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.

‘Tis the Season

Greetings, readers, from the shiny new Accidental Fudge site! Here’s hoping the links to these posts that populate to Facebook actually work now.

The holidays are upon us. This is, on the one hand, a lovely time of year – it’s festive and there are happy twinkling lights all over my neighborhood and we’re going to take some time off work to go visit family. On the other hand, this is a really challenging time of year – it’s dark around 4pm, my partner’s work is bonkers and leaving him exhausted, and there’s so much pressure to participate in the unfettered commercialism of the season. I feel like I’m never going to have money again.

It’s also the season where we’re all sniffling and pretending we’re not sick, which is a different kind of no fun.

Tonight, I am volunteering at the Old Town School. Tomorrow night, we’re wrapping presents and packing for our trip. Saturday morning, I’ll pick up the rental car, and then when my partner’s done with work, I’ll pick him up and we’ll start driving. I’m a little overwhelmed. It’ll be fun, and whatever we get done, we get done. But it does feel like there’s a lot to do between now and Saturday night.

Next week’s blog may be a little late, as we’ll be on the road on Thursday.

Whatever holiday celebrations you are or are not participating in, I hope your season is filled with love and twinkling lights.

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!

Under the Weather

It’s snowing in Chicago at the moment. Not much if it is sticking – mostly, everything is just cold and wet.

Generally I don’t mind snow. I like cooler weather – I run warm, and I like to show off the stuff I’ve knitted. Today, though, I’m a little cranky about it.

I’ve been getting over a cold for two weeks now. I have a cough that just won’t stop. I sound worse than I feel, at this point, but the cold, damp air isn’t helping anything.

We visited my grandmother for her birthday last Saturday. It was a good trip, and I’m glad we went…things weren’t perfect (she tried avoiding pronouns altogether, but when they did come up, she defaulted to the wrong ones for both of us, and at one point she introduced my partner to the staff as my “friend”), but they went about as well as I could have hoped. I hope I look as good at 92 as she does.

Tomorrow night we’re finally going to see Hamilton! I am very excited about that. The first time my partner played the soundtrack for me, I remember not being sure how I felt about it. But it was our main road trip music for our trip back to Minnesota one Christmas, and by the end of the trip, I was sold. It’s so good!

Remarkably Healing

Hello, dear readers, and apologies that this post is going up late – it’s been a weird week, and I nearly forgot what day it was.

I wrote last week about my grandfather’s passing, my complicated feelings around our relationship, and my anxiety about going to the funeral, which was last Saturday. I am pleased (and still a little surprised) to report that going to the funeral, while hard and sad, was actually a remarkably healing experience.

My extended family, including the folks I was most nervous about seeing, all either called me Alyx or avoided names altogether. I heard one aunt use the wrong pronouns once, but she corrected herself smoothly and moved on. I didn’t feel othered at all – I was included every step of the way. I felt…well, like I had a family, in a way that I haven’t felt in a while.

I know that some of the responsibility for my prior estrangement from my family is on me. I chose to pull away rather than engaging with them. I still feel like I had good reason to (I didn’t have the mental or emotional resources to manage their potential responses when I first came out), but I also recognize that I did not give them a chance to prove me wrong about how I thought they would react to my coming out.

I’m also 100% certain that a large part of why the weekend went so well has to do with my grandmother. She and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but since we reconnected this spring, she’s done a phenomenal job of showing up and showing me love and respect, which I am doing my best to return. I think the fact that my nearly-92-year-old grandmother can manage to call me Alyx and meet me where I’m at meant that no one else had any sort of excuse to do otherwise.

It was a long day (I drove from Chicago to northeast Iowa on Friday evening, and back to Chicago on Saturday evening after the funeral), but I’m glad I went. I was genuinely disappointed that I wasn’t able to stick around and spend more time with my family (it was snowing in Iowa by the time we finished lunch, and I decided to head straight home rather than risk icy roads as it got later), which I was not expecting.

One of my aunts, as we were saying our goodbyes, gave me a long, firm hug before telling me she was so proud of me, and that if anyone wasn’t, that was on them, not on me. I still well up a bit every time I think about it.

