Please Don’t Take My Freedom

Voting day is tomorrow. It is mid-term elections, which many don’t see as critical, but this time, much of our freedom is riding on the outcome. At 56 years old, I have lived my life enjoying so many freedoms that those in the generation before me, fought for me to have.

I have never had to worry about the government telling me what I could and couldn’t do regarding reproduction and contraception. I have always been able to read whatever I chose to read, and had access at the public library- uncensored. I remember when marriage equality was passed, and how happy I was that everyone was now free to marry their bonded loved one.

I can not, tried as I have, begin to understand how those who claim to stand for freedom and making America great, are for removing so many of our freedoms! They wanted bodily autonomy and freedom during the pandemic, but don’t want anyone else to have it regarding any other freedoms.

I am afraid for my children. I am afraid for my lgbtq+ friends and family. I am worried for the young women in poverty, who will have no reproductive choices or quality care for them and their children.

I don’t know how much more battling this warrior has left in her. There is so much hate and intolerance in the world now. I wasn’t raised this way. I didn’t see this coming until covid hit us in the face.

Did you see this coming? When did you see it coming with this intensity?

~AoA

Library Update

Our big library board meeting was tonight. We met in a larger board room, so that more people could be accommodated. Everyone who wanted to speak was allowed 5 minutes. They just had to sign up on a list. By the time I got there, the room was full, and the list was full of people who wanted to speak. I chose to forego my public statement at this meeting, and it turned out to be the right decision.

The biggest issue was that our library directory of ten years had offered up his resignation, under threats and pressure from one of the city council members who objected to a display during Pride month. The board regretfully accepted the resignation, and expressed their resentment for having to find an interim director and new director under these hostile conditions. They did not think they would ever find someone with near the skills that the current director has, who would step into this.

Two attorneys spoke on behalf of the library and the resigning director. They did a very good job explaining the first amendment, the fear mongering that has been being done, and the slandering and lies that had been cast upon the library director, by the city councilman. It was also pointed out that new businesses would not come to communities where small groups were trying to take control of public spaces and rights.

There were so many rainbow people there, I could have cried. Several of them spoke passionately about the importance of having books that represent everyone.

Our far right conservative neighbors were much more vulgar than the rainbow people. Go figure. They felt the need to actually read the names of sex acts named in a puberty book that they don’t want in the library where kids can see it. Guess who was in the audience? Several kids! Guess who immediately asked me what those words meant? Little AoA! Guess who got a brief sex education vocabulary lesson on the way home? Little AoA!

Another person felt the need to tell that there were “transgender strippers” performing for children. This is so far from a true sentence that it blows my mind. Can someone please hand me a wet fish to throw at this fool? Our poor little town had ONE little drag show for all ages- at Halloween. There were 3 drag queens. My teenager was the only “child” there, and we are personal friends of the drag queens- they are her “drag dads” (that is like a God dad, only way cooler). They had way more clothing on than our local high school cheerleaders! Even their boobs were not real! They were body suits! They even raised money for our local AIDS clinic.

I must admit, I returned in full force, remembering the Army of Angels that God sends before His loves into battle. My friends and I were ready for battle. We knew we were up against something more than people…we were up against spirits, thoughts, the invisible world. On the way there, I reminded Little AoA that the Angel Army was already there, holding up their shiny rainbow armor and holding high their rainbow flags.

~AoA

More Library Drama

Our little town has more library drama than it should. I have written before about a meeting that was held, where people were just aloud to voice their opinions about lgbtq+ books in the public library. Two spoke in support of the right to choose what you read, and four spoke for censorship of books in the library. It was suppose to be 3 and 3, but one of the censorship people lied so that she could have a spot to speak, which was unfortunate. To finish the meeting, one of our new County Commissioners called for the resignation of the library director, and threatened his private business, a small local brewery.

