Sunday, March 22, 2015

The World Seems Smaller

I'm in Arlington, TX chilling with mom.  It's a very pleasant early spring afternoon here and we're in the brief lull between doing afternoon stuff and making dinner.  Mom likes the salmon dish I cook and has invited her "man" over to have dinner with us.  It has been a pleasant visit so far.

I went down to Austin yesterday to get my hair done.  My dear, dear friend Teresa has done my hair since 2002 and we've qot quite a history together.  It was wonderful to see her, and I'm always reminded how much I enjoyed living here when I come back.  I think I'll be back the next time I need my hair done...it's as good an excuse as any.

I jumped on FB briefly and noticed that the Keystone Conference is happening in Harrisburg PA this weekend.  I remember attending the first few of them and commenting here how well run it was.  It was apparent to me, even then, that smaller regional conferences would eventually take the place of the large national ones.  That has proven to be true for a number of reasons.  The central PA community is a very supportive place and I couldn't help but smile at one of the photos showing snow falling outside.  One year there was a very chilly drizzle...

The thing I'll always remember, other than some of the great people there, is that the conference often coincided with the state high school wrestling championships.  Evenings at the bar or in the lobby were often pretty interesting places to be, where both worlds collided.  The good news is that I thinkm general amusement that many of the wrestling folks often showed at the beginning often turned into a more substantive respect by the time the weekend was over.  Anyway - for those who went - I hope it's still as healthy and as valuable as ever.

My most memorable time there was the third year (I think it was the third year) - in 2009.  I had just turned 50 and during the battery of tests that typically happen when you pass that milestone they identified what they said was a malignant melanoma on my back.  I had made the commitment to speak at the dinner, so I made arrangements to fly out of town on the trip that would eventually end up in the excision of the melanoma the next morning.  My niece came with me.  I'll never forget it.

Next topic.... I went to the movies this morning.  I saw the 2nd movie in the Divergent series.  Based on RottenTomatoes ratings the critics don't seem to like it.  But I liked it.  It was my kind of movie, and I found it to be a good follow-up to Part 1.

The reason I mention it here is that afterwards I couldn't help but be struck by some similarities between a main theme, and our unique "gift" of being trans.

It's about how people get divided into one of six factions based on their personalities and skills.  All people find one and only one faction and once that decision is made, that's where they stay.  The society in which they live is based upon that faction system for harmony, for peace, for stability, and are simply accepted as the general state of being.

Some people can't fit into the faction system.  Some people straddle more than one of the factions and really don't seem to find a way to fit in, no matter how hard they try.  These people are known as Divergent.  They are percieved as a threat to the stability of society, and get actively sought out and killed.

At the end of this movie (spoiler alert) there is a message that the faction system was simply an experiment, and that the future lies in the Divergents.

That's how I see gender.  I see our society as having not 6, but 2 factions.  People are assigned to them at birth and once assigned, cannot choose to leave.  Some of us can't fit into that structure, however, and are percieved as a threat.  We're Divergent.  And, we're simply part of the natural order, trying to fit into a system that just doesn't fit.

I'm under no illusion that outcomes in fiction necessarily predict outcomes in real life.  But in this case I'm confident that it's true. 

Anyways - I enjoyed the movie. 

And I enjoyed a couple of the trailers. 

I'm here in Texas for a couple more days.  Mom asked me to make salmon for dinner and her man-friend was here as well.   It's nice....comfortable, relaxed.  I needed this. 

I am also thrilled to see my little man - Cody.  Leaving him last month was the source of a significant amount of angst and sadness in my world over these past few weeks.  But seeing him again, and how well he is doing, has been good for me.
 
 
 
My mom, in her spring Iris garden.
 
There's things that still need some settling when I get back home. But for now....I'm here with mom and the world seems much smaller. And for that - I'm glad. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Settling down a bit

Life is settling down a bit.  Finally.

My "family" is smaller than it used to be - now it's just Maggie and me.  I'm getting over not having Cody here somewhat but I'll be honest - it's still a source of significant sadness for me so I don't dwell there too long.  My motivations were good and I do think he's got a more stable life where he is.  My mom says he's adjusting to life with her and that's the most important thing.  Maggie could care less - I think she enjoys getting ALL the attention so not having to compete for it or share it isn't a problem for her.  But I miss him, and feel guilt over any sadness or loneliness he might feel.

