Parade

I struggle to find the right words as I am overwhelmed with emotion.
I began the day with high anxiety but as the morning wore on and my group grew, the “mom” energy was high!Our group may not have been the largest but we were the most energetic and impactful.
The hugging started before the parade began. A young woman came and asked for a hug. It was tight and it was long. There were tears….. and that was just the beginning.
Once the parade began, we were ready…. Arms wide open!
“I need a hug!”
“I want a mom hug!”
“Can I have a dad hug?” (We had several dads with us too!!)
Some people just opened their arms and waited for us!
For four miles, we high fived, waved and hugged. There were many times I had to run to catch up because the hugs were long…I don’t let go of a hug until they do! I tell each person I hug that they are loved and they matter.
I lost count of the hugs that ended with tears.
I heard more than once as I walked away, “that’s amazing” “what a wonderful group” “she gives great hugs!
Just when I thought it could go on forever, we were at the end of the parade route.
Our group sat together in the shade, relishing in the endorphin rush, recounting stories of epic hugs and soon we went our separate ways.
What I didn’t realize is that my job was not yet done.
As I walked back to my car I was stopped on a corner by an older man. He asked if I believed in fate and I said yes. He told me that he had seen me in the parade but couldn’t get to the rail and he really needed a hug. As we hugged he told me his mom never accepted him and she had just passed …. But now that she was gone, he wished he could have hugged her one last time. So …. I was her stand in.
I continued my walk and ran into a young guy I hugged during the parade. He said our group was the best of the parade and what he will always remember.
The last hug is one I will remember a long time. A young woman walked past me at the el. She made eye contact with me as she passed. A few minutes later she had returned and was at my side.
“Do you really give hugs?”
“Yup. Want a mom hug!”
“Oh my god! Really?! You have no idea how much a need a mom hug today…”
So we hugged a long time. She pulled away suddenly, said thanks through tears and walked away as fast as she appeared. I stood there in the middle of the sidewalk stunned. Not sure why she needed that hug so bad but I’m glad I was there.
Today was one I will remember for a long time. One that I will look back on fondly. One that will be a constant reminder of the need we all have to feel loved. One that reinforced, once again, the power of a hug.
Peace.
#tutulady
#forwardisapace

Hugs

Saturday I went to Pridefest.
I got in line to get in and the girl in front of me looked and said, “Are you here by yourself?”
“Yes why?”
“Wow! I would never do that. You are so brave! Are you gay?”
“No”
“Oh wow……” she looks at my shirt and then my hat….“Would it be ok to ask for a hug?”
“Sure….. “ and we share a long tight hug.
“My mom hasn’t talked to me in years…. Since I came out”
“When was that?”
“When I was 18….. I’m 24 now. I’ve been on my own since I was 18.”
“That must be hard…” I say and the line begins to move.
“Yea….. but it’s better. I like living my life as me and not as someone else.”
“Well then. You are the brave one.”
We continue to chat as we make our way in. She says “happy pride” and skips off as we enter.
After that I was stopped so many times.
“Can I have a hug?”
Some people just walked up to me with open arms. I heard older men tell me that they had been disowned years ago, that their moms had died without acknowledging them, that kids had left home rather than hide in the closet….
As I was watching a performer, I looked over and noticed a Woods ring! The girl had just graduated! We hugged and then I decided it was time to go.
As I was waiting for a light to change, a couple walked over.
“Can my girlfriend have a mom hug?”
“Sure!!!”
As we hugged the girl that asked said “she misses her mom but her mom says she is dead to her…”
I held on until the other girl pulled away. Her face was wet with tears……
”I miss my mom so much. Thank you for giving me a piece of her for a minute.”
We three hugged together and cried a minute.
“You are loved and you matter.” And we parted ways.
I walked 2 miles back to my car and enjoyed every minute of that walk.
Never underestimate the power of a hug.
Peace.
#tutulady
#forwardisapace

