2017: The culmination (1)

 

The microwave take

I had set my goal to be fully transitioned by the time I turned sixty. Over the course of four years, I had done everything to set up 2017 to complete the task in time, having the surgeries I desired.  My birthday is in April, after the eleventh.

  1. January 19: Vocal cord surgery
  2. April 11: Sex reassignment/gender confirming surgery
  3. November 22: Facial feminization surgery and breast implants

When I fudge my stated goal—to have all of my surgeries in the calendar year in which I turned sixty—I can claim to have achieved it.

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That was one crazy ladder.

The crock pot take

It was 2013. A few months after I began seeing a therapist that April, I had decided that I would need to attempt transitioning, to see if it would help me feel better. Actually, I was on about my tenth decision to transition, and my mind would remain on the I-will/I-won’t swivel for more than two years.

That January, I had crashed. As I reflect on things, I now see that I was in the process of crashing for a few years, since my very early fifties. My life was like watching a slow motion video of a football running back who is hurling through the air, stretching for the end zone, only to have the enormous linebacker awaiting.

It was five years ago that I finally made contact with that linebacker. I was crushed, crunched, and crashed.

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Yeah, that’s me—new look, same great taste, and still a dip!

Back to the therapist’s office, that summer I had once again decided I would need to give transitioning a try. Nothing else was working. I was getting worse. Meltdowns were my too-frequent visitors. I cried almost as much as I breathed. If I could have torn off my flesh, I would have.

Having announced my decision, I said to my therapist, “I have a goal. I want to be fully transitioned, with whatever surgeries I will decide to have, by my sixtieth birthday, in April of 2017.”

At the time, I had plenty of time. As I tore off calendar pages, it felt like sand seeping out of the hour glass and through my fingers. Before 2013 was out, I had begun hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and in 2014 I retired. Outside of retiring, everything else was a seesaw, including the HRT which I stopped and started four times. Up and down I went, and with every hard landing came the next crash, more jarring than the others.

While suicidal thoughts regularly came calling, I never was close to trying. What came close, and I truly thought was going to land and stick, was losing my mind, going insane, becoming a blithering idiot of a person who could do no more than sit around, eating and watching television.

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Nice, but I like my new packaging better.

That is where I found myself in June of 2015. On April 29, I had gone public online, that I had struggled all my life with my gender identity. I was so hoping that fighting my battle in public, openly writing about it, would strengthen me in my resolve to remain male. I found that while writing was therapeutic, being public about this was no cure. In June, I decided to begin to live full time as a female, to see if it would help. I set July 2 as the date to go all Gina, all of the time.

I was finding relief. Thus, in mid-August, I went public about it. I changed my online presence from Greg to Gina. While I continued to have seesaw-situations, each one was situational A pattern emerged. Every time I took the next step, I subconsciously rebelled against it.

And, every time, not only did I fight through the rebellion, taking the step proved beneficial. I succeeded at living as a female. I legally changed my name on May 2, 2016. I scheduled visits with surgeons. I kept going forward.

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Extra!  Extra!  Read all about it!

In 2017, I had every surgery I planned to have. If surgeries did not take so long to accomplish, I would have made my goal of being fully transitioned by my sixtieth birthday. After I hit sixty, the lone thing I had to do was my face surgery and breast implants. At least, I can say that I got them done during the year that I turned sixty. Yeah, I’ll go with that, reaching my fudged goal.

Since my final surgery, I have been on a high. It is a combination thing. I am both tremendously happy with the surgery and riding the wave of being done. If I had a pizza for every time I have verbally proclaimed a huge, smile-accompanied “Whew!”—well, I’d be continually sauced.

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I’ll take four of these and leave the “33% more!!!”

The other thing I find myself saying is, “I am a completely transitioned transsexual.” This boggles my mind. From my middle-school years, when I first learned about transsexuals and was so intrigued by them, to the many years that my regular lament was, “All I want in life is to be a girl,” of all of the daydreams I had where I could not ponder actually transitioning, so foreign to my life was that notion.

And now here I am. I am one of them—a male who is a fully transitioned trans woman.

If I had been selected in high school to be part of some crazy send-a-teenager-to-the-moon program of NASA, and had been the youngest person to lope the lunar landscape, it would not have been any wilder in my imagination than the ground on which I am now walking.

It turns out the man in the moon is transgender.

