April 18, 2008

Disney: Siblings

Posted in family, travel at 9:29 pm by Michael

Peri and John are both great distractions and entertainment for Samwich, and he for them as well. They have done very well together – and they get that we need to think about what rides/attractions will be fun for him. We tend to alternate rides that he can go on or not, and use the “Fastpass” (line skipping) tickets to avoid super long lines.

The flight to Orlando (direct on Alaska) was totally fine, and actually having the older kids there as well as Samwich (we travel more with just him because of our kid schedule) was actually easier than traveling with just him. All three kids have their own backpacks (ok, we carry Samwich’s), and Peri and John each have their own rollaboard suitcase (this works great). They pack themselves (Anh writes a list to help), which means that they take clothes that they will wear.

Plane food is a pain these days (there is none) on long haul domestic flights, so we are always looking for a solution for that. This time, Peri got instant couscous (just add hot water) in a paper disposable cup (like ramen) – it was good, and she did great with it.



April 12, 2008

Samwich in Disney: Fun or Not?

Posted in family, Samwich, travel at 8:10 am by Michael

In summary – yes, Samwich has had fun….

Monday we spent the day in the Magic Kingdom. The first ride we brought him on was “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”. We basically brought him on every ride that he was allowed go to on that didn’t have a height limitation (because he would get ejected like some sort of slobbering projectile if not properly restrained). We were in the park from basically 930am till 1030pm (right after the fireworks). Not once, except for during the fireworks did he get scared – and there, he just jumped for the first “bang”, but then he was ok.

One of the things that he surprisingly loved were the Disney strollers. Because of their shape, he was able to sit up most of the time, and he looked like the little king, viewing his domain. From the back, all I could see sometime were his little hands flapping outside the walls of the stroller. It was hilarious!

Now, I had thought that watching him Monday that he was just tolerating the rides. He had this expression on his face like “Yeah, whatever, I’m the Samwich”. He only got excited really when playing with his brother and sister (below…)… until Wednesday.

We walked around the corner, and he saw the Dumbo Flying Elephants doing their never-ending circle. He pointed, and did his greeting: “Hi There!”, and started yapping excitedly at them. You would have thought they were made of grapes or chocolate or something… he was INTO it. As the week went on, his love of all things spinning increased.

Toward the end of the week, when he saw the fireworks, he was captivated. He’d sit there, quietly, just staring at the bursts, listening to the music. I’m not sure he’ll ever remember it, but I will.

He did totally fine in the heat (high 80’s) – we just sunblock him up, are careful (not too careful) with direct sunlight for long, keep him hydrated with water and milk (Foogo thermos/straw cup), let him walk and find things for him to do (like the little play areas – he’s into those!), and it’s all good!

April 6, 2008

Disney Food Experience

Posted in family, food, travel at 5:02 pm by Michael

Yes, you can find reasonable food in the Disney parks (Reasonable: not all fried, some greens or at least fruit, not ultra fatty). Our usual “Don’t eat bad food” rule has to get suspended a bit (note, bad doesn’t mean expensive – it just means to make food part of the experience – trying to eat as local, or at least as well as possible given the locale).

Here’s where we ate::

Off Property

Nacho’s Grill – near the Outlet Malls, in Orlando
– Reasonably authentic Cuban and Mexican food… even given the cheesy name, this place was good – the nachos were fresh, the rice was good, and the service quick!

Magic Kingdom

Tomorrowland Terrace and Noodle Station
– Who knew? Asian in Disney… A reasonable simulacrum of Chinese/Asian food, but better than a burger (we had noodle soup, teriyaki chicken/beef with rice – all not bad!)

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café
– There were three “bays” here (Its “Tomorrowland” after all) – “Burger”, “Chicken”, and “Soup/Salad”. We had “Bay 2 – Chicken”, and there was roti chicken and ribs, served with green beans (canned) and also mashed potato. The chicken was moist, and Samwich was loving the green beans. Mmmm… fiber!

El Pirata Y El Perico
– Ok, sounds super cheezy. They have three things basically – beef tacos, vegetable tacos, taco salad (all in hard shells). The cool thing is that they have a “topping bar” with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, salsa and hot sauce, so you can salad-ify virtually everything. For kids meals, they had cheese quesadillas which were clearly microwaved, because they got hard instantly (a definite pass).

