Make your own vanilla extract

If you do much baking and value the tastiest you can make the dishes in which you invest your time and effort, you know the importance of vanilla. Cakes, cookies—even waffles—all fall short without that teaspoon of vanilla.

Oh, and not imitation vanilla. That stuff is mostly water and additives. Looking for more sodium benzoate in your diet? Propylene? Glycol? If so, imitation vanilla is for you!

No, it’s not. Though it is inexpensive. About 1/3 as much as the real stuff. I just bought this 2 ounce bottle of the real stuff for $4.19.

I bought this because I’d run out of the quart of homemade stuff Julie made seven years ago. Having alerted her that our supply was getting low, she purchased the two items—yes, only two—one needs to make their own vanilla extract.

The two items? Vanilla beans and 80 proof alcohol. 80 proof is the key. It can’t be less than that. We use vodka, but you can use brandy, or bourbon, or rum. So long as it’s 80 proof.

Since you’re not going to be drinking this, go for the inexpensive stuff. This 1.75 liter bottle of vodka set us back ten bucks.

As for vanilla beans, lots of online places sell them. For $42, we got this package of 25 beans.

Note they are grade B, for extract. They are five inches long and look like this.

With 25 beans, I had enough to make 40 ounces of extract. If you are thinking, “It would take me five or ten years to use that much,” worry not. The stuff has a long shelf life. While it won’t hang on forever—I see you, honey—there’s no need for a USE BY date. Just sniff it—and, do, sniff it! Mmm, so nice!—to see if it’s still good.

As coffee beans must be ground to release their flavor, vanilla beans need to be cut. I cut mine in half, and then cut the halves into three nearly inch long pieces. Using two canning jars—any jars will do that have caps—I put half into each. I then covered them with 20 ounces of vodka and gave them a good shake.

Does it need to be said that if you don’t want to make this much, simply purchase fewer beans and a smaller bottle of vodka? Okay, I’ll bite: if you don’t want to make this much, simply purchase fewer beans and a smaller bottle of vodka. Now, if you want to make twice as much . . .

We aren’t alcohol drinkers and I have about 20 ounces of vodka left. What to do? Well, dig this: after the vanilla is ready to use, vodka can be added a bit at a time to create more vanilla. Vanilla is the bean that keeps on giving!

Time is key. At the earliest, you’ll use the product after 8 weeks. For a better vanilla, wait at least six months. Me? I’ll be able to hold off until I finish the 2 ounce bottle I just bought.

Keeping track of time and giving the bottles a weekly shake are important. I used my phone calendar to mark the date I began . . .

. . . and to provide me with reminders to shake the bottles.

The product-in-process needs to be stored in the dark, at room temperature. I placed our bottles in a paper bag, and set the bag in a closet and closed the door.

Finally, is it worth the time, effort, and cost? I’ll easily dispose of the effort, which gets an easy peasy. As for the time, it took me ten minutes to put together. As for the waiting time, well, that’s your call. At my age, time goes so quickly that the eight week minimum already feels like it’s almost done.

And the cost? The 2 ounce bottle from Meijer cost $2.10 per ounce. At most, my homemade batch will be $1.30 per ounce. And, if I eventually add the rest of the vodka, the cost will be reduced to 87¢ per ounce.

In the end:

  • I will have the best-tasting vanilla, for the best baked goods.
  • I will have spent significantly less money, for a better product.
  • I will enjoy the process and feel good about making my own.

All I see are benefits!

My POST-IT war failure

Julie’s been working from home since March. She’s often on the phone with clients. She does her share of video conferencing with workmates. Though I’m the most considerate person on earth, she felt she needed to let me know when I am not to enter her office.

Was I offended? My nose bent out of shape? Pish. Yet, I felt the need to also feel important. I posted my own notification.

That worked, so, as needed, up went this one.

Julie is not the only one with a home office. Or to be working.

I don’t mean to speak out of turn or inappropriately give insights into our marriage, but sometimes Julie can be a bit nosy. And not very forthcoming when I ask what was discussed on her calls or in her meetings.