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Ain’t that cheesy?

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Ken Schave—let’s be like him

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What do you appreciate in a person? Someone who is friendly and kind and hardworking? Someone who stands up for what he believes? Someone on whom you can rely? Someone who pitches in, who would give you the shirt off his back and, after that, the shoes and socks off his feet? Someone who doesn’t simply say “do this and do that,” but does what he says?

If this is the kind of person you appreciate, then you would have loved Ken Schave, whose earthly pilgrimage came to an end on January 6.

I was Ken’s pastor in Port Hope, but I first met him in Guttenberg. When I had accepted St. John’s call to be their pastor, to move my family’s belongings four men drove the ten hours from where they lived in the farthest east of Michigan, next to Lake Huron, to where I lived in the farthest east of Iowa, next to the Mississippi River. Ken, who was sixty-seven at the time, was one of St. John’s wise men who had come from the east.

Once in Port Hope, my first encounter with Ken involved putting on more miles. His mother was in a nursing home in Bad Axe, a half-hour away. Ken let me know that a stroke had robbed her of her speech. So, he offered, if I would like he would accompany me for my first visit both to show me where to go and to make easier my first visit with his mother. I was pleased for him to introduce me to his mother and to learn the way to the nursing home and hospital that avoided having to go through downtown.

These first two occasions with Ken showed me everything I would see in him the entire thirteen years I was in Port Hope. He was friendly and kind and hardworking, and everything else you appreciate in a person. There was never a time when I was not pleased to see Ken.

While I grew to know Ken well, for the details of his life I direct you to his thorough obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/michigansthumb/obituary.aspx?n=kenneth-l-schave&pid=187772735

Ken and his beloved Janet were married sixty years. Talk about a perfectly matched set of folks. While this piece is about Ken, I can’t entirely ignore speaking of Janet. It’s funny; where Ken almost completely reminded me of my dad—in every way, they conducted themselves the same—I thought of Janet as a sister—an older sister, which I was always quick to point out to her, longing to rile her. This is how Janet and I interacted, one of us picking on the other, and then the other jabbing back, the way siblings do it.

For many of my thirteen years in Port Hope, Ken served on the board of elders. (In the Lutheran church, the elders serve as the pastor’s right-hand men, concerned with the faith and worship aspects of the congregation.) And, when Ken was on the board, he always was elected chair of the board.

Thinking of Ken leading our meetings, the word “calm” jumps to the front of my mind. He never acted quickly or harshly. Every word was measured with thoughtfulness and kindness. Even if a situation were contentious, opposing opinions could only come from the rest of the board in the same manner as Ken exhibited. He was a true role model.

Around 2010, Ken suffered a serious injury. As memory serves, he had been mowing the Port Hope public school’s lawn when he had mower trouble. Working on the problem, he suffered the injury, a severely broken hip. (I await Janet’s reading this and delighting in correcting how many errors in memory I just suffered!) [I heard from Janet.  The year was 2013.  I was surprised that it was the year before I retired.] After surgery, Ken would have a long recuperation in the long term wing of the Harbor Beach hospital.

As is a pastor’s duty and joy, I visited Ken many times. All of our visits were filled with catching up on where he was in recovering, then friendly conversation, and finally a devotion and, typically, the Lord’s Supper.

Recuperating did not go as quickly or smoothly as anyone would want. Finally, Ken was frustrated. Once again, he would remind me of my own father. When my dad broke his hip, I was able to visit him the next day, before he had surgery. I asked him how his pain was. Calmly, he gently said, “It’s damn bad.” Now, Ken’s complaint would sound the same.

Ken Schave actually griped. I never thought I’d hear it, not from him. He was done with being lame. He was over the hospital’s food. Physical therapy had gone from the pain in his hip to a pain in the neck.

Even as he whined, he did so in his mild-mannered way. I listened without speaking. I felt for him. And I didn’t have to wait long for what I should have known would immediately follow his pity party.

He repented of his grumbling. He began to number his blessings—his faithful Janet, and the wonderful hospital staff, and this and that and everything which filled his life with goodness.

Once again, Ken displayed to me the spirit of the Lord Jesus, who lived in him by the gift of faith, which Ken possessed and practiced all his years. While I have not seen Ken since I retired in 2014, I am confident that he was strong in Christ right through to his last day—and that Janet was, and remains so—with the sure and certain hope that he was, and always will be, a child of the heavenly Father.

