The Voice of a Mom…Part IV

There was something I dreaded when my kids were younger.  Well mainly when my daughter was younger.  When she saved up enough money and wanted to go to the mall, I cringed.  I knew exactly what that meant.  Beanie Babies.  She was obsessed with them and I currently have about 4 big containers full of them in my basement to prove it. Heaven forbid we get rid of them…you know…now that she is 22 years old.

She would gather up all of her money into her little hands and off we would go to the mall.  We went straight for the Beanie Baby kiosk.  The problem with this is that my daughter loved ALL OF THEM.  She would look up at the displays of animals, scrutinizing each one, to pick out the perfect companion to take home with her.  They were all perfect in her eyes of course, but because she only had enough money each time to buy one it was a painstaking process.  We would go round and round that kiosk until I was dizzy.  “McKensie you need to pick one,” I would tell her.  “I can’t decide,” she would protest.  She would eventually narrow it down to two.  Sigh.  The customary ritual was she would then tell me to put one in each hand and then put them behind my back.  After much deliberation, she would pick a hand.  Now you would think that would end it.  Right? Nope.  “I’m just not sure that’s the one I want,” she would lament.  It always got to the point were I had to tell her she had 30 seconds left to decide and she would pick one at the last second.  Memories…

This behavior is pretty typical for kids.  Indecisiveness…wanting one thing one second…and then something else the next. I think that’s one of the reasons why parents of trans kids get such a bad wrap.  People look at their own experiences with their kids and try to compare the two.  It’s like trying to compare apples and oranges.  My daughter for instance did not like to wear dresses.  Every time I would put her in one when she was a toddler she would pull at it and say, “I don’t likey it!”  She also preferred to play with dinosaurs rather than dolls.  And Lego’s with her brother, but not the pink “girly” kind.  She was what society would call a tomboy.  But not once, did she ever say that she didn’t feel like a girl.  Not once did she ask when she would be a boy.  Because…her brain and her body match…and she is a girl.

This next and last mom that is going to share has a different experience.  Again, I ask that if you comment you be respectful. She is an amazing mom who is helping others who have children that are on the same path as her child.  I respect her so much, as I do the other moms that have shared, and I am honored to have her as a friend.

10177861_10203423196682319_2655426038570311619_nAnd now the voice of a mom part IV:

I am sharing our story with my friend Lesa at her request and with my son’s approval.

In 1998, I was single and very much wanted to have a family.  Fast-forward 3 years and I was entering a conference room in China to see the most beautiful baby girl.  She was thirteen months old, had humongous black eyes, a full head of black silky hair, an adorable rosebud mouth, and dressed in a boy’s outfit.    I was in love and so thrilled to be her mother!   Upon request of the orphanage, I changed her clothes later that afternoon and of course put her in the most beautiful dress I had brought with me.  🙂

She was a quiet child, often preferring to observe the activities around her rather than directly participating, always holding back.  She had a few very close friends, but none in her grade or even in her school.  At school she preferred the interactions with the boys in her class, yet was never really one of them.  We tried several activities, including girl scouts, but still she remained on the outside, unable or unwilling to join in.  She couldn’t connect or understand the relationships with the girls and had no interest in the activities of a typical girl.  Instead she lost herself in her books – reading was a passion for many, many years.

Around the age of 5-6 years, the dresses fell by the wayside, preferring plain bottoms/tops, begrudgingly allowing me to throw a pattern in here or there.  By the middle of elementary school, the clothes evolved into her “uniform” of jeans or plain shorts and a plain t-shirt or a unisex t-shirt with a saying or cartoon picture.  Shoes were only sneakers.  Bathing suits were as plain as possible, usually a black one-piece, as nondescript as possible.  This intensified as elementary school came to a close.

Meanwhile, her friendships became fewer, sticking mainly to wonderful family friends who loved and supported her despite her “ungirly” differences.  She became more withdrawn and sad…always an underlying state of sadness.  She told me once – “I’m always sad Mom.”

As middle school came, so did puberty.  The body changes were not welcome.  She hated them, dressing more and more to conceal the changes, slouching, head down, and becoming quieter.  She had no desire to engage in anything remotely associated with being a girl, tending more toward the activities of a boy – archery, video games, and always the books – fantasy, dragons, etc.

