It’s been 10 months since my last confession… (Good thing I’m not religious!)

I haven’t been here (to write) in quite a long time.  There are multiple reasons for that really.  Reason #1 is life.  Life is busy.  Life gets crazy.  Want to dos get pushed behind the need to dos.  Once I started teaching in August, life only got busier…and I think that is about where I last left off…

In October, Laine and I got married.  If you are local and close to us, you were likely present for our special day.  Let me insert right here that we have been negligent with our “Thank You” notes, and we know this.  We admit and own it.  The thank you cards sit in a little white box on the edge of our bedroom dresser.  Staring us in the face, screaming at us to pick up a pen and write in them.  We have failed to listen.  So, to those to whom we owe a “Thank You” card, we also owe an apology.  And we mean it when we say, we have no excuse, but we are truly sorry for our failure to mail these in a timely manner.

The wedding itself was everything we planned it to be, down to every little tiny detail.  We each wrote our own vows, we committed ourselves to one another and to our family, we danced, we laughed, we cried (happy) tears.  I could not have hoped for anything differently…except I do wish we would have included a videographer so we could relive the day whenever we wanted to.  Fortunately, our photography turned out wonderfully and we will always have that to remember the day.  We took time to travel after the wedding, spending a night in Palm Springs and then multiple days in Huntington Beach.  We watched the sunset, took late night walks on the beach, roasted s’mores, discovered the local acai bowl shop, and just enjoyed the time together with no interruptions or responsibilities.

Then we returned to reality…and that goes something like this…

One thing they don’t tell you when you start teaching, it is NOT an 8-3 job like everyone perceives it to be.  The hours of 8-3 are just the hours you have 24 little shining faces under foot.  The other work has to be done outside of that window, to prepare for those hours.  Lesson planning, materials prep, professional development, conferences, emails, etc., etc., etc.  I come home each evening exhausted.  I want to grab a glass of wine and put my feet up.  Oh wait, there isn’t quite time for that!  By the time dinner is prepared and served, the kitchen is cleaned up, the girls are bathed, read to and in bed, its 8pm. Which then begins homework time.  For me.  Yes, in order to be a teacher, I had to take on more school for myself.  My BA in psych holds me over with the state on a temp basis, as long as I am in the program to obtain my early childhood education certification.  I started this 2-year program in January 2017, at which time I converted from long term sub to fully contracted teacher.  Fortunately, my classes are online and I can do them from home in the evening, sometimes in a zombie like state after being in the classroom with 24 5/6 year olds all day.  Truth is, even with as draining as it is, and as much work as it takes on a daily basis…summer break is killing me!!!  I want to be back in the classroom.  A week or two of a break was great.  After that I started hitting a wall.  I thrive on the fast-paced environment of the Kindergarten classroom.  I enjoy the ins and outs of each and every day. I miss the morning hugs and hi fives from 24 little humans, watching their light bulbs brighten when they learn something new, talking them through a problem when life just seems too tough to handle (“Yes, I know it hurt your feelings that he broke your blue crayon.  How can we fix this situation?”) and I can’t wait for summer to be over so I can meet my next group of kiddos and start all over.  I am in love with my job, and I never thought in my life I would ever say that.  Even on the hard days, and yes there are some really hard days, I know whole heartedly that this is what I am supposed to be doing.  If you know anything about the education system in AZ, you know I am not in love with the paycheck, or sometimes even the requirements handed down from above, but that is not what drives me.  It is the kids, the ever-changing environment, the unpredictability of each and every day, the laughter and the learning that goes on.  Those kids which need the most love wrap themselves around my heart and tug at me the hardest.  My school community makes me happy.  I keep seeing a t-shirt online (which I need to purchase!!) that says “I wanted to change the world, so I became a Kindergarten teacher!”  If you know me at all, you know this quote was written for me.

Now the part that I struggle writing about.  The part that originally brought you all here in the beginning.  Transition.  I struggle because to me, there seems to be nothing TO write.  Transition no longer runs our lives.  It isn’t the center of our world.  It doesn’t dictate our scheduling.  We are no longer running our calendar around surgeries.  It has stopped defining us as a couple, we appear as a heterosexual normative couple to the naked eye. Transition now occupies about 2 minutes of our Thursday mornings, long enough to draw up and inject the weekly shot.  For Laine, it is doctor check ins every 3-6 months and blood donation every 8 weeks to avoid too many red blood cells.  He continues to visit his therapist on a routine basis as well, just to make sure things are steady.  There are still a few surprises here or there like the increasing growth of facial hair which we were beginning to think might never show up.  Or the constant redistribution of body structure; just when you think it has settled where it is going to stay, the chest and shoulders thicken just a bit more and that t-shirt is just a little bit tighter.

