Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Another orbit

Well, seeing as I like to be fair in my criticisms and issues I had to share this today.

I got one step closer to  leaving my thirties behind me today and the guys and gals in the office were amazing!

When I got there there was nothing to say anything special was happening, and I am not going to lie but with the issues I have been having recently I went into a self pity dive.

But, whilst serving the cheese and chocolate cake that I had baked to my colleagues someone walked in with a large present and a card. And, yes guys, in answer to your card: OMFG I am that old! :p

The present was a Nicko RC Porche GT 3 Cup. And it doughnuts beautifully on office linoleum floors :) We know, we tried a lot! There was a lot of laughs, and it was great fun!

Then I went back to my desk and found that someone had decorated it whilst I was serving cake and there was no way I was going to log back on for a while.

Awesome, truly awesome and just what I needed!

And then, seeing as there have been requests for the dress, and as I think the juxtaposition of full on 50's swing and modern RC car are fun, her is me with the car at lunch in our school playground :)

A great start at home with presents from the little guy and a wonderful card that he coloured in himself followed by this has made the day amazing. One of my best birthdays in a while.

Right, time for a rest, I'm too old for all of this excitement!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015


I'm having a bit of a tough time right now.

Since I transitioned nearly 4 years ago (time flies!) I have been the target of some pretty outright sexism. I think that I have documented the cases here pretty well but it boils down to troglodyte car salesmen, computer bits salesmen and IT Services salesmen (Hey! There is a pattern there!)

All of them annoying, but also all of them are quite easy to put out of my mind once I have ranted a little about it.

Recently though I've been struggling a lot with smaller, less intense slights. Whilst in the face of it these are less intense than the ones documented above they are really, really wearing me down to the point where I'm on the verge of tears and physically exhausted from the stress of it all.

A couple of examples of this are:

  • When dealing with a stressful situation if I show any emotion at all then I get told to grow thicker skin
  • My opinion now counts for much less than it used to. There have been repeated instances recently where I have said something to be told it's nothing and then someone else repeats what I say and suddenly it's an amazing idea that needs doing. And I do mean repeats. Word for word almost (I am not blaming the person saying it a second time, sometimes they are not there the first time).
  • Being told that I am over dramatising everything

I was speaking to a female colleague about this, and they asked why I was getting worked up over something that had happened (involving themselves). I explained why I was angry and she simply said 'Oh, I just filter that out these days - you learn to after a while.'

My therapist made a very good point when I was discussing this with him (we did go into it in a lot more detail than I can go into here, but was a lot more helpful than I am about to make it out):

Well, look at the silver lining. They obviously accept you as a woman. 

Looking around at the moment I can really see that is true. I do work in an incredibly sexist industry (though I have no idea if it is more or less sexist than others as I have no frame of reference). As Terry Pratchett wrote in one of his Sam Vines books:

You can be any gender you like as long as you are one of the guys.

Sometimes I can really see that. What I can't see is any way of changing it, nor at the moment of dealing with it. After all, this isn't some forum full of trolls on-line that, though you shouldn't have to, you can remove yourself from. This is real life and happening daily.

PS There is no point to this post. This is more about me letting off a little steam than looking for pity. I knew that this could and probably would happen (though was not expecting it from the people I have it from). I do find myself wondering if people in our position notice it more though. Both due to the lack of social conditioning / defences which are built throughout life and because we can really see how people deal with us differently...

Monday, 8 June 2015

Times up

Scheduled post here, everyone is asleep so I can type for a change! This was going to be at the end of the holiday post, but I thought that maybe that was already too long and this didn't really connect with it!

So...  The past week has been a week of change for me. A few things have happened!

1) I have a degree in my name!

At last, I got around to posting my degree, with a legal copy of my deed poll to my old university and they sent it back with Stacy on it! Woot! I am so thrilled by that! Seeing as I am not going to change my birth certificate as I refuse to divorce my wife this was about the last change that needed doing.

2) I really tried hard to get some courage to do things differently

I'm really working hard to fight my fear at work and talk to people more. It's kind of working, but really hard. But the comments I have had back from most of my team make it totally worth it!

3) Our garden looks like a war zone!

We finally got around to getting our garden renovated (read rip everything out and start again). New tiles for the front garden, patios at either end of the rear and a 24m2 patch of astro-turf for the little guy to play on. Plus some planters where we can plant things that require almost no care to have a dash of nature without me having to spend time keeping it looking good. It's a mess right now, but if the half finished front garden is anything to go by then it is going to be amazing when done!

