What I Learn From Reality TV And Why I Can’t Stop Thinking About I Am Jazz

(Disclaimer: I want to formally apologize to the transgender population if I misuse terminology, make inaccurate assumptions, etc. I am learning. I am trying to educate myself. I am human.)

I watched a series on TLC over the summer and I can’t stop thinking about it. I watched because I was curious. I watched because I wanted to understand. I had no idea it would resonate and touch me, as a mother, so deeply.

Before “I Am Cait” on the television station E! featuring Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce Jenner) there was “I Am Jazz” on TLC. It was an 11 episode series featuring Jazz and her family as she navigates the world as a transgender adolescent.

The Jennings family from I Am Jazz on TLC

The Jennings family from I Am Jazz on TLC

In the very first episode, Jazz’s mother talks about how, as a pre-preschooler, Jazz asked her mother “Am I a boy or a girl?” Instead of pointing to her anatomy, her mother asked her what she thought. “Well, my body says I’m a boy but my head says I’m a girl.” And so began their journey of helping Jazz to become the person she was meant to be.

Now, I know some of you out there are shaking your heads and saying, “Who she was meant to be? He was born with male anatomy.” But think back. Way back. To when you were a preschooler. Did you feel uncomfortable playing with dolls? Or desperately wanting to wear a dress to feel pretty but you were told “boys don’t wear dresses?”

No one, not a tiny 4 year old but especially an adolescent, actively chooses a way of life that invites ridicule and death threats. Gender identification is not a choice. And I Am Jazz illustrates this beautifully.

And the beauty in Jazz Jennings’ story is that she isn’t the only one telling it. Her family, from her parents to her siblings to her grandparents and friends, are helping to tell her story. They are supportive. And kind. And wanting nothing but for their loved one to feel confident and comfortable in their own skin. Just like any one of us.

Jazz struggles with the anxiety of starting high school and finding flattering clothes and wanting to fit in with her peers. What 14-year old isn’t struggling with these issues? Each episode dealt with her specific struggles but when watered down? Her struggles are no different than those of any teenager anywhere in the world.

What touched me so deeply was the love and acceptance from her family, especially her parents. All they want is  a confident, secure, happy child. Just like me. They want their child to excel in their strengths and work on their weaknesses. Just like me. They want a productive, self-assured, joyful adult life for their child. Just like me. They want all the same things every other parent out there wants for their child. And they have the courage, more courage than most of us are ever expected to draw from, to help create that kind of life for their child.

Jazz’s story is one of struggle and pain. But that’s not what you feel watching her story unfold. Her smile sparkles on screen and you realize that her joy is carrying her through. She has a deep and powerful optimism that is inspiring and contagious. And as a parent, you realize that we have so much influence on how well our children face the challenges they are presented with. Jazz’s parents are her greatest cheerleaders and as a result she is blossoming into a beautiful human being and role model.

I Am Jazz has shaken me, but not because I am dealing with gender identification with my children. It has helped me to understand the transgender population as little better, sure. But more importantly, it has reminded me of the incredible influence I have with my children and how I react to their struggles in life. I can help them to face challenges with courage and strength and hope. Or I can teach them to bury and destroy their truth. I can appreciate their talents and encourage them to be the best they can be or I can mold them into a model of my own choosing.

Jazz has said, “Other people don’t define me. I define me.”

Wise words from a 14-year old.

And a lesson for each of us.



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Filed under Be-Causes, parenting

Happy Anniversary To Me!

When I logged on this morning, a handy-dandy little icon was illuminated. I had no idea what it was, so I clicked on it. It was WordPress wishing me a happy 6 year anniversary. Six years! Really? That long ago?


Here it is. My first post on August 13th, 2009……

Hello blog world!

I am so glad Al Gore invented the internet! This is amazing. Sitting here, at my computer, sending messages to……..? Who will read this? Who are you? What caught your eye to visit this page? I am so new to this blogging concept. And what is so amazing is before I ever entered my first blog I did a little research on you other bloggers out there. Did you know that there are grandmothers out there who blog? Seriously! Grandmothers! Now I am REALLY feeling behind the times. I’m somewhere between 30 and a Wal-Mart greeter. Not yet a grandmother, thank God!

