Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My annual anti resolution post

Not Manipulated
Christmas Tree
So here I am again ... it's the end of the year and I have a chance to reflect on everything I wanted to accomplish but didn't.  It's also the time of year I am supposed to look eagerly forward to 2015 and see all the opportunities I will have to achieve ...

whatever ...

I truly do not like to make "New Year's Resolutions."  The concept of stating that in 2015 I will ... I don't know ... and it doesn't matter.  It is simply not realistic to try to foresee, or try to force the direction of a year when events change daily ... hourly.

Love my food photography
All I can expect of myself is to keep moving forward.

All I can ask is that I do the best I can with what I have.

Is that a resolution? ... Maybe.

Am I disappointed in 2014? ... Yes ... ... and no.

I haven't looked back at what I've written, so I base my conclusions on what I remember.  Like I have said many times, what I remember is based a lot on what mood I'm in ... what has been happening at work ... at home ... how I feel.

Somewhere in the year I became entirely comfortable as Tiffanie.  I don't know when it happened, but it did ... and I never want to go back to where I was.

2014 had me lose a lot, if not all my motivation to exercise.  I did not try to train for a marathon ... I did not really try to walk or exercise.

This past year I emerged from a horribly deep depressive mode ... at least I got my head above the water and don't feel like I am drowning any more.

My beautiful Pam is
so very sweet and talented
She made this for me
My work became increasingly stressful with many more people wanting many more reports with the same information in less time.  I love my job, but I am getting more and more frustrated with the corporate hierarchy.

I've been able to focus on better and more efficient work habits, but I spend less time in the office so the evidence is not what I wanted.

The last pic of
me in 2014
I started to like photography and photo manipulation again.  I am not running everywhere with my camera, but I am finding the relaxation it used to bring.

I dealt with a lot of turmoil.

I survived the turmoil and learned I am stronger than I thought.

Sure a lot of things could have been better ... and many things could have been worse.  I will never know ... I don't need to know.

2015 is here, or at least very close.  It is sure to be filled with surprises.

Friday, December 26, 2014

All I wanted for Christmas ...



December ... ... dear lord, choose a year.

Christmas was likely one of the most anticipated and fun holidays as a child.  It was truly about the excitement of the gifts ... well, at first.  As I got older I liked giving gifts as much or more than receiving.

I could rattle off dozens of stories about my sister driving me around to look at Christmas lights (more likely she was getting my brother and I out of the house to give my mom and dad a break, but ... ) ... going to the Esplanade mall to see the giant obviously fake tree, visit Santa, see the puppies in the pet store and get an Orange Julius ... sneaking out to see the presents only to see that my dad was "sleeping" in the chair (I think every sibling has a story like this) ... Playing with my brother in the bedroom while waiting for the others to wake up, and ending up slammed against a dresser standing on my head and trying not to laugh.

I could also talk about the year I freaked out because the Santa that visited the house had huge black eyebrows.  I didn't react horribly until he left, but I knew he wasn't the real Santa ... My dad being stressed and edgy during the few days he took off through the holidays.  This often led to frustrated outbursts and hurt feelings ... the griping and bickering that stems from boredom.

Nothing is all good ... nothing is all bad.

As the years went by I found a different level of enjoyment in the holidays ...  and a different level of frustration as well.

The joy  of watching my son relishing the magic of Christmas ...

The frustration of the crowds ... the shopping ... the lack of money.  Maybe the biggest frustration was the fact that Pam, Tim and I never really had a special day the way we planned.

My days off were often non existent as the company expected me to work the holidays so I could accomplish more.

Pam was asked to work Christmas pretty much every year despite being scheduled off.  She so truly wants to help people ... truly wants to make them happy, and people take advantage of her.  She has done so much for so many over the year and usually gets treated like dirt for her efforts.  I think the first year we spent Christmas morning together was the year she was off work due to her depression.

The last few years all I've wanted was a quiet and relaxing holiday.  Time to unwind, recharge and enjoy some calm "do nothing" break ... it just never seems to happen.

It doesn't really matter why ... last year my mom had surgery, the year before I had surgery ... it just always seems to be something.

This year Pam and I spent yesterday together with my mom doing nothing ... we spent today just like yesterday and if everything goes right, tomorrow will be the same.

It isn't perfect.  Pam is feeling a bit yucky and I am getting a scratchy throat.  We didn't do dinner at my sister yesterday evening, my brother and his family won't get their holiday stop in because we may be contagious. I do think this is the first time in ??? hmmm, maybe the first time ever that we have several consecutive days to ourselves.

It is relaxing ... I am enjoying it.



Monday, December 22, 2014

What could I update? ...

So I've been driving myself crazy lately ... well ... many things have been driving me crazy, but how I react to these things is the icing on the cake that is life in general.

I have several blog entries that have started as "Updates ..." or "Happy for ..." but as the words appeared on the page they morphed into a quagmire of frustration and unresolved issues.

