A part of us…

Oh my goodness! I recently sent some VCR tapes to a company that can transfer them to something from this decade (smile). I haven’t had a VCR in years so it’s been quite some time since I’ve watched these gems. So. Many. Emotions. I’ve been watching the first one over the last couple of days (it’s four hours long). It starts with the first months of my son Kyle including his first Christmas and birthday and ends with his second Christmas at 18 months old. By that time, I had a big ole pregnant belly with my daughter. She was born in January.

It’s really cool to see who he is now in his little face as a baby and toddler. He made so many noises…and still does today actually. It’s funny to see how that hasn’t changed. And smart! That little stinker was too smart for his own good. You couldn’t get anything by him. He knew the entire alphabet by sight before his sister was born at which time he was 19 months old. It’s neat to see that on video.

Seeing my mom in some of the video was wonderful and hard all at the same time. The big grin that is on her face while she interacts with Kyle is what I envision when I think of her. Her expression is one of absolute, pure joy and it was a constant for as long as Kyle and then his sister were around. Boy do I miss her.

An emotion I hadn’t expected as I watched the video was one of great sadness. A memory came crashing back as my son’s face crossed my computer screen. I was transported to a time 13 years ago. A time when I popped this same video (and many others) into my VCR to scour the contents to see where I had screwed up. Where had I gone wrong? It brought me back to a time when I tortured my mind looking for a sign of what I had done wrong so that I could somehow fix it. I did this because I was told that it was my fault…or my husbands…that my son turned out to be gay. Christian resource after resource…story after story…made it seem that this could be fixed or changed…and somehow we had caused it. And since I was taught that it was wrong I desperately wanted to help my child. Especially because he wanted to die as a result of what he was feeling. He just wanted to feel “normal”…he wanted to be like us.

We just started a new message series at my church called “This Is Us.” If you go to our church website, underneath of our name is the question, “How will God be known In us, Among us, and Through us?” It’s what we base everything we do. In the intro for the series, our pastor talked briefly about the television show with the same title. He showed a clip from the series showing the “Big 3” which are the siblings in the family. There was some commentary from all of the different actors that play the characters at the various ages. The clip showed how they always have each others backs through all of the tough stuff. The “Big 3” are an “us”. Our pastor talked about how important it is to be a part of an “us.” In fact, we were created by an Us to be an us. We aren’t made to go through this life alone.

I’ve been watching church online and as I sat in my family room listening, the faces of the people I met the day before at a Pride event in Westminster for Free Mom Hugs came to my mind. As the event approached, I sat at my kitchen table a couple of nights and made some giveaways for my table. One of the things I made where these little clothes pin bugs that I called “love bugs.”

Love Bugs

Each color combination represents one of the Pride flags. This is just a sampling. I had some rocks with some of the other flags painted on them. On the back of each “bug”, was a message of encouragement…hence the “love” part (smile). Throughout the day, people came up to the table and they were so excited to pick one. Several times there were tears of gratitude as someone would pick up a bug that represented them. They would hold it to their chest and tell me how happy they were to see one that was made for them. When they saw the message on the back…that was just the icing on the cake.

It was plain to see how important it was to them to be seen. It was easy to see that they felt like they had a place where they belonged. They were part of an “us.” And this is what struck me as I was listening to the message at church…how many times has the LGBTQ+ tried to be an “us,” but were told they are a “them” (and I’m not referring to pronouns here).

I have friends that reach out to me when someone they know comes out to them. It could be a friend or a family member. They ask me questions like how they should talk to that person. While I genuinely appreciate that they want to do and say the right thing, I often wonder why they think it has to be any different. This is the same person that they knew before they came out. I’m not talking about questions regarding pronouns or terms…they ask me questions about everyday things that have no bearing on the person being LGBTQ+. Suddenly now that they know this information a shift happens. It becomes an “us” (straight cisgender people) vs. “them” (lgbtq+ people). I don’t even think they realize they are doing it.