Disney’s Hollywood Studios (aka Disney/MGM)

Brown Derby
– Home of the Cobb Salad (the real one in California at least)…. We did have the Cobb Salad, I thought it was ok, Anh thought they crossed the “chopped/minced” line, and it tasted like tabbouleh.


– The couscous here was “The Best Couscous I Ever Had” according to Peri. Now, take this with a grain of couscous. When Peri likes something, its generally “The Best X I Ever Had”… but, still, high praise. We had couscous with both lamb and chicken (the chicken was whole, and the lamb was a roasted shank, which was moist). Anh had the chicken kabobs which were well flavored, but were dry.

Grand Floridian

– One of two higher end restaurants at the GF (The third, ultra high end place is “Victoria and Alberts, which is prix fixe ($125/pp), and has its own reservation line, no kids allowed, and a jackets/cocktail dresses dress code. Not owning a cocktail dress, this was right out.) We had dinner here with all the kids, and to start with, the service was very kid friendly, and very good. Drinks (mixed) were also surprisingly good (pomegranate cosmo for Anh – nice and bitter). John had shrimp which were sautéed – he loved it – although it looked a little rich. I had the braised veal, which was reasonable, but could have been more tender and more extreme in its flavors (more of something – more wine, more garlic, more something – it didn’t stand for much). All up, this was a good choice with kids though – the service saved it, as did the “make it your own” sundae’s for the them. From a food point of view, it was ok, but from an experience point of view (with all three kids), it was good.

– We actually ate here twice. The first time, we had “adult dinner’, and the second time, we brought back the whole family. Note that this place is “on the lake”, and has a view of the fireworks, so tables tend to be held through the fireworks (i.e., it’s hard to get a reservation, or have the reservation work well if its 60-90 mins before fireworks time – since fireworks were generally at 10pm when we were there, this meant that 830-9pm was crunch time there).

Fundamentally, the reason why we ate here twice was the staff. The first night, our server was Diane, and we struck up a lively conversation with her about wine. The fried calamari was fresh and tasty, served with onions, olives and hot peppers. Over the two nights, we had the steak (fair), as well as tilefish, lobster tail, and a couple of other things. However, the real killer here (for the kids at least) was dessert. They had a “make your own S’Mores” big kid dessert, which they *loved* (we brought them in for dinner after we ate the first night). Diane and Sam made us a reservation for the next night (and Sam got us a wine list from Victoria and Albert’s, which we ordered from). If you go, say hi to both of them for us, they were both sweethearts.

When we went to “adult dinner”, Peri and John were at “The Mouseketeer Club” at the GF, which was a room with toys/games/movies/crafts that was attended and had about 6 other kids there when we dropped them off. Reservations for this can be made through the Disney Dining line (800-WDW-DINE). This was $11/hour per kid. Samwich had an in-room sitter that we arranged through the resort. They charged $16/hour. This has to be made through a separate service, but was backed by Disney.

The Yuk List

Magic Kingdom: Columbia Harbor House
– All fried, all the time. Fried chicken, fried fish… we didn’t have a lot of options. They did have two salads, and they would make them fresh (you can remove stuff…)

Kennedy Space Center: Café
– Going here made me appreciate the organization that Disney brings to the table for food service for a lot of people.


A special note of our favorite snack at the Magic Kingdom – “Pineapple Dole Whip” – which is pineapple soft serve ice cream. Yum. This can be found right across from the “Swiss Family Robinson” tree house, in Adventureland.

We’re Back

Posted in family, life, travel at 6:31 am by Michael


We got back late last night from Orlando – about an hour and a half later than expected due to thunderstorms in the Orlando area…

I know I’ve been dark all week – no, I didn’t stop the blog, get eaten by aliens, or do something crazy. I unplugged for a week…

So, over the next day, I’ll post about our experiences in Disney, from going with three kids (1, 8, 10), the food, and the “experience” (oh, and getting recognized, which is *odd*)….

March 28, 2008

The Opposite of Into the Wild

Posted in family, life, travel at 12:33 pm by Michael

Today starts “Spring Break” for my older kids.

It’s snowing. It’s cold. It’s gray. It’s Seattle. Its March.

The View From My Office, 3/28/2008

Time to get away.

We are going to the polar opposite of Alaska (at least in the USA) – Florida. More precisely, Disneyworld. All five of us.

Now this, this should be interesting.

