Wednesday, November 16, 2016

In hopes that writing this will unburden me.

I'm writing this tonight because I have to get it out of me so I stop reliving it in my head. I need God to take this from me.

Has anyone ever asked you what the worst moment of your life was?

Yesterday, if you asked me, I would have had to really think about it. Weigh my options. I'd wonder- was that one moment bad enough? Did I even have a stand-out terrible moment?

Ask me that question now. I will answer you easily.

Today, November 16, my mother and I thought about getting pedicures. I could go visit Danielle, Gerald, and Baby Beau at the hospital afterward, I thought. Beau had his second heart surgery yesterday- at 8 months, he had the Glenn procedure. He was extubated and sleeping and medicated and recovering. We had high hopes this would be an easier and shorter recovery than his last stay this past summer. I looked up the number for our favorite nail salon but when my mother called no one answered. She called five times and no one answered. This had never happened before in all the years we had gone there, but I quickly realized there would be no pedicure today so I took my mom's car to the hospital early. I brought some of my mom's soup and some pretzels for Danielle to have in the room.

When I saw Beau he looked like such a big boy in that hospital crib. He had cannulas in his nose to give him oxygen and the mucus in his chest was making him breathe like a little boy with a very bad cold. His mouth was slightly open and his arms were propped up by beanie babies from the hospital. I took a picture of him and posted on Instagram how well he was doing.

I chit-chatted with Danielle and Gerald and laughed at the Friends episode on TV. After about half an hour, Beau's previously high heart rate lowered and suddenly his breathing stopped sounding so congested. For some reason he was breathing better which we took as a sign that he would wake up soon. This was Gerald's cue to run home and take care of some things so he could be back for the night before Beau woke up. Beau had been asleep since 8:30am because of the sedation.

Danielle and I were talking and the respiratory therapist came in to change Beau's oxygen to high flow to be more comfortable. The two amazing nurses were hovering over Beau, checking his lines. And then we heard the tiniest sound- we thought Beau was finally waking up. Danielle got up immediately and went to his crib. And then his monitor started making noise, meaning his vitals were going down. Danielle looked at him and the monitor, and looked at me, and we didn't understand.

What happened next- I would swear to you it was fifteen minutes, maybe twenty- but the nurses and doctors know it was only about two.

One of the nurses said Beau had no air flow.

The next nurse said there was no pulse.

And then they called a code.

The bells and tones on the monitors were going crazy because there was no heartbeat. At least ten highly trained medical professionals rushed the room, working in tandem that in retrospect I can appreciate as beautifully efficient and entirely impressive. Some were saying stats, some were writing, others handing supplies and checking lines and monitors. And then the nurse was placing her hands over this beautiful boy's heart and performing chest compressions.

It's been hours and I can't stop seeing his little baby body move with the compressions.

My sister, my beautiful big sister was sobbing, hysterical. The chaplain rushed in and put her arms around us. I dropped my phone four times and pressed so many wrong buttons before I could get to Gerald- only able to tell him "There's no pulse" before he said he'd be here. I called my parents- who were home watching Shrek and painting with my five year old nephew Lane, and all I could say was that they lost the pulse and my mother said they were on the way.

The chaplain's mouth was moving and she was praying. I said the Our Father so many times in rapid succession. I asked God not to do this. My sister said she couldn't feel her hands so I rubbed her arms.

For so long I heard Danielle's sobs and my prayers and I have no idea what the doctors were saying but I saw Beau move under those compressions. They bagged him and breathed for him.

And then, he had a blood pressure. And his heart was back.

A doctor asked us if we could wait in the quiet room and assured us Beau was alive. His heart was beating.

We moved to the quiet room with the chaplain and a nurse came and reassured us that the best doctors and nurses were with Beau but even she was wiping away tears. My sister kept repeating that this couldn't be happening, not her little boy, and how he had just been fine. Gerald came in and I moved so he could embrace her and I don't know how but he was so strong for her and reassured her that he was breathing and his heart was beating and he was alive.

Every five minutes the nurse would return and let us know what was happening. His heart was beating. He had blood pressure. They put a CPAP on him briefly to breathe for him. Then they moved to a ventilation mask to give him more air to expand his chest. Then they realized he could breathe on his own but not well enough given his congestion. They decided to intubate and sedate him. But he was OK- Beau was alive. The surgeon came in and explained that his heart was doing well but the build up of secretions had caused him not to breathe and his heart rate to go so low that they lost his pulse. This CHD baby with two surgeries under his belt, with a useless right ventricle and a recently sewn up VSD had a strong heart, stronger than the mucus, secretions and buildup that had taken his breath.