I guess what I’m saying is people are surprising, complicated creatures, and I need to do a better job of remembering that rather than jumping immediately to worst-case-scenario planning when I interact with people who I expect to disagree with. (I’m also grateful that this funeral was not a place where politics came up, because I’m sure a lot of the warm fuzzies would have been…well, less warm and fuzzy.)

Grief is Messy

It’s been an emotional week. On Sunday, I heard from my mom that my grandfather (who had been in a nursing home for a while and was on hospice) seemed to be fading, and my grandmother didn’t think he’d be around much longer. Monday morning I woke up just as my mom texted me the news that he’d died in the night.

I have been having a lot of complicated feelings about this loss. My grandfather was a sweet, gentle man in my childhood memories of him, and I looked up to him. He was also unwilling to come to terms with having a queer and trans grandkid.

The last time I saw my grandfather was at my brother’s wedding, a little over 7 years ago. We wrote letters for a while after that, attempting to reconnect. I tried to explain who I was becoming. He threw a lot of bible verses at me and tried to get me to come back to Jesus. After a particularly painful exchange, I eventually gave up. We stopped talking.

Several months ago I reconnected with my grandmother, and it went better than I expected it to. Unfortunately, by that time, we were losing my grandfather to dementia, and we decided that it was better for everyone to not try to have that conversation with him again.

I love my grandfather. I was also deeply hurt by him. In many ways, I’ve been grieving this loss for years, but there’s still a fresh element of finality to the loss, now. Grief is a messy thing. It’s not linear. There’s no timeline and no roadmap.

I’m also rather anxious about the funeral, which is happening on Saturday. I haven’t seen any of my extended family (aside from my grandma and one cousin who won’t be there) since well before I started transitioning. They all know – I sent out a zine over the summer reintroducing myself – so it won’t be a huge shock to them. But I’m still not really sure what to expect. I’m grateful for my grandmother’s support – she requested that I join the other cousins in attendance as a pallbearer, and I think the rest of the family will follow her lead in interacting with me. But it is stressful.

My grandpa was a storyteller. He was who I got my own love of storytelling from. I hope that now, released from his body, he’s able to be proud of the stories I tell and of the person I am.

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!

Tired All the Time

Hello, dear readers, and apologies for the slightly late blog today.

I called off sick today. It feels like I’ve been doing this a lot lately, although usually when I don’t go into the office, I’m working from home. But today I decided I needed a day to just not worry about work and catch up on some rest. So here I am, at home, listening to the most recent episode of the Gender Reveal podcast, and writing a blog post.

I have felt so tired so constantly lately. I know some of it has been pain-related (chronic pain is exhausting, y’all), and some of it is just that I’ve been busy, and some of it has been the weird weather. It’s made it hard to get myself into the office, and hard to do work once I’m there. It’s been hard to find the energy to get things done around the house. The shift to Daylight Savings Time was rough – while I enjoy the longer daylight in the evening, mornings have been really hard to handle now that they’re darker again. But I’m trudging through, hoping my internal equilibrium levels off again soon.

In addition to being tired all the time, here are some other things that I have on my mind right now:

  • I’m encouraged by the fact that spring officially arrived yesterday. Spring means allergies, which is not my favorite thing, but I love watching the return to green every year. I’ve seen a few green shoots poking through the ground, and I’ve seen robins hopping around the neighborhood, and it feels like I can breath deeply for the first time in a while (at least until the allergies start up).
  • One of the things I’m learning in therapy right now is that I need to celebrate the things that are going right in my life, and the things I’m doing well. I’m not great at this – I’m really good at looking at where I fall short, even in the moments that are largely successful. So I’ve been trying to celebrate little things, whether it’s with a glass of wine or reaching out to friends or something else, and it feels weird, but it’s good.
  • I got a letter from my grandmother yesterday, and I’m thinking a lot about my relationship with her and what I want to do about it. I haven’t seen her in almost seven years, and she’s 91. There are a lot of feelings there that I’m still parsing out.