My notes were proving successful . . . or, as Julie later insisted, she was so busy working that she’d not even seen any of my post-its. Yeah, right. Anyway, that was her excuse when I pointed out my fifth note . . . two days after I posted it.

You’re thinking the posting of that note was a physical, actual, logical impossibility? Apparently, you don’t know me very well. As long as you are suspending reality for my sake, check out how things grew worse.

She didn’t. I appealed to the one thing she knows about me that’s really important.

When you read the next one, you’ll wonder if I’d pounded on my door. (I hadn’t. I’m not an alarmist.) Or why didn’t I call her on my phone? (I had my phone. I didn’t think of it.) Or text her? (She long ago stopped responding to my texts.)

That one went up in the off chance she was actually reading my notes. A few minutes earlier, I was positive I heard tip-toeing in the hallway.

The day was growing long. It got dark outside.

And it was suppertime.

I finally reached my wit’s end. How did I come to this realization? My gurgling stomach told me.

I am pleased to report that I am finally safe, if not sound.

Julie hid the package of post-its.

And removed the lock from my door.

And is begging her boss to let her go back to the office.

Julie’s humidifier hack

This one is in the bedroom in which I have my computer, where I spend a lot of time.
  1. Does dry skin have you itching this winter? Or constantly lotioning those notoriously dry areas? And in search of a friendly soul to lather up the hard-to-reach spots? (I see you, dry back!)
  2. Are you like me, loathing background noises, low hums that are produced by things such as humidifiers? (And fans. Ugh, the sound drives me nuts. You, who enjoy the sound as you sleep—I don’t understand you!)

If you fall into either or both of these two categories, I have come to your rescue! Rather, I’m the spokesman for the real hero: Julie Eilers, Hack Queen.

This one is in the bedroom in which Julie has her office, where she is all day because she’s working from home. She doubles the humidifying by soaking the washcloth.

The hack began with a washcloth. The heating vent, above, is right behind her computer. Wanting moisture in the air, she placed a soaked washcloth as in the photo. She sensed an improvement in the air. That got her thinking.

She cut a milk jug, filled it with water, placed a large sponge in it, and put it by a vent. The sponge soaked up the water; the warm vent air dried the sponge; the sponge kept soaking water. The basin of water emptied pretty quickly, needing to be refilled twice a day.

Our granddaughter doesn’t use this mini grocery cart much anymore, so it’s been adapted for other use.

Julie knew of wick pads—sponges that are designed so as to draw and hold more water than typical sponges—and found some that are made for humidifying, as the name says for this product:

The verdict?

  • We do not have dry skin! I’ve not had to use lotion since we’ve used these.
  • We do not have that irritating humming noise that’s produced by a humidifier!
  • We only spent a few bucks!

It’s my job to keep the water filled, which I do two or three times a day. I’d guess that each of the three stations puts more than a quart of water into the air each day.

I referred to Julie as the Hack Queen. Certainly, it takes more than one hack to be dubbed royalty. I wish, through the years, I’d photographed all of her inventive ideas. Two current ones came to mind.

When we bought this mower, it did not come with the equipment to remove the bagger. I got tired of bagging and wanted the cut grass to go back into the lawn. Julie fashioned the washcloth with zip ties and, voila, it worked! And, yes, it worked well—this is the original, which has not given way.

The other hack occurred two years ago when our big TV gave out. The TV sat on a stand that was made for it, so the stand went, too. We had a TV in the basement, but had no stand for it that would get it high enough. Julie came up with this:

Also in the basement were the classroom desk and crate. They nicely held the TV, and at the perfect height.

Julie said, “This is just temporary, until I can find a proper stand.” I replied, “Why? I love it! It’s funky. It’s a conversation piece. No need to spend money on a stand.” Her reaction was the same. We’ve not thought twice about purchasing a stand.

That’s my queen—Julie, the Hack Queen!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have three humidifying stations to refill.

40 years ago: my son’s death changed me

In a moment.

In a moment, I went from on top of the world with joy, to buried in fear.

In a moment, my heart was filled with happiness, to my stomach churning with nervousness.

In a moment, what had been the second-best day of my life, after my marriage, became the worst day of my first twenty-three years.