It's not that venting about the things irritating me is bad ... it's just ... I don't know.  I know good things have happened ... I have accomplished things ... I have had happy times, but all these positive moments are surrounded by frustration.

Katniss discovers a rose
from the president in her home
A very creepy scene
I truly want to make an effort to recognize and talk about positive things ... the brief moments that brighten my day.

But really ... what might seem pleasant or innocuous to some may not be so enjoyable to me.

I won't ... I can't stop talking about the troubles ... the pain ... the challenges and difficulties that are very much apart of life.  I can look for the tiniest of bright spots even in the darkest of times.

This time of year seems to bring increased tension ... tension, anxiety, animosity ... what ever.  'Tis the season, I guess.

A few weeks ago Pam and I went to see Mockingjay part 1, the latest Hunger Games movie.  I really do not like going to the theater ... the noise and the crowd ... the rude and talking people, but I really wanted to see this.  Movies are a brief escape from reality ... a temporary distraction.  This movie is one of the very few that I was willing to chance the crowds for.

Well ... there was no crows.  There was only one man sitting halfway up the seats.

There was also no volume.  Pam went and complained.

It was a very good escape.  We will likely see it again soon ... very soon.

This series ... the books and the movies just click with me.  I'm really not sure why.  Maybe it's the implicit (or somewhat obvious) references to depression.  Possibly it's the overt parallel to society today ... the government uses the people to survive while pitting the districts (or different ethnic groups, religions, wage classes or whatever) against each other.  It could just be a good series of stories.

During a long day at work last week, Pam called and wanted to go to lunch.

It's likely a sad commentary on how things have been going, but my first thought  was something must be wrong.  Why would she drive to Oxnard for lunch?

She just wanted to spend time with me ... and I definitely wanted to spend time with her.

I generally like don't like restaurants for the same reasons I don't like theaters, stores, parks, beaches, sidewalks ... ... in general, anywhere in public.

It was between the typical lunch and dinner crowds, so I figured it may not be too bad.  We went to Yolanda's Mexican restaurant ... we both love their food.  We sat at a table looking across the ocean ... well, more like across a half empty marina a mile or more from the ocean.  It was still a nice view.

Despite the time we went it was still noisy ... more accurately, the three men at the bar were loud, the other two small groups were across the restaurant and I couldn't hear them over the other sounds.  The cacophony that consumes even a relatively empty establishment is amazing.

It was still nice to have a break in the day ... time away from the office to relax.

There are definitely many little things that I see, hear or do often that keep me from going totally insane.  Sometimes it's a seeing a nice post or compliment on Facebook, other times it's simply knowing that efforts that are not advertised across the internet are appreciated.  Yesterday it was a sunset.  For the first time in a long time I grabbed my camera and ran ... or walked ... maybe limped to the back yard to document the beauty.

Do the good moments outweigh the bad?  Probably ... I hope to notice them more often.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Frogger ...


Sometimes my brain drives me nuts.

There are so many times it feels like I get stuck between thoughts ... or maybe it's a little more like my thoughts get run over as they try to get to their destination.

So my brain is like Frogger.

For those that don't remember - Frogger was a video game where you moved your frog across a busy street followed by a river with floating logs, turtles and crocodiles and then you must end in one of a handful of safe zones on the far side ... ... but even then you're not guaranteed anything because sometimes a crocodile appears in the safe zone.

If you don't time things properly ... if you delay or move too fast you get run over.

If you aren't careful on the water the log may sink and you drown.

No matter how many times you get across the obstacle course there is always another frog that needs to be helped to safety.  It never ends ... in fact it gets harder and harder with every frog.  Eventually all your frogs are dead and the game is over.

I wonder at times how many frogs my brain has left.

In my brain there isn't just one frog ... there's dozens, or hundreds at a time ...and the cars on the road are not slow moving nor give a lot of space to move between them.  I don't really get the luxury of starting over if a thought is squished or drowned ... I have to somehow regain my mental footing and continue across.

I often find myself staring at the blur of the passing cars.

So what does this have to do with anything?

Nothing ... this is the correlation I made after a random thought interrupted a daydream which sidetracked the disruption that invaded a random thought which derailed my train of thought as I was writing another blog entry ... ...

Ummm ... Yeah.

I'm really not complaining about all this.  Some of my best ideas have come during these distractions.  I just find it amusing how quickly I can go from contemplating current situations I am dealing with to thinking about a 1980s video game.

Maybe next entry will be something more relevant ... like how my organizational skills are like playing a game of three dimensional, multilevel Tetris.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

When worlds collide

Spilled
How it feels hen your world
is turned upside down
I have been pondering many things lately ... Maybe it would be more accurate to say I have been examining different facets of the same thing.

Life in general seems to be compartmentalized ... or at least we would like it to be.

When we are young we have our school life, our family life and possibly some other group like church or scouts.  We carefully build and guard borders between these chambers, and are often intimidated or even embarrassed at the possibility of the contents of one somehow leaking into and corrupting another.