After this my parents came and then my two other sisters, my other brother-in-law and two other little nephews. We waited in the quiet room, entertaining the kids and talking and retelling what had happened. My sister didn't cry anymore. I don't know how long passed, but eventually Danielle and Gerald could go see him. And then my parents saw him, my sister and brother, and lastly me and my oldest sister.

Later that night, Gerald quickly grabbed dinner for him and my sister and I waited with her in the room, staring at Beau and watching his chest move up and down with every breath from the ventilator.

How ever long the danger lasted, I hated every second of it. I wish it never happened. I wished it were happening to me instead of him. And yet, I was aware that I was so glad I was there. That my sister wasn't alone. That there was one more person there praying. That I could clumsily make the calls to our family.

I might get a pedicure tomorrow. And if I ask, maybe I'll be told that the phone battery had died at the salon or they couldn't find it or they were so busy they didn't bother to answer. It doesn't matter to me how it came about that I was not there, in Gilbert in a massage chair at 4:00 when Beau's heart stopped but thank you God that I was not there. I was in the PICU hospital room and it was the most terrible thing I've ever seen and heard and felt. But I know I was where I was supposed to be.

 I love you, Beau.

Keep praying.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Sound of What? (Or, something my dog taught me.)

For the past three years I have lived on a military base in military housing. I have a great house with a  decent yard, all the strange critters you could want (and not want) and an amazing view. I just have to walk a few feet outside my front door to hit trails for running, hiking and dog walks. At night I hear owls and frogs and, lately, bats.

I also live near what is called an impact area. That means that at any given time the sound of gunfire and bombs will be heard in my house, echoing through the valley that my house backs up to. The military rotates through impact areas so this sound is not constant but when it is near me it can go on for days or weeks. My husband is not typically amongst those out there doing the training because of the nature of his job- so I don't know what it would be like to hear a bomb and think- "That's my hubby out there!" I admit that might change some of my thoughts on this matter.

The noise doesn't bother me personally- sometimes it is so loud that my house shakes a little. The sound and feeling of the blasts do, however, bother my dog Nash. Nash was a happy go lucky dog when we moved here and within the first year of the noise he had lost almost 20lbs, refused to eat, and was scared and shaking constantly. Thanks to medication (lots of dogs here are on Prozac for this problem), training, and the positive presence of our second dog Risa, Nash has really improved. He eats and has gained his weight back, allows himself to be distracted from the sounds of the artillery and overall is much calmer. Sometimes I still find him cowering in the bathtub after a particularly loud, house-shaking blast. At night if we hear even one we know he will be joining us to sleep next to us for comfort, hiding his head under the covers. Our other dog, on the other hand, has almost no reaction to these sounds, much like many other dogs in our area.

When the bombs are going off Nash shakes, scratches at the wall, tries to get my attention, hides his face in my side, tries to hide in closets or under beds and an array of other behaviors that range from sad to adorable. I know why he's doing this- no matter how many times he hears this noise, he cannot reason with himself about the cause. To him, every blast means something bad is coming and that he is danger. I may feel inconvenienced because of the noise but I logically understand that there is a very minuscule likelihood of the artillery causing me harm; Nash cannot do that.

It's not always a surprise when the bombs are going to go off for an extended period of time; often we get noise advisory notices on Facebook or through email which helps us to prepare.

Why am I going on about this? Well, there's two points I want to make:

When people in my neighborhood post reminders about the artillery or want to jokingly complain or comment about how loud it is, the most typical line is something about how the artillery is "the sound of freedom!" We are all supposed to wave our flags and react with joy because bombs are being dropped in our backyards. "Go get'em, boys!" people type, as if the people setting off these bombs are doing some special operation to keep invaders at bay rather than actually training and learning. Curiously, if someone dares on Facebook to complain that the sound is keeping up her child or triggering her migraines, there's this obligatory addition to her post reassuring everyone- "Don't get me wrong, I love this sound!" "Freedom!" (Yelled just like Mel Gibson in Braveheart)

