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.  




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Give it a Chance

I drove to Atlanta to visit with some friends at the Southern Comfort Conference a couple of weeks ago.

This conference and I have history.  The first year I attended was 2001, shortly after my transition, and from that point through 2010 I attended every year.  I've given keynotes there, I've raised sponsorship money for it, I've met a number of dear friends there (including a certain someone, in 2002) - as I say, we have history.

This year's visit was a fairly informal one.  I didn't attend any of the Conference events....I didn't even stay at the conference hotel (anyone who has been there knows what it can be like waiting for elevators).  I don't think I told many people I was going as I didn't want to disappoint anyone hoping to hang for a little while - it was a very brief trip.

The main reason - to see Dr. O.  As I've previously written here, he has now formally retired.  He has closed his office in Davies Medical Center and is no longer actively seeing patients.  I felt compelled to visit him at least one more time to consider old times.  Plus, he was using this year's conference to introduce the surgeon he is working with as a "protege" of sorts.  Oh - and he had a wine tasting of his wine....

There were a couple of headlines worth mentioning from this year's event.  The first is that HRC President Chad Griffin was the Friday lunchtime keynote speaker.  I'll have more to say about that in a subsequent entry here.

The other was the announcement that the conference will be moving away from the only home city it has ever known - Atlanta - next year.  The 2015 SCC will be held in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (story here).

There was no small amount of emotion expressed over this move.  On Sunday morning, after the conference, I was invited to two different 7:30am meetings.  One was to begin planning for the 2015 SCC in Ft. Lauderdale.  The other was to discuss the possibility of creating another conference and keeping it in Atlanta.  I understand both points of view.

The fact of the matter is that this is the right move.  Nobody asked my opinion, but it is.  Truth be told, the days of these kinds of huge conferences that depend on attendee fees and sponsorships are numbered.  We've talked about this in the past - conference attendance has been falling steadily for years.  There are lots of reasons for it, but the bottom line is that if it doesn't change itself soon there won't be any SCC to save.

The trans communities are far more complex now than they were a decade ago.  It's difficult to put together a conference that appeals to the broad spectrum without neglecting others.  One of the reasons they've lasted as long as they have is that they've done a pretty good job of it.

Ft. Lauderdale made this an easy decision, thanks to its sponsorship $$$.  Those who are angry and say they won't go simply because it's not in Atlanta should re-think once the emotion dies down.  For a community that's all about change we don't seem to handle change so well sometimes.  Anyway - time will tell how this plays out.  All I can say is - give it a chance.

For those of us for whom SCC holds lots of memories - well, we'll never lose those.  That's what SCC represents to me now - good old memories, and the opportunity to create new ones.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

85 and counting

I wrote this on 9/10

The main reason for the trip to Rochester, or at least the excuse for it, was my mom's birthday.  She turned 85 years old on August 29.

Mom and me



My mom's birthday has special significance in my world.  Part of it is that it provides the only real opportunity for our family to get together each year.  With mom living in Dallas, my brother and sister in Rochester, and me - well - wherever I happen to be, it's not something that happens by itself.  And with my mom getting older these kinds of trips get harder on her.  This was the first year she arranged for a wheel chair to meet her on the plane and take her to her connecting flight.

My mom is a rock.  She's healthy, she enjoys life, she's happy - and at the same time she seems to have come to peace with the stage of life she's in.  Her friends are passing away one by one and I suppose that once you get within striking distance of 100 that's to be expected.  But she doesn't dwell on it, and she's always planning for the future.  That's how I know she's ok.

The main way I can sense that she's aging is in her voice.  She moves slower, too, but I suspect that's to be expected.  She bought something called a HurryCane that she absolutely loves - she'll talk about it for 20 minutes if you let her.  But the one constant is that her purse still weighs a dozen pounds or more.  It's more like a small suitcase full of various aspects of her life - books, keys, who knows what else - than a purse.

My mom, the birthday girl....and her monster-purse
Another constant is that she LOVES to sew.  She brought a bunch of stuff to keep her busy over her two weeks in Rochester.  And, she loves to read.

