Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Very Special Gift

Christmas 1999

Every year for over 30 years, a few special girlfriends that I have known since middle school have been getting together at Christmas to have dinner, share news for the year and appreciate the times of friendship that have weathered the passing of loved ones and celebrated joys within our families.  Three of these ladies stood at my side when I spoke my wedding vows.  And I stood by theirs as well.   We have attended funerals of parents and even one spouse.  We have celebrated the birth of our children and now the birth of grandchildren.  Our history together is something that we treasure and appreciate more and more each year.

The gifts these four ladies have given me over the years have been many, but the most memorable took place exactly three years ago this month at our annual Christmas dinner.  It was there that Aiden chose to pass out his letter announcing that he would be transitioning to male the following year.  As Aunties Janice, Jeanne, Judy and Susie read the letters, Aiden and I waited anxiously wondering how they would respond.  Would times be awkward now with this news?  Would they be able to understand how important this transition was to my son?  Softly and individually, each in their own way shared their love and support for the journey that Aiden and our family would be taking.

There is no gift that these four ladies could ever give me that will match the gift that I received that night.  Thank you Janice, Jeanne, Judy and Susie for opening up your hearts and telling my son that no matter who he was on the outside, he would always be loved for who he was in the inside.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Blessings

Thanksgiving with Family and Friends
Seeing all the posts on Facebook about what people are grateful for these past few days, I too appreciate all the abundance in my life.  I have loved the warmth of family and friends, the funny stories that made tears rolls down my face as I laughed without restraint and the shared memories of dear friends and family who are no longer with us, but still live in our hearts.  This year, Thanksgiving was extra special, because some friends I haven't seen for forty years, Chris Arpon and Ron Macabeo, came to my house to share our Thanksgiving dinner and help celebrate my brother, Marty's birthday.

Uncle Marty with best friends, Chris and Ron

Uncle Marty, is a very extraordinary human being.  Moving outside his comfort zone this year, he sat in the Arcadia Council room and supported me as I spoke before the Arcadia City Council when the Mayor elected to bring an anti LGBT organization, Focus on the Family, to his Community Breakfast.    Marty joined us at 6:30 am to wave a rainbow flag outside the Community breakfast where we protested the Focus of the Family speaker.  He likes to cook and often delivers some delicious meals to my home . . . .cooking with love as our mother taught us. And Uncle Marty and his family have stood by Aiden's side cheering him on and loving him unconditionally.

I hope all of you have an Uncle Marty in your life, who expresses his love and acceptance in all that he does and quietly gives  in ways that speak volumes on how much he cares.  I am so thankful for my brother and his amazing heart . . . . he is a gift that I treasure not only at Thanksgiving, but all year long.  Thank you, Uncle Marty . . . . . 

Uncle Marty supporting his nephew, Aiden!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

PFLAG National Convention

The Capitol Dome

Five years ago, when I walked into my first PFLAG meeting, I was a scared and uncertain mother filled with a heavy heart.  I was told at that meeting, I had entered a community that would guide, support and love me through my journey.  I didn't see how that was possible, but today I know with all my heart that this statement was the absolute truth.

Last week, I traveled to Washington DC to be with over 250 other individuals who were part of the PFLAG organization across the nation.  Some were parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals, others were family and friends who wanted to make this world better for the LGBT community.  All welcomed me as a first time attendee with open arms and an open heart.  I sat in amazement of their courage, their passion and their unwavering commitment to equality.

A New PFLAG Friend

On the first day of the conference I participated in Lobby Day. I walked the halls of the US senate office, meeting with Senator Feinstein's legislative assistant.  I met with Congressmen Brad Sherman and Henry Waxman thanking them for their support of the LGBT community.  I also met with my congressman's legislative assistant, where we received a very tepid, and short reception.  I don't think he is getting my vote in the future.

The highlights of this trip were shaking Dr. Jill Biden's hand, listening to Congressman Barney Frank speak, laughing at Betty DeGeneres' (Ellen's mom) humor and seeing three students from Opportunities for Learning & LifeWorks, Luna, Josh and Chris, magically transform before my eyes into individuals with passionate and confident voices.  I was also honored to be elected to the PFLAG National Board of Directors where I will serve the next three years.

