February 28, 2008

It’s Been a Busy Week

Posted in family, transgender, work at 4:19 pm by Michael

No, we didn’t get stuck in some sort of black hole after returning from France, but it sure seems like it!

Seattle welcomed us last Friday and Saturday with amazing, sunny, warm (for Seattle) weather, and it was a great re-entry into the great drizzle-bank that usually is Seattle in February.

Then, after a relaxing weekend (jet lag and all), it was off to work, and work was crazy for the past few days.

Yesterday, well, yesterday was “special”. I’m not going to comment *right now* on what was going on, but I will mid-next week.

Today was just another day though, but interestingly, two more people who I had worked with before (quite a bit actually) didn’t recognize me. I’m beginning to think this is a compliment to Dr. O, and his magic FFS surgery.

Anyway, a few people have asked me (in various forms) if I was ok after the whole “Missing Michael” thing in the last post. A couple of clarifications…. what I think I was actually trying to convey was that while I feel *amazing* now, and I feel coherent as a person for the first time in my life, this new space – openly transgendered – is just fundamentally harder than it was before. Its harder for some simple stuff (its hard for me to find clothes off the rack that fit right – especially shoes and shirts – need mail order for size 13 shoes, and “tall” shirts), but I know that our new life is not as mainstream or “easy” as it was before. I recognize that this “New Deal” is harder on those around me (Anh especially) than before, and I have regrets about that.

Anyway, I haven’t gone anywhere, I’m still around, and there’s lots more to come….

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February 23, 2008

“Welcome Home!”

Posted in Air France, family, Identification, transgender, travel at 9:07 pm by Michael

The rest of the flight back to Seattle was as uneventful as it was long. Ten hours plus is a long time to sit on a plane. I have to say that the Los Angeles or Newark to Singapore (on Singapore Airlines) flight of 18+ hours just seems like self-flagellation.

As documented earlier, getting into France was easy, but we were wondering how coming home would be – given how picky US Customs has become.

We landed in Seattle, again did the slow-taxi (which was made more painful by the fact that Samwich picked that time to have his one and only freak-out of the entire flight), and pulled up to the gate. We were in the third row of coach, so we were near the front of the customs line, and quickly got to a customs agent. We gave him our passports and declaration form, and he literally smiled to us and said “Welcome Home!”, and that was it.

Wow.

Anh and I have traveled a TON internationally. This was by FAR the easiest entry we’ve ever had. Maybe it was random, maybe we looked friendly, but wow…. I’ve been asked SO many questions before, literally taken ten minutes at the counter – this time – 30 seconds, tops.

We were wondering thought – when they scan in your passport – what data shows up on their screen? How integrated are the US IT systems? All your other trips? Other info? How do they deal with new passport numbers for the same person? (Passport ID #’s are unique per passport, not by the person – this was my first trip w/this passport).

Seattle greeted us upon our return with a sunny, warm (high 50’s, which is warm for Seattle at this time of year) day.

We got in the door, put Samwich down, and he walked over to the windows, and kissed them.

He was happy to get home too, as were we.

February 18, 2008

Paris Day 2 or “Look, That Kid Has No Head!”

Posted in family, food, Paris, Samwich, travel at 4:42 pm by Michael

It’s hard to write about Paris. What hasn’t been said? That triteness aside, let’s see what I can do here.

Overall, the theme for day 2 was “walking” and “closed”. Walking because we literally walked about 10 miles. Closed, because its Sunday, and many shops and restaurants, are well, closed. We, being total Paris neophytes, missed that and ventured to many places that were in fact, closed. D’oh!

Our day started off by walking from our hotel to the Eiffel Tower – where we found gigantic lines (more than an hour – even for the stairs). After deciding that this was a bit of a non-starter with an 11 month old, we decided to go to the Louvre, to allow Samwich some running room.

What is there to write about the Louvre that already hasn’t been written? Huge? Check. Impressive? Check. Full and I mean Full of amazing artwork? Check!

However, two things of note – one is that the “Gate of Lions”, on the south-west side – not sure how often its open, but the line there was non-existent, where the main line in the center was super long.

Secondly, Samwiches LOVE the air vents there. The air vents, well, only the Mona Lisa compares. The air vents are grates on the floor with air coming up – a la Marilyn Monroe.

Samwich was *fascinated* by these. For literally an hour, he played w/various vents – coming over, leaving – coming back over, etc.

If you are in Paris with a toddler, and want a place to let them roam – the art museums are where its at, especially if its cold or rainy. He was able to gets lots of room, plus see (if not appreciate) some amazing art.

After the Louvre, our plan was to walk back to a recommended spot near the Eiffel Tower. Closed on Sunday. The view of the tower was still worth it.

Eiffel Twilight

We went on a short boat trip on the Seine… short but fun!

Boat Trip

While we were walking near the gardens of the Eiffel Tower, we hear a kid say in English, re the Samwich – “Look, that kid has no head”. I can assure you that Samwich does have a head, and he’s well versed in using it. However, from this shot, given the backpack we carry Samwich in, you can see the root confusion.