With the start of high school, the depression became overwhelming.  She became almost totally withdrawn, sluggish, uncaring, and very angry.  Something was clearly wrong.  We started counseling.   She wouldn’t open up, but got angrier.  I felt that she could explode at any time.  Something was working at her and needed to come out.  I suspected that she was potentially dealing with sexuality issues and maybe gender issues.   We were constantly watching her; worried she would harm herself, and anguished that we couldn’t help her.  Finally, after two months, a week and a half before Christmas, she broke.  She left an index card in my laptop and went to school.  I found it later that morning while getting my younger daughter ready for school.  “Anatomy lies.”  That’s all it said.  I stared and thought, “Okay, now we know what we are dealing with.”  Of course, that opened up whole new questions of what exactly does this mean?  How in the world can I help?  What does this mean for the future?  Will she be bullied?  Harmed?  Allowed to be who she needs to be?  And who does she need to be?

Thank goodness my mom and sister live so close to us.  Without their love and support, finding our way through this would have been so much more difficult.  I was focused on my child’s mental health and supporting her.  Meanwhile, my sister dug right in and researched local resources and support groups and found one of my saviors, Catherine Hyde of Howard County PFLAG.  Catherine is mom to a transgender daughter, has walked in my shoes, and started and grew a strong and broad transparent support group.  She was, and continues to be, a wealth of information, support, love and calmness.

After repeated talks with my child, it became clear to me that she had never been a girl.  She had always been a boy, but living in a body she didn’t understand, couldn’t identify with, and began to hate.   And “she” was drowning and would not survive, let alone thrive.  I, my mom, and my sister immediately stressed that we loved him, supported him, and accepted him.  He asked that we change pronouns and refer to him as “he” and “him”.  Eventually he chose to change his name, even though I had given him a unisex name.  But that name was associated with his life as a girl and didn’t fit him anymore.  I have to say that for me, the name change was so much more difficult and sad than the gender “change” (in quotes because only the presentation/outward perception of his gender actually changed).

He is now living life as his authentic self.  He lives and presents as the boy he truly is inside and he is finding peace in that ability.  He still has his ups and downs, the depression and anxiety, prevalent in so many of the transgender kids, is still present and a constant battle.

So now to answer Lesa’s questions.

1.  How do you know it’s not a phase?

When Lesa first approached me about this project, this particular question really hit me really hard.  It is one that I have received a lot.  It generates real frustration in me.  This is a pain that these kids have lived with for a long time – most of them since they are very, very young.  In trying to process my response, the following sort of just spilled out.

The depth of the depression that often accompanies a child’s recognition of being trapped in a body he cannot identify with, actually hates, possibly wants to harm, or possibly would prefer to die rather continue to live in cannot be faked and can’t be argued with.  That is not a phase.

My child is not gender fluid.  He does not feel like a girl some days and others like a boy.  He is a boy.  He knows he is a boy and he knows that the body he lives in does not reflect who he is.  Upon sharing the news with me that he was transgender at the age of 14, and finding the love, acceptance, and support from his family, my child became happier, his depression lessened and his outlook on life improved.  He smiled and laughed more, and began socializing more with friends.  He began to blossom.  That is not a phase.

This state persisted and did not abate.  That is not a phase.

The desire to live in a body that more closely reflects his true self strengthened until it became an overwhelming need. This was not an overnight decision or a whim.  This is not a desire that cisgender (a person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth) kids have.  That is not a phase.

He wanted desperately to begin his transition, to find a physical body that he was more comfortable living in.  The puberty blockers were the first step to stop development of the wrong body.  That granted some relief.   That is not a phase.

This was followed closely by the desire for testosterone.  Again, no cisgender kid is going to ask for hormones of the opposite sex; however, many transgender kids beg for them.  Most transgender individuals find some relief of anxiety and become a bit more comfortable in their own skin by the introduction of the cross-gender hormones.  They begin to see body differences that start to bring their bodies in line with their identity and they feel some relief.  That is not a phase.

No matter what the age, when a child is so very consistently, insistently and persistently adamant that they are not the gender they were assigned, that is not a phase.

So let me turn the question around.  “When did you know you were a boy/girl?”  The answer is typically “I don’t know, I just knew.”  And a transgender individual will give the same response.  They just know.  And it is not a phase.