Her birthday that was perhaps most memorable for me was her 70th, in 1999.  I had come out to her in early July at breakfast in Rochester and it would be the first time I would meet the entire family after beginning my transition.  My FFS with Dr. O was scheduled for late July so I would be 5 weeks or so post-op - but not even full-time yet.  I was slowly but surely gaining confidence living as Donna outside of work until early October when the life I had known would be gone, and the life I was about to embark on would become real.

My mom made it clear that she didn't want my transition to be the main focus of the visit and I was fine with that.  I came out to my brother in mid-August, and the first time he saw me was when he picked my up so we could go to mom's birthday dinner together.  Mom picked out a dress she wanted me to wear, and I looked nice in it.  There was no tension, no apprehension, no jitters - at least on my side (and I didn't sense any in the rest of the family).  My brother acknowledged that it was a little awkward at first, but that we'd get past it.  And we have.

Anyway - I digress.  There were 20 people at mom's birthday dinner.  It was great having everyone together.

My mom's birthday dinner gang.
And, on Saturday the event at the Rochester Sailing Club was equally wonderful.  The weather was great, there were upwards of 50 people there, and it provided an opportunity for old friends and relatives who hadn't seen one another in a long time to catch up.

The most important thing is that my mom had a good time.

My brother, my mom, and your's truly - after a long day at the Sailing club....

This was a day to remember....I doubt we'll be able to replicate it.  If lives are made of notable days...well...this was one.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Friends with the Past

I haven't posted anything for a while.  My bad.  Life has been very busy lately - in a good way.

I decided that the way I want to catch up is to write a number of posts - each on a topic or a specific aspect of events over the past couple of weeks.  That, to me, is a more effective way of saying what I want to say than to put it all in one long, rambling post.

I'll start with this one.  I wrote it on Thursday August 28 but never published it.

Thursday, August 28 

First things first - I had another very pleasant weekend.  I did some work outside work that needed to be done (it was the perfect weekend for it).  And, of course, there was the weekly motorcycle trip.  We did a 100 mile circle up one of the most scenic roads in the area (and that's saying something).  USA Today recently identified Ashley River Rd. as one of the most Scenic Roads in the South (link here).


I thought about stopping for photos a half dozen times, but I think we'll head back there in the fall to do that.  The weather was perfect for an afternoon ride, and best of all we had the roads to ourselves for a good bit of it.

We bought these Blue Tooth communication devices and tested them out yesterday - it was way cool.  Big thumbs up from both of us.

Now - current events....

I flew to Rochester NY a couple of evenings ago.  The main reason for the trip is to celebrate my mom's 85th birthday.  But my sister has done an amazing job of pulling people who are either part of the family or have intersected with the family from all over the country for a day-long event on Saturday.

One of our ex-neighbors from Buffalo NY in the early '70s is flying in from Florida.  A cousin I haven't seen since 1971 is taking the train in from Virginia.  Cousins from LA are coming.  Other cousins from NYC are coming.  A family friend from Dallas is flying in.  I'm actually looking forward to re-connecting with this group after so many years.

And, of course, as with every time I come back to Rochester I find myself wallowing in nostalgia.  This area is "home" for me more than any other.  We bought our first house here, my son was born here, my father died here, my brother and sister live here, I have lots of friends and memories....none of that has changed.  If anything, time amplifies it.

Just an example...when my book came out in 2003 I was asked to speak at the Barnes and Noble here in Pittsford.  The person who arranged everything is Penny.  I participated in a couple of other events in the years afterwards and Penny was there, too.  I stop in to see if she's still at B&N.  It seems as though she's ALWAYS there.  Well, I stopped by yesterday.  And, as usual - she was there.  So nice to see her.

I explained some of what I've done over the past couple of years.  The wrestling, working in a cold underground bunker at US Strategic Command, the motorcycle, some of the traveling.  She told me to write another book.  I told her I'm too busy doing this stuff to write about it.  :)

I stopped by the old neighborhood - as I always do.  I spent time catching up with my mom, my sister, and my nieces.  I had dinner with the daughter of our neighbors for all 15 years we lived there -she's married now and has a young son.

