Feedback

I’m loving the MITT Advanced class I’m taking but a powerful portion of the class is in the offering of feedback.  It’s when we step beyond polite and tell people how we see them.  It’s through this feedback I can grow.

I show up as fake.

I show up as fearful.

I show up as controlling.

I show up as invisible.

I show up as timid.

I show up as lacking confidence.

I show up as a doormat.

I show up as disconnected.

Fake

I suppose it’s impossible to be happy all of the time, but the joy I feel lately is genuine.  It’s just not consistent. When I was asked a question and I was finally honest with myself and others, I keep all of my relationships so superficial that I don’t allow them to matter.  I’ve had several friends reach out to hang out or get together.  When it doesn’t happen, I actually am sometimes relieved.  I can go on with being solitary and the freedom I dance is is slowly becoming my prison.

Control and Fear

In my fear, I push others away because I can control who I let in.  If things are superficial, as they have been, no one can let me down or hold me back. I’ve been trying to make deeper connections with one friend, knowing she holds back just as much as I do and that she’s safe.  When I walked in on the first day, a woman introduced herself to me.  She was sitting near me and I got back into my phone.  She got up and sat elsewhere and that was feedback.  There was a moment when I saw a friend’s mother.  Rather than jumping up to say hello, I decided to wait until the next break.  I was being superficial.

Invisible

I show up by not showing up.  I have been going to events with friends, but not engaging deeply in who they are and seeing where I can show up in their lives in ways that are supportive.  Not really.  It might be a friend or two that gets my time for a while, but once I see my reliance on them growing stronger, I fade away.  I have spent two days with over 100 people . . . all wearing name tags.  And I never got beyond a friendly greeting with more than 10 of them.

Timid

I show up as timid while standing in the back, and not being heard.  There was a moment yesterday when I allowed someone else’s anger to silence me.  This is the story of my life.  Every time a dominant man stood before me and made his voice louder and his body was aggressive in his beliefs, I shrunk back in silence.  In my career, I’ve accepted a job I love doing, for compensation that tells me anyone can do it, I’m replaceable, and not valued.  In romance, I’ve been doing my best to sabotage myself.  While dating online, I saw so many men looking for hookups or real relationships and I wanted somewhere in the middle.  I wanted one person to really hookup with.  He had to be my age or older. He had to be beautiful, athletic and smart.  If I couldn’t find him (and I didn’t), I preferred being alone. I am so great at this self sabotage that I found the most attractive man to be my partner so we could be real and vulnerable and never date.  He is everything I would love to date.  He’s also gay and we even connect in not liking boobs.

During the feedback exercise, I had a really hard time giving feedback.  It felt like I was being asked to give the abuse I have received, only supercharged.  It felt like aggressively fighting back, only I couldn’t.  I stood back and would watch the person in the hot seat.  I would cry with them and feel all of their pain.

Lacking Confidence

Confidence is more than the way I walk and greet others.  I’m good at that and it’s just who I am.  Confidence in my lack means I have a million great ideas and I’m waiting for the right time to put them out there. Not having confidence means I needed someone to open my eyes to the possibility that I live my career, love life, and mothering style as someone who isn’t worthy.  I live in just enough because I have not had the confidence to dream for more.  I keep my dreams as little goals.  At the end of the day, a dream, big or small, is still a dream and there’s no reason to stop where I have been, except for my lack in confidence.

Doormat

I show up as a doormat.  I stand in the back.  I allow dominant men to silence me. I put others first to the point where I put myself last, even to the point of sacrifice and in terms of an exercise, suicide.  I killed myself because I was so focused on saving others.  How on earth is sacrificing myself for the greater good of the world? How can I be better assistance to my boys and the world if I am dead? Yesterday I spoke out about what I did during my postpartum depression with Kid1.  For the first time in 15 years, I let out my darkest secret about that time.  In all of these years I felt so much shame and sadness for what that looked like.  For the first time, I stood up and believed I had a right to ask for the help I never got.  I saw a man live out the pain of my inaction with my sons.  I was the mother that stood quietly while my sons were yelled at.  I kept my mouth shut when I saw emotional damage being inflicted on them.  In my frustration and inability, I turned to my sons in violence because I was failing and I needed to lash out.  I’m happy that I’m no longer capable of intimidating my sons because I’m no longer living in the aggression they were formed in.  But it’s time to stop being that doormat because I can’t lead them while I’m still following someone else.

