Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Retrospect 2014

Tonight the curtain comes down on another year, just as it opens for the next.

I typically don't make a big deal of New Year any more than I do of Christmas.  Both represent opportunities to think back over years past and take stock in life more than than they contain any celebration of deeper relevance.  Last year I was in bed by 10 on New Year's Eve - I wouldn't be unhappy if the same is true tonight.

I can think back to many Christmases over the course of my life.  Only a handful of New Years are similarly memorable.  Perhaps the most relevant New Years Day was on Jan 1 2000 - the new millennium.  I spent New Year's Eve packing up all my guy "stuff" in preparation to give it away.  My transition was a few months old at that point and I had gained enough confidence that I was on the right path to make that commitment to the future, and to begin moving away from the past.

I was living in Arizona at the time and had decided to spend that historic New Year/New Millennium day doing something spiritual.  I took my dad's ashes to the Grand Canyon and threw them into the deep cavern as part of my quest to sprinkle his remains at places he'd enjoy as a final resting place.  The weather was horrible and it was a long, scary day.  In retrospect, that's one of the things that makes it all the more special.

I'll spend tonight with a certain someone.  Over all the years we've known each other I can't remember spending a New Year's eve together.  That's actually hard to believe given all the other time we've spent together....I'm not sure if my difficulty in recalling is due to the fact that there's nothing to recall or that my memory is failing me.  Regardless, I'll remember this one.

2014 was a transformative year...where one significant Chapter in my life ended and another began.  As the year unfolded I was in Nebraska planning to come back home.  Now, as it ends, I'm closer to home and poised to finally make it back soon.

I've spent part of the Christmas holiday looking at houses.  I haven't even thought about getting a house for a long, long time....partly because I haven't had any confidence that my life was ready to land anywhere long enough to make it worthwhile.  But, as I've said before, the thing I need most in my life right now is stability and that starts with a place to call "home".  As I pack up to leave my apartment in 6 weeks I'll be headed to the 12th place I've lived in the last 10 years.  Good thing my mom writes my addresses down in pencil....I hope she can start using a pen this next time. and never have to change it again.

My health seems good, I enjoy my job, my heart is happy, and I'm excited about the future.  My family is doing well, dear friends in my life seem content, and I can't think of any better place to be in at this point in life than I am now.  If this somehow turns out to be my last New Year all I can say is that I'm good with it.  I'm not trying to be morose or dark, but the realist in me constantly realizes the need to live each day as though it were your last.  And, I do.

I've got a long list of things I want to do this year, and as I look back at this time a year from now I hope most of them come to pass.  I'd like to get a house, and to settle down.  I'd like to have a little more stability in my professional life.  I'd like my relationship with my life partner to be burning brightly just as it is now.  I'd like to visit Europe.  I'd like my hobbies to flourish in my life - my photography, my scuba diving, my motorcycle riding.  I'd like my health to be good....and my family to be happy and healthy.

I could never have imagined much of what constitutes my life right now at this point last year.  But then again, that's part of the beauty of life.....letting it unfold in ways you never imagined.  I realize that life is made up of good stuff, and not-so-good stuff too.  But as long as more of it is good than not - well - that constitutes a good year.

Some misc shots from house-hunting over this past week...

Christmas 2014 was wonderful.  It was quiet...which was just what the doctor ordered.  And the best part is that I spent it exactly where I wanted to be.

Christmas Dinner
On a trans note....

Someone posted something on FB about having no respect for people who de-transition.  I find that kind of talk fairly silly and ignorant.  They seem to lose sight of what transition is meant to be - demonstrating to yourself that you can lead a happy and productive life in your authentic gender.  Some are wise enough to realize that they just can't - for any number of reasons.  That's not something to be anyone.  There's no need to justify who's "real", and who's has nothing to do with courage or desire or validity.

