That happy little boy

Happy fiftieth anniversary?

1968 is as memorable a year for me, personally, as it is for the USA, as a nation.  It was then that my gender identity issues began.

Fifty years ago.

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A week ago, looking through pictures on my computer, I saw the class photo, below, from when I was in fourth grade. Since school pictures were taken in the autumn, that means I was nine years old at the time.

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Each of the friends, whom I name, below, is in this picture.  Are you able to find me?  Give it a try, before you scroll down the page to where I post a close-up.

We lived in Hart, Michigan, having moved there in 1964 from Montague. We would live in Hart just shy of four years, returning to Montague in 1968. This class picture was taken at almost exactly the halfway point of our forty-six months in Hart.

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I had just begun second grade when we moved to Hart. I have only a couple of vague memories of Montague before that. My memories of Hart are many and magnificent, resounding in resplendence.  I consider them my first memories of life.

So wonderful was 1964-68 that by the time I got into high school I fondly remembered our Hart years as one long vacation. As with the best vacations, there was nothing about those years that I didn’t love. (Well, I was scared witless of the basement of our house. It was a Michigan cellar—dark and musty and cobwebby, with a low ceiling, and because it could only be entered from the backyard I was convinced that escaped criminals were regularly using it as a hideout.)

As with a grand vacation, my memories of the setting, the people I got know, and the events which filled those Hart years all were the stuff which stuff cherished photo albums.

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Our house in Hart. From the front, it wasn’t much, but . . .
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. . . from the rear, one sees that we were on Hart Lake, and we loved that!  (Thanks, Rhonda, for the pics!)

Our neighborhood was loaded with kids. We were always playing baseball or football, fishing in Hart Lake, amusing ourselves with kick the can or hide and seek, going to a movie or riding bikes, sliding down our neighbor’s driveway or skating at the community rink.

I had wonderful pals: Doug and Rhonda, Glenn and Bob, and many more. The typing of these names floods my mind with pictures of some of the places I enjoyed their friendship.

These were the days when school was still a breeze for me.  School was easy, so it was as fun as summer vacation.

Ours was a home where our parents gave us plenty of love and affection, provided us with rules and discipline so that we knew the score, with a healthy balance of everything.

I knew my place in our family, among my friends, in school, and in town.

Safe. Content. Joy-filled. Happy. Loved. The list could go on with all of their synonyms and not a one of their antonyms.

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No, I didn’t have a lip thing going on.  It’s something on the photograph.  And dig the bow tie.  Man, was I a cool cat.

If any of my guy pals had told me that he secretly thought he was a girl, I would not have known what to do with that information, just as I did not yet have any clue about same-sex attraction. While I was still young enough to find gross anyone kissing in a romantic manner, I certainly knew that I liked girls in a way different from how I felt about boys.

And I knew that I was a boy.  Of course, I was a boy.  Girls don’t stand on the hill behind their house and have contests as to who can arc his pee just so, with the most force, to go the farthest down the hill, and find it great fun.

Just before we departed for Montague, there was one thing that happened during those Hart years which did trouble me. Indeed, my memory is so vivid that I recall where I was when I found myself pondering the event a few days after it happened, trying to grasp how it could have happened, remaining terribly troubled by it.

It occurred fifty years ago this June. Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed.

I couldn’t get over it. For days. Then weeks. And months. (Perhaps because it was the first trauma I ever experienced, I feel that I never got over it. I recently watched the Netflix documentary, “Bobby Kennedy for President,” and when they got to the shooting, I cried hard.)

I was six-and-a-half when John Kennedy was killed, a bit too young to feel the impact. I have only one memory from that, when the caisson carried Kennedy’s casket.

Martin Luther King, Jr., had been killed only weeks before Bobby Kennedy, but I don’t recall that having bothered me. Vietnam, turmoil in our country, the political strife of the summer of 1968—none of that landed on me.

But, when Bobby Kennedy was killed, my little brain grew up to adult things, and my little heart felt the loss, and my little life took the first step toward maturity.

Two months later, we left Hart. It was Labor Day weekend.

