Saturday, August 31, 2013

3 months ago today ... ...

"As long as you're happy and Pam's happy, then who else matters?"

The story of today (August 31, 2013 ... The three month anniversary of starting HRT) began last night.  Pam, Sedona and I had all had long days ... it was hot and humid and none of us wanted to go to bed because of the sticky weather.  We were planning on sleeping in today ... when it would be even more hot and humid ... ... uhhh yeah, the logic of tired and uncomfortable women for you.

I roused once during the night and turned on the ceiling fan again.  I questioned why I set it on timer to begin with, but I easily fell asleep again.

7:58 a.m. my eyes pop open ... I am wide awake ... I feel great ... There is no chance of going back top sleep.

8:03 a.m. I get out of bed and wander to the living room where my mom is watching golf.

I will not bore you with the next hour or so ... just general conversation, cat stories and talking about things to do around the house.

9:12 a.m. I squirm in my chair, but I feel this is the right time.

Me: "You've never commented or questioned the clothes I've been wearing for the past ... well, for a while."

Mom: "I figured you were just experimenting."

My beautiful wife Pam
Me:  "No, not experimenting.  I know this is what I want.  This is how I'm comfortable ... how I'm happy."

Mom:  "Everyone has a masculine side and a feminine side and it sways back and forth through your life."

Me:  "I've always been a bit more feminine.  One of the doctors I am seeing put me on estrogen."

Mom:  "Why?  All the estrogen does is gives women breast cancer."

Me:  "It's a low dose, that is not likely.  It will smooth my skin and help with other feminine features."

Mom:  "You realize this might put you at risk of losing your job, don't you?"

Me:  "I've done a lot of research for a long time before making any decisions.  Pam and I have talked about it for a long time.  I am protected by California law and company policy."

Mom:  "Okay."

Me:  "I have been very happy since starting the estrogen.  Pam is happy ... ... Linda knows, I've been talking to her.  Sedona knows ... ..." I hesitated.  She didn't speak, like she knew I had something else to say.  "I am worried about one or two of my siblings, though."

Mom:  "If you're happy and Pam's happy then who else matters?"  She paused.  "As long as you don't wear a dress in front of them or something."

There are not words to describe how I felt at that moment.  The conversation quickly wound down and I walked away from the table.  I went into the bathroom burst into tears of joy ... after a moment I regained a bit of composure and realized I had dropped to my knees without realizing it.

My sister Linda and my mother Faith
This alone is a moment worth celebrating.

*** May 31,2013 - 4:06 p.m. ***

I held the pills ... contemplating ... wondering ... what power do these pills hold?

I mean, they're not magical ... not really.  But somehow they hold the power to change my life ... to change me.

I stared at them for a moment longer, grabbed the glass of water and entered a whole new world ...

That's the quote from my June 1 blog entry about my first estrogen dose ... I entered a whole new world.

Really?  Has that much really changed?

The problem with me judging what has changed is I cannot possibly be completely objective.  There are changes I have noticed that are absolute, they are physical and measurable.  However there are also changes that may be things I want to change, or things that everyone else talks about changing, or perhaps simply things where I am letting go of the facade behind which I have hidden for 40+ years.

What I know has changed:

- My skin has become visibly smoother and softer.  This has been gradual, and at first I thought I was imagining it.  It is likely not noticeable to those who see me daily, but someone who has not seen me in weeks, or months may notice something.

- I have lost physical strength.  This is abundantly obvious when I try to carry things the way I used to, but some might argue that my perception is swayed by my desire to be feminine.  I conducted an unscientific experiment on myself.

My initial prescription
Before HRT I performed 2 curl and press with a 45 pound kettlebell with both hands.  I am ambidextrous, but my right arm is stronger due to bowling and other activities.  On that day I was able to perform 2 reps with both hands.  30 days later I performed the same task.  With my left hand I had much more difficulty performing the curl aspect of the exercise.  Very recently I repeated the experiment.  I can no longer curl the 45 pounds with my left arm, and it is strenuous to complete with my right arm.

- I am developing breasts.  They are becoming noticeable depending on what I wear.  They are not large nor are they fully formed, but they are growing.  I know most women who transition later in life do not grow large breasts, and that is truly not my goal.  I am just happy that I am developing some ... enough to make me feel a more feminine.