Several weeks have passed, and the library had to reschedule that meeting in order to accommodate all of the people who want to speak on the issue. During this time, the library director decided to go ahead and resign, believing that the County Commissioner would try to block any funding requests that the library might make for future projects, or sabotage his private business. The library director wanted to get ahead of it. Our meeting is set for this Wednesday. I am planning on breaking out of my comfort zone, and speaking. I am going to attempt to write my speech here, and hope that it communicates what I want it to.

Good evening library board, and Maury County neighbors and friends. My name is __________. I have lived, worked, and raised my family in Maury County for nearly 30 years. I have passionately taught in the field of special education in our public schools for the last 21 years. There are members of my friends and family inner circles who are members of the lgbtq+ community, and whom I care for very much. My heart has hurt listening to the hate toward this community, calling them “people with dark hearts”….my child heard you say that. You were talking about her and people she loves. I just want you to know that if you mean to hurt people with your words, you are successful. I mean, do you seriously say to kids’ faces that they have dark hearts? Do you think that helps them? That’s for another time…..

Regarding books, which is, from my understanding, the reason for this entire uprising, I want us to be clear on what is happening. This is not new to libraries, and should not disrupt as many lives as this obviously has disrupted.

First, a book display was curated for PRIDE month. It consisted of books for every age group on the topic. Similarly, when we have other focused months or events in focus, for example, the Holocaust; there would be a variety of books on display for all ages. It is assumed that parents will guide their children to books on their level, even though other levels are displayed. If a child picks up an adult level book, once they open it and see mostly words, they would most likely put it back, but parents can certainly ask to have a look and see if it might be too scary or too violent or have too much sex.

Second, books are shelved in the library according to universal library standards. The Dewey decimal system is used, and rating criteria developed by people who study these things for a living.

Third, if a library patron believes that there is a book that does not belong in the library, there is a standard process for requesting that the book be removed. This starts with reading the entire book, and sending a letter or email to the library, stating what, specifically, it is that is objectionable. The library then collaborated with others, holding the objection up to library standards, and determine if the objection is significant enough to warrant removal of the book.

Process done. No one had to post nude drawings on Facebook. No one was threatened. No anger. No one has to change jobs due to threats. Use the process that is in place.

(Haha- the only picture I found was BTS )

Does my little speech hit the spot? Too personal? Too passive aggressive? Too much of a smart ass? I’m pretty angry about this whole thing, so it is really hard to keep emotions out of this, and I need to try to keep my kids and friends privacy.

~AoA

Daughters Day….ok

I think I have a love hate relationship with Facebook. It’s like being in high school, watching people display their victories. I like to share too, but in our situation, I have to be very mindful about what I post, share, and comment on. We are in a small town, and the dad does not need to know details of our lives, as he likes to take things to court. Until the teens turn 18, in 1 1/2 and 4 years, we will keep to ourselves on social media.

I also cringe when I see people I know, posting hateful things about marginalized groups such as transgender youth. They don’t know anything about what they are talking about. I know that I knew pretty much NOTHING when my teen told me they were transgender. Apparently, a conspiracy theorist has targeted my state, and those who care for transgender youth, and has actually called for people to attack and harass those who provide care to our transgender youth. They are saying that children are being “mutilated”….when actually, surgery is not the standard of care for transgender youth. It is not done on those under 18, except under certain, and rare conditions. Care for transgender youth always starts with therapy. Can you imagine realizing that your brain doesn’t match your body and the social gender norms that go with that body? That is something that no one chooses. These youth have most likely already experienced years of not fitting in with society’s gender norms, but didn’t have the vocabulary or knowledge to communicate it. They have in many cases, attempted suicide or self harmed by the time they finally share what is happening. The standard of care, according to the American Psychological Association, is to AFFIRM their gender, name, and pronouns.

I know I still have a lot to learn. Transitioning is a very slow process, and very individualized. Everyone doesn’t ultimately want surgery. It takes time to accept a changing body, for both cisgender and transgender youth. I want people to just love the teens in their lives….it’s hard enough without the added hate.

