Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sleep Well, Cerise

The trans community was stunned this morning by the announcement that Dr. Cerise Richards had passed.  She had been battling leukemia for 18 years, and it resurfaced, taking her quickly.

Her FB Profile Pic

I met Cerise many times.  And every time she took the time to talk with me.  She read this blog and seemed to know everything going on in my life.  She had an amazing memory.

Cerise was a chief of urology at Georgetown University Hospital, but she also was passionate about proving the theory that TGs have female brains.  In fact, she gave speeches at conferences (several times at the Keystone Conference, for example) on the topic of brain gender.  As this area is also one of my particular interests, we spoke in depth about it.  She was even kind enough to send me her presentation slides which were very full (over full?) of information.

She was very giving of her time and advice.  Many times at Keystone, I would have the makeover appointment after her with Amanda Richards.  (And was she ever picky about her appearance!  Just ask Amanda!)  I'd be waiting sometimes an hour, but the time flew by as Cerise talked to me about my life and about how others dealt with my situations.  She knew everybody.

And everybody knew her.

Her contributions to the TG World are endless.  She was a columnist at TG Forum, where I also have a column.  She was a patron of the Keystone Conference.  She started TG clubs.  She mentored.  She laughed.

I can't begin to list everything she's done.

Anything I write will not be enough to cover this woman's greatness.  Her passing has left a huge hole in many people's lives.

I have lost a friend and mentor.  The TG community has lost a Giant.

Sleep well, dear friend.  May the four winds blow you safely home.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Seeing Daughter

I don't write about Wife and Daughter much, as I like to keep that part of my life private.

What I can say is that I see them sporadically.  I will go weeks without seeing them, then see them a few times in a week.  I see my dog, Nittany, even less.

Belly Scratch time!

I still love Wife.  I really wish we weren't in the situation that we find ourselves.  But we are.

Today I took my daughter to a playground.  We ran around a bit.  Well, she ran around- I sat in the shade as much as I could.  I did roll down a hill though.  As we were walking to the car to leave, she said "You're the best dad ever!"

Cue "me melting."  I didn't cry though.

Happy Dad

I saw Wife today as well.  We had lunch and drove around a bit.  Today, she, Daughter and MIL returned from a couple of days at Hershey Park.  I wasn't invited, of course, but I'm used to that.  If MIL is there, I won't be.  A couple of weeks ago, they flew down to Myrtle Beach, SC to visit Wife's youngest brother, who now owns a veterinary practice there.  I wasn't invited on that either (duh.)

The fact is that it bothers me a bit.  I understand the WHY of it, but it doesn't make it hurt less.  There's really nothing I can do about it.  In the end, I had no choice but to transition.  If not...

Well, you know.

I've been tired of late.  I wonder if I'm sinking back into depression.  I feel lethargic.  Seeing Wife, Daughter, and (briefly) Nittany today brought me joy.  So few things do anymore.

Being myself brings me Peace, not Joy.  And Peace is a lot more then I've had most of my life.  Joy?  That comes from seeing my family.  But it's a double edged sword as that also brings me Pain.  It reminds me of all I lost.

Loss.  Why does Transition have to be about Loss?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Interlude in Rehoboth

On Monday August 11, both my roomie Linda Lewis and I woke up before dawn to shower (separately- she's taken) and put on our faces.  The plan was to drive the few hours south to southern Delaware.  Initially, we were going to meet my dear friend Ally Raymond but medical issues prevented that.  So plans changed.  We would meet another wonderful friend, Kira, in Rehoboth Beach, then go visit my parents, who retired down that way.

Got all that?

Right.  So we made it down in good time, and were both really hungry.  When I was a child, my parents would occasionally take my brother and I into Rehoboth on our shore trips, and we always went to Nicola Pizza.  I remember liking their pizza (I HATE Grottos!) and suggested eating there.  And so we did, having budgeted for lunch.  And the pizza was better than I remembered.  I had my usual pepperoni, while Linda had everything (except anchovies.)  Her pizza looked more like a mound o' nachos!

