Support, family and belonging

January 22, 2020

Dear diary,

Mom is going to a trans parents support meeting today. Mom says she feels like crying just thinking about going to this meeting. Somehow, being with people whose goal is to JUST SUPPORT YOU—this is a concept that was very foreign to mom when she was growing up.

Family. Home. The place where you go for sleep, nourishment and shelter—for mom this came with a price. The price was fear. Fear of judgment, scoldings, and a never ending list of all the things mom was doing wrong. Or not enough of.

Home. Family. This was a hostile place, where you had to defend yourself from the “rules of the parental units.” They were right, you were wrong. Compassion was for stupid people who were not up to par and had to resort to kindness for survival. If one of mom’s parental units were to be kind, it was used as a device to pity people, and make the parental figure feel better about themselves.

Mom hated all of this. And mom thought this was wrong. But mom didn’t have the words to explain herself. Because she was a child. So she learned to keep it inside. But by keeping it inside, this idea turned into a knife. A knife of vengeance. A knife of: you are so wrong, therefore I must be very right. I will guard my righteousness with my life. Because if I am wrong, humans all suck, there is no hope and I have to die.

Mom lived with this knife for many, many years. She grew up into an adult and everywhere she went, mom carried this knife around. And somehow people knew about this knife. They knew. And they also knew that mom would not hesitate to use the knife. On herself, on others, all in the name of righteousness. Mom was, for a very long time, a very scary person.

One day mom realized that if she wanted to live harmoniously with other humans, she would have to do something about the knife. The knife that had protected her. The knife that had protected mom’s ideals of humanity. And mom started to put the knife down.

It took a lot of practice. Almost twenty years. But mom is now the owner of strength and might, but without the violence of the knife that she used to wield. And this is because mom has found compassion for humanity. It started out as pity for humanity. But the pity became sympathy, which grew into empathy and compassion.

Mom is going to a meeting today. To be supported. I love my mommy so much. I’m going to give her an extra hug today.

Love, Bob

b-day

January 9, 2020

Dear diary,

Mom and dad were very excited about their Christmas present this year. Every once in a while, mom and dad give themselves a gift that they can share. The first time it was a nice mattress. The second time, it was a fancy bathtub. This year they decided on getting a birthday.

Actually, they said, B-Day, which means birthday, right? I was confused. I asked mom about the b-day Christmas gift. Mom clarified and said, bee-day. Or did she say, buh-DAY. What?

So it turns out it’s called a bidet. Pronounced somewhat like buh-day. I looked it up in the dictionary: a low oval basin used for washing one’s genital and anal area.

Eeeeew. And somehow they’re going to share this thing? Why? How? Eeeeeew.

I learned that the word bidet is French in its origin, mom and dad learned about it during their trips to Korea, and now we have a Japanese made bidet in the house. We are so fucking global.

There were many options to chose from, so mom tells me. (I was done learning about bidets as soon as I found out it had something to do with the anus, but mom is so happy with this new doohickey, she can’t stop talking about it.)

So, back to the options: cheap ones, expensive ones, cold water only options, warm water options, heated seats, non-heated seats and one with a REMOTE CONTROL. Seriously.

Mom and dad debated about all these options.

At the forefront of things to consider: mom was going to do the installing, and mom being frugal she didn’t want to involve a plumber, so if mom and dad wanted heated water, it would have to be a part of the system. Otherwise, it was going to be cold water spraying your anus. I like cold water on my anus. It didn’t sound like mom and dad were too keen on the idea.

So that narrowed things down a bit.

Then the second decision that needed to be made was the control system: a fully attached arm with controls or a free flying, untethered, loosey-goosey remote control. A REMOTE CONTROL. It seemed like a no brainer at first. There was the option to have two different preference set ups for two different users. Hotter water? Cooler water? Spray strength: normal, soft or robust? Spray location: more to the front? More to the back? I mean seriously.

But then mom and dad looked at each other and said at the same time: what if we drop the fucker in the water?

So now we have a remote control-less, fully attached to the toilet control system bidet.

And that’s what mom and dad chose as their Christmas gift for themselves. A b-day.

Practice joy.

Love, Bob

Gone fishing

December 9, 2019

Dear diary,

Mom got the mother load of all splinters. She almost fainted. We live in a hundred year old house. That means the wood floors are also one hundred years old. In the winter, the wood becomes more brittle. And mom’s thick winter socks got caught and BAM.

The splinter went in deep. Mom could see the dark shadow of the splinter. She could see it hovering beneath the thick layer of skin at the ball of her left foot. Like a large fish might hover in the murky waters of a pond.

Mom had to hobble over to get some tweezers and a needle. As she quietly sat, trying to pry open her skin so that her body would give up the intruder, mom thought of the splinters she used to get when she was young.