So. Welcome, Me! Looking forward to seeing exactly where this will all lead.


Wow. How green I was. And enthusiastic about starting. And in awe of all of you.

And that has remained unchanged. I am still in awe of all of you.

The grandmothers. And mothers. And chefs. And teachers. And DJs. And sons. And daughters. And curmudgeons. And travelers. And writers. All amazing writers. All of you.

Sure, I’ve dropped to the wayside, hung back in the shadows, lately. I’m distracted by other things…many other things, that have turned my attentions elsewhere. For now.

But I still peek in here. I still get motivated to vent or whisper or chuckle once in a while with a post.

I’m still glad that Al Gore invented this crazy, amazing internet thing.

I’m still somewhere between 30 and a Wal-Mart greeter.

I’m still not a grandmother. Yet. (And I still say, thank God to that!)

I still am not so sure where this all will lead. It’s still a journey. Still interesting. Still fun.

And I’m still here.


Happy 6th Anniversary to me!

And thank YOU ALL for peeking in from time to time. I’m so very grateful that you’re still listening.





Filed under Blogging

Thank You For Your Service

My sister visits every summer. But this summer was different.

She needed a distraction.

Over the years, the number of kids she brought with her has dwindled. First, it was all three. Her two oldest hover in age on either side of my oldest daughter. Her youngest, 4 years younger, was left out of the fun much of the time. But she didn’t mind. It meant that she got to play a “grown up” with my two younger sons who hung the sun and moon on her.

This summer, however, was my sister’s first solo trip. Her oldest, is a working girl now, having finished art school and struggling with her career – in a good way. Her son is in his last year at university. And her youngest, her baby, is in basic training.

My niece didn’t need to join the Army. I mean, not the way many think. She’s an excellent student. She’s highly self motivated and disciplined. Just the kind of person the Army wants. No, Dear Niece, wants to be just like her father. She’ll go to her father’s Alma Mater, a Big Ten University. But her father was also in the Army. And now he’s in Federal Law Enforcement – which is what she wants, too. So, she’s following his path. Step by step.

My sister knew this summer would be hard so she wanted to make it special.

“Let’s take the boys to Disney!” she said. No twisting my arm. I’ll take any excuse to go to my most magical place.


A selfie with one of the army “toys” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

So we did. And we had a blast. But she wasn’t fully present.

“What if she calls when we’re on a ride?”and “Here, I just need to check my messages again.” and “What’s the area code for Missouri? What if I don’t recognize the number?” and “What if she wants to leave and I can’t get to her?” and much more seriously….”What if she gets deployed somewhere awful?”

My sister is well aware of how awful this can be for the family left behind. Her husband volunteered to go to Iraq. They fought. She felt the kids were too young for him to leave. He felt the need to honor his duty to his county. She lost. He won.


The picture my boys sent to their Uncle while he was in Iraq. #1son is wearing his favorite camo bike helmet and #2son is wearing his ” ‘Merican fwag” shirt.

I sympathized this summer with my sister. I tried to feel her pain. And I told her I got it. And I thought I did.

As soon as we received a mailing address we all started mailing letters. My sister warned me that they keep them so busy during the day, they’re exhausted at night. She may not be able to write back very often. No worries, I told her. We understand.

We received our first letter from my niece a few days ago. Or should I say, my sons received a letter. Addressed to the both of them. It was a busy day and and we were rushing to get ready for Boy Scouts.

“Read it to us at dinner, ” they said. “It’ll save time and then we won’t fight over who gets to read it first!” (My oldest son. Always thinking!)

“Thank you both for writing me! Getting letters is the best part of my day! I hope you don’t mind that I am writing this to both of you but I don’t have a whole lot of free time…”

My sister was right.

“I am having a great time! Every day I accomplish new, cool tasks. For example, so far I have done land navigation courses, repelled off a 40 foot tower, team building obstacle courses, gone into a gas chamber, learned all about the M4 rifle, (which I’m shooting for the first time tomorrow!) learned combat first aid and a bunch of other stuff that I can’t remember right now.”