Anyone want to guess what the “Crappy Look Counter” over/under will be for the next 7 days?

FAQ: Yes, we do plan on getting Samwich Mickey ears that say “Samwich”

FAQ: No, I will not be getting Minney ears that say “Megan”

March 16, 2008


Posted in family, food, Samwich, transgender, travel at 11:44 pm by Michael

Saturday morning Anh, Samwich and I drove down to Rhode Island to visit my mom. It was Samwich’s birthday, and we hadn’t seen my mom in a while – good opportunity!

We usually don’t get a car when we are just in Boston, so Step 1 was to actually get a car. I usually rent from Avis, because I have a Preferred number with them (you can get this easily from them), and it makes the rental process easier. They have your license and credit card information on file, so it’s quick, and you get a bit of a discount. I haven’t yet updated my ID information with them yet, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. I didn’t even rent the car with my Preferred info, and just did it online without it. When I got to the desk to get the car, I gave the agent my license and credit card, and when he swiped it, it automatically came up with my Preferred number. Turns out that Avis uses your credit card number as your long term ID number. Changing my name with them was trivial as a result.

On the way down to RI, we stopped at Dunkin’ and got Samwich his first donut (it was his birthday after all). Loved it… but he loved smashing it more. Samwich is in food-smashing mode for most soft foods these days – bananas, bread, you name it. I think he’s looking for the treasure inside. Denied! He does eat the smashed bits too. (Not to go too far down the Samwich eating habits path, but Damn Samwich! Are you part penguin? Just about anything he puts in his mouth, he takes a bite of, then takes it out, looks at it, and then decides if its worthy to go back in or not. Sometimes he just sucks the essential juices out, like the salt-monster on Star Trek, and spits out the effluent.)

The last time my mom saw me in person was November 30th, the day after FFS. This is what I looked like:

Postop 24

In talking to her since then, she’s had a hard time getting that image out of her head, because there hasn’t been a live one to replace it. Yes, she’s seen pictures, video, and even the ABC stuff last week, but that’s just not the same.

Luckily, I was able to give her a new image… (sorry, we didn’t take a lot of pictures of me… this is the only one)

March 16, 2008

My sisters were both there when we arrived, as well as my niece and great-niece. I hadn’t seen any of them since November either.

When we arrived, it even smelled like home. They had put a turkey in to roast and my old(est) sister had made a cake/cupcakes. Smell is such a personal, deeply emotional sense. To me at least, a remembered smell can bring me back more quickly than any other sense.

I could see the relief on my mom’s face almost right away. She hugged me, then came back to hug me again a few minutes later.

We had a great lunch, Samwich loved his birthday cupcake, and spent the afternoon just relaxing. It was nice to be home.

My mom was/is still struggling with the name/pronoun thing. I don’t think for a second it’s because she isn’t respectful or understanding – but as *my mom* she has such a pattern of interaction with me, its hard to break. At one point, she said she was just going to call me “Michael Megan” so I couldn’t tell when she screwed up. Got to love the hardscrabble Yankee pragmatism.

That night, at about eight, I went downstairs, and noticed a good-sized water leak in the ceiling. Looked all around (up and downstairs), but we couldn’t find the source of it. I can fix a lot of things, but plumbing – that’s one thing that I’m not good at – clueless sums it up.

My mom is blessed with awesome neighbors, and she called across the street to ask for some help. Glenn helps my mom out a lot – he shovels her out, will help with house maintenance, and he and his wife both have been a real source of support for my mom since my dad passed away.

He came over – we (well, he swung the hammer) tore out the waterlogged ceiling, and saw that the leak was coming from behind the wall. We went upstairs, tore out some more wall behind the bathroom sink, and discovered that the joint on the hot water line was leaking. We then spent the next two hours repairing it (well, I held the flashlight, and did general helper 3 rd class duties). I love watching someone work who really knows what they are doing – doesn’t matter what they are doing. Watching my old(est) sister make bread is amazing – she used to be a baker in another life – always something to learn.

Glenn hadn’t seen me since last summer. You know what? If he was different in any way, I couldn’t tell. We were just getting the job at hand done – at 10pm at night on a Saturday. Glenn is a police officer in Pawtucket, and he’s one big, strong, tough dude. He’s awesome. Thanks Glenn.

After cleaning up the big mess we had made by tearing out a ceiling and a wall, we went to bed.