If I were still Ken’s pastor and officiating his funeral, at this point in the sermon I would direct Janet, and her family and friends, to our ultimate hope in Christ. Because I led 150 funerals in Port Hope, it often came out like this, where I wanted them to look farther than their joy that the loved one’s soul was with the Lord, but to the best which was yet to come.

First Corinthians fifteen tells us four ways our bodies go into the earth because of death, and four ways in which death will be conquered in the resurrection given to us by Jesus Christ.

First, the body that is sown into the earth is perishable—that is, we live in bodies that can and do die, and we can’t stop it. The body that Jesus will raise from the dead will be imperishable—the same as His—never to be touched by death again.

Second, the body that is sown into the earth is laid to rest in dishonor—that is, it is a shame that our bodies should be captured in a casket or cremated and contained in an urn. The body that Jesus will raise from the dead will be raised in glory; the resurrected body will never again be held captive.

Third, the body that is sown into the earth is sown in weakness. These present bodies succumb to disease, to old age, to accidents, to every manner of harm which silence them. The body that Jesus will raise from the dead will be raised in power—no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain will ever visit our resurrected bodies.

Finally, the body that is sown into the earth is a natural body. We are shackled to the laws of this corrupted world, in this sinful nature. The body that Jesus will raise from the dead will be raised a spiritual body and, of this, I can barely speak, because you and I cannot even begin to imagine what it will be like to transcend the only world that we know.

All of this, dear friends, Jesus Christ has prepared for Ken, and for you. So, for now, Ken’s soul delights in heaven, at the foot of the Lord Jesus’ throne, praising the Lord for his salvation. So, for now, you delight in the house of Jesus, at His altar-throne, from which He is proclaimed in the Gospel, in which you are baptized into His gifts, and from where you are fed upon His living body and blood.

This church was as much the center of Ken’s life as was the home he made with Janet. From the Schave house and from the house of God, Ken went into the world and shined the light of Christ. We deeply appreciated him for it, and we praise the Lord for His eternal goodness toward Ken.

A father of a trans child responds

In response to my piece, “Concern for Children Transitioning,” Erik Kluzek added comments which are insightful and important. They warranted my bringing them to your attention. Erik agreed to my posting them.

As Erik states, he is the father of a transgender child, who transitioned as a youth and is now an adult. Also, Erik is the writer of the other letter in my post, “Two More Rays of Hope.”

Listen to Erik.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gina, thanks so much for this well done article on transgender kids. I would like to add a little bit from my perspective as a parent of a transgender child, who is now an adult. I’ve also worked with a lot of parents of transgender kids in peer support groups. So I know something of the experience from the point of view of parents.

Let me first of all affirm what you have said. Medical interventions do not happen to young children. The first step that may be used as you point out are puberty blockers which have been safely used for decades for precocious puberty. And they are safe and reversible. HRT is not reversible—but neither is puberty. They do have to pick either natal puberty or HRT. PIC is the language we use as well—persistent, insistent, and consistent. It’s not something done on a whim. The risk of suicide that you point out is very real as well and often transgender kids either make attempts or are hospitalized for suicide ideation (even for very young children). What I’ve seen over and over is that behavior drops as the kids transition and start to feel comfortable in their own skin.

Let me bring in a couple points from the original question which I’ll divide into three parts: “can kids make life-changing decisions at young ages,” “do kids eventually come to terms with these things,” and finally are professionals “actively forcing reluctant parents?”

First, can kids make life-changing decisions at young ages? What research has found is that kids gain a gender identity at about ages 2-6 years old. It’s also found that identity isn’t able to be changed. Even the conservative Dr. Kenneth Zucker has admitted that if a child’s gender identity is firmly transgender at about age 12—they aren’t likely to change and he recommends medical transition treatment as needed. Here’s some great advice from the AAP which is the US organization for Pediatricians (60,000 strong).

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/Pages/Gender-Non-Conforming-Transgender-Children.aspx

Second, do kids eventually come to terms with their natal sex? There’s better articles on this than I. But, let me point out a major new understanding on this. In the past the diagnostic criteria for Gender Identity Disorder included kids who don’t identify themselves as being the opposite gender—but only display behavior that is stereotypical of the opposite gender. Most of those kids will desist. But, the kids with PIC as Gina pointed out—don’t. Hence, the new criteria for Gender Dysphoria has to do with what gender the child identifies with themself.