There were times where a school friend bumped into me at a restaurant and wanted to sit at the table with me and my family ... or at least whatever family members may have been there.

I never wanted to.

Not that I didn't like my friends ... not that I was embarrassed of my family ... it was a breech.  Putting myself into that situation allowed some content from my school life to seep into my home and vice-versa.

I know that no damage was done.  It was not mixing matter and antimatter or even baking soda and vinegar ... it was just uncomfortable for reasons I do not completely understand.

As we get older these compartments become more complex, but much harder to separate.

Wife and children, siblings and parents, in-laws, work, current friends, friends from the past, social friends from softball or bowling ... the list is longer, the lines are very narrow and much more blurred.

So I find myself in a situation I never really thought about a couple years ago.

Social media has ruptured the barriers between all of my cozy and private little sectors ... now everyone and everything is swirling around in one common pool.

1971 ... a lifetime ago
so many memories

Is this an issue?

No ... not really.

It does create awkward situations at times ... or at least circumstances that are potentially ... I'll just say interesting.

I have realized very recently that there are many people who have not known me for more than two years ... there are people who have not read my blog ... there are people who never knew the person from a few years ago.

Then again, there are people who knew me years ago who have not seen me lately.

Recently I have seen several former employees ... people who have walked into my office and did not recognize me ... people who bumped into me in public and didn't know who I was ... people who spent time or talked with me ... who went through training class or training on a bus and did not realize they met me years ago.

The fact that people from my past see me as female is both incredible and bewildering.  At times I still feel like "the dude wearing girl's clothes" ... like nobody truly sees me as female and are just placating me with female pronouns and compliments.

So very many seem utterly baffled when they realized who I am.  The majority are very supportive and happy for me.  Some friends have congratulated me for being courageous and being true to myself.

These simple gestures are so uplifting ... but this is not the goal of this journey, nor the reason for the blog.  Being accepted by those who have known me for years is an incredible gift that I truly cherish.

A few people seem very uncomfortable with me now.  It's like they suddenly forgot how to talk ... or at least talk to me.  My intention is not to cause anyone to feel ill at ease ... but there are some that do not like the fact that I am fat ... feel awkward knowing that I suffer from depression ... are intimidated because I am a supervisor.  I understand that some will have reservations about me regardless of my transition.

Class of 1979
I wonder where
Everyone is now
Truly this is their loss.  I am sorry they cannot find a means to accept people for who they are.

I am transgender; this fact will not change.  It does not matter what my body looks like, what name I use or how I dress.  I have come to terms with this ... I am comfortable with myself.

I do not feel the need to advertise everything about my life.

I am Tiffanie ... I am a woman ... period.

This is where a different level of awkward starts to emerge.  I forget that many people have not known me very long ... they do not know my history ... what I have struggled with over they years.

I often get a giggle when I am asked if it is that time of the month or if I am pregnant.

These are legitimate questions ...  they only know Tiffanie.

I am sure there are some who have questions but may not feel comfortable asking -

- How can I be married since 1987 when same sex marriages have only been legal for a short period?
- When I speak of our son why are there no direct references to his father?
- When I talk of my childhood why do I carefully choose words that exclude gender?

There are likely many others.

Sometimes I feel like I am still hiding.  I hate this feeling.

I'm not hiding me ... I am hiding aspects of the truth ... of my past.

I have done a lot of soul searching recently.  Am I lying if I allow people to believe I have always been Tiffanie?

Haven't I always been Tiffanie?  Even if my body didn't agree or people did not see it, have I not always been me?

I feel I should not be required to keep the "transgender" label on everything I do ... I don't feel the need to flash my LBGT membership card everywhere I go.  I just want to be me ... but if someone wants to ask ... if they are interested, I will talk.

I am not going to start advertising my history everywhere ... in my FB groups ... on my business cards ... it is not necessary.  I am just going to continue to be me.

My Universe
No longer so
neatly segregated
I have opened the door for those who may want to know more about me.  I have let people know about my FB page "The (not so) Cowardly Lioness" and this blog.  This is not because I expect a bigger fan base ... I'm sure I don't have any real "fans" in the first place.  I just want the truth available for those who are curious.

Regardless of how long someone has known me ... whether they were a part of my past or have only become a part of my life, I am just me ... Tiffanie ... and I am so enjoying it, even as my carefully separated worlds merge into one extraordinary life.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Time Warp

*** Summer 1989 ***

Pam and I had just had lunch with Scott and Danny.

Datsun 810
Doesn't do Scott's
car justice ... picture
this, only black and nice
It was late afternoon on a Saturday, so basically we were barely getting started with our weekend mischief.  We stood in the parking lot as our usual banter and joking ensued ... not that we were loud or obnoxious, but we really didn't pay too much attention to those around us because we were having fun.

At some point Pam asked Scott if she could drive his car.  He owned a Datsun 810 ... it was his pride and joy at the time and he was very protective of it.

