Missing My People

It’s Thursday, and I almost did not blog this week. I’m taking the week off from work, because this was supposed to be the week of Song School, and I figured I’d keep the time I’d requested back when the summer looked more optimistic.

It’s been really great to have the time off, to rest and reset. But it’s also been sad – I miss Song School so much. We’ve been doing our best to recreate parts of the experience at home.

Song School canopy in the living room!

We set up the canopy that’s usually outside of our tent at Song School in our living room – because we have no overhead light fixture, it just barely fits. We initially did it to be funny, but how it’s transformed the space has been pretty magical.

Zoom writing hangouts

We’ve also been hosting some Zoom hangouts with people from Song School. Every morning this week we’ve set up some quiet time to hang out and write for an hour, and it’s felt so good. Just seeing the faces of some of our Song School friends has helped to ground me in time and space in a way I feel like I haven’t been since the pandemic started. It’s nothing like the real Song School, but it’s been a better substitute than I thought it was going to be. We’ve had more people show up than we expected, too, which has been fun.

We also hosted a little Zoom song circle on Tuesday night (and we’re planning to again tonight), which was fun – it’s great to hear what people have been working on.

It’s hard to not be able to hug these people we love so much, to be in a place where we can’t listen to the river or see the stars. But seeing some of their faces, even just over a computer screen, has brought me so much joy even in the middle of grieving the loss of this incredibly important week in our year.

Tomorrow morning we’re hosting an extra writing session (Song School would be wrapping up tonight, if it was happening), and then we’ll fall into our familiar weekend rhythm before I start working again on Monday. I’m glad I took this time off (it’s also the most extended break I’ve had since Christmas, and I’m only just realizing how much my brain needed that), and I’m hoping it leaves me in a better place for diving back into “normal” life…as close to normal as we get these days, anyway.

Just Married

Hello, dear readers! It’s been another week, and what a week it’s been. On Saturday, approximately two months after deciding that this was the best course forward for us, my partner and I got married in a lovely ceremony held over Zoom. We met online almost ten years ago, so it felt sort of fitting that we got married online, too. I will warn you right now that this post will be both sappy and photo-heavy, but hey, I got married, what did you expect?

Wedding backdrop - bookshelves organized by color, with all sorts of silk flowers arranged artfully among the books.
Our wedding backdrop – yes, most of our books are arranged in a rainbow!

We bought a whole bunch of silk flowers and arranged them on our bookshelves, which we used as our backdrop for the wedding.

On top of the bookshelves were each of our most beloved childhood toys, Blankie (mine) and Piggy (my partner’s), which happen to be from the same toy line – this is easily one of the most barf-worthy things about us.

Blankie and Piggy on top of the bookshelf
Blankie and Piggy had seats of honor

But let’s back up. We started off our morning with an extra-special breakfast delivery from our faves at Smack Dab, which was absolutely delightful – so delightful, in fact, that we forgot to take pictures of it. I did grab a picture of the bag, though:

Seriously, they're the best (bag reads, "Threw in cinnamon rolls, too! Congrats! We love you! xoxo Smack Dab"
How sweet are they?

Then we rushed around and finished cleaning the apartment before putting on our dress shirts and finally launching the Zoom call.

I’m not going to share pictures of everyone on the Zoom call because I didn’t ask for permissions to do that, but this is what we looked like to our guests (thanks for sending this shot, N!):

The soon-to-be husbands look at the computer camera; a Beanie Baby turtle (Prime Minister Winston Turthill) smiles and holds their rings on his back.
Prime Minister Winston Turthill was so thrilled to serve as the ring cushion!

The ceremony itself was beautiful – the friend who officiated wrote the perfect blessing and vows for us, our friends Eli and Heather performed beautiful songs (that they’d each written for their spouses), the rings fit and we didn’t hurt each other putting them on, and we got to see so many of our loved ones smiling and cheering us on as we took this step (in addition to some delightful bonus appearances by pets). (It was also under 15 minutes long, which is my favorite kind of wedding.) There were toasts (one of which included actual toast), and then we split all the guests up into “breakout rooms” so that we could visit with folks more easily while we ate dessert.