Dinner with JoElyn and her family.
She used to babysit for us when my son was the age that hers is now.
I stopped to look at the apartments my wife and I moved into in mid-1982 when we first moved to Rochester, before we bought our house.  I had lunch at my favorite BBQ with a good friend from the area I've known since the local paper did a story on me a dozen years ago.  I visited the Harley dealership - a friend bought me a small bell to put on my bike for good luck.  I drove around - noticing things that had changed and things that hadn't.

We drove up to Honeyoye Falls to enjoy the late summer/early fall sights that make the area so wonderful this time of year.

Honeyoye Falls
The Sunflower field on Rt. 64 is nearing full bloom

I stopped to visit the woman who helped keep me sane through the early '80s thru the mid '90s (her name is Deborah).  At the time she had a make-up studio...it has grown into a thriving Brow business (thus the name - Brow Biz).  Although we only see each other once ever couple or three years it's always nice to catch up where we left off - very comfortable and easy with her.  All in all - it's just nice to be home.

Visiting  the always wonderful Deborah at Brow Biz.
Over the course of a decade She helped my "other" self  more than I can express.



One thing that has stuck me over these past few days is how simple my life here was.  My life "before", that is.  I wasn't pulled in a hundred different directions.  Priorities seemed very simple - family first, everything else second.  I wasn't wondering where I'd be living in 6 months or a year, I wasn't involved in extra-curricular activities (other than our wedding video business), it was all very comfortable.  One of the things people sometimes ask is whether or not I would have transitioned if I hadn't moved away from the area and I really don't know - I can't hazard a guess.  The issues bubbled to the surface every few months but otherwise I had come to accept them as simply part of the tide of life - in sometimes, then out.

Regardless - life seems far more complicated these days.  I feel like I'm juggling far more than I was when I lived there - I'm not sure if it's true or not (memory can be pretty selective sometimes) but at least that's what I feel when I go back.  That's not a bad thing - but it's a noticeable thing.

I feel a very real need to visit my past sometimes.  I realize some people want to escape their pasts, or erase their pasts, but that's not me.  My past is part of who I am, and I've made friends with it, I enjoy staying in touch with it whether it's people, places, events, or memories.  All good.

I also find that when I come home to Rochester I tend to turn more introspective than usual.  I think it's due to a combination of things, but part of it is simply the comfort of the familiar, the deep connection I still have with the area, and the joy I feel being around my family.  My brother and sister (and their families) still live here, my father died here, and when my mom visits for her birthday each August it's our only opportunity to all be together.  I appreciate it while I can.

With my little niece, Kyrie.  She's the happiest person I know.
The festivities kick off tomorrow - it's my mom's actual birthday.  A group of 20 of us will be going out for dinner (she enjoys going to a Japanese place where they cook at the table), then there will be an all day party at a local sailing club on Saturday.  I hope the weather cooperates.

Onwards!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dance With the Road

It was another wonderful weekend.

The weather was amazing, wonderful, incredible....in a word, perfect.  It was sunny, highs were slightly north of 90 degrees, and you couldn't ask for a better late summer day.  The kids in South Carolina start school again today so it was a last gasp of summer for many of them.

We spent part of Saturday on the water, pulling the kids on a big inner tube.  They talked me into trying it, as well, and I'm relieved to say that I held on for dear life.  I'm still held together pretty well and far from fragile but this can be a pretty bumpy ride.

And, yesterday was all about the bike.  We decided to go for a road trip down the coast to Beaufort but at the last minute ended up diverting to Edisto Island.  Neither of us had ever been there and we thought it would be a prettier ride.  It was wonderful.

Yesterday's motorcycle adventure to Edisto Island - 160 miles RT

One of the cool things about South Carolina is that everywhere you go is (a) filled with history and (b) very photogenic.  It's easy to stop just about anywhere and there'd be pictures to take (example here).




Anyway - It was a beautiful ride on a beautiful day.

Every time I ride it just gets better and better.  As we were navigating Hwy 174 yesterday it became apparent to me that riding a motorcycle is like dancing.  When I'm traveling on a highway in the car I'm typically 5 mph or more above the speed limit at any given time.  It's all about getting there.