He didn't want to.

Pam persisted.

Pam won ... of course.

Scott really liked his electronic gadgets as well.  Not only did his car have one kick-ass stereo, but he had recently installed a PA system ... that was only a little illegal ... and very loud, as I would find out.

Pam started the car.  The disc in the CD player was the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

As we headed back to town we passed a softball field with the early game already underway.  One team had just made their third out and took the field defensively.  The outfielders' backs were to the road as we drove past.

Time Warp was playing ...

I grinned ...

"What?" Pam asked.

I grabbed the mic to the PA and keyed it up near the front speaker.

Rocky Horror
Picture Show
It was a bit louder than I expected ... or a lot louder ... maybe even close to blaring.

The center fielder stood with his hands on his knees.  He was the closest player to the fence ... and even then he was still several hundred feet away.

He flinched, then slowly turned his head and grinned at us.

I released the mic.

This process was repeated a few times ... Time Warp ... PA system ... release.

It is one of the features I loved about CDs versus cassettes ... repeat the previous track without the lag of rewinding ... and we were mostly on a road that split through the agricultural fields so there wasn't anybody being bothered.

As we got into town I felt the urge for one more round

Just one ...

Like an ice cream truck on steroids ...

Time Warp ... PA ... motorcycle cop.

We were stopped at a traffic signal and I didn't see him pulling up beside us.

I cannot write down what was going through my mind.  It's not because I don't remember, but more because I don't want to string that many bad words together in my blog.  I turned my head and smiled at the officer.  I reached with my left hand and turned down the music as I released the mic.

The cop was giving us a semi disgusted and harsh glare.

At this time there were no noise pollution laws ... no rules or ordinances stating how loud music could be or how many decibels were too many.

"Is your music loud enough?" he grunted.

I grinned.  "Yes it is.  Thank you."

The light turned green ...


Pam accelerated ...


The cop just sat there with the most perplexed look on his face.

When we caught up with the other two Scott was frantic.  He was sure we had caused his nice PA system to be confiscated.

I relayed the story ... after a brief moment of anger, relief and unusual babbling Scott busted up laughing.


*****

It's strange how the funniest times are not planned.

Then again, the worst times are not planned either.

Most all the fun, humorous or amusing things that have happened were spur of the moment ... throwing the Nerf football into the night sky only to have it fall and hit Scott on the head ... the time in first grade when my best friend wanted to show off the the judo flip he learned.  He did flip me, but I landed on my feet and he flipped back over me ... the accidental improv routine my friend Richard an I performed at Universal Studios ( a long story for another time ).
Yep ... a banana


Nobody in their right mind would intentionally leave a snack in the car to ferment in the summer heat ... but being blasted by a bellowing belch of baked banana when you open the car door makes the moment memorable.  It also makes "I smell a banana" the battle cry for a summer.

Nobody would have let my brother and I ride down the snow slope on an inner-tube if they knew we were going to flip head over tushie into a 6 to 8 foot deep ditch.

Or the telephone ringing immediately after Timmy and I watched The Ring.

Yes ... we flinched.  One of us gasped really loud ... I think it was me.

Even my wedding was spur of the moment.

Cupid's Wedding Chapel
Pam and I had been dating 6 months when we went to Vegas.  As we were ready to leave we took a different road and passed the marriage license bureau.  I looked at her and said, "You want to?"

She said yes.

Our engagement lasted an entire 30 minutes ... our wedding was 20 minutes shorter than that, but it will always rank at the top of my favorite times, immediately behind my sons being born.

None of these times were expected ... none were planned ... all are such fond memories.

It almost seems like the harder I try to have fun or feel happy the more difficult it is.

I can organize a trip to Vegas ... reserve the hotel ... save some "fun money" ... maybe buy tickets for a show.  What happens after I get there is often unpredictable or beyond my control.

My favorite
slot machine at
the Stratosphere
Will I hit a jackpot on a slot machine?

What will the weather be like?

How crowded and hectic will it be?

I don't know.  I can make an educated guess, but if the strip is closed due to an accident I will have to adapt to this.  If the shops are too crowded I will likely choose to not go shopping.  If the jello shot vendor gets to know me I may stay and joke with him.

What is fun ... what will make me happy has a lot to do with chance.

I seriously doubt anybody aims for ways to have things to go wrong ... but they do go wrong.

They become memories ... files tucked away in my mind to be accessed on later days.  Sometimes they're torn open and the contents dumped in my conscious mind without my consent.

In the M&M store
on the strip ... the hundreds
of rude people are
not pictured
I never wanted a kidney stone, but I have dealt with many.  It's amazing how something that small can cause such big challenges.

Possibly a trip to the hospital ... and the waiting ... and the bills

Definitely a fair amount of pain ... and usually pain meds don't help.

Obliterating a schedule for an entire day ... or maybe longer.

People don't plan to have injuries ...  or accidents ... or depression ... or dental problems ... or the death of a loved one ...

