal.

Please, please if you have a friend or family member who is depressed and says they’re suicidal – believe them. It takes a lot to admit that. Please listen to them and understand if they’re really damn silent. It’s hard to talk when you’re depressed. Offer concrete help with no judgement. Depression weighs you down and makes you feel like you’re encased in cement. Imagine cleaning or washing the dishes like that. People can (and do) spend days in their bed or go for weeks without bathing. Someone who’ll pick up the garbage and wash the dishes without asking, “How could you do this to yourself?” make a huge difference. Some easy to eat food can be a help too.

World Suicide Prevention Day should be every day. It’s part of looking out for each other and supporting the people in your life. Help can be as simple as a Facebook message. You can make a difference.

my selfie

Half a century…

me and my cake croppedFifty years old. I’d counted ahead years ago and knew it was going to happen in 2020 but that seemed so far away… sometime in the distant future. It was so unreal, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. To be honest, I never thought I’d make it this long. And here I am, halfway to a hundred.

Fifty doesn’t feel like what I thought it would feel. I don’t feel that old. My shoulders hurt occasionally but that’s it for pain. I love to go for hikes. And if my local mall ever offered a slide as an option instead of stairs I’d be first in line.

But little things trip me up. I can’t believe 1990 is 30 years ago. How did it get so far away so fast? And I’m finding techy things more and more confusing, which feels weird as someone who once worked in technical support. I don’t own a television and have no clue how to operate modern remote controls. I don’t even know what half the buttons are on my microwave.

My birthday was yesterday and I had my parents, sister, and nephews over for dinner. We had curry, pizza, and vegan cheesecake then opened presents. It was a lot of fun and so nice to have everyone over. My place might not be large but it’s welcoming and I think that’s more important.

The presents are put away, the couple of cake slices are in the fridge along with the last serving of curry, and the wrappings are down the chute. My celebration is done for another year. Now it’s time to get on with life and living. I’ve got another fifty years to work on!

Being the memory keeper…

My parents and I went to visit Colin today. We met in Elgin Park and ate A&W burgers at a picnic table under one of the shelters. While we were eating my Mom looked around and commented on how different it looked with everything tucked away. No food stands, no animals, no rides, no crowds.

Colin looked at her blankly and asked, “What do you mean?”

“Don’t you remember?” my Mom replied. “We used to come here to the fall festival with Daddy Harold.”

But Colin couldn’t remember, not even with me bringing up specific events. And that’s when it dawned on me. I thought I was making memories for them when they were growing up but instead I was making memories for me. They enjoyed the experiences but I’m the only one who remembers. They don’t remember being preschool aged and playing The Grand Old Duke of York in the backyard. They don’t remember putting the slide in the living room. I do.

In some ways I find it sad. I’d love for them to remember all the little things they’ve now forgotten but now they’re adults and will make memories of their own. And maybe someday they’ll want to go through the family albums and revisit the memories they once knew.

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The kids are in the green one

Happy birthday Colin!!!

Twenty-three years ago, in the middle of a thunderstorm, I gave birth to a chubby 9lbs 11oz baby who looked remarkably like Winston Churchill. I resisted a sudden urge to name him Winston (probably for the best) and named him Colin. Time went on, as it does, and he grew and continued to grow quite a bit beyond what I thought was necessary. He thought his height was great and proceeded to call me his “pocket sized Mom”.

When you get right down to it you go into the hospital and, after a lot of pushing and pain, you’re handed a baby. There’s all sorts of advice for what to do when they’re babies and toddlers and when they’re talking back in elementary school but a dearth of information on what happens once those babies are gone and moved out. I think today, going to Colin’s place, it really hit me that my children, the skippers on sidewalks and hunters of ladybugs, have well and truly left the nest and built homes of their owns. I’m so happy for them but I hope I’ll still have family dinners and visits for years to come.

Today was the first day visiting Colin at his new place, which is right out in the middle of nowhere, a very lovely nowhere by the way, I love what they did with the place. Colin was happy to see us and thoroughly enjoyed his lunch and his presents. As always, it was over too quickly but hopefully we can stay longer next time.

Colin opening present1

Colin opening one of his presents. I believe this one was pjs

Colin and my card

Colin reading the card from me

Dad, Colin, and Mom

Colin and my parents

Colin and I close

Colin and I

Call me Colin…

Colin and his pierced ear

Colin with his first pierced ear

Colin has a way of edging topics into conversations and this time was no different. I can’t remember what the original conversation was. Computers? Video games? Politics? But I do remember the rest.

“I really like the name Colin,” he mused. “I think I’m going to keep it no matter what gender I am. Even as a girl.”

I get the feeling that most people figure Colin just “got over” being trans like he’d get over a bad first date or a friendship that drifted apart. It’s not the same thing, it’s not something you just get over. It’s a part of him, like his eye colour or shoe size. Not something he can change.

Earlier, in another conversation, Colin started talking about stopping being transgender. I asked him if he still struggled with gender dysphoria. His response?

“Not anymore. I pushed it down as hard as I could and locked it away so now I don’t feel it anymore.”

I’m no expert but I don’t think that’s how it works. I have a feeling that someday that locked away dysphoria is simply going to explode and I don’t have a clue what to do about it.

He’s not male, no matter what pronouns he uses, and he’ll continue to not be male. All I can do is hope that he accepts it when it blows up in his face and can no longer be ignored. I’ll be there the best I can. The rest is up to him.

Good luck Colin, my hidden daughter. You are loved.

A covid conundrum…

Colin and Chinese foodI got a call from Colin’s case worker yesterday. The good news is he really, truly should be moving on April 30th. The bad news is they need his banking information. He can’t give them the banking information. He can read a bit but he can’t write and he doesn’t have any internet right now. His banking information is all online. That means he needs to come here.

I know the strict guidelines for covid-19. Stay home… stay safe. And allow no one inside your home except immediate family members, the ones you’re already living with. Having a special needs child makes that difficult, if not impossible.

Colin’s not supposed to be living on his own right now. I moved at the beginning of February and he was supposed to move within a couple of weeks after me. We gave notice to the building and booked the moving elevator. Then came covid and both were cancelled… then and again at the end of March. Colin’s supposed to be living in a group home with six hours of support a day. Not sitting by himself in an almost empty apartment. Everyone has been telling him to stay home. To only shop when necessary. He still goes to Dollarama and Metro every single day to window shop. He still asks me almost every day when we’re going to visit. Can he come over soon? We’d been living together before, he doesn’t understand why we can’t see each other now.

So he came over once for Chinese food and to download some videos to watch when he’s all alone. And I went over to make sure he was keeping up the apartment to the best of his abilities. Then we went grocery shopping together, with me stressing we had to stay 6ft apart. And now he’s coming tomorrow.

I’m looking forward to seeing him and sharing pizza tomorrow but I can’t help but worry that I’m putting him in danger (or he’s putting me in danger). It’s not like covid-19 has a neon sign. I’ve got soap and Lysol wipes so we’ll muddle through as best we can. Having a special needs child is hard and covid’s made it so much harder.

I don’t know when I’m going to see him again after this. He’ll be moving (fingers crossed) in a couple of weeks and will be at least one hour’s drive away. But he’ll have his own apartment and loads of support. It’s just getting him to that point.