Let me be clear- the sound of bombs and gunfire is NOT THE SOUND OF FREEDOM to me. And frankly if the sound of weapons that kill and maim represent freedom to you, get out of my circle. The sound of bombs and missiles and machine gun fire is the sound of fear, revolution, oppression, death, wounds, war, blood, and more to most people in the world. For example- when military members return from war with PTSD they do not dream happy thoughts of a waving flag and feel like singing the Star Spangled Banner when they flashback to the sounds of bombs going off. We talk about these sounds in our national anthem- a singer hits new heights telling us about "the bombs bursting in air" and how they "gave proof through the night." The flash of the bombs, according to the song, displayed the newly created American flag still standing which was a symbol of victory and hope and freedom to the former British colonists. But I would bet money that during the American Revolution the people cowering in their homes or laying in the battlefield were not filled with immense joy at the sound of canons- maybe at least not until they found out their side was winning and the threat of harm had passed. Maybe it depends on what side you are on- are those the sounds of your weapons, or "theirs?"

But Bethany, you may ask, if the lullaby to the NRA is not the sound of freedom to you, what is? Well, it's a lot of things. To me the sound of freedom is nature- birds, leaves rustling, water moving in a stream. It's my nephews' laugh. It's people of different backgrounds having a conversation and trying to understand each others' different points of view. It's the turning of pages of a book that can teach someone something or take them anywhere. The sound of freedom is a lot of things to me, but it will never be the sound of a weapon.

I know I'm lucky, though. When Nash hears these bombs go off, his dog senses tell him that danger is coming for him. For most people in this world, the sound of bombs or artillery means the exact same thing. For the children in Gaza who are huddled in their already destroyed homes who can't sleep for fear. For the Syrian children in a refugee camp in Greece, for whom bombs have been the soundtrack to the beginning of their undervalued lives. For too many of our American children who have heard gunshots in a classroom or school hallway where those noises should have no place. And those examples aren't even scratching the surface of what has happened and continues to happen to human beings by human beings. So my dog shakes and he takes meds and I get to cuddle him until the sound passes- easy fixes considering most people living in these violent times don't get to pop a pill, get a hug and get over it (or escape the danger in the first place). I can tell Nash- who I'm sure understands English- that soon we won't live here and he will never hear these sounds again.

Now, I probably could have figured all of that out myself without my poor dog needing to suffer through this emotional trauma, but I'm appreciative nonetheless.

Note: I anticipate on average two types of negative reactions to this- one, that I must be unAmerican (or too liberal, or anti-guns, or anti-military) for thinking this way, which I can save you the fury and tell you that you are wrong. Or secondly, that I am just a "bleeding heart." I've thought about this term a lot lately and frankly I don't see what's so bad about having a bleeding heart, or too emotional, cares too much for others, feeling immense empathy for others (it's also a flower). I'm pretty confident that Jesus would have been accused of having a bleeding heart too (probably by the very people who persecuted him) if the term was popular a couple thousand years ago- so no, it doesn't bother me at all to be accused of caring. I also anticipate those who tell me this just isn't good enough- that surely I should divorce my military husband, stage a protest, renounce my affiliation with any entity involved with weapons- but life and love and affecting change in this world is way more complicated and deserves more than those small plans.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Zack's Deployment Homecoming

A post that is long overdue- life got in the way!

When Zack deployed, I didn't let myself start planning his homecoming until a couple weeks before he was due to fly home. In case you didn't know from my super bored post a few months ago, Zack deployed in October. This was our first deployment while married and his second deployment overall to a part of the world that is deeply in crisis. The first two months of the deployment were excrutiatingly slow but for me the last few months went by very fast. Zack was working non-stop and was incredibly exhausted. I was busy working, studying, and taking care of the house and dogs.

Zack during deployment- he grew a sweet stache.
Back when Zack deployed in 2008, we were able to Skype a couple times and have a few calls via a satelite phone. I wrote him letters and sent him care packages that took a month to reach him. This time around, we were so lucky to be able to Skype and use WhatsApp to talk every day and my care packages reached him in one to two weeks. Thanks to Pinterest I found some pretty great ideas and with the help of another Marine wife (who became a dear friend and whose husband was deployed with Zack) I was able to organize a fantastic homecoming!

