A not so small problem…

When I was eight years old, I transferred from a public school to a private Catholic school. The public school wanted me to skip the third grade and go right to fourth. My parents didn’t want to do that. I’m very thankful for that because although I was ahead of my peers in the public school I was behind when I went to my new school. This school went up to the eighth grade, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to go to a new school for the sixth grade. This was also a private Catholic school so most of the kids had been together since kindergarten.

Being new as a third grader with kids that had been together for a few years was much different than starting at a new school as a sixth grader. Puberty is beginning to kick in and the last thing in the world you want to do is stand out in some way. I was so nervous my first day. Each class had an area to gather outside before the bell rang and most of us got there early so we had some time to socialize. What if I didn’t go to the right spot? How would I figure out where to go? I was shown where the sixth graders gathered in the morning when I was accepted and got a tour of the school, but did I remember correctly?

The big day came and my mom drove me to school that day instead of having me take the bus that first day. She dropped me off and I walked over to the sixth grade spot.

“You’re in the wrong place,” one of the kids said to me. My heart leaped into my throat and my stomach dropped to my feet.

“I am?”

“Yeah…third grade is on the parking lot over there,” someone else chimed in.

“I’m not in the third grade.”

“Oh sorry…fourth grade is also on the parking lot, but they are down by the fence,” another person offered.

By this time all eyes were on ME.

“I’m in the sixth grade. I thought this is where the sixth graders stood,” I replied.

That was met with a lot of “You are??” exclamations. “Man you are small.” I was mortified. Yes I was small for my age. And yes I probably looked like a third grader. I’m sure they were trying to be helpful, but all it did was make me feel like I had a big, giant sign on my head that said I don’t belong here. To this day, 44 years later, I still remember exactly where I was standing, what the kids looked like, and how it made me feel.

I was teased relentlessly because I was small. And for some reason boys thought they could just pick me up and spin me around whenever they wanted to because of my size. I hated that! So many times I yelled, “Put me down!” But as much as I was teased, I was never told I was wrong for being small. I was never told that I was lying about being small. I was never told that being small was a phase that I would grow out of (good thing because I didn’t…smile). My parents were never blamed for me being small. They weren’t told I was small because they wanted a small child. And they were never threatened for taking me to the doctor when I would get terrible growing pains in my legs.

I wish I could say the same thing for the LGBTQ+ people that I know and their families. They are under attack…especially given that it’s an election year. It seems that politicians these days can’t stand on what they have done or plan to do alone. They need to have a villain to get you to be against to gain your vote. That’s why this ballot is so important to me. I will be meticulously researching every candidate. Some of them make it easy as they don’t hide how they feel about the community. Others it’s not as obvious. It’s clear that they don’t do any research as what they spew is false information. It saddens me when people I know repeat the rhetoric they hear from these politicians. When I ask them questions, they are unable to tell me why they believe what they just said. It boggles my mind. And the kids are the ones that suffer from this verbal shrapnel.

I am the leader of a private FB group of moms of LGBTQ+ kids from the Maryland, DC, and Virginia areas. Something new is happening in our group. We are having moms from other states asking to join. The reason being is that they are looking for refuge in states that are more accepting of their kids and they have heard that Maryland, DC, and Virginia are better than where they live. I let them in so they can ask questions to be sure that they are moving (sometimes clear across the country) to safer places for their kids. Imagine that. Moving is no small feat…especially in the real estate climate that we are in right now. Not to mention the parents having to look for new jobs in the area. But in some of these cases they have no choice. There have been death threats. There have been threats from child protective services because there is so much misinformation out there particularly about transgender kids. Parents are not taking their children to doctors to have their body parts cut off.

As hard as it was for me to adjust to a new school, I can’t imagine what it is like for these kids. I can’t imagine dealing with being different in a way that people think you have control over. That you choose to be different. Folks if that were the case families would not be fleeing from the states that they have lived in their whole lives. What scars will these kids have 44 years later? Will they survive that long?

I hope you will research what you believe to make sure you know the truth about what you believe. I hope you will think of these kids and their families when you vote. They deserve to live the same kind of life that you are privileged to live. I will be voting as if their lives depend on it because in many cases they do.

I will vote for love…because love matters.

My family thinks I’m garbage…

When I think of my childhood and the bullies that myself or my friends encountered, there are two phrases that come to mind:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

And…

I’m rubber and you’re glue…whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.

It was a contest of sorts to get the second statement out fast enough so that you were confident that the words would bounce off of you and stick to them. Then the snickers would commence as you congratulated yourself for outsmarting the bully. But did you?

Oh how I wish it were that easy. How I wish that words from long ago didn’t somehow still sting that little girl in me.