My own life was mentioned in the long conversation that followed.  The fact that I was poised to transition, called it off, regrouped, then did it again was used as an example that there's no one right way to do this.  All too often we approach this from an emotional perspective and the practical elements somehow get lost.  This is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve and it still blows me away to see where I started and where I am now.  But the fact is that it's very much like the Matrix - you need to take the Red Pill and unplug to see for yourself what's real and what's fantasy.  Many aren't ready to be unplugged yet...

Anyway - 

All things considered - I'm very content right now.  And, I'm excited about what comes next.

Whoever reads this - Happy New Year to you.  May 2015 bring happiness, health, and peace.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Some Random opinions...

It's hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away.  Last year I came to Charleston from chilly Nebraska and the trip turned out to be a life-changing one.  The decision to come back east and everything that has happened since were a direct result of that trip.

I've made another life decision.  The lease on my apartment in Charlotte runs out mid-February and they need 2  months notice of my intentions.  I gave official notice that I will not be renewing it.  I'm not sure of the specifics of where I'll be come my birthday in a couple of months - expecting it will be Charleston (although my job in Charlotte will keep me busy thru the end of the year).  But what I do know is that I've got quite a bit of work to do between now and then to move out and make arrangements for "what next?".

I'll also share that I have started to investigate the possibility of buying a house.  I'm at the early discussion phase but at least I know what my options are and what would be involved.  I haven't had these kinds of discussions since late 2001 so even considering this is a big deal me.  Anyway, I expect there will be more to come on that.

I wanted to weigh in on a couple of things that seem to be fairly controversial at the moment.  Nobody asked me for my opinion but I'm going to share it anyway.

First, I wanted to say something about the recent bru-ha-ha about the movie The Interview and yesterday's decision to shelve it as a result of threats (presumably from North Korea).  There is quite a bit of sentiment that Sony shouldn't have caved to these threats, and that it sets a bad precedent.

Well, I think it's only the most recent bad decision that Sony has made in this mess.  The fact that the movie depicts an effort to assassinate the leader of North Korea inherently put it directly into the crosshairs for some kind of international confrontation.  They should have known that.  I would have expected that the movie would, perhaps, use some fictitious character based on North Korea's president who leads some country that's very similar to North Korea as part of a satire.  But to make a movie that specifically mentions killing real people is begging for trouble.  Can you imagine the international outcry if the movie depicted killing Putin in Russia?

If the shoe were on the other foot - if someone in some country made a movie that depicts an assassination attempt on Barak Obama there would be a huge outcry here for sure.  Well - in my book this was ill-concieved from the get-go and shouldn't have been made in the first place.  Sony put themselves between a rock and a hard place and now they're dealing with the consequences.  I realize my opinion may not be , but Sony doesn't get a free pass in all of this in my book.  They tempted fate and fate bit 'em.

The second topic of the day is a recent song by B-52's siren Kate Pierson titled "Mister Sister".  It's the first song from her upcoming solo album.  Kate made the mistake of saying that she hoped the song would become a sort of "trans anthem".  Not wise.  (story, and the video, here).

I'm convinced that Kate had good, if misguided, intentions (and yeah, I know what they say about the road to Hell....that's not applicable here).  I saw the B-52's at the HRC National Dinner a number of years ago and they were wonderful...they're very supportive of the community.  But I could list at least a dozen reasons why this song is bad, starting with the title.  To take that at face value and then take take the leap to label her as "transphobic" is wrong.  She's not. 

The subsequent outcry on social media targeting Kate Pierson was unnecessary and misguided as far as I'm concerned.  This was an education moment, not an attack moment (see one response here).  It seems as though many who demand that the world recognize that gender is NOT a binary adopt a reaction approach that has only two flavors....allies and transphobes.  It doesn't work like that.

A similar pattern is happening over a recent landmark Candy magazine cover featuring 14 prominent visible transwomen as role models.  We've already started attacking that.  Not good.

