Sunday, September 29, 2013

A few of my favorite things....

From the moment I landed in Charlotte a little over 24 hours ago I've been like a kid in a candy store.  I've been doing all my favorite things.

I landed at 7, and rented a nice car with only miles on it 911 miles on it.   I almost didn't take the car because it could be a bad omen......Whether it's 9/11 the date of 911 the emergency phone number it just seemed to tempt fate.  I decided to tempt her.

There are a number of stores in Charlotte - relatively near the airport - that I enjoy.  Specifically: DSW Shoe Warehouse, Nordstrom Rack, and REI.  So, I decided to take some time to visit each one and take my time this's more about the journey than the destination for once.

I made it to all 3 stores.  It was wonderful.  I especially enjoyed REI....there's just something about outdoor people that I miss....people who are passionate about things like backpacks, and tents, and trekking poles.  Those are my kind of people.  Genuine.  Excited about the outdoors.  Generally

Today I visited (in no particular order) my friends at the gun store/range, the marina (boat people are cool, too), the scuba shop (same for scuba people), my favorite little wine and cheese store (love 'em like family), I visited the Apple Store (to see one of the new iMacs), I visited Victoria's Secret (to use a 20% off coupon on the nicest sports bra I've ever seen), and I just strolled downtown for a couple of hours.  I had an amazing steak dinner at my favorite local steakhouse.  I ran a few errands, and and I enjoyed the simple fact of being here.

Tomorrow I've got some yard work to do.  I'm going to go for a walk along the ocean.  I may go to a barre class depending on how the morning goes.  I had hoped to go scuba diving in the afternoon, but that's on hold for a month or so.  I'm meeting some friends for dinner.

Monday morning I'll pack up, I've got my bi-annual melanoma skin-check, then I'm off to CLT to return the 911 car (now no longer a 911 car) and fly back to my "other" world.  It's waiting for me - a time-zone away.

Good days.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Days....

These are the days....

I've enjoyed "the days" before.  I think the important thing is to (a) recognize 'em when you see 'em and (b) appreciate them before they're gone.

Simple things.  I sit down on the grass and the dogs want to lick my face so badly they won't be denied.  It makes me laugh out loud.  I took them for their last walk tonight - beautiful evening, pup chased a bunny in the dark but came bounding back because she didn't want to lose sight of me for too long.

Spending time with my son was energizing more than I realized.

There's a weekly thing at work called "Major Project Reviews" - I sit through it each week.  It can get pretty brutal depending on how well prepared and how consistent the PM presenting that week can be.  Tomorrow is finally my turn.  I'm as ready as I can be....we'll see how it goes.

Resilient.  There's a spider living in the bed of my truck.  He's been there for weeks.  Every night he creates a big, intricate web back there.  I marvel at it as I head off to work.  And every morning, by the time I drive the 3 miles from door-to-door it's destroyed.

I've got to give this little guy credit.  He doesn't give up.  I expected that he'd be gone after my long drive to Denver this weekend, but he's still there.  Rock on, little dude.

This weekend I'm headed to Charleston, so that's energizing as well.  I've got lots to do while I'm there, including my bi-annual check-up to ensure that the melanoma hasn't returned, but the weather is supposed to be good and I'm planning to balance the work with the pleasure.

In other news, the California teen who was recently voted Homecoming Queen has had to deal with the difficult part of becoming visible - hatred (story here).  Poor thing.  Sadly, it comes with the territory...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Good Vibrations

The theme of this particular missive is that I really like the area around Boulder.  I had a wonderful day here - almost perfect, in fact.  The thing I'm most surprised about is that it just "feels" so good.  

The damage from last week's storms is still evident everywhere.  But it's not as though it brought the entire area to a standstill.  There was amazing damage all around my son's house south of town, but his house never even lost power.  The storage facility across the street, tho...well...not as lucky.

My son lives in a house that's part of a little "compound" that reminds me of something out of the 60's. From the way he explained it the property was owned by someone who owned/managed a mine here a long time ago and there are other buildings where he lived, for the mine workers, and storage.

We walked along the park path behind the his house that had been flooded the week before.  It was pretty crazy.  I put some photos on FB about it.

My son is sharing the first floor of a house with another guy.  Someone else has the upstairs.  Someone is living in one of the other buildings on the property.  One guy is living in a camper/trailer.  The one I found most intriguing is inhabited by someone aptly referred to as "School Bus Chuck".  And yes - he lives in a school bus parked on the property.  Anyway - everyone I met was cool, the area is beautiful, and I'm glad to be here.

I did have a couple of interesting experiences/observations.

My son and I were driving and I noticed that we were passing an REI.  I love, love, love REI.  Unfortunately, there isn't one within 200 miles or more of me back in Nebraska.  There are none in Nebraska, or Iowa.  The closest, I think, is in Kansas City.