4) I've had a make over

A total one. Completely.

As I said in a previous post I have stopped worrying whether or not people think I am trying to hard and am just buying clothes that I love (OK, that means the trousers and jeans that I was planning on buying are not going to happen. Probably). I love the 50's look I have right now and that is what I am concentrating on!

I finally got the nerve to cut my hair as I want to. I've been wanting to do it for a couple of years and then always wimp out at the last minute. But this time I had it done. It was supposed to  be before I went to Scotland, but the hairdresser said that my hair was too bleached by the sun to take it so she died it reddish brown before doing the real colour a few weeks later.

And she cut about 7" / 17cm off of it (maybe more...) and gave me a new style that I love!

It did however take three hours to do, but the comments I got during and afterwards from the other hairdressers, and other customers who came and went whilst I was being worked on made the time worth it (OK, that makes me sound so vain... But nice comments are, well, nice sometimes!)

And... I got glasses. First world problem but... I've noticed that things in the distance just are not as sharp as they used to be. Nothing major, but it was grating. So I got my eyes checked and it turns out my better than medically perfect vision is now just perfect. Not a reason for glasses according to the optician. Until... he did the this is what you see without prescription, and this is with what I have measured and the difference was so startling that I actually exclaimed wow out loud. So he changed his mind based on that - though again said it wasn't needed, but if I was more comfortable with then I could think about getting some. Apparently it can happen that when you have great eyesight and then it changes just a tiny bit that you notice it a lot more than someone who has always had that level of eyesight.

So I got glasses. And again, with the whole fear thing, and the whole make over thing I went for broke. Not understated glasses, but ones that I loved (and was worried were over the top!!!).

I don't normally do pictures of myself here (because I hate them) but I love this one, so this is me now :)

Oh, and the title of the post???

Well, I had therapy on Friday again. And... We have decided that it's time to stop. Whilst I find the sessions relaxing, I don't have a goal for them any more, and my therapist said that whilst I am welcome to keep coming, and that he is going to miss me too, without a goal they are not going to help me much.

So... I go back in 6 weeks for my exit session and then it's on with life. 

I'm terrified.

(Of course if I need to then I can ask my GP for a repeat referral to him)

I guess real life doesn't begin at 40, it begins here a couple of years early :)

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Scotland, land of weather (all of it, in about 60 minutes!)

So, I'm back from the visit to my parents (well have been for a few weeks, but every time I opened the editor the white blank space stared back at me and was impossible to fill).  He goes nothing!

The visit itself was generally great. I was worried before we left that it would be an emotional train wreck for 10 days, but nothing could be further from the truth,

He looks great, really great. In fact better than I have seen him in a long, long time. If you didn't know that he was so ill then you really wouldn't be able to guess it.

We talked laughed, went 4*4ing (something that we last did when I was 16!) - and proved that full make-up really does give people the wrong impression of you! At one of the obstacles the guy talking people through them said to my dad to stop when my screaming got too loud. My dad instantly told that was never going to happen (and he was right, I may have giggled like a mad woman though :p ) And... I managed to do the see saw the best out of the group of 6 drivers, not quite getting it to balance, but I had it for a fraction and it didn't clang down on the other side as it did with the others it gently dropped so that I could drive off. And my dad looked so proud!

Other than that the weather was awful (Scotland... :p) for large periods of the day (for the 4*4 we had sun shine when we arrived, rain at the start which turn to hail, and then wet snow before disparaging before the end of the hour and driving back home in sun again!) and so we spent the time mainly at my parents house with them totally and utterly spoiling the little guy. It didn't take him long to cotton on to the fact that grandma will let him get away with most and so when we told him no he'd crawl straight for her seat in the living room whether she was in it or not!

I got to see my brother again, for the first time in two years. And I expect it will be a couple of years before I see him again. It was nice for my parents to see us all together for a change - that hasn't happened since I've been living as Stacy. In fact I think the last time was maybe 2010! We are not close.

And it shows... Whilst he is fine(ish) most of the time he can be such a callous, insensitive person. I knew that anyway (he has never congratulated us with the little guy, refuses to call him by his name as it's Dutch and too hard to pronounce - let alone it's a: not and b: can be shortened to an English name...), but he really took it to a new level for me whilst in Scotland.

