Sunday, May 13, 2018

Family: the fundamental unit of society?

A few weeks ago, something had happened in our family, and that had led us to a rather deep discussion on the couch. There we were, our couches facing parallel on either side of the living room, facing each other like a debate team.

But there were no debates,  and I feel fortunate to have a family, where I have both the opportunity to speak, and listen. There is no interrupting. Virginie and the kids have gotten into the habit of listening thoroughly, asking clarifying questions when appropriate, and only then, making a statement about there opinion.

For those who don't know me, I am a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Often referred to as the "Mormon Church". Most of the beliefs I held have been challenged, and for the most part, I'm happy with my belief system. Beliefs about God, the purpose of life, loving self and others have been refined to make way for ones that make me proud to be who I am.

There are a few that have stuck with me though. One of those is about family. During our "deep talk" I asked the children what words came to mind when they thought about the word "Family". They came up with two: Love, and support.

I've reflected on these two qualities a lot lately. It's driven me to ask many questions about my own extended families. I don't know about anyone else, but it's far too easy to loose contact in Virginie's and my extended families. Understandably, we all have busy lives and taking care of our own immediate family unit becomes the most important.

And yet, I feel like I'm making excuses for family sometimes.

About 2 years ago now, I renovated our old house. It started off simple, but quickly grew to a mountain of work, I felt excited about, but perhaps overwhelmed by. I spent 6 months replacing floors, replacing drywall, counters, cupboards, plumbing, leveling, and painting. I would get up at 5:00am, go to work, finish at 2:00pm or 3:00pm, go to the old house, and work till 11pm. Then start the whole process over again. As I neared the end of the project, I began to ask myself one fundamental question:

Where was my family?

What I mean is: Could I rely on them? What were the expectations? Had they even been set? I realized that even though the LDS church had taught us to "put family first", we had not taken the time as a family to define what that actually meant.

The moral of this blog post? I still believe the family to be the fundamental unit of society. But I believe we cannot assume to adopt any belief without defining it's relevant application to us. For my extended family, many live far away. It's not appropriate to expect them to come and help. But we have to talk. We have to define what a family looks like, and have the confidence to encourage others to fulfill that vision. Without it, we will all have different ideas, and that just creates a culture of misunderstanding.

Family. They are relationships we can build, when we love someone.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Talking, yelling, screaming

I wish some things were easier to write about... As I sit here now, my fingers flowing effortlessly across the keyboard and staring at the soft glow of the computer monitor, I am reminded of some things that are not so easy to do.


I don't know if it's just me, or if other people struggle with it as well, but I often feel that sometimes I have to say things the wrong way before I can say them the right way, but by the time I've said it the wrong way, people are offended, and my chance is gone. With this in mind, I've become accustomed to stating my word with extreme care. It's a bit of a paradox for me.

I guess I've adopted the idea that people who are giving me feedback are doing the exact same thing. They are not sure what they want to say, and by giving them time, and a safe place to express themselves is something I can do and provide as a person to help the communication go well. 

Speaking of "trans", I get less and less weird looks these days from people who don't understand what gender I am, but I get more weird looks from people as Virginie and I stroll down the street hand in hand. I went for a lunch time run a few days ago and walked into the hotel where Virginie was working to say "hi". She kissed me and we embraced. As I left, I wondered about those who had seen us. I'm not planning on changing anything, this is who I am. I am a Woman, in love with a Woman that has learned to love my uniqueness back. I am the richest person alive. With that said, It's far to easy to see peoples "body language" and make assumptions. So, I've decided to adopt the mentality that if they have an issue with me, they will say it. With words. It's the same courtesy that I give others.

And yes, there are those that are yelling. Even screaming inside. Suffering with demons that are so severe that they contemplate and sometimes succeed in ending their own lives. It makes me ask myself, why is it so hard to talk?

Virginie mentioned one time after viewing a talk by Dr. Berne Brown that she felt she needed to learn to be more vulnerable. To show with greater confidence her needs, and desires. I've come to realize over the years that we all take baby steps. First, people need to show they are vulnerable through hints. They can be very subtle, and you need to be patient and compassionate, I have to remember: "It's not about me!". But over time, the hints will become whispers, then words, and eventually... confidence. It takes a long time, and yet I feel deep within the investment is worth it.