Disconnected

When I was supposed to be giving feedback, I realized that my empathy allows me to fully connect with what others are feeling, but it didn’t allow me to be in touch with what I was feeling.  Growing up, my Dad taught me love meant obedience and service.  He would often snap his fingers at me to get me to hustle.  I had someone snap his fingers to try to annoy me because the rest of the world sees this as rude, but it was my normal.  I spent my life worrying about how others are feeling and shutting down how I felt.  My first day was filled with tears, and I was encouraged to not wear makeup.  It was then that I remembered a time in middle school where I was often crying.  That was when my deepest depression started and I used to cry.  I learned how to put on makeup so it was only on the top part of my lids.  I learned to let the tears fall silently so I could wipe them away and lock it away so no one could tell.  Yesterday I wore more eye makeup than the first day.  I cried so much my whole body felt it with paroxysms of loss wracking through my body in waves.  I openly cried and the sound coming out of me was an open wail of true mourning.  I gave myself full permission to be in what I felt and the sound of what I held inside of me was frightening.  For the first time in years, I allowed myself to connect to the darker parts of what I felt.

When I was suicidal, crying too loudly would alert others that might have wanted to stop me from self harm.

When I was in love, my object’s feelings were more important than mine because I felt like my happiness was dependent on his (it’s always about a boy).

As a child, I had to learn to navigate my Dad’s PTSD.  As an adult, I get to see that my parent’s happiness has nothing to do with me and I’m not responsible for how they feel.

When my ex left and then my church family and his family abandoned me, I had to figure it out and once the bleeding stopped, I tried to walk in grace.  I had to disconnect from how deeply I was hurt.  I had to put aside the pain and the anger and the sorrow. I found happiness, but there was still this pain underneath it that tried to strangle me if I stayed home alone for too long.  But I got to really connect to that.  I got to let it up and out of me.  I was exhausted and energized last night because I got to feel what I had so stubbornly covered with a  plastic smile.

So much transition, and I get to say, “YES!!!!”

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The Most Beautiful Thing

I had a moment with a man. A partner in transition. He opened up in honesty and offered his vulnerability to me. His tears fell quietly as he looked into my eyes. Not hiding. Not ashamed. I didn’t feel impatient or irritated. It was humbling. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. 

Trans Nerdy Podcast

I’m not a podcast listener.  Not really.  I have a friend.  This is her thing.  I say “her” but she identifies as gender fluid and while she was born a cisgendered male, she has now gone above and beyond in a transformation I am inspired by.  Everything she has internalized as her desire to be has become an external expression of who she is. From losing weight, to reassigning her physical gender, to days when she balances where she fits and how she straddles genders.  It’s hard enough to be a woman with people telling you how you should look or present yourself, and what beauty means.  Any magazine would show you we’re all doing it wrong.  She’s both, and she takes the good with the bad, learning with excitement and aplomb.  She sees limits but they aren’t her limitations.  I admire her and her podcast is my only subscription on iTunes or anywhere.

This friend has done more than I would.  I see her and call her my sister because when I see her, she is more like me than a man.  I identify with her probably more than she identifies with me. She has moments where she is very male, as do I.  I mean, when we’re walking down the street and I stop her to say, “look at him! He’s beautiful.” I’m being the more sexually aggressive one, which is traditionally a male characteristic.  This is especially the case when I vocalize my more intimate fantasies. Then I try not to enjoy her discomfort and feel a bit of shame because I’ve made her uncomfortable. When she takes her time texting back, she’s definitely being more male.  It doesn’t bother me. It’s who she is.  And that’s the point of a text or email, right? You get to it when you feel like it. I think she sees the distinction as more physical but I don’t see her that way.  I see her as a beautiful person full of light and raw with emotions most of the time.  Her jawline is solid and I can imagine what she would look like if I could only see her as a man.  He is beautiful and if I could only see his face the only barrier for me would be the age gap.

The podcast itself is well researched with enough personal influence to express so much more than I’d ever get from a news article on the same topics she explores. She talks about issues in the LGBTQ community and it’s stretched my perception in so many ways.