Anyway...what I needed most was a pair of boots "just in case" I'm around for the winter.  I'm fairly particular about my boots, and as luck would have it there was a pair just my size on the Clearance rack (last year's model - but fine by me).  They're mine now.

Second - I stopped at Costco.  It's amazing how different the stuff here is from the stuff I'd find in Charleston, or Scottsdale.  There was winter stuff I've never seen in a Costco.  Helmets and goggles for snow boarding.  Lots of jackets and warm clothes.  Even the Christmas stuff is out.  I had a blast there, but controlled myself.

Change of Topic...

Zoey Sloane wrote an interesting article on FaceBook posing the question "Do Trans Conferences Do More Harm Than Good?" (link here)  I think it's a question many of us ask as we see the double-edged sword for ourselves.  But the fact of the matter is that trans conferences don't just have to pay and make the effort to attend (I'm told that ~550 people registered for SCC this year).  I never attended one during my transition - it was only afterwards that I attended my first conference.  I've thought for a long time that's probably a good thing, as I don't know that I would have been ready for everything that happens at these things.

Obviously, there is no one right answer, and each conference is different.  One of my dearest friends who hasn't been to a conference in probably ten years showed up at SCC - she had just gotten tired of them as she had moved on in life.  But one of the true conundrums is that these conferences try to offer something for all the various elements in our community and in the process the question is whether they will, or can, succeed in pleasing anyone.

I've seen all kinds of people say all kinds of things about conferences.  I outgrew them.  I don't need them anymore.  They're not my thing.  Etc etc etc.  All are equally valid.  My experiences have been positive ones, but I limit myself to one a year.

I have nothing bad to say about conferences - you make of them what you will.  I've met some of my best friends there, at key points in their journeys.  That continued this year as I met a couple of people I've come to know via Facebook and through email and I hope/expect those friendships to continue.  When I do go I rarely attend any of the programming - I have too much time visiting with friends from around the country.  This year - Chloe, Lana, Maria and Steph, Mel, Sophie, I met up for dinner with my friend from CNN, as I mentioned my friend Sally made a surprise appearance, it was great to catch up with Kristin, Dr. O and Dr. Meltzer...the list is a long one.  I went to the mall.  I even tried to take nap.

BUT - and this is a big BUT - I don't know that immersing yourself into the trans world for any extended period of time is generally healthy in any context.  In my day to day life talking about trans stuff, and general trans "energy", is a rarity.  There's good balance, and dosages are relatively small.  But at these conferences, some element of it becomes the subject of most if not all conversations/interactions/events.  It can be exhausting.  On Saturday at SCC I was tired all day - I just was - and that's what I attribute it to.  I believe in energy transfer between people who have some to share and those who need some (or take some) and that happens like crazy at these events.

I approach conferences the same way I approach Las Vegas.  I have a blast when I'm there because I shape it to fit my own needs, but after two or three days it's time to go home.  I need to get back to my life.

I think the most important thing, though, is that I've got what I feel is a generally positive life to get back to.  I've got a job.  My career is going well.  I'm close with my family.  I get to do cool stuff from time to time.  I'm past the emotional turmoil of it all.  I think it could be pretty depressing otherwise.  So, I can see both sides.

It's 6:30am as I write this and I'm up early.  Time to shower, pack, and get the day going.  I'm meeting a friend for coffee before heading over to see my son for a few hours.  It's an 8 hour drive and I'd like to get home, unpacked, and relax a bit before going to bed so I want to get on the road by early afternoon.

Oh - one more thing - tickets for John Mayer just went on sale and I got one.  He's an artist I've been following for a long time and have been wanting to see.  He's not touring for a couple of months yet, but I'm already looking forward to it.

Back to today.  As I said at the outset, I'm having a wonderful visit.  I wish it could be longer, but I'm willing to settle for the short time I've got here.  I'm happy to be back with my son - it reminds me of how much I miss him.  That alone makes it well worth the trip.  Good Vibrations here...all 'round.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I Didn't Do It

I feel no need to be first in anything.  I've been first's over-rated.

I'm not in any hurry to upgrade my Apple mobile devices to iOS 7.  People at work were discussing today - they did it.  I chatted with some friends yesterday.  They did it too.  I didn't do it.  I'm in no hurry.

I'm in Boulder, CO this morning on my next adventure.  I drove the 550 miles here yesterday after work and will head back tomorrow afternoon.  I haven't seen my son since February and past attempts have been derailed for one reason or another so I'm looking forward to seeing him.  Per my last post - enjoy the things in your life while you can.  Let them know they matter.  Or, let them go to make room to  embrace things that do.   My son is at the top of that list.