When we got up this morning, Ma suggested that we all go out to breakfast at her favorite neighborhood joint – Oatley’s. Rhode Island, even though it’s wedged between Boston and New York can be both very urban, but surprisingly rural. Just five minutes from my mom’s house is a huge turf farm. The vibe of her town is east-coast rural. Lots of stone walls as you drive around, not made for the look, but out of necessity from clearing the land.

My mom and dad used to go to Oatley’s five or six days a week before he passed away. She goes less now, but is still a regular, and pretty well known there.

We had our breakfast, Samwich did his penguin-eating, and as we were leaving (and I was across the room paying), one of the waitresses who knows my mom well came over and was chatting with them. Just as I walked over, she had to run, but my mom said to me “Well, I’m sorry that she didn’t get to say hi to my youngest daughter!”

After we finished up, we stopped by the cemetery to visit my dad’s gravesite, and to leave a ceramic bird at his site. This was harder for me than I thought it was going to be. Samwich hadn’t been there before, and as we were driving up, Sheila said “Samwich, are you going to say hi to Pa?” Samwich never met my dad, and my dad never knew that Samwich was coming. Anh was only a few weeks pregnant (we knew) when my dad passed, and it didn’t seem like a good time to tell him. (Long story).

As we were walking up to the site, Anh said “What’s that rumble? Is that Pa rolling over?”. Just some context here… we all in the fam have talked a lot about how my dad would have dealt with his only son coming out to him. This was on *all* of our minds as we walked up, and Anh, because of the way she is (fabulous) felt like the ice needed to get broken. Ma said “Well, I think he would have said ‘Are you happy? If so, that’s all I care about.’ Then he would have said ‘Jesus F#!$’ing Christ! What next?’ “

We all laughed…. That’s the way my dad was. I got a little misty just thinking more about it – thinking about how I was never able to talk to him about this.

Well Pa, I’m happy. We are happy… Your kids and your grandkids all love you.

We drove back home, for lunch had some pizza and a meatball grinder from Fillipou’s Pizza (401-294-4767 – on Ten Rod Road in North Kingstown – the BEST!), and then headed to the airport. Ma as she always does was a little teary and sad to see us go, but we’ll be together again soon (next month!)

It was a good homecoming – another “First” down…

March 14, 2008

I’m Back

Posted in Boston, family, food, Identification, Samwich, transgender at 7:38 pm by Michael

Well, not really, still in Boston.

Anh, Samwich and I went to Boston on Tuesday night on the redeye, and I worked here all week.

Honestly, after all the buzz from last week, I needed a bit of a blog-break. But, here we are, it’s Friday, it’s the weekend, and I’ve got some stuff to say. Here goes.

Commenters and Supporters – Thank You!

I sincerely appreciate the comments that people have posted, and the mails that have been sent – both with support and also questions. It’s all good, and it means a lot to me! Thank you.

JetBlue – Please don’t go out of Business!

As I’ve written about at length, we love JetBlue. Between lots of legroom, DirecTV on board, friendly crews, new planes, great website, good customer support, and reasonable and understandable pricing – by far is our favorite domestic airline.

Last couple flights though – scary – probably only 25% full. Now, for a redeye, this isn’t the worst thing in the world – for the passengers. But, you have to question in this day and age, how long empty flights can keep flying. Maybe it’s the season, or the day of week we fly (Tuesday), but I’m a little scared that the reliable redeye will go bye-bye.

Boston Cannoli Fest V2

Wednesday night we did a little cannoli-comparo. I’ve been a big fan of Bova’s for a very long time. The others in the big-three in Boston are Modern Pastry, and Mike’s.

We tried Mike’s and Bova’s again – side by side. (Large ricotta, plain (no nuts of chocolate chips). Yes, I realize that Italian cannoli are made from marscapone generally, but in the US is more likely sweet ricotta based – lots of discussion on that in this space back in early January).

I believe that we have a new winner – by far – Mike’s. The filling was lighter, and the crust thinner and crispier. The Bova’s entry was too thick – both the crust and the filling. The ratio here matters, and Mike’s was better.

Good Italian

Try Pomodoro on Hanover Street in the North End. The menu is small, but the food was in general very good. The chicken carbonara pasta and the veal with carmelized balsamic served with green onion risotto were both tasty and unique. Hallmark of a great Italian place – the simple things are fantastic. We had the fried calamari appetizer to start – it was light, crisp, hot, sweet, not chewy, and came with a (big) side of tomato sauce – which was light and perfect.