It was the moment I approached the window of the maternity ward, to take a quick peek at my ten-hour-old son before heading home for the afternoon, and saw that he was breathing hard.

Surely, my eyes were deceiving me. Only minutes earlier, Johnathan had been in my wife’s room, as my mom and I visited with Kim and our newborn son. Everything was fine. His delivery had been unremarkable. Kim’s labor went smoothly. Her entire pregnancy went well.

A nurse rolled Johnathan’s bassinet back to his spot among the rest of the newborns. Mom and I wrapped up our visit with Kim. I would take Mom home, give Kim a chance to get in a nap, and return that evening.

It was three in the afternoon. When, just after five that morning, Johnathan appeared in the world, we counted his ten fingers and ten toes, rejoiced in his cry, and announced that he was perfect.

And, for ten hours, he was. Until that moment. That moment I peered at him through the window to see him breathing hard.

I turned to my mother: “Mom, he’s breathing hard.” Calmly, Mom said, “Go get a nurse.”

Soon, Johnathan was being taken by ambulance from Muskegon to Grand Rapids. That evening, I was told he had a strep infection which, during delivery, he picked up in the birth canal. The next morning, he was dead.

For the full story, click here:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Johnathan was born January 14, 1981—forty years ago.

He died on the fifteenth.

This changed me.

Not every moment is a few seconds long. Some moments encompass an event—the celebrating after your team’s championship, a natural disaster—and for me this moment stretched through the days of laying him to rest and mourning the loss.

If I had kept a diary, I suspect a scan of the pages from late January would show the first signs of how this affected me. I imagine I’d read something such as this:

I’ve gone from “I can’t believe this happened” to grasping its reality. Best of all, though I long to have my son, I trust the Lord’s promises. That Johnathan is with Him. That Johnathan will one day be resurrected from the dead and will receive a perfected body—a body that never again will be able to be harmed by disease. And I’ll see him. And know him. And we will live forever with the Lord. And all of this terrible stuff will be a thing of the past.

It was the moment of my life that caused me to grow up quickly—emotionally and spiritually. A few years later, I saw it as foundational to having prepared me to desire to enter the ministry.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Before contemplating what I would write to mark this anniversary, I had been making notes about the moments in my life that changed me. Having just finished the first draft of my third book, I am doing the prep work for number four.

Its working title is The Moments that Change Us. I intend to use the several dozen times in my life that taught me something about myself, got my attention, informed me in the better path to walk, and in the telling of them help readers to see the moments in their own lives so that they might put to good use their firsthand experiences in the forming of their personalities and work ethics, recognizing their abilities, learning how they treat others, and the like.

My son’s death was not the first moment that taught me something important, though it was at that time the biggest one. When I was ten and eleven, two things happened that taught me vital lessons. The first demonstrated a change I needed to make, while the other informed me what was important to me.

As with my son’s death, those came in a moment. And the moments kept on coming. And I kept noticing them, kept learning from them, kept striving to use them to become a better person.

And that I recall so many, and see what they did to me, reinforces how important they were.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

By this weekend, my memories will move on from reliving the events of my son’s short life. But, for these two days, I’m stuck on his precious face. He would have turned forty years old—my son, middle age, over the hill! Who would he have become? Married? Kids? Career? Goofy, like his dad (and his two younger brothers)?

Missing those things stings, but it’s okay. I know where he is: where I long to be, with our Lord Jesus.

I trust my Lord Jesus that, in the resurrection of all people, we will revel in the reunion of reunions.

And all this sadness will be done.

Book reviews: feast or famine

The screenshot, above, tells the ratings story of how my book, Ministering to Transgender Christians, is being received.

Well, almost. While the seven 5 star ratings and sole 1 star rating is real, it doesn’t reveal this: the seven folks who’ve rated the book have posted reviews, while the only person to click 1 star didn’t say a word.

I can imagine why the person gave the book 1 star, but I don’t want to be left to guessing—though I admit my initial thoughts were not exactly kind toward the person: “That punk,” I murmured, “If they can click on one star, they can have the guts to tell me what their problem is.”

I’d love to hear from that person. What didn’t they like? Where did they find me to be wrong? What can they tell me to improve or correct my text?