This has been an incredible year for the trans community.  I was recently friended on FB by someone who helped me a great deal in the early days.  Her willingness to share her story online helped me find the courage to finally begin accepting myself before transition, and became a reason I felt a need to pay it forward.  She published a very detailed account of her life and her transition online and it was one of only a half-dozen stories or websites that resonated with me.  That was almost 20 years ago and I sometimes forget how different things were back then with compared to now.  I hope this rate of change continues.

I'll be headed to Charleston today on my usual weekend trip home.  I'm very much looking forward to it....

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Filling the Gap

It hasn't been lost on me that I haven't been posting as much as I used to.  Frankly, I just forget most of the time.  At various points in my life this blog has served a number of roles (which is why I've kept it going for so long) - it's as much for me as for anyone who cares to read it.  Things are pretty tranquil at the moment, comparitively, so there really hasn't been much to say.  I realize that the mundane day-to-day narrative of my comings and goings really provides no value.  But this blog is a pretty good history of my life over recent years so I don't like to leave big gaps.

It has been 3 weeks since my last post.  Over that time I went to Dallas to spend a very pleasant Thanksgiving with mom, and to Denver to spend a wonderful weekend with my son.  I've met up with a couple of FB friends, and another couple of "real" friends (as in, we've actually met before).  Mom is in good health, son seems happy and well, so all told this most recent bout of travel has been well worth the hassle that traveling can often be.

Here are some pictoral highlights:

My son - a day of Bills football in Denver.
I've got a half dozen jerseys that I don't get to wear very often.

We did a beautiful Saturday motorcycle ride to the Santee Canal
A day of skeet shooting. 
Shem Creek is always picturesque and beautiful

It's hard to believe that Christmas in only 2 weeks from today. I've written in the past that I don't really do much different over the Holidays than I do the rest of the year.  It's just not that big a deal to me.  I'd just as soon spend it quietly with special friends, or by myself, than do anything big or flashy.  I realize that it can be a difficult time of year for those of us who are displaced from where we want to be, or from loved ones, and I'm thankful that I don't feel that pain.  Anyway - I'm hoping to wind down as the year draws to a close, and before another year kicks in.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

So Far

Ten days have passed since I last posted here.  Lots has changed.

My new contract is in full swing.  In my professional life I seem to find interesting things to do (my last contract was the exception to that rule).  That's true this time.  I'm managing a portfolio of projects in the IT Risk and Information Security organization at a Fortune 100 company with a beautiful campus here in Charlotte.  I'm loving it, so far.

It requires a bit of a lifestyle change.  My previous contract was only 4 miles from my apartment.  This contract is all the way on the other side of the city - 30 miles each way.  I've learned that my morning traffic window of opportunity ends at 7am - so I've been leaving earlier.  Not a bad thing, so far.

We had an all-day organization meeting yesterday.  Part of the ice-breaker during the introductions was to mention something interesting about ourselves.  I wasn't quite sure which interesting thing to mention.  I suppose that's a good thing.

We've got a very good group.  Two other women and I spent the first couple of days getting ready for a monthly portfolio review for the Chief Security Officer and his direct reports.  It was a good way to get to know one another and I already feel more good mojo with these people than I have with anyone since Nebraska.  It's good.

I'm hoping this is the beginning of a beautiful (long-term) relationship.

I still can't believe it's almost the end of November already.  I've made arrangements to fly to Dallas to spent Thanksgiving with mom next week.  That seems to have become the tradition in recent years.  Her special man-friend spends Thanksgiving camping with his family so she gets lonely.  My brother and sister have families and spend the Holiday at home.  I enjoy spending Thanksgiving with her, but I'll be honest - there are very few people who could motivate me to travel on Thanksgiving weekend.

The next weekend I travel to Denver to spend some time with my son.  He turns 29 next month.  That blows me away, too.

They're forecasting a new record low here tomorrow morning.  It's supposed to get down to 17 degrees overnight so the apartment complex sent an email to all the residents on what to do to keep your pipes from freezing.  Last year at this time I was in Omaha and they were in single digits earlier this week.  As far as I'm concerned we're getting off easy.  I see how cold it's getting elsewhere so this is nothing.