Part of the frenzy of the past couple of months was generated by the general life upheaval it caused by moving out of my apartment last month.  The weeks leading up to it were full of craziness surrounding moving out, and the weeks since it were full of craziness caused by lack of center.  Thankfully, both have subsided significantly.

I spent a couple of weeks at a hotel while in Charlotte during the week - similar to the pattern when I first arrived here.  After a bit of a search  found someone on Craigslist who is renting out part of their home to make a little extra income.  I've got a large bedroom, closet, private bath, and shared areas of the house so it's very pleasant.  There's a large fenced yard for the pup which is a big plus.  Anyway, I've only been here 3 nights but so far all is well.

I followed thru on another of my plans - I traded in my Tundra on a new car.  The reasons for having a truck have passed, and given the 14 mpg I get on the highway over the course of my travels it's just not cost effective anymore.  My truck and I have bonded quite a bit over the 4 years and 110,000 miles we've travelled together. As I cleaned out the stuff from the glovebox yesterday it was actually kinda nostalgic. She has been a good truck, and I've been very happy with her.

After much research and thought I bought a new Mazda 6.  A red one.  It gets almost 40mpg on the highway and the reviews are as stellar as the performance.



It's going to take a while to get used to the fact that it's not a truck but I'm confident that I'll manage. I'm comfortable with my decision. 
 
Work is fine.  Health is good.  Head and heart are good.  I love springtime so I'm thrilled that we've had 2 80-degree days this week.  All things considered, I'm in a pretty good space.

I'm headed back to Dallas over the weekend.  Part of it is to visit mom again.  Part of it is to see Cody.  And it will involve a brief trip down to Austin - I haven't been there in a couple of years or more - since my son left.  I miss it and expect to do a couple of things during my brief stay.

Anyway - the good news is that this time I'm flying.  :)

 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mess

I'm a mess.  Admittedly, I'm less of a mess today than I was last week.  Still....the operative word is "mess".

In between storms in Dallas last week there was a window of opportunity to leave on Tuesday.  The smart money indicated that adding a couple hundred miles to the trip by taking the southernmost route - along I10 - was most prudent given all the other junk that seemed to be tracking along I20 through Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina.

What I wasn't ready for was the tidal wave of grief at having to leave one of my pups behind.  I'm tearing up even as I type this.

Cody was the energy in family.  He was always happy, always excited.  He was very much a momma's boy and kept me in his sight pretty much at all times.  He's the one who hopped onto the bed and slept with me, and who was the most loving.  But, like many things, you don't know what you've got until it's gone.

I can rationalize why I've done what I've done forever.  The fact that I feel guilty about leaving them alone in an apartment all day, that I have to take them to a dog sitter most weekends, and that I've only got a few hours to spend with them each evening - that they deserve more.  They deserve someone who will be around, a backyard, and more out of life than simply waiting for most of it.

When it came time to leave I cried like a baby.  It was the first time my mom has seen me cry in almost 50 years.  It wasn't little crying, either, it was "I can't talk because it's so difficult" tears.  And then, being stuck in that truck for the 1,300 mile drive back with nothing but guilt, sadness, grief...not good.  The dynamic of the family has changed, and I don't know if it's in a good way or not.

I've left the dogs in the care of others before.  My son watched Cody for several months a few years ago.  My sister watched him for 6 months a couple of years ago, as well.  I didn't feel anything resembling this before.  But my mom said that if she was going to take Cody it needed to be a permanent thing, that she didn't want to get emotionally attached and then have him leave, and I agreed.

Until recently I could honestly say that I have very few regrets in life.  I've actively tried to ensure that.  And although it's still too painful for me and too early to assess clearly this might be one of them.

I've got a lot of emotional energy in me....and not all of it is positive.  Most of the time I do a good job keeping it all at bay.  But, when there's a crack in the containment system, it all comes pouring out.  That's what happened last week.  Years of sadness, frustration, anger, resentment...it's all in there and I suppose it needed release.  Well, last week it got it.

Last night I came full circle.  I pulled back into the hotel where we stayed just before leaving for Dallas a couple of weeks ago.  But there is one fewer of us, and it's not the same.  I miss my little man.

On the more practical side - the trip was ok but was a huge huge huge energy drain.  Between the emotion spent over this trauma, the challenge of a long trip on the road, and the general pull of work and other life demands I very much needed the weekend. 

I'll be in Charlotte for the first half of the week before heading back home for the tail end, and the weekend.  I could have used another couple of days to recover.  Ready or not, though, Monday is here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Plan D

Sometimes, life cicrumstances force you to be creative.