Pride

June is Pride month. It is a month to celebrate the LQBTQIA+ community. It is far more than rainbows and parades. While the rainbows and parades are important to increase visibility, the work is year round and ongoing.
Pride is about celebrating celebrating people. Pride is about protecting those trans and queer young people. Pride is about validating intersections. Pride is about honoring those that paved the way like Marsha P. Johnson and those at the Stonewall Riots. Pride is about respecting those that can not or have not come out yet. Pride is about fighting for equal rights. Pride is about doing hard shit. Pride is about love.
My Pride is that of a mom to a gay son. My. Pride is that of an ally. I serve as a safe place for those who don’t have loving and accepting family. I coach parents on how to accept the child in front of them. I coach colleagues in how to ask about and honor pronouns. I serve as a safe space in my school. I am still learning and growing in my journey. I am far from perfect but I follow my heart.
This is why I partner and volunteer with Free Mom Hugs. This organization is a group of affirming parents and allies who love the LGBTQ+ community unconditionally. They are dedicated to educating families, church, and civic leaders encouraging them to not only affirm the LGBTQ+ community but to celebrate them. Each year at pride I walk in the parade just giving hugs and listening to the spoken and unspoken words of so many. I have heard stories….so many stories. Some bring tears of joy and some bring the tears of searing pain. But it is in those moments, there is so much LOVE. Love, acceptance and affirmation…..and did I mention LOVE?
This year I have taken on the task of organizing our group for the Chicago Pride Parade. The Parade has been moved to October this year, and for that I am so grateful as I am hoping for cooler weather!
If you are someone in need of a virtual hug, an in person hug, a listening ear, or just to be seen…. I am here for you. If you need support and do not know where to turn for help. I am here for you. If you are a parent who is learning to navigate a different path and want a friend to walk with you. I am here for you. I am here for you. My head and heart are judgment free zones. I may not have all the answers for you, but I can help find resources that will not only help you but others as well.
For those that are not accepted as they are, I am your mama now. I see you. You matter. I love you!
Peace
#tutulady
#forwardisapace

Home

Home. Sometimes you just have to run home. This weekend I ran home. I ran to my running home. I ran to my running family.
When I decided to run my first marathon I trained alone. I read some books and found a training plan that was manageable. I learned a lot that year and then joined a training group (how that happened is another story for another day!). What I didn’t realize at time was that joining that group would change my life. That group would become my chosen family. My running family.
3 years ago I ran what I now realize was my last marathon. If I had known it would be my last, I would have done things a little differently. No regrets…just some changes. I have signed up and trained since that last marathon but injuries took me out. My running family has always been supportive and ever present even when I thought I didn’t need them.
Saturday I ran home. I went back to the group I call family and the path I call home. The Chicago Marathon this year is virtual and some from the group were running the virtual marathon on the path. I returned to the group with my 4 legged running buddy wearing my tutu! I ran out on the path for a few miles and met up with runners on the last “leg” of the marathon. I walked with and supported the runners as best I know how. I realized it was where I belonged! I was cheering them on home!
I watched as many friends crossed the finish line in an entirely personal fashion. No throngs of people cheering as runners climbed Mount Roosevelt. No “official” finish line. No long walks to water, bananas and family. But what those runners did have was their kids running across the finish line with them. Family right there to hug them at the finish. And a full selection of treats other than bananas! It was amazing!
Today is National Coming Out Day. I know you are wondering what that has to do with running and marathons. Well, as I thought about running home, I realized that so many LQBTQIA+ people do not have a home to run to or even a safe place to run to. Runners, especially marathon runners, run for a reason. Each marathon I run for charity and then dedicate each mile to a special person. Today I ran the Pride Stride 5K, however, I felt called to run more…so I did! I ran for every person who does not feel safe coming out yet. I ran for those without a safe place to call home. I ran for all those who have come out only to be shamed and rejected. I ran……
Working with Free Mom Hugs, I have heard stories from the LQBTQIA+ community that have broken my heart and brought me to my knees. Feeling unloved or incapable of being loved is agonizing and traumatizing. Being forced to live life hidden away, unable to walk in truth, not being accepted and/or judged by family and friends leads to mental health issues, alcoholism, drug abuse and many other self destructive behaviors. As a parent it is our job to love and accept the child we have…not the one we wished we had or the one we wished we were as a kid. Thus, as a Mama Bear(an ally), I accept, hug (virtual now!) and love all LQBTQIA+ people, reminding them that they are worthy, they belong, they matter and they are loved as they are for who they are.
I have stepped into my role as coach, cheerleader and ally with the same determination and dedication as marathon training. This weekend I did not run a marathon but I ran for others. I supported others. I cheered for others. I may or may not run another marathon (never say never) but I know I will always have my chosen family and can always run home. I know that I can and will always provide a safe place for others.
Today I ran 6.2 miles in a tutu with my running buddy (wearing a cape and carrying his ball)! I ran in celebration of love, family, acceptance, belonging, endurance, and because we all deserve a place to run home to.
Peace,
#tutulady
#forwardisapace

Ordained

I am now an ordained minister! I followed the lead of my friend and founder of Free Mom Hugs, Sara Cunningham by becoming ordained!
With restrictions from Covid starting to lift, people are beginning to plan small gatherings for weddings. It is often difficult to find a minister to officiate, especially if you are part of the LQBTQIA+ community.
I love LOVE! I am a strong, vocal advocate for love. Becoming ordained really allows me to support and honor acceptance and love between all people.
I do not have a religious focus (unless that is your choice)…just your love story!
If you are in need of a minister for your wedding, please contact me! I would love to officiate your ceremony and celebrate your love.