As we proceeded out of town, we drove by the Oceana County Fairgrounds, where the fair was underway. I had enjoyed the fair a lot.  As we drove past, I began to cry. I felt the coming loss.

All of the losses flooded my heart; the entire town and the vacation-life it gave me.

As I began to cry, I recalled how I hadn’t cried when we moved to Hart. Seven-year-old Greg didn’t sense a loss when we left Montague—at least not enough for it to tug at the emotions. Now, eleven-year-old Greg was sad to leave, and wondering if he would pick up in Montague where he left off, with the same friends.

While I would take up with none of the same friends—they had formed new bonds—resuming life in Montague was easy. New friends came quickly. I loved being back in our old house, in our old neighborhood, with the same families and the many kids which filled Wilcox and Sheridan Streets, and Mohawk Court.

Sixth grade began, and soon I took note of two girls in my class. I found them cute and pretty.  I liked their clothes and hair and everything about them.

And I wanted to be either one of them.

And thus began the thought, which turned into the dream, which erupted into the nightmare.

“All I want in life is to be a girl.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It’s the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of my questioning my gender.

Might it finally be a thing of the past?

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Garden Spotlight: Pest Control

You can do everything right—keeping your garden weeded, watered, and fertilized—and end up with little or no crop, because of plant pests and disease.

For years, I used sevin dust.  I’ve long since ceased.  While it worked well, the stuff is dangerous.  Julie and I began searching for a safe alternative.  Folks swear by this one or that—soapy water, for example—but I was never happy with the results of everything I tried.  Last year, Julie found neem oil.  It worked great!

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Neem oil is natural.  It comes from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree, which originated in India and has now been introduced to other areas.

The stuff is easy to use.  I mix it in my watering bottle, then drench my plants in the same manner in which I fertilize.  While the directions calls for also wetting the undersides of leaves, my watering-can method makes that extremely difficult.  Thankfully, I have found that the oil works well, without the undersides being covered.

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As you can imagine, if it rains, or you water your garden, the oil will be washed off.  I watered on Sunday, we had no rain in the forecast, and used the neem oil on Monday.

I only use it on certain plants, the ones which I can see have begun to be pestered.  Some things never get bothered by pests, and rarely by disease.  On my summer squash and vine crops—such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and winter squash—I have rarely had pests or disease.  Some years, green beans are not bothered, and some years worms infest them.  I simply keep an eye on the telltale signs, whether the leaves look eaten or unhealthy.

This time of year, the Cole crops—broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi—are the object of worms’ appetites, as are some greens—our kale and collard greens—while other greens are left alone—our spinach and Swiss chard are worm-free.  A bit later, as the tomatoes begin to bear fruit, worms will be attracted to them.

Neem oil is safe, not too expensive, and easy to use.  You should be able to find it at larger store that has a garden center.

Because my bottle is my trusty sidekick, I’ve name it Leonard.

Leonard Neem Oil.

Garden Spotlight: Tomato Cages

It is Wednesday, June 13.  My tomatoes have reached that stage where they need to be caged, lest they heed the call of the broccoli and make plans to go in search of greener pastures.  (Note to self: silence the broccoli.)

The first decade that I was a gardener, everything I tried in my effort to keep my tomatoes upright, failed—driving a stake and tying the plant to it; then triangle-shaped, taller and stronger metal stakes for the same purpose; and, of course, those three-feet tall round cages, which the tomatoes outgrow by the end of July.

No matter how hard I worked at it, my plants fell all over the place.  Branches wound up on the ground.  I could barely find spots to step among them.  I tried to prop them up.  I put grass clippings under them.  I lost lots of tomatoes, which rotted when on the soil.  Thankfully, in stepped my friend, Rick Hughes, with a suggestion, which I have now used for thirty years.

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When I planted, I used the cages to mark the spots for each plant, so that the cages would butt up against each other.