Last weekend there were horrendous floods here.  This weekend is just beautiful - bright blue sky this morning, crisp sunny first-day-of-fall kind of weather.  The hotel is full, mostly with people who have either been displaced by the floods or work crews from around the country that are here to clean it up.

One of the things about driving - it provides ample time to think.  I think about lots of things....perhaps sometimes I overthink them but that's ok.  I recognize road-thinking is not always logical thinking.

I've realized that I'm feeling conflicted about some of the things in my world.  My job is one....

I'm enjoying my job - I really am.  Although I don't broadcast what I do here because of the nature of it - those who know more understand why - but I came all the way from Charleston specifically to do it and it hasn't disappointed.  It's way cool.  I'm enjoying the people I work with.  I have no complaints at all about where I'm living.  All things considered, the conundrum of that might not be apparent.

BUT (it's always about the but...) I'm not looking forward to winter more than I can express.  And I miss being home - my friends, the ocean, the Low Country in general.  Giving this all up to go back to Charleston at some point will be a more difficult conundrum than I thought when I first started.  But life is sometimes full of conundrums.  Over the course of a lifetime it's how you deal with them that determines life path...

But I'll cross that bridge if and when I get there.  So far so good in all ways that matter.

The headlights of my life don't really shine that far.  Typically, they're only a couple of weeks into the future.  And even then - things happen.  Well - plans are made, and plans get broken.  We shall see.

In an intriguing development I'm not willing to explain in more detail, I am opening myself to some possibilities I've been closed to in the past.  Although I'm not sure where that will lead, it's part of that headlight thing.  I guess I'll see when I reach that point....

Several friends were deeply affected by the passing of Lisa Empanada.  It was tragic, but as one friend noted...she had mourned and now it's time to move on.  I find several elements of her passing important for all of us.  First - you can't tell from outward indications how deep demons go sometimes.  Lisa seemed to have it all, and she was a friend, a sister, and an inspiration to many.  Yet - the way she died wasn't a spur-of-the moment decision.  It required planning, and time to execute.  I'm not saying that anyone or anything could have saved her from herself.  What I'm saying is that we need to be extra vigilant with one another to see signs.

A second point - Lisa was in a position of significant visibility.  With great power comes great responsibility.  I think that's why this has created such significant shock-waves - because it scares people that if it could happen to her it can happen to them.  There is additional pressure with that kind of visibility, tho.  One time Jenny Boylan asked me who Elvis turns to when he's depressed or in need of help or advice, and I don't have that answer.  As I think more about it, I don't know that I've got any one person in my life who I'd rely on in my darkest hours...not sure if that's a good thing or not but it just is (good thing I don't have many dark hours lately).  Perhaps some of my thinking is along the needs of needing to find a person (or persons) to fill that void.  Not sure....

And lastly, it can't be over-emphasized how difficult a life being trans can be.  I saw a story on the morning news here about a high school girl in California who became homecoming queen (story here).  The reason it's newsworthy, specifically, is that she's trans.  The importance of those kinds of social advances is huge, but when the lights fade and it's time to get a job, and pay bills, and deal with bigotry and prejudice, and find intimacy - well - much of the excitement of the moment can fade.  It would be inappropriate to assume that everything "bad" that happens in our lives is somehow due to our trans nature.  But I don't think it can be under-emphasized either.  All I can do is hope that the changes in the world that made it possible for her to do this wonderful thing will continue to open doors for her to live a happy, fulfilling life.

I felt a long time ago that part of the Day of Remembrance should include recognition of those in our community who lost their lives in ways other than to brutality or violence.  There's a conflict there, though, as glorifying the Final Exit somehow makes it more appealing, or valid, as an option to some.  Regardless, over the course of the last decade I can name a dozen or more people I've known who aren't here anymore and I suspect that number will continue to grow for as long as I'm around.  That's why it has been so important to be active - because in order for that to change life has got to get better from a young age.

Anyway - that's pretty heavy stuff for a beautiful Saturday morning in Colorado so I'm going to head off to have breakfast with my son.  The best any of us can do is to live our lives, to pursue our passions, to enjoy what we have while we can, and to realize that change is always on the horizon.  The rest? happens.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Your Last Tomorrow.

It has been a while since my last post.  Life goes on sometimes...

And....sometimes not.

I am saddened to hear that a friend to many of us, Lisa Empanada, left this world and became another star shining bright in the sky earlier this week.   Many are looking left looking for reasons, signs, or other indications that this might have been prevented.  There are some things that cannot be undone - that are final.  This is one of those things.

I only knew Lisa through brief introductions.  She was at SCC a couple of weekends ago, and nobody there seems to have been aware of anything the might indicate that this could be on the horizon.  But in a culture where the weight of life pushes nearly half of self-identified trans people attempt suicide - sometimes we succeed.   Our demons can get the best of us, and it only takes one time for that to happen to snuff out a beautiful, rich, bright flame.