2.  Aren’t you harming your child by giving them hormones so young?  Shouldn’t you wait until their older?

I struggled with this question myself.  My son was ready to start hormones and look at top surgery the night he came out to me.  I laughed and told him he had to slow down and let me catch up.  Through reading (lots and lots of reading!), talking with other parents of trankids and medical professionals, I came to the realization that the longer we waited the more changes would be happening and the more feminine his body would become.  I couldn’t, in any good conscience, sentence him to any more feminine changes that he would have to live with the rest of his life when there was something that we could do to stop it progressing and that wouldn’t be harmful to him.  We started with puberty blockers to stop his development where it was.  During this time I studied the pros/cons of starting cross-sex hormones, for him, this would be the addition of testosterone.  After much research, I realized that the most permanent and extreme side effects are the ones that he wanted the most – voice change, Adams apple, facial and body hair, body weight redistribution.  And there are no side effects that would be harmful to his future health beyond that of what a person with natural testosterone would face.    At that point, the pros so far outweighed the cons, that there really wasn’t any other possible decision but to move forward with the hormone therapy.

3.  What’s the big deal about the bathroom?

Ah, the hot button topic.  I really don’t know how to explain this to someone who doesn’t understand that transgender people are not “pretending” to live as the other gender.  My son isn’t “dressing up” as a boy, or just presenting as a boy – but is actually a boy living inside the wrong type of body.  He is not trying to pull a fast one.  He does not identify with being a girl in any way so going into the girls bathroom is as wrong and uncomfortable for him as it is for me to go into the men’s room.  He doesn’t belong in the women’s room any more than I belong in the men’s room. Moreover, the transgender individual is not the only person uncomfortable when in the wrong bathroom – the cisgender individuals who are not expecting the “wrong” gender to be there are also be uncomfortable.  He was pushed out of the girls room several times during his transition because he “didn’t belong there – go use the boys bathroom”.

On a broader note, transgender people have been using the bathroom they identify with for as long as there have been public bathrooms – and this went virtually unnoticed.  You know why?  Because they keep a low profile.  They don’t want to be noticed – especially where they feel the most vulnerable in public – in the restroom.  They want to go in, do what they need to do, and leave.  Just like the rest of us.  By making them use the “other” restroom, you are putting them in a situation that they don’t belong in, putting the others in that restroom in a situation that they don’t belong in.  And for what reason?  Because it is not understood, it is different, and our society doesn’t handle “different” all that well.  The argument that by allowing transfemales to use the women’s room (and let’s face it, no one is arguing about the transmales using the men’s room), we are making it easier for “perverts” to enter and get to the wives and daughters, is actually backwards.  Because forcing a transmale back into the woman’s restroom, assuming that they will actually do so, means that they will be entering that restroom as their authentic self.  They are not going to change their appearance just to pee.  So they will be entering as a male.  Now a woman who sees a man in the woman’s restroom will not automatically be able to state that they don’t belong there – their internal warning radar that something is not right will be called into question, which will actually put them, as well as the transgender individual, in more danger.  And no one is more vulnerable or at risk in a restroom than a transgender person.

 4.  What do I want people to know the most?

Artwork by Jennifer White

Artwork by Jennifer White

What I really want people to understand is that this is real.  Transgender people aren’t pretending and they aren’t confused.  This isn’t a choice (and seriously, this one ticks me off the most – really, who would choose this!?).  These are real people, who have real feelings, wants, dreams, and goals.  They are loving and kind and want to be free to live their lives.  They don’t want special privileges, but rather the same rights and dignities that are afforded to the majority of the population – the rights and dignities expressed in our Constitution.  And the same love and acceptance expressed by the Golden Rule – due unto others as you would have them do unto you.  I know this is hard to understand – you can’t really understand until you walk in these shoes or love someone who does, but I implore everyone, please try.

Lesa here…well this wraps up my first ever series on my blog!  I’m so thankful for the moms who have shared a piece of their journey and heart with us.  As you can see, there are many similarities to their stories.  I have found that to be true of the parents of gay kids that I have met as well.  I think there is something to be said about that, but I will leave that for another day (smile).