Rick told me to buy garden fence, four feet tall, with 4″ x 2″ wire sections, enough feet that, when I cut into eight foot lengths, I would have enough cages for all of my plants.  Next, roll the eight foot lengths into circles—this gives them a 2.5′ diameter—and secure them, top and bottom, with zip ties.  Then, at various spots around each cage, high and low, cut out some of the wires to make 4″ x 4″ holes, which will be large enough through which to get my hand and retrieve the fruit.

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My current cages have many 4″ x 4″ holes, but lately I have expanded some of them to 6″ x 8″, as in the photo, above.  With the smaller holes, I tend to catch the edges and scratch my arms.  The larger holes take care of that problem . . . mostly.  (Shush, broccoli!)  I haven’t cut the larger holes too close together, lest I weaken the cages.

When the plants get large—if you take good care of them with water and fertilizer, they should grow over the top of the cages; most years, I have plants that reach as high as my eyes, and I am 6’1″—a windy day can result in them falling over.  I keep that from being a problem, two ways.

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First, I secure the cages to each other, as in the photo, above.  Second, I drive a stake next to them, as the next photo shows, and attach it.  If, when the plants grow large, I find that one stake doesn’t do the job, I’ll add another, on the end.

(Confession time: It’s only the past few years that I got wise and planted so that the cages touched each other.  Before that, late in the season I drove stakes next to each cage, as needed.  Experience has been a great teacher!)

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Here is where I would insert a photo of my large tomato plants, from a previous year.  Alas, a search of my computer, my Facebook photos, and those I’ve posted to my blog have left me empty-handed.

Perhaps, that will ensure your checking in as the summer rolls on.  (See, broccoli, I ain’t so dumm.)

Update on Robert

Lots of folks, who experience gender dysphoria, do not want to be transgender.  Many hurt so badly that they attempt to kill themselves, to the tune of two out of every five.  Too many succeed.

To date, there has been no therapy, no medicine, no surgery to ease the mental and emotional anguish caused by gender dysphoria, so that a person might be able to abide in his or her birth sex.

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One year ago, I told you about Robert, a man who went on the same hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which gender dysphoric males use for transitioning to transgender women. Robert’s purpose, however, was not to transition, but to help him to remain living as a male. Here is that post:

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/using-hrt-to-remain-male/

Robert now has been on HRT for nearly two years. He recently checked in with me. Every handful of months, he texts an update. His texts have the same theme. Thankfully, the HRT continues to do for him what he wanted, to ease his gender dysphoria that he might succeed at living as a male, a man who is a husband and father, and a Christian of a traditional faith.

No, it’s not been a perfectly smooth ride. His doctor has had to adjust his dosages—a bit more or less estrogen, a bit more or less blocking of testosterone. His experience reminds me of a person suffering from depression, and how treating it is a constant adjusting of the medication.

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This is my stuff.  Note that this is called “estradiol,” but in usual conversation we call it “estrogen.”

I assume that the adjustments are based on two things, what Robert reports regarding how he feels and what a blood test show his estrogen and testosterone levels are. Both aspects—not to forget Robert’s attitude, that he is determined not to transition—have, for two years, allowed him to achieve what he sought.

Two years of reversing his hormones has also done the rest of what Robert knew it would do. His body has feminized. Most aspects of feminization do not have a great impact. One’s skin feels softer. Body hair becomes more sparse (though facial hair growth is left unaffected). Some fat gets redeposited. None of these is dramatic, so it is unlikely that anyone would be the wiser regarding them. I can’t imagine that anyone has commented to Robert, “What’s going on? Your arm hair doesn’t look as thick as it used to.”

The other aspect of body feminizing has had the impact, indeed the negative effect, which Robert knew would come, and it has. He has experienced significant breast growth.

In Robert’s most recent text, he said that he now has trouble presenting as a male and wearing a t-shirt. He binds his chest—do an internet search for “chest binder”—but this is far from a solution. Besides being obvious under light clothing, the worst aspect for Robert is that he experiences shortness of breath.

Trans men—genetic females transitioning to male—report that binders are just plain uncomfortable, even painful. When I have heard trans men tell that they have had top surgery—a double mastectomy—they always report this with joy. The positive aspect, of course, is to get their body toward a shape which fits their masculine gender. The other facet is to be rid of the nasty binding.