Buffalo is getting crushed by a snowstorm for the ages tonight.  Some places there are expecting 6 feet of snow.  6 friggin' feet!  That's absolutely insane.  I've been having fun looking at all the pictures that people are posting.  The funny thing is - people in Buffalo just take it in stride.  As someone who grew up there I know how it goes.  Anyway - I hope my friends there are safe, warm, and have enough food to wait until things die down.

I'll have some decisions to make soon.  I'm living in an apartment in Charlotte and the lease comes up for renewal in the middle of February.  I don't think I'm going to renew it.  There are several reasons, none of which has to do with this place.  It's a comfortable place to be between going to work and going to Charleston.  The pups seem to like it, too.  And the thought of packing up again and going somewhere else is difficult to even consider.  But in keeping with the goal of ending up in Charleston I'd rather investigate other options.  So, although I may not know what the answer it yet I think I know what it's not.  And, if that's the direction I take, things will get busy (again) in a couple of months.

As I've said before - I typically don't have trouble making decisions.  The decisions I make may not always be the best ones, but they're the best ones I could make at the time I made them.  We'll see how all this plays out - it's just a preview of some of what I expect will be key elements of my world over the next couple or three months.

For now, I'm just glad that things have gotten back on track.  For now.

Monday, November 3, 2014

It's not over....

So much to talk about....

I think I'll go in sequential order.

Last weekend:  There were a number of highlights from the weekend, culminating in the Scooters for Hooters ride Sunday.  It was a fund-raiser for Breast Cancer, and 250+ bikes joined into the fun.  It's the first time I've done something like this and I had a blast.  I just love riding my bike - it's just such an energizing, fun, exciting thing.  And the weather?  It couldn't be nicer.

When I left Charleston on Monday morning I said good-bye to the bike.  I didn't expect to see her again for a while as I had plans to fly to Phoenix to start my new job there on Wednesday.  A number of things happened on Tuesday that changed the balance of opportunity for me.  As a result, after considerable thought I did not make my 5:30am flight Tuesday morning.

There was no one thing that caused that.  Part of it was continued concern over what needed to happen with my apartment in Charlotte and the dogs - some things have happened to complicate matters there.  Part of it was the huge upheaval it would cause in my world to try to make being so far away work.  And part of it was another opportunity in Charlotte that made itself available to me at the 11th hour.  When there is only one option the only decision that needs to be made is to do it or not do it.  When other options become available - well - more thoughtful decisions need to be made.

It's a good thing I deal with stress well, as this entire week has been a stressful one.  I feel like a schmuck for indicating that I'd be in Phoenix this week to start a contract there, and then *not*.  I've called a number of people, including my mom, who all agree that staying here for this opportunity seems like the best long-term decision for me.

So the bottom line is that any celebration about my planned return to Phoenix may be premature.

I don't like not having a job.  It's stressful and the financial pressures weigh on me.  Finding a job becomes a job all to itself and I've already expressed how I feel about that.  I'll be happy when this unexpected "vacation" is over.  If everything works itself out, that'll be tomorrow.

The highlight of this past weekend was the annual Carolina Coastal Fair.  A certain someone and I go there pretty much every year and it has become something of a tradition.  I suppose there's nothing special about it - it's just a fair.  But it's one opportunity to binge on fried food, visit the photo exhibit, and just get out and about.  We only stayed for a couple of hours yesterday but it was very enjoyable.

We rode the motorcycles there.  Getting into the parking lots was a nightmare for the throngs of people who were arriving when we were, but there's a special entrance and up-front parking for motorcycles.  The fact that it was 40 degrees or so when we started over there didn't dampen the ride. It was an overall wonderful day.

And, of course, the annual costume-fest we call Halloween happened this past weekend.  As usual, it was no big deal.  There was a time when it was the only time that my "other" self got the opportunity to express herself and was very important in keeping me sane.  Now - no big thing.