When mom was a girl, she knew to go to her dad. Granddad would go so gently, so softly, so carefully, that you barely felt any pain. I know he didn’t but mom says it was almost like he was singing to her. The thing was that it took FOREVER to get the fucker out. But there was little pain.

If mom went to grandma, it would be short, but brutal. Dig, dig, dig, pinch, pull and the splinter was out.

Mom felt she liked granddad’s method better. Mom felt that granddad understood pain and honored it. Whereas grandma was, “fuck pain. You don’t even want to know what pain is. Come here and let’s do this.”

Today, mom hovered somewhere between grandma and granddad’s methods: mom went in directly and forcefully, but gave herself breaks as needed. When mom finally pulled out the 50 year old bass of a splinter, blood gushed out and dropped into the floor.

Mom put a bandaid on muttered to herself, “I am so grateful it was me who got the splinter. If it was anyone else in, they would have insisted on going to the ER.” She is not naming any names. (Dad. And maybe Jungmin. I can imagine dad saying: can you put me under?)

At least mom isn’t the only drama queen in this household.

Love, Bob

Themed

November 11, 2019

Dear diary,

After a week of being sick as a dog, mom is being weird. Or perturbed. Or maybe morbid? I don’t know, it’s confusing. Because as Jungmin says, “you aren’t wrong.”

So, mom got some fabric that has drawings of farm animals with their body parts portioned in dotted lines, with titles for each part: loin, ribs, ham, leg, wing, neck, thigh, chuck, shank, brisket and sirloin among others. It’s mostly black except for the drawings which is made of thin white lines. Mom says it’s for her Thanksgiving dress. (Yeah, mom is making themed dresses now. Ick.)

I asked her why it was a Thanksgiving dress. I thought it was like a “kitchen”, or “happy meat eater” dress. Mom says it’s a Thanksgiving dress because of all the animals we eat but mostly to symbolize how the Native Americans were murdered for this land. Like Jungmin says, “you aren’t wrong…”

Mom is going to visit her cute nieces for Thanksgiving. I sure hope she doesn’t bring this dress with her. Or her mood. Sheesh.

Love, Bob

Heya, the boy cat

October 30, 2019

Dear diary,

I heard mom grumbling, “I’m so going to flunk this test.” I ask her what test she is talking about. She tells me it’s called “implicit bias test.” I ask mom what implicit bias is. Mom says that implicit bias is an underlying prejudice that keeps a person from treating other people equitably. I look at mom. And I blink. And she gets that I’m an Axolotl. So mom decides to tell me a story.

When mom was 29, newly divorced and newly minted as a faculty member at Ohio University, she was scared out of her mind about her future. And to ground herself, she decided to look for love. Mom called the first name in the local yellow pages under the category of “veterinarian” and asked if they knew of anyone who had a litter of kittens that needed homes. The clerk asked mom how many phone numbers she wanted.

Mom called the first number and it was a woman who lived on a farm. The woman said a stray kitty came to the farm a few weeks ago, and even though the kitty was such a small cat that the woman thought she was a kitten herself, this kitty was pregnant and had the litter just last week.

Mom had done some research and found that the longer the babies stay with the mom, the more well-adjusted they are. What is true for humans seem to be true for cats. So mom asked the nice lady for two kittens in two months time when the babies will be fully weaned from the mom. And then mom added two extra weeks—just to be safe.

So one fall weekend, mom drove out of town to a small farm and picked up two kitties. The first kitty was a yellow ball of energy bouncing off the walls, and mom said “I’ll take that one.” While mom was looking for a second kitty to take home, there was a very small tri-colored kitty as small as a mouse that just sat next to mom and peered deeply into mom’s eyes. Mom tried to break eye contact, but the runt of the litter would not look away. And mom said, well, I chose the yellow one, but it looks like you chose me! And with that mom found Heya and Kumma.

The nice farm lady told mom that Heya was a boy and Kumma was a girl.

My eyes start glazing over at this point—slightly distracted because I realize I need to go poop, but I get a sharp look from mom and decide to pull myself together.

Heya and Kumma adjusted nicely to their new living environment. The most surprising thing was how affectionate Heya was. We are talking about head to head-butting, then turning around and walking backwards so that mom got a face full of kitty butt kind of forceful affection.

Mom would brush Heya off of her face and say, oh enough already. Get a hold of yourself. This went on and on and on.

Then one day mom took Heya and Kumma to the veterinarian office to get them fixed. Mom asked the doctor to neuter Heya and spay Kumma. The doctor looks over the two cats and says, “I can spay Kumma but I can’t neuter Heya.” Bewildered, mom asked why not. And the doctor tells mom that he can’t neuter Heya because Heya is a girl.

It takes a bit for mom to get her head around this. And the two kitties get spayed.