Lastly are professionals actively forcing reluctant parents? As a parent I understand this fear. It’s not something that I’ve seen however, and I think it could only be done very rarely. I also understand that parents in this position are very terrified—I certainly was. And that is what I see in the majority of parents, especially at first, they don’t understand, and they are scared to death. Since parents have parental rights for a child, a professional can’t force a parent to do anything they don’t want for their child—unless the professional can prove it’s in the child’s best interest.

In one study that opened my eyes the likelihood of attempted suicide for a person that is transgender and has family that is highly rejecting of them is a horrific 57%, while for supportive family it’s near the normal of 4% (to put a human face on it remember Leelah Alcorn).

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Taken from the website Erik cited.  The numbers speak for themselves, and they scream out the need to compassionately listen to our children.

Other metrics are similarly horrifying. Even with that a professional can’t force a parent to act. A parent has to consent for medical interventions on their child, until the child is 18. The only way that can be overturned is in the rare case, where a child can be legally emancipated. That process is long and difficult, and multiple people have to agree that it’s in the child’s best interest.

I used to think it was outrageous that my kids school can’t give my child aspirin without my consent, but they can send them for a highly dangerous medical procedure of abortion. What I know now is that having parents that are unsupportive of their transgender child is very dangerous for that child. Is there a point where a child is so unsafe with their parents, that parental rights should be taken away? Yes, there is. Does that happen very often? No. And I suspect it only happens in the most egregious cases, and probably not as often as it should.

As I say, just witness Leelah Alcorn.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Leelah_Alcorn

Concern for children transitioning

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At age four, Jazz Jennings expressed that she was not the boy she was thought to be.  At age five, she began social transitioning.  Her story went nationwide when, at age six, she was interviewed by Barbara Walters, which launched her to her own reality TV series.

I recently received a message from a woman’s whose concerns I suspect are those of enough people that this warranted more than a reply only to her. Here is her note, which I have mildly edited to focus on the key points.

Gina, I have some qualms about all the children who are being treated with hormones for dysphoria. We have long held the attitude that children do not have the ability to make life-changing decisions such as marriage and signing binding legal contracts because they are not mature enough to comprehend the ramifications involved. Yet on the simple assertion of a five-year-old that s/he is the other gender, we are now being ordered to treat the child as if this were truth and even begin medical treatments that have lifelong consequences. From what I have read, most children who make these assertions, if not treated, eventually come to terms with who and what they were created to be. If they don’t, then adulthood is maybe a more rational point for them make these decisions? I know I was something of a “tomboy” as a kid, yet there is now no way I would want to have missed being a woman and a mother. I know that isn’t quite the same thing yet why are we encouraging little children to make these decisions? Not just encouraging but actively forcing reluctant parents in some cases.

I have located three areas of concern to address: 1) children transitioning, 2) a child only going through a phase regarding gender, and 3) the encouraging of children to transition, or the forcing of parents for these children to do so. I will work backward through these topics.

I am horrified at the thought of any parents being forced to set a child onto the path of transitioning, or even encouraging a child, which I heard as “pushing” a child.

Yet, I can imagine the scenario. An over-zealous therapist or doctor, who speaks so strongly with the diagnosis that the child is transgender and will only be benefited by transitioning and that the path should be started immediately, and the parents themselves feel pushed—backed into a corner of guilt if they don’t act.

Sadly, there are people in every profession who do not remain inside their boundaries, whose insights and opinions turn into insistence, which virtually bullies a person into the action which they espouse. It happens with teachers and students, with politicians and citizens, with ministers and congregations, in every sphere of life. I can easily imagine it in the area of gender dysphoria and transitioning. Should it happen, that doctor or therapist should be reported to the appropriate person or group.

You are correct in asserting that most children, who express wanting to be the opposite sex, will move on from this, perhaps even quickly. I addressed this and more in the following:

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/children-talking-transgender-with-parents/

In that piece, I discuss PIC—persistent, insistent, consistent. Parents should take a PIC of these children. Does she persist in her desire to be a boy? Is he insisting that you see him wrongly by seeing a boy? Is s/he consistent in what s/he is saying about this?

Parents should not be quick in seeking professional help while they calmly and lovingly listen to these children. If a clear PIC forms, that will be the time to act.