I've lived most of my life feeling like my life here on "earth" for lack of a better word is only temporary, and that my consciousness if part of a much bigger plan from a loving "Father in Heaven". Leaving religion and those beliefs behind has been very healthy for me. It's helped me to realize the inherent goodness in everyone. Not just members of the same religion. But there have been consequences. First and foremost, I don't know anymore if there is a life after this. For this reason, I'm much more motivated to live my life each day to the best of my ability, and to do my best to "talk" to others when that becomes too difficult.

For those that are tired of talking but are yelling, even screaming inside. Please, don't give up. Our inner demons are what makes us human, and may I suggest perfect. Because a perfect human being is literally in the symphony of all the voices both inside and out, both good and bad. They are what makes us who we are. It's what makes all of us an inspiration. They come together to create the tapestry of our lives, our interactions with others. It's what creates our good memories and our bad, and don't forget. Without our bad memories, or our bad moments, we would never be able to appreciate our good ones. You are as unique and wonderful today as you have ever been, and ever will be. So, if you need to scream, scream at me. I get it! I won't yell back, I know it's not about me. It's about you. It's about all the voices in your heart, and in your head that you cannot figure out because they won't stop talking all at the same time. It's okay, get it all out. Have confidence! Tomorrow will be better, and I will still be here then to listen because sometimes we don't figure everything out in one day. For most, it lasts a lifetime.

Listening... This is what we can do when we love someone.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

What can I learn from eggs and mosquitoes?

Woody Allen said: “It reminds me of that old joke- you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken. Then the doc says, why don't you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs. I guess that's how I feel about relationships. They're totally crazy, irrational, and absurd, but we keep going through it because we need the eggs.”

It's true... Relationships are absurd, and sometimes you will do absurd things to make them, or break them.

Last week, I was let go at my job. The company and position, and details of the work are not relevant to this post, so please, don't make me go there! However, I feel like the story is worth sharing.

I had arrived at work a little early, because I had been asked to participate in a project for which it was suggested, "I was the right person for the job". There was a lot of work to do, and because I now am responsible for the feeding of my hungry children, I decided to get to work by 7:30 am so I could dive right into the work.

The poor kids have been cooped up (no egg pun intended) in the house for the summer so far, and because we live out on an acerage, it's not like they can just run to the corner 7-11 to pass the time. Sure, you might be thinking: "you are telling me there is nothing interesting to do on an acerage?". Essentially, yes. I was a surprise to me too. One thing you should know about me is that I love running. Not 5 kilometers away is a new holy mecca of trail running, the 300 acre "Ministik Bird Sanctuary". Baden (my Son) and I ran some of these trails in the winter, but the snow was too deep, and it was difficult to run, and have fun at the same time. So we decided to wait until spring. 

While we waited, millions upon millions (I'm not joking) of little mosquito eggs began to hatch as the sun came out and melted the snow. They turned into larvae and in time, started their own life seeking out unsuspecting runners to drain blood from. 

I'm not being dramatic for effect either... First, exercise makes you far more inviting to a mosquito than a couch potato. Another study suggests that mosquitoes like those with type "O" blood nearly twice as much as people with other blood types. So what's more inviting that a couple of type-O runners? Well... you get my point.

Baden and I have tried a couple of times now to venture into the trails without being "eaten alive", but so far, to no avail. The silly sods have stricken us in to submission so suddenly, that the best I can compare to would be this video:

One more piece of background, and I'll make this one quick. I was recently in touch with HR about a very personal family situation. HR was very professional about it, and accommodating. That's all I'll say about that.

So back to the office...

At 4:30 pm, I was still busy working away when I got a meeting request. "1 on 1" at 5:00 pm with the manager. I had not been meeting with that particular manager for 1 on 1's for the past couple of months... "Curious" I thought. At 5:00 pm the manager came over and asked me to come into a conference room. HR was there and my first thought was, "Wow! They are taking some of my family concerns quite seriously! This is great!!!" It was then, that I was informed that my position was terminated.