Samwich No head

We ended then walking across town, back to our hotel, to find some sort of sit-down-creperie. It was a testament to how crappy our food luck has been that this was the best meal that we’ve had so far.

Oh well, it was good, and we had an amazing walking day… All and all, it was all good! (But since I’m writing this after day 3, and know how that went, the food luck turned – Stay Tuned!)

February 16, 2008

Paris – Getting Here

Posted in Air France, family, Identification, Paris, Samwich, transgender, travel at 2:48 pm by Michael

One of the things that we have come to learn from traveling in general, but traveling with kids specifically is that direct flights are your friend. Sometimes you pay a little more, but its absolutely worth it.

Air France just started direct service from Seattle to Paris last year, so we decided that Paris would be a great destination for us.

This would also be our first “post transition” trip, and we are doing this with just Samwich, as Peri and John are with their mom this week.

We both had a little trepidation around if this would be harder than a domestic trip with the TSA, airlines, and also walking around in a new city.

Fundamentally, all of those concerns have been non-issues to date. So far, if anything, Paris has been even easier than other places we have gone.

First off, with Air France – you aren’t allowed to checkin electronically if you are going with a child under two – either on lap, or in a seat. So we had to check in at the counter. We all have passports (obviously), but I was wondering if the ticket agent would ask who Samwich’s dad was, and if he had consented to the trip. (We’ve had this question before when going both domestic and international with Peri and John.) We checked in, no questions.

On to TSA – three passports, three tickets, no problems.

When we went to Italy last year with all three kids (Samwich was five months then), we went with SAS through Copenhagen then to Rome. SAS is a very kid friendly airline. Rome as an airport (and their infrastructure in general) isn’t great – the baggage handlers had a work “slowdown” and intentionally didn’t give us one out of four of our total bags – we had to wait two days. But, the airline – top rate – best kid experience ever. I was curious to see how Air France did.

Like most airlines, they do early board for families with kids, and we did that. We have this super cool “convertible” stroller/car seat for Samwich that does this Transformers deal that allows it to go from stroller to car seat and back. It’s called a “Sit N Stroll” (I couldn’t find an active link for it right now… odd). Its FAA approved, we’ve used it a ton. The coolest thing is that (on some planes) you can stroll it right down the aisle (it fits in general), and then “convert” it at your seat. It is a little hard to convert it w/the kid strapped in, but my arms are long enough to do it. Anh has a harder time w/it – it’s not a strength thing – it’s a leverage and reach thing. Anyway, we get to the seat (I had to convert it early because the aisle was too narrow), and we have bulkhead seats – three in the middle (of four – it’s a 2/4/2 configuration – an Airbus A330-200), but in the bulkhead the armrests are permanently down (to allow for video screens to come out of the armrests), and the seat is too narrow for the car seat. Dammit! Turns out that we tried it the row back, and it was ok – there was just enough space to get it in.  There were two flight attendants (female) in the cabin right there, and they were super helpful. We ended up swapping seats w/some folks three rows back, and it worked out just fine. The flight was uneventful, and they even had baby food (apple sauce and some other veggie/chicken thing) that usually Samwich won’t touch, but he did eat the apple sauce and was great. I’ve never seen an airline automatically carry jar baby food before. Super impressive. They also gave away little toys to the kids (age appropriate), but didn’t give out infant life vests, which SAS and Northwest both do. I kind of think this is no biggie, as quite honestly, when was the last time that *anyone* was saved by an airline life vest, or there was a survivable ditching of an airliner in the ocean – the 50’s?

Getting Samwich up at 2:30am the night before helped him to time-adjust, and he slept for half the trip. We got in at just about 9am (left at 2pm Seattle time – 9 hour flight, 9 hour time difference), and on to the next test – customs.

Again, a total non-issue (remember, my passport says “Megan Jenna Wallent”, but has an M for gender). The customs agent, who spoke English (thank you!), even greeted and said goodbye to us using the plural feminine French term (Mesdames).

We had a car service arranged, that worked flawlessly too, and we got to the hotel, even with customs, checking bags, and a thirty minute drive by 10:30am. Not bad!

February 10, 2008

Hope for the Future

Posted in family, food, transgender at 7:22 am by Michael

Last night, Peri, John, Anh and I went to Blue Ginger in Bellevue for Korean BBQ. (The make-it-yourself kind). It’s my birthday next week, and this was a pseudo-birthday dinner.

The food was pretty good – the best thing that we had was the diced beef Bulgogi style – cooked a little crispy (not like me in the hotel last week!).

Anyway, yesterday was the caucus in Washington State, and we were talking about the election with the kids.

John said “I would vote for the person who would cut taxes!”.

I said: “Well John, I think thats an important issue too, but you know there are some candidates that don’t believe that we should be allowed to be a family. I think that’s probably the most important issue for me this time.”

Peri virtually jumped out of her skin:

“YOU ARE KIDDING ME! NO WAY!”