I received an email from someone last week about a blog post I did last summer about dilating (read it here).  Truth be told - I can't even tell you the last time I dilated.  It has been months.  I realize that there are those who say that they've regained a significant amount of lost depth once they started again but I'm fairly dubious of that.  Regardless, I have no reason to regain what I've lost.  As I said in my post it's absolutely fine for what I need it for.

One thing I think would be absolutely fascinating would be a study of people who are 10 or more years post-op.  It'd be interesting to see how their "parts" hold up after some significant period of time and get thoughts after it's not so new anymore.  There is very little attention paid to life after transition which I think is a very unfortunate thing.  Health issues, employment issues, relationship issues, family issues, faith issues, general quality of life issues - I think getting an accurate picture of some of these things would be helpful for all of us.  I'm just sayin'........

Gotta go.  I've got a number of things to do today.  This is already shaping up to be a big week.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Decisions, decisions.

I'm an energy person.  One of the things that I know about me - I know I need outlets for my energy.  Sometimes, that's as simple as pacing.  So, I'm here to admit to anyone who cares - when I have extra energy that needs to be released I pace.

These last few days have been really interesting.  As I mentioned earlier this week I'm facing some big decisions that need to be made.  The process of investigating opportunities, getting to know recruiters, submitting your paperwork to hiring managers, hoping to get an interview, interviewing one or more times, then waiting for feedback and decisions is that soul-sucking sound you hear when you start this.  But that's how it works.

This week, two opportunities that have been in play, working their way through this process,  got near the end and seemed promising.

Over these past few days I've been on the phone quite a bit during the negotiations - pacing.  Back and forth, back and forth along the length of my apartment.  The dogs are a little confused by it all.  But it has all been worthwhile - positive outcomes, good energy released into the world, and perhaps even a few extra calories burned in the process.

So - yesterday it seemed to boil down to a decision between these two opportunities....each different and with a number of attractive components (and complications, as well).  One happened quickly, easily, almost effortlessly.  The other started that way but ended up getting a bit more complicated along the way.

I'm a believer that, often in life, the right things typically just happen - they make themselves obvious - if we're open to seeing them.  We live in a culture where a "good things are worth fighting for" mentality can sometimes cloud the simplicity of the obvious, but it's really true.  Career decisions, relationship decisions, general life direction decisions.....Simple is often better.

That said - the decision has been made.  An offer has been accepted, and my next contract is scheduled to begin next week.  There IS joy in Mudville today.

I don't know if there's a right or wrong answer, or a "better" one.  Thankfully, I'm good at making decisions without constantly second-guessing myself or looking back over my shoulder.  That's not the same thing as actually making good decisions, I suppose, but the ability to make a choice and go with it is not something I lack.

There are a couple of "bigger-picture" things that have played a part in all of this.  I called one of my old neighbors last night - my dear friend Sally - to talk through some of what's flowing in my mind.  That's another thing that helps either write things down or talk things out.  As long as they're trapped in my head it's sometimes harder to make sense of them.  I'm thankful to have people in my life who are detached but know me well enough to look at things objectively.

I realize this might sound morose, but one of the things I told her is that I'm getting to a stage of life where a consideration in decisions I make is that I don't want to be in a city where I might die alone, not knowing anyone.  For some reason, that possibility really bothers me.  Although I'd prefer to be home in Charleston as second best I don't mind being in Rochester, or Phoenix, or in any of the places that I consider to be "home" in one context or another.  But I don't want that to be in Charlotte or some other place where I'm just there to work.  That may not make sense to some, but Sally understood even before I finished the sentence.  I knew she would.

None of this should be a revelation to anyone who has been here for any length of time.  My blog is 10+ years old and lots has changed over that time, but the things of which I speak are constants.  I filled out my background check paperwork yesterday and had to list all the places I've lived over the past 10 years.  Any idea how many different addresses there are?  11.  I've lived 11 different places over the course of this past decade.  That's ridiculous.