OK ... some people plan for the death of others, but they usually wind up in prison ... and I bet they didn't plan that.

So life just happens.

Regardless of intentions life will take off in different directions ... whether it's bad, like having the window of my car broken ... possibly funny, like bouncing a pencil eraser end first off the pew at church and having it bounce and twist and land point first in my sister's palm.

Looking down the
Strip at night on our
way back to the
the Stratosphere


Whatever ...

Things happen ... often not as planned ...

Good ... bad ... funny ... sad ...

If it's happy ... amusing ... enjoyable I appreciate the moment.

I'm likely never going to play music over a PA system from a car again, but I am sure there are many other things to enjoy in my future.

Maybe ... hopefully I am getting back to the point where I appreciate more and more.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I nearly forgot

No...
This is not Sarah
:-)


I believe there is a portion of my brain buried deep in a dark place that is somewhat masochistic.
Okay, maybe not in the literal sense ... but then again ...

Over the past 2 years or so I have paid a very nice, young lady money to inflict pain ... many times ... and I kept returning for more.  Sometimes Pam would go and watch.

If y'all are envisioning a dominatrix leading me off to some dark dungeon with interesting and scary looking gadgets hanging on the wall, you may be a little disappointed.  I'm reminiscing about laser hair removal ... the relaxing, soft music ... the friendly chit-chat ... the mild fragrance of a scented candle (more likely an air freshener) ... ... then the short beep of the laser unit ... the immediate sensation of heat and stinging followed by the unforgettable aroma of singed hair.

Quoted from Wikipedia:
The primary principle behind laser hair removal is selective photothermolysis, the matching of a specific wavelength of light and pulse duration to obtain optimal effect on a targeted tissue with minimal effect on surrounding tissue. Lasers can cause localized damage by selectively heating dark target matter, melanin, in the area that causes hair growth, the follicle, while not heating the rest of the skin.
 Photo - From the Greek word "phos" or "phot" meaning light

Thermolysis - From the Greek word "thermos" meaning hot, and the Greek word "luen" meaning to release.  It is the decomposition of chemical compounds by heat.

Diagram of hair
growth cycles




So you have light generating heat, and heat bringing decomposition of the hair.

But since the objective is to destroy the root of the hair, and the root is far below the surface of the skin, the heat  ... the stinging ... the pain is felt on a very deep level in a way that cannot be easily explained.

One must actually have the root of their hair singed to understand.

I've written about my laser treatments a couple of times.  I know some react badly to laser and others prefer electrolysis.  I am not trying to convince anyone what hair removal is best or most effective ... I'm just talking.

But as long as I'm talking ... if you are in Ventura County in California, I strongly recommend New Image Laser Hair Removal Clinic in Oxnard.  Sarah is incredible.  I din't just run to the first clinic I saw ... I researched and talked to a couple.  I even talked to an electrologist.  She referred me to New Image and I'm so happy she did.

The last laser work on my face was over 9 months ago.  It was a touch up to rid me of a few stray dark hairs.  I have enjoyed these past months with no dark stubble ... unfortunately I still have these ugly white whiskers, but they do not grow very fast and cover much easier with makeup.

I started noticing some dark hairs again a little while back.  They were very noticeable to me, but likely not seen by others.  Pam commented on them ... while she was inches from my face  ... and I hadn't shaved in several days ... ... and I was in direct light. 
Similar to Sarah's
Laser machine
I decided if they were that noticeable it was time for another touch up. I called Sarah and reserved the dungeon.

When the day arrived, I came home from work and washed off my makeup, then washed it again ... if the face is not clean the laser is not effective.  The numbing cream spread on in the usual cool and smooth manner.  The feeling was so familiar ... my excitement level began to rise in anticipation.

What I nearly forgot ... or more accurately, what I remembered too late ... ...  

Eat before the numbing cream is applied ... Damn.  I did manage to eat a sandwich without chewing my lips off or swallowing too much of the lidocaine.

The feeling as the face goes numb is something bizarre ... the face, the lips, the tip of the nose and anywhere I may have accidentally touched.  I numbed my chest once before a treatment ... that was really a different experience as well.

The awkward feeling of lying on the table had also slipped my mind.  Sarah is very good at small talk and helping you feel at ease ... relaxed.  Still, I can't help but feeling like a subject in an experiment as she stares through the magnifying glass at me.

As she started the treatment I was so happy.  There was no pain ... none.

I figured it was going to be easy this time..

Then she worked her way toward the center of the face ... then the chin ... then the upper lip.  

Oh dear lord!  How could I ever have forgotten that feeling?  

There were not nearly as many hairs as in the past, but she upped the setting a wee a bit so what I felt was still intense.

Just me
About 2 years ago
A little photo work
to help hide the beard
What made it worse was the pauses.  She applied the tip to the skin and there was a momentary interruption as the sensor found the hair ... the hesitation caused anticipation and apprehension ... which caused tension delaying my expectation.

"Don't flinch ... don't flinch ... stay calm ..."

