Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween!

Not that it's really celebrated here but still a few of us thought it would be fun :)

Whilst it was my idea I had not expected so much of an effort to be made!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Feeling ill, twice...

Right at this moment in time I am not feeling one hundred percent.  No, I've not eaten anything bad (I think) and I'm not coming down with anything (I hope).  It's just thinking about the unknown again. On two counts...

Firstly on November 13th I have to have a bone density test, and for some reason I am terrified.  I know that I shouldn't be.  Everything that I have read says that it is painless and the only thing that isn't too nice is having to possibly hold your breath for up to 30 seconds.

And yet I am so terribly nervous that it's causing my stomach to tie itself into knots just thinking of it and writing this.

The other, well...  The friend that I was going to call this weekend, and wondering how it is going to go. I have called him twice, and both times have not got an answer (nothing changes...  8 years ago you had to count yourself lucky if he answered his phone!)

But...  By now I have normally stopped being stressed by seeing people for the first time, and when telling people.  When I was in the UK there was almost no nerves left when seeing everyone and I was really pleased by it.  And yet...  Now it's like being back in December 2011 and having to call everyone again.  I'm back to the thinking of how to give the message, being terrified of how they are going to take it.  And, strangest of all, I'm going to have to use his name again!  After all I can't start with "Hi!  It's Stacy" now can I? No, I'm going to have to use his name again, and then go into the whole story (assuming of course that he hasn't already found out - I could be stressed about nothing!)

(Sorry, after along time I'm back to using the blog for stress relief again...  Not good, I know... I have therapy next week - I think I'll bring this up...)

Saturday, 27 October 2012

You must be the sister-in-law

Every year, at about this time, we get a letter from our vet saying that it's time to renew the cats vaccination and to have him checked over.  It's a time of the year that he absolutely loves as you can imagine and getting him into his carrier is breeze!

:( Right, I now have rather comedy scratches down my arms and I had to clean up the stairs where he got...  Nervous.

As the cat is nice and healthy I have not seen the vet since last year, but being English and having a cat with an interesting name means that were are remembered.  We got there, went into the consult room and the vet said Hi to Mrs Stace, looked at me and said, "Ah, you must be the sister-in-law!" (Yes! I'll admit I loved it when he said that!)

But I told him no - but I do look rather different to the last time he saw me.  Cue a bit of an awkward silence as he stood trying to think where he knew me from (at this point I did not know how to carry the conversation further, and Mrs Stace had decided that I was on my own for this one ;p).  Then realisation spread across his face and he looked a little embarrassed as he said, "Sorry!  but I suppose it's a compliment?"  I just said yes, absolutely I will take that as a compliment!

The rest of the visit went as normal and we still have a healthy car, who was not impressed with his yearly injection...

Phew.  *Almost* the last time I am going to be put in that situation!

The other major thing that has occurred this week is that I have the mobile number of an old, very close friend who I had lost contact with over the years (isn't it amazing how people drift apart?).  I am going to call him today or tomorrow.  It's going to be interesting.  An out of the blue call from a friend who he hasn't spoken to in 8 years to say Hi, I have some news!  Should be interesting...

I'll post how it goes!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Damn documentation

I’ve been procrastinating about the last Dutch document change recently.  Not because I don’t want to do it, but just because there is so much else going on that it was always “I’ll get around to it”.  Well, I almost got around to it last weekend (I know what I have to do now, just have to buy an envelope - well many, but that is a different story! - to do it).

One thing that struck me was a link to the Gender Recognition Panel, something that will come in a few years so I thought I would take a look and see if there was anything there that would come in useful in the future.  Well…  What I found is that I hope to be Dutch before I need their help!

You see, the UK is a little backwards in its attitude to marriage as far as I am concerned.  In that it’s a man and a woman and nothing else. Now I can see that churches complain and say that they do not want to have to perform same sex marriages as it goes against their teachings.  Honestly I couldn’t care less, I do not want to force the churches to do anything – that’s internal housekeeping as far as I am concerned; as long as they are not teaching hate (that makes my blood boil!).

But there is no reason why you should not be able to get married in a registry office to whomever you wish (as long as you are both of age, and both consenting).  That has zero impact on religion – I have never understood how one person’s marriage can be so affected by someone else’s that they feel they have to campaign against it (it doesn’t say much for the foundation of their marriage really, does it?).  To be honest I think that Holland has it about right.  If you want to get married you go to the town hall and get married.  If you want a church wedding you can do that too.  After the town hall.  And as an aside if you can’t afford it they even have days where it’s free!

And in a town hall you can have same sex marriages.  So my changing gender should not be an issue (OK, getting the certificate changed is still something that I have to try, we’ll see if it’s really an issue once I have the town hall information changed).

But…  It is in the UK – I just read that as long as you are married that they would not give you the certificate, even though I live in a country where it doesn’t matter. How ridiculous is that?