The ratings might be feast or famine, but the reviews are all feast. Here are the two received since I last posted reviews, beginning with this screenshot that captures Katie’s full review:

I’ve messaged with Katie a number of times over the past few years. I’ve appreciated her evenhanded and compassion-filled approach to things, and all the more so because she is a Lutheran and a Bible study leader, speaker, and writer.

I also like Katie’s title: “Important book for anyone especially moms.” When I began writing Ministering, I thought I was talking specifically to Lutheran ministers. Eventually, I saw that my audience was wider, and changed my focus to any Christian leader who might find themselves in need of this information. Yet, what I’ve so far seen is that parents are being helped by this book—and, based on reviews and messages I receive, they are my largest audience.

Included is the parent who posted the most recent review:

The screenshot only captures the first half of it. Click here for the entire review:

I’ve shared many emails with this parent. They are a Christian who is conservative and traditional in every way. They struggled greatly with their child’s transition. Now, having read both of my books, they have been able to reach out to their child and reconnect.

Though parent and child have vastly different views on important things, they are striving to understand and love one another. For this, I rejoice.

If you know anyone who would receive value from my memoir, A Roller Coaster through a Hurricane, or from Ministering to Transgender Christians, please reach out to them. Click the pics, below, to go to either book for ordering.

2020: eventful even without a pandemic

More miles than ever. Another book. Love. And a new experience. (No, not COVID-19.)

I didn’t need a pandemic for 2020 to be yet another remarkable year. Here are the four major events of my year.

Logging the miles

In 2019, for the first time I topped 1,000 combined jogging and walking miles. I set higher goals for 2020. I achieved them all.

1,200 miles

  • as of December 27, I am at 1,358.8 miles

100 miles every month

  • In 2019, I hit 100 six times, the most I’d ever had

Average 6 miles per outing

  • I’m at 6.07
  • My previous best was 2019: 5.46

Have no outings shorter than 5 miles

  • I’d never set this goal before

224 outings

  • I didn’t set this as a goal
  • My previous best was 2019: 215
  • Outing 222 was my second-longest ever. In 2000, I ran 10 miles. I’ve achieved 8 miles a few times. This one was 8.47 miles. Here’s my route:

My 2021 goals? I’ve struggled to come up with something challenging that I can stick with. At times in 2020 I was pooped out—physically and mentally—striving to meet each monthly goal, and never to have a run or walk shorter than five miles.

I averaged about 4.5 outings per week. I’d love to average 5 per week, so that is my first goal.

My second goal is to average 5.5 miles, allowing myself shorter outings—as low as 3 miles. The lower minimum will help on days I don’t feel up to it, and when the weather only allows, say, a half hour before rain comes.

If I make the two goals—260 outings, averaging at least 5.5 miles—I’ll achieve a new best for total miles, at least 1,430.

My second book

In August, I published Ministering to Transgender Christians. That’s two books in two years. I recently completed the first draft of my third book, Only on Sunday, which is a memoir of the ministry that takes place the other six days of the week.


My two unmarried children got engaged! Jackie will marry Matt Kroeger in May. Alex will wed Chelsea Smith in October.

Julie and I adore both Chelsea and Matt. We could not be more happy for Jackie and Alex, and for the addition to our family of these two splendid people.

A new experience

My new experience would not have occurred without the pandemic, though the experience had nothing to do with the pandemic.

Because of the pandemic, Julie has worked remotely since March 20. Working remotely, she could work from anywhere she had a secure internet connection and a quiet space.

In May, her mother had a serious stroke. We both went to Iowa for a week. On May 30, Julie returned to Iowa. She didn’t come back to Indianapolis until December 13.

Her mom died on July 3. A series of things necessitated Julie’s remaining at her dad’s into December.

By mid summer, I realized this was the longest I’d ever been alone. I learned a lot from it. I hated all of it.

When I was a pastor, I learned from those who had lost spouses. The biggest loss is that this most-loved mate is simply gone.

Our mate gone, we still have everything and everyone else—through those months, I kept jogging and gardening and writing, and though seeing people was greatly curtailed it was not totally cut off, and I went to Iowa twice—but that our spouse is gone, day in and day out, all day and every day, is the hardest.