The central theme over these past several years is doing whatever I can to maintain my center of gravity in Charleston.  The perfect answer for me would bring me back home and keep me there.  However, that's not an option right now.  I've tried, but it's not meant to be.  So, more creative options need to be considered and the choice I made yesterday provides the best opportunity to get there.

My new project will eventually allow me to work remotely for some of the time.  But when I'm not in Charleston I'll be in........[drum roll]......Phoenix!  Yahoo for that!  The logistics of making that happen in the timeframes I need them to are fairly daunting at the moment but it will all work out.  Somehow, it always does.

I feel blessed sometimes.  I realize how fortunate I have been in so many ways.

The irony that only 3 months ago I finally removed my last physical footprint from the Valley is not lost upon me.  But - next time this week I expect to be in Arizona.  And I'm very comfortable with that.

I typically wouldn't share so much about something that hasn't happened yet.  Although I don't think of myself as supersitious - somehow the word "jinx" comes to mind.  On the other hand - so does the word "Faith"...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

About to Happen.

In my business - looking for a job is a lot like online dating.  It can be an ego-deflating, energy-sapping, frustrating, soul-sucking, infuriatingly tedious exercise.  I can't say it any more plain than that.

I introduced a dear friend to the world of IT Contracting a couple of years ago.  She had seen me go through this process before and seemed confused about why I feel the way I do.  Well, after she had been part of it for a little while she understood.  Needless to say, she's not contracting anymore.

The hope is that whatever match you make will be (a) timely (b) financially worthwhile (c) enjoyable (d) interesting and...if all the above are true... (e) long-term.  There are a number of potential down-sides to the equation but we won't dwell on this right now....let's just keep this simple.

This last contract wasn't a good fit.  Technically it was fine, but many if not all the elements that made my last contract so wonderful are missing here.  I'm not saying it's anyone's fault...that's just the way it is.  I go in, I do my job, I go home....and that's what they paid me for.  It'd be nice to get more out of it than that but in all honesty there really wasn't anything more to "get".

This process can be a fast one or a slow one.  I remember writing a blog entry a couple of contracts ago when I went to Raleigh for an all-day interview.  Getting past the introductions, the phone screen interviews, the eventual submittal to the hiring manager, some number of phone interviews often followed by an in-person interview, and ultimately getting a decision is no small feat.  That's how it often works, tho, so it's just part of the game.

Some of the positions I've been pursuing are finally at the interview/decision stage this week so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.  I went to a face-to-face interview this morning.  And - truth be told - it went really well and would be an excellent fit.  Good people, interesting work, beautiful campus, excellent energy.....I really enjoyed it and am allowing myself to be optimistic.  I'm told I'm one of two finalists and he has pledged to make a decision by mid-morning tomorrow.

But another opportunity came from out of nowhere and is leading the pack.  I first chatted with the recruiter last Wednesday, I sent her my resume Thursday and she sent it to the client.  The client scheduled a phone interview for first thing yesterday.  That went well, so they scheduled a follow-up with that manager's manager.  That went well, too.  I strongly believe that things that happen almost effortlessly are exuding positive karma that outweighs many other factors.  Anyway - it's a little more complicated than that but the fact of the matter is that the smooth way this has happened is not lost on me.

Stay tuned.  I expect to make decisions on "what next" for me tomorrow.  Some of it might be surprising.

We had a very pleasant weekend.  We had originally planned to head to Daytona for Biketoberfest but cancelled those plans due to current events.  We were both disappointed but sometimes life just gets in the way of doing things you want to do.  The weather was gorgeous and it would have been beautiful.  Instead, we stayed close to home and did some things around Charleston.

Saturday night a certain someone and I went to the annual fundraising gala dinner for the local LGBT organization, AFFA.  As we got dressed I was reminded how many times we've done this in the many dinners we've been to together.  But we haven't been to one in a long time (at least three or four years) - we've both moved on from those kinds of things, I guess.  Anyway, it was a very nice event.

A certain someone and I at a dinner event - a decade ago
A certain someone and I - at the AFFA Dinner Saturday night.

Get ready.  Things are about to happen....