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

Rainbows in Our Small, Southern Town

Local elections took place this week in our small, Southern town. As expected, those with the most votes, were the very people who have been inciting hate toward our LGBTQ+ community over the last year. My little tribe messaged as the votes were counted. We were hopeful for a few moments….

I mentioned in an earlier post, about a local politician bashing our county library for having lgbtq+ books. He had gone to the library and checked out a bunch of them (puberty books), taken pictures, and put them on Facebook. Well, he won the election. Even more disappointing is that he represents my little part of our county. He has not returned those books to the library, so my tribe is putting together a list, and we will all pitch in to replace the books.

The next day, we all rose again. Some were devastated, angry, and sad. As the “older”, “mom” of the tribe, I relayed messages that have been handed down through the last couple of generations, and are still relevant today.

Two days after elections, our town had its monthly “First Fridays” on our town square. Businesses are open late, and people can set up tables and booths for vending, promoting, and such. We took our “Rainbow Table” for a nonprofit that my tribe started in our community, called “PFLAG”. We are a local chapter of PFLAG National. PFLAG stands for “parents and friends of lesbians and gays”, and over the years, has become a support group for anyone in the lgbtq+ community, Allie’s, and families. We have a support group that meets once a month. There is a confidentiality element to the support group, because everyone is at a different place. Here is Little AoA, in Cruella cosplay, setting at our rainbow table…

This was the second time we have set up at this event, and I feel like our town is seeing it, and noticing that we are just regular people. We did have one your man invite us to church to tell us about Jesus. There were also a couple of young boys who were taking the flags we were giving away, and breaking them once they were out of sight range. I got to meet our new county Mayor, who has written a homophobic book about how God feels about a kid having two dads, and posted hate about our pride event earlier. I shook her hand and looked her in the eye, wearing my “Free Mom Hugs” shirt. I introduced her to Little AoA. We will probably be trying to set up an advocacy team to meet with county leaders, to remind them of our diverse community.

I never saw this in my future….nine years ago, when I was barely surviving each day, dealing with the aftermath of hell from living and parenting with a sociopath. Now the kids are healing and free, and life is peaceful and beautiful. Never give up! Love does win!

~AoA

Dogs in Restaurants?

I love dogs as much as anybody can. My Basset Hound, Wally, is my number one buddy. We hang out together at home. We have a lot of “pet friendly” stores where we live….they are pet stores and farm supply stores. I can’t, however, imagining taking him to a restaurant!

Wally

In the last month, I have found myself in restaurants and bars with Little AoA. We set up an information table for a support group. I was really shocked when I started seeing people bringing their dogs into the bars and restaurants! Little AoA is not a fan of dogs anyway, even our sweet dog, Wally. If a dog is in her space, she freezes. I have been able to help her work through some of the anxiety, so it isn’t as obvious. We just leave quietly sometimes.

Tonight I have had enough. I should be able to eat out INSIDE a restaurant, without having a dog there!

I know you have a cookie, mom!

I looked up the state guidelines for dogs and restaurants. Other than official service dogs, They are NOT suppose to be inside places that serve food, period. Businesses can apply for a permit to have an outdoor seating area where dogs could be allowed. Violations can be reported to the state health department. I do not choose to take on this battle, as I have bigger things to think about. However, Little AoA May very well take on that mission if she figures out where to report. She cosplays as “Cruella”, which is perfect for her and her general dislike and fear of dogs.

Little AoA as “Columbia Cruella”

Are dogs allowed inside restaurants and stores where you are? Do you have a dog that you take everywhere with you?

~AoA

It’s a Great Day to be Alive

In spite of the battles all around me, it is, indeed, a great day to be alive!

I think often of my dad, who passed away this past September. At the end, the world brought him down and broke his heart. He served our country in VietNam, and paid the ultimate price for his country….an early death due to the effects of Agent Orange. He was a quiet man….a deeply caring man….The pandemic cracked his spirit, and it went downhill from there. He was my biggest fan, and stood with me as I escaped an abusive marriage and fought court battles with the ex. He instilled in me, a love of human rights and compassion.

As bleak and hateful as the world seems to be, we are alive. We go on to face another day. We gather with the tribe, and plan our battles as we once again, clear the way for freedom and equal rights to be experienced for the next generation!

It is a great day to be alive!

~AoA