Laine uses his personal experience as a way to educate others.  He is heavily involved in his work place in diversity conversations.  He tells his story often.  He talks about this journey to groups large and small.  He talks face to face and on conference calls.  It never fails at the end of one of these conversation days, he arrives home and tells me about someone who shared their own story with him.  Or someone who connected to his story because they know someone, or they are someone who…all it takes is an open and honest conversation.  We all have a story.

The rest of life is just life, not transition, so I feel as if I have little to say, expect that we are no different than any other couple.  We go to work, we come home and take care of household tasks and chores, we raise our family, we travel, we shop, we dine out, we watch TV, and we do it all as husband and wife.  When we meet new people, we don’t introduce ourselves as “Melanie and my transgender husband Laine.”  This in some ways is another struggle.  How much do people need to know?  We had this discussion a few nights back about hanging out with other couples and expanding a social circle.  Ours is quite small to be honest. We have many acquaintances and many who know about us, but few which we are actually close to. If we invite people into our home, our digital photo frame which sits near the front door plays our journey in photographs.  From the beginning.  For us, we look back and “remember when” or “wow I can’t remember you then, I only see you as you now.”  But for someone who doesn’t know our story, are they going to question?  Do we have to tell them?  Obviously full disclosure is not an issue for us, if it was I wouldn’t be writing on this blog read around the world.  The real struggle isn’t about us disclosing, it is about the other people, do they want or need to know? How much do we tell?  When?  Why is it even important?  Thinking through it, it isn’t necessary.  But what happens when a photograph is displayed somewhere in our home that depicts Laine early on in transition?  Or what if something is said in a conversation about growing up and childhood, a time in which Laine identified as female?  Are we supposed to clear our lives of photographs and memories pre-transition, or even from the first two years of transition when Laine looked different than he does today?  Transition doesn’t run our lives, or define who we are, however in some sneaky way it’s always hiding in the shadows I guess…


Did You Miss Us???

It has been weeks, ok more like months, since I last sat down to type.  Some of you have even reached out to see if we are doing ok, since you haven’t heard from me in awhile.  The answer is yes, we are good…we are more than good, we are wonderful!  I can only blame my absence partially on writer’s block, the rest I have to blame on life.  There are never enough hours in the day, and by evening after the kids are in bed all I want is a glass of wine and quiet time with Laine.

Our biggest current piece of news is that the home we were building, which was projected to take 4-6 months to build and estimated to be move in ready around February…we moved into it two weeks ago.  Much to our surprise, the week of Thanksgiving, I opened an email that informed us we would be closing before the end of 2015!  Bittersweet. (NEW home SOONER than expected…YEAH!!!  Moving ONE week after the holidays…ummm…really???)  This meant the house we were currently living in needed to be prepped for sale and put on the market.  (Anyone here ever had four kids home on winter break, while trying to keep the house spotless just in case a potential buyer wants to drop in…I don’t recommend this process.)  We are still waiting for that house to sell, but we are all moved into OUR new home and life here is good.  (It is even better now that the 4 dogs figured out how to use the doggie door we had professionally installed…if I had to listen to them chop a hole in our brand new wall to put the damn thing in, the least the dogs could do is USE it without me tossing them through it!)

Dead in the middle of the holidays, packing, moving fiasco, we had to suddenly deal with every parent’s (Ok, at least THIS parent’s) nightmare…LICE!  Our oldest daughter (11 years old) came to me one evening saying her head itched.  I thought very little of it due to the fact that her beta blockers have always caused quite the case of psoriasis on her scalp.  So I started checking her scalp thinking I would need to get a treatment for her psoriasis in order to stop her from scratching her scalp…and then I saw it.  A little tiny brown bug in her hair.  WTF?  So I dug deeper…I said a few choice words…and then I freaked out.  Full blown case of lice!  AGH!!!  This discovery took place after the other children were in bed asleep, so I took my phone as a flashlight and started performing scalp checks on the other children.  Our son was clear, but both of the younger two girls, carriers as well.  I said a few additional choice words and then began rapidly Googling.  I left a message for the Lice Knowing You in Scottsdale and hoped they would call me first thing in the morning, preferably before the mommy melt down set in too deep.

We couldn’t do too much over night so the next morning began the process of washing and hot drying EVERYTHING!  And anything that could not be put in the dryer went into the freezer for 24 hours.  I haven’t ever done that much laundry in a single day before in my entire life!  Fortunately, the girls at Lice Knowing You called me by 8:30 that morning (keep in mind this is December 23, meaning Christmas Eve festivities were scheduled with family the next day…I had to get these kids cleaned and cleared or else Christmas was going to be shot to hell.)  The girls at the shop got ALL of us in within an hour or two.  All three girls were treated and our oldest, myself and Laine had scalp checks just to be sure we weren’t carrying any stow-a-ways as well.  (This isn’t a cheap service by any means, but it was well worth it, since those girls stand there and comb every single nit and louse from the kids’ heads and then guarantee their work for 30 days.) Due to the fact that the kids all have split schedules between our house and my Ex’s homes (two go one direction, two go another) that meant three households total had to be checked, cleaned and cleared of these pests.  (Oh and did I mention we also shared our lice with the neighbor who is like a sister to our kids…sorry Jess!!!)