“Are you a man?”

Anh and I went to Filene’s Basement to check out jeans and some shirts, both for me and for her. There wasn’t a ton, but we picked out some stuff, and went to the dressing room. I was carrying Samwich in the baby carrier, and Anh had most of the clothes (I had a few). At the basement, you have to check in at the dressing room and get a number tag for the number of items that you bring in. As I was going through this process w/the attendant, she said to me:

“Are you a man?”


“Are you?”

“No, do you want to see my ID?”

Pause, still not giving me the number tag.

“No, really, do you want to see my ID?”

“No, that’s ok, go ahead.”

She was not convinced. I tried on some stuff, liked some, didn’t like others, and while I was, I was thinking about how to handle it – ignore it? Talk to her? Talk to the manager?

I decided to just take by bargains and run, and not say anything. I’m not sure if I didn’t have a “F” on my license what I would have said. It would have been harder.

It brings up the fundamental question of what it means to be male or female in general, in a public situation like this. Who is being protected? For what reason?

I’m still not sure what I think about this. Maybe tomorrow I will… Maybe not. Maybe I never will.

“I saw you on Nightline”

After dinner, we were taking the T (Red Line) from South Station to Kendall Square. We love the T, and really wish that Seattle had public transport like that. It was just about 9pm, and the train wasn’t too full. Just after we had gotten on, I noticed that there was a guy, probably a little older than us, with lots of facial piercings. He was looking at us pretty closely. As the train stopped, he looked at us, and said:

“I saw you on Nightline!”

Me and Anh almost at the same time said:

“Yes you did!”

He said: “Well, good for you!”

I almost asked him “What did you think?” or “How did you recognize us?” but I was afraid in many ways to break the barrier of anonymity that seems to exist in public places like this. Yes, he did reach out to us, but I wasn’t sure what to do except for smile and say thanks….

I looked at Anh and said (quietly) “I never expected that!” Anh said “Me too!”

Neither of us were freaked out – just a little surprised…

He got off one stop before us, and said the following to us as he got off:

“I wish you both the best of luck and may god bless you.”

I’ll take it that he was supportive from both the words and the tone, and I give him a ton of credit for reaching out to us, and I think we probably could have done more to reach back.

I honestly never thought that we would get recognized on the street, especially so far away from home.

Happy Birthday Samwich

Samwich is One. Congratulations Samwich! Thank you Anh for being such an amazing mom.

March 7, 2008

“What about the kids?”

Posted in family, transgender at 10:46 pm by Michael

As is well documented, we have three kids – Peri, 10 – John – 7 (almost 8 ) and Samwich (1 in a week!).

Many people have asked many questions about the kids – how did we tell them and how they reacted, how they dealt with my early transition and how they are doing now.

How Did We Tell Them?

The challenges for telling the kids included:
– what to tell them, and how to do it in a way that they would understand
– how to give them space to react and respond
– how to be “true” to myself, but at the same time still love and honor these precious little beings

We ended up telling them at the start of a two week vacation. Me, Anh and my mom sat down at the dining room table and told Peri and John that we had to tell them something important.

We first reassured them that no one was sick or dying, and no one was going away. (Their grandfather – my dad – had died about a year earlier, and they were still scared of that) We reassured them that we loved them, and that nothing about that was going to change.

I then told them that while most kids, when they are very young know that they are a boy or a girl, and their bodies match that. I said that I didn’t feel that way. That I felt more like I was really a girl, even though my body was that of a boy.

We told them that at the end of the year, I was going to start living my life the way that I really felt inside – as a girl.

We reassured them that we loved them, that I was still their Dad, and that our family was staying together.

We didn’t say a whole lot more.

John started to cry, and after that so did Peri. Anh reassured them that it was ok to cry and to be angry with me. That she was initially as well. We let them have their feelings, and didn’t try to talk them out of it.

This initial conversation was brief… probably only 10 minutes, or so. We all hugged, reiterated the central points – that we loved them, I was still their dad, and that we were still all together.

We just sat there for a while…. Both Peri and John were just sitting on my lap, and I was rocking them gently….

The next day, while on a walk, Anh asked Peri how she was doing, and then did the same for John (privately). At this point, they both said “Fine” but then “Angry”. She asked them if they had more questions, and they said no.