I'm already on Plans C, D, and E to get back home to Charleston.  This winter storm that has thrown DFW, and the southeast in general, into a slippery slidey chilly mess has already forced me to delay the return trip by a day.  But following it east (and potentially catching up with it) or getting hit by the next batch (DFW already has a Winter Storm Watch for tonight -  possibility of an additional 1-4 inches of snow) are both are concerns that need to be considered.

The most direct route back is the route I took - along I-20 thru Atlanta, Birmingham, and Shreveport.  But the farther north I go, the more likely I am to have weather issues.  So, I'm planning to head east to Shreveport and then detour south to I-10 which goes through Mobile, New Orleans, Pensicola, Tallahassee, and Jacksonville.  It adds a couple hundred miles to the trip but is the safer option.  I'm also going to take my time and plan to do the 1300+ miles in 3 days instead of 2 - on top of everything else I need to balance doing work into all of this.

As I type this I've got the Weather Channel on in the background.  They just mentioned that they've closed I20 west of Atlanta....I'm relieved that I'm not heading back into that mess.

I went out for a bit yesterday afternoon and the entire area was like a ghost town.  Nobody was out on the roads.  The mall parking lot was empty.  It was pretty remarkable.

So - if all goes as planned I'll be in Baton Rouge tonight. The window of opportunity is fairly short - otherwise I'll be here for another couple of days.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Birthdays past

I'm writing this from my mom's living room in Arlington, TX.  I had planned to be heading back on the road for Charlotte this morning but Winter Storm Quattro will be dropping freezing rain, sleet, and snow on the area all day so it's not safe to be on the roads.  I'm stuck here for at least an extra day.  I'm not complaining other than it's just one of those little money wrenches that cause plans to change from time to time.

This is a bitttersweet trip.  It serves several purposes other than provide an opportunity to spend time with my mom.  She's 85 years old and I try to make sure I get to see her in some capacity every 3 or 4 months.  She told me yesterday that she has resigned herself to the fact that she's happy and healthy enough to make it to 90 - that's a good sign.  But in reality, none of us have that power so it's important to appreciate each day as though it were the last.

The last time I was here was for Thanksgiving.  Yesterday was my birthday (56 years and counting) so it provided another reason to celebrate.  We went out to Outback for dinner and headed back to the house for some cheesecake for dessert.  I'm on a high protein/low carb diet at the moment but I allowed myself the luxury of having a small piece of cake to celebrate.  It was a very pleasant day.

On the challenging side, the other reason for the trip is that my mom will be taking one of my pups.  Her dog is getting very old and she's already dealing with some preparatory separation anxiety from the little guy.  Her dog provides wonderful company for her.  At the same time, my life is transient to the point that I feel tremendously guilty for putting my dogs through the craziness I do.  They need stability - a yard, a fixed place to be, someone who can be with them more than simply on evenings.  Cody is the more loving of the dogs so we agreed that it would be a good fit.  So - I expect to be headed home with fewer dogs than made the trip out here.

I'm good at keeping my vision focused on the most pressing tasks and keeping things that will be happing in the future from creeping in to mess things up.  I have been totally focused on the tasks that have consumed me over the past few weeks - moving out of my apartment in Charlotte and cleaning to meet the Feb. 19 deadline.  It's a delicate balancing act of keeping enough "stuff" in the apartment to live there but not too much so that you can't finish it all up relatively quickly.  By the time I checked into the hotel on Thursday night I was spent....physically, emotionally, just flat-out drained from trying to get everything done.  And I did.

Moving sucks.  And the older I get (a) the harder it is and (b) the more it sucks.  I expect that I'll need to do it at least one more time in my life but I'm hoping it won't be for a little while.  I need a break.

Well, now that that's done it's time to turn attention on this trip.  I've been dealing with the emotional separation anxiety that comes from these kinds of things but try to focus on the positive.  He's a loving guy and I'm convinced I'm doing something positive - both for Cody and for my mom.  But that doesn't make it any easier.

I went to the gym yesterday and was thinking back to Birthdays past.  I remember my birthday in 1997 where I made the decision that the life I was beginning to believe could be a reality needed some sort of tangible existence in the world and shaved my legs.  It was a symbolic gesture that was the best I could offer at the time, but was an important step towards things that would happen later.