What things may have changed:

As this list could go on for pages, I will try to keep it simple ...

- Emotions ... I have always been sensitive and emotional.  I clearly remember being 8 going on 9 going to see the movie Benji ... I cried when the little white dog got kicked ... and 50 bonus points if anyone can remember the name of the little white dog in the first Benji movie.

Part of the emotional blossoming is simply removing the facade ... but it is more than that ... something I can't easily put into words.  Testosterone tends to generate  emotions of aggression, so regardless of the situation ... regardless of the emotion it slowly (or quickly) morphs into anger or frustration or ... and of course men are not supposed to show emotion anyway, so feeling any emotion often causes embarrassment and frustration anyway.  The testosterone blocker has likely dropped my T level to normal female levels ... it was below normal male levels to begin with ... much of the pent up frustration ... the negative energy I felt is gone.  Don't get me wrong, I still get angry and frustrated, but not as often ... and it does not feel as if it is always pent up inside me.
The first girl's bathroom
I ever snuck into

As for the rest of the emotional spectrum, I will never truly know if it was there or not.  I know I feel much better ... simply put - I feel.  Everything seems to flow much more freely, and in turn this makes me more relaxed and happier.

- Sense of smell ... Well DUH!  Everyone (or almost everyone) has a sense of smell ... and I have always had a pretty sensitive sense of smell, unless my sinuses are acting up ... *sigh*  I am finding pleasure in different fragrances.  No, not flowers ... many flowers irritate my nose or give me a headache.  Different things.

Pam and I were eating sushi the other day.  I have always loved the flavor of wasabi ... I've seen it, I've eaten it, I've smelled it probably hundreds of times at least.  When the waitress brought the condiments to our table I dipped my chopsticks into the green paste to nibble a little, but I caught the aroma and paused.  I must have sat there for several minutes just smelling the wasabi ... it was wonderful.

Last night Sedona opened a fruit tray which had cantaloupe and watermelon in it.  I could smell the musk melon from ten feet away ... I have never liked that odor ... until last night.  I stood there and enjoyed the aroma for several seconds.  There are other examples, but those are the two most recent.  I have not had a situation yet where something I used to like is no longer enjoyable.

The "Estrogen Connection" - Many have told me of this mysterious sisterhood that exists ... how women often gravitate and connect on a different level than women and men ... or men with each other.  I cannot comment on how men connect with each other because I have always been an outsider ... usually by choice because I knew I didn't fit in.  The few times I was in the inner sanctum of manhood for guy talk I wished I was not involved.

Even before transition there would be ladies talking in the drivers room about "girl stuff" as I would enter, they would pause for a moment then would say, "It's only Tim" and continue their conversation.  I never cared, usually never hung around, but found it interesting that they would talk about things in front of me that they would not in front of the men.

I have grown my hair long and have been wearing earrings for more than 2 years.  Occasionally I get a compliment on my hair or the earrings I am wearing.  Even after I dyed my hair in May ... before HRT, I only received 1 comment.  Since mid June, 2 weeks after beginning estrogen therapy, I have lost count of the number of compliments I have received on my hair and earrings from women ... just like they would for other women.

My manager, Maggie and I have been very close for many years.  We will talk to each other about thing that we will not talk to most people about.  She is gay and came out many years ago, so she understands some of the difficulties I am going through ... or about to go through.  Very recently she made a comment to me, then with a startled look stated, "Oh my God.  I can't believe I just said that to you.  I must be sensing your estrogen."

But that is Maggie ... we're friends.  I figured our friendship is just getting closer.

Usually the female employees will go to Maggie or Tuti when they have personal issues ... especially personal medical medical issues.  Since mid July there have been three cases where ladies have entered my office and began to open up to me about something personal ... and in one case, very personal, despite the fact that both Maggie and Tuti were available to talk to.

I could carry on for a long time and it won't prove anything.  I am not trying to convince anyone of my growing femininity ... maybe I'm still trying to convince myself.  There are many who will say that estrogen cannot truly change a man ... and they may be right.  I am a woman.  If my brain was not designed to run on estrogen I would have had a very adverse reaction to the medication by this time ... but yet I haven't.  In fact I've thrived, and I am happier than ever.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tim is dead ...

Yes, that is my birth name.