Finally, regarding children transitioning. It is correct that some children transition socially, how they dress and what name is used. It is incorrect that they are given hormones—this is to the best of my knowledge and, below, I explain why—or that any medical steps are taken.

The goal of a child’s socially transitioning is to alleviate the dysphoria—that is, the ill feelings regarding the mismatch of mind and body—and to see if this benefits the child. It is a testing period. If the child finds what s/he seeks, displays and expresses peace and joy in finally living as the gender s/he experiences her- or himself, and if this persists, then good has been achieved for the child.

Not only are children not given hormones, there is no need to do so. The accepted path is this:

  1. Transition socially. If this is sustained, then
  2. when the child nears puberty, prescribe blockers, which arrest puberty.  (For more about puberty blockers in children who begin puberty when very young, see the end of this post.) By postponing puberty, if the child continues into the later teen years and decides to fully transition, the affects of puberty have not adversely affected the child. If the child does not continue, blockers can be stopped and puberty would commence. If s/he desires to transition, at the appropriate time or age
  3. the child, who now likely is at least eighteen or near it, would begin hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and experience puberty in the desired sex.

It may be argued that one in the late teens is still a child and should not take measures which profoundly affect the future. I appreciate serious caution. Where I depart from the caution is that, by the time a person would begin the hormone phase of transitioning, several years have elapsed. If anyone has passed the PIC for this long, we are not talking about a passing phase. Even more, as we know of the great emotional and physical distress caused by gender dysphoria, we never forget the 41% attempted suicide rate. HRT often is healing therapy—it was for me—and even a life-saving measure.

In summary, no children, nor their parents as they are advised regarding their children, should be encouraged to transition, especially if information provided causes them to feel they must do so. Parents should listen closely and patiently to their children, showing them love and compassion. If their children pass the PIC, then they should engage a professional. As puberty nears, medical action can then be taken. Hopefully, if these steps are taken, these children will mature into healthy, well-adjusted adults.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I am thankful for a friend, who is highly educated in these issues, who posted this comment on Facebook regarding puberty blockers:

One point that people miss – hormone blockers that delay puberty have routinely been prescribed for the last 30 years for children with early onset puberty. There are kids who suddenly start puberty at the age of 4 or 5. Helping them put off puberty until they are 16, 17, 18 has been standard procedure for decades and we have years of research that this has no ill effects on young people at all. So delaying puberty for trans kids until they can make informed decisions about their lives isn’t really different.

Be a better person

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To be a better person is the most common New Year’s resolution.

If you are guilty of any of the following four things, correct them and you will be on your way to achieving it.

  1. Do you comment on posts, but don’t respond with likes or comments to the replies left to your comments?
  2. Do you ask a question, whether on blogs or social media or via email, and when your question is answered you don’t at least reply with a thank you?
  3. Do you post vague messages on social media—“The most awful thing just happened!” “I’m so happy!”—forcing others to ask what’s going on?
  4. When you post something online, do you neglect to respond to comments and questions, which others are kind enough to place on your post?

Since you don’t like it when others are guilty of these four things with you, correct them and your family and friends and everyone will surely find you a better person.

I know that I sure will appreciate it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Soon after posting this to Facebook, I had the following exchange with a friend.  It serves to greatly enlighten what surely are the thoughts of others at the reading of my post, and for my further explaining.

FRIEND:

Sometimes we don’t even see the response because we aren’t online when it is posted. And sometimes the response is so totally hostile and angry that any response at all serves only to cause more anger.

ME:

Fair enough. I’m really not talking about the sometimes people or situations, but about the consistent ones.

To the responses not seen, do people have their notifications completely turned off? Do they not have the red number appear, to prompt them, no matter how long it has been since they were online? Finally, do they not have in mind that they have an active post going, so they might want to return to it?

As for the hostile things, I am not talking about the occasional post. I am talking about people who habitually do one or more of the four things in my list.

Even with hostile and angry comments, I still respond to them, seeking to shed light or calm down, or ask forgiveness if they are upset with me. I understand that not all people find the ability to compose the words, or they don’t have interest. To me, it is vital always to respond.

FRIEND:

As for notifications … They fill up my email box to the point of being a burden and I usually don’t even look at them. If I did, I would be on the computer all day long and do nothing else. If I am online when a post is made I will see it because it pops up in front of my Facebook feed. Otherwise no, I don’t see it.