So…  I guess I am going to have a choice.  Get divorced for the certificate or live without it.

As I never intend to live in the UK again I think I know which way that decision is likely to fall. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The end of the beginning

Over the last few weeks I have started to end the first stage of my transition.  Well, actually, no, that is an awful way to put it, but I am not sure how else to word it 

So what has changed, and why do I think that one stage is ending?  Well, I just seem to be coming to the end of several things at the moment.

I started to have longer and longer gaps between therapy sessions, and there is nothing bad being discussed when I do go.  My therapist has said all along that I was not really in therapy per se, and that what I was having could be better described as coaching sessions.  But even that is now not really needed.  We had a two month gap between the last session and the next.  Assuming there are no problems then it will be four months from that session to the next and then 6 months before a final session.

The thought of stopping with therapy does scare me somewhat – after all it has been a large part of my life now for three years!  Actually it’s really hard to believe that it has been so long…  Of course this is outside of the gender clinic – after my intake there it was suggested that whilst waiting for my next appointment (their waiting list is extremely long) I would be a good idea to speak to someone.  As they are so busy, and have such a long waiting list they have to be more concerned with diagnostics and cannot give you the help that is really needed.  They gave me the number if a therapist who used to work for the gender clinic and I started to see him every two weeks to work though my thoughts.  I think that was one of the best decisions I ever made.  Trying to do this without the help would have led to a completely different result I think.

After 10 months my speech therapy is also drawing to a close. The gender clinic sent me to the ENT department to have a baseline done on my vocal cords, to check that there were no problems there and to see what was needed to help me. That was one of the worst parts of the process to date – when they film your vocal cords you are chocking on the camera and trying to still be able to talk.  I posted about it at the time, it ended with me vomiting all over the doctor trying to take the baseline  But whilst they did not manage to get the video they wanted, they did take the baseline that they needed.  Before starting I was at a tone and pitch that put be just outside of the male range, and just inside the female range – a very nice starting point, and seeing as I normally had to correct people on the phone before transitioning something that I was expecting.

They sent me to a therapist close to where I live who did an intake reading some Dutch text.  She had also commented that she was happy that with the information from the hospital, and her own initial impressions from when I made the appointment on the phone.  That mean that she could concentrate on dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to just polish my voice.

Over the months she has helped me with my articulation, brought my speech to the front of my mouth (lots of repeating sounds like ‘tipietappietiipietappitippietappietoe’ to bring the sound to the front.

She also worked on pronunciation issues (I could never say the r’s at the start of words in English or Dutch – I’m somewhat of a Jonathon Ross there) and I now have a list of ‘tr’ and ‘dr’ words that I repeat whilst driving to and from the office.

And finally she has taught me intonation, to get the monotone out of my voice and in the process to slow down my speech.  This has also had the effect of really improving my presentation abilities at work.

The last visit that I had she said that she thought with the progress I had made that maybe it was time to concentrate on other things – it does cost a lot of time to do speech therapy.  We made a recording of the same text that I started with and then listened to both to compare.  Wow! Considering where I was starting from I was really not expecting to hear the difference that I heard! If it wasn’t for the fact that I know they were both me then I would not have known it was the same person.  Whilst we had not tried to change the tone or pitch it has actually changed just with the other things that we achieved.  I have another appointment in 5 weeks (well 4 now) just to check that I am not going to suffer by not having the appointments and if all is good that will be the last one.

So yes, winding down of therapy, end of speech therapy and even longer and longer between laser appointments makes me think that I am definitely approaching the end of the first phase…

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Old photos

OK - that is maybe not the right word...  Old here means from the last 5 years :)

I have just written an article for our intranet site at work.  Well I say that I have written an article, I was asked to share my dream with the company through a questionaire :)

I have so many things that I would love to do that it makes picking one thing so hard - from learning to fly, to getting my racing license for the track, to learning to how to make my own clothes to opening my own bakery. And lots of things in between...

But you can only pick one dream for the article and I picked photography, or rather learning to use my camera to make shots that can transport you somewhere else, and release emotions.  I love it when you have a scene that either takes you back, or forward, in time and releases a flood of emotions when looking at the picture.

Anyway, it seems that it was a well received idea - someone from marketing commented that with the amount of amateur photographers that we have in the office we should organise exhibitions so that people can show off their pictures.

And the director / founder of the company agreed, and has said that we should use the public corridor along the meeting rooms in order to display the pictures.

Great news!  Now we have to come up with some sort of theme...  I think I may do one with either water or winter.  I have a lot of photos of winter scenes, and a lot of water scenes (in all seasons, I think it would make an eclectic mix).  Some of the winter ones are also really spooky - the problem is that most of the best were taken with a bridge camera and the quality of the image is not great when blown up.