He has my dad as having died already, and in his mind is already planning the funeral. Seriously. The day after I found out he sent me a text asking for a chat. I thought, wow, he wants us to comfort each other. Nope. Not at all. Starting with the sentence: I know this sounds cold but... And going down from there. My dad is still fixing my car, and has put it into overdrive now to get it done. But that's not enough for my brother. As he has dad as already having died I have to get the car out of the garage as dad is not going to be around to do it. Never mind that he is loving doing it and it's been great therapy for him (albeit that he has forgotten how hard the work is!) and never mind that he is healthy right now. And then when they had disappeared into the garage for 30 minutes to look at the car I thought I would join them only to find him saying exactly those things to dad himself. Like that is what he needs. I was fuming.

And then later that evening causally tells the room that he thinks I look like David Mitchell. And when everyone berated him for saying it saying that I don't, and his girlfriend looking at him in a very incredulous way he repeats it, over and over - never once noticing just how it's making me feel. I missed a lot of sleep that night.

My mum gave me a lot of comfort the next morning in the kitchen when we talked about it and I nearly burst into tears when I told her I had hardly slept because of it. But there is always a sentence with my brother: you know what he is like, he's not going to change, you should ignore him. Like the fact that he has been insensitive since a teenager excuses him from still being insensitive now. I can't excuse him. He's 40 something now and there is no excuse in my eyes.

But, back to fun! He and his girlfriend (who I'd never met before, and is wonderful and way, way too god for him!) left after a day or so and we carried on. Trips to Waterstones (600 books in our library now! And that's not counting the little guys collection of 50 or 60 books!) and shopping trips for shoes with just me and my mum, and for the little guy with the whole family (and wanting to buy the shop!) followed with a lot more little guy and dad running around the house together having a great time.

Whilst the bit about my brother is quite long here (and I needed to get it out!) it was but a couple of days and the rest of the trip was superb!

Except the travelling. Absolutely not the travelling. Toddlers sleep in cars apparently. No one has told our little guy that! 9 hours due to traffic jams on the worst day and he slept (almost every day the same) for just 40 minutes. 40. It got to the point where he would cry when we got into the car and cheer when we turned the engine off!  Ug! Admittedly the cheering was ultra cute so we made a game of it, counting down to turning it off, cheering and then doing a high five with him :) 

Right now dad is looking at experimental treatment (as there is no current treatment that will help him, it will only make him ill again) to see if there is something that can be done there and trying to live the best he can. All I hope is that he gets more time with the little guy and that the little guy gets some memories of his granddad. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Recovery and reflection

Wow, I just saw on Lynn's blog that my last post was 3 months ago! Time flies, hey?

So, what has been happening? Well, a lot! I'm going to start with the bad news and try to end well.

The bad news is, well, as bad as I have ever had in my life. My dad went back for his post chemo scan. It was supposed to be a formality, a final to check before moving on with life. It wasn't. The first week after finding out I cried a lot in the evenings, and in the car on the way to work. At work I kept myself busy and just about coped - though I only told the other team leads about it as I couldn't cope with people asking if I was OK. I wasn't. I'm not.

On top of my grief over it there is the higher grief of him not getting to see his grandson grow up. And the bigger one of his grandson is never going to remember his granddad. We do not know how long he has, but we are pretty sure that it won't be long enough for the little guy to form any lasting memories.

I had all 4 of my grandparents until I was in my early twenties. I thankfully still have 3. And it hurts to think that he won't have that. Maybe the loss is more mine than his, but it hurts, A lot.

I have now just about accepted it though. And am really trying to concentrate on making the remaining time as great as possible. Trips to them, lots of trips of them to us (we have already been asked if we mind them coming more often - of course not!).

And I am going to stop now, because I am getting upset again.

My recovery is going. there have been setbacks and emergency appointments at the hospital, but nothing too bad and all just about solved. The surgeons are happy with the results, and that means that I am too.

There is still a road to go. I have still not sat on a push bike since the operation. I have sat on the motorbike. Small trips are fine (and it feels great to release my inner biker hooligan occasionally) but when I went to work this week I realised after 40 minutes that it was too early. Just a shame that there was still 10 minutes left, and a whole trip home. That has put me back a bit - the bruising has made itself felt again and sitting has been less comfortable since - though it is getting better. I'm going to keep up the small trips, but the next commute to work can wait until June I think!