If she knew how to say “Frigging” or the other less polite F word, it would have come out.

“Yes, Peri, thats true.”

“THAT IS TOTALLY REDICULOUS!”

John then pipes in, with a really angry look on his face:

“Thats stupid. Thinking that should be against the law.”

John hops to thought-police mode pretty quickly sometimes. Anh was going to get them both Animal Farm to read, but hey, he’s seven.

Peri is now totally incensed, and wants some details.

“Who would think such a thing?”

“Well, Mike Huckabee for one, and Mitt Romney too.”

(Huckabee’s own page on this point is here, which includes this little bon mot – I’m not making this up:

What’s the point of keeping the terrorists at bay in the Middle East if we can’t keep decline and decadence at bay here at home?

Dammit Anh! We are letting the terrorists win!)

(Here’s what Romney had to say to Bill O’Reilly

It’s as commonsensical as one can imagine, because you have a child that’s able to determine from each parent the attributes of that gender, and by virtue of doing so is able to determine their own sexuality and the relationship with members of the opposite sex.

Ah, so Romney believes that being Gay is a choice…. interesting. Which ties directly into use of words as well – “commonsensical”, which is defined as:

“practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like”

Hmm… so what he’s saying is that people who really haven’t researched the issues, or are not experts in the area would have this opinion. Brilliant Governor! Brilliant!) 

Peri: “Well, I hope NOBODY would vote for them, ever.”

Me too Peri, Me too.

February 3, 2008

Stressed Out: Reflections on Life as a Pats Fan

Posted in family, NE Patriots, Samwich at 7:39 am by Michael

Nailbiting

Just about eight hours till kickoff of “The Big Game”.

I’ve been a Pats fan for as long as I remember. I used to sit and watch games with my dad on every football Sunday. He would watch *any* football game, but he was a true blue Pats fan. He’d go make Onion Dip (which was McCormick Onion Soup Mix plus sour cream), and get a bag of Ruffles. Then, the piece de resistance, the Schlitz (later he upgraded to St. Pauli Girl, then Coors once you could get that in RI).

This was during the 70’s and 80’s though – fundamentally then, the Pats sucked.

In the words of my Dad, they “Snatched Defeat from the Jaws of Victory” on many occasions.

They didn’t always sell out their games, so we ended up listening to a lot of games on the radio.

We hated the Cowboys together, but sometimes rooted for the Redskins (we lived in Alexandria, Virginia for a while).

I remember going to a couple of games with him in Foxboro – it was Schaefer Stadium then. It was a huge concrete bowl, with backless aluminum benches. We went to once game where the temp must have been 10F at most, and there was literally 2-3 inches of ice covering the seats. We went to another game in the pouring rain. We had crappy luck going to nice weather games.

He was still alive (but not totally with it) for the Pats wins in 2001, 2003 and 2004, and he was so excited and into it. We used to talk on the phone for much of the really close games – just watching and reacting to it together. When the Pats played the Colts in the RCA dome in 2005, and ended up winning the game on a last minute goal line stand, I was in Florida driving to the aiport, and he was on the phone with me, doing play by play.

He passed away in August of 2006.

I often think about what he would think about this season for the Patriots. He was such a homer, he’d certainly think the whole Spygate thing was bullshit. He’d be SO happy that the ’72 Dolphins aren’t the only regular-season undefeated team, and he’d be rooting so hard for them to win today to complete the cycle! (He didn’t like the Dolphins either – they were the rivals who always found a way to beat the Pats. EXCEPT in the dreaded “Snow Plow Game”. We LOVED that game.)

I know that he’d be excited that his youngest grandson has his own Pats game jersey and does “Touchdown”. (Although my dad passed away just as we we found out Anh was pregnant, and he never knew that there was a little Samwich coming. I’m still kind of sad about that.)

I know that my transition would have been hard on him, and I think about that a lot as well, especially on days like today, when he and I would have been so connected, and in it together. I hope he would have still loved cheering on the Pats with his youngest daughter.

Anyway… in Brady we Trust.

Brady

Today is a “Hat and Shirt” game, and they generally do pretty well on those days. 🙂

Go Pats! Lets hope that we see this next week:

Superbowl Parade

January 31, 2008

It Doesn’t Take Much

Posted in family, Verizon at 10:50 pm by Michael

We had the big kids tonight, and we went to the Bellevue Square Mall to have dinner, and I had to go to visit Verizon to get a new phone for Anh, and also replace my MIA data card.

Why did Anh need a new phone? Well, Samwich likes to put her phone in his mouth. His spittle is a little phonotoxic. It has special toxic effects on the “2”, “5”, “7”, down arrow, right arrow, send and menu keys. Today, it got so bad that Anh was able to take calls, but not place them. There was NO way to actually use the available, working keys to place a call. Basically, he bricked her phone.

Babyfood

New phone time.

I’m taking the money out of his college fund.

Ok, and I got to pay the $257 dumbass tax for losing my data card when we were in SFO for my surgery.

While I was taking care of