An enormous and delicious New York style cheesecake with a (gluten free) cookie crust sits atop a table covered in a grey tablecloth.
Cheesecake! Made by nuns in New York!

We had cheesecake and coffee! The cheesecake was made by nuns at a monastery in New York – turns out finding gluten free cheesecake with a crust is a bit of a challenge – and it was delicious.

It was so good to be able to hop around and see friends and family, many of whom we hadn’t seen in years. Had we gotten married under different circumstances, it probably would have been a much smaller crowd, but thanks to the internet, we had people there from all over the country (and overseas) able to join us. There were cats, dogs, and two- and three-week old babies included, too. It was just lovely.

After we signed off, we realized we should probably snap some photos of ourselves while the light (which we don’t get a ton of in our living room) was still good. Here’s a sampling of some of our favorites:

The rest of the weekend was lovely, too – we ordered Indian food, and really just relaxed in our newly-clean apartment.

There have been some complicated feelings, too – grief around those who couldn’t (or chose not to) be there with us, mostly. But overall we have just been overwhelmed with gratitude for the amazing communities and love we’ve found ourselves surrounded by. We are truly extraordinarily lucky to have each other and to be so supported by so many of the people in our lives.

So here’s to getting through it all together – for love (and health insurance)!

It’s Almost Here!

Hello, dear readers! It’s gonna be a short blog today.

It’s been a busy week – we’re getting married on Saturday! So most of this week has been cleaning and getting the final administrative details in place. Tonight we’re doing a rehearsal for the technology piece so we can figure out where we want to set everything up. Yesterday our cheesecake arrived, which was one of the pieces I was most nervous about – so many places have had unexpected shipping delays lately that I didn’t really trust the estimated delivery date.

I’m looking forward to (virtually) gathering and celebrating with friends and family on Saturday. I’m extremely overwhelmed in this particular moment (some of my body’s most annoying stress responses are raising their heads right now), but I know it’s going to be worth it. I’m also kind of glad this is the format the wedding is happening in – it meant we could invite people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to join us. I’m having some Feelings about my grandparents not being present (three of them are gone and the one remaining isn’t interested in attending), but I’m also just really grateful for the community we’re going to have around us on Saturday.

Now I’m off to try to kick ass at work so I can leave for a long weekend on a high note. Hang in there, everyone – stay hydrated, wear your masks, take care of yourselves and each other.

What Day Is It?

Greetings, readers, from my home to yours. (I really hope you’re all at home. This is what we need to do to keep each other safe right now.)

It’s a weird time. The fact that I am working helps give me a bit of structure, but I’ll be honest, I’m having a hard time keeping track of my days. Everything’s sort of blending together. I missed my usual 9am deadline for posting this morning because I kind of forgot it was Thursday.

I’ve gotten my first two support tickets at my new job, so I’m actually doing work now instead of just reading about how to do work, which is a nice change of pace. I’m learning a lot and ending pretty much every day exhausted from the amount of information I’m taking in.

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Chicago, so after work I ordered a pizza for pickup. As I walked to the restaurant, I was…alarmed by how many people do not seem to be taking the social distancing thing seriously. It was a toss up – some people that I passed were considerate and moved to the opposite side of the sidewalk or the grass so we could maintain 6ft of distance…a lot of people did not. I went pretty quickly from enjoying the beautiful weather to just being really anxious.

There’s a musician acquaintance of mine who lives in northern Italy. He’s been posting about some of his experiences in English for his American friends. The posts are incredibly sobering. I worry about him every day…and I worry about us, here in America, because we’re just not responding well to this crisis.

I’m worried a lot of the time right now. I worry about my nephew, who has asthma. I worry about my mom, who’s a nurse and at an age where she’s probably more vulnerable to this thing. I worry about my friends and family members who are out of work right now, or who are still having to go to work rather than working from home. I try not to worry too much about myself, but I’m allergic to many things outside right now, and every time I cough or sniffle I have to suppress the urge to panic.

