Monday, April 21, 2014

Easters past and present

I hope everyone had a pleasant Easter.  Mine was very nice.

Easter has been the singular holiday that has embodied the ups and downs of my life.  If there is a single day that symbolically represents the best of times, and the worst of times - this is it.

I remember an Easter back ~1980 shortly after I met my wife.  I was working going to Syracuse University and working at a hotel there.  They had scheduled me to work the big Sunday Brunch, which was fine, but my wife's family was having an Easter cook-out that afternoon and it would be the first time I had really met her entire family.I had arranged to be able to leave at 11 so I could do both.

Well, 11 o'clock came and we were slammed.  I went to the manager to tell him I was getting ready to leave.  He said that we were too busy to let me go, so we could evaluate in another hour or so.  My future wife was already there to pick me up and it only took a second to decide what to do.  I left as planned.

I was baptized the week before Easter.  The priest who I worked with to convert wanted me to do it at the Easter mass but I wasn't going to do that.

Over the course of my son's childhood Easter was about church, then brunch.  We colored eggs and did Easter Egg hunts around the house.  They were good, good times.

It was an Easter shortly before I left home that my wife started yelling at me that I was ripping our family apart and that she would divorce me.  That was the first time my son was exposed to any of what was happening in our household at the time.

That following Easter was perhaps the lowest point in my life.  It was a couple of weeks before I was scheduled to begin my transition.  I was alone in my apartment, separated from my wife and son.  I was uncomfortable, scared, confused, and generally in a very dangerous place.  My manager, Mike, came by to bring some roasted chicken and wine for a mid-day brunch to pull me out of it.  I called off my transition and went back home less than 10 days later.

Three years ago Elizabeth and I and the kids spent Easter at the White House - we had tickets to the Easter Egg Roll.

A couple of years ago I spent the morning wandering around downtown Charleston taking pictures.  The city is all decked out in its springtime finery, and truly a sight to behold.  It was wonderfully peaceful.

And this year - well, it was notable by being un-extraordinary.  I was where I wanted to be, with the people I wanted to be with, doing what I wanted to do.  In the scheme of things, that can sometimes be more special than anything.

More than any other annual milestone, this day is a reminder of the ebb and flow of life.  Good times and memories, and bad ones.  Hi points, and low points.  Tumult, and peace.  I always look forward to Easter if for no other reason than it represents Springtime.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

On my way to Somewhere

I never really finished my last post before hitting the "Publish" button.  I was going to share a couple of pictures from my world, but events conspired to delay that.  No matter...here's what I was going to share.

Where I work....

My working week home

I watched the movie Phenomenon again the other night.  It's the movie where John Travolta plays simple country guy George Malley who saw a bright light one night and suddenly gets all kinds of interesting "powers".  The fascinating part is the affect it has on his friends who suddenly start to fear (and eventually shun) their long-time friend.  There's a lot of good stuff in there...it's a wonderful movie.

One of the lines I particularly like is when George realizes he's only got a little time left and is trying to explain it to the kids.  "Everything is on it's way to somewhere", he says.  So true.  It's all a journey.

I have been finding myself reminiscing quite a bit lately, not simply things I've done but feelings I've had.  For example, my apartment complex has an indoor basketball court so I bought a basketball to play there.  I haven't had a basketball in a quarter century.  I remember spending hours in our backyard all by myself, practicing the same shot over and over, pretending I was in a game.  I remember putting up a basket for my son so he could experience that same thing only to find that was my own memory not his.  He never showed an interest in it.

Songs do that, too...especially songs from when I was in high school.

I had a wonderful weekend.  The weather was sunny and warm (~80 degrees).  I spent time quality working in the yard.  We spent an afternoon on the jet ski, visiting some of the beachy islands around Charleston.  I took the boat to the mechanic to have her checked out for seaworthiness.  Nothing specifically extraordinary, but all of it was memorable.  As I sit here this morning I'm a little burned around the edges, but otherwise none the worse for wear.

Tomorrow I go in for my annual lab work - they're going to take and test my blood.  I hate that.  I'm going to assume all is well until I find out otherwise.  Keep your fingers crossed.  :)




Thursday, April 10, 2014

Private

I've been away for a while.  Sorry about that.  There's not specific reason - in all honesty I haven't had much to say.

That's not because my life isn't any less busy than it has ever been.  Au contraire.

