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 me...to 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 past....how 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....

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A tough nut

It has been a while since I have posted here.  Apologies.

There has been a shift in the Force.  I can't say whether or not it's a good shift or a bad shift yet - but that's not for me to "guess" right now.

I've written in the past how I struggle with my career sometimes.  I made a decision early on to be a consultant and the one time over the past 20 years or so that I found a company that I was ready to settle down with - well, that relationship only lasted 4 years.

As a result, the way my industry works is that companies identify that then need "supplemental labor" (call them what you want:  consultants, contractors, temps....all basically the same thing) for some special project or some period of time so they hire one on as an hourly employee.

The good news is that, due to the temporary nature of the need, the $$$ is usually pretty good.  But the reality is that these assignments come and go and once you're stuck in them the way I am it just becomes a way of life.  It's an entire process to find some that would be a good fit, to interview and agree on terms, to start, and eventually....to end.

The fundamental problem in my world over recent years has been the fact that opportunities that I would want to do, or that would want me, are relatively scarce in or around my chosen home in Charleston.  As a result most of my recent projects have involved some level of travel.  Two projects ago I was commuting back and forth from Charleston to Releigh, NC (that got old after a while).  One project ago I was commuting between Charleston and Omaha, NE.  And, most recently, I have been commuting the 3.5 hours between Charleston and Charlotte, NC.

I struggle with this whole arrangement.  The fact that my career keeps me from the place and the people I want to be with bothers me more than I can express.  Most days I don't think much of it and simply accept it as the way things need to be right now.  Given a whole lot of factors I feel fortunate to still be enjoying a career that pays me well and that I enjoy more often than not.  I enjoy a certain level of flexibility that I need.  But I'd trade it all for a career that had some promise that kept me in Charleston.

Many people reading this probably already know most of this.  It's nothing new, and I've talked about all of this here in the past.  It's the complicated set of needs and balances that typically drive my world on any given day.

So...

My contract here in Charlotte - my reason for being here - has come to an end.  It is time to find something new.  The timing of it puts me in a bit of a bind at the moment and I'm trying to deal with that.  But the process of finding "what next" has already begun.  I continue to be hopeful that the next (and final) "what next" brings me home to Charleston, but there are a number of things at play right now so we'll see how it all plays out.

I am not sad that things have ended, and there are no regrets.  It complicates my world right now, but  it will not be a highlight on my resume.  In contrast - my last contract (the one in Omaha) truly WAS a highlight....interesting work, wonderful people, positive environment.  I left that needing to be closer to things and people that are important to me and, if nothing else, it did that.  I wouldn't trade some of the things that this contract has enabled in my still-growing world over the past 10 months for anything.

One of the complexities to all of this isn't simply looking for work as a woman with a trans history, it's looking for work as an older worker.  Ageism is very much a reality once you get to a certain point and that weighs on my mind.  I decided early on to focus on things that I can change and my age is what it is.  Barriers to employment come in many flavors, and at some point in life that's just another one many of us face.

I'm not sure what point in a career a person passes "experienced" and gets perceived as "old".  There is one company in particular in Charleston that would be an excellent fit for me (and it leverages my Security Clearance, which I'd like to do), but they project a younger more fun work environment.  I continue to apply to opportunities that become available there and hear nothing back.  I sent an email yesterday inquiring what do I or don't I have on my resume that would at least provide an opportunity for some face-time with someone.  It's very frustrating.

That's the big news in my world right now.  Some of the direct impacts is that we had been planning to go to Daytona for Biketoberfest this weekend but now won't be doing that.  My cash-flow is a delicate thing at the moment so it's an expense I can't justify.  But we will see how this all plays out.  All I really want to do is to go home, but unfortunately that seemingly simple needs has proven to be a touch nut to crack.

If I've proven anything to myself it's that I can crack touch nuts.  And my biggest concern heading into this "what comes next" thing is the very real possibility that my worlds will continue to be separated.  Sigh.  We shall see....

Some photos from the past couple of weeks....

Selfie - October 2014

This is the result of a single ant bite.  Don't ask how it got all the way up there....

Low Country view...we took a long motorcycle ride stopping in Savannah and Beaufort


Monday, September 29, 2014

Krud

The last several weeks have been pretty nuts.  I went to Rochester for my mom.  In the middle of October I went to Cleveland for the Gay Games.  At the end of the month I flew to Rochester for my mom's birthday.  I was back in Charlotte for a few days before driving to Atlanta for SCC.   Last weekend we drove to Orlando for a few days in Disney.  Then, this past weekend I was in Washington DC to speak at Out for Work.

Things calm down now for a while, and none too soon.  I've been dealing with a nagging "cold" for the past ten days and I've been waiting to it to run its course so I can feel better.  But it hasn't been getting better and, in fact, over the weekend it started to get worse to the point that I went to an Urgent Care Clinic for the first time in my life.  I'm taking two lessons from this - (1) I don't heal as quickly or as easily as I used to (maybe I've lost my super powers?!) and (2) slow down when possible.  Now all I need to learn how to do is to take my own advice.

Despite not being 100%, the trip to Disney was fun.  I'm not sure if all the go-go-go involved contributed to this krud hanging on for so long but, if so, it was worth it.  Every year Epcot does their annual Food and Wine Festival thing - each country has special samples of foods and drinks.  We ate and walked ourselves silly (thankfully, we kept the drinking part pretty much under control).

Some misc shots from around Disney:

Giraffes snacking in Disney's Animal Kingdom



Hanging with the DC Gay Men's Choir this past weekend.  They're awesome.