But I’m also trying to find the light in all of this. We’re connecting with a lot of people virtually. Last weekend we had virtual brunch with a friend that we have regular brunch with every couple of weeks via Google Hangouts. I played Monsterhearts 2 with friends on a Discord server. We had a little song circle with Song School friends in California via Zoom. We’re in frequent contact with family and friends and I feel really held by the communities I’m a part of, even as I do my best to hold them. If anything good comes of this mess, I think it’s going to be a greater sense of connection. I am so grateful to live in this time where physical isolation doesn’t have to be social/emotional isolation. While it is hard to balance not being glued to a screen reading the news and using that screen to stay connected, I think it’s worth it.

I hope you’re all hanging in there (and staying at home). Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. If we’re going to get through this, it’ll be together (from our own places of residence) or not at all.

Home for Christmas

We’re on our way back to Chicago today, but we’ve been in Minnesota since Sunday celebrating Christmas with our families. It’s been a good week. Here are some highlights:

We learned that the coffee shop where we had our first date is closing at the end of the year. We tried to go to say goodbye, but they were closed until Friday, so we went for a selfie outside.

Outside the Dunn Bros. where we had our first date just over nine years ago

We made the questionable decision to go shopping on Christmas Eve. Found this giant moose made of lights at the mall.

Merry Christmoose!

We celebrated with my partner’s extended family, and his aunt made me a stocking like she’s made for everyone else in the family. His family has always been welcoming, but this was an extra sweet reminder that I belong.

A beautifully cross stitched stocking from my partner’s aunt

We celebrated with my family, and my nephew was very excited to see us. We got many hugs, which were the best presents (which is saying something, because the other presents were also lovely)!

My nephew helped us open the present he gave us.

We had a smaller celebration on Christmas Day with my partner’s immediate family. I made the Yorkshire puddings this year from a recipe by Nancy Birtwhistle of Great British Bake-off fame, and they turned out so great!

Gluten-free Yorkshire puds!

It’s been a lovely week. I’m writing this Christmas night and feeling very loved and content. I do NOT want to go back to work on Friday, but that is what it is.

I hope you’re all having your own lovely winter holiday season, whatever that looks like for you. If you’re not, I hope you can take comfort in the fact that we’re slowly returning to the light now that we’re past the Solstice.

Anniversaries

Happy Thursday, dear readers!

I was so focused on my ER adventure last week that I completely missed the fact that last Thursday was my 6 year HRT anniversary. I’ve been on testosterone for six whole years! Which, incidentally, means this blog will hit its six year anniversary in a couple of weeks. I’ve blogged almost every week for six years, which is mind-boggling to me.

My therapist is constantly reminding me that I need to take time to recognize and celebrate progress. I’m not good at this. So today’s blog will attempt to do a bit of that.

A lot has changed in the past six years. My life has gained a welcome level of stability that wasn’t there before. I’m in a better place mentally than I was then. I had no idea when I started this part of this journey what would happen with my family. It’s been a trip…but I’ve ended up in a largely positive space. So that’s cool.

In addition to those personal anniversaries, there’s another important one coming up: Sunday will mark nine years since my partner and I went on our first date.

NINE YEARS. In two years we’ll have been together for a third of my life. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth it.

In therapy this week we talked about how after three or so years in a relationship, we shift from thinking about that person as a new person in our lives to thinking of them as family. That means that unless we consciously work to rewire whatever dysfunctional attachment patterns we developed in our family of origin, we’ll perpetuate those in our family of choice. (On the one hand, breaking those dysfunctional patterns is overwhelming and difficult, but on the other, what a cool opportunity to strike out into new territory!) One of the things I’m working on is letting myself be cared for, even when I feel like I’m inconveniencing the people around me. I’m so grateful that I have a partner who’s so thoughtful and intentional about making sure I’m cared for.

What about you, friends? Any anniversaries, big or small, happening in your lives these days? I’d love to hear about them!

Trying

Readers, it’s been a week. I’m wrestling with some sort of upper-respiratory nonsense that I hoped was just allergies but that kept me home with a fever yesterday. I feel pretty gross, and I’m really glad I had a doctor appointment scheduled for today anyway.