I'm taking active steps to embark on another mid-life transition.  Before anyone gets too cute - NO, I'm not transitioning back.  I'm more than happy where I am.  I've prioritized a number of things and it's obvious that if I want something to change I'm the one who needs to force the issue.  So, Ima forcing the issue.  More to come on that.

I've said for a long time that the key ingredients to any transition are (a) desire (b) creativity (c) adaptability (d) timing (e) luck....but most importantly (f) time.  Time is the key.  That's the difference between a sudden change and a transitional one.  Anyway....I'm working on it.  I suspect I'll have more to come at some point.

The advent of Social Networking has opened new horizons for meeting people, connecting with friends, meeting new people, and overall "life-sharing".  I perceive SN to be like fire - controlled it is a blessing.  But uncontrolled, it is a curse.

More than that -  when people share too much it can become dangerous. There are aspects of FaceBook that I enjoy. For example, I've reconnected with the person that I took to my High School Sr. Prom.  It has been so nice to catch up on life with here - all thanks to social networking.  Perhaps oddly - the people who are my closest friends typically aren't friends on FB.  There are FB "politics" that sometimes get in the way of what's happening in the real world that I'm just not willing to deal with.

That said - I am so so happy that none of this existed when I transitioned.  I realize that everyone is different, but for me, my transition was a personal journey that I saved to share with a small group of intimates, not to a world of strangers.  I'm not in any way saying that others don't or shouldn't feel otherwise as there is no one right answer.

More than once I've imagined myself the night before I called off my initial attempt to transition.  If there were such a thing as FB back then would I have reached out?  Would I have tried to explain the dark place I was in?  Would that have saved me from myself?  Who's to say, but I doubt it.  What I do know is that the right things eventually happened so it's not really all that important.

The reason I'm sharing that is to reiterate the fact that I'm a private person.   My transition was a deeply personal journey that I saved to share with a small group of intimates friends.  That's still true - Even though I have a public-facing side, it only provides a limited view into my world.  Does anyone know where I work?  Does anyone know where I am at any point?  Does anyone even know that I've got a very significant other in my life?  Unless you're a very small group of 1 or 2 or 3 people, the answer is "no".  I cherish my privacy as I cherish my dignity.  One you give either of them away, it's difficult to get them back.

I'm in the sharing mood, so I'll share a couple of things here tonight.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

BB

At the beginning, just before I started transition, my ex-wife did everything she could to try to dissuade me from the path that was becoming clear and imminent to both of us.  She told me that I should enjoy what I had as a guy - that the day-in-and-day-out life that women face gets tiresome and I'd hate it after a while.  She was wrong.

She told me putting make-up on every morning is drudgery.  No....it's not.  At least, for me it's not.  It's a hard-earned right that I still enjoy.  In fact, I enjoy putting it on far more than cleaning it off.  My son used to watch me as I got ready for work while we lived in Austin.....10 plus years ago.  He asked me why I did all that.  I told him it was easy....simply, because I could.

It's interesting to see how a person's make-up "style" changes over the years.  I suppose I've got a "style" now that this has been my life for 15 years.  Early on I discovered that I didn't like or want thick foundations.  Yuck.  For years and years I'd use a tinted moisturizer under a powder...it was light enough and provided enough coverage to do what I needed it to do without feeling like a mask.

Over the years my skin has developed more spots, blotches, and colors than it used to have.  Tinted moisturizers aren't enough to even it all out anymore.  Thankfully, Beauty Balms (BB) have stepped into the middle-ground and provide enough coverage to even it all out  (more about BB Creams here).  I still start with my trusty Oil of Olay as the first ingredient.  Then - I BB.



And bras.  She said I'd get sick and tired of them.  Not so much.  In fact, I don't even think about it.  I remember back to the days before I imagined ever having anything to fill one with and stuffing a bra with whatever I could find.  I love my "girls" and wouldn't complain for a minute about taking care of them.  In case anyone faces making a decision between silicone or saline, I can't recommend silicone highly enough.  I've had both.  One never felt like it was part of me.  The other, well, now I don't even notice they're there.

For a long time I'vs said that I have one more "procedure" left in me.  I'd like to tighten up some of the skin that's left after all that bone was removed during FFS.  But the reality is that I'll probably never do anything about it.  Life has moved on.  More importantly, I've moved on too.  If I get some extra $$$ I'd far rather put it towards retirement, or towards a boat, or on good camera gear, or on a trip to Europe....my bucket list is still as long as it ever was.