What? My eyes scan back to gas chamber and shooting rifles and combat first aid. Yes, I know what being in the military entails. But this is my baby niece we’re talking about.

“My favorite part has been the navigation courses and repelling off the tower. The gas chamber? Not so much.”

And then it really hits me about the commitment she is making to our country. And the weight my sister has been feeling all summer. And my eyes well up with tears.

This shouldn’t be new to me. My grandfathers, uncles and cousins have all served. My brother-in-law was in the middle east just yesterday, it seems. I know what it’s like to miss someone, worry about someone, and care for someone when they come home wounded.

But my niece feels like my baby, too. And I’m getting a tiny taste, a tiny glimpse into what my sister, her mother, is struggling with every single day until she comes home.

To all of you  mothers out there, mothers with sons and daughters in the military:

Thank you for YOUR sacrifice. And please thank your children for me for their sacrifice. They are awesome. You are awesome. And my heart aches and swells with pride, all at the same time, for all of you. 


Filed under Adult Children, family, Moms

US Students Rank 26th In The World In Math Scores and Now A Math Lab Bust? Well, That Explains A Lot.


STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) has become the buzzword of the decade. It’s sprinkled into every school newsletter and peppered into every welcome-back-to-school orientation.

But all of our STEM awareness is for naught. A big fat zero.

Math labs busts are on on the rise. At least, in Laurel County, KY they are. And five people were arrested. (I’ll bet they didn’t count on that.) 

The United States still falls behind the rest of the world in math, and the reasons for our lagging test scores are starting to add up. Multiply that by simple editing skills at the news station and you have the final answer.

Frankly, I’m divided on the issue. Factor in how many labs go undetected, it’s difficult to fault anyone here. It’s a problem that is growing exponentially, with  many variables to consider.

And then there are all those teachers pushing math.

But can you blame them?

They’re all just trying to get their piece of the pi.

We need to stay rational. This is not your average quandary. I don’t think we’ll find a simple formula to solve the issue. It’s a complex equation. But the degree of the problem should never be underestimated.

When I brought this latest development to my husband’s attention, he just sighed.

“Dear Jane. Don’t you know? Only squares do math.”

And that, dear readers, is the root of the problem.





Filed under Because It Amuses

Unsolicited Parenting Advice To That Poor Woman In The Library

First of all, it should be known that I have never: received a Mother of the Year Award, been nominated for such an award or ever felt worthy of applying for said award.

Mother of the Year, I am not.

Not now.

Not before.

Nor never will be.

But……… (and that’s a big but) ………. I have the trial and error experiences of 2 foster children and 3 they’re-all-mine-can’t-send-’em-back children. And over the past 21 years, I’ve learned a few things.

Every mother’s nightmare is a child acting up in a very public place. The grocery store. The mall. The vet (one of my worse nightmares happened here.) A restaurant. Or, better yet, at a very quiet place, like church.

Or the library.

My sons and I were trying to read, doing the “first page test” as we call it, to narrow our library book choices. (We read the first page of a book and if we get so lost in the book that we don’t notice that we’ve turned the page? The book is a keeper. Very scientific, I know.) Two of us were distracted.

“Mommmmmmmy! But I don’t want to go home. I want to stay here! Mommmmmmmy! Noooooooo!”

A mother and her 3 year old were having a battle of the wills.

Now, let me begin this parenting critique with a full-blown pass for the mom in question. She was probably: sleep-deprived, coming down with a cold, distracted by marital problems/financial despair/the washing machine just broke after fixing the air-conditioning (twice) and the lawn mower died and the brakes of her car were replaced, all  in the past 30 days. (That last pass was actually me this month but that’s for another post.) 

Let’s just say, she was already at her wits end and we are going to give her a huge get-out-of-parenting-hell free card. We will simply observe the behavior at hand and discuss why the tactics never seem to work. Remembering, too, that the not-really-an-expert (me) has never received parenting awards, her own book deal or a guest spot as a consultant on Dr. Phil.


The scene as it unfolded….

#1 – “Stop screaming right now!”

Said, over and over, while looking at the reserve shelf. Never giving her child the attention she was begging for. Never looking at her. Never acknowledging her.

And said seven times.