Just this morning I listened to Episode #8, Transgender and Acting.  She brought up so much about issues I never considered, but the more I listen to her, I can see how the LGBTQ community shares so much with the Special Needs Community.  There was a moment when she explained how an actor could portray Superman but never fully appreciate what life as an alien is really like. My explanation of the ways my boys are othered by their autism usually involves Superman.  He’s different.  He’s othered.  He has extrasensory perception, similar to my autistic sons (hearing and seeing more than I ever could) and yet I would never call him disabled.  Both LGBTQ and Autism are characterized in ways the rest of the world can understand although each person is unique and grouped under an umbrella.  The umbrella is for others to understand what the people under the umbrella get to live.  I’m so excited that I get to keep learning and stretching because of her.  Give her a listen and she’ll give you a lesson.  I promise, it’ll be good.

Advanced 139

I took the Basic 137 Class with Mastery in Transitional Training this summer.  I went in feeling highly skeptical.  I was pushed and encouraged by a really great friend or two and their excitement and the transcendence with which they spoke had me convinced it was a cult.  A google search told me it was a cult.  It looked like a cult.  I went anyway because of my belief in my friend and I got to see first hand, that it is not at all a cult.  But there is brainwashing involved.

Emotionally, I can be highly empathic.  I won’t watch the news because it makes me cry for people I will never meet.  I walked into the room on the first day and immediately felt this weight of sorrow and desperation.  So many people walked in with a plan for a breakthrough in their life, and I walked in wondering if I could get through without being brainwashed.

It started slow.  There were 5 days that started right after work Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and had two all day sessions that weekend. There was a motivational speaker that was powerfully persuasive, but I was intentionally closed off and determined to not be brainwashed.  There were psychological games we played with minimal instructions, and the lesson in who we are unfolded once the game was over.  There were guided meditations and moments where we were pulled out of our busy Los Angeles lives, and we were cocooned in a place where we had no choice but to make our very human connections.  How amazing is it to see who you are as reflected openly by other people who only want the same growth they offer you through their honesty? By Saturday, I could see what they were doing for me as I stood in a room full of strangers that were hugging it out and openly weeping.  It was the most profound shared experience I had ever been part of.

I walked in with so much pride in who I am, and I was called out on the weakness in my inability to be vulnerable.  I walked in as a person working a temp job with the lack of job security it comes with and I felt that I needed to make up for that when I entered a room with doctors, lawyers, business owners, paid writers, finance powerhouses, news anchors, nurses, and even a city mayor.  I walked away with a deeper appreciation of my family and our connections.  I walked away knowing that what has always been accepted as what my life looks like isn’t an internal dialogue I have to accept.  I get to choose what life looks like and I get to determine where I’m headed.  It’s profound and beautiful.  The community built into the course is amazing in itself.   We have taken the opportunities given to show up for those we care about and stand in strength for the ability and beauty we see in each other.

I wanted to wait until I could afford the class and the time off of work, but a friend encouraged me to set up a Go Fund Me account .  I was surprised at how much support poured in from people that have never met me.  I didn’t reach my goal, and yet I didn’t let that stop me.  I get to start Advanced 139 today.  I’m starting five – 12 hour days of intense reframing and I’m going in with an open heart and full of expectation.  I’m excited to see the ways it’ll stretch who I am into who I am meant to be.  I get to make deeper connections with the world around me and I have the support of friends and strangers alike.  I get to be the mother and leader I want my sons to have and this course will absolutely get me in position for this state of transition I feel is coming.

I get to do epic things and it starts in less than an hour!!!!

How I Look and Cooking

I was having a moment of insecurity this morning.  I was wearing a dress, because I wanted to, but in my lounge, then rush out the door, I didn’t look in the mirror.  Most days I don’t really care, but as I was rubbing lotion into my dry legs, I just couldn’t.  In the parking lot at work, I went to the trunk of my car and pulled out my emergency pair of jeans and t-shirt.  I got dressed in the front seat of my car and had a moment of laughter because it reminded me of my entire adolescence.

I’m wearing this and not sure how comfortable I am in it either.  I may go back out the car and change again.  I haven’t decided. The jeans are shorter than I like.  I like my denim to be Victorian and cover my ankles.  The shirt is a blue and white tie dye.  I loved the way it reminded me of decades past, but wearing it in public? Not so much. Especially when a quick glance in office lighting tells you what color my bra is.  I need to update my trunk wardrobe so I feel confident, in another wardrobe emergency.