After we ate, we walked to the beach, where we walked along the waterline and discussed our current situation.  You see, we have a two bedroom apartment, and our other roomie never moved in, so we're in a jam for the rent.  We discussed what could be sold on ebay to make up the shortfall, and, more importantly, where we could find another roomie.

After walking for a while, we stopped on the boardwalk to rinse off our feet at a shower station.  This station had three shower heads:  one low, one middle and one high.  There were also three buttons, aligned like a vertical stoplight.  So I pressed the lower one, which activated the lower shower head and I rinsed off my feet.  The middle one was more for washing legs, so I pressed the middle button (thinking logically)...

And the top shower soaked me.  Was that enough?  Oh no, of course not.  Did I press the wrong button?  So I pressed the middle button again...  SPLOOSH!

Linda found this extremely amusing, as you can guess.

Well, there I was, dripping wet on a hot day.  Linda suggested we walk along the boardwalk, which we did, eventually ending up at the Greene Turtle, where we stopped for some ice water and a rest.

I'm still wet in this picture, imitating a Price is Right model

We then walked around for a bit longer, ending up at an alternative bookstore (Pride?) which was quite fun.  More wandering, then we arrived at the Purple Parrot, which is where we were to meet Kira.

We waited a bit, then some guy comes up to us.  It was Kira in disguise!  (In drab is a better description, which is why I will be posting mo pics of her at her request.)

The bar at the Purple Parrot

Kira sat and we spoke of her long trip from Northeast Pa.  I met Kira at the Renaissance Christmas party the previous December and liked her immediately.  She's intelligent, well spoken, and FUNNY!  

 Linda enjoys an ice water

Kira was hungry and proceeded to order half the menu (just kidding- she ordered crab soup and a salad, as well as some nachos for all of us to share.)

Menu, garcon? 

And so we talked.  We talked about mutual friends.  We talked about what it means to be Transgender, and what it means to go full time.  Kira is making the opening moves toward that.  We spoke of our jobs and how they were/could be affected by this.

Sophie Selfie

And we ate!  The nachos were a massive pile o' food, and the three of us worked on them as we spoke.  I drank water and some cokes (one of which had a little extra flavoring.)  I've been drinking a lot more water lately in an attempt to lose weight and save money (maybe not in that order.)

Kira very generously picked up the check, despite Linda and my offering to pay our share.  We parted ways so she could check into her hotel.  Ally would join her the following day.  Initial reports from Rehoboth are that the two of them had an amazing time and that the populace may eventually recover from their visit.

From there, Linda and I went to visit my parents, who live in a small town on the north bank of the Indian River Bay.  With summer traffic, a normally twenty minute drive was more like forty.  We arrived, and we talked a bit.  I caught up on the extended family and helped my mum get back on facialbook.  My parents sprung for a chicken dinner that was very well appreciated.  Yes, I ate a LOT that day, as did Linda.

Linda is amused on my parents' pier

After visiting for a couple of hours, we took our leave.  Linda had work VERY early the next morning so we had to get back north.  The trip seemed eternal.  I was tired and traffic was heavy and at times it seemed like we'd never get make it back to PA.  But we did, and Linda went to bed immediately.  And actually, I wasn't far behind as I was exhausted, despite the heavy doses of caffeine that day.

So ended our long but fun day.  We both were a little sunburned, but not too badly.  I returned to work the next day with aching legs and heavy heart, as on the way home I had learned about Robin Williams' death.

At the Purple Parrot, it seems to be a tradition to write ones name on the seats.  It's a fun tradition, so I followed suit.  The only indication or semi-permanent reminder that I was ever there is now on a stool in the Parrot, written in sharpie.  But the day was good, the friends even better, and for one day, all was right with the world.

Be Well, everyone!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Et Tu, Robin Williams?

In case you haven't heard, Robin Williams is dead.  Yes, really.  Hung himself with a belt.  So passes one of the greatest comic minds of all time.

I never met Robin Williams, but I know people who have.  You see, I used to work for a company called Games Workshop, and Robin Williams played our games (as does Billy Crystal, I'm told.)  He would come into our stores to play against people who would actually try to beat him.

(I'm going to abbreviate his name to RW for the rest of the entry for speed sake.)