Another thing people ask me is “Why are there so many letters in the acronym? Why do people feel the need to have a label?” This is really an individual thing. Some people don’t like labels and consider themselves to be queer, while others prefer to have a label. I have met some people throughout the years that explain it like this…they knew they were different, but they didn’t know what it was about them that was different. When they hear the explanation of one of the letters or labels, it finally clicks and they exclaim, “That’s me!” It’s a way for them to be seen, but I think more importantly it’s a way for them to belong to a group. They are part of an “us.”

Many of the kids and people that stopped by my table that day have been told things like:
This is just a phase.
Are you sure?
I don’t agree with your lifestyle.
You’re an abomination.

Having a place to go like Pride is a place where they can be who they are and more importantly be believed and accepted for who they are. They are part of an “us.” And I was so happy to be a part of letting them know that they were seen and loved. My hope is that there will be a time in our society where things like Pride won’t be needed. Coming out won’t be needed. There won’t be an “us” vs. “them” mentality and people will simply just be people.

In the meantime, I will keep hugging and more importantly loving…because it matters.

Love you this much…

It’s funny the quirky things that are passed down through generations of families. My grandmother sang songs to us that my mom then sang to my kids. Things like that. When we were toddlers, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, would ask, “How big is Lesa (or whomever they were talking to)?” We would lift our arms way up over our heads and they would say, “Sooooo big!” Or someone would ask, “How much do you love me?” And we would stretch our little arms as wide as they could go as we said, “Thissss much!” I remember grunting trying to get my arms as far apart as I could to show how much I meant it. I think I’ve asked every toddler I’ve encountered ever since how big they are (smile), and I sang my kids the songs my grandmother and mother sang to me.

When I was in the sixth grade, our teacher had us do a special project for our parents as a gift for Christmas. She gave us each a special sheet of paper and told us to draw a picture or write something special for our parents. She explained that she would then send them to a company that would put our art onto a cup. It was a tumbler with a plastic surround that could hold the paper water tight. I carefully thought about what I would do for each of my parents and was excited that we got to make one for each of them. For my mom’s cup, I drew a colorful butterfly, and for my dad’s I drew a tiger. I then very carefully wrote on each paper, “I love you this much!” and drew little hands stretched way out. I couldn’t wait to see the finished project! I remember being so excited when our teacher told us they were ready. She handed us each our treasured gifts and we opened them with great anticipation. My excitement was soon dissipated. As I looked at each cup, the hands that I had drawn were right next to each other making it look like the tiniest space possible. I didn’t take into consideration that the paper would wrap around the cup so my outstretched hands ended up pretty much next to each other. Luckily the cup had a vertical line going down the back of it and each hand was on either side of the line. When I gave it to my mom and dad, I explained that they had to spin the cup around to see that the hands in fact were far apart.

My mom’s birthday was this week. She would have been 76 years old. When I’m having a bad day, a difficult time, or on a special occasion like my mom’s birthday, I get out a letter that she wrote to me when I was a senior in high school. I went to an all-girl Catholic high school and our senior year we went on a retreat. The moms were contacted without us knowing and asked to write us a support letter that would then be distributed to us during the retreat. I am so glad that I held onto this letter. It has given me strength over these last 35 years. These are some of the highlights…

It hasn’t been hard supporting you because you have always had a level head and after discussions you have been able to make your decisions intelligently and you’ve stuck by them come hell or high water.

You have always been so willing to do the right things.

You have always been asked to step aside (due to a family matter – my words) and you never showed any resentment. You are always eager to help in whatever way you can and you should be proud of that. It is hard enough to ask an adult to do some of the things you have been asked to do let alone a teenager.