When the two kitties come back home, they are back to their old routine. Sleeping in mommy’s armpit. Licking her face clean with their soft and scratchy tongue. And the forever and ever Heya head butting mom and giving mom a face full of kitty butt. But mom doesn’t brush off Heya anymore saying “enough already.” Instead she cuddles Heya even more and says things like “who’s mommy’s girl.”

And then it hits her. Mom that is. What. The. Fuck. Mom is a feminist. Not because she doesn’t like men, but because she believes in equity. But here she was treating Heya SO DIFFERENTLY. JUST. BECAUSE. SHE. WAS. A. GIRL. I mean she almost/sort of/not really/but really withheld love and affection from a tiny kitty cat because she thought it was a boy kitty cat. I mean seriously! At this point I started getting really mad at mom because I AM A BOY TOO!!!! Has she been withholding love from me? And shaming me if I wanted attention or love?!!! What the fuck!!! MOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!

Mom looks at me and says that is an example of implicit bias. Without even knowing what she was doing, mom was following set norms of the society she grew up in and belonged to. Boys are rough and tough and girls need hugs and kisses. Mom had to adjust her behavior so that it lined up with her thinking.

Implicit bias. Holy mother forking shirt balls.

The good news is that everyone has it. But not everyone is willing to look at it.

Mom took the test a few years ago. In her mind she flunked it. And yes, she does have implicit biases all over the place.

But her behavior has changed. She is not defaulting to the social norms but is practicing mindfulness in how she connects with other humans.

I think I have implicit biases towards all of my previous roommates. Dinner or friend? Snack or friend? Yummy or friend?

I have to go poop now.

Love, Bob

Method

Dear diary,

Mom finished her Edna Mode costume. Then she immediately went down hill. She went to a dark, dark place. It was a place where she was called many names.

Stupid. Pitiful. Ugly. Idiot. Stupid. With all that is happening in the world, you’re making stupid Halloween costumes? Stupid. Pitiful. Ugly. Idiot. Stupid.

These shaming words cut through her and she started drowning in her own blood. She knew these words were not true. But they hurt just the same.

Since last week, mom’s costume list grew. Along with the original list of Edna, Wednesday, Moira and RBG, now she has Frida, Dorothy, No-Face (from Spirited Away) and Sadness (from Inside Out). They are fierce. Fearful. Fearless. Sad. And they are visualizations of what goes on in mom’s head.

But I think mom has to go back to being her. I didn’t realize it, but it turns out mom is a method actor. I mean seriously. She was channeling some serious Sean Penn worthy bull-shit. And it has been very bad for her mental health. Sheesh.

Mom, you do you. Enough of Edna and Moira, No-Face and Sadness. You do you.

Practice joy.

Love, Bob

P. S. I actually don’t know if Sean Penn is a method actor or if he is full of bullshit. Most likely he is hurting inside. And that can make an asshole out of any one of us.

Playing dress up

Dear diary,

Mom loves Halloween dress up. She doesn’t want the treats. She‘s a bit fearful of the tricks. But she loves the dress up part. She has been wanting to dress up for Halloween for decades. But haven’t had the will power to invest in dress up.

This year, mom is going full throttle. Mom says it’s part of her “#practicejoy so don’t JUDGE ME and you can fuck off if you do judge me” plan.

Mom can be a bit dramatic when she feels judged. Even if the voice is her inner critic’s. I mean, who in real life would judge her for playing dress up? It’s practice joy for crying out loud. Who doesn’t want to practice joy? Oh yeah. Mom. Mom used to despise joy, laughter, glee and anything uplifting. I’m so glad she’s lightened up a bit. Sheesh.

On her to-do list of dress up possibilities are:

Edna Mode, the apparel designer from the Incredibles film.

Wednesday Addams from the Addams family.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Right?

And of course, Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek, mom’s current spirit animal.

Mom may dress up every day of Halloween week. That’s what she’s calling the last week of October. Halloween week.

I wonder what I should be for Halloween. Maybe Beetlejuice? I’d have to ask mom to make me a suit. That would be cute.

It’s so cold today. I hope mom bakes something today. Maybe something with cinnamon. Or cardamom. Mmmmmmm.

Love, Bob

Popcorn

September 21, 2019

Dear diary,

The other day, mom had just dropped off Jungmin at school as usual. And as with most mornings she saw many friends of hers. They would smile at each other and wave as they drove past each other. But this day, one of her friends flagged her down.

Mom’s friend came over and shared the news about her own transgender child. But both mom and her friend were a bit distracted.

On the passenger side of mom’s car was a huge bag of yarn of assorted colors in a huge heap. On top of that was a plate. Off kilter. Precariously balanced. And on the plate was a half eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich. With crumbs to match.