Beep

I flinched ... maybe even jumped.

"Damn ... again!!"

Milliseconds later the heat ... the sting ... the grunt.

Ummmm ... I grunted, not the laser.

Why do I do this?

Why?

Because it makes me feel good ... ... it makes me happy ... ... it makes me ... me
Me 2 months ago
No photo touchup
I had nearly forgotten how much I have been through to get to where I am today ... and how wonderful it feels to have made it this far.

And what does any of this have to do with masochism?

One definition of masochism is gratification gained from pain.

The pain is a necessary and wonderful part of this journey, and I truly enjoy it.  Okay ... I may be stretching my interpretation a bit, but it takes a special mindset  ... a bit of inner strength ... I don't think I ever realized I had what it takes to endure this.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The game continues ...

*** Fall 1974 ***


Mr. Troxel was a new teacher to our small school in Somis.  He was likely relatively young as far as teachers go, but as a 9 year old anything over 20 was old, and over 30 was very old.

One day we came into class and another man was at the chalkboard ... a tall man with glasses wearing a long sleeve white shirt and a red and blue diagonally striped tie ... the blue stripes much thinner than the red.

Mr. Seaman ... his name was written on the corner of the board with a chalk drawn frame around it, but still he introduced himself.  As he talked a little about why he was in the class my mind wandered to different images of "Seaman" ... cartoonish men in old fashioned diving suits with bubbles rising in the water above them ... a ship with sailors and a man wearing an old fashioned admiral's hat.

But I was forced back to reality when he asked us to pull out our spelling books.  "Make sure you show me you completed your work before putting the books away."

It was spelling ... ten minutes and I was done.  I took my book to his desk at the back of the class.  He was surprised that I was finished.  The work was sloppy, but it was done.

"Can I play chess?" I asked.  "While everyone else finishes?"

He smiled.  "You play chess?  I was on my college chess team.  Do you want to play me?"

"Okay."  I put my spelling book away and set up the board.  By this time a few others were finishing the assignment and Mr. Seaman was checking their work.



Most of my classmates would read a book or color while the rest of the class finished.  A few realized that the teacher and I were already starting a game and they stayed to watch.  To me there was nothing special about the game ... I just liked playing.  In hindsight I know that Mr. Seaman was likely distracted by paying attention to the class and checking all the spelling books ... and it was also obvious that he was not taking a 9 year old kid too seriously.  In a somewhat joking voice he told the class that if I beat him that he would let us spend an extra five minutes outside for recess.

More kids gathered.

His expression began to change when he realized I had moved my knights into a very  strategic position.  I can't remember every move, and won't bore you with the sequence I do remember ... I will just say that he knew he was in big trouble and tried a very aggressive move exposing his queen when I put him in check mate.

He was shocked ... I was not.  It was just another win to me.

In the week he was there we played many games.  I won several and he won several, but the win / loss record is not as important as the fact that we gained a respect for each other that others likely did not understand.

*****

Sometimes we don't realize what an accomplishment is until some time has passed.  Even then we don't always appreciate what we've done nor will we likely consider what we did as an accomplishment.

Accomplishment - something achieved or successfully completed.


The achievement of playing chess with Mr. Seaman was not the fact that I beat a man on a college chess team.  The accomplishment was gaining a bit of self confidence ... discovering that I have my own talents ... earning a little respect.

I always focus on my shortcomings ... No, I'm not going to go down the list.  I talk about them too much.  I want to learn to see the accomplishments ... what I have achieved even if it was not exactly what I wanted ... even if I fall short of my goal.

In chess you have the ultimate goal of putting your opponent into checkmate ... but you also must defend against being defeated.

But there is more ... much more.

Each player has 16 pieces to defend ... to attack with ... to use as bait ... to sacrifice for the bigger cause.  Each piece has its own abilities ... their own personalities.  They each play a significant role in the game, and you must be aware of all 16 of your pieces as well as the 16 your counterpart controls.

There is no such thing as a perfect victory.

You always lose pieces.

The best you can hope for is to make each move in whatever means moves you toward your goal.  When you lose a piece ... when you fall into a trap you continue.  You must continue.  You count your losses and continue to make moves.

Every move has its rewards and its risks.  Every strategy is a goal within the bigger task.  Knowing how to adjust when things are not going well is what makes the difference.

Sometimes you win ... sometimes you lose.

Each goal I set ... every achievement I strive for is its own chess game.  I make my moves ... I make my adjustments ... I try and win.

Far too often, when I don't complete my goal, I dwell on the fact that the end result is not what I planned.  I forget that along the way I had many different accomplishments even if the game did not go my way.

When a game of chess is over you set up the pieces and play another game.

As Isaac Asimov once said - In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The ghosts of stitches past

*** Friday, December 13, 1985 ***

My knee shortly
after my meniscus
repair 3 years ago
It was a relatively typical Friday at college.  My creative writing class ended and I had nothing to do for several hours until my volleyball class.