ME:

How about on Facebook? That is what I mean by the red number, which appears on the icon of the earth. That is how I follow everything. Indeed, I have my notifications set so that I get very few emails from Facebook. I rely on the red number.

On Facebook, when I click on the earth icon, where the red number appears, I then make sure that I click on every highlighted item – the bar appears with a light blue background – and respond however is appropriate, or simply read the post.

I always double-check to see that every notification has turned to a white background, which tells me that I clicked on it. I want my Facebook friends to be good about this, so I make it my practice to be good about it.

FRIEND:

Near as I can see there isn’t any “earth icon” on my screen. Sometimes that screen that pops up when someone responds to my post will have a red number on it but it only shows up if I am on Facebook when the reply is made.

ME:

Oops. Facebook isn’t consistent with their icons. I am on my computer right now, and notifications appear on an earth icon. I just check my phone. On the Facebook app, notifications appear on a bell icon, to the right at the top of the page.

The red number will appear no matter whether you are on Facebook at the time (unless you have your notifications set in a way of which I am unaware is an option). Indeed, this is how I keep up; I can be off Facebook for hours, and when I return, either on my computer or the app, the red number shows me all of the activity that has been going on since I was last on.

FRIEND:

So I guess the message is that we shouldn’t assume someone is refusing to answer. They may not know there is a message to be answered.

ME:

I am not assuming.

As I said, I am referring to serial offenders. I could, right now, name six people who, either on Facebook, my blog, or via email, are guilty of any or all four of the items on my list, on a regular basis. And some of these are among my very good friends.

Indeed, I have in mind two pastors, who have asked me questions, by email and Facebook message, regarding gender dysphoria and transgender, who never even said “thank you” to my long replies to their questions. And I know they received my replies because, after weeks or months, they returned with further questions – and, no, they didn’t then thank me for the first answer!

When a person only occasionally doesn’t respond, I always give them the benefit of the doubt. Surely, I, too, have been that person at times.

(Wrapping up this thread, the friend thoughtfully clicked LIKE, which told me that she had read my final post, and that this thread was now completed.)

Eilers Pizza

While pizza was introduced to the USA in the early 1900s, it wasn’t until after World War II that it was eaten by other than Italians. The first pizza chains popped up in the 1950s.

When we moved to Hart, in 1964, Dad met a man named Claude Ferris. I was so young, I don’t remember the man. I think he owned a grocery store. With a name like Claude Ferris, maybe he made wheels for the French. No matter; he only has to be remembered for one thing.

He gave a pizza recipe to Dad.

We fell in love. Mom and Dad tinkered with the recipe—How about this? Some more of that!—and made it their own. We dubbed it Eilers Pizza. To this day, all of us kids still make it. Our kids love it, too, and some have added it to their recipe repertoires.

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My efforts for Christmas 2017, ready for the oven! At left is the traditional Eilers Pizza. At right, the combo satisfies two sets of taste buds; the top half is “Meat Sweatpants,” and at bottom is the meatless adaptation, “Healthy Pizza Is An Oxymoron.”

It would take a princely sum to get me to give you the recipe. Please, don’t let that stop you from trying. I can be bought.

The dough for the crust surprises many. Pepperoni sausage is replaced with something you would not expect. The sum of ingredients is greater than the ingredients by themselves.

The pizza is baked on a jelly roll pan, what we always called a cookie sheet. The big sized one. The one that barely fits into a standard sized oven. The one that no one in history has used for jelly rolls because they are always using it for cookies.

It can also be used for pizza. You’re welcome.

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Cooked and ready to cut, these babies were busting over the sides of the cookie shee—ahem, jelly roll pans.

By the time the crust is heaped with all of the toppings, the finished, baked product slices up at over one inch thick. I know this because Eilers Pizza rises above the rim, and when I Googled the difference between jelly roll pans and cookie sheets I learned that the kind of pan we use has sides that are an inch in height. The lady on the website writes how this pan works in a pinch as a cookie sheet (in a pinch?), then she concludes, “It’s also a terrific roasting pan for veggies and more.” Veggies? Pish. More? It’s perfect for pizza, lady.

When there are real, adult-like people at the table, the pizza is cut into six pieces. Punks divvy it up into eight. Those babies should be forced to eat spinach until they are strong enough for respectable-sized pieces.