I attended a Pride festival in my county this past Saturday with a table for Free Mom Hugs Maryland. We were very excited this year because we were actually able to give out hugs. We attended last year, but due to Covid we refrained from hugging. Instead we gave out little “hug monsters” which were made out of yarn. So many people told me that they still had theirs from last year when they came to our table. They also were very excited that we were giving out hugs this year.

It was a beautiful day and we had lots of traffic at our table. The festival is four hours long, but it’s a bit longer for the vendors as we need to get there early to set-up and then stay later to break down our tables. There was about 5 minutes left until the official end and I was putting things away. As I was rolling up my banner, a girl came up to me and asked if I was still giving hugs. This is not unusual. I think sometimes people are hesitant and it takes them some time to get up the nerve to come over. For others, I think it’s that they don’t want an “audience” when they get a hug.

I said that I absolutely was still giving out hugs. I’ve mentioned before when talking about Free Mom Hugs that sometimes you feel a transaction happen when you give a hug. There are times that I will say something to the person, and other times it’s a quick hug that doesn’t seem to need words. This particular time as I embraced this young girl I told her she was loved. She said, “Thank you. My family thinks I’m garbage.”

I have to tell you that this has haunted me these last couple of days. When I talk to people that are in this situation, most of the time the issue is religion. I would have liked to have told this girl that her family will eventually come around, but I know that’s not always the case. I know too many people whose families have not let go of their belief that they need to shun their family member because they are LGBTQ+.

Today is National Coming Out Day. Someone you love may come out to you. It may be your child. Please don’t be a bully to your child. Words hurt, I would venture to say, sometimes more than sticks and stones. And there is no amount of rubber that will make your hurtful words bounce from your child’s memory and heart. It may be a shock to hear the words. You have time to figure that out. What is most important in the moment is that you let your child or loved one know that you love them. If your religion tells you that you can’t love them, maybe you need to take a hard look at that belief.

Before the girl left, she went to the board pictured here. She carefully selected two post-it notes that had the messages that she needed to hear. I can guarantee you that she will carry those around with her for a long time. It’s the affirmation that she longs for from her family.

Church…you need to do better. If people need to find love in a post-it note, then we have failed. A child being told they are garbage…surely God must weep.

If someone is brave and comes out to you, love them. Because love matters…

I am because we are…

Have you ever been helped by your neighbor? And since we are called to love our neighbor, I consider my neighbor anyone who isn’t me (smile). In other words…doesn’t have to literally be my neighbor. One of my most embarrassing moments involved being helped by a neighbor.

It was several years ago on a hot summer day. I needed to go to the grocery store in the afternoon to get some ingredients for our dinner that night. It was bright and sunny when I left my house…and very hot. I knew that they were calling for afternoon thunderstorms, but that’s usually the case in Maryland on those hot, humid days. I didn’t think anything of it as I headed out because it looked perfectly fine outside.

I got to the store and as I was walking around collecting what I needed I heard one heck of a noise. It took me a minute to realize that noise was rain hitting the store roof. I knew it must really be coming down out there if I could hear it inside. It was loud! I finished up, ran my items through the self-checkout, and draped my four bags evenly onto my arms and headed for the door. When I stepped out of the sliding doors, I saw what looked like the end of the world. The sky was black. There was lightening, thunder, and buckets of rain coming down. The parking lot was already partially flooded. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to get quite soaked getting to my car. But there was one problem…

I am not one to get pedicures. I don’t like people messing with my feet. But in the summer time you want to have cute feet for your flip flops and sandals, so I do my own work on my tootsies. This includes a dose of some thick lotion on occasion to keep my heels soft and callus free. This particular day was one of those occasions. Well when water hits said lotion…ones feet become quite slippery. I was wearing flip flops.

I stood on the edge of the curb waiting for traffic to pass so that I could make the dash to my car. I kind gentlemen stopped to let me cross. I tried my best with the heavy bags weighing down my arms to give him a little wave of thanks. I took a step off the curb into a stream of water and started to shuffle my way through the crosswalk. It became immediately apparent to me that the lotion was an issue. I felt like I was on ice and my feet were just slipping and sliding all over my flip flops. Then I made a grave error. I knew from past experience that the paint on the crosswalk itself was slippery when wet. I didn’t want to have double slippage so I did a little leap to try and land in-between lines.

This landed me in a very wide someone split-ish stance. As I tried to lift my back foot to close the gap in my legs, it was clear that I was not going to get enough of a grip on my flip flop to propel it forward. Remember that it is raining buckets. Not only are my grocery bags heavy with food, but they are now also filling with water. So there I am in front of this truck…in somewhat of a split, arms out to my side with grocery bags, and I am stuck. I have no traction on my feet with my flip flops. I turn my head and look at the gentleman who stopped and said, “I’m stuck!” with a big, cheesy grin on my face with my hair practically totally covering my face at this point because it is so saturated.