Over the next few days, life kind of went on, just the same as always. We didn’t bring it up. They didn’t bring it up – we were intentional about this. They needed the room to just feel what they were feeling.

After three or four more days, we checked in with them again. Peri really didn’t want to talk, but John did (I was surprised by that, given that he is two years younger, and an important two years).

I asked John how he was doing or if he had any questions, and he said:

“Is there any way to stop this?’
I said: “No, there isn’t”.

John then said one of the most amazing things I’ve heard though this entire process – note he was 7 years old at this time:

“Ok, I understand, if you stopped, you wouldn’t be being true to yourself, and that would not be the right thing to do, right Daddy?”

Peri was much quieter, and didn’t really want to talk to me about it for quite some time. She talked to Anh privately, but not as much to me.

John had another moment of brilliance later in the trip. My mom said to him “You look just like your Dad.” John says, without skipping a beat:

“Ha! But only until Thansgiving!” [that’s when I had FFS]

Dealing with the Early Transition

At home, for about three months before I transitioned, I would dress “fulltime at home” (oxymoron) in female clothes. Not ultra femme at all – jeans, t-shirt, etc. Not a lot different than what I had been wearing before. Before I did this in front of the kids, we talked a lot about it – gave them a lot of notice, and incrementally introduced it. We were monitoring the whole time if they were showing signs of stress or discomfort, and slowing (not stopping) if they did. After a while, as others came over (family and friends who knew), they saw that “nothing really changed”, and this was reassuring – in that I acted the same, Anh acted the same, and other fnf acted the same as well.

Dealing with The Transition and my FFS

I was in SFO for two weeks, and over a weekend. On that weekend, Anh went up to Seattle, and got the kids to bring them down. Partially to see me, but also to see Anh and the rest of the friends and family that were down as well. The time they were down was the hardest for me recovery wise – they got down on a Friday night, the day after FFS. Anh left it to them if they wanted to see me or not, and they both wanted to, with some trepidation. But after, in talking to them, they expressed that they were glad that they did – and I looked better (HA!) than they had feared.

Pre-surgery, we talked to them about their fears – and it really revolved around “change” and “loss”. “Change” in that I would “be different” in an unquantifiable way, and “loss” – mostly fear of me dying.

The lesson for us out of this was even though it was hard for them to see me in a hospital bed, bandaged up – that it *wasn’t as bad as they had made up in their minds* and as a result, it was a net positive. Fear of the known is easier to deal with than fear of the unknown.

Over the weekend, they spend the vast majority of the time exploring the city and being kids, and hanging around with their aunt and cousin – they loved it. They spent a little more time with me, saw me getting better, and in general were relieved.

Samwich was a little reserved with me when I had dressings on my face. As soon as all of those came off, I was just the same old Maddy to him, and he was 100% back to his previous big slobbery kisses for me.


The weekend we got back from SFO, Peri and John both had events that we were going to. This would be the first time that they would be in public with their dad Megan. We spend a lot of time talking to them about how to handle it – even minute stuff like who was going to drive them, who they were walking in with (us or their mom), etc. We talked to them about a proposed plan, and then asked for feedback – and they gave us great feedback. In the end, this was a fantastic day, and they felt included, listened to, and in control. This was our big takeaway – that they needed to feel in control, and have it be ok for them to say what was ok and what was not ok.

We have not heard of, nor have they told us of any teasing at school, at all. To the contrary, we heard a story of a mom who told her daughter who is friends with Peri:

“It’s your job as Peri’s friend to defend her. If someone starts to tease her or make fun of her because of her Dad or anything else, you need to step in and tell them that its not ok to do that.”

That was pretty amazing.

Peri and John still both call me Daddy. Its their choice what to call me, and I’ve told them that.

Anh and I refer to me as “Maddy” to Samwich. If he decides to call me Daddy, or something else in the future that would be ok too.

However, we are all pretty consistent about referring to me as “she/her”, and not “he/him”. 

Update From Tonight

I asked Peri and John tonight about how they were feeling, and if there were things we did or didn’t do that they thought we should do differently.

Peri Says: “Since you told us when we were on vacation, we almost had too much time together after that. I liked being with Ma [her grandmother] and Anh, but I was mad at you, and I didn’t want to be with you *all* the time.”

Peri Says: “You think initially that it’s going to change everything – you think that – even when you said that it wouldn’t, we didn’t believe you. But now, its like nothing has changed. I’m fine now.”