When it is cut into six, I eat two. Okay, two-and-a-half. Away with you, calorie counters. Don’t you have some kale you need to be harvesting?

We would make two pizzas. Sometimes, three. (Note: your kitchen should be stocked with three jelly roll pans, the kind everyone calls cookie sheets, in case you want to make three. If you only make two, use the third pan to make cookies for dessert. The oven is already hot, so why not make good use of that? See how economical I am?)

We always hoped for leftovers. Eilers Pizza is the reason people like cold pizza for breakfast. Honestly, the tradition had to have begun at our house. If you say otherwise, I will come to your house and singe off your taste buds.

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My first slice on Christmas Day, 2017.  Yes, kids, it IS as thick as it looks.

When, in the 1990s, we found ourselves getting our first email address and wondered what it should be, we didn’t scratch our heads for long. You guessed it: eilerspizza@xxx.com.

For a growing family on a modest budget, Eilers Pizza is a bit pricey to make too often. Because we are true Americans, and we were rearing true American kids, Friday night became pizza night, though—gasp!—more often than not it was of the store-bought, frozen variety.  (Read that: quick and inexpensive.) Today, that’s still the practice of Julie and I. Yes, we had it last Friday night—the frozen kind, of which our downstairs freezer always sports at least a half-dozen—and will have it this Friday night.  (On Sundays, I obey my other supper tradition: popcorn, popped in a pan on the stove, in canola oil, with copious slices of Colby cheese on the side.)

When, at age thirty-nine, I became a minister, for the life of me I cannot recall how I began to include references to pizza in my sermons but, being one who likes to keep people awake by tossing in a teaspoon of humor here and a tablespoon of “did he really say that?” there, I would spew things like, “This next thought will make the cheese slide off your pizza.” On Christmas Eve, it might be, “It is almost as hard to wait for Christmas morning as it is for the pizza delivery guy to ring your door bell.”

At my first parish, in Guttenberg and McGregor, Iowa, the comments were occasional. When I arrived in Port Hope, I just happened to make a pizza crack each of the first few weeks. The people noticed, so I kept them coming. My first year in Port Hope was 2001; the only Sunday I didn’t make one was the Sunday after 9/11. By the end of my first year there, I was exhausted.

After that, I only put in a pizza comment when something popped into my head while writing the sermon. When there was no pizza talk, certain members always made sure I knew about it. They gave me a pizza their mind. Some cheesed the parsonage windows. They withheld their offerings. We couldn’t pay our volunteers.

The payoff for me in becoming the Pizza Pastor? Christmas and my birthday found me getting a lot of gift certificates for pizza places. A lot of them.

A LOT of them.

That’s how Eilers became synonymous with pizza—from the oven to the pulpit—and then the name for my blog. It really wasn’t of my making. If you want to blame anyone, pin it on Claude Ferris.

Retro Christmas

One year in Port Hope, with some of the kids coming home for a special occasion, I dubbed the parsonage the Party Plaza of Exitomania. A proper announcement with the tantalizing title was affixed to my office door, which was next to the foyer.

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Our front door gives away the wacky couple residing behind it.

 

This year, that wacky Julie revived it, making a sign for our front door. We now live in the Party Plaza of Exitomania 2. I fully intend to have the sign remain right where it is. Let all who come to our house marvel at the sight of it.

Kids

Not only did our kids grow up and go out on their own, they spread out around the country.  Family gatherings became a challenge. It was in 2009 that we last enjoyed having more than one of them with us for Christmas. This year, both Jackie and Alex would not be with their kids, so Jackie drove across town, and Alex came down from Michigan.

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Jackie was given a spot in the garage for her car.  Alex?  Not so much.

It has been years since Julie and I bought Christmas presents. Usually, our tree’s underneath is bare. One year, while in Port Hope, we didn’t even have a tree, receiving our enjoyment from the two huge ones in church.

To make special this Christmas-with-kids, we set out to buy gifts. Julie came up with some useful and fun items for both, while I purchased their favorite snack foods. All were wrapped, so they both had a half-dozen to open.

As usual, I didn’t buy anything for Julie, and I was sure that she had not purchased anything for me.

I would be wrong.