I'm busy learning new coding skills - AngularJS and .Net MVC 5. These are technologies we will be using over the coming years in the office. And whilst I do not code that much any more, I do want to have a working knowledge still. And it helped my confidence doing the training. I may not have the most up to date knowledge about our current code base, but when everyone was on the new stuff I was able to help others again - I'm not as rusty as I thought! I'm busy trying to get more  knowledge at home (not easy with a full time job again and a child of 14 months old!), and am building my own online application as a training exercise. Once I have something I may even post a link here and you can all laugh at my efforts :)

Speaking of the little guy, he is wonderful! We celebrated his birthday in February and bought him too many presents. Way too many presents. That many that we didn't even give them all to him and he was still that tired of opening them on the day that the last one he got he ignored almost completely!

He is about to start walking too - walking along the table, walking holding our hands (in his first real shoes - which for such tiny things are not cheap! They cost more  than some of my shoes!) and just today actually took his first step unaided. From my arms, letting go an going a couple of inches to his mama. It's going to be interesting when he really gets going!

He still loves his books (and is currently very interested in my old .Net 2.0 text book!) and can't sleep without a story. I just hope that stays :)

And he is starting to talk :) It's just amazing to watch him grow!

And finally... I'm busy working on my confidence right now. That is something I really miss for my job and I am trying to challenge myself more and more. Both with participation, feedback and just being me.

The most visible part of this is my clothes. I have spent the last few years being very worried that people are judging my clothes with thoughts of 'is she trying to hard?' And before I buy anything, or even wear anything this is a question I ask myself. Well, I'm stopping. I now have a couple of dresses from British Retro (really awesome dresses!). Full circle, below the knee swing dresses. With a full petticoat. I think they are awesome! They really, really stand out (though still pass Jenny's Tesco test - I shop in them!) and I feel great in them. I feel that this may be the staple of my wardrobe for the coming couple of years and plan to enjoy it!

Right, time to get back to another mini project - a window application that compares two folders organised differently and lets you know what the differences are. I'm sure I could download a tool to do it, but really, making your own is just so much more satisfying!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

2014 - what a mixed bag!

It's been a couple of months since I posted anything here. There is a good reason for that (and for me being so quite in the comment sections of others blogs!), but I'll come to that later.

I'm normally not one for that was the year that was, but this year I want to do something. It has been amazing, heart rending, emotional and painful in more ways that one. Let's see where this goes...

January started with the broken boiler a week or two before my son was due to be born. Stress and very likely an overpriced boiler later we had heating (and no CO) again!

February was the mixed bag of the year. On valentines day my son was born after a traumatic week for both Mrs Stace and I. A difficult birth, in a room full of doctors and nurses working hard to make sure he came into the world safely (as opposed to a mid wife and normal delivery) had me totally petrified.

I managed three weeks with him before I was called back to the office due to another team lead needing to leave the country for a family emergency. Those weeks were simply amazing!

We saw my parents who came for a week to see him, though dad was not well, the doctors though that he had a vitamin deficiency and would need three monthly injections for the rest of his life.

Sadly, this was not the case. At the start of March he was diagnosed as having bowel cancer and needed an operation urgently as the surgeon thought that they had caught it early enough.

Scottish NHS however had different ideas and it was nearly two months later (after several screw ups from the hospital) before he actually had the operation. By this time it had burst out of the bowel and there were three external cancers that the surgeon also had to remove whilst on the operating table. On the bright side, he could not see more damage, and dad did not need a stoma as a result of the surgery.

The fact that the cancer had spread though moved him from a low risk patient to a high risk, and so chemo was considered necessary. And very harsh preventative chemo too, something that we were not warned about.

His first course was fine, he coped well. The second saw him get very poorly, and the third put him in hospital for 10 days or so with complications and infections.

Over the summer I got a call from the VU (hospital) about surgery (woot!). They expected it to be in August, or at the latest September.

We saw our son grow, start to get a personality, and start to take a very real interest in his surroundings. Watching someone grow up in front of you, from a tiny and helpless baby to someone with a personality and wanting to do things with you is such a magical experience.

He has also been ill a few times, and I have never been so scared in all of my life.

But come September still no operation. Quite the opposite, when I called for an update I was told not September, maybe October. Great.

October came and I finally got the call from the VU. 10th or 11th November for my operation. Holy crap! All of a sudden everything became really... Real. Time to start lots of handovers at work, and time to start preparing!

Only, it wasn't the 10th or the 11th. A few weeks after the first call it was changed to 18th November, and I started to get scared that it would be cancelled. I was refusing to believe that it was going to happen until it actually did...