I had lunch today with the President of the PRIDE Employee Resource Group for one of the local large companies (I'd rather not give the name...just know it's a BIG company).  They've made Trans issues a main focus this year and we discussed some opportunities they're working on.  I can't help but think how different things are in our world than even a few years ago when trans anything was actively NOT discussed in the workplace.  This person was at the VP level so it's got a high level of executive support.  Anyway, it was a wonderful discussion.

Pride month is a great anchor for people to provide visibility/education on LGBT issues.  When I worked for Dell one of the big events of our PRIDE calendar years was bringing in a big-name speaker.  We brought in Ellen DeGeneres's mom Betty...she was great.  If anyone has influence on these kinds of things - there are a number of excellent experienced, visible speakers that could probably be persuaded to come and talk about the "T".  Just sayin'....

March Madness is ramping up.  Fingers are crossed that 'Cuse makes it deep into the tourney.  I guess we'll see.  :)





Friday, March 14, 2014

Brittle

In my last post I talked a little about Steady State.  In my world, it's an IT term used to describe the transition from development to day-to-day operations.

That's not the case when it comes to the ebb and flow of emotion upon which my life is perched.  Such is the price for being on this crazy hormone-fueled rocket ship that I've strapped myself to.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  But, it can get pretty crazy.

I'm an emotional person.  I still try to control them as best I can sometimes.  In a world where the Yin/Yang of emotional mind vs. rational mind requires me to focus on the latter far more than the former it can sometimes be quite the struggle.

The best analogy that I can give with regards to my emotions is the weather.  Sometimes all is sunny.  Eventually clouds move in for no other reason than it just gets cloudy.  Sometimes the clouds dissipate after a couple of days and all is sunny again.  But sometimes they turn dark and stormy.  That's the ebb and flow of my emotional state.

I sometimes reach a stage where I refer to my emotional state as "brittle".  It's a pre-storm condition where all the elements for the clouds to erupt into a storm are there.  Sometimes something will happen to push it in that direction.  Sometimes it just happens on its own. But it's one of those pre-eruption, bubbling-wit-emotion, something-could-set-it-off states that happens from time to time.

I'm "brittle" right now.  I attribute it to a variety of things - work, moving, finances, relationships, obligations, uncertainty....lots of balls in the air so it's not hard to see why things would be a little stressed.  Anyway - this too shall pass.

A saving grace is knowing that the weekend is around the corner.  I'm taking classes on the weekends so I don't expect to have too much free time on my hands.  But the fact that it's the weekend helps.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Steady State

Order is coming to the managed chaos that all too often exists throughout my world.  You'd think that I'd be totally moved in and unpacked after a few weeks in my new place.  Well, you'd be wrong.  I go home to Charleston on weekends.  I'm taking a course on weekends, as well.  Evenings lately have been spent attending team dinners at work, studying for a class I'm taking, or even - perish the thought - relaxing.

One thing I've been doing little by little is learning what's around here.  Much to my delight I found a Chuy's yesterday.  Chuy's is my favorite Texican food restaurant from back when I lived in Austin.  I didn't realize that they had expanded this far east.  Needless to say, I'll stop in there sometime soon.  It's in a cluster of restaurants that include Maggiano's (already been there), CowFish (been there, too), Cheesecake Factory, and a number of other yummy offerings.

I've had teams here from around the country for the past two weeks.  The upside is that it's nice to meet people who I've only heard before - most of our teams are scattered around the world so half of a typical day is spent on teleconferences.  This has provided the opportunity to put a face to the voice.  More than that, though, we've had a chance to go out and socialize a bit.  It's nice to get to know people outside of the workplace setting.

I find I'm a very private person in these kinds of situations.  I really don't go out of my way to be too social, and I certainly don't share all that much.  Some would say that this is contrary to the "Be Out and Proud" mantra but the fact of the matter is that there are elements in my life that I like to keep private, and I choose to share mostly with those who have attained some deeper level of intimacy or trust with me.   I don't feel as though I'm "hiding" anything.  I don't think we've had political or religious discussions, either.  Talk typically ranges to work, careers, spouses, family, weather, sports, hobbies, pets, where we've lived....not all that deep.  Still, it's good to get past the exterior we all have at work.

I posted a recent selfie on Facebook recently.  I'm not sure when I shared a recent photo of myself here - hopefully, it was a while ago.  I'm of the opinion that if you routinely post more than 1 photo of yourself a month on FB there's something deeper going on but that's just me.