I found recent pictures of my daughters for daughters day, but I won’t share them with the people of Facebook. Maybe someday, when some more time has passed. For now, they will be memorialized here as the daughters I love and respect for being kind and compassionate humans. They are all individuals, brave and unique!

~AoA

Guess Who’s 14

Little AoA turned 14 today! I can barely believe it. We have been shopping all month for her presents, because birthdays last a whole month around here.

We had a small celebration with me, grandma, teen sibling, and grandma’s helper (she is like our own Mary Poppins). We had chicken and dumplings, opened presents, and had cake and ice cream. In the background, Hamilton was playing, which is Little AoA’s current favorite musical.

Around her neck is a sweet little vial that holds some of Papa’s ashes. This sweetie really misses him. He gave the very best hugs, and made everything right.

Little AoA and her “Drag Dads”.

We have learned that there is family you are born into, and family you choose. When we left the dad almost 10 years ago, we were all so emotionally and psychologically beaten down, that I truly wondered if any of us would be able to love freely. It has taken years, but we have a tribe.

I had wondered if the dad would send anything to Little AoA for her birthday. He did……he sent each kid a card, and inside each, was a self addressed, stamped envelope inside, and just the words,” please write back”. No money, no letter, no note…nothing. I didn’t the dad could get much more narcissistic, especially after court back in February. The judge made a point to include that the dad didn’t seem to understand that it’s not all about him. Truth is, the dad has had the opportunity to have supervised visits for the last two years, and made excuses for not doing them. Before court this time, my attorney and I were working with the dad’s attorney, to start up supported visits….then the dad fired his attorney. Oh well…..

Here’s to the next few years of parenting teenagers!

~AoA

Forging a New Path

I have been feeling a pull to step out of my comfort zone a little bit, and pursue a goal I have had since I was in my twenties. I always knew that I wanted to work in the education field, but I have had a passion to support homeschool families. I’m not quitting my regular job, teaching in our public school system. I will just be offering some services for homeschooling families, specifically, LGBTQ+ families and Allies.

I wish I had a partner to work with, as it would be great to have help with branding and marketing. Until someone comes along, I guess Little AoA will just have to help me with some of it. I am amazed at how intuitive today’s kids are with social media.

Education today, continues to try the “one size fits all” model. It has improved some, through the years, but there are still kids with such unique needs, that the best we can do is to make sure that all kids are allowed to attend public school. They are pulled along, and given the grades needed to pass. Hopefully, teachers along the way have made sure that their students can master the minimum level of skills needed to have some level of independence beyond high school.

I look at my own kiddos, now 14 and 16. They did not fit the public school mold, at all. Their mental health was interfering with their learning, among other things. Taking time to decompress from public school, gave them time to re-ignite a passion for learning.

I have been giving a lot of thought to my passions and skill set. I feel like there is a need, but my niche will be very specific, so I am not expecting to be overwhelmed with people. Providing a safe and affirming space for families, is very important to me. As a mom to a transgender teenager, I know all too well, how difficult it is to find safe and affirming services of any kind. From the person who does hair, to shopping, to socializing. There is always that risk of someone being mean when they see my 6 foot tall, purple haired, deep voice girl! The interesting thing is, being autistic, she often doesn’t pick up on social cues. It takes many interactions over time, for her to start to process that people are being mean or rude.

I want families like mine to know that they are loved…exactly as they are! There is a place in this world for each of us, bringing our unique gifts, talents, and passions to the table.

~AoA

Here We Go Again

I made it through my covid isolation of five days, and then three more days of caution. I went back to work this morning, and by 9:00, I was in so much pain trying to breath, that I had to take off and go to my doctor! Apparently, there is some inflammation in or around my lungs, from covid. I have had similar things before, but none ever as painful or long lasting as this time. Hopefully, a sweet little run of steroids will help. I ended up needing to take an additional day to let my body rest and heal. I really miss my younger body, and how it could bounce back quickly from setbacks.