This is where Robert is. He says that if he is going to be able to continue as he is, he needs to have top surgery, a double mastectomy. He wrote, “I don’t want this surgery, but if I want to continue to walk the path I have set, I have to have it.”

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That HRT has provided Robert with what he sought, to have his gender dysphoria eased, that he might be able to abide with living as a male.  His initial success, and knowing that he sought this because he had heard of another man doing it, should cause us to ask at least two questions:

  • Is gender dysphoria a hormonal condition?
  • Might hormone therapy (HRT) be a viable treatment for those who do not want to transition?

Since I learned about endocrine disruption, and became nearly convinced that my gender dysphoria was the result of my hormone system having been messed up when I was forming in my mother’s womb, I have also become nearly convinced that most gender dysphoria might fall into the category of a disorder of the endocrine system, as are well-known thyroid disorders and diabetes. If a male experiences relief from gender dysphoria with HRT—if, by having his testosterone lowered, and his estrogen raised, takes away, or at least significantly reduces, his sense of being female—does it inform us as to gender dysphoria’s being a hormonal condition?

Even more, despite the side effects of increased estrogen in males (since I have no knowledge of genetic females using hormone therapy to remain female, I am right now only referring to males), might HRT be, if not a cure, a useful therapy for keeping in check gender dysphoria?

For Robert, it’s so far, so good.

Garden Spotlight: Fertilizing

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Somehow, I was able, with my right hand, to take this picture of myself, with my left hand, accurately watering this hill of watermelon plants.  Okay, I wasn’t entirely successful; it took a half-dozen tries to get all of the components working in unison.

There are four things which are musts for a successful garden:

  1. Keep it weeded.
  2. Water it when rain doesn’t provide enough moisture.
  3. Control any pests.
  4. Fertilize your plants.

There are a number of ways to fertilize.  My dad taught me with the granular type, 10-10-10 formula, which you put on the ground next to the plants, and then cover it just a bit.  I did it that way for several years.  It worked fine.  I don’t recall what prompted my changing to water soluble fertilizer, but when I did I never went back.

There are far quicker ways to fertilize, when using water soluble, than to mix watering can after watering can, but I have been doing it this way all these years because of the slow process.

You read that right.  I like the slow process.

For me, fertilizing my garden is as much about the time spent among the plants as it is feeding them.  On a lovely summer day, to stand over each tomato or pepper plant, or the rows of corn and green beans, is pure joy.  It is a time to soak up the beauty, to ponder when this or that will be ready to harvest, to appreciate everything the garden does for me.

My garden takes an hour or so to fertilize.

I use this stuff—

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—one two-gallon watering can at a time.

For vegetables, two scoops go into two gallons.  For flowers, only one scoop.  I hang the can on our outdoor spigot, and the force of the water thoroughly mixes the blue grains.

The box recommends fertilizing every one to two weeks.  I always intend to do it every week, but rarely do.  Making sure to apply this at least inside the two week window, I have large, productive plants.

The bigger question is how much to apply.  It is easy to apply too little.  You can think that you’ve watered the plants nicely, but if you scratch the dirt around them you will find that only the surface is wet.

I douse them nicely—for example, around single plants I pour until a puddle forms—before moving on.  After I empty the can, I return with the refilled one and hit the plants again.  Everything gets two applications.

Keep up with your fertilizing, along with weeding and watering and controlling pests, and you will enjoy a successful garden.  Here’s how mine looked on June 30, 2017:

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Garden Spotlight: Cultivator

 

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I do ninety-five percent of my weeding with the cultivator, above. It’s a good workout, but worth it. I can cultivate my entire garden in under twenty minutes. One pass per week, with a bit of hand weeding around plants as I go, and my garden quickly returns to being virtually weed free.

This cultivator belonged to my father. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had belonged to his own dad, so aged does it look. When Pop died in 2010, I asked my step-mother for only one thing of his: this cultivator. Not only is it tremendously useful, when I am pushing it my thoughts often go to him, the man who taught me how to garden.

