Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stop This Train

I've felt pretty crummy for most of the week.  I don't know if it was the diving, the crazy schedule, the airplane, or what.  But my lungs got full of yucky, phlegmy stuff and I just felt bad.  As I've mentioned in the past, I don't own a thermometer and don't think I had a fever.  But that doesn't change the fact that something is still draggin' me down.

Yesterday was the best day since Monday.  I went to see John Mayer in Lincoln Friday night.  Lincoln is about 60 miles from here.  He's one of the people I've wanted to see for quite a while and he didn't disappoint.  If anything, the disappointment comes from the fact that I like so many of his songs that he didn't play a half dozen or more that I would have loved to have seen.  I suppose the secret of performing is to leave people wanting more.  Well, he succeeded.

I've got a ticket to see him in Charleston next month, too.  :)

Winter has arrived in Nebraska.  An arctic blast caused temperatures to drop from 50+ degrees on Wednesday to the 20's on Thursday to single-digits these last two mornings.  Rain turned to sleet turned to blowing snow.  Thankfully, there was only a couple of inches of it but there's no mistaking it....winter is here.  I've been staying warm - I HATE being cold.

My schedule gets as crazed again over the next several weeks.  On Wednesday I'll be hitting the roads (along with 45 million other drivers) to spend Thanksgiving with mom (~650 miles).  I'll head back later Saturday or Sunday.   I'm praying for good driving weather (both ways) and sane roads.  

The following weekend I'm scheduled to be in Phoenix.  I haven't been there since early May and have been missing dear friends there.

The weekend after that I'd like to go to Boulder see my son - his 28th birthday is coming just before Christmas.

Over Christmas I'd like to be back in Charleston.  In mid-January I'm scheduled to take a training in Phoenix.  And on and on it goes...

That said - things rarely go as planned in my world, so I reserve the right to change any and all of this should situations warrant.  I implied a few posts ago that change might be in the air.  That's still true.  Did I mention - I don't like being cold?!

One of my pups has given indications that he's got something funky going on in one or both of his ears.  I took him to the vet yesterday....turns out he's got a yeast infection in both ears.  He's on the road to recovery....

Lots to be Thankful for this week.  I take it very's easy to forget as the speed of life increases.

I'll end this with a clip that someone posted online from the John Mayer concert in Lincoln Friday night.  As one point his band went offstage and he sang a couple of acoustic songs.  One of them was "Stop this Train".

Stop this train.
I want to get off and go home again.
I can't take the speed it's moving in
I know I can
But honestly, won't someone stop this train....


Monday, November 18, 2013


I'm sitting in the Atlanta airport at the moment - halfway thru my return trip back to Omaha after my long Scuba-Diving weekend.  I wanted to document some thoughts while they're still fresh in my mind.

When I was 12 or 13 years old I wanted to Scuba Dive.  I started taking lessons to get my certification, but shortly before the certification dives I found that when I dove to the bottom of the deep end of the pool there was a very sharp pain in one of my teeth.  It turns out that it's something called "tooth squeeze", caused by a bubble of air under a filling that reacts to the extra pressure that comes with deeper depths.

I put that dream on hold.

Fast forward to earlier this year.  I decided that it was time to dust off that dream and try again.  A certain someone and I took the course and traveled to Florida with the local Scuba shop and obtained our Open Water certification.  It was a big deal.

Well - the way I look at it getting Open Water Certification is getting permission to get your feet wet, but for those wanting to do and learn more it requires additional learning and experience.  The next level of certification, Advanced Open Water, allows a diver to descend to more than double the depth of Open Water and includes specialties such as wreck diving, underwater photography, underwater navigation, and other areas of interest to people looking to get more involved in the sport.

So - the opportunity to get to that point presented itself.  Although there were a number of reasons - logistical, financial, and "other" - that it might not be a good idea the fact of the matter is that this dream had been on the shelf for too long to wait.

That's what this past weekend was all about.  I had done all the class work.  I had gotten as far in the process as you can get without going into the water.  This weekend was about getting into the water and "doing".  It was wonderful.

I learned as much of more about diving over these last three days than I have in the entire rest of my lifetime.  Equipment, knowledge, experience, camaraderie....I could talk for an hour about it all.  And the funny thing is that none of it happened as planned.