Her friends and family are left with the difficult task of coming to terms with grief, confusion, sadness, anger, and a whole set of strong emotions.  I've seen people wondering how they could possibly succeed if Lisa couldn't.  I've seen people asking if they could have done something more.

The real answer is something we all know and sometimes makes itself deadly obvious - being trans is a difficult life no matter how you slice it.  That's true for ALL of included.  Sometimes life can get difficult and the options seem so limited.  In the dark of the night despair, loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness can come out to make unfortunate things happen.  I've been there, and frankly I suspect I'll be there again just as I know most of my dear friends have been there too.  It's surviving those times that dictate whether or not you've reached your last tomorrow or not.  

Lisa didn't survive, and although she's gone she will live on in the many people whose lives she touched, through dear friends who will never forget her, and through a bright smile dimmed too early.  For anyone who has faith that spirits move to a better place after life here on earth, there is little consolation knowing that she's there now.

The rest of us are left to deal with our life realities.  All we can do is help one another get through those times, and mourn one another when we can't.  Most of all - actively appreciate the people in your life while you can. You don't realize what you've got til it's gone. 

Soar high, Lisa.  Shine down on the earth.  And thank you for being who you were during your all-too-brief time here......

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The last ten days...

There has been a bit of a lapse since my last addition here.  Life doesn't always lend itself to opportunities to slow down. Thankfully - things ARE slowing down.  So, here's the Cliff's Notes version of the last couple of weeks.

The long road trip last weekend was busy but uneventful.  That sounds a bit odd to say, but the reality is that 2200 miles of driving combined with some quality time with family doesn't leave much space for "extra" stuff.  The weather was fair, the roads were good, the traffic was manageable, and I was feeling good so the miles and the hours slowly ticked away without too much drama.

It was wonderful to see the whole family.  We don't get many opportunities to all be in the same place at the same time which was one of the main reasons to do this in the first place.  My niece hosted a wonderful Sunday brunch for everyone before I hit the road at noon on Sunday...

The Dinosaur BBQ
I call this one " Sunrise over LaQuinta
Interesting skies ahead...
Across the Mississippi River - getting back into Iowa..

Sometimes it takes a couple of days to recover from these kinds of drives but the main difference this time is that I didn't do any 900 or 1000 mile days.  The longest single day was around 650 miles which is relatively tame by my usual standards.  Thankfully, recovery last week was easy since I only had 2 days of down time before heading to Atlanta for SCC.

I started going to SCC in 2002 - a couple of years after SRS for me.  I attended all or part of the next 8 in a row.  Sometimes there was overlap between that and other obligations but I always found a way to get there.  The main reason to get back was that it provided a singular annual opportunity to meet up with friends, and to make new ones.

I've missed the last couple of them for a number of reasons.  But I've been looking forward to going back - mostly for the same reasons I've always looked forward to it.  Now - as I sit in a plane somewhere over Oklahoma - I'm really glad I went.

One highlight was that a dear, dear, dear friend who I rarely see (for a variety of reasons) suddenly and unexpectedly showed up on Friday.  It was soooo wonderful to see her.  Another was the opportunity to catch up with good, much-loved friends from around the country who were there.  And, of course, there was the opportunity to finally meet some people I've gotten to know through FB and other avenues in person for the first person.  I saw what I hope to be enduring friendships take root.  All things considered - it was nice to be back.

Me and Sally
Tarah and Me
Me, Sally, Tarah
Me, Steph, Maria, Mel

I very much behaved myself. No over-eating.  Not all that much drinking.  Very little to excess.  Not enough sleep or exersize but that comes with the erritory, I suppose.  I'll admit that by mid-day yesterday I was running low on energy and I kept trying to get to my room to take a nap but that never happened.  By dinner time I'd gotten my second wind which was good.  But as each day passed I got back to my room earlier and earlier...1:30am Thursday after I arrived, 12:30 Friday, and 11:30pm last night.  This morning was the first morning I haven't had to set my alarm clock in weeks so waking up on my own was a nice pleasure.

Sunday morning at SCC is a unique time.  As everyone comes to the lobby in various levels of stupor to head back across the country to wherever home is there are good-bye's, and it can be a sad time.  I found this morning to be uplifting, and I'm glad I went.  Who knows when/if I'll have a chance to get back?  
Nobody on Marta this morning...
In a nutshell - that has been my last week and a half.  This was the third traveling long weekend in a row, but now things should calm down.  I expect to be home (not in Charleston - my "other" home) for at least the next couple of weeks so I've got a chance to stabilize a bit before the next road stint hits...