And then there were the orange, cheddar flavored popcorn. That was tossed all over the car floor. Jungmin had accidentally busted open a bag of these orange, cheddar flavored popcorn the other day, but with everything that was happening in mom’s life, she didn’t get a chance to clean it up. Actually, that’s a lie. Mom usually doesn’t clean up her car when there is a mess.

So here she is. Having a profound moment with her friend talking about their transgender children. And they both can’t stop glancing at the orange colored, cheddar flavored popcorn, the half eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich balancing on top of a mountain of yarns.

Mom and her friend still had their moment. It was a moment of vulnerability. A moment of sharing. A moment of comforting. A moment of being loved. Mommy is so grateful for her family and community of friends. I love them too.

Love, Bob

Knitting, coping, and the heat wave

July 24, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom is knitting. It’s one hundred degrees outdoors and mom is knitting. She is knitting a hat. The color of the yarn is a soft teal blue, like a robin’s eggs seen at dusk. Mom is knitting because she can’t be in the yard. Because she got heat exhaustion working way too hard in the yard last week—heat exhaustion which showed up as violent vomit and diarrhea for two to three days. Eeeew.

So mom is knitting a winter hat in the mist of a heat wave.

I asked her why she was knitting. Maybe she is bored. Why can’t she be like a normal person and sit and watch tv or something. Mom didn’t answer me. So I asked her again. Why are you knitting? Mom glances at me and said, “I need to keep busy.” Why? “My brain is working too hard and I want to slow it down and distract it.” What is your brain working on? “Worrying about things I can’t control.” And what is that? “Other people’s thoughts and behavior.” Oh, I see.

Mom might have to knit a few blankets for that one. Poor mom. I hope she doesn’t over do the knitting and end up with carpal tunnel. What did mom say love was? Being a witness to bad decisions and still loving them and caring for them without judgment. I’ll have to google “how to sooth carpal tunnel.”

Love, Bob

Cacti, house plants and immortality projects

May 19, 2019

Dear diary,

Mom has always been a cactus. Resilient, self-sufficient, and thorny. Being cacti worked well for many different reasons. But then mom became tired of being a cactus. Because she was alone. Mom was used to being alone. But in reality was mom is afraid of rejection and ultimately, abandonment.

Being the brave soldier that she is, mom decided to become a different kind of plant. A house plant.

A house plant is domesticated. A house plant is a creature that has been removed from the wilderness and brought into a climate controlled environment where they will mostly thrive. They live with other creatures and follow rules of engagement: politeness, kindness, and mindfulness.

Mom struggles the idea of domestication. And whenever she encounters a tool of domestication, let’s call them crates, pens, stalls or boxes, she walks out. And she learns. Mom’s raison d’etre is understanding. She just wants to know. It’s like when you belly hurts. You just want to know why it hurts. The knowing doesn’t make the hurt go away, but it helps with the coping. Because then, you might be able to see the arch of the pain. And see the patterns, and the context of the pain.

All the crates, pens, stalls, boxes that we create to keep creatures from running away—to keep them as objects of ownership—mom hates. Because these contracts are human constructs: race, gender, class. It keeps people in their place.

Capitalism and consumerism keeps us so preoccupied with wanting more and more and more—constantly comparing what I have to what more can I have, or what “they” have and how I want what “they” have, that we forget that we are being domesticated. This wanting is not limited to objects. They can also be concepts like power, intellect, and status. More, more, more.

We are being distracted into our demise.

There is a paper thin distinction between distractions that lead to our demise and distractions that help us cope with our anxiety. The key difference is mindfulness. Can you name and claim the distraction mindfully as a tool to keep you balanced, optimistic, while keeping anxiety at bay? Then go for it. Mindfulness.

Mom used to be a cactus. And now mom is a house plant. Except that she is going through another transition and she is pissed at being a house plant. It’s no one’s fault. Mom asked to go through the transition. The transition being: I will look at my value system and see if I am making mindful decisions about the rest of my life. Yeah. Nothing easy going on here.

Mom, the house plant, it’s being repotted. And she is pissed. And confused. And feeling raw. And vulnerable. As a coping strategy, mom is nurturing cacti again. Thinking that she has to go back to being a cactus. When mom feels vulnerable, her warrior comes out and fights anything and everything that moves. That includes dad. Poor dad. He is patiently waiting for the storm to pass.

Today, mom decided thorns are too much. And so now she is a succulent. Still resilient and self-sufficient, but not thorny. Mom loves the succulents that have many babies. Mother of thousands, mother of millions. And mom is also embracing the coleus plant. These are vibrant, colorful plants that propagate easily. They remind her of the jumpsuits she makes. Mom is calling these plants her mini immorality projects. Something about living beyond death. Is mom becoming a vampire? I should ask her. I don’t want her to become a vampire.

Love, Bob