My first thought was disbelief, and the second was fear. Fear for all the usual reasons. "What am I going to do?", "What if I cannot pay my mortgage?"... You know... Things like that. As quietly as possible, so as not to attract any attention, I packed up my stuff, and exited the building.

May I remind you all that there are two sides to this story. I've shared my part of it, but I hold no hard feelings to the company I worked for. The work is interesting, and I admit, I spent many weekends working on work projects, rather than my own technical projects, simply because I liked the work ones better. The value of what I'm taking away from the company in terms of experience and memories cannot be denied. I'm a rich woman indeed.

So, how do you like your eggs? Sunny side up or over-easy? (this time, the pun was intended). Do I consider my career over easy or do I look eggstatically at the sunny side up?

I'll tell you what I did. I sent an email to my former project manager. I included as much detail as I could about the project, services, and progress I had made. I made it clear I was available to answer questions if anything was unclear, and what my personal email was if they needed to contact me.

Life is not a game of one up, it's built on relationships that can thrive, or be pushed off the wall. Unlike Humpty's story, even though I got pushed, I have the choice to break or not. We all have the choice to break or not.

This is what we do when we love someone.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Music, the language of the soul

Mimi (our youngest daughter - and aspiring violin player) has been playing violin for a few years now. We met her teacher at a studio which closed the following year. We thought her teacher was a perfect fit, and so we hoped she would continue to teach Mimi. When she offered to teach out of her home, Virginie and I gave it absolutely no thought. She has nurtured her along with a balance between high expectations, and praise that is near perfect for Mimi.

A few weeks ago, her teacher emerged from her lesson smiling. "Mimi has picked out her recital piece" she announced with a smile. "It's a folk tune from Quebec, and she needs to practice it". Guilty as charged. I'll blame it on being too busy, but I admit, I've never heard the piece played, either during lessons, or during Mimi's practice time.

Until this morning...

When a musician performs, it's not just the music. Each performer using the expertise of their chosen instrument, their personality, style, and body language, to portray a story, which can cause each of us to reflect.

I remember playing in the University of Lethbridge Wind Orchestra many years ago. We were playing a collection of folk tunes called "Armenian Dances" by Alfred Reed. To this day, it remains one of my favorite Christmas tunes. This was a special performance though, there is an Alto Saxophone solo during the piece, and I was selected to play it. I fell easily, and instantly in love with the music, and over the course of the semester, I longed to return to that moment, wherein I would have the opportunity, to return to that place where music, passion, and the feelings of my soul could finally be released in harmony with the other musicians.

During our final performance, I was struck with the knowledge that this would likely be the last time, I would be playing this piece. As I played through my solo, and surrounded by the musicians, our music swelled to a musical climax that I felt so deeply, that I wept.

I didn't stop playing... but tears flowed freely. For the moment, this was my gift, that I could give.

After an epic battle, ultimately lost by the DVD player, the music was ready. I counted in my daughter, and she began to play. I went downstairs to continue painting.

And then I listened.

Folk music is beautiful. I absolutely love it. To me, it conveys much more than music, it tells a story, of a culture. Not of battles won or lost on the battlefield, but of stary skies reflected in the ripples of a river, or dances done in traditional costumes, or of something as simple as a mother kissing her child goodnight, and blowing out the lamp, promising him of sweet dreams to come.

And so of all the interpretations of that tune that have been done, none come even close to the beauty I heard coming from the strings of my daughters violin, because she played it with a quality that caught me off guard.

She played it with innocence. And I wept.

We have become so busy as a society, I believe that we have forgotten how to feel. We have work to be done, lessons to attend, fitness goals to reach, kids to rear, shopping to complete. And when we arrive home after these busy days, we learn numb ourselves from our emotions. A psychologist once told me some people will cut themselves, not with the intent to harm themselves, but with the intent to feel something, something real.

It's a gift that music gives for me. Something deep and real that I can savor like candy.