John Says: “You still look like Frankenstein, because of the line on your head with no hair on it!” [I let him touch it, and that made him feel better too]

John Says: “I wish that this didn’t happen. And I’m going to wish that it didn’t happen forever.”

We talked about it more… he asked me if I was done, or if there was going to be more change. I said no, that I was done. He got a big smile on his face:

“Its ok now because I know its done. Right now is ok. Just ok. Maybe even good.”

John Says: “You are the best daddy ever!’ (Peri chimes in with the same – I think they may be pandering.)

Overnight Mail

Posted in family, life, work at 9:01 pm by Michael


This was an odd week to be on national TV. From Tuesday night until Friday afternoon, I was at a training course for work. It was at the “Sleeping Lady Mountain Retreat” in Leavenworth, Washington, which is about two and a half hours east from Redmond, on the eastern side of the Cascades.

It’s a beautiful, picturesque place, with two drawbacks for the maniacally connected – a) little/no cell coverage b) no in-room TV.

So, there I was, trying to stay focused on this course (which was great!), and at the same time trying to see what was going on as a result of the airing of the Good Morning America and Nightline pieces yesterday. (btw, the streaming link is here: http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=4402130)

In many multiday Microsoft and other management/leadership courses the morning of the second day and subsequent days start with “Overnight Mail” – that is an opportunity to tell the group how you are feeling based on the previous day’s learnings or questions.

I’ve hesitated to post much since the stuff on ABC aired – both to give it some time to sink in, but to really think about what I have to say.

Here goes.

First off, I have to thank all of you who have been so amazingly supportive and posted incredible comments and thoughtful emails. That was so nice to see.

Both here, and on other sites (like the comment stream on ABC.com), there were more questions than comments, and these merit there own posts, which will follow.

“What about the kids? How did you tell them (the older ones), and how are they doing?”

“How on earth did you tell Anh? What did she do? What did you do?”

There were other comments, oh yes there were. I’m not going to dwell on the negative though, and I’m going to just let it go. If you think there is some other big question, that’s not answered on the FAQ, or that I’ve dodged in some way, please post it, and I’ll do my best.

A Parable

Posted in About, family, work at 1:43 pm by Michael

Just a little background on this. I’ve been at a leadership training class this week for work, and we had to create a “character sketch” that would explain ourselves to a small group. I wrote this, and thought it might be interesting to some…..


Janus was two-faced, Shrek was an onion, but who has modeled being three faced? Well, I’d like to tell you a story about someone who I’ve come to know who was most definitely in that space.

More importantly though, why? How does someone get to having three faces – the outside, presented version of self, the self shared with the closest of friends and family, and a deeper, very hidden, inner voice.

From One Voice to Two

Jane grew up in a suburban, middle class household, with a stay-at-home mom, a hardworking dad, and two sisters who were more like parents early on, as they were much older than her.

The family was, to the outside world, close and high functioning. Jane’s mom and dad loved her deeply, and they told her so. She grew up in a house full of children – her parents were foster parents for a number of babies (although usually one or two at a time).

Her dad especially though set a high bar for success, and never wavered in his beliefs – which he was more than happy to tell you all about! There was little room for gray in her world, and success was relative.

Growing up, Jane was shy, and more than a little conflict averse. She learned to read the people around her, understand what they wanted, and try to give it to them. In many ways, she was the classic “pleaser”.

At 16 though, right on the cusp of becoming her own person though, something dramatic happened. She almost died, twice. Her own desire to “not make waves” almost lead (indirectly) to an early demise, as she was unwilling and unable to tell those around her that she wasn’t feeling well.

These months were formative for her, and formative for her parents. For her, she realized at that moment that life was brief, and fleeting, and something to be relished. For her parents though, they became even more protective. The timing of this event was crucial – it was on the cusp of her entry into early adulthood, but in many ways, this froze her image in the minds of her parents as a delicate person who needed protection and their constant concern and intervention.

Jane tells me now of being none-too-happy with this extra nesting phase, but being the pleaser that she was, she was unable to confront her parents with her own self-realized view.

Jane considered becoming a doctor, both in that it would be demonstrably a “success” that she could achieve and be recognized for, but also in that this could be something her parents could be proud of.