No, I have not committed suicide, nor do I plan to.  I have not legally changed my name yet.  Nothing drastic or horrible has happened ... just an epiphany.

Since I started this chapter of my life ... since I seriously began pursuing an actual transition just over a year ago, I have worried about many things ...

- Am I really ready for such a big step?
- Will I be accepted by family, friends, coworkers, the public?
- Am I ever going to appear or look female ... my face ... my body?
- How will I tell people?
- What if they find out before I'm ready?
- What if they reject me?

This list could go on for pages, and many of the items have not actually been resolved yet, but without really realizing it ... without any concerted effort many things have occurred:

- I am no longer hiding.
- I am not trying to act like a man ... I'm not trying to act like a lady, either.  I am just being myself.
- I have not stopped some traditional guy stuff (watching MMA, football, being competitive)
- I am still an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
- I have allowed myself to enjoy some traditional girl things (mani / pedi, dying my hair, makeup)
- I am connecting with people on a different, more open level ... even if I have not told them of my transition
- I have become more spiritual ... closer to God
- I have found a level of happiness and peace that I never knew existed.

This list could also be expanded if I truly wanted to take the time and examine all the aspects of my life and my being.

The coming weeks and months will likely be somewhat stressful.  In life, timing is everything ... and the timing of some of these events could have been better.  In the school bus industry August and September are hideously stressful.  Yet during this time I have several tasks I must complete as my body is beginning to noticeably change.

- I must talk to my mother.  She must know something is different as she has seen me in full Tiffie mode
- I should talk to my siblings ... likely via email or Facebook, but the wording is important.
- At the driver meeting in September I will be telling all my coworkers of my transition.
- I must become more confident using my female voice.
- I must prepare for the possible rejection or backlash from my announcements.

In the further future I will look into legally changing my name and the gender marker on my birth certificate.  For California I already meet the requirements to do this, but I do not want to rush into anything.  This has implications far beyond my identity ... knowing that I have prepared for all the obvious, and maybe the less thought of difficulties is important.

I understand that decisions like this may seem irrational ... shocking ... sudden or rushed to many.  It will be difficult for some to understand or accept because the news will be new or different to them ... but I have been dealing with this my entire life and I did not make any decision easily or without great scrutiny ... And despite the fact that I have had 40+ years to prepare for this mentally, it is all still new to me as well.  I have a lot to adjust to ... including how people will interact with me.

For now I respond to my legal name.  For now I am the youngest brother of 7 siblings ... although one of my brothers is no longer alive to know the real me.  For now I am my mother's youngest son.

But what will come of these situations?

I do know a couple things for sure:

- I am Pam's husband.  I always will be, regardless of name or gender.  This is my choice ... it was said at our wedding, "I now pronounce you husband and wife."  I have no plans to change that.  I love Pam ... I love being her husband.  She is trying to remember to use female pronouns and call me Tiffanie in public.

- I am Timmy's father.  No amount of estrogen gives me the right to be called his mother.  Biologically speaking I will always be his father ... I am proud to be his father.  Even if I somehow manage to look complete;ly feminine I will be honored for him to call me Dad.  The fact that he accepts me means much more than a title.

What I do not know:

- Will my mother openly accept me?  Will she call me Tiffanie ... call me her daughter?  I can understand how difficult it will be for her to change.  She chose my birth name ... I have been her baby boy since I was born.  If she does accept my decision, I will give her much latitude with my name and pronouns.  Just knowing I can be me with her is enough.

- Will my siblings accept me?  My eldest sister already knows and has no issue other than wanting to know if I am happy.  Will the others be so open minded?  Will they use my chosen name?  Will I be their sister and given the respect of proper pronouns?

- I am not as worried about my coworkers.  I am protected by law and company policy at work.  This does not guarantee that they will accept me, but they have no choice but to deal with me as I am a supervisor.  Some will choose to still call me sir (which I do not expect, but has come about with mutual respect as I call the drivers by name and end the conversation with "Thank you sir" ... or "ma'am" depending on the person) ... they will do this as a sign they do not accept me, or to see if they can anger me.  Many will openly accept me and support me.  Either way, they have witnessed a very slow transition over the past three years which has accelerated drastically over the past six months or so.