This poor man opened the door to his truck, sprinted over to me, put his hands on my elbows and hoisted me up until I could get my legs together enough to get some traction in my flip flops. I yelled thanks over the thunderous claps above us, and he ran back and jumped into his truck. I then carefully shuffled my way to my car. I was very grateful for that kind gentleman. It is now a running joke with my friends that I had better not ever leave the house in my flip flops if rain is in the forecast.

That man saw that I needed help. Instead of driving around me (because there was space to do so), he decided to help me out. I once saw a story on Facebook that has stuck with me. It’s related to the African tradition called UBUNTU. Ubuntu, in the Xhosa culture means: ‘I am because we are’. The story that I saw was told by anthropologist who was in Africa studying a tribe. He spent a lot of time with the children in the tribe and wanted to do something special when his time was coming to a close with them. He went into the city and bought lots of candy and fruit. He put everything in a big basket and placed it on the ground. He then drew a line in the sand and explained to the kids that it was the starting line. The finish line was the basket. He told them that whoever got to the basket first got to have the treats that were inside. He lined them up and when he yelled “go” he was surprised that all of the children held hands and ran to the basket together. When they made it to the finish line, they took the treats that were in the basket and distributed them evenly between themselves and sat to enjoy them. When the anthropologist asked why they had done that when one of them could have had all of the treats to themselves, one of the children answered, “How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”

Wow! The story brought me to tears. How different could the world be if we all adopted this philosophy? It’s a beautiful picture isn’t it? I wish everything I saw on social media was as uplifting and positive as this story. On one hand, I love platforms like Facebook because I get to keep in touch with friends and family that live far away. But on the other hand, I feel like social media is becoming the demise of our society. It could be a place that builds community, and in some ways it does, but I fear that the ugliness of it might outweigh the positive.

There are many marginalized groups, but of course because of what I do there is rarely a day that I’m not disgusted by something I see on social media directed at the LGBTQ+ community. It is especially disheartening when it comes from our leaders. There is so much misinformation and downright lies being broadcasted daily. Much of it comes from not being educated. If you are going to speak publicly about something, I find it repugnant to do so without knowing facts about the subject matter. Back in July, a former leader spoke at a summit where he said a lot about the LGBTQ+ community. One of the things he spoke about was puberty blockers regarding transgender kids. He admitted that he didn’t know what a puberty blocker was, but went on to say that they were bad. He had a lot to say about it actually…even though he admitted he knew nothing about it. That is incredibly dangerous.

Trigger warning…the next paragraph includes comments made against transgender people…

When these types of statements are made, like the one by this former leader, the comment section online is atrocious. I have seen people tell transgender people that they should kill themselves. I’ve seen them say that their mothers should have aborted them (and when you look at their profile they show that they are prolife). Really?? They are called “its.” It’s bad enough that adults see these comments, but I know kids that have seen them too. And sadly some have taken the writers advice and taken their lives. The sad thing is that I would say that most of these folks have never sat down and talked to a transgender person or a parent of a transgender child. Their message says…I know better who you are and that’s just not the case. And the statements made by this leader are then repeated over and over again creating more and more sickening comments.

Author Mitch Albom was on a podcast I was listening to during one of my morning walks. He talked about his writings and his family. He shared the story of adopting his daughter. She had a form of terminal cancer and at one point needed to be carried from place to place because she could no longer walk. He spoke about how he didn’t mind at all and that it was a reflection of his love for her. He said what we carry defines us. That is powerful.

There’s a great meme on social media with a line of skeletons standing next to each other. Each skeleton has a “title” under it.

The only time I appear tall (smile)

White
Gay
Atheist
Straight
Black
Muslim
Etc.
I couldn’t find the meme, but I think my shadow says the same thing. We may look different on the outside…we may be different in what we believe…we may be different in who we love…but on the inside we are all human.

What if what we carried was love for our neighbor…love of community. What if we couldn’t be satisfied until everyone had what they needed (UBUNTU)? Instead of having the Us vs. Them mentality that some of our leaders would like us to have, let’s remember the story of the African children. Let’s be more careful about who we hate…because it could be someone we love. Let’s be more mindful of what we say or share online. Let’s keep an eye out for one another so that when we see someone slipping and sliding trying to hold on we can be the person that picks them up.