The lesson here? If you wouldn’t love it every day, it shouldn’t be your emergency clothing.  How does that apply to cooking?

Lesson 1: If it’s not good enough on its own, it’s not good enough in emergencies or as a foundation.

In cooking, I might deglaze a pan after searing meat with a dry red wine.  Or if I’m making beef stew or marinating carne asada, I use beer. You don’t cook with something you wouldn’t drink.  Bad ingredients can only make a bad meal.  If you don’t want to drink your wine, don’t cook with it.  If I’m using beer that has gluten in it, it won’t be worth the taste if I’m begging for death because of an unhappy belly.

Lesson 2: Don’t over crowd your pan.

Cooking anything often requires the right temperature and the space for your heating surface to do the job.  We want space so a sear doesn’t become a sauté. We need space to give what’s cooking a moment to enjoy the heat.

In fashion to me, this means parts are covered while something else is exposed.  A long and conservative dress begs for strappy heels.  If I’m showing off my décolletage, I’m covering up my legs.  If my legs are being showcased, I’m wearing a high neckline.

Lesson 3: Only sausage needs to be stuffed.

Often when stuffing pork chops or chicken breasts, I will pound and beat out the meat I’m using so it’s thinner and keep the stuffing on the light side.  I use medium heat that has had time to get to the right temperature because I want it to cook all the way through without over drying the outside.  It means cooking takes more time, and I’m intentional with what I do. I won’t wear underwear that is meant to make me feel like a stuffed sausage so my body looks a certain way.  If I don’t do that to a spinach and cheese beef roulade, why would I do that to my body? Sausage is made for being stuffed into a tight skin.

Lesson 4: Creaming

When wearing makeup, you want to blend.  You want soufflé foundations to melt into your skin, but not be so thick it could melt right off.  You want shadows that dance so closely, you can’t tell where one shade ends and the next begins. Moisturizer is important. Healthy skin is more important when makeup skills like mine are at play. 

I bake my cheesecakes.  I get the cream cheese to room temperature, and I will beat in eggs, sugar and vanilla.  By the time I’m done, you can’t differentiate what is in it because it is all the same consistency and texture.  It bakes and requires patience to cool.  If you’ve ever been impatient in waiting for a hot cheesecake to cool, you understand how horrible that can be.  You want the same patience in blending foundation into your skin, going past your chin and along your neck.  Like cheesecake, that much make up on me is rare.

Lesson 5: Lumps

Honor your lumps!

In pancakes or cornbread, I will often sift the dry ingredients before adding them to the wet ingredients.  It’s a quick mix that just incorporates everything because overmixing won’t give you fluffy breads. Over mixing makes it dense and tough.

A woman’s body is made for lumpy bits. I hate wearing a belt, but when it matters, cinching my waist enhances my bustling and flatters my hips. My hair doesn’t look as great stick straight as it does with the natural bounce and body of a good wave or girly curls.

Lesson 6: The mystery you don’t want to know.

Sometimes you just don’t need to know what goes into it.  When I make tamales, I use Lard.  I use cleaned animal fat because that’s where the flavor is.  I use the unhealthy fat because that’s how I learned how to make tamales.

When I’m wearing clothes, you don’t need to see my bra.  There are really cute bralettes that are designed to be seen, but they don’t carry them in my size.  (Thank you for that endowment, Mom and Nanny.) When I wear a shirt, I want to be sure that my bra can’t be seen. There are amazing advances in lingerie that include strapless and convertible bras.  I own a couple of corsets but can’t wear them without help.  These are designed to be worn under clothes or alone, but that doesn’t mean I should wear them out.

Lesson 7: A time and a place for everything.

I have absolute moments of food joy.  I have been known to whip up a quick Hollandaise in the blender before work and bring the rest of my goodies with me to assemble an eggs benedict at my desk.  This is not the same meal I would ever take to the beach.  Beach food is often cut fresh fruit, crudités, chips and drinks.    Small, manageable, and not requiring cutlery.

You want your clothes to match your adventure.  I’m all for spontaneity, but bowling in a mini skirt is not nearly as fun as it sounds.  Walking along a jetty in stilettos can be real torture. Wear the clothes you need for your adventure.