- How ill I be treated by the corporate level of my company?  I know I am protected, but how much support will I receive after I announce my decision to transition?  Will I be under greater scrutiny?  Will my achievements or opinions be considered less because I am now considered unusual or somehow deviant?

I have never walked this path before.  There are many days I can simply enjoy the beauty within the changes which are occurring ... there are times I look behind me, and I am amazed at how far I have traveled ... but there are man times I look ahead and see the rough road which awaits me, and I become scared.

I do not have all the answers.

I do not even know all the potential issues.

As I said earlier, this is all new to me ... but I am happy.

Tim is dead.

I am Tiffanie Faith Chezum, and I hope all who read this, all who know of my transition choose to support me and share in my happiness.  If they are not capable of this simple request, I hope they choose to leave me alone and not detract from the serenity I have found.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Taking a gamble

After a week of ups and downs at work and home Pam, Sedona and I needed a change of pace.  We decided to go to a nearby casino to unwind and have fun.

OK ... a loud, crowded, smoke filled casino is not the normal get away for a group of ladies who tend to be antisocial and suffer from anxiety issues ... but we went ... we needed to go.

On the way I applied a little makeup ... just basic and not overdone, but enough to be noticeable.

The significance of the trip was not the destination nor what we did on the way (such as eating Baconaters), but the events after we arrived.

As with many casinos, this one has a players card to earn points and cash.  Personally, over my many visits, I have earned $2.86 ... I'm not sure how to redeem it, or even what I can do with it, but with a few more visits I'm sure I can break $3.00 ... but I digress.

As we waited in line to get Sedona's card, I tried my card to see if it was still valid ... it wasn't.  No big deal, really; Pam and I would just need to get new ones.  I mean, we were already in line so it was just a matter of waiting.

I walked up and placed my card on the counter.

"How can I help you?" the man asked.

"My card doesn't work,"  I replied.

He looked at the card.  "It's probably been deactivated.  Do you have your identification?"

"Yes, but it doesn't look like me."

"That's alright."  He picked up my club card.  "Aha ... you're trying to use your husband's card."

"No ..."  I handed him my license.

"Oh.  I'm sorry."  He blushed.

"Please, don't be."  I smiled.  "Does the name on the member card have to match my license?"

"What do you mean?"

"Can I change the name on the card to Tiffanie?"  I fidgeted a bit.  "That will be my legal name soon."  I spelled out my name.

"No problem."  He typed on his keyboard for a moment then handed me a brand ne member card ... Tiffanie's brand new member card.  "Good luck."

I was thrilled ... Even though I noticed a typo (Tiffany rather than Tiffanie).

"So, what do you want to do first?" Pam asked as the three of us gathered near the customer service desk.

I had to show Pam my card.  I was so happy over such a trivial thing.  "He misspelled it, but that's alright."  I believe the grin on my face was almost completely wrapped around my head.

"Very good.  How did you get them to do that?" my beautiful wife asked?

"I just asked."

"Very good," she said.  "So what first?"

Sedona smiled.  "Use the restroom."

My smile turned to a bit of a nervous smirk.  I needed to go to the restroom ... it is now obvious to me that I appear female to others ... and I sound female to some ... and I have been in women's restrooms before, but they were all relatively small restroom in not very crowded places.  This was (I assumed by my memories of the men's rooms in the casino) a large restroom with many people constantly cycling in and out.

We walked in.  I likely looked like the kindergartner being escorted to the principal's office  after being caught braking a rule ... ... I was very nervous.

The restroom was busy ... many stalls were taken.

I have no clue what ladies' room etiquette is ... in the men's room most guys grab the stall door and rattle it rather violently ... then a few seconds later they rattle it again.  I don't know whether they are so stupid that they don't realize that nobody has left the stall yet, or if it is some form of alpha-male communication that they want in ... and whoever is in there should get out now, regardless of what they are doing.

Pam found me a vacant stall ... I'm assuming the details aren't necessary and all I need to say was everything was uneventful.

We headed upstairs to the no smoking area ... only a handful of machines, but much quieter.  We found a row of six machines with nobody there.  From the left, Sedona sat on the second chair, Pam sat on the third at her favorite machine and I sat at the fifth machine.

After a short while a man sat at the sixth machine.  "How ya doin'?"

"Fine."  I smiled without making eye contact.

"You gettin' lucky?"