First, there was the issue of Christmas cards. I love sending out Christmas cards and found a great idea to have all of our little family represented. My talented friend Megan took me and my two dogs out on a trail behind my house. After we narrowly missed a rattle snake we were able to take some Christmas pictures. This involved wrangling two dogs who love to frolic and smell everything, keeping an eye out for any (more) critters, wearing winter clothes even though it was about 80 degrees that November day in San Diego County and getting everyone to look at the camera at the same time! On Zack's end, he had to do some work too with the help of a friend and his camera phone. I sent the banner to him in his Thanksgiving carepackage. It took several attempts for him because it was just so bright in Kuwait he could barely see!
(Merry Christmas burlap banner from Ichabodsimagination on Etsy)

Hallowen care package- decorated!
My care package game also stepped way up this time around! I took a ton of ideas of themed care packages from Pinterest and tried to decorate almost every one I sent. Of course some care packages were more practical than others- the first one I sent out in a rush because he forgot his favorite pistol holster, shower shoes and some other random items. He did get Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine's Day themed packages! For the Christmas package I also put together about 20 goodie bags full of candy, gum, hand sanitizer, tooth brushes, tissue packets for Zack to give out to some of the Marines who did not usually receive a lot of mail.

Mostly Zack got a lot of Dunkin' Donuts coffee, trail mix, protein bars, Mio drink flavoring, and lots of candy. The amount of coffee this guy drank during his crazy long days was impressive! I also sent him a flashdrive of music, a picture of us with the dogs to keep on his desk, and different funny cards and notes. My parents and sisters all sent lots of packages as well and as soon as he left I signed him up for a lot of free carepackages from different non-profit organizations. He received books and notes and drawings from kids and candy and more from so many amazing groups- a class in New York all wrote him letters and some people from our church even sent him a great package. I got in touch with my church, North Coast, and they mailed Zack DVDs of their services since his internet wasn't letting him stream or download them.

Start of Zack's Valentine package
Sooner than I could believe it was time to prepare for Zack's homecoming. Zack was so excited to come home but also wanted to be able to relax and lay low right away so we decided to wait to travel to Arizona to see our families until a couple weeks after his arrival. I made a huge checklist of things I wanted to complete before he set foot in the USA- deep clean the house, give the dogs baths, get Risa groomed, make a "Beer cake," bake some brownies, get groceries and meal plan for all of his favorite foods, plan a little birthday adventure, order a homecoming banner and make a homecoming sign, figure out what I was going to wear/hair/makeup etc.! Luckily I was able to get everything finished in time!
Welcome home banner- free, just pay shipping for military families from  BuildASign

The beer cake was not an actual cake at all- it involved going to BevMo and getting three of Zack's favorite types of beers, using some cake bases, wrapping paper and ribbon and stacking it all together! It was a hit!

For brownies, Zack's favorite treat, I tried a new recipe that really paid off. Recipe Here.

I agonized over what to wear- what do you wear to see your husband for the first time in 6 months? I bought a blue lace dress from Zulily. One definite mistake I made was the crazy blonde highlights I had put into my short, short hair- but we all go through bad hair phases I guess!

I saw a few ideas for a welcome sign on Pinterest and came up with my own spin on a Harry Potter themed sign. This went perfectly with my birthday plan- about three weeks after Zack's homecoming I planned for us to go to Universal Studios and see the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Zack became a "Potterhead" during his previous deployment to Iraq (as seen below) so it all tied together.
2008- Zack in an MRAP  with Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire

Thanks to my friend Chanelle, her Sillhouette, and a couple late night, wine-powered sign making sessions, we came up with this masterpiece:

Finally, the day came! We waited for a while since the Marines returning from deployment had to stop at the armory first. For his last deployment they all drove up on buses and disembarked to their families right there, but this time they walked up in formation and were released. I felt a little silly because, let's face it- every guy was wearing the same uniform and sunglasses and looked basicaly the from across the parade deck (at least to my poor eyesite!). I stayed toward the back, not really the run and throw myself on a Marine (that could or could not be my husband) type. I guess Zack saw me right away from my sign and did a sneak attack, walking up to my side and tapping me on the shoulder! Even though we were able to talk almost every day of this deployment, it was amazing to be able to hug and kiss him.

After that he had to grab his bags, load up the car and start the drive home- calling his mom and my mom on the way so everyone knew he was finally home safe. As soon as we got home I ran in and got my camera ready to record Nash and Risa's reactions to seeing their dad, which was pretty awesome:

In the weeks that followed we saw a lot of changes- we both turned 29, went back to Arizona and saw both of our families (Zack met our new nephew Beau!), I finished teaching my last semester in CA, Zack checked out of the unit he deployed with, checked back into and then out of again the unit he was originally with and then checked in a final time to his new unit. Whenever either of us go somewhere for awhile we usually give ourselves about 2 weeks of "adjustment" time to get used to sharing our space, time and lives with each other again but it was wonderful.

There are lots of adventures in our future, so stay tuned!

My parents had a welcome home banner for him!