When you are out and about and hear someone say something negative about someone transgender, remember these stories. Remember these kids…and stand up for them.  They need our love…

Because love matters…

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The Voice of a Mom…Part III

I have a secret.  It’s one that I’ve been holding onto for 44 years.  My younger cousins will be shocked to know this secret as they think I never did anything wrong as a child.  I’m not sure I’ve ever told anyone this secret.  It happened when I was four years old.  My mom and I were carving a pumpkin for Halloween.  My dad was on night shift so it was just the two of us.  We started the process and cut the top off of the pumpkin.  Next we scooped out the guts.  My mom needed to use the restroom and before doing so she left very strict instructions not to eat any of the guts that we just scooped out while she was gone. Well that made me very curious.  I waited until I was sure she was all the way up the stairs and in the bathroom before I proceeded to take the teeniest, tiniest, ittiest bittiest piece of pumpkin pulp…and popped it into my mouth.

She came back downstairs and we completed the carving of our pumpkin.  And then it happened.  I got very sick.  I mean really sick.  I don’t remember how many times I threw up, but it was a lot.  I can only remember one other time 44 years later that I was as sick as I was that night.  She asked me over and over again, “Lesa are you sure you didn’t eat any of that pumpkin?”  And each time, “No I didn’t eat any.”  Liar, liar pants on fire!  I have no idea if the pumpkin made me sick.  I mean…isn’t that where we get the pumpkin for pumpkin pie?  Maybe you have to cook it before it’s edible?  Could it have been my guilt from knowing I did something I wasn’t supposed to do that made me so sick?  I guess we will never know…unless there is a pumpkin expert out there that will indeed tell me that raw pumpkin will make you deathly ill (smile).

My mom was trying to protect me and in return she got a sleepless night with a very sick little one.  Protecting their children is something that is just a natural instinct that comes with motherhood.  I have lots of examples of her fierce love and protective nature over me and my sister.  This is just a small example and it’s a simple one.  But for many moms, protecting our young is one of our greatest tasks.  I think you will hear that in the “voice” of the next mom that is going to share with us. As you read her story about her transgender child, you will hear the protective mama bear coming out. And when you have a LGBTQ child, this task is even more daunting as so much of the world is against your child. (here is another article that will help explain that transgender is not a choice).

This mom has a child a bit further in the journey than the first mom who shared.  Again, a very personal story will be shared with you.  Please be respectful if you decide to comment.  She is another amazing mom with a beautiful daughter and I am so happy that I’ve gotten to know her and proud to call her my friend.

10177861_10203423196682319_2655426038570311619_nAnd now the voice of a mom part III:

I am doing this writing for my friend Lesa that asked me to speak on behalf of myself & my transdaughter. I am doing this in hopes that it opens people’s eyes & hearts.

First some background…Although our journey that led us to another daughter began in my eyes many years ago, it has really only just begun.  Let me explain…Drue is my 14-year-old daughter.  She was born as Andrew (a boy).  I was so excited to have a child and didn’t care of the sex as long as my child was happy and healthy as most moms I am sure would say.  Drue joins our family with 2 other sisters. My husband and I are pretty easy-going parents and do everything with our kids.   Never in the mom handbook or “What to expect with your toddler” did it ever have a chapter on raising a transgender child.  I am damn glad it didn’t.  I didn’t need some book telling me how to prepare myself for the amazing transformation my child was about to undertake in the future ahead.

We have been so blessed with this amazing, talented, fun-loving gift.  I could tell from a very young age that Drue was different from the other little boys.  He was always very nurturing, kind, loving & sweet, so artistic and loved to learn.  He would watch every move I made and try to mimic them. I thought, “Ok, this is normal because my oldest daughter did the same.”  He carried a blanket around everywhere and would put it on his head and pretended it was his long beautiful “girl” hair.  He would wear my heels around the house and even outside on the concrete to hear them on the sidewalk.  I told myself, “What kids don’t do that?”

At around age three, Drue would play with toys that I thought were enjoyable “boy” toys, but he never seemed happy when doing so.  My oldest daughter had Barbie dolls all over the house.  One day Drue picked a Barbie up and an enormous smile filled his face…one that I haven’t ever quite seen. It was a different kind of happy.  Drue joyfully played with that doll endlessly and Barbie went everywhere with us

When we went to the store, he always chose the “girl” aisle of toys and I thought “Ok, so what…it’s just toys.” I would try to take him and almost force him to pick out “boy” toys.  Sometimes, unwillingly, I could tell he would just pick one only to satisfy me.  Finally I said to myself, “That’s it.  It is plain to see that girl toys make my child happy.”  And if he is happy so am I.  Parenting sometimes involves compromising.  You learn this pretty early.