Yes, I counted.

Because by the second time, I started to think, as loudly as I could, ‘This isn’t working. You need to change tactics.’ Needless to say, she didn’t pick up on my telepathic encouragement.

Remember the phrase: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?” She was driving us all insane with her insanity.

Time for her to move on to….

#2 – “You are being very bad. You are a very bad girl!”

I think I gasped. I remember an article, a long time ago, suggesting that you never tell a child they are “bad.” You can point out the bad behavior. But your child isn’t inherently “bad.” (Now, they also say, you shouldn’t tell your child is “good” either. And I’ve broken that rule many times. — yet, another reason I’ve lost the Mother-of-the-Year award — But I like to think I’m encouraging them to fulfill that prophecy. And that’s a good thing, right?)

And when that didn’t work she resorted to….

#3 – “You are making Mommy very angry!”

Now, I know we’re splitting hairs here but I am a firm believer that no one can “make you” be or feel anything. YOU make yourself angry by allowing your child to high-jack your feelings. And I’m not saying my emotions have never been high-jacked by a willful 3 year old with super-human-whining-and-crying-powers. I’ve just never blamed them outright and given them that power. You can choose how to react to a situation. You can choose to be irritated or amused or indifferent. Or you can choose to be the bigger person, because you are the bigger person, and understand that this is a tantrum, a miscommunication of a bigger picture and this tantrum will eventually go away – with or without intervention.

So when tactics #1, #2 and #3 didn’t work she pulled the…..

#4 – “If you don’t stop screaming we are never coming back to the library ever again!” card.

My son’s eyes about popped out of his head and he had to stifle a giggle.

First of all, never say never.

Second, don’t make promises you never intend to keep. (I know. I said ‘never.’ But in this case, it’s true.) 

Seriously. I can use “never” here because if she’s taking her 3 year old to the library now, I’m pretty darn sure she’ll be taking her to the library at least once more before she’s……4.

Because, really? You’re going to deny your 10 year old a trip to the library because of what she did when she was 3?

I don’t think so.

And then the stratagem that all of us, if we haven’t tried, have thought seriously of doing……

#5 – The mom walked right out of the library and left her child standing there near the check out desk.

It was deliberate. It was mean. And, according to my son coming back from the restroom who saw it all, it was fast. Meaning, the mom was walking with deliberate speed that a 3-year-old could never catch up. Already down the steps and to the curb fast.

And that’s when the child let out a blood-curdling scream that brought me to my feet and caused everyone in the library to take notice. (As if they hadn’t already.) 

My first thought was that the precious child’s fingers were caught in the automatic doors. Or her mother had just smacked her and seriously injured her. But my son, seeing the fear in my eyes, shook his head and said, “She’s okay. She’s just scared.”

Just scared.

When he described what had happened, I was angry. Abandonment is a very real fear for children. I’ve dealt with it in my own children on many different (foster/adoption/daily life) levels. That little girl couldn’t catch up to her mom if she tried. And she knew it. Those tiny little legs have a hard enough time keeping up on a good day, let alone on a day when she was far from home and had no idea how to get back there. Mom was racing away without her and as much as she wanted to stay at the library, she didn’t want to stay there forever.

Now, I know Mom knew she was coming back or would at least slow down so that her little girl could catch up with her. But her sweet cherub didn’t know that. She was being abandoned. Plan and simple. And that’s a fear you should never, ever, ever put into a child’s head. Ever.

I have to admit. Walking away from my child, to encourage them to keep up with me, is a method I’ve used myself. I’m not proud of it. And I remember the one time I did it, the fear in my foster daughter’s eyes brought me to my knees. It was a bad-mommy moment for me, for sure.

So, after this lengthy critique, what is the solution to a whiny, screaming, war-of-the-wills tantrum from a 3 year old?

I don’t know.

I DO know what worked for me.

Whenever my kids were annoying or whiny or pitching a fit in a public place (or anyplace, for that matter) I resorted to holding them. No matter how annoyed or angry or crabby I was, I held them. Close. In my arms, until the tantrum subsided. And if it didn’t subside quickly enough, I’d whisper. I’d whisper, Shhhh. I’d whisper, I love you. I’d whisper little mini-soliloquies until they quieted down. And then, I’d tell them what I knew.