She signed it like this (smile)…

Besides it just being my mom’s birthday, I think this has been on my mind because I’m getting Free Mom Hugs Maryland ready for Pride season. Most of the events will be happening this fall and I’m getting sign-ups and such ready for those events. As I’ve mentioned before, many of the people I meet don’t have the support of their families. There is no way, of course, that as we give out hugs at these events that we take the place of anyone’s mom. That is a hole too deep to fill. As hard as it was for me to lose my mom 26 years ago, it was death that took her away…not her disappointment, or disowning me. I can’t begin to imagine that pain and lack of support. Even though I haven’t had my mom with me for many years this letter has meant so much to me and has been her voice as I’ve faced really hard things. It breaks my heart that there are children out there that don’t have that support. So I, and the many moms who join me for these events, do our best to shower our love to the hurting. In many cases, they approach with arms stretched out wide and I engulf them in a hug that I hope not only envelopes their body, but somehow their heart as well. And over and over again each time…I imagine my hug whispering…I love you thissss much.

Because love matters…

Taking for granted…

I’m at the beach this week and oh what a difference a year makes. This time last year we were still in the beginning stages of the pandemic. Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would take so long for life to start to get back to normal. We still aren’t there yet, but we are slowly getting there.

So far we have not been able to get take out at any of the restaurants here. Last year that was a breeze. In fact, some restaurants that normally don’t offer take out did last year due to restaurants not being able to be at full capacity. We like to take a break from cooking while on vacation, but this year we aren’t getting that luxury.

Reminds me of some other things that we took for granted over the last 15 months…

Like having an adequate amount of toilet paper.

Being able to buy chicken, beef, or pork at the grocery store.

Finding hand sanitizer or any kind of cleaning products.

Being able to spend time with friends and family.


The list goes on and on…

But there are other things that we as cisgender straight people take for granted every day even when there isn’t a pandemic.

I’ve mentioned these before…things like…

Getting served at a restaurant.

Having a bakery bake a wedding cake for your wedding.

Medical care.

Walking hand in hand with the person you love.

Maintaining your job.

This list, unfortunately, also goes on and on.

Did you know that 2021 has officially surpassed 2015 as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation? So far 17 anti-LGBTQ bills have been enacted into law. More than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year. Let that sink in for a minute. Imagine 250 bills being introduced to try to discriminate against you for just simply being you. Imagine the stress and anxiety that would produce and how hard it would be to live knowing that day in and day out.

This is why the Equality Act is so important. The Equality Act would provide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people with things like employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and service, federally funded programs and jury service. There is a TON of misinformation out there in order to scare people to fight against it.

When having discussions with people about this, they say to me that doctors will have to perform surgeries that they don’t agree with on transgender people and that isn’t fair. And I ask them if they would go to an orthopedic surgeon that specializes in knees to have their brain tumor removed. They of course say, “NO WAY!” Well it is the same for transgender people. They search out doctors that are well versed in hormone therapy, surgeries, etc. so there is no need to worry about doctors.

Then they will go on to say that pastors will be forced to perform weddings for same sex couples. I ask them about their wedding. Did they want everything to be perfect (well at least as perfect as possible)? I ask them if they invited people that were supportive and excited about their wedding. They of course say, “Yes!” Well the same goes for a same sex couple. If they contact a pastor, and they are against same sex weddings, they don’t say to themselves, “This is the pastor for us! We are so excited to get married by someone who thinks we are an abomination in God’s eyes!” No…instead they search out someone that is going to be supportive of their love and be willing to celebrate that with them.

It is easy to gloss by these things when they don’t involve you. People’s lives are impacted in serious ways if bills like these 250 are passed.

When I’m at the beach, I always search for heart shells (the picture is what I’ve collected so far this year). I’m just drawn to them. I guess because hearts remind me of love…and well…love matters. As you can see, each of these hearts is different with none of them being completely perfect. Kind of like our human hearts. They get battered and bruised by living life. Loving and losing people that are important to us. Hurt feelings. Mistreatment. And just every day life of living with imperfect people. We should remember that each person has been through tough things. We should strive to be a person that doesn’t further mar the hearts of those we come into contact.

A very tangible way to do that would be to help fight for the Equality Act. Let’s show the LGBTQ community that they are worthy of our time. Let’s not take for granted the liberties that we enjoy and make sure that they are available for ALL. Let’s show the LGBTQ community that they are loved.