As far as his comedy, he was the wellspring of my own comic style.  I define it as "lightning fast and WTF."  People who know me personally will attest that my jokes follow this pattern and are quite annoying.  But I learned it from him.

Obviously, he was better at it than I am.

He was also an amazing dramatic actor.  My favorite of his dramatic roles is actually from this little art house film called Dead Again where he is uncredited as a psychiatrist who now works at a grocery store.  he has the best line of the movie, as he fixes his eyes on Kenneth Branaugh and says "Why do women do anything?"

I discuss the Darkness often in this blog.  The Darkness is my name for suicidal thought.  And I've noticed other people have begun picking up on the phrase.  Good.  Call it by name.  Obviously, RW was no stranger to the Darkness.  You could hear it in his humor and see it in some of his roles.  One Hour Photo, anyone?

We who have walked in the Darkness know how hard it is to pull away from it.  RW couldn't, for whatever reason.  This man who brought laughter to millions... died alone.

Sad, isn't it?

But that's how we die too.  In the end, he was no different than us.  Strip away the millions, the mansion, etc, and he was a soul in pain.  Like so many of us.

And like any of us, he couldn't pull out of it alone.  No one can.  If you feel the Darkness coming, PLEASE, please please call someone- anyone- and talk about it.

My dear sister Lisa killed herself nearly a year ago, and I know first hand the devastation suicide leaves in it's wake.

If you need help, get it.

You can't do it alone, but with friends, you CAN pull out of it.  I'm living proof.

Be well.  And may the four winds blow you safely home, Robin.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lisa Empanada's Party: an Anniversary

A Year Ago.

One year ago, I attended a party in Baltimore in a soggy backyard.  I was there at Lisa Empanada's invitation.  You see, it was her Affirmation party, and I was one of very few people invited to represent the community to her assembled family.  She told me she considered me family.

With Lisa that day 

Tents against the drizzle

That is something her widow, Sandy, has since echoed several times.

This is the first of what will be multiple Lisa related anniversaries.  The Affirmation Party.  Her Death.  Her Funeral.  All of them, One Year.  And I'll address her suicide more as that one year anniversary comes.

For me, my life as a transwoman has been in relatively well defined stages.  The current "stage" started on March 25, 2013, when I went full time as a woman.  But August 3, 2013 was a major turning point as well.  On that day, I saw what the love of Family can mean.  Acceptance.  And on that day, I absolutely KNEW, beyond a doubt, that I was going to transition.  I've also spoken in depth about what the party meant to me in a previous entry.

That stage lasted a little more than a month until September 16th, when Lisa committed suicide.  Then began a stage of spiraling depression.  I documented that in the blog as well.  

So the anniversary.  What do I do about it?  My first instinct is that Lisa's birthday is going to be a rough day for Sandy, and as such I want to be there to support her.  So with that in mind, I signed off of work that day so I could travel to Baltimore.  I made arraignments for what she wanted to do that day.  I enjoy spending time with Sandy, and, despite everything else, I loved seeing her and Hayden today.

August 3, 2014 dawned cloudy and gray, just like a year ago.  I re-watched a video that Sandy had posted, and cried my makeup off.  After re-doing my makeup, it was the two hour trek south to Baltimore.

I made it almost on time.  After a few preliminaries, myself, Hayden, and Sandy headed north in Sandy's car to the site where Lisa died.  Sandy was dressed in a beautiful orange dress, and around her neck she wore the "Lisa" necklace that she'd given Lisa for Christmas.

The one Lisa was wearing when she died.

Sandy and Hayden brought flowers and balloons.  I didn't get flowers, opting instead to donate to a suicide prevention organization.  Sandy gave my these neat little butterflies on sticks to place.

We arrived.  We stood next to the spot looking for a bit.  Sandy told Hayden a few things about the site, as he had never been there.  We then stood silently for a bit.  I started to silently cry.  Then the two of them placed the flowers, and I, the butterflies.  Hayden gathered up remnants of previous flower placements, and placed them with these flowers.

Sandy places the flowers.

We stood for a bit, giving Sandy her space and time.  She then walked over to us, tears streaming down her face.  I hugged her and cried with her.