It was supposed to be pretty simple.  The Charleston Scuba school had arranged for two days of a scuba charter out of Pompano Beach, FL so the two days were scheduled to be cull of 6 dives.  There were 10 of us in the group - a small family whose son was being Open Water certified, a gentleman who flew in from New York just because he wanted to go scuba diving and this fit his schedule, a couple of guys who seemed to be pretty experienced divers, a couple of Dive Master candidates, the owner of the store, and me.

Since I was the only one pursuing Advanced Open Water I got lots of one on one time.  It was great.

The two major elements for me included a night dive (including underwater navigation), and a deep dive (greater than the 60 feet max for Open Water).

Well - Saturday morning the weather in Pompano was dangerous for diving.  8-10 foot white cap waves, a Rip-Current alert, and there was no indication when things would get better.  Within an hour we had re-planned the trip at spots that allowed each of us to do what we had come to do and, frankly, probably provided a better experience all around.

There are too many highlights to mention. One was diving in a current, watching the long see grasses slowly wave back and forth almost as though pushed by gentle winds.  When you look up at the surface it's amazing to see that they're reflected downwards the same way that things above the watewr are reflected upwards.  It was very peaceful...very calming and relaxing.

For yesterday's deep dive Sally and I were the only two divers.  We went to the bottom of a deep spring - ~80 feet down.  She put an empty plastic water bottle into one of the pockets of my BCD and we looked at it at the had been absolutely crushed from the pressure.  Going down, down, down was surreal.....thankfully I had no problem equalizing the pressure in my sinuses.  This time there was no problem with the teeth.  There was only calm.

At the bottom of the spring there was a deep fissure and water was rushing in causing quite the current.  We went down to it and watched it for a was fascinating.  And when we finished - there were hugs and high fives all was the last thing left to do for my Advanced Open Water cert.

I find diving to be everything I enjoy.  It forces you to face fears to the point where there is relaxation and calm.  It opens a whole new world that many never get to see in person.  It is focused on having a "buddy" and is very much about community - everyone I've met doing this has been friggin' awesome.  In short, I think the dream was waiting to be realized.

I've met many people who have been certified over the years but life eventually steered them away from diving.  I won't be one of those people.  I feel like a kid with a new toy and am actually disappointed that I won't be able to do this again for a few months.  But make no mistake - the passion will not dim.

Another highlight.....

Back when I first met my electrologist, Maria, she told me about one of the trans-women she had been working on who had gone on a trip with her, her mother and family, and a group of others.  She said that nobody on the trip had any clue that this woman was trans.  The thought of fitting in and not setting off signals was absolutely incomprehensible to me.

As I headed to the airport today I found that it was the first time I actually "thought" about my unique background over the whole trip.  I was busy being one of the gang, Sally's roommate, just another diver with a passion for the water.  I couldn't help but think back to that story the Maria shared all these years ago.  And in doing so - I was reminded of another dream that has come true....the ability to simply "be".

Anyway - I need to go catch my flight.  Just wanted to capture some of this stuff while it's on my mind.  The thing I'm looking forward to most right now is getting back and seeing the pups.  I've missed them.  :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veteran's Day

I talked a little about the pups yesterday.  Another aspect of their world is that they're on a schedule.  That's why today is a Holiday so there's no reason at all to be awake before 6am but we've already gone for our usual walk and they have eaten.  I could go back to bed now...still might.....but enjoying my cup of Pete's morning magical coffee too much at the moment.

I talked a little about my sense that change is about to happen in my world.  One thing I'll say is that I don't envision myself lasting the winter here, but at the same time unless something surprising happens I don't see myself back in Charleston either.  Wherever I end up, tho, will become home base for me for the foreseeable future as I'm tired of moving, of having my various worlds scattered around the country, and of not having the roots I've talked about for the past few years.

Right now the temperature outside is 40 degrees and skies are clear.  An arctic cold front is supposed to blow through later today causing temperatures to plunge....the temperature at this time tomorrow is forecast to be anywhere between 10-15 degrees.  There is a possibility of the first flurries of the year later today.  Not liking this....