OFL Students and Staff

I left DC determined to step to the next level of my advocacy and leadership.  I may not know what I will be doing, nor how I will be doing it, but I do know why . . . . it is for the Aidens, the Marys and the Stefens of the world who need to know that they deserve to live a life of joy, love, gratitude and contribution.  This has always been my dream for my children, but now it is my dream for all the LGBT children around the world.

I Love This Quote

Monday, October 10, 2011

Reflecting on WHY

Though I know there is still much to be done before my book is published, this break after 18 months of writing Two Spirits, One Heart, has given me an opportunity to discover a very important concept that will probably guide all of my decisions from here on out.  And this concept is only one word . . . . WHY.

When I began to write my memoir with Aiden, I knew nothing about writing a book and getting published.  I only felt myself pulled in this direction over and over again. So without really knowing WHAT or HOW.  I began this journey, because I knew WHY.  In sharing our story I believed we could bring healing and hope to other LGBT children and their families, so they could find their way from darkness to light as we had.  Later it became evident that our story was not just for LGBT families, but all families that have faced adversity and wanted to move through fear to love.

Knowing WHY brings commitment and passion to all I do, as well as magically drawing people and organizations who believe what I believe into my life.  And as I look back, it is the WHY that has brought out the courage and compassion that drives me forward through adversity and challenges in all areas.  

What are some of your WHYs?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Loving Tribute

One of my dear friends once told me, love without power is weak, but power without love is harsh.  This weekend I spoke at an event featuring two individuals who separately and combined showed me the strength of love and power working together.

Al and Jane Nakatani were the parents of three sons.  Before the age of 30 all three had died from what Al called "preventable" causes.  Glenn and Guy died from HIV/AIDS and Greg was shot and killed following an argument.  Yet these two individuals asked not for our pity, but our open hearts. They shared their journey, their wisdom, then allowed us to ask questions.  Al talked about how bullying destroys the worth of our youth, causing participation in risky behavior and creating a hopelessness in the spirits of our young people.  Both shared some of their most vulnerable moments in words and pictures.  I left the event moved by their courage and their passion to make the world safer for our LGBT youth.  

Some people you meet and your life is never the same. .  . Al and Jane are two of those people for me.  I walked away wanting to hug my sons tighter, determined to tell Aiden and Stefen even more how much I love them and are proud of who they are.  I also walked away vowing to be a more courageous and compassionate advocate for the LGBT community.  Glenn, Greg and Guy I felt you looking down on your parents and feeling their love for you with each word they spoke and each heart they opened.  You must be so proud . . . .

Monday, September 5, 2011

Aiden's Gotcha Day

Twenty-three years ago today, a lady from Japan walked out of customs at LAX, clutching the cutest little baby I had ever seen.  As family and friends stood around us, Mrs. Kikuchi handed me this tiny package of hope while Tad looked on. We had been waiting to adopt this baby for months.  When I took Aiden in my arms for the first time, it felt like he had always belonged to me. I silently vowed that I would love this baby as if my own and I believe I have kept that promise to my son. Sometimes I forget that he was born out of my heart and not out of my body.  I just know he was meant to be my son and each day I am more certain that our connection wasn't a random roll of the dice. I was born to be his mother. 

Every year we celebrate not only Aiden's birth date, but the day he became part of our lives. We call this day his Gotcha Day, because it was the day we "got him."  We always told our kids they were special and having two days honoring their arrival, both to the world and to our lives, always felt appropriate.  

So today, we will go out to dinner and have Diddy Riese for dessert . . . Aiden's choices!  Happy Gotcha Day Aiden . . . How lucky can two parents be to have a son whose heart and spirit bring us so much joy each day. . . . .

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A School District With Vision

This week, Aiden and I spoke at an event for the leaders of Downey Unified School District.  They are tackling the issue of bullying head on with Dr. Robert Jagielski, Director of Student Services leading the charge.  What inspired me most at this event was Dr. Jagielski’s fearlessness and determination.   He didn’t believe that you can effect change by tiptoeing around the issue or talking about it at one staff development.  This will be an on-going focus.  The lives of youth are at stake . . . . his courage, his boldness are such an inspiration.
Although Aiden and I came representing the LGBT community, we spoke to principals, assistant principals, assistant superintendents and the superintendent as a representative of all students who are perceived different and suffer in silence.  There are so many students who fall into this category. 
We walked away from this event in awe of this man, these leaders and this district that supports their leaders to change the culture of their schools.  Bravo Downey Unified and Bravo Dr. Robert Jagielski. . . .