I am because we are…

Let’s look out for and love our neighbor because…

Love matters…

Be a Charlotte…

One of the morning shows I watch had a guest on talking about good summer reads. It peaked my interest because I love to read and am always looking for a good book. I grabbed my phone and jotted down some titles that sounded interesting. When the guest got to the recommendations for younger readers, she mentioned Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Oh my goodness I loved that book. I can still remember how I was simultaneously heartbroken and happy at the end of the story.

What an unlikely pair. Charlotte who was seen as a bloodthirsty spider and Wilbur the pig whose life was reduced to some ham and bacon. Their paths crossed in the barn where they both lived. They got to know each other and became fast friends. Although they were different, they took the time to get to know one another. When Charlotte realized that Wilbur’s fate was not looking good, she decided to take things into her own hands…or web. Through her talents of web design, she meticulously crafted her web to say “Some Pig.” As you can imagine, it created quite a stir in the barn. When she knew her friend was facing a terrible fate, she couldn’t be silent about it. She went on to write other words of admiration for Wilbur and ultimately saved his life.

June is over now and Pride month has come to an end. It wasn’t as busy for me since I stepped down as the state leader for Free Mom Hugs Maryland. In 2019, I traveled all over attending the different Pride events from one end of my state to the other. Now I am the regional leader where I live and our Pride festival isn’t until October. I have a few events coming up before then one of which is something called First Fridays in a town north of me. The first Friday of every month during the summer and early fall they have some food trucks, local bands, and different businesses and non-profits that set up tables to sell things or offer information. I participated in my first one for Free Mom Hugs on July 1st right after Pride month.

It’s always interesting when I am at an event that isn’t just LGBTQ+ related. Let’s just say not everyone is happy to see me. Luckily that is balanced with the people who are happy to see me (smile). I don’t give as many hugs at these events since it’s not based just on the LGBTQ+ community. I can tell you on that particular evening I gave out a lot of hugs to scared kids. You see when Roe v Wade was overturned there were some statements made…first from Justice Thomas and later from some politicians. These folks are calling on the Supreme Court to revisit other past decisions. One being Lawrence v Texas (if overturned homosexual relationships are made illegal again) and Obergefell v Hodges (taking away the right for LGBTQ+ people to marry).

What can I say to these kids? I wish I could tell them there was nothing to worry about…it will never happen. It takes me back to the advice my dad would give me when I was a kid. “Don’t borrow trouble,” he would say if I was fretting over something. Don’t worry about something that may not happen. I have to say that this advice has carried me through innumerable situations over my lifetime. But hard as I try, I just can’t seem to apply it to this. I see so much rhetoric against this community.

Back in 2019, I drove down to DC to the National LGBTQ Task Force. Free Mom Hugs Maryland was invited to offer support to their interns. They are all part of the LGBTQ community and their task is to deal with the different bills being voted on to take away their rights in different ways (jobs, health care, housing, etc). There was a lunch for them along with some suggestions on doing some self-care (which is why we were invited). We took them cards and notes of support, some goodies, dessert, and of course hugs. These young adults were impressive. It was an honor to be with these budding lawyers. Imagine needing a task force to fight for YOU. Imagine needing that for simple things like loving who you want to, marrying who you want to, being able to have a job, health care, housing…the list goes on. Many people aren’t aware of all the laws that are presented against this community.

“I wondered what it felt like to see yourself reflected in every movie, to have friends and family constantly dropping fun little hints about your love life, to have the world open up to you in all its magnificence. What did it feel like to not have to think about your every move, to not be scrutinized for everything you did, to not have to lie every day?” – Boy Erased by Garrard Conley. This quote by Garrard is about being in the closet. I would hate for this to be the reality of my son if we go back in time and it becomes illegal to be gay.

Picture I took in my crepe myrtle

So what DO I say to these kids as I hug them. I let them know that they aren’t alone. I listen to their story. I tell them that I will fight for them with my vote and with my voice. I will let the world know that they are “terrific” and “radiant” like our friend Charlotte the spider did for Wilbur. I hope you will get to know this community. It’s really hard to be against them once you do. Then maybe you too will let the world know that they are precious.

Love matters…be a Charlotte.

Houston we have a problem…

Love Matters

Being an empathic person has made things difficult lately. After the news of the shooting at the 4th of July parade in Highland Park, my body has literally felt like it’s been vibrating. It breaks my heart because I just can’t imagine what the survivors go through afterwards. I know how hard it was getting over what happened in this blog post that I wrote 3 years ago. I didn’t have to see injured people bleeding on the street. I didn’t have to run past dead bodies. The trauma these people go through in all of these mass shootings has to be monumental. I just want to shake our leaders and ask, “Are you paying attention?!” I feel like my insides are screaming. It just keeps happening again and again and again. I’m sharing this again because my state’s primary is coming up. I have been researching the candidates until…

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