The Flowers and Balloons

We lingered a little bit more, then re-entered the car and drove away, quietly.

Lisa parked the van where the flowers are located

None of us had eaten, so Sandy directed me (I was driving Sandy's car) to an Applebees that had been one of she and Lisa's frequent stops.  We had a nice lunch, if a bit quiet.  Sandy insisted on paying, despite my wanting to pay my share.


After lunch, we went back to Sandy's.  I coaxed them into going to the Angle Inn for a round on me.  While there a friend of Sandy's talked her ear off.  We eventually went outside to the patio, where Hayden brought me up to speed on current events.  Hayden then showed me a place that Sandy owns that she was renting to someone, and that someone wrecked it.  The place stunk badly, and while I could see that a lot had been done, there was still a lot to do to clean that place.  When we returned to Sandy's real home, she asked what I thought of the other house.  I said "Nuke the site from orbit.  it's the only way to be sure."

I spent a couple more hours with Hayden and Sandy, petting Lisa's dogs, and, yes, crying a little.

I left a bit early as I had two stops I wanted to make.

The first was back to the site of Lisa's death.  You see, the other times I visited, I spoke to her, out loud, but not this day.  I went back to talk to her.  I gave her a piece of my mind again, asking her if she was happy about the damage she'd done to the three of us, especially to Sandy.  Yes, there were MANY others affected by her death, but I spoke only of the three who had visited that day.  After that, I squatted down and sobbed.  I told her about my life as it is, and then I took my leave

My second stop was Red Brick Station.  I've written of this place before this. There I met an old friend from my Baltimore days, whom I shall call Chrissy.  Chrissy dated one of my coworkers, but we clicked so after that relationship ended, she and I stayed in touch.  We had a couple of drinks.  My head was still spinning with grief, so I fear I wasn't the best company, but Chrissy could make Shleprock smile- she's that fun.

Chrissy and I

We hung out for a while, catching up, then I headed back north towards home.  When I arrived, Linda was already asleep, as she had awoken VERY early in the morning for work, and will do so again tomorrow.

I'll tell you plain- this day was Brutal.

I cried a LOT for Lisa today.  And I cried for Sandy.  The three of us should've been out with Lisa today, happily celebrating her 53rd birthday, or at the very least she and Sandy should have.  But instead the three of us were sticking flowers and balloons into the ground in a remote farmer's field on a somber gray day.  All because Lisa's strength failed her.

I understand the Darkness, and the way it distorts a person's thinking.  On my way down to Baltimore, the Darkness tried to break into my thoughts.  I began composing the front page to what would be a series of letters to those dear to me, trying to explain Why I died.  But I realized those thoughts for what they were, and immediately shifted my thoughts to the Who CD I had playing.

Lisa wasn't in her right mind when she died.  That's what the Darkness does.  Had she reached out to anyone, she'd still be alive today.  But no- she was so focused on dying...

I'm back.  I stopped typing to cry a bit.  Welcome to my world: where some nights I sit alone and cry.  Especially when there's a reason.

A year ago tonight I was trying to process one of the best days of my life.  On that day, I met Lisa's family, ate well, and met Ally, who is now one of my dearest friends.

Me, Lisa, Ally: one year ago.

On the video Hayden made for Sandy, we see pictures of Lisa.  In some of them, I appear.  In others I am cropped out.  But the highlight is a piece of Lisa dancing at Blue Pacific one distant night during Laptop Lounge.  It's dark, but there she is, bopping and bouncing.  This is the Lisa most people know, and how I wish I could remember her.

I do remember Happy-go-lucky Lisa.  But I remember her deeper and darker moments as well.  I wish I could've made many more memories with her and Sandy.  Today's memories were of standing on a bleak day placing flowers as if on her grave.

And so passed the first of the anniversaries.  Still to come will be the last day I saw her alive, and the day she died.  I will be there for Sandy on the latter, as she will need support.  As will we all.

I realize this hasn't been the most pleasant of entries.  But for this I do not apologize.  My blog is what it needs to be.  And today, it needs to be this.

Happy 53rd birthday my dear sister Lisa.  I will always love and miss you.  Always.