Two years later, when I turned 40, my life was in total upheaval.  My ex and I have long planned to do something special for our 40th birthdays but by that time we were barely speaking, and when we did speak it was typically angry and hurtful.  I expected I'd have to celebrate my birthday alone and went to see Shakespeare in Love at the movies the night before.  I cried like a baby at the pain of it all, but got home to find a note wishing me a Happy Birthday.  We met for dinner that night, but she got up and left in the middle saying that she just couldn't pretend to be happy anymore.  My son was confused by it all - he wouldn't learn about what was happening for several more months.

There were some "big" birthdays - my 50th was very special thanks to a certain someone.  One year my ex- and I spent it in Acapulco and I've got a picture somewhere drinking a fruity tropical adult beverage out of a pineapple. I can remember several that included driving for all or most of the day.  But, for the most part, it's a pretty low-key day in my world.  It's a good time to reflect on things in life -  on things done and things not yet done, but the days of "celebrating" it in the typical sense have been gone for a while now.

Anyway - back to the present.  I'm hoping to get back on the road tomorrow and be back on the east coast on Wednesday before the next storm finds its way across the south.  It's these kinds of days that makes me really appreciate how much I enjoy winter in Scottsdale. 

One of the things I had hoped to do on this trip was visit a burger joint featured on Diners, Drive In's and Dives.  I enjoy the various places they feature (especially the burger places) and one of them is near my mom's house.  I had hoped to go yesterday (they have free Birthday burgers) but they were closed.  I don't know if the roads will allow me to get out today, but if things clear up at all I'm planning a visit before I leave.  :)

56....and counting!



Friday, February 20, 2015

Back to the Same Places

The last few weeks have been absolutely crazy.  During a moment of calm last night, walking the pups outside the hotel on a 10 degree Charlotte evening, it struck me how life flow keeps bringing us back to the same places.

I had to be out of the apartment as of yesterday so we spent last night at a La Quinta here in Charlotte.  I've stayed at this particular hotel many times before - it's near the airport so it was a natural place to stay during flights in and out of town.  When I came into town in December 2014 and it looked like I might actually be relocating back here I stayed here while scouting out the area.  When the pups and I drove across country from Nebraska with a big trailer full of stuff behind the truck it's where we spent the first few weeks of our time here.  It's only a little ironic, I suppose, that we spent our first night there after pulling up the stakes that we set during that time.

 I've written about moving here before - I'm no stranger to it.  Sad to say, I'm a veteran of it I suppose.  This one was a little different because it's the first time I've had all my stuff in the same place in a long time so it was much more labor intensive than most recent efforts.  I've been slowly moving stuff to Charleston for several weeks now, a little at a time, culminating in moving the big heavy stuff last weekend.  It's sad to admit this but there are a few things we didn't have room for at the moment so I've got another storage unit, again.  I'm hoping it's only for a month or so...

The energy I've put into this has been significant.  All the moving, the cleaning, the logistics, the driving - my world has been jumbled for quite a while now and I'll be glad when it gets simple again.

To complicate things, we had snow and freezing rain here in Charlotte earlier this week.  Behind that is frigid cold temperatures....it was 9 degrees outside this morning when I woke up.  Given the brutal winter that others are experiencing I can't complain too much.  And it's certainly not as though I haven't been through this kind of cold before.  Still -  I'll be glad when spring arrives.  I saw a robin yesterday....freezing it's little feathers off.

The next phase of this project begins today.  My mom will be watching one of my pups so I've got an 1,100 mile drive on my hands.  It's my birthday on Sunday and I typically don't make much of a fuss about it but it's be extra nice to be able to spend it with my mom.  I'm expecting to leave later this afternoon and spend the night in Birmingham, AL before doing the last 10 hours tomorrow.  I'll rest on Sunday...although I've spent several birthdays in my car all day I'd prefer to spend some quality time with mom before I head back.

I've been on a high protien diet since the beginning of the month.  I feel like a bloated fat pig - I haven't been able to find time to exersize and somehow weight just seems to happen.  Anyway, I reached my breaking point late last month so I'm on my way back down.  I can attest to the fact that it's harder to lost weight as you get older but I'm firmly dedicated at this point.  Three weeks in - so far so good.  I rarely weigh myself so I don't try to micro-manage it.  I do know where I started, tho, and the best part of the whole deal is feeling pants you've been wearing get looser and looser....