But on the bike, I'm typically 5 mph below the speed limit.  When the road curves you lean into it.  When it's time to slow down you downshift, or pull the clutch to slow the bike.  It's a very active interaction between rider, bike, road, other traffic, and environment that I find intoxicating.  Plus, there's a unique sense of "community" among bikers, whether it's a simple two-finger acknowledgment as you pass one another on the road or chatting at a stop somewhere.  The simple fact that you're both on a motorcycle is enough to forge a bond.

Lunch on the Edisto Island

Maybe it's because it's still all so new, but I really wish I had found this 15 or 20 years ago.  Regardless, I've found it now.  As with many aspects of my life - better late than never.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Amazed

I haven't had any "official" responsibilities outside of work in a while.  It has been nice to have most of my free time to myself.  There was a time when I had very little of it - between HRC, GLAAD, other organizations, other commitments....it was like having several full-time jobs.  I'm still enjoying having my free-time to myself.

I went to Cleveland over the weekend - up on Saturday and back on Sunday.  It's a 530  mile drive from Charlotte - across Virginia, West Virginia, and into Ohio.  Honestly, those kinds of drives are almost "casual" - anything I can do in 8 hours or less really isn't much of a trip.  The drive was uneventful, the scenery was nice, I'm in good spirits - all things considered it was very pleasant.

The reason I went was to accept an Award for being inducted into the Gay Games Hall of Merit at a pre-opening-ceremony reception.  Everything went smoothly, and I had a good time.  It was nice to see some of the wrestlers from San Francisco who I first met when I attended a Memorial Day Camp/Tournament there in 2006.

Golden Gate Wrestling Club - May 2006
Both of the guys next to me in this photo were in Cleveland.  So was the only other girl in the photo.  I didn't stay to compete (for a number of reasons), but it was nice to reconnect with everyone.

I made a bunch of travel arrangements last week.  I'll be flying home to Rochester for Mom's Birthday Aug 26-31, I'll be in Atlanta at SCC the following weekend, I'll be in Washington DC for an event at the end of the month, and I'm flying to Denver to see my son and attend a Buffalo Bills game there in early December.  I also expect to be doing a trip to Epcot next month, and would love to get to Annapolis for the Boat Show in October.  We'll see how it goes.

The news on everyone's mind at the moment is the tragic suicide of Robin Williams.  Topics for discussion on FB these days seem confined to suicide or death, and although sadness seems to be a consistent theme thoughts on those two subjects - death and suicide - seem mixed.

I think about death more these days.  As I get older and see more and more people who die at an age at or near mine it becomes more of a reality.  I've said before and I very much believe that a significant portion of life involves preparing for death.  Whether it be accepting tenets of one's faith as they relate to death and beyond, recognition that life is finite so making the most of our time here, or any number of other very profound realities - it's something we'll all face sooner or later.

My mom's 85th birthday looms on the horizon - at the end of the month, to be specific.  We'll all be gathering in Rochester, NY.  This year will involve a bigger than usual celebration.  We've got relatives, friends and neighbors that we haven't seen for 30 or more years coming.  My sister has arranged a get-together at the local sailing club on Saturday.  I'm actually very much looking forward to it.  But there's very much a recognition that we need to enjoy these times while we can.

As life goes on I feel more and more pressure to do some of the things at the top of my bucket list.  The item at the top of that list is to visit Europe.  I've never been there.

Anyway - I don't mean to make this morose so I'll change topics....

As anyone who has been here for very long knows I mark significant annual dates as landmarks.  Perhaps no date is more significant than the day I had SRS - August 10, 2000.  That anniversary recently passed with little or no fanfare.  It's very much a non-thing these days.

Ironically, when I think of that week I think of three things.  I think of the unpleasant "prep" the night before.  I think of my mom and sister being there.  And, I think of what it was like to finally get out of bed to take a shower after the bandages had been removed.  It was gone.  Finally.  Although many years have passed the amazement I felt at that moment has never faded.  It still amazes me.