The rest of my family had stayed covid free (so far). Then, tonight, my 16 year old learned that a friend they had just spent most of the day with, went home and tested positive! This is not good. This is my child who is a self-diagnosed “hypochondriac”….my germaphobe. At least they always mask outside of the house. Maybe my kiddo will be spared.

Our heads are in the sand. Our schools just look the other way, and pretend it is just another cold with a five day excused absence allowance. Nobody distances, or contact traces at all anymore. While I am glad that the fear is no longer running our lives, the lack of common sense in mitigating this virus, which still does extensive damage to many people is frustrating.

My other ongoing mind occupier, libraries and censorship…Today, we (teachers) were given some time to begin complying with our new state law. Parents must have access to every book in every classroom. Teachers got to choose whether to catalogue every book in their classrooms (including teaching materials collected over entire careers), or remove them from the school. There are several apps that are designed to read ISBN numbers and create spreadsheets. I was going to just take things home, but as I started looking, I just couldn’t. I started scanning- the app worked about half the time. I got frustrated with it, and just put it aside for another day. I think we have a month or two to finish. In the end, each teacher’s “book list” will be accessible by parents, in the individual school websites.

I see the writing on that wall, and I am just going to sit back and watch the show. I predict that by December, parents (just a few), will make it their “job” to scour through book lists, and call out teachers and schools. This is the base that is trying to control our county. It is just a hop from calling out a book, to labeling a teacher as a “groomer”. This is already being done with our public library. It is ugly and hateful, not to mention dangerous for those being targeted.

Enough of my ranting….tomorrow I start steroids, and there is no telling what inner beast they will awaken. Forgive me ahead of time….

~AoA

Almost There!

Covid 5 day isolation was today! Tomorrow, I can be around my family (masked) and do some “normalish” things.

I didn’t end up getting horrible symptoms during this time. I would say no more than light congestion, slight sore throat, and low grade fever off and on. I rested most of the time, and hydrated. I can tell I have been down too long, as now my heart races and I run out of breath doing any walking. Hopefully, that will improve as I get back to normal types of daily activities.

My family and friends have helped me stay sane, as the isolation was perhaps the worst part for me. I possibly got into some “good trouble”, advocating and helping organize behind the scenes, for an “anti-censorship” effort. Our loud mouth locals are stirring up people into thinking that the public library is “grooming” children, by having LGBTQ+ books in the library. The rhetoric has been lies …just outright lies. A couple of folks have seemed to go off the deep end. I barely believed this would be done by an adult who thinks themselves a community leader of some sort. Get ready….he checked out LGBTQ+ books from the library, particularly targeting this book:

This is a very down to earth, easy to read, informational book for young adults, parents, teachers, allys. There are a few anatomical cartoony types of drawings used to explain things…very few. They do not take anything from the purpose of the book, which is to educate on gay issues. Anyway, he POSTED two of the most graphic drawings from the book, straight onto his Facebook post! I had to search my soul to decide how to view this. I truly believe that everyone has a right to read whatever they choose. I think it is another thing to share private types of pictures in order to get an arousal of anger or to shame a population (in this instance, lesbians).

We must ask ourselves what our motive is when taking on politically charged issues. Our LGBTQ+ community of families is just looking for support and love for their children. We want them to grow up knowing that they are worthy of love, respect, and equality. We want them to empathize with marginalized populations, and lift each other up with love and kindness.

I have trouble even imagining the motive for the censors must have, in order to try to inflame the public with lies. I suppose, since I had the 20 year adventure of marrying, parenting, divorcing, and court battling a sociopath, I might figure it out. I never understood the dad’s motivation for the things he did, and I accept that as a good thing. I am glad that I can’t empathize with a sociopath. Is that what is going on here with this? Is this public character an overt narcissist? Possibly….

Next on their list are Drag Queens and Drag Queen story time. They refer to them as “kiddie drag shows”. Again, lying to the public, targeting local businesses.