Oh ... my ... God!!  Why was he talking to me?  And was that a horrible opening pick up line?  Maybe I should have felt a bit flattered, but I felt rather creeped out.  I turned my chair a bit so my back was slightly turned toward him.

He cashed out.  I was relieved ... for a second.  He sat between me and Pam.  I would find out later he tried to strike up a conversation with her before walking off.

After a while we went downstairs.  More noise ... more machines ... more noise ... more people ... did I mention more noise?  Pam and I usually spent most of our time upstairs because the noise can be overwhelming ... and being overwhelmed can trigger anxiety issues.

We found a machine we saw on the way in that I just had to play ... Wild Leopard ... I love leopard.  Maybe if I was wearing my leopard print top I may have been luckier on the machine, but I at least broke even.

This machine was on the end of a row.  There was an aisle to my left and another row of machines where Pam and Sedona sat.  As with most casinos the machines are placed back to back allowing me to see the people playing on some of the machines on the opposite side ... allowing me to see that creepy guy walking by ... amd allowing him to see me.

He sat at the corner machine ... right in my line of sight.  I don't know if he actually was, but I felt like he kept glancing at me.

I cashed out and moved to the machine beside Pam.

It was such a wonderful evening.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

It's just a bird ...

I feel like I come here and rehash the same issues over and over ... maybe not the exact same scenarios, but the same basic issues.

- It's time to take a step forward in my transition.  I worry myself to death.  Everything turns out ok.
- I am out in public, alone or with Pam and Sedona.  I get called ma'am and I am surprised (and  really am).  I become self conscious about my voice.
- An issue arises at work or home.  I become stressed out.  I have different emotional responses than I am used to and am unsure how to handle them.

I know I throw in other stories, pictures and off the cuff comments, but the reality is my blog is stuck in a rut.  So I don't waste a lot of time reciting every issue over the past 2 weeks I will give a brief recap:

AAaauuugh!  Geeeeeeze!  Whyyyyyyyy?  Whew!  We survived!  Waaaaiit, whaaaaat??  Not Aaggaaaaiin!!  Ddaaaammmmmmnnnn!

The good news is for the first time in over 10 years we have more drivers than we need, and we still have some working through the training process.  This means we will likely have a smooth start to the school year ... ... but there is too much corporate bs that we are wading through.

I was very pleased when a posted the awards ceremony for Lana Wachowski.  If you don't know who she is, she is one of the Matrix trilogy ... and she is transgender.  I am not one of those who automatically like a person because they are in the LGBT community, but I do respect those in the community who are true role models (whether by choice or not) and provide a positive image to those of us who may still be struggling through our self discovery.  Please, watch the video, she is fabulous.

Lana Wachowski speech

I've had a great deal of pleasure over the past weeks I've had the pleasure to watch a family of birds hatch in a nest right outside our office door.  They are too young to look like anything more than fluff with big mouths.

The drivers and staff have been careful not to disturb the nest or birds.

This afternoon I was in my office.  Laura, the dispatcher, brought a limp fluff of feathers into my office.  "It's the second time the others have kicked this one out of the nest."

I grabbed the helpless animal and cuddled it.

"I can call animal control to see if there is anything we can do for the little thing."  Laura turned and walked back down the hall.

I petted the baby bird's head.  It shivered and moved its wings.  I couldn't help but think how scared and alone the poor little guy felt.

I cried.

I know the estrogen has caused changes in my emotional responses, but I also believe that simply letting go of my male facade plays as big of a role in these reactions.  The problem?  I don't want to cry at work ... and I am not used to such an emotional response over such a simple situation.

I mean, I would never simply not care ... I would feel sad and try to help the animal, but tears were not expected.

I was supposed to have an appointment with Catharine today, but she was not feeling well.  It's a bit of a disappointment because I have so much going on right now, I could talk for 4 hours.  Really, the only transition related issues is officially "coming out" to family and coworkers ... the rest of the swill swirling through my mind is work or family related, but could also use a bit of working out before I explode.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Expanding my world.

*** August 1986

My life was a shambles.  I had spent the better part of three years flailing through community college looking to either move on to a university or to drop out and run away.

Run away from my home.

Run away from myself.

An unexpected situation in December of 1985 changed the direction of my life.  I had broken my ankle playing volleyball and due to the decreased mobility I decided to take the Emergency Medical Technician class just to fill units to keep me as a full time student.