I may have shared this in the past, but I work in a military facility.  I'm surrounded by 50 IT engineers, (99% men, by the way) most of whom are ex- military because it takes a certain level of security clearance and knowledge of how the DoD works to do what I do.  The reason that's pertinent today is that today is Veteran's Day so for the people here it's more than just a day off.  Places that have large bases nearby find that the military presence is embedded into the culture of the area.  That's true here so Veteran's Day is truly a time to appreciate those who serve.

Here - it's personal.  It's families who are separated, it's people who are away from those they love, it's worry about the dangers - it's real.  It's not just a day off.  There was a moment at the Colts/Rams game yesterday that actually brought tears to my eyes (story here).

To see that wife and those oh man.

Many of these people serve for 20 years before retiring, yet they're younger than I am.  The typical path is to enlist after high school and to retire in their early 40's.  It feels odd to work with people who have already "retired" from a career but it's true.  For some, though, the military becomes a way of life so now they're back as civilian contractors.  They've been stationed in places around the world and somehow end up here.

I live close enough to the base to hear Revely play over the loudspeakers at 7am each morning, and the plaintive notes of taps each night at 10.  I live in the flight path of planes that come and go all day and all night, and sometimes even go out back to see what's flying overhead when the roar is particularly loud.  That's not a complain at all.  In fact, it's pretty cool.  I have a very cool existence here.

In one of my recent posts I broached the topic of "selective disclosure".  The only visible indicator about my unique history that I've got at work is that I use an HRC mouse pad at my desk.  Why?  Because it's just not important there.  Some of the people I work with have subtly shared indicators that they're aware - some have seen videos of my wrestling, another asked how I got my book published.....but it hasn't affected anything at all.  It's a non-issue.

There was a time when I had a picture of Elizabeth at my desk which invited questions or discussion.  Others I work with have pictures of their family so it's not out of the ordinary.  Regardless of specifics, all are aware of my liberal political and social views and it's probably no surprise that I'm a distinct minority there in that regard.  Still, the minute anyone disparages same-sex marriage or other things I'm passionate about I'll speak up 10 times out of 10.  They know that, and in fact I'd go so far as to say that they respect it.

I took the dogs to the doggie park and one of the engineers was there with 3 big, beautiful German Shepards.  I grew up around German Shepards for most of my life, and getting Maggie (an Australian Shepard) was my effort to downsize.  I think Cody is part Shepard.  But, of any breed, the one that I still find amazing is German Shepards.  He rescued these 3 - one of them had been thrown out of a moving car!  I would have taken one of them in a second.  They're amazing, graceful, intelligent, animals.

Later in the day a Colonel that has become a friend invited me to go shooting with him.  He's got quite the impressive collections of firearms, and my own highlight of the day was shooting his M4 Carbine.  I do well on a gun range, but I've never had what I'd call "formal" training.  Until yesterday.  It'd be a horrible pun to say I had a "blast" but I did.  And I had almost as much fun last night - eating pizza, watching football, and cleaning the guns.  It was just a fun day....

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I've Got a Feeling

One of my FB friends recently had FFS and is recovering.  She is writing about her struggle to reconcile her "old" self with her "new" self.  I find is fascinating that we use these significant milestones in our lives to try to put what seem like rational boundaries around portions of our lives.  I suspect she'll come to realize that she's already got dozens, if not hundreds, of "old" selves and equally as many new ones.  It is the progression, and the overlap, of these selves that define a lifetime.

I suppose there is a natural tendency to logically minimize the number of "selves" we become over a lifetime.  It provides some semblance of continuity, or stability I suppose.  I realize I'm not the same person now as I was a year ago, or five years ago, or a dozen years ago.  There aren't any specific anchors to define starting and ending points, but that doesn't make it any less true.

I don't try to fight the natural progression of change.  It's going to happen whether I/we like it or not.

I've got a feeling things are about to change in my own life.  I can feel it.  There is about to be a disruption in the force.  I can't explain specifics yet, as I honestly don't know what's going to happen.  Gears are shifting.  Winds are changing direction.  But there's change, and there's CHANGE.  The fact that I'm feeling it as acutely as I am implies to me it's closer to the second kind than the first.  Some of it I will bring about, and some of it will happen external to me but affects me.