But let’s take a step back. I want to tell you about my weekend, when I did not feel like my head was trying to explode.

Friday night, I picked up a rental car. Saturday morning, I got up early, packed my knitting and some snacks, and hit the road to go visit my grandmother in northeast Iowa. I had not seen my grandmother in almost seven years, though we’ve been writing occasional letters back and forth for a year or so. In her last couple of letters, she expressed a desire to sit down and talk with me in person. About a month ago, when I got her last letter, I contacted her and said I would like to come for a visit, and we agreed on this past Saturday as a date.

I started on testosterone five and a half years ago, so a few things had changed since we last saw each other. I had sent her a picture of me a few months ago, so my appearance wouldn’t come as a total shock.

I really had no idea what to expect from this visit going in, but overall it went better than I could have hoped. She greeted me with a hug. We went out to lunch and she caught me up on all the latest family news. When we went back to her apartment, the talk turned more serious – she had a lot of questions about my life, and I tried to answer them honestly. I learned that her little Baptist church had recently done a study on LGBTQ issues, because their pastor recognized that we’re not going away and felt the church should decide how they were going to respond. (She sent the books they studied home with me – I haven’t read them yet, but I do want to know where she’s coming from.)

The big takeaway of the visit was that we love each other and we do want to be in each other’s lives. It was a very long day (ten total hours of driving, plus the four hour visit), but worth it. We’ll see where we go from here!

Joyful Travels

As I write this, I’m sitting at my kitchen table, getting a little work done from home before heading to the airport. By the time this goes live, I will be in Minnesota.

With all the darkness in the world this week, it’s nice to have something to be really, genuinely happy about – one of my best friends from my bible college days is getting married, and I’m so glad my partner and I are going to get to celebrate with her and her soon-to-be-husband.

Here are a handful of the things I’m most looking forward to over the weekend:

  1. The wedding. I’m not always the most excited about weddings, but I’m looking forward to this one. This friend and I have been through some things together, and I’m happy to bear witness to anything that is making her happy.
  2. I’m getting coffee with one of my professors from bible college (the only one I still talk to at this point), who I haven’t seen since before I moved to Chicago five years ago. She’s been through a lot recently, and I’m grateful that she’s taking the time to see me.
  3. I get to see my dog and my nephew. My little old lady dog is 15, and she’s slowing down. Every time I’ve seen her this year has felt like the biggest gift, because it was only a year ago that I thought I would probably never see her again (since I wasn’t back in communication with my family yet). I am painfully aware that every time I see her from here on out may be the last, so I’m not taking any opportunity for granted. Our visit to my parents happens to coincide with the time that they’re watching my nephew, too, so I’ll get to hang out with him a bit. From what little contact I’ve had with him, he seems like a bright, creative kid, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.
  4. This might be the least-packed weekend in Minnesota we’ve had in…well, in a long time. I’m sad that we can’t see everyone, but I’m also looking forward to just relaxing a bit. And I’m hoping it’ll make going back to work on Monday a little easier.
  5. On Sunday, after we get back, we’re going to meet up with a friend at an apple orchard in Wisconsin. Despite my allergies to almost everything outdoors, I love autumn, and apple picking feels like the quintessential autumnal activity.

Weekend Adventures

As many of you may know, I work for a Jewish organization, and one of the best things about this is the fact that I end up with lots of extra days off throughout the year for holidays I don’t personally celebrate. Passover was this past week, and because of where it fell this year, we ended up with a couple of days off last week, and Monday and Tuesday off this week. I had just enough Southwest miles saved up for a free trip to the Twin Cities, so I decided to use my long weekend to catch up with family and some friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

I flew into MSP Saturday afternoon, and dropped my stuff off at my partner’s parents’ house, where I was staying for the weekend. That evening, I got dinner with my parents and brother (which went more-or-less okay – sometimes it’s hard to find things to talk about), and then got drinks with an old friend from church youth group. Catching up and reminiscing was a lot of fun.