Sure, I knew Julie would be returning. While that gave me hope, it didn’t put her in the house. The weeks and months grew long and hard.

There’s no vaccine for loneliness.

My life is structured so that I am busy during the day and I relax after supper. That’s when the loneliness crept up on me. Not every day, but too many of them. Many evenings were filled with Julie on the phone. But, too many days, the quiet in the house, being by myself—something I’d never in my first 62 years experienced longer than ten days—it just plain hurt terribly to be alone.

When my mom died, I recognized that my dad needed a mate. He was 59. Logically, I knew being alone was not good for him. That he remarried six months later seemed soon, yet I grasped his need.

Now, I get it both logically and emotionally. The need for a mate. By your side. In the house. To cook for her. That’s she’s there for whatever comes up. To watch TV together. Work in the garden together. Go for a walk together.

Simply, to be together.

As we are, once more—with our nineteenth wedding anniversary arriving December 30. That’s a great way to conclude a challenging year.

Kimberley Beregrove: kindred spirit

Rare is my meeting a transgender Christian with whom I match up in important ways: Christian faith, integrity in every aspect of life, conservative attitude, and an intense desire to proclaim the Gospel and teach about gender dysphoria and transgender.

Recently, I met this rare bird in the person of Kimberley Beregrove.

I met her through another person, who learned of my books through Kimberley mentioning them in one of her many YouTube videos. That person emailed me—and she and I also matched up in the important ways mentioned, above—and told me about Kimberley.

I connected with Kimberley and we immediately hit it off. The first time we talked, it was for over three hours. She’s a long-haul trucker, so she has time. While I’m not a truck driver, I am known to be a long-haul La-Z-Boy sitter, so, yeah, I can pull off a long conversation.

I mentioned Kimberley in my last post, because in a couple of her videos she said something to make my heart sing, which goes to why I have published my first two books.

In her video, “Update on my marriage,” she tells how it took her wife’s reading my story to finally grasp what her husband experiences—the struggle, the agony, the desire not to have gender conflict, the inability to simply rid oneself of it, and remaining in faith toward the Lord Jesus.

Kimberley begins speaking about me at 3:12. At 4:08, she starts talking about how her wife reacted.

Kimberley does not live full time as a woman. Indeed, it’s only been since this past summer that she goes on the road as Kimberly as she lives as Peter at home. She is the very rare trans person who is willing and able to present as both female and male which, indeed, is an important display of her integrity of spirit.

At the 10:40 mark, Karen speaks of the impact on her from reading my books.

Kimberley’s most recent video is a great example of how she discusses being transgender and Christian, and using hormone therapy as a viable medicine for the gender dysphoric Christian. I highly recommend this video to you.

In “Transgender acceptance,” I like how she uses one’s being left handed to one’s being transgender. I’m left handed. I didn’t choose to be left handed. And no one chooses to experience gender conflict and transgender.

I encourage you to check out Kimberley’s homepage, where you’ll see her dozens of videos. The amount and variety are not nearly as impressive as the content and her ability to gently and respectfully discuss every topic.

Keep up the good work, Kimberley! Your gentle spirit, desire to teach, and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ fulfill what our Lord encourages in us, in Mathew 5:16: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Amen to that!

30th anniversary: the day my life changed

Typically, when we ponder that people are talking about us, it’s focused on their gossiping—spreading negative news about something we did or has happened to us. We don’t know who is talking, but we are confident the conversation is not making us look good.

In 1990, I had no idea people were talking about me. That the conversation was good. That when I finally learned about it on December 7, my life would dramatically change.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is where I was in those days: I was thirty-three and had met all of my life goals:
• I was married and had four children.
• I owned a home in my hometown.
• I was established in a job, in town, where I intended to work until retirement.

I wanted to be married, be a father, stay in my hometown, and be a lifer where I worked. Check, check, check, check. I’d accomplished all of my goals. I was all set to enjoy the life I’d established.

A year after we’d had our final child, I was itching for a new adventure. I wanted to be a minister, but saw no way it could happen. It would mean years of school, uprooting my family, quitting my job and losing my income.