On Mondays and Wednesdays I had computer class after writing.  Even on those days I would head to the gym early to get a little extra v-ball time.

I loved the game, and I was pretty good. 

The teacher in the early volleyball class liked having a few of us from the later class because she could divide the class into four equal teams.  Fridays I could spend the full 90 minutes ... the warm-ups, the drills ... serving, diving for balls, spiking and blocking.

Well ... I wasn't supposed to practice the blocking.  The teacher was taking a liability risk having me in the class, and blocking can be a little dangerous if one is not careful. 

But I liked blocking.

I scooted to the defensive side of the net and stuffed spike after spike back onto the other side of the court.  The timing, the feel ... the thud of the hit followed immediately by the thud of the block ... hanging in midair for a moment before landing on the wooden gym floor ... until ... 

It is amazing how many things can go through your mind in a fraction of a second ... it is amazing how long a fraction of a second can last.

He jumped, eyes focused on a perfect set.  I elevated to meet the attack ... hands together ... extended over the net ... pressed as far to his side as I could without touching the net.  

He hit.  

I blocked.  "Stuffed again!"  I tried to keep my thoughts to myself, but sometimes the words blurted out.  "Ha ha ... love it!," I said as I watched the ball bounce off his shoulder.  "Maybe Burger King today.  Wait ... what's he doing?"  I thought.  "Naah.  Stay on campus."  My eyes snap off the ball and look down to check what he was doing.  "Shit!!  Moron!! Damn!"  

The fool had slid under the net to get out of the way of the next hitter.  Apparently he forgot I needed to land.  He looks up at me ... he looks scared.

"OK ... What do I do?  I weigh over 200 pounds ... he weighs what ... 130 ... maybe."  My brain is beginning to spin out of control.  "Do I land on him? ... A sandwich from the cafeteria ... That would hurt him pretty bad ... Can I avoid him? ... I wonder if they have any more of those cookies ... Maybe coffee ... If I try to avoid him I might land wrong ... What if I hurt him ... What if I get hurt ... I don't really need coffee ... "

I felt gravity pull me back toward him.  

I tried to miss ... I widened my stance hoping I would ... maybe wind up straddling him.

I almost did.

My 28 year old surgery scar
Don't be distracted by the ugly foot
with the deformed pinkie toe
My left foot caught his right shoulder and all 200 plus pounds pushed my leg beyond my teetering foot.

I heard the pops ... two of them, like gunshots.  They rattled my body.

I crumple to the floor staring at a foot that is facing more than 90 degrees from where it is supposed to.  "I've never seen the bottom of my shoe like this before ... Oh shit ... Oh shit, shit, shit."  

I looked at all the shocked faces.  A couple people turned their heads at the sight.  The moron who caused this was just standing there looking at me.

I so wanted to hurt him ... hurt him in bad ways.

I looked back at my foot ... at the bottom of my foot knowing my leg was not pointing it that way.

"Is someone going to help me?  I don't feel any pain ... Is someone going to help me? ... Why?"  I began to glare in anger at the idiot.  "Is somebody going to help me?" I finally said aloud.

This injury was a new adventure for me ... I mean, by far it was not my first injury, or even the first that required actual medical treatment.  That list would go on for pages and include things like coffee cups, barbed wire, moving vehicles and bowling balls. 

This was the first time I needed surgery to repair the damage I caused ... and the first time I needed to rehabilitate from an injury.

I hated everything about it.

My torn meniscus 3 years ago
This does not imply that I have enjoyed other injuries ... injuries suck in general.  Surgeries suck in general ... although you do get some interesting medications that make you feel all kinds of strange, but that doesn't make the experience fun.

So why am I even talking about this?

Not too long ago an injured employee brought in an update from her surgeon ... and it was the same surgeon who did my ankle surgery in 1985.

The same man that told me I would never run or jump again, I would always have a limp and I would need cortisone injections every 6 months or so ...

He was wrong.

This was the only injury that happened during some form of athletic exertion, so it sounds much mor impressive than saying I stepped wrong on the rocks at the beach or I doslocated my toe when my foot hit the door frame that someone put in my way. 

And ...

... I am making another trip to the surgeon.  Not the ankle surgeon ... I am seeing the orthopedic surgeon who did the meniscus repair on my left knee about three years ago ... because ...

I am so incredibly talented that I managed to tear a different part of the same meniscus that he made so clean and pretty last visit.  I do like this doctor, but I would really rather not be going through this ... again.

The procedure I
will once again enjoy
Like with everything else, it is one step at a time ... or in my case, one limp or stumble at a time.

So ... especially for my previous counselor ... I am looking at the bright side of things.  I will get to take a nap, feel really high, maybe my knee will stop hurting and I will likely get some fun meds to take home with me.

I should have my first appointment soon.

Friday, November 7, 2014

After changes upon changes ...

 ... We are more or less the same



After changes we are
More or less the same

What is change?