I decided to get a job on an ambulance to save money for my escape.  It was simple, I would either move to Alaska and get a medic job in one of many industries or I would run to Los Angeles and try to find my way through my transition at a time when there was little or not information, and even less support for transgender people.

I was cutting ties ... with everyone.  I wanted to disappear.  I did not want new friends, I did not need a relationship.

In hindsight, the issues and feelings were likely my first bout with depression and anxiety ... but I was a man.  Men don't talk about their feelings ... they tough it out.

My plan was working.

All I needed was eight to ten months to have enough money to get out of Ventura county.

But ...

I met Pam.  I knew instantly I had feelings for her.  She was, and is beautiful inside and out.  She was simply the most caring person I ever met ... and she showed in me.  Even after I lowered my mask a bit she still liked me.

Worse than that, she loved me ... She was not supposed to fall in love with me ... I was supposed to run away and never look back.

In March 1987 we married in Las Vegas.  I am happy I chose to stay.

*** ***

On the advice of friends, I am removing the term "dude mode" from my vocabulary.  Many more times than not (75% to 80%) of the time I am addressed in public I am called ma'am or miss.  The majority of the rest of the times I am addressed with no gender marker attached.  It is very rare that I am called sir.

It doesn't matter how I am dressed, if I've shaved, how my hair is, I get called ma'am.  This makes me happy.

For the first time in a long time Pam and I went to get basic mani / pedi from our favorite place. b The last time we were there was December, before my surgery.  My hair was still long, but dirty blonde.  My beard was much more visible.  I was not wearing makeup.  I was not carrying a purse.

All that changed.

The owner recognized Pam, but I don't think he recognized me.

It is part of the learning curve, but Pam used male pronouns when referring to me.  It didn't bother me because I am not used to being referred to as "she" or "her" or "Tiffanie" from my wife ... we both need to work on that.

The staff was speaking Filipino a lot more than usual ... If I was the paranoid type I would think they were likely talking about me.

Actually, I am the paranoid type ... I don't care that they talked about me, if they were.

So several weeks ago I was talking to my niece, Sedona.  I asked her if she had mentioned anything about me to her mom (my eldest sister).  She said she didn't think I wanted her to.  She truly is a wonderful young lady.

I told her I didn't mind if she said something.  I know they talk on a regular basis, and my transition has become a part of Sedona's life.  If she wants to or needs to talk about it, I trust her judgment.

She did tell Linda.

I waited a bit then decided to communicate through Facebook.  I can understand that she is likely a bit shocked, but her main concern is my well being.  I have mentioned many things about Linda in previous posts ... this is the sister I remember giving me a "comfortable" every night ... and when she moved away she made me a sign that said "comfortable" so I could tuck myself in.

I know she will be there to support me as I inform my other siblings.  I am not expecting her to fight my battles nor try to convince the siblings that may not accept my decision.  I just want an ear to listen to my concerns and grumblings as I continue on my journey.

Thank you Linda.  You and Sedona have become a much bigger part of my life.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Times ...

There are certain times it seems like every bad, hurtful, embarrassing thing that ever happened in my life rushes into my conscious mind at the same time.

Not that I beat myself up, berate myself or otherwise torture myself for past events that can never be changed ... it is just a bothersome reality that rips open some old and painful scars.  I cannot stop the thoughts from entering my mind, but I can learn to deal with them in a better manner.

This week has been a mess of mental disconnects, mood swings, aggravation and emotional duress.  I do not know why this week was so much worse than others, nor do I know whether these issues spawned the flood of harsh and hurtful memories, but this has been a difficult, physically tiring, mentally exhausting week.

With the stress of a big non-school contract looming all the staff was on edge.  There were issues with the customer, issues with the buses, issues with the drivers ... as usual.  The difference this year?  I'm not sure, maybe it's all in the estrogen ... maybe I'm going to have to relearn how to deal with stress.  Maybe the difference is the operation supervisor dealing with her husband who has been ill for a while now.  Maybe it is the manager being stressed out over the corporate baboons and all the new policies and reports.  Whatever the reason, it all came to a head on Friday.

After what seemed like my 5th text message or phone call while I was trying to get ready for work Maggie called.  "Hi, when are you going to be here?"