It. Was. Impossible.

That September, Jan Pobursky came calling. She proposed the craziest thing: go to seminary and I’ll support you until you graduate.

Jan’ more-than-generous offer got my wife Kim and me talking. But, it wasn’t enough to get us to a decision. It still felt impossible. By December, we were stymied.

As autumn fell, I had no idea I was the topic of discussion by my boss and the owner of the company. They were looking for a new manager of our branch in England. They wanted someone who knew every aspect of the company, who would be able to establish in England how we did things in Montague.

Only person filled the bill. That person was me.

They were talking England as Kim and I were talking ministry. What if the two had never come together? I can’t begin to imagine where life would have taken me, or my marriage to Kim, and everything else that transpired for me.

(Here’s the full story:

Just when I thought I was set for life, I wasn’t. Looking back over the thirty years since the talk about me was presented to me, I marvel at all I accomplished, all I experienced, all that transpired.

Would I change any of it? As I am confident most of you would say, I’d quickly dispose of all of the hardships. Yet, as I was recently telling a friend, with hardship comes growth. With struggle comes figuring things out to get past the fight, to reach a new peace. In the end, nope, I’d not request the removal of the seemingly bad stuff, because out of it came so much good stuff.

I am especially pleased to have put my story into print, and to follow that with the book that I find to be the culmination of my life’s work and experience.

The feedback I am receiving is most gratifying, as with hearing about, and then from, the person to whom I will introduce you in my next post.

What she said in one of her videos was more than wonderful—it happened because I told my story.

I am continually inspired to keep doing things so that when others talk about me, it is for good reason—and it helps them through their struggle so that they reach a new peace.

Moms contact me the most

Far and away, I hear most from the mothers of trans children and trans young adults. These women have found my blog and are now reading my books. They are searching for information, longing to understand, grappling with the new reality transgender has presented.

Last week, a mother posted the following review on my book page. The full review follows the photo.

When we look to people to show us God, we’re often disappointed. When we look to God to show us people, WOW. Thank you, Greg, for looking to God to show us people. This book is the most loving, calm explanation of the gender identity conversation that our children know and embrace as second nature. Greg explains the terminology, explores the science, and most of all speaks humbly and openly from his own experience. Thank you for the mirror into our common discomfort with differences, for dissolving fear by bringing the unknown into the light, and for lovingly taking our hands as we join you in your desire that we step out of the littleness of our hearts towards others and into the abundant grace and immeasurable love of our God, who knows us all as we long to be known.

To read all of the reviews, click here:

Of 37 star ratings given to my two books, 36 have given the full five stars, with the other at four stars. That a 97% rating. Both the ratings and the reviews demonstrate that the books do the job for which I wrote them: to enlighten and educate.

Some folks find me via Facebook. My profile is Greg Eilers, in Indianapolis. I’ll be glad to receive a note from you via Messenger. Here is my profile:

Others message me through my website, On my homepage, see CONTACT US on the top right of the screen. I’ll receive your message in my email, and will reply to your email address.

I keep private all persons who contact me. I never reveal information that will break confidentiality.

I typically reply the same day, and always within twenty-four hours.

Some folks prefer to keep our correspondence via email. Many like talking on the phone or via video chat. I’m happy to oblige whatever works best. I’ve received long emails and provided equally detailed replies. I’ve had long conversations on the phone and via video. I have time for you and a desire to be of service.

If you have read, or will be reading either or both of my books, please consider posting a review. If not a review, please give them a star rating.

As you see from the review, above, you can post anonymously. You can do so as an Amazon customer or use an alias.

The more reviews posted, the more the books will receive credibility and attention, the more people will learn of them and might be helped in their struggle and desire to understand.

All of the moms, and all of the relatives and pastors and friends, who have reached out to me have one thing in common: they want to understand. Understanding comes from knowledge. Knowledge comes from reading and learning. That’s what my books and this blog provide: knowledge to foster understanding.

Understanding allows us to be compassionate—and whatever our situation in life is, we all long for others to show us compassion.