For the next few weeks I was a bit of a wreck, and then came to my last week. It was really quite boring - which I took as a good sign, better than a busy one with lots of last minute questions!

And then, in hospital! Which is kind of a chapter all to itself (which I am trying to write before I forget it!).

December has been recovery, scares and parties where I could not join in anywhere near as much as I wanted to! And a lot of support from people, for which I am deeply grateful! That support got me through some very tough times over the last weeks.

The little guy has seen his first Sinterklaas, and his first Christmas - which we spent in a holiday home with the in laws and had a great time.

On Christmas Eve dad took his last tablet - and as long as the next scan is clear, as the last was, then he has the same chance of remission as someone who never had it in the first place.

New year was spent at home with the little guy (thankfully) sleeping through the fireworks and Mrs Stace and I staying up till midnight to see the new year in.

2014 was a mixed bag. It was the year I thought I was going to lose my dad, but it was also the year that I finally had my operation and most importantly of all, the year that we got our son. And for that it will always be special!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Still here

Just not had much time to get a post actually finished! I have started a couple. One still to come, and another that has just been deleted. I was on far too much of a downer when writing it and it was too much.

The downer is caused by issues in the office at the moment. I have just started emergency coaching as when in the office I feel about 2 seconds away from a complete breakdown (and have been on the edge of tears too often in the last few weeks). The coaching is going well, but there is a long way to go or recovery.

The good side is that except for the complete and total lack of energy (and falling asleep on the sofa too much) it is limited to just the office, it is not something I am bringing home with me!

This week has been really tiring though. The little guy, after trying it out when he was two months old, decided that he wanted anothe taste of 5th disease this week. On Monday he had high temperatue and was taken to the doctors (btw 240bhp and hearing that are not a good combination! Waiting to see if any tickets come in). The doctor originally thought it was a bad cold as he had a running nose, was coughing and wheezing a little.

The temperature dropped over the following day, but then the spots arrived...  I called the doctors again and they said 5th disease, normally he would have had immunity seeing as he had it in the past but apparently that immunity only comes after a certain age. At 2 months he didn't get it. Hopefully he will at 8!

When he started to recover though we had something that we have never had before (except the first few days). He just would not go to bed one night. He moaned when in our arms and screamed when in his bed. After spending 4 hours trying to get him to sleep we decided to give him a bottle (something he has never needed). Before it was finished he was asleep. We guess that he was starting to recover and got his appitite back. I now have even more sympathy for anyone who has a child that won't sleep at night. One night was enough to completely wipe us out!

He is doing fine now BTW. The spots have gone (expect for the ones that went hard - they are going to take some time to dissapear), he is eating, and playing on his own again. Though when he gets tired he hangs on to our ankles until we pick him up :)

So what else???  Well, a month ago I treated myself to a Sonos Connect to listen to streaming music in the living room. We've tried a few options in the past, but there was nothing that really worked well. I must admit I wasn't overly hopefull about this either (I only bought it after making sure I could return it even after unpacking if it wasn't any good).

Well, I was quite wrong! 5 minutes after unpacking it I had streaming FLACs coming from the server upstairs and it sounded so good that we moved the CDs out of the room that weekend (MP3s are fine for background music, but awful for when you actually want to listen to something).

With that and very good Spotify support connected to the amplifier via a digital link so that the DAC used to make the audio signal is the best it can be I am very, very impressed!

Of course it meant even more cables in the living room and eith that and making it as safe as possible for the little guy (we have not baby proofed the room, he just needs to learn what he can and cannot play with - but the dangerous things to him have been hidden) meant that I had to re-organise all of the equipment. That was a lotmore work than I was expecting, There were cables all over the living room and 7 years of dust bunnys from underneath the furniture that needed moving!

I worked it out that there must be about 200m (about 220yrds) of cable underneath the cabinet! 24m of just power cables! Then there are the network cables. We bought an unmanaged switch a year or so ago. I wanted a 5 port but the 8 port was only a few euros more. Good job that I did! We now have only one of the 8 ports free (if a connection can be wired then I use it wired - better signal and less traffic over the wireless link). And that is used for when we need to transfer huge volumes of data from the laptop to the server (even with a 200Mbps wireless connection a 1Gbps connection is much, much faster!).

All in all taking everything apart, cleaning everything that has been hidden, laying the cables for each bit of kit and then putting the kit back together cost me about 4 or 5 hours. Far longer than I had hoped for!

Worth it though!

Right, looking at the time I should get the little guy up and organise some breakfast for him!