Because love matters….

What if…

It was 3 days after my 15th birthday. My friends and I were walking around the neighborhood like we did every day after dinner. It was a hot July evening, and as usual we ended up at the little park in our neighborhood. It had a baseball field, basketball courts, and a large swing set. Getting onto those swings was a good way to cool off.

Well on this particular night we decided to play a little game. The swing set was made of metal and had a short “fence” made of the same metal material bordering three of the sides. We wanted to see who could walk on the metal bar from one side all the way to the other. It went around the swing set like a horseshoe. Several of us were on the bar at a time and one by one we tried to make our way around. As people lost their balance, they would either jump off or just let each foot land on either side of the bar. That worked just fine for everyone…well anyone that was taller than 5 foot. As I was making my way around, a guy behind me got impatient and gave me a shove. It took me completely off guard and I fell…on the bar…between my legs. My legs were too short to have each foot land on each side of the pole.

I swung my leg over the bar and limped over to one of the swings and sat down. My best friend came over and told me that she had fallen on her bike bar before and that yeah it hurts, but it eventually the pain goes away. Well I too had fallen on my bike before and this was NOTHING like what that felt like. I sat there for a few minutes and realized that I needed to go home.

Since I had walked to the park, I had to walk home. My friend joined me to make sure I made it home ok. I had to walk a couple of blocks and by the time I got to my house I was walking as if I had been riding a horse for about a week. My parents were sitting on the front porch as I approached and my poor mother was so scared she barely let me get out what had actually happened. She thought something horrific had happened…well more horrific then what actually happened. We went in the house and I described the incident. She knew I was a bit embarrassed, but she told me she had to take a look to see what was going on. She took one look and said we needed to go to the ER.

We drove to Saint Agnes Hospital and by this time I was not feeling so well. The nurse at the entrance put me in a wheelchair. She then proceeded to wheel me down a cobblestone hallway while eating a tuna sandwich (not my favorite smell at that moment). The wheelchair wobbled and shook as I tried not to scream from the pain it was inflicting. I was also trying not to toss my cookies from the sandwich she kept waving in my face as she maneuvered me down the hallway.

They got me into a room and I explained what happened. The doctor took a peek and didn’t know what to do so they called the GYN that was on duty at the time. They had mentioned doing an internal exam which at the time I had no idea what that was…thank goodness because there was NO WAY they would have been able to do that. My poor mom did not like hospitals and she was getting woozy so they had to get her smelling salts and a chair. As we were waiting for the GYN, my mom would take a smell of the salts to get her grounding and then explain what we were going to do.

“Lesa” sniff…”If I tell you to get dressed and that we are leaving, just do it even if the doctor doesn’t want you to”…sniff…”I’m not sure what they are going to want to do, but they aren’t doing an internal exam”…sniff. She was trying real hard not to pass out.

The GYN came in and examined me and agreed that an internal could not be done. By this time, my private part was swollen halfway to my knees. She told my mom to take me home and make an appointment with my mom’s GYN in a week. I was given a list of things to do like soak in a tub with Epsom salt, and the doctor specifically told me not to look at my injury. And I didn’t. I know what it felt like…I didn’t want to see what it looked like.

So I spent a week in bed waiting for my appointment. The time came and I got dressed as best I could. I couldn’t pull my shorts up to my waist because of the swelling so they just kind of hung there. I still couldn’t walk right either. They called my name and I went back while my mom waited for me. I had never been to see a GYN before so I had no idea what to expect. The nurse told me what to do and I laid on the table with a sheet covering my lower half. The doctor came in and introduced himself. He asked me what had happened and lifted the sheet to examine me. He looked, put the sheet down, and told me I was going to the hospital to have an operation. I got dressed as he went out to talk to my mom. When I got out to the waiting area, my mom was crying. I told her it was fine and that I would be ok. The doctor put me in HIS car and DROVE me to the hospital HIMSELF. My mom followed us and before I knew it I was prepped for surgery.