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Hairy Story

I have great hair. It's just a fact- it's thick, it's healthy, it has many different shades (browns and reds) in it, it doesn't get damaged by heat, it's naturally wavy but can straighten fine too with some work. Over the years I have grown out my hair for different occasions and then cut it short enough to be able to donate the hair to Locks of Love or Children with Hair Loss.

 In the fall I got ready to donate for the third time, about twelve inches of undyed awesome hair. First, I just cut my hair short enough to be a chin length bob.

 When Zack left, I thought I'd get it trimmed up a bit shorter, and I made an appointment. Unfortunately my appointment was moved to be with someone else but I showed the person a picture and explained I just wanted it about an inch or two shorter but keeping the same piece-bob look. She turned me around from the mirror and revealed my new hair to me about two HOURS later.

She cut all my hair off. Even my bangs barely reached my eyebrows (before and in the picture I showed her the bangs went behind my ear). My hair was crazy different lengths all around and there were chunks of hair hanging over my ears but it was short up top. I've honestly never disliked a haircut I've had before and I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I just paid and left.

The face of a silly girl who cries over hair. Note the short bangs and the huge swaths of hair over my ears like ear muffs.

And I cried at home. Me! I cut my hair all the time, I've never cried over something as ridiculous as hair. But this time I cried. I realized my hair wouldn't be back to normal before Zack came home. That this cut was not only very poorly done but not very feminine. That I didn't even want to leave the house. I tried to style it, to straighten it more, and it was just so darn short. Luckily I contacted the salon and was able to have an appointment the next day with the person who I was supposed to see all along. She "feminized" the cut as she called it and fixed all of the glaring errors that she saw. The salon also gave me complementary highlights to help soften the look. It looked better and I realized I'd have to make the best of it.

Some improvement

But I ultimately realized this wasn't all just about hair. For me, having long hair meant being able to hide. Being able to hide a larger chest that got me made fun of in school (which years later I realize was actually bullying and sexual harassment by some male classmates) and overly-sexualized as an adult.  Being able to look away when I was upset and have my hair hide my anger or sadness or anxiety. Having something to mess with to quiet my nervousness in many social situations. Being able to disguise the weight gain that I've been plagued with thanks to some faulty body parts and health issues. And suddenly that shelter that my hair provided me was gone and I had to look at my entire face in the mirror.

The reactions I got to having short hair varied drastically. My family loved it and were nice- my husband went on and on about how gorgeous he thought I looked and how he loved me with short hair. A friend's kid told me randomly one day that he liked my hair better before (the truth from kids sure does hurt!). One friend told me she wished she had this cut and another told me that she'd threatened to do that with her hair before which I wasn't sure was a good or bad thing. Even if I was just trying to mind my own business and not talk about how I looked, anyone I saw that I knew commented on such an obvious change. It took a nice long while before I could respond without a grimace and the phrase "Thanks, I got this cut on accident."

My hairstylist and I started a project of growing my hair out to what I had originally wanted. The day I got the cut I went and bought a supplement to help hair growth. I went back to the salon once a month to have the back mullet-type growth trimmed so that the top shortened layers had a chance to catch up.

I also started to think about how we associate certain looks with femininity and what that meant in my life. In my social life I see my feminine attributes as a good thing. The media can only be inundated with so many pictures of the (fake) long tresses of the Kardashian sisters before I started to think that long, curled locks were beautiful and feminine. But on the other hand, I'm an academic. When I started graduate school I started wearing professional clothing, I took my acrylic nails off, and everything in the pink family disappeared from my wardrobe.  I wanted to look like I wasn't trying to be overly "girly." I didn't want to look like someone who spent too much time on her looks because I wanted instead to be thought of as someone that spent her time thinking, reading, writing, teaching. In either sphere of my life, why couldn't I just look whatever way made me feel confident and secure?

It took a lot of adjusting when I realized I couldn't hide behind my hair anymore. I was forced to face the fact that this really had very little to do with my hair and instead other insecurities about myself. Even today, I excitedly posted a picture of new highlights in social media and amongst all the "likes" from my friends, it just took one comment from someone to make me feel ugly and vulnerable. I deleted the photo and posted one with my dog covering half my face instead (but to be fair it is his birthday!). Really this all boils down to me accepting myself and all the imperfect things that make me who I am. I'm definitely a work in progress.

And as a bonus, this is the awesome bed-head I wake up with every morning:

Saturday, January 30, 2016

What's in a name?