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mochi Falls in Love

Mochi Cake!!

Mochi has been with us for four months now. Aiden calls her Mochi Cake, which he thinks is funny, because mochi is a pounded rice cake, so Aiden is calling her rice cake cake.

Two weeks ago Mochi fell in love on a walk around the block.  His name is Gizmo.
He is a more compact, fuzzy 4 year old version of her.  She doesn't seem to notice their differences.  She just loves his kind, gentle and patient heart.  Almost every night they walk together. If I forget the time, Mochi gets restless at walk time and sometimes begins to whimper . . . Gizmo's owner says he will sit at the end of his driveway watching for her.  When they see each other, they run down the driveway as fast as their short little legs can carry them.  I now walk almost every night, because I can't bear the thought of Gizmo sitting forlornly waiting for Mochi and Mochi feeling an emptiness in her heart without her daily connection to him.

Ready, Set, Walk

I would love to see a world where you would be judged by your heart . . . not by your age, your size or the type of fur you had.  I would love to see a world where everyone had someone waiting for them at the driveway and this someone couldn't wait to see them every day.  What a wonderful world that would be . . . . 

You Light Up My Life

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Power of Words

I have always loved words.  The sound of the right words strung together fill the air like music to my ears.  The perfect passage written from the heart can move me to tears.  Often it is words that bring out the activist in me.  I become courageous, passionate and bold.

Recently two of my dear friends, Michi and David, presented me with a necklace for my retirement.  It contained 100 tiny beads representing 100 wishes.  What a perfect gift for someone who loves words. 

Two Spirits, One Heart is over 70,000 words.  It is my hope this book will resonate with others and move them to greater action and love.  I hope LGBT youth read it and understand they are worthy of whatever dreams and goals they hold in their hearts.  That no matter what others tell them, the only person's opinion that truly matters is their own.  I hope LGBT parents read it and know that they can move through fear into love.  Through the eyes of love, anything is possible.

Words can change the world.  What are you saying to yourself and others today?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Leap Of Faith

The Hall Family

Farewell Office Party

In June, I decided to move from an Educational Director to Educational Consultant with the network of organizations I have worked with for over 13 years.  The signs were growing stronger . . . .it was time to concentrate on my writing and activism within the LGBT community.

At my farewell party, every detail of my bon voyage spoke of love and appreciation. . . . from the three beautiful desserts created by Jodi Hall, to the gorgeous lei my husband placed around my neck and the stunning sunflowers that graced the table.  To my surprise, each guest, including my son Stefen, presented me with a sunflower and talked about the difference I made to them with the work I did.   Although Aiden and Mary could not attend, I knew their spirits were present.  Music softly played in the background.  Jamie Hall, my Executive Director for the last five years began to speak.  Her voice quivered with emotion as she expressed her appreciation for all I had done.   Many of my well wishers cried . . . I cried more.

No words can ever express the gratitude I have for John and Joan Hall, founders of the charter school where I served as a Board Member and later a Director.   I loved working for them and learning from them these past years.  I thank Jamie Hall for bringing out the courage, compassion and boldness in me.  John Jr. and Jennifer,  thank you for showing me the unwavering power of being true to your heart’s desire.

I will miss working so closely with the Hall Family and many others I have grown to love and respect, such as Bill, Mike, Pam, Jim, Chris and Kelley.  But I know no matter where our paths take us, our hearts will always be connected.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Honoring Our Parents . . . Tak and Jean Ogino