These are our fantastic, small town, local Drag Queens. They are the sweetest folks doing drag, and just do what they love, having fun and spreading joy. I am actually hosting this private event, as a small token of appreciation to our ground floor advocates who are bringing LGBTQ+ family support to our town❤️

I am a lover of a well done drag show or performance! There is something about it that just makes my heart happy. Feeling free to express how you feel, through the performing arts in all its forms has always been a passion of mine. I rediscovered this passion as I healed from the trauma of entwining with a sociopath.

Have you ever been to a drag show? Was it classy or sketchy? Fun or uncomfortable?

~AoA

Here We Go Again

School has been back in session for a month, and here I am in bed and missing work, with covid symptoms. Last week, I spent almost the entire school day with one of my students. He has a substitute for about 3 hours of the day, and I have been letting him have a break from that environment once a week. Yes, there has not been a teacher for a month. The teacher shortage is real. That night, I received a text from his mother, that he just tested positive for covid.

Our way of handling this now, is to not talk about it. There is no contact tracing, no warnings….Had the parent not contacted me, I may have unknowingly passed it on to my mom or her helper! I really appreciated the warning, and having the ability to make an informed decision.

I have already taken three home tests, and all were negative. I felt lousy on only one of the first five days, and could only hope that my body was doing its thing, and fighting off any virus. Then we came to day 5. I couldn’t breath during the night, and woke up with a severe headache. I am going to the doctor in a couple hours, to get a more accurate test. I hope it is negative, and just a random virus or something. My family is not good at quarantining. I feel like a kid who has been grounded.

We have so many fun things coming up…I do not have time for illness.

On a fun note, here is a picture of our town square last week. A Christmas movie was being filmed there (the second time this year). They put down fake snow, and decorate for Christmas. This movie featured Reese Witherspoon.

~AoA

Who to Trust?

In our little town, there have been threats made to cut funding for the public libraries because they have lgbtq+ content in some books for children and teens. By lgbtq+ content, I am referring to picture books depicting two moms or dads, Pride flags, or stories about children who don’t conform to society’s gender norms.

I have been getting really irritated at people labeling the LGBTQ+ community as “groomers”! It is happening frequently, and even being directed toward anyone who speaks out against censorship!

I will say this….my stepdad was a pedophile. I lived under the same roof with him for seven years. I was groomed….my younger siblings were groomed and molested. My stepdad went to jail, leaving my mom with three adopted children still living at home (there were five adopted, and my sister and I were biological). My stepdad was liked by many, a real giver and people person.

From Wikipedia:

Child grooming is befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a minor,[1][2] and sometimes the child’s family, to lower the child’s inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse.[3][4] Child grooming is also regularly used to lure minors into various illicit businesses such as child trafficking, child prostitution, cybersex trafficking,[5] or the production of child pornography.[6][7][8]

Many of my friends in the LGBTQ+ community experienced sexual abuse. Some friends in the LGBTQ+ community are asexual, meaning basically that they are not interested in sexual activity in general.

Are there groomers and sexual predators? Yes….They are mixed in with many different groups. Currently, the Baptist Convention is being investigated. We had a local teacher actually lure a teen to run away to another state for sex. It’s everywhere.

We need to be teaching our children to think critically. While we may be hesitant to teach them about things we may not like, that is our job. I would much rather my children learn about things while I can support them, than learn the hard way! I was told the basics, but I knew nothing about reality. It all caught me by surprise, and I had no where to turn.

One very important lesson that my parents did teach me, was not to judge others by how they look. My parents were in school during the time that schools were segregated. They were part of the first integrated school in their area, while most of the white families opted to start a “white only” private school. I am so very glad that this is imbedded in my heart, and if I pass nothing else to my children, I hope that I pass this lesson!

For a little fun, I introduce “Drag Queen Storytime”! I have not had the pleasure of attending one in person, but I love a nice Drag Queen! I think it could be interesting to do this in our little library!

I have so much more stirring in my mind about this whole subject, but I will save those thoughts for another time.

~AoA