I sometimes look back at my old blog entries....like, back when I first started it in 2004 (link to Archive here).  I enjoy looking back on these kinds of things, and I especially enjoy the pictures.  They show an evolution, of sorts, so I don't want to lose that continuity.

Someone noted that I look pensive in the photo.  I agree.  I don't particularly like it, but I don't really dislike it either.  It's just one of the many expressions I have.

I've said in the past that one of the decisions I made when I first created my website and later, when I started the blog, was that I wanted the photos I post to be "real".  That is, I wanted to stay away from posed, edited images and ensure that if/when people who visited the blog and I ever met they'd realize that I look like myself (I think and talk like I write, too, but that's another story).  I still feel that way.

At the beginning of my transition I couldn't conceive of what "Steady State" would be like.  That's a term in my IT life used to describe a system that is no longer in development, but is now fully operational and doing what it's supposed to do and has transitioned into more of a maintenance mode.  That's what happens after gender transitions, too.  We enter our own version of "Steady State".

Steady State for me involves the day-to-day drudgery that passes for life these days.  Getting up, going to work, dealing with the weather, going to the gym...just, well, living.  We find our own "look" or "style" and we kind of get into a groove.  The neat thing looking back over the photos in these blog entries is seeing how that groove has changed over time.  I've certainly aged over these past 10 years, but I like to think I've matured and settled into myself as well.  I'd love to freeze things in time, but as someone far wiser than I said long ago, "Time waits for no one".

I remember worrying at the outside what life would be like 10, 15, 20 years down the road.  Once the energy and focus on mid-life changes dissipates, the newness of this new face and new body wear off, and the realities of living, aging, relationshipping, staying healthy, staying employed, and staying sane become part of the day-to-day lives we lead I couldn't even imagine what it'd be like.  Well, now I'm living that reality.  And I'm as relieved as glad to say that it's good.

The thing I'm most frustrated with right now is the need to spend more time in the gym.  With everything else going on that has become quite the challenge.  It's integral to both my physical and mental state, and once things calm down over the next couple of days I'll be there regularly.

Speaking of fitness.....

In a national news story on my radar, a California woman who transitioned several years ago has sued Cross-Fit (story here) for refusing to allow her to compete as a woman.  It has made international news (another link here).  I'm no lawyer, but she's going to get rich on this.  They're saying that it has nothing to do with discrimination, but actually it has everything to do with it.  This is ground that has been covered before...for example, in 2010 long-drive golfing champion Lana Lawless sued the LPGA for a similar "born as female" rule (story here).  She won.  The argument over physical advantage loses time after time, both in competition and in courtrooms.  At the end of the day - she's right.

Onwards!



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Huggers

Shortly after I woke up this morning, in between my first cup of coffee and hopping into the shower, my apartment went dark.  I mean, absolutely, totally dark.  It was still an hour and a half before sunrise and the weather can't take the blame for this one.  Maybe someone forgot to pay the electricity bill for the complex - dunno.

The good news is that my still somewhat chaotic apartment is more settled than not so my very generous supply of candles is already out and about.  More importantly, I know where I put the lighter that only gets used on these kinds of occasions.

My various candles fill the air with gentle aromas, so that even though the outage only last 15 or 20 minutes the scents remain.  It's actually very pleasant.

When the power went out I had two immediate thoughts.  (1) Thank God I already made the coffee and (2) Uh oh, what about my blow dryer.  At that hour of the morning my thinking is pretty simple.

On to other topics...

Enough already with the Jared Leno bashing.  Jeez.  Aren't there other more pressing things to complain about? I realize that most of this is misplaced anger that there aren't more parts for trans actors and actresses.  I get that.  But that's not Mr. Leto's fault.  I also realize that some may not like the character he portrays, and that's not his fault either.  He's an actor.  He acts.  Act = Pretend.  I myself pretended for the better part of 40 years.

At work I've arranged for members of my team to come to Charlotte from all over North America for a couple of days of meetings.  They are scattered around the US, Chile, Brazil, and Canada.  The resource from Brazil won't be there - Carnivale started yesterday.  I don't think it was a difficult decision - Carnivale craziness or 2 days of work meetings in chilly Charlotte?  Simple choice.

One of the guys arrived from Chile yesterday.  It was nice to finally meet him.  I expected that we'd shake hands as is pretty traditional in a workplace.  But no - apparently in Chile they're huggers.  Fine by me.  There's just not enough hugging at work these days.

After work tonight I'll drive to Charleston.  Already looking forward to being home.  :)