Music, it's what we can share, and enjoy when we love someone.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My Bathroom Story

I look down at my Son as he smiles at me. "Don't worry Dad, you totally look like a girl, you'll do just fine!" His confidence is reassuring. "Thank-you" I reply, "You go ahead, I'm going to worry a little more okay?" He smiles and heads into the bathroom. I marvel how easy it is for him, how easy it was for me. We are at Nakiska skiing on a planned Father and Son outing which we have planned for many months. The bathrooms here are among the busiest I have seen, and waiting in line at the women's washroom was too much... I mean, I would just be standing there in line, waiting to be judged... so I have held it in. Finally, it seems that there is at least no line going outside of the washroom, and its time to not let fear control me. I reassure myself, and begin walking toward my goal. Two girls chatting together walk in slightly ahead of me. For whatever reason, this scares me and I turn around and walk back to the entrance. Back to my corner. I begin to think to myself, "people looking at me must think that I'm a total pervert! Wait... stop that! Don't let your mind wander. There is never a perfect moment, just go". My son will be due out of the washroom soon, and I would like to at least be inside by then, he's been such an encouragement. I am so fortunate to have a supportive family.

And with that in mind, I'm able to walk in to the washroom.

It is mostly empty, with a few gals washing their hands, minding there own business. I look for a stall, and finding one, go inside, lock the door, and with gratitude, release the pain of hours of patience.

Truth be told, I've never had an altercation in the washroom yet. So far, the women have been for the most part, kind and accepting. Yet, I still wonder, while I'm sitting down doing my duty, "what if someone asks me for some toilet paper? Do I sound female enough? Do I look female enough?"

And then there's the media. Virginie reminds me often, that they just "focus on fear". It makes sense... Every species on the planet is hard wired to pay close attention to fear. It is our collective survival instinct. There has been a lot of media attention about it lately.

Last week I was walking into the women's washroom at work. As I entered, I looked over to see another gal heading to the same spot. When she saw me going in, she stopped, and turned around.

I keep reminding myself that I don't know her reasons for the change if mind, if even a change of mind took place, but it sure seems that way, and so the mind sometimes goes in circles trying to make sense of it.

I completely understand that a woman wouldn't want to go into the bathroom with a man. It would be weird and scary. The irony of the situation is, is that I actually feel normal now (yes, as in not weird) and while I won't, I could actually quantify this statement.

Honestly, I don't think it's the governments job to write rules about bathroom use... it just complicates the situation. In computer science, we often talk about the KISS principle (keep it simple stupid). When writing software, don't write more than you need to, and when writing, give the components of your software a simple, identifiable, reportable job. Each component is responsible for doing its job, and reporting on its progress.

For bathrooms, we need to be teaching our children basic principles of safety. Don't leave with a stranger, don't let people touch you what we taught our children as "their special spot", and to smile and be kind to others. With these things in mind, every individual can be responsible for their safety. Simple, identifiable, reportable.

I realize people are not computers, but this is not my point. My point is the KISS principle. Being kind to someone in the bathroom does not endanger us. With the proper information, we can all be kind, and safe.

I've spent too much time fearing over the bathroom. My plight to all is to be kind, honest, and smart. Let's not blow this issue out of proportion. Creating a beautiful culture in our society does not come from the top down (governments to people) it comes from the bottom up.

This is what we do when we love someone.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Random thoughts on God and Transition

It's been a long while since I've been able to blog... I guess I have not needed to. For the most part, I've got nothing to complain about at all, and if I do have anything, they have all been first world problems. But, there have been some recent events that really had me thinking, and as always, this blog serves as a place for my thinking "outloud". It does not mean that anything I say merits any truth, and serves only as a method to sort out the things which sometimes "plague" the mind. Its almost like, until I write them down, they don't go away. Once they are recorded for all the world to see? Then I'm able to make peace with them.

3 weeks ago our family received confirmation that our request to have our memberships removed from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the "Mormon" church) was complete. So our relationship with what I'll from now refer to as "the church" was finally severed. Ending, what I felt were many years of what still feels like spiritual abuse.

I don't blame the church for anything. Honestly, it's a wonderful organization, and the people do their best to follow who they feel is their "great exemplar". And they do a tremendous job! For me, it was all about my perceptions about God, and leaving behind the church, has been my way of breaking up with the most cruel man I've ever known. God himself.