Mom and Dad

My Mom and Dad have been gone for 10 years and 12 years respectively.  They never wanted us to be burdened or filled with guilt about visiting them at the cemetery.  For this reason, Dad initially wanted to be buried at sea, but Mom with her vulnerable, sweet perspective said, “I don’t want to be buried at sea.  I can’t swim.”  A part of me would chuckle inside, thinking after she is gone, would it really matter if she could swim or not.  Another part of me knew the ocean represented a vastness that her spirit wouldn’t be comfortable in and so we buried Mom and Dad together at Rose Hills.
Once a year my brothers and I visit Rose Hills in July.  Mom died in June and Dad died in August, so July was right in between.  Other family members join us if they can.  With flowers, music, a candle and cleaning supplies in hand, we as a family pay our respects to the two people who taught us the meaning of love and acceptance.  We continue the day with lunch at a seafood restaurant.  Mom and Dad loved seafood.  Over lunch, we tell stories and fondly reminisce over times gone by.
There are days, when a random moment triggers thoughts of my parents.  And when that happens, my heart yearns to reach out and hug them one last time.   But they are not here.  So I can only pause and silently send my thoughts of gratitude to wherever they are.  Mom and Dad . . . I hope you know how much I love and miss you. . . .

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Manifesting Dreams

Old Vision Board Created 6 Months Ago

 As I sat down and reviewed the first half of 2011, I realized the Vision Board I put together 6 months ago manifested to the point where I wanted to see past this vision and further into the future.  In May I signed a contract with Magnus Books for Two Spirits, One Heart.  It is scheduled for release in Spring 2012.  The tiger, the focus, the “I couldn’t put it down!” transformed me from a writer to an author.  

And in June, I transitioned from a director to a consultant for Pathways in Education, providing me with more flexibility to write and creating a more peaceful, nature filled and inspired life, so I have room each day to dream.   I spend more time in stillness and love sitting on my back porch with my dog, Mochi, writing, reading, consulting and watching the hummingbirds hover among my flowers.

And so I would like to share my new Vision Board with you.  Thank you Chris A. and Mike C. for believing in Aiden, Oprah and me.  Oprah is on there!!  Vision Boards are an amazing tool to see your dreams more concretely and keep them in the forefront of your thoughts.  

What would YOU like to manifest in 2011?  I’d love to hear your thoughts or see your Vision Boards. . . . message me!!!

NEW Vision Board

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Awakening Courage in Us All

Last month, my niece, Stephanie Ogino representing her father’s insurance agency (thank you Paul!!) stood on stage with me to award a scholarship to a graduating senior from Yucca Valley High School.  Krista and her girlfriend, Hailey drove two hours to accept this scholarship at the Los  Angeles LGBTA Scholarship Awards .  As much as I was impressed by this inspiring young leader from her scholarship application, I was even more struck by this sweet young student with fiery red hair that matched the passion and boldness of her spirit.

In a conservative small town in California, this young lady has changed the hearts and minds of her community.  She started the first Gay Straight Alliance at her high school after she was told year after year that she could not do so.  Can you imagine the courage that this took?  She told me with a twinkle in her eye, she was finally successful after she brought in a little help . . . . legal help.  Krista also shared that their first GSA meetings were attended by only students who identified as straight allies.  And with modest pride, she shared that many of these same allies later found the courage, to announce their true selves.  Her courage brought out the courage in them.

I recently bought a plaque that I believe will define who I will be the next few years.  It says, “Once you choose HOPE, anything is possible.”  I want to do work that allows LGBT youth to choose hope.  Thank you Krista for the hope you have given those in your community and the hope you have strengthened in this mother’s heart.  You are my inspiration . . . .

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Disorganized Organizer

A strength carried to its extreme becomes a weakness I have been told.  I just have to look at my life and see how true that is.  I am considered a fairly organized individual, but sometimes I organize so much, I become overwhelmed and plop down in total disarray.  I have numerous spiral notebooks, journals, post-it notes and project binders, as well as my notes on my IPOD.  Sigh . . . .
What strength do you carry to its extreme?  Do you care so much you are in a constant state of worry?  I have been there.   Do you want things so perfect that if something does not happen exactly as planned, the whole thing is ruined?  I can relate to that.
The solution . . . . pull back on the extreme and what will remain is only the strength.  Care, but not so much that it becomes all consuming.  I can do that!!  Strive for perfection, but if I fall short appreciate all that went well.  Check!!  Now the organization piece . .  .hmmmm . . . .anyone have some good ideas for me on how to do that?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Scarlet Tea Room for Aiden & My Birthday!