Waiting with family
before a marathon

Many people throw this term around, but do we really think about it?  There are different definitions of the word, so it can be used to express many concepts or situations

Change:  To substitute for another.

"I changed my clothes." or "I changed the flat tire."

These, and other similar statements express physical, tangible or measurable items.  It is quite obvious when I come home in a skirt and heels and I am soon wearing sweats and fuzzy socks that something is different.

On the other hand ... I may be in different clothes, but did I really change?  Did the clothes I removed really change?

I have taken the tire with no air off the car and put on a usable one, but did the tire somehow change?  Did the car change?

This train of thought may not be linear ... it does not easily move from one point to the next ... there may not seem to be a logical next point ...

Change: To pass gradually into

Unless you are absolutely still you are moving.  If you are moving you are passing from one area to another.

Using this logic everyone is continuously changing ... but what exactly is changing?  It is likely different for every single person on this planet.

There are the obvious physical changes.  Small children grow taller ... young girls become women ... older people may wrinkle or become feeble ... but do these attributes define the person?

I would hope not.

The high school athlete who went to college and now has a desk job and has gained 50 or 100 pounds, has he changed?  If he was a genuinely nice person in school and is still a genuinely nice person now then the weight ... the lack of physical fitness means nothing.

But yet I am certain that some judge him just due to his size.  Fat equals lazy ... the jovial fat man ... walking heart attack.

If he loses the weight again he still won't change as a person ... but yet some will judge him or question his motifs.

Guess he can't win.

Many times since I was young I've been told life is a journey.

Journey - Passage or progress from one stage to another:

One of my many
Pittsburgh Steelers
uniforms

For a child, growing is simply part of a journey.  For an adult the journey is likely not so simple or easily defined.

I have many journeys which run concurrently.

I have talked openly here about my ongoing battle with depression ... the feelings ... the actions ... the helplessness.  Did this change me?

Likely ... to a small degree.

I am likely more emotional ... but I have always been sensitive and emotional, although I have tried to hide these aspects from those who prey on those they perceive as weaker than them.

I may connect with or understand people's struggles ... but I have always had a deeply empathic perception of people, events, animals.  Of course most people would tell me I am assigning emotions to animals because they do not feel emotion the way humans do.

Whatever.

I have had some people tell me that I am different ... I am angry ... negative ... cold ... ... different.

No ... I've always been angry.  This is a defense mechanism.  It protects me from people trying to be close to me only to hurt me in the end ... it was learned ... it was necessary.  Perhaps I seem angry because you seem to be a threat.

I have always been pessimistic.  I see the flaws in plans ... I notice weaknesses is strategies.  I have caught grief for it most all of my life.  I still get occasionally chastised for not seeing the bright side ... but I am right much more often than I am wrong.

One trait I cannot seem to turn off is how I react to situations.  I have always said that I am a mirror ... I reflect back what I am perceiving.

If you think I am cold, angry or negative then look at how you are approaching me ... I mean really honestly look ... from all angles ... from different mindsets ... it may surprise you.

For my entire life I have known I am transgender ... or as I prefer to say, I have known I am female.  Does the fact that I have finally come to terms with this make me different?

Ummmm ... not really.

I look different.  Duh!!  I had my beard lasered off, I wear makeup and estrogen has softened my skin and started some breast formation.

Do I behave differently?

I cannot truly answer this question.  I believe things are a bout the same ... a few hormonal moments, but nothing horribly different.

I have learned that I do not need to hide my emotions, but they have always been there.

Our son's 21st
birthday lunch
A beer sampler
 to celebrate
I am learning to accept myself ... trying to love myself.  If this is the big change in behavior that people see I truly apologize ... but I would think you would be happy to see me raising my self esteem even if is just a minute amount.

I have gained confidence and learned that some people really like me ... I mean the real me, not what I was pretending to be.  I don't believe that gaining confidence is bad.  It does not mean I respect others less, I just know that I have some value as well.

I do like it when I hear, "Well, you've had 40 years getting used to this.  You can't expect everyone just to suddenly accept the new you."

Well ... first off, I spent 44 years hiding and denying that I ever really existed ... trying to lock myself away so deep that I would never truly live.  This almost killed me.  I have been in counseling for my gender issues since 2012.  The majority of the first year was trying to accept myself.  I started living as me in 2013.

Secondly, I have stated all along that I know that some will never be able to truly accept me.  That is fine ... that is their decision.  It is very likely that many of these people did not have a high opinion of me in the first place.  It is possible that there are other reasons to ignore, neglect or reject me.

None of this is for me to worry about.  I am happy ... I am closer to Pam than ever before ... I am closer to God than ever before.

Maybe I have changed ... but despite the changes I am more or less the same.

Simon & Garfunkel - The Boxer"

Now the years are rolling by me
The are rocking easily
I am older than I once was
And younger than I’ll be
But that’s not unusual
No, it isn’t strange
After changes upon changes
We are more or less the same
After changes we are
More or less the same