Several years of pain and suffering inside his own head trying to figure out who he was and where he belongs really took a toll on his life.  At around 4th or 5th grade, he was bullied in school and begged me to remove him and home school him. It got to the point that he asked me to take him to the hospital for help and even said to his older sister I just don’t want to wake up. I knew at that moment I would do anything I had to do to make sure I didn’t lose my child.

After years of therapy and loving support, our child finally figured out who he was and where in this world he belonged. Andrew was always a girl trapped in a boy’s body.  It was so clear now. There is no doubt this is how our child was born.  I brought this child into this world and I made a promise to love and protect this child no matter what life brings. I told her we will make it work. We will do whatever we need to do and that she had mine and her dad’s support.  As I was saying this out loud to her, I meant every word… I really did.  I just didn’t know if I really could follow through with that.  As a mom, we always fear for our children’s safety.  This was so out of my control that I really didn’t know if I always could protect her but I know I will do my best.

As a parent I never felt a loss of a son. My child was always there…just in a different body.  I love my child for the person she is and the heart that she has.

Now for the questions that Lesa outlined:

1.  How do you know this isn’t just a phase?

A phase is a small part of life that someone can go through, but it’s not followed through with for a very long period of time.  It’s kind of like when someone changes their hair color all the time to keep up with the new “phase”.  You know it’s not a phase when it has always been there and showed up in many different ways.  When I hear people say that this “lifestyle” is a choice it burns me up inside.  No person, especially a child, would ever choose this life. It is a life full of questioning, wondering, re-building. It’s full of bullying, harassment, depression, drugs and sometimes suicide.  I wish people could understand that these are precious children full of a ton of love that are simply born in the wrong body.

2.  Are you hurting your child by giving them hormones or puberty blockers? Should you wait until they        are older?

The answer for my child’s situation is absolutely positively without a doubt NO!!  It would actually harm my child to not have blockers or start on hormones.  My daughter received a puberty blocker at age 13.  This is all a part of saving her life. So along with doctors who agreed it was time to start, the puberty blocking process began. The reason it’s so important is if you can only try to imagine being born a woman and growing a beard…no woman wants that.  Well that’s horrific to my trans daughter. This process stops facial hair, Adams apple, and voice deepening etc…   For our daughter to survive this had to be done.  In a few short months, she will start hormone therapy so she can feel more and more like a young lady as her other girlfriends do.

3.  Aren’t you saying God made a mistake?

God doesn’t create junk or mistakes.  God loves all.  This child was NO mistake. This child is one of the absolute greatest gifts in not just my life but everyone she meets. She loves deeply with no judgment on anybody.  Frankly, I feel that more of us could learn from her.  I firmly believe she was brought into my life to teach pure love & acceptance.   If we say God made a mistake, then that’s passing judgment and how can we do that as Gods children?  Are handicap children mistakes? Are drug addicted born babies mistakes? No and neither is a child that was born in the wrong body.

4.  What’s the big deal with the bathroom?

This is a touchy question and it’s been a battle that I hate arguing about.  No person understands what it’s like to walk in the shoes of our transgender children.  The bathroom and locker room is a very scary place for my child.  My child has changed clothes for gym and uses the toilet in the nurse’s office for 2 years now. The nerves and anxiety kick in and its tears and so many fears about what someone is going to say next. The funny part is when we go into a bathroom…we are going in there behind a door to use the toilet. We are not standing there to check people out. Hate to break it to everyone also but transgender people have used the restrooms for decades and guess what?? Nobody’s ever known.  They are human beings like us and they deserve to share the same rights we all have.

In ending, this is definitely not the life I pictured having, but I honestly can’t imagine it any other way.  I am the blessed one because I get to see life through Drue’s eyes.  She wants to try to better this world and I will continue to do so for her and many others.

I recently asked her if she wanted the pictures removed off the wall of her past…the old “Andrew” photos.   She said no because it was all part of who she is and the journey we are on. I couldn’t be more proud of her.  She is a pure loving child that I know is exactly where she is supposed to be in life.