Last year my husband and I went to the Pass & ID office on base to have my military identification changed to reflect my full legal name.

"Why would you ever want a name so long?" the woman helping us asked.

I didn't know what to say- do I tell her how awesome I think my family is, how my middle name is in another language, how all of these names so cool and important to me?

No- because it was none of her business and why would anyone ask such a question anyway?

But, yes, I have a long time. A four part name, in fact.

I used to hate my first name when I was a kid. People were always trying to shorten it to the point where upon introduction I started to tell them to never call me "Beth" (family was free to do this, but no one else!). I was originally going to be named Ashton but at the last moment my mother had a change of heart and named me Bethany. Bethany is a place referenced in the New Testament where Lazarus and his sisters lived. Jesus frequented there and based on the etymology of the name it is likely that many poor and sick people went there to receive care. Jesus' friends lived there, he was anointed there, and some great teachings and miracles took place in Bethany. (See John 11:1 and 17, Mark 11:1 and 11, Luke 19:29, Matthew 21:17 , Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-8, and Luke 24:50). As a 10 year old though, it just sounded funny to me. I was always the only Bethany in a classroom full of Laurens and Ashleys and Kellys. For some reason people would accidentally call me Brittany or Stephanie. I don't mind it now- or its variants that my family has adopted which include- Beth-Ann, Bethy, Betsy, B, and who knows what else.

My middle name was actually my maternal grandmother's first name- a woman who I never met but whose name is always associated with mine. It is a Lebanese name with Greek origins, meaning mint plant. Coincidentally, I actually hate mint leaves. There is a story in Greek mythology of a water nymph named Minthe who tried to seduce Hades but his wife Persephone intervened and transformed Minthe into...a mint plant. Still, this name represents my grandmother, my mother's side of the family, and the Lebanese part of my heritage. My mom actually calls me Mintha just as much as she calls me Bethany!

Then to the two last names. The question of whether or not to change my name at marriage was an ongoing debate- with myself. First, there was my maiden name. For my entire life, my sisters and I had been know as the Elias Girls and we had always been the Elias Family. I was entirely prepared to continue correcting people's pronounciation of this word for the rest of my life (E-lee-us or Ehl-ee-us NOT E-lie-us or El-lis!). My father had only daughters and only sisters so we could truly be the last of our family with this name. My husband even volunteered to change HIS last name to Elias because he adores my family so much and the name means a lot to him. Although I absolutely love this offer, I ultimately disencouraged it for one reason: due to the nature of his career he is called chiefly by his last name. I thought it would be very difficult to have been called one thing/known by one name for 6 years and then go through that drastic change. (In retrospect I guess this means that if I had been in the military or any other vocation where I am only known by last name there is no way I would have changed my last name either).

Then there's the other last name- Zack's last name. Easy to pronounce, easy to spell, English origins. It was my husband's last name so it of course has a special place in my heart, but it never felt 100% like me. I don't mind being called Mrs. Jenner by Marines and I am sure my hypothetical children's friends and teachers will call me Mrs. Jenner as well which will not bother me at all. Just because it's an easy to say name doesn't mean it's an easy to have name, either! The first few years of marriage I experienced the questions "Are you related to the Kardashians? Do you run track and field?" and so on. Then when Caitlyn Jenner made her debut all of the trans-phobic losers came out of the woodwork - "How about that Caitlyn Jenner, eh? *insert ignorant comment here*" It has gotten to the point where me and Zack have a standard answer- "No we are not related to Caitlyn Jenner but we would be proud to be related to her." That usually shuts up the complete stranger (cashier, bystander, etc.) who felt that talking to us about complex issues like gender, sexuality, and human rights was appropriate.

"Couldn't give up your maiden name, huh?" I've heard that. "Why don't you just get rid of your middle name and make your maiden name your middle name?" "I'm proud to have my husband's last name why aren't you?" Yes I've heard all of that too.

My parents chose Bethany for me. Mintha is my tie to my grandmother and an entire part of my heritage that took years for me to begin to identify with more strongly. Elias is my family, the six of us "originals," and the rich Mexican culture I've grown up with. Jenner is a reminder that my husband is always a part of me and that we are facing the world together (no matter how often we seem to be apart!) and the last name of my future children. So why can't I have it all? Next time I get the inevitable question- "Why would you want such a long name?" (that takes up two lines on my social security card, mind you), I will just answer in one of three ways:

"Why not?"
"Because I can."
And, my favorite,
"Because I'm awesome, that's why."