Again though, fate intervened, and Jane sadly had a true inner geek, that was trying to come out, and became addicted to the quick feedback and satisfaction of being a software developer. Success was immediate and demonstrable. It was also clear – either the program worked, or it didn’t.

On to college Jane went, with some newfound confidence, but also the trait of pleasing and conforming. Jane worked her way through college using her now seemingly valuable skills, gaining recognition for the first time from people she respected that weren’t her parents.

Exiting college, with a job and responsibilities that belied her years, and at the same time in a system with her parents that was still about pleasing and acceptance, the initial two faces were solidified for her – the external face that was about confidence and success (this was the face that made her parents proud), and the internal face where all the self-doubt had to sit. In the world in which she grew up – there was black and white. Doubt wasn’t for the strong, and Jane wanted to be strong, or at least appear so to those that she loved.

The Third Face is Born

Jane had never been that successful in dating or relationships, but finally met someone at 26 who she felt really loved her. However, this was really the start of the third face, as the person that was shown and loved wasn’t the internal, self-doubting, complicated Jane, but the external, confident, now successful, pleasing Jane. Instead of being a force of integration, this relationship lead to more cleaving.

So, here was born the outside face, the family face, but the inside face remained, and it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Jane focused even more on building up the external face, and driving for success and recognition there. The external face was strong – an ass kicker. This was the place where she could gain self-satisfaction, and a sense of worth. The external face was great at her job – to a point – but that point hadn’t been seen yet – it was still over the horizon, but it was coming.

The family face, well, that one had a lot of work to do. Everyone had to be serviced and pleased. It was overworked and tired.

Predictably, after a time, this relationship ended, but not after a lot of pain on all sides, and careful sculpting on each of these faces. Jane the pleaser remained, and she had become a master sculptor.


Sometime after Jane divorced, she met Sue. Sue was everything that Jane wasn’t. Sue had one face. Sue decided if you got to see that face or not. She was in, or she was out. There was no in the middle. She told it like it was. Sue also loved Jane – all of her that Jane was willing to share, and as a result, the family face faded. She still had to use it with her parents at times, but integration was coming.

Wow, she had pulled it off – she had found the person for her, and was slowly integrating herself into a coherent whole.

Then the bottom fell out.

Jane’s dad died.

Jane’s mom died a little bit too when that happened.

Jane had reached the scaling point on her job, and the ways that she had succeeded before were no longer strengths, but weaknesses. Instead of continuing to move up, she moved sideways, and down.

What had been the source of strength for her was now an additional stressor.

Jane hadn’t always been as open or honest with Sue as she should have been. Sue demanded more, and had done so from the beginning. But, Jane wasn’t ready. Conflict arose – not because of what was in Jane’s heart or soul, but because it was really hidden, and burbled up like tar from a hot road.

Sue almost left, and Jane was terrified.

There was still something else that Sue hadn’t known, and Jane hadn’t told her. Sue didn’t even really know Jane. Who Sue thought she knew and loved was presented as Jim. Up until now, that’s all anyone knew of Jane – all they had ever seen was the face of Jim.

Sue wasn’t happy to have found out that there was more to Jim – the Jane part. She was pissed. Not because she didn’t love Jim or even Jane for that matter, but because Jane wasn’t honest from the start.

The Only Way Out

Jane was faced with an ultimatum – both literally and figuratively – either integrate, or have amazing loss.

The three faces had to be fully revealed – not just to Sue, who now had the whole picture, but to everyone. There was no room to hide, or to be less than transparent. Jane was like an alcoholic, and needed complete abstinence from anything except for total, often brutal honesty.

The integration of these three parts into a whole created an interesting “averaging” of the three.

But the averaging didn’t create mediocrity, the averaging lead to the creation of a whole that was greater than the sum of the parts.

What was an external, hard shell melted. Maybe not completely, Jane’s still a work in progress, but its mostly gone.

What was an internal voice, filled with self-doubt is gone now too. Its really gone, like the footprints on a beach after the tide rolls in.

Instead what’s replaced it is a more consistent, authentic voice. Jane maybe doesn’t appear as strong as she did before. Or does she?

When I talk to Jane now, she’s almost ashamed of the way that she conducted herself for many of her years. It clearly can be overwhelming at times for her. She has embraced the notion of “live, fail, ask for forgiveness, learn, repeat”.

I like Jane now. I’m not sure that I would have liked her if I met her for the first time even five years ago.

You go Girl!

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