Thanks for listening with open ears and I hope you have an open heart now as well if you didn’t before.

Lesa here:  Thanks once again for taking the time to read another mom’s journey.  I think it helps us to understand (as best we can) what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.  I also think it is an act of love to step outside of ourselves to try to gain an understanding of something before we have a strong opinion on it.  I love this mom and her family and I would protect her “cubs” as if they were my very own.

Because love matters…

Who inspires you?

Inspire 

: to make (someone) want to do something : to give (someone) an idea about   what to do or create

: to cause (something) to happen or be created

: to cause someone to have (a feeling or emotion)

Who knew that seven simple letters could accomplish so much.  I find a lot of things inspiring…God’s beautiful creation, words of encouragement, someone’s personal story.  These things can spark my imagination, spur me on to do something I might otherwise think I can’t accomplish, and touch a part of my soul that connects me to the One who created me.

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150I’m joining Holley Gerth and her “Coffee for Your Heart” challenge to encourage others.  This week’s theme is “Who inspires you?”  Hmmm…well anytime I see someone overcoming adversity…or striving to survive while in the midst of it…I am inspired.  So naturally the first person to come to my mind is my son.  Since my blog deals with our struggles over the years, I thought I’d take some time to brag about some good stuff (smile).

My son inspires me…it started when he was a little boy.

Anytime we were out and about in a place that there was an opportunity to play with kids he would join them…and he was always asking if they could come home with us to play…even though he just met them.  They were his instant friend.  In the second grade, he was voted the “king of kindness.”  The whole school voted and he won complete with crown and bag of candy (smile). For his 8th birthday, he decided that he didn’t want presents for his birthday, but instead wanted his friends to make a donation to the Johns Hopkins Children Center.  Our local radio station was having a telethon at that time to raise money for the hospital.  After his party, we went to the radio station and presented the money that was collected.  He was so excited, but at the same time very shy about it.  He may joke around today that he doesn’t like people much, but when it comes right down to it, he cares deeply about his genuine friends and even when life may separate him from those friends…they remain a friend to him forever.  He cares and that inspires me.

When he reached puberty and discovered he was gay, he definitely went to a dark place.  It seemed that depression and anxiety were going to overtake his life and he struggled a great deal with both. I am amazed, however, at what he was able to accomplish during that time. He had an English teacher in high school that encouraged him to write and he discovered that he is a very talented writer.  He won state contests and was able to read one of his pieces in front of a live audience.  I’m not sure how he did it since he struggled with crippling anxiety, but he did it…and that inspires me.

He decided in high school that he wanted to learn how to draw so he took an art class.  He discovered that he is a talented artist.  It takes him some time, but he has many amazing pieces to show the talent that God has given him. The fact that he pursued something that he was interested in at a time when he doubted everything about himself…in fact at times hated himself…inspires me.

He got really good grades in high school and went off to college where he has made the Dean’s list every semester. May not seem like a big deal, but throw in panic attacks and suicidal thoughts and it’s pretty amazing if you ask me…and it inspires me.

He decided that he wanted to learn how to play the piano, took a few lessons, and when school consumed too much of his time, he went on to continue teaching himself and in a short time has become quite the piano player.  I played the piano when I was younger and had lessons for years and never reached his level…and that inspires me.

Today he gets up each day knowing he may face discrimination because he is gay.  But that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to pursue the things that are important to him.  He went from having so much trouble socially (from years of bullying – making him closed off to people), to totally blossoming this year.  He actually says that he is sad that this is his last semester of college because he is finally having fun.  He decided at the end of last semester that he wanted to learn how to swing dance.  He got a few friends interested, they went and took lessons, and now just about every weekend they head to the city and dance half the night away.  As he puts it, “hey mom…I started a thing.”  They all love it and it’s become an important part of their social life…and that inspires me.

There really aren’t words to express how much things have changed for him.  You would have to know the deep despair that he felt. But somehow, through the darkness, he has found the strength to press on…but not just press on…to thrive.  He is a delight…he is quirky…he is funny…and he is super smart.  He inspires me to pursue my own creativeness, to try things that might be scary (like starting a blog), and my heart swells with love whenever I think of him.

People have told me that I’m brave to be so honest here.  I’m not the brave one…he is…

inspire-2

Now it’s your turn…who inspires you?