"Well, I trying to put my left shoe on so I can walk out the door."  I was a bit snappy by this point already.  The details of the conversation are not important, but I felt like I was the criminal on the stand with the prosecution grilling me.  I was getting angry.

I was not angry at Maggie; I was angry that the same problems keep reoccurring ... over and over ... time after time ... miscommunication, failure to follow through or flat out not following directions, blaming me for mistakes they made ... and because I am head of the department I have to eat the responsibility.

I was finally driving to work.  I had decided to stop at the tire shop in town to get my air pressure checked.

My phone rang again.

It was Maggie again.  She was upset that another driver who is recertifying has not followed through on what he was instructed to do.  He did not take his written test and failed to come in for training.  He flat out lied to her when asked what he was instructed to do, but Maggie is tired of drivers waiting until the last second to take their tests ... and so am I.

I was fed up.  I asked, "Please tell me how I can force a person to go to the CHP office and take a test."

She continued to vent her frustration.

"I don't disagree with you, but you did not answer my question."  I'm sure my words sounded very sharp by this point, but I was about to go absolutely mental.  "How can I force a person to go to the CHP and take the test?"

She did not actually have an answer.  The conversation wound down ... but I didn't.  I was still aggitated nearly to tears when I pulled into the tire shop.

"How can I help you ma'am?"  The worker walked toward my window.

I was flustered and not prepared to talk in my female voice.  I stumbled, babbled and sounded like the stereotypical, ditsy, helpless woman.  Finally I was able to utter, "Can you check my tire pressure?"

He checked and filled all the tires.  "You're good to go.  Have a good day ma'am."

"Thank you."

I drove to work.  I actually did not dawn on me that I was treated like a lady for a few hours.  I kept thinking about my exchange with my manager.  I rarely let my emotions dictate the course of a conversation ... and I never engage in debate when the other party is angry; I try to difuse the emotions to discuss the issue rationally.

But I didn't .. I engaged ... and I not only engaged I fired off my attitude at my manager with questions that have no answer as she was doing to me.

The offensive verbal salvo did not stop there.  When I got to the office I tracked down the two trainees in question who were not completely accurate with their version of the truth when talking to Maggie and asked very pointed questions about what their responsibilities were in the situations.

I did not yell ...

I did not blame them for anything ...

But I did not pull any punches.  I made their responsibilities perfectly clear and let them know that I was not going to allow them to fail on their part of the deal and blame me for it.

I then called the driver that lied about me ... I was not so kind to him.  Every excuse he regurgitated I shot down or turned around to put the responsibility back on him.  I basically blew him out of the water.

Then I talked to Maggie.

I was calm.  I let her know I was not angry at her, but was very frustrated at the ongoing situation of trainees and drivers not following directives.

She was not angry.

She told me it's a new aspect emerging in me, and she will have to get used to it.  She did say I will need to learn to control it.

Then she proceeded to tell me about the incidents from earlier in the day ... incidents that would have, and nearly did make me go absolutely mental.  This on top of the other incidents dealing with this extra contract were just too much to deal with.

By the end of the conversation we were laughing and joking as usual ... but the incidents didn't stop.

I slept for 10 hours Friday night ... and I still felt exhausted all day Saturday, but I promised my manager I would do some pseudo-espionage work for her.  I decided to stay in dude mode ... I didn't shave, no makeup, a slightly feminine top, but more unisex than girly.  I did carry my purse, that has become a habit.

I cannot give a lot of details, but I will say that Pam and I took a trip to another bus yard to take some pictures.  After my mission we enjoyed lunch together then did a bit of grocery shopping.  As we got to the checkout, the clerk said, "How are you ladies today?"

I grinned ... I grinned for 30 minutes.

Something so simple does not undo all the stress, nor does it take away the harsh memories from the past, but it is a simple reminder that I am learning to be comfortable as me.  That even in "dude mode" I am more Tiffanie than I am him.

We ended the day going to the ocean so I could take some pictures.  I love photography ... it relaxes me ... I see things in a different way and can share the beauty and emotions I see through my lens.  After we got home I was lucky enough to see a wonderfully beautiful sunset.

There are times that despite how rough things may seem, despite your fears, your nightmares or your misgivings, you realize just ho blessed you are ... and you grow as a person.