I can feel myself mentally and spiritually getting ready for it.

In the meantime, life has been relatively quiet for me lately....

I've written and posted photos of my pups here before.  They are my "family" here...we eat together, sleep together, and their unconditional love each and every time I walk thru the door is truly something to come home for.

They're no small responsibility, and they require significant effort and $$$ to take care of, but.....well....they're family.  That's just what you do.

They have established a unique dynamic between themselves.  A sense of doggie "politics", if you will, of attention, guarding perceived territory, and other things.  Maggie is the "smart" one, although the fact that she happily munches on the little turds in the lawn left by the many rabbits in the area makes me wonder sometimes.  Oh well.  It doesn't seem to make her sick.

She doesn't have a tail.  When she's happy she wags her entire but, and watching it sometimes can still make me laugh out loud.  Codie, on the other hand, has a tail that curls up and around and is a barometer of how he's feeling.  When it's up and curly - very happy.  When down and straight, he's a little concerned.  He's the sensitive one...

Their life here is fairly uneventful.  Most days are the same for the....Codie sleeps in my bed, but when Maggie hears me moving he hops up.  We go out for a bit of a walk so they can do their business.  I take a shower while they eat.  I get dressed and ready to go - goal is to be out the door by 7.  We go for a bit of a walk just before I leave.  They do whatever they do all morning long.  I come home at lunch if I can for an hour.  Then they do whatever the do all afternoon long.

When I get home we go to a trail where they can run and there are no people.  Here are a couple of photos looking forward and backward along our usual stroll....

Usually it's dark by the time I get out of work, but it's still pretty.  Then dinner, then....well...then it's my time.

It's not heaven, but it's not horrible.  They seem happy, they're healthy, I'm still enjoying my job, and we're doing ok.  All things could be lots worse.

When I drove back from Charleston several weeks ago I brought a number of things I've wanted back with me.  One of those things is my guitar.  It's here in my apartment and I pick it up at least a couple of times every day.  I'm trying to build up some calluses on my fingertips so I can only play for 20 minutes or a half hour at a time.  Current songs I'm learning to play are "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd, and "Night Moves" by Bob Seger.  I'm enjoying being able to play, and I'm glad to have it with me.

I also brought back my blood pressure gauge.  My blood pressure was a bit high a few years ago after during and after a difficult time and I always assigned the blame to the stress of the time.  Eventually, after it didn't go down, my doctor suggested that we do a low dose of something to lower it and I reluctantly agreed.  It was under control for a while, and I weaned myself off the meds to see if it would stay down without them - I don't like meds.   My mom takes her blood pressure a couple of times every day and although I'm not that crazed about it I do have a blood pressure cuff so I've started doing that, too.  I just took it a few minutes ago and it's pretty low - 106/65 with pulse of 65.  Sunday morning is a pretty chill time for me, so I'm good with it all.

Change.  It's in that context that the big news of the day is that ENDA passed in the Senate this past week.  Some would say it's purely symbolic since it has little likelihood of passing in the House.  I do not share that view.  This was a big deal.  I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that we become de-sensitized to how monumental it is when federal legislation containing trans specific language gets passed in that kind of forum.  The reason that gender identity was pulled from the Bill in 2007 is because it was deemed unlikely to pass with it by the bill sponsor.  It had no chance of passing then, either, - regardless of whether we were on it or not - but the fact that we got chopped from it was a big deal.  Ergo - this is a big deal.

One article in particular is interesting (read it here).  I remember back almost a decade ago, in 2004, when a group of trans leaders was invited to speak to the HRC Board about inclusion in ENDA (story here).  I believe that group of people in that room having that conversation changed hearts and minds that day.  It was simply another step on a path that started long before that day and will continue beyond our lifetimes.  SO - the passage of a trans-inclusive ENDA in the Senate IS IS IS IS IS a big deal.  

We all realize that it's only a matter of time before it passes.  Maybe not this year, or next year, or the year after.  But as trans people get more and more engrained into our culture it just becomes less of a big deal.  We're not going away and it's not going to happen all by itself.  But at some point the phrase "Liberty and Justice for all" will mean a lot more to some of us than it does today.