The GYN who had seen me the night of the accident was there and she told me not to worry. She held my hand and said she wouldn’t let them do anything to me that she wouldn’t let them do to her. Unbeknownst to me and the reason my mom was crying was because the doctor told her that I may be deformed for the rest of my life. He didn’t know what he was going to find when operating. He said they should have never sent me home that night.

Well I had surgery and it was successful. I had basically developed a large blood clot, but no internal damage had been done. They put a drain in me that stayed in for two weeks and then I was good to go. I was very popular at the hospital. I had to spend the night and had all kinds of doctors coming in to see me as they had never seen anything like my kind of injury before. What a way to end summer vacation!

I share this story with you to ask you this question…

What if…

What if they weren’t able to fix me? What if everything wasn’t ok and I did end up deformed or without my female parts?

Would I still be a girl?

I can hear you saying, “Well of course you would still be a girl!” But is that what society would consider me to be? It seems that society focuses on what private parts we have to determine whether or not we are male or female. I of course would have still been a girl because my brain is what determines that I am a girl.

There are many complexities that go into what determines our sexuality and our gender. And sometimes our brains and our bodies don’t match up. There is tons of research about this and lots of resources out there to explain how this can happen. It saddens me that people are discriminated against simply because of how they were born. Not by something they caused or choose. I have transgender friends who have been disowned by their families, and in some cases they are just tolerated. My situation was of course completely different because it was an injury. I am in no way comparing what I went through to what my friends go through. Some transgender people find it necessary for their well-being to have surgery so that their bodies match their brains while others are ok with their bodies. Each individual is different and quite frankly…it is none of our business!

I share this story with you just as food for thought. I hope that before anyone would judge someone they would take some time to research and learn. And more importantly I hope that when someone shares with you who they are….

You believe them and show them love.

Because love matters…






Plop, plop…fizz, fizz…oh what a year it’s been!

If you are old enough, you will remember this catchy jingle to Alka Seltzer. It was the kind that you could get stuck in your head. “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is!” Oh what a relief it is to say goodbye to 2020! I know not everything will magically get better now that the ball has dropped on New Year’s Eve. It is nice to have a clean slate and a new year to look forward to though.

I’ve been trying to find the words about what this year has been like. I’ve given up. I don’t think I can do it adequately. I also don’t think I need to remind anyone of all the turmoil that we experienced this last year. My Facebook memories these last two days have been of me and others expressing what the new year would hopefully bring us. Oh boy did we have NO IDEA what was to come our way. I have seen the worst and the best of humanity.

When my mom died 25 years ago when she was 50 years old and I was 28, I was reminded of how fragile life is and how we aren’t guaranteed how much time we have with someone. But then life gets busy and you tend to forget (or at least I did raising two little ones) until the next death comes along and knocks the wind out of you again. As hard as I tried, the fragility of it all faded. It was there, but never in the forefront of my thoughts. I’m not saying I should sit here wringing my hands worried about who is next. That is no way to live. Instead…I want to remember it so that I treat each day and more importantly each person that I come in contact with each day with love and kindness.

I don’t think this point could have been driven home any harder than what this year has done. I stood in this aisle at Target thirteen times this year. Thirteen. The most I’ve gone into this aisle others years is three. I stood here and over again trying to find the right card to express the sorrow I felt for my friends who lost loved ones. Nine of the thirteen times were due to Covid and the others were cancer or other natural causes.

Losing someone you love is hard. Having a good chunk of the population think that what your loved one died of to be fake is a pain I can’t imagine. Every time I saw someone online making fun of people for wearing masks or saying the virus was fake or some sort of conspiracy theory I felt the slap my friends must have felt.

2020 has definitely driven home the point that we don’t know how much time we have here. I don’t think of that and live in fear or worry. Instead it drives me to make each moment count. Each person count. I don’t know if I will ever forget this lesson now. I sure hope I don’t.

2021 is a clean slate.

I hope we can do better this year. I hope we can garner some much needed empathy for others. I hope we can do a better job at loving one another.

Because love matters…