Way more than teaching, his joy was infectious. Whether we were planting, weeding or fertilizing or watering, picking or pulling or cutting, canning or freezing, and especially when we were eating the fruits of our labors, his effusive, ebullient, exuberant comments—always joined with big smiles—could only be met with the same spirit.

That same spirit grew in me. I’ve been at it ever since I had my own land to cultivate—since 1980.

Stop talking about your faith!

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“My faith got me through.”

“I don’t know what I would have done without my faith.”

“The people of Santa Fe, Texas, are taking solace in their faith,” I heard said, the day after the people held a service to unite and strengthen them.

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I wonder whether the Lord sits on His throne in heaven, wincing every time He hears a person refer to his or her faith, without mentioning the object of this faith. In His wincing, does the Lord call out, “Hey, there! Are you forgetting about me, the One in whom you put your faith, the One who gives you something to trust, somewhere to turn in your time of trial?”

Can you imagine a person, who required emergency surgery to save his life, declaring, “It was my trust that got me through. I went under anesthesia with full faith. When it was done, I woke up and now I’m healing. My faith got me through. I don’t know what I would have done without my faith. I took solace in my faith.”

You KNOW that you would not hear such nonsense. The person would not be talking about himself, not one single bit. I don’t have to ask you about whom he would be speaking.

He would be saying, “I was in desperate shape. The surgeon came in, and she assured me that, though my situation was very serious, she was confident that she could correct the problem. And, wow, did she ever come through for me—along with the entire staff of professionals who were in that operating room. They got me through. I was nothing without them. I was dead, to be sure. Without their expertise, their care, their attention to my welfare, I had no solace because of the mess I was in.”

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When we are in a bind, or have been rescued from one, we don’t talk about ourselves. We talk about the person who delivered us from that evil. If the person, whose surgeon successfully operated on him, talked about himself, and did not talk about the surgeon and all who did their job on behalf of him, we would rightly declare, “You sure are full of yourself! Aren’t you forgetting someone?”

In the three quotes, with which I opened this piece, you know of whom the people are speaking. They are referring to God, to their Lord. My question is, why don’t they talk about Him, instead of talking about themselves?

As with the patient whose life was saved by the doctor, who gladly sings the praises of his surgical savior, shouldn’t we be talking about OUR Savior?

Here is how those three quotes should go:

“My LORD got me through.”

“I don’t know what I would have done without the grace of my LORD JESUS.”

“The people of Santa Fe, Texas, are taking solace in their GOD.”

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Christians supposedly have a deep desire to glorify their Lord. Yet, when they find themselves in the worst situations, they rarely do it.

Instead of talking about the Lord Jesus, they talk about their faith. Rather than praising the God who hears and answers their prayers, they talk about the power of prayer, and all of the people who had been praying. Instead of remarking about the Rock on whom they stand, they talk about their foot.

It’s downright goofy.

Why is it this way?

I find it to be twofold. First, that we talk about ourselves, rather than the Lord, displays the self-centered people we are, because of our sinful nature. We love to make ourselves look good. “Look at me! I have faith! Aren’t I something?!”

Second, most of us are too shy, even embarrassed, to explicitly talk about Jesus Christ. We will go to church. We will pray in private. But, to actually talk about the Lord, to cite specific things about Him, even to quote promises from Him which we see that He has fulfilled? Not so much.

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Here’s the worst I ever heard. I was talking with a man, a Christian, about faith matters. I kept hearing about his faith, but never about his Lord. I finally asked him, “Faith in what, in whom?”

He didn’t grasp my question. I had to restate it. After pondering it, he finally said, “I guess I have faith in my faith.”

Faith in one’s faith? Oh, gravy . . .

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I don’t want to hear about your faith.

I want to hear about the One in whom you put your faith.

When you speak of your Lord, I will hear your faith.

As the healed patient’s appreciation for those who got him through the surgery is obvious by what he declares regarding them, so is the faith of Christians evident by how they remark about the goodness, the forgiveness, the mercy, the strength, the help, the love they receive from their God, through the work of the One Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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