Lesson 8: Get Creative

It’s easy to get stuck in routine where the same outfit and accessories feel like home. Change it up. The beauty of not wearing a jumpsuit all the time is that your tops are not married to your bottoms. I don’t often wear dresses or skirts to work because comfortable to me often looks like man spreading and it’s not very lady like. 

In food, this means I was hugely surprised when I swapped vanilla for almond extract in my French Toast. Smoked Gouda and dates was a whim that became a staple. I used to love cheddar popcorn and chocolate and one day swapped the cheddar popcorn for spicy chips. It was good. 

Lesson 9: Be flexible

Sometimes I’ll start with something but it might change.  I recently bought a pound of ground pork and the same amount of ground beef, but instead of making the meat loaf my kids weren’t in the mood for, I made country fried steaks and used the ground meat for potsticker filling that used rice paper instead of wonton wrappers.  It made me happy.  It made the boys happy.

I don’t always care about fashion, but these things are in the back of my mind when I get dressed most days.  I ignore what my mood tells me to and stick to what feels right. And the bra being seen through my shirt . . . Yeah, I’m slapping that dress back on.

Street Harassment

Growing up female, street harassment is just something you live with.  I have a beautiful trans-gendered friend and she had a recent experience that isn’t mine to share.  My first thought was to blow it off as what happens, but something she said on a late night stroll along the Santa Monica pier Saturday resonated tonight.

We’re so used to holding our secrets as close as we can.  We worry that it’ll get out and be exposed.  We might get teased or attacked for what we do or think or feel.  We keep our secrets close and quiet, muffling all resonance in cloistered secrecy for our protection.  Being trans literally took all of her closely held secrets and put them outside of her body.  She chose to take all of her fears and put them before her, exposed and exposing the most beautiful and vulnerable parts of who she is for friends, family, and fearful haters alike.  I adore her for who she is and who she always shows up as to me. She’s a radiant beauty and I admire her strength and courage, and she gives epic hugs. (We’re not dating.  It’s the boobs.  I don’t do boobs.  Also, I really don’t date younger people. There have been two exceptions. One has so much special in him I would have regretted passing up on our time together and I married the other.)

Street harassment is so pervasive that it’s become an insignificant blip on the radar of my life because it’s a secret of womanhood.  If I talk about it, I’ll be criticized for my jaunts on the town alone.  If I talk about it, I’ll be questioned for what I was wearing as if my Retro Vintage Ruby Woo lipstick is asking for anything other than to make my lips blood red. If we talk about it, it grows a face that looks like blame and we won’t place the responsibility of the action on the shoulders of the aggressor.  He’s a nameless child that means no harm.  We’ll find help.  Even if he proves to be a rapist, his family loves and trusts that he’ll make good choices if we give him another chance. If we say he is just having fun, and it’s harmless, we ignore the many women that are so openly victimized by street harassment that they are afraid to go out alone. Street harassment tells the attacked person that she or he doesn’t have a right to be outside of their home and enjoy freedoms that stray dogs do.  We never know when a comment might become an attack of aggression.  It’s power and dominance. It wasn’t long ago a woman was killed because she exercised her right to reject a man.  That is a reality that sits in our minds from the time we were little and told we needed a buddy system for our safety in public bathrooms. 

Street harassment doesn’t even require a sexualized adult body.  My first experience was more than harassment, but it was my first exposure.  Literally.  I was in elementary school, possibly the 3rd or 4th grade.  I was allowed to walk to and from school as it was only a couple of blocks on a busy street.  A man pulled up next to me in a red car, asking for directions while stroking an erect and exposed penis.

Growing up, I got used to men catcalling me.  I hear lots of complaints about men asking women to smile, but I usually do smile and it has never been my problem.  I understand the frustration.  Being a woman on the street does not offer strangers entitlement to how I walk down the street, whether smiling, or angry, strutting, or trying my best to pretend I don’t exist and can blend in with the cracks in the sidewalk.

More than once, I’ve noticed a camera phone pointed at me as I go about my day, walking, or shopping, or sitting with gelato at a bistro table. My nephew was shocked and pointed out he would attack a creeper taking pictures of him. This is my normal when I’m alone because we need to do better by our sons, nephews and brothers. 