Here we are almost a month later and the youngest has an outbreak at Preschool.  I had to go pick her up early on Tuesday due to the fact they found some nits in her hair during a random classroom check.  Thank goodness for that 30 day guarantee at Lice Knowing You!  Even though it wasn’t their fault the suckers came back, they still treated her again free of charge.  I found out later that 5 other kids also got called for pickup this week just in her class.  And 5 classrooms total right now are red tagged with Lice infestations.  Have I mentioned I would homeschool if I would have been given the gift of patience and a higher (or maybe it would be considered lower) level of sanity???

Laine’s transition is progressing smoothly overall.  It has its ups and downs, and fortunately there have been more ups than downs.  I could sugar coat it and tell you that it is always 110% perfection, but that would be lying.  If you are here reading this, then you probably want the truth and the facts right?  There are moments, and yes sometimes even a day or two at a time where Laine falls into a dark place of self doubt and frustration, one that I don’t and won’t ever understand.  Those days I feel helpless because I can’t always bring him back as quickly as I would like.  I have to give him the space, yet the support, he needs in order to pull through those moments.  Somedays I am better at that combination than others.  Space is a hard thing for me because I want him to always be happy and present.  When he falls into those dark moments I just want him back NOW.  Hormones are powerful, they change how he reacts to life.  They create mood swings and sometimes inconsistencies.  It is no joke when they say the first year of transition is comparable to being in puberty.  Watching it happen from the outside, I can see the moments Laine swaps from a 52-year-old man to a 14 year old teenager and back again.

Some of this hormonal conflict may be due to his Estrogen levels still fighting his Testosterone.  At his doctor visit this past week we got results from his most recent blood draw.  The blood results showed us that yet again his estrogen isn’t shutting down.  His doctor expects that his body should be in a forced menopause by now due to the testosterone, however its not.  There is no monthly physical cycle, but hormones are still functioning at a normal “female” level.  (In conjunction with a normal “male” range of hormones as well.)  Between those results and the results of a recent abdominal ultrasound where two fibroids were found to have grown in only 6 months’ time, he has a consult with our GYN next week.  (That appointment right there should make for a great blog post…although our GYN is totally on board with the transition process and she understands it, there is always the staff we have to explain things to 15 times, beginning with the receptionist on the phone when I called for his appointment and had to explain the legal name change since last visit and the girl still continued to call him “her” and “she” a dozen times…stay tuned for that potential circus.)  We are discussing a full hysterectomy.  Laine’s is looking to be medically necessary, which means insurance will cover it, which is a bonus. Everything else reported from the blood draw looks good.  His blood donation every 8 weeks is keeping his red blood cell count at a normal level and preventing it from getting too high.  Being on the T, there is still always the option that the levels will rise and he will have to donate every 4-6 weeks (or more often) instead of every 8 weeks, but the doctor has already said she will write the script for this procedure if we decide its necessary in the future.  All blood tests will be repeated in 3 months to continue to follow Laine’s overall health.

Therapy has been very beneficial for Laine throughout this process.  Laine has learned how to better cope in those (hormonal) moments and for the most part how to redirect himself when his hormones get the best of him.  This is part of the reason he has remained loyal to therapy on a monthly basis instead of only completing the bare minimum required per doctor’s requests.  I can’t imagine how others navigate this process without that monthly (or more often) check in with a professional.  He always seems to come home after a session with a new outlook on things.  She gives him things to think about and new ways to process.  She is real with him when he needs to change his thinking and look at things from a different perspective.  Changing your life and everything about yourself at ANY age must be difficult.  At the age of 52, the life experience which is built up can only make it more difficult.  Although I have always had a therapist aversion, if I could clone Laine’s therapist and give a copy of her to everyone, I would do it.  She doesn’t fit in my past experience mold of therapy and counseling and I’m so grateful she is a key player in Laine’s transition process.

Ending this post on a happy educational moment story, Laine needed a notary to transfer some paperwork to his daughter about a week ago.  The paperwork was under his birth name.  We weren’t sure how the notary would deal with this issue and if it would indeed BE an issue.  So he took the paperwork, both his old and his new ID, and his legal name change document with him to the notary.  The first thing the man behind the counter said when Laine placed the document on the counter was “Who is Joyce?”  Laine then had to “come out” and explain the situation.  The guy behind the counter, who was a retired PD office, was very cool about it and said “ok, lets figure this out.”  Laine was the first transgender individual in which he had an interaction like this with.  It was an educational experience for the notary and it was an educating others experience for Laine.  All it takes sometimes is one simple conversation to educate others.

This only begins to touch on the past two or three months of our lives, but I figure this is enough of my rambling for today.  🙂