That said, several weeks ago I bought Girl Scout Cookies from some of the people at work who have daughters and were selling them.  I'm always happy to help out when it comes to those kinds of things.  They got delivered yesterday and I was surprised to learn that I bought 15 boxes of them.   Good thing they stay fresh for a long time....given my current mindset I won't be touching any of them for quite a while.

I haven't been good at keeping up with life here lately.  I realize that.  I've had half a dozen blog entries started and saved as Draft that I plan to add to later but eventually the moment passes so I just delete them.  I'll try to be better.  I find it interesting to review past entries sometimes just to revisit things I've done or said or felt so I don't like big gaps. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Simplify

Hello, old friend.

I haven't posted here in over a month - since before New Year.  It's not as though there's any pressing reason for unusually large gap between entries here.  It's just that life just starts going and keeps going, and there's noting much more to say.

Lots has happened over that time, though.  I had a very pleasant Christmas and New Years here in Charleston.  As usual, I was in bed before midnight on New Years Eve so I didn't watch the ball drop - I figure those kinds of parties are a young-person's sport and it's just a more relaxing way to close out a year and begin another one with peace and quiet. 

Work has been going well - it's a very busy time of year as projects gear up for delivery throughout the year but  much of the foundational stuff happens near the beginning.  The good news is that days just fly by, and I actually look forward to going in most mornings.  I'm not sure how long the honeymoon lasts but I'm hoping it will for quite a while.  All feels good there.

That's critical.  Because that's the reason I spend my weeks in Charlotte.  That is the single-most significant complicator in my life these days and I'm trying to find ways to make it work better but no matter how I slice it - it's still complicated.

Over the course of my career - especially over the past half dozen years or so - I've found contracts based outside of Charleston, as the city just doesn't have they quality of opportunities for my skills that other, more IT focused, cities like Charlotte or Raleigh do. 

I will be leaving the apartment I've been in since I got here a year ago when the least expires mid-month.  I have been packing and moving out little by little, but I need to pick up the pace to be out in time.  It's just too expensive and too far from my work to make it worthwhile.

My birthday is in a few weeks and I'll be turning 56.  I recently asked someone where middle age ends and old age begins.  I realize that they're just numbers and you're only as old as you feel blah blah blah - but realistically, when are you past the "middle age" milestone.  Is it from 30-55?  Older? 

Regardless of the age, from time to time I just stop and put the brakes on things.  One of the most significant elements of my transition was that it forced me to re-evaluate everything, and I mean everything, in my life to determine whether or not it still fit.  The fact that we simply accept things in our lives because they've always been that way is the pathway to more and more baggage.  It's time to shed some baggage.  I will be taking active steps in an effort to Simplify over the coming weeks.

I suppose the most fun news of the past several weeks is that we bought a new Corvette Z06.  This is more than just a cool car for me....it's the first new car I've bought since before my transition and divorce.  I had one back when I was still married, in the mid 90's, but it became a victim of the divorce.  So although it's a beautiful, bad-ass car that turns heads and tears up the road wherever it goes - for me it represents something bigger.  It's recognition that I drive a lote because I have to, and although my Tundra does a great job for me it's far more a working/practical vehicle than a fun one. 






To make things more interesting - this car has a standard 7-speed manual transmission. The first manual transmission anything that I learned to drive was my motorcycle, but this is different. So now, although I've been driving for 40 years and likely have at least a million miles under my belt, I've got a high performance car that I can't comfortably drive yet.  I need to learn.

Finding a place to learn to drive a manual transmission car is harder than you'd think.  But I'm actively seeking a solution as I don't want to make all the beginner mistakes in the Z06.  I'll eventually crack this nut....

We were out on the Motorcycles for almost 100 miles yesterday. One of the things I noticed is how comfortable and natural driving it feels now. I can't help but think back to last spring when I started and couldn't imagine mastering all the elements that are involved in riding a motorcycle...shifting, getting to know your engine, working the relationship between the clutch and the gas, turns, hills, traffic....it all seemed so overwhelming at the time. But I've been doing it regularly for quite a while now and that discomfort and clumsiness has largeley given way to ability and skill. That helps when I think those same thoughts with the Corvette. 

I enjoyed watching the Super Bowl on Sunday.  I've watched every one so far, and attended 4 in person.  But now begins the long stretch leading up to training camp and next year.  Sigh.  I'm already looking forward to it.

Anyway - there will be lots going on over these next few weeks and it has been good to reconnect here.  I'll try to be around more.  :)