As I celebrate each new birthday, material possessions become less important year by year.  Those things created from the heart and given freely with love touch me in ways that no expensive gifts could ever do.  This year I asked each of my children to either make a birthday card or find one that spoke directly from their heart to mine.
I celebrated my birthday with my family that day, but within my heart I celebrated the real gifts of my day. . . Three wonderful children and one special husband that fill my heart every day with all that they are and all that they bring to my life.  How can a mother ask for anything more precious than that?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

White House Roundtable

Walking through several security checkpoints, I entered the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) located next door to the West Wing.  The EEOB houses the majority of the White House staff.   I took an elevator up and was ushered into a room carpeted in deep red with a familiar rich blue backdrop.  Feeling like I had walked onto the set of television’s The West Wing, I sat in awe of the many Obama staff who represented the Departments of Education, Justice, Human and Health Services, Defense and State.
When I accepted this invitation, I didn’t realize what a historic event this would be.  But listening to LGBT Directors, Deputy Directors and various other staff that work for President Obama, the common thread that I heard was how important this day was to intersect both LGBT issues and those concerns of the Asian Pacific Islander community.
The two and a half hours flew by. Five youth shared their moving stories. LGBT staff serving the President shared their personal stories and updates on what is being done to support the LGBT/API community. I brought up issues of alternative safe schools in the form of charters and was able to make connections with a Deputy Director from the Department of Education and a Senior Adviser on White House Initiatives. I want to continue discussion on how to create more safe places for youth to get their high school diploma like the program we have operating at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center. 
As I left the meeting, what I remember most is this . . . each of us who are standing up for equality, whether LGBT, straight ally or Asian Pacific Islander . . . each LGBT individual courageously living their life as their true selves, bring hope not only to those in our nation, but those around the world.  Our voices and our presence truly matter.  Let us never be silent . . . .

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Coming Out

Last week I was asked to give a mother's perspective at a "Coming Out" workshop.  API Equality - LA, a non profit Asian Pacific Islander LGBT organization developed this workshop in response to what they saw as a need.  I am not sure if I can accurately describe how these four hours opened my eyes to the anguish, fear and conflict that rips at the heart of those who contemplate revealing their true selves.  Will my parents disown me?  Will I lose my job?  Will my friends abandon me or make fun of me?  On top of that I heard about the religious and cultural layers that further threaten to shame and ostracize LGBT individuals from family, friends, churches and co-workers . . . communities that we all need to belong to, so we do not feel alienated and alone.

In my speech, I couldn't help but cry when I shared my story and youth in the audience cried or struggled to hold back tears. I knew the fear and uncertainty in their hearts, was the same feelings my son faced daily until he was able to ask me to accept and love him as the man he was meant to be. 

I so admire all of those brave souls that are "out" in the community inspiring others to be their true selves and giving hope to LGBT individuals and families everywhere.  I want Two Spirits, One Heart to be part of this hope.  I see a world guided less by fear and shame . . . .and more by love and acceptance.  Please see that picture with me.  Let's change the world one heart at a time.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stefen Turns 20

So many of you know my son, Aiden.  His journey of transition and triumph have occupied my writings and my days.  He is my role model of resilience and hope.  Today, however, I want to celebrate my son, Stefen, who gently and quietly turns 20.  He is my role model of unconditional love and acceptance.  

I remember a time when Aiden was 12 and Stefen was 9.  Both of them golfed in a church tournament.  Since Aiden identified female at the time, he received endless compliments and praise for his skill and accuracy. Stefen received an occasional “nice shot”, but none of the accolades that surrounded Aiden.  When they golfed together, this seemed to be a repeating pattern.  On this day,  I wanted to make sure that Stefen knew that he had as much talent and value as Aiden in my eyes, so I checked in with his reaction.

"Hey Stefen, I wanted to ask you something", I began

“Do you feel bad about all the attention that Aiden is getting?” I continued.  Stefen turned to me with a puzzled look on his face.  “No” he replied.

“Do you feel jealous?”  I probed


“Do you feel anything?” I continued


I braced myself hoping to find the right words for his answer.  “What do you feel, honey?”

“I feel proud.”

This statement of “pride” very much sums up Stefen’s relationship with his older brother who he continues to support today. And so I celebrate the day my son, Stefen, was born.  Without him in my life, my picture of unconditional love and acceptance would take on a whole different meaning.  I like the definition that his presence provides my life and I love the spirit he brings to our family.  Happy Birthday, Stefen!!