I’m used to men smiling at me, and slowing down or pulling over as I walk and they drive.  I’m used to friendly smiles and creepy ones. I’ve watched men looking at me while using their hands to air stroke an imaginary phallus.  I’m used to everything from a sweet hello, to “I’d hit that.” I never know what it’ll be and I’m a little nervous to find out sometimes. Time has taught me to put on a brave face, smile and make eye contact.  It’s less likely to turn ugly if you show kindness. Also, it’s why I’m at Santa Monica Beach so often.  I prefer quieter beaches but the police presence is huge and comforting.

I get the power aspect of it.  I work out my own aggression when the windows are down and I see a beautiful man running, and I loudly say, “thank you,” while quietly saying ,”for all you are doing for me right now.” I’ve been called out on it and shamed enough that it’s been a while and I felt true remorse for my actions. I don’t do it in front of my boys, but I have done it and it was always about power.  Now it’s about shame.

Firstborn

My firstborn completed his 15th lap around the sun this afternoon. He altered my body in ways I couldn’t imagine. He was the first of 7 children to rest beneath my heart. He barreled through me, shifting my ideals of the person I was supposed to be because I chose to be who I wanted him to have as a mother.  It came with the backlash of being someone I wasn’t and my hormones fluctuated, throwing me into one of the deepest depressions I have ever experienced.  It was called the baby blues, but there was a darkness that suffocated me and held me in oppression that was a vile mockery of sisterhood.

He was born a little early and at 5 pounds, 5 ounces, he was tiny and his whole body fit along my forearm.  He needed constant contact and wanted to be held at all times.  I was on my own around the clock as my ex was working more than one job to support us.  He would often get home late in the afternoon and remind me to eat and shower because I would forget to eat.  My respite came in the form of a baby swing, but after I had learned to do everything with one hand while he rested along the other arm.  He was colicky and would cry most of the night and at 4 months old, I called my mom in tears, and thanked her for not killing me in my infancy.

By his first birthday, he was obsessed with the toilet.  He would climb in and sit in it, fully clothed.  It was wet and held him closely.  It was sensory.  He would defecate in a diaper, then explore the textures with his hands and mouth on clothes and walls.  He loved flushing things, and I learned how to uninstall a toilet, flip it upside down in a tub, flush water or a snake up the back way to dislodge puzzle pieces, cutlery, cars and trains and reinstall the same toilet.  I now keep a toilet auger and this year there’s only been one spoon but it might have been Kid2’s misadventure. (Two wax rings can be sandwiched if you can’t find a double thick one and don’t over tighten your screws because porcelain can’t take that kind of pressure.)

I took him to a pediatrician with several letters added on after her name.  I placed my faith in her and believed her when she told me he would talk when he was ready.  I can’t describe the rage and betrayal I felt when I believed her, and I was told he was on a spectrum that was a word I knew nothing about. She assured me he was fine, but there was a reason I felt like a failure and other mother’s encouraged this notion.  Autism looks like a naughty child and a mother bent on spoiling her child.

I’ve watched him seek alignment for what I can never really appreciate but understand as Sensory Integration Dysfunction.  I’ve watched him try to make friends, only to be othered for an inability to understand the cruel social cues of children learning their limits and boundaries.  I’ve seen him try to make sense of where he belongs.

I’ve seen him make friendships and interact the way I did as a teenager, but his play is far more imaginative than the silly Sassy articles I would read to my best friend during long nights on the phone.

I’ve seen him shelter his brothers, and beat them mercilessly.  I’ve seen him stand up to me and call me out when I’m failing, because I’ve asked him to, and he trusts me enough to give me his honesty.  He’s not just brave but courageous.

When their Dad was injured recently, my first born son had the presence of mind to call an ambulance, when the grown ups around them lost their heads.  When they were with their Dad this weekend, my son stood up to help his Dad in every way necessary. When the pressure became too much, he texted me for encouragement, and continued being the young man I am so very proud of.

He’s a gamer.  He loves anime and has been working on his own drawings.  He encourages and supports his friends.  He looks after his brothers and calls me out to be better.  He makes me want to make yesterday’s ceiling tomorrow’s floor because it is a gift to watch him rise above every expectation put before him. He inspires me.  He is my bright light and brings me so much joy.  I’m so proud of the man he’s growing into and only hope to honor who he is by who I consistently show up as.

He’s my firstborn.