Anyway... Yesterday I was searching though the 200+ GB of photos on our server to see what I could find to spark a neuron or two.  I'm no closer to a theme for the office, but I did find three that were taken at 120kmph (75mph) on the motorway at night (and no I was not driving!).  I love the colours and the way it looks like an impossible laser light.  And because I think they are like nothing else I have ever posted here :)

If I get to the point of having an exhibition in the office I'll post the selected pictures here too :)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

I suppose it's about time

That I introduced myself...

In the three years that I have been writing this blog I have never had an avatar other than Red from Fraggle rock.  And I have never posted a picture of me either. When I started writing it I could not afford anyone coming across the blog and realising who I was, so a fraggle avatar and no pictures was the only option.

The other problem with having a picture of me anywhere is that I hate them!  And I really mean hate them, most of the time I feel physically ill when I see a photo of myself.  This goes for before as well as after I transitioned - that is something that has not changed too much in the last 10 months!

At least normally! On the company weekend that I posted about a few weeks ago one of my colleagues came around with his camera and was taking shots of everyone.  One of them had me in it, and I absolutely love it!

I am not sure if it's the too large glasses and the witches hat covering my face.
Or the fact that I had rushed a large glass of wine shortly before the picture so that I relaxed a little.
Or if it's just that I'm smiling naturally and actually look genuinely happy in a photo for once.

What ever the reason, this is me :)

(Don't get used to it though...  The chances of more pictures of me appearing are not large!)

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Not too often I hope

This was supposed to be written last night.  In fact this *was* written last night - or at least started - but didn't have time to finish...

Picture a 1930's art-deco school in the middle of the night.  It is in complete darkness, the gates to the school playground unlock with a couple of loud clicks and the well oiled gates swing open almost silently.

A car swings into the playground, the headlights illuminating the intricate pattern of the bricks in the walls and picking up the detailing that the architect put into the building. Still the headlights swing and now they are pointed at the wall made of a lattice work of windows.  The shadows creep and jump over the walls, door and equipment contained within.

Eventually the car creeps to a halt and a lone woman gets out.  The cold hits her like sledgehammer - could it really only be a few weeks ago that she was standing in the garden at a similar time of night taking photographs of the stars? She collects her handbag from the back seat of the car and picks up a blanket as well against the cold.

She clicks her way across to the building door and unlocks it, once inside she locks it behind her - the click of the lock amplified by the tiled floors and walls.  The alarm beeps, echoing around the hallway as she turns it off.

As she turns on the hallway light the unearthly glow from the emergency signs is replaced by lights from large ball lamps hanging from the ceiling. Oddly, she thinks, this does nothing to diminish the gloom in the hallway, it simply makes it more visible.

The walk to her office has a number of locked doors, each lock echoing around the hallway the same as the last. When the office door is opened it is almost pitch black within.  Just the flashing LED's of network equipment and monitor buttons shining out from the darkness.

She presses the switch and lights flicker on. She walks around the room, slides into her chair and logs in to her computer.  The keyboard then echos around the room.  It's an old building, one that settles in the evening cold.  Clicks and small bangs echo around the place.

Then suddenly!  A strange noise, not quite a voice, but not a building noise either.  It doesn't stop - bangs to happen as well.  She picks up her keys and takes a look out of the room into the pitch black school yard. Two figures are standing next to the door - thank god!  It's the DBA and web master!

I don't like being in old buildings by myself, I have a very active imagination (when you don't want it to be!) and each bang, squeak and click goes all the way down my spine!  So I was not really happy that I was the first person to arrive at the office last night.  It was dark, windy and my head decided that it would be great to freak me out by pointing out all of the spookiness that an old school can conjure up.

We were there as a major project was about to go live and we needed to do it at a time when people would not be using our website - as a web site the last thing you want to do is have people see the dreaded 'Maintenance' page.

Over the next hour lots of people turned up - technical people involved in the project and managers and directors who had responsibility for this going well. My manager brought in home made quiche and burgers, the finance director had sushi with him - which is what we started with.

After the first hour we had to test the entire site. Originally I was one of the people just turning up as I have responsibility for the site running well, but our tester could not make the weekend and so I offered to take his role as I was going to be there anyway. The tests went well; there were problems - that were solved - and once I was happy we called in all of our product managers.

Over the next hour they all did detailed tests ensuring that the site worked to their expectations.  A couple of minor things were found, and again fixed (always the sign of a good test - find something that is broken, rather than letting users find it the next day ;p). And eventually at just gone 2am the last product manager was finished and we were ready for our definitive go live!  Cue champagne (that I could only have a sip of as I was driving home)  and speeches from the finance director.

It was a great evening, and great to say that it was something we I been a part of. One of the things I love about the company I work for is that people pull together when needed to make sure that things run smoothly.

All the same though; after only having 5 hours sleep I hope it doesn't happen too often!