I knew they wanted to stay/go/have that candy bar/etc. But today we have to make dinner/finish grocery shopping/eat some fruit because we just had ice cream/etc. And next week, when we come back I will make sure we have plenty of time for story hour/run in for just the items on my list/skip dessert at lunch so you can have that candy bar/etc.

I’d make sure they felt heard. I’d explain my position. And I’d assure them, that next time, I will take their needs and desires into consideration — as much as I can, that is.

Because the bottom line is: they just want to be heard. And understood.

That is the bigger picture in any tantrum.

The end result, not getting their way, becomes irrelevant.

What matters most is that you listened to them and you understood.






Filed under Motherhood, Observations, parenting

Mom Cries Foul At 8th Grade Awards Night Or How Our Awards Happy Society Has Jane’s Panties In A Twist

There is a story, complete with proud-parent-and-child picture, riding the internet waves. Specifically, on Facebook. (Where I seem to get all of my news, sadly.)

This mom is pleading for us to like/share/comment on her son’s pathetic tale. Apparently, at 8th grade awards night, her son received his award for great grades in 8th grade but his name was inadvertently left off the list when awarding students for great grades for their entire middle school academic career. Her son was so shaken, and so was Mom, that she is pleading for us to like/share/comment so she can give her son the recognition he deserves.



I read the plea to my recent college grad daughter and she rolled her eyes and said, “I’ll bet he’s as embarrassed as hell. I’d KILL you if you ever did that to me.”

And then, wisely, she said, “There are so many disappointments in life. So many good things that he’ll do that may not go unnoticed but WILL go unrecognized. Isn’t that the bigger lesson there?” (Ahhh, now I’M the proud mom.)


If he is so bright. So determined. So driven. He is going to go on to achieve many great things in life. Some will go unnoticed. Some will go unrecognized. But in his heart, he will know he achieved “greatness.” Those close to him will know. And isn’t that what’s important?

We have become a society that applauds and awards the smallest of achievements. We give recognition when, sometimes, it shouldn’t be “due.” And we are doing this with such regularity that we want our children to be recognized for every little thing. And when they aren’t recognized? For the big and the small? We are livid.

A few times, during my son’s baseball career, I’ve cringed at the end of the game awards ceremonies. Every kid is guaranteed a medal, at least once in the short 6 game season, for “greatness.” Well, I hate to put this out there, but my kid ain’t great. He’s mediocre. He loves the game. He has a blast. He makes great strides for him. But most kids would have hit that ball. Caught that pop fly. Or made it all the way to 2nd base on an overthrow to first. So when the coach would sometimes have to search for something to praise my kid about I wanted to say, “It’s okay to give it to the boy who hit the home run with 2 RBI’s or the outfielder who made the over-the-fence out.”

But I don’t. And my kid is bursting while he wears his medal after the game. And my cruel heart softens, as I see him bursting with pride. And that’s okay, too.

Because sometimes, he’s going to get awards for things that are disgustingly easy for someone else. And he’s going to watch, someday, as someone gets the award that maybe he should have received. There’s a lesson there, too.

There are so many lessons of unfairness for each of us to learn. And sometimes, we have to learn them in 8th grade so that when it happens in 12th grade and in college and umpteen times in our adult careers we don’t want to curl up and die because no one noticed our greatness.

We aren’t always going to have mommies, cheering on the sidelines, making sure every single one of our achievements is noticed. And we shouldn’t.

The true value of an achievement is what we learn from it.

What we take from it.

And how we apply it to further greatness.




Filed under Lessons Learned, Soapbox

My Summer Vacation Just Got Even More Exciting

Summer Vacation Bucket List


Day 1: Bring out the Monopoly board after “I’m bored” chants reach epic proportions. Check. (Fears of enduring a long summer surface.)


But then…..


Day 2: Download malicious computer virus (complete with flashing screen and wayward mouse pointer thingy) that takes control of the brand new (12 days “old”) laptop purchased for the boys. Check.



(This summer is proving to be more exciting than I bargained for.)


Filed under All In A Day's Work