White Christmas

Being from Michigan, I have seen way more white Christmases than not. Among them, there was the one in Port Hope where we entered 11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve worship from the grassy outdoors, only to exit worship just after midnight to a blanket of white and those so-romantic, huge, fluffy flakes.  Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it better.

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White Christmas 2017. Before the sun’s rays melted some snow, the bushes and grass were completely covered.

This was our fourth Christmas in Indianapolis. Indy does not get many a snowy Yuletide. The day before Christmas Eve, we got a nice tease of snow to cover our grass. That was preparation for the two inches we received Sunday afternoon, providing us with an officially-white Christmas.

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Midday on Christmas, as Alex and I sat in the living room, we watched a vehicle come flying into our ditch, having fishtailed after turning off Emerson and onto Marrison.  The driver just kept going, out of the ditch, across our yard, into our driveway, and back onto the road and, we hoped, arriving safely at his destination.

Eilers pizza

On Friday, I will post an updated piece about our family pizza recipe, and the reason my blog is called Eilers Pizza. This dish has become a holiday favorite. It’s not that we save it for holidays; it’s because it is a bit of a chore to create.

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This was my first piece of Eilers Pizza on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve, we sat down to it. Then snacked on it in the evening. And for breakfast on Christmas. And for lunch the day after. And every bite was as satisfying as the last.

Shanghai

I come from a long line of card players. When family gathered for whatever the occasion, we found ourselves gathering at the kitchen table for cards, gathering  into our hands one hand after another.

Thankfully, our kids fell for our card tricks. Where, in my youth, canasta was the game of choice, for years it has been shanghai for us.

Here is the version we play, except that we changed two of the hands because we found them too easy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_rum

Instead of the first hand being two sets and the fourth hand three sets, we play it as three and four sets. The four-set hand is cutthroat shanghai!

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Am I supposed to be saving runs or sets?  What’s that old joke?  “This isn’t a hand; it’s a foot.”

Each day of the three day weekend, Julie, Jackie, Alex and I found our way to the dining room table. Alas, I came up on the short end of every game.

The surprise gift

The kids had wrapped up unwrapping presents, when Julie slipped out of the room. She reappeared with a large, skinny, wrapped box, and presented it to me.

I asked her when she bought this. She said it was at least a couple of months ago, and that when it arrived I had brought it into the house and asked her what it was. She said that she played dumb and I didn’t press her, and then after she removed the box to the basement I never inquired. Now, yes, I recalled the oddly shaped box’s arrival.

I began to open it. I got the edge unwrapped, which was only visible to me, revealing “Skittle Bowl.” I looked at Julie. She smiled widely. I started crying. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

At once, I was the kid who got the gift which seemed that it would forever remain in the wildest of dreams.

Skittle Bowl came out when I hit the teenage years. I don’t recall the Christmas I got it, but I suspect I was fourteen, in 1971. I was the only kid in the house who cared for the game, and I played it like crazy. Because of the pins hitting the plastic tray, it makes a racket. I was never allowed to play it anywhere but in a bedroom, with the door closed.

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In this action shot, see that the ball has struck the front pin, launching it toward the others.

I never knew what happened to that game. I grew up.  I moved out. It stayed home. Mom died. Dad married Louise. Louise had a garage sale. That’s all I can imagine.

I don’t know what made me think of it a few months ago, but I googed the quest, to see if it were being manufactured. It is not. I showed Julie and told her of my love for the game. I especially like it for two reasons. First, I’ve always loved bowling. Second, I find this the best home version of bowling because it is contained in a small area.

Not to mention that it is extremely challenging.  Strikes and spares are not gimmes.

When I showed it to Julie online, she acted unimpressed but, being the Jewelee that she is, she quietly went to work searching for the game at a good price.  Hello, eBay!

Skittle Bowl capped off what was a marvelous retro Christmas, one with all of the elements of Christmases past—from kids at home, to snow on the ground, to Eilers Pizza, to playing cards, to wonderful surprise gifts.

Most importantly, it was all wrapped up in the reason for this pleasin’. We had Jackie’s kids with us long enough to take them to church with us, to sing Oh, Come All Ye Faithful, and O Little Town of Bethlehem, and close with candles lit for Silent Night. We heard the Christmas story, and our pastor told us what child is this we worship, the babe of Bethlehem who grew up to be the Christ on the cross and the Victor over the grave, the One who loves to bestow upon us His eternal life.

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