Sunday I went over to my parents’ house, where we were joined by my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. The time went well (better than I was expecting, to be honest). I was able to modify the Yoda hat I’d knit my nephew when he was just 7 months old so that it will continue to fit him for at least another couple of seasons (it was still big enough around, but was no longer covering his ears), and deliver the blanket I’d knit for him as a belated birthday gift. We enjoyed watching my nephew (who is three) and my parents’ dog (who is almost fifteen) chase each other around – they are best friends. We went for a walk to the park. All-in-all, it was a nice way to spend the day.

That evening, I went back to my partner’s parents’ house and was able to spend some time with them. We watched Moana, which was great, and I’m a little ashamed I didn’t get around to seeing it until now.

Monday I ended up seeing two of my best friends from college: one for breakfast, and one for dinner. It was wonderful seeing both of them and catching up. I also got to unexpectedly go out to coffee with my best friend in the middle of the day, after she texted me saying her afternoon meetings were canceled. I spent the evening watching baseball with my partner’s parents while we all talked to my partner on speakerphone. It was easily the most delightful Monday I’ve had in ages.

Tuesday morning I got up for an early breakfast with my best friend before leaving town. My flight out boarded on time, and then sat on the runway for an hour – evidently, because of some crosswinds, they were using just one runway for all arrivals and departures, and didn’t really communicate this to anyone ahead of time. But I made it home eventually, and was ridiculously happy when I did. As much as I loved seeing people over the weekend, packing that many visits into such a short time frame really drives home the point that I am an introvert. Being social can be fun, but it is also exhausting.

Thanks to everyone who made time for me this weekend, and apologies to those of you I didn’t see – there are so many of you that I just couldn’t get to everyone!

Thinking

 

I’m doing a lot of thinking these days.

I mean, I do a lot of thinking all the time. It’s a big part of who I am. But lately, my brain’s feeling a little crowded.

I’m thinking about privilege, particularly all of the privilege I have always had as a white person, and more recently that I’ve acquired as a white man.

I am thinking that I need to use all of that privilege to more constructive ends.

I’m thinking about family, about the ones I chose who also chose me, and about how my feelings surrounding my choice to step back from my family or origin have evolved over the past several months. I’m thinking about my grandparents, two of whom are still living but all of whom I’ve lost. I’m thinking of my uncle, my father’s best friend, who had breakfast with me a couple of weeks ago and whose father passed away this week.

I am thinking that grief is complex and unpredictable.

I’m thinking about identity, and how I relate to my body, and how desperately I’ve been trying to ignore the growing presence of body-related dysphoria in my life. I’m thinking about how top surgery is still unscheduled and likely won’t happen for close to a year, and about how it will put me even further in debt but how I can’t even care about that anymore.

I am thinking that I am grateful that my identity as a man came after and was shaped by twenty-odd years of identity as a girl and as a woman.

I’m thinking about knitting, and how many projects I’ve managed to finish this year, about how most of them were very small but two of them were sweaters for me (though only one of those is wearable), and how that’s a lot for me.

I am thinking I want to knit all the sweaters.

I’m thinking about tarot and insight and intuition, and about how much I want to help people, and whether those two things should be more connected in my life. I’m thinking about burnout and spoon theory and whether my desire to help people should sometimes take a back seat to helping myself.

I am thinking about the value of selfishness.

I’m thinking about friends, about the ones that I’ve lost and the ones that I’ve gained and the ones that I’ve kept despite distance and regardless of the infrequency of contact. I’m thinking about an upcoming weekend of manicures and chick flicks and cooking and domesticity and some of my favorite people.

I am thinking that I am grateful for my newfound ability to appreciate my own femininity.

I’m thinking about books, and how I used to read all the time, and how over half the books I’ve read this year were books I’d read before. I’m thinking about stories and escape and education.

I am thinking I should prioritize making more time for books in my life.

I’m thinking so many things about myself and my home and my hobbies and the people in my life, and my brain is often feeling like a very crowded place. The fact that I’m entering into a manic phase is amplifying that feeling, and it’s a little overwhelming. But it’s also encouraging.

I am thinking, therefore I am growing.