For most of my life as a man, I knelt any prayed every night. Mostly to have God remove from me, what I felt was the one thing that kept me from knowing him better. Gender identity disorder. It was not the disorder itself, but the stress it caused. One of the great blessings I enjoy today are girlfriends! Honestly!!! It's one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever received! (You know who you are). I always felt that I had better friendships with Women, but they never developed into romance... I was always just "too good of a friend". It frustrated me... but it makes so much more sense now why I felt that way. Because I am a woman too! Yet, there I knelt, night after night, pleading before my maker that I would have so much more with which to be a servant of him, if he would remove the trial of Gender identity disorder from me. But, year after year, the answer was obviously no. As I got older, issues resulting from the stress of gender identity disorder became worse and worse. I became suicidal, but worse, detached from my family, and what little friends I had.

I often think to myself, if I went into a test, on an undisclosed subject, and was required to write the test, but when I didn't know the answer and asked the teacher for any kind of help, the answer received was "no". The church sees life this way. It's our opportunity to come to earth, and be tested. I cannot get the information I need to make important decisions, I feel this is God's issue, not mine.

Yet, I've met members of the church with whom I've discussed this important topic with, and when asked if God will be merciful to me, because in their minds, I've made such a huge mistake, the only answer I could get was "I don't know". Honestly, if God really lives? surely he would be kinder than that... and so we sent in our church resignations. So that I could say my goodbye's to that cruel god, and have a chance to live a life, without feeling like I'm failing him every two seconds.

Tomorrow is May 8th. Yes, it's Mothers Day... but not only that... it's my one year anniversary of starting estrogen therapy!!! I could not be happier. I sometimes feel like I must have swallowed a horse shoe when I was younger, because so far I've defied many of the common issues girls who transition face. First and foremost, estrangement from their loved ones. Yet, for me, in spite of this reality, Virginie and I have become closer and closer. I cried today... I cried for many reasons, and for none at all. Gals, you understand right?!? and through it all, I found my way into my Wifes warm embrace. She held me, and looked with a look that said "I know your hurting, and I'm sorry." The most wonderful part is that I know if I lost it and started crying again? That she would come over immediately, and hold me, and love me.

This is what we do when we love someone.
One year ago tomorrow!
Just about 1 month ago. Hormones are amazing!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Giving Tree

Few books really leave something with me, but The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstien did. It's a beautiful story about a tree that gave everything it had for the love of a boy throughout his life. The thing that really struck me about the story was I had no idea how many things trees give, and it expanded my mind.

I'm hurting inside these days. I'm not going to get into specifics because they are deeply personal, even for a blog, and for those who are really interested, text me or facebook me, and we can go for a walk. If the mood is right, perhaps caring will prevail. But for now, I will carry the burden I have, and I know that time heals all things. 

A few weeks ago someone contacted me, who felt similar about gender as I did. We texted for most of the day, and it was very nice. This person had asked me if I had ever had second thoughts about transitioning, and I had told them that I had, but only for very brief moments, and for the most part, I had really blossomed as a result of coming out and embracing what I felt inside. 

I still feel that way.

Yet, life is a patchwork of relationships, woven together through friendship, tears, love, anger, forgiveness, and commitment. As a result of this patchwork, I sometimes feel that I may fit into it better as a man, rather than a woman.

Another person (sorry for my being vague) close to me had complained that I was being too personal on my blog. They suggested that I was giving a bad name to religion and that it bothers them. Prior to transitioning, my square grey patch matched the framework of the quilt to a tee. Although,  I felt grey inside, I suppose if I could learn to see myself as part of the bigger picture... 

I'll leave that thought hanging.

So, it's how I feel this morning. Questioning, second guessing, worried, and unhappy. More than I have been in a while. Yet, I know that however things work out, it will work out for the better, and that happiness is a choice that I can make, regardless of my gender.

The funny thing is that I've told myself this 100, even 1000 times prior to transitioning. "It's a choice!" I would remark in my head, and re-commit myself to being a better person. 

It _did_ _not_ _work_.

So what happens when you have become a shiny new elm leaf shape, with brilliant colors, and you don't fit into the quilt anymore? There must be a way to make it work. There must be! Again, time solves all problems.

Until then, it's the giving tree. Whatever I have, I offer freely. My love, my service, my commitment, my time. 

This is what I do when I love someone.