I hope no one hesitates to contact me—moms, dads, siblings, pastors, friends, Christians, neighbors, coworkers, grandparents . . . and trans persons, from whom I am still contacted. I am here for you all.

The holiday giving season is upon us. My books make great gifts to anyone searching for information and help, assisting all to open doors and build bridges.

Find my books here, both print and ebook versions:

Content as a guy

Every Sunday, I inject estradiol, a synthetic form of the female hormone, estrogen. I just hit the two year mark since going on a low dose of it.

After completing my transition from male to female, I stopped hormone therapy. After a few months, my bones, muscles, and joints hurt. My doctor said it was because my hormone levels were too low.

My sex hormone levels resemble those of a genetic female. Indeed, at the last check of my blood, my estrogen was high, so my endocrinologist had me reduce my dose by twenty-five percent. See the tiny bit in the syringe? That weekly dose keeps my bones, muscles, and joints strong.

Because I no longer produce anything but a tiny bit of testosterone, my sex hormone levels are reverse from what they should be for a male. Yet, I feel completely male. I’m nearly at the three year mark since it started.

It was the day before Thanksgiving in 2017 that I completed the last of my operations: facial feminization surgery.

The day after.
Two days after surgery.
Before and after.

I spent the final five weeks of 2017 with a splendid case of euphoria, feeling absolutely giddy. I’d done it! The seemingly impossible! I’d completely transitioned and I finally felt right. I was done with the years of seeing a therapist, figuring out how to navigate my inner turmoil, taking every step in transitioning—medical, social, legal, surgical—and I was ready to finish my life as Gina.

Christmas 2017. My smile reflects how I felt.

My euphoria didn’t make it seven weeks. The second week of 2018, I couldn’t figure out what was going on inside me. Within days, I knew what it was. I’d returned to the old fight, a male and female striving for dominance in me.

Soon, I realized it wasn’t that—it wasn’t a fight between the two, but rather that I felt completely male and I couldn’t believe it. I’d just completed my transition, and now I feel male? Now??? I was angry, confused, and lost.

How long would it last? That was the big question. I didn’t trust it. When I experienced it in 2013, in the first months after I started hormone therapy, it endured for six weeks. And when, in 2014, I stopped and restarted hormones two times and it returned, it remained fewer weeks. Would this be like those times?

Did I want it to last? At the time, I did not. (It wouldn’t be until the end of April that I finally felt I could trust it and embrace feeling exclusively male.)

I hesitated telling Julie. The end of January, I finally did. She was so flummoxed, she said almost nothing. The look on her face said, “Are you kidding me?”

Unlike in 2013 and 2014, this time it remained. I came to realize it was because my hormones finally settled into place—no more fluctuation of my testosterone—reverse for a male, but perfect for my messed up endocrine system.

By April, I was living more as a man than a woman. In May, I was back to male all the time. In July 2018, I went public.

And it stuck. I am thoroughly and completely content that I am a male.

These days, it’s hard for me to look at photos of me as a female. Though I lived as Gina for three years, and it only concluded in 2018, those years seem a lifetime ago—as if they were someone else’s life.

That’s an interesting observation, because it is how I felt when I experienced myself as a female. In those days, my entire previous life—fifty-seven years!—seemed like the life of another person. It was as if I was looking at the photo album of a different person.

And, now? Looking as me as a female is surreal, that it can’t possibly be me, but has to be a different person.

It doesn’t matter that I have the surgeries to prove that I transitioned. They don’t affect my feeling male.

I can’t avoid the surgeries. They affect me, every day. Indeed, all I have to do is smile. There it is, the numbness I continue to experience in the top and sides of my head.

While I wish I hadn’t had to go through all I did to get to this point—who wouldn’t avoid the years of struggle, the rejection and strife, the surgeries, the cost?—I believe I had to. Therefore, I regret nothing.

I learned so much—and now have substantive proof that my condition is hormonal—and have put it to good use. Last year, I published my memoir. This year, I published Ministering to Transgender Christians. With those books and this blog, I’ve been blessed to help many people—transgender persons, family members, pastors, and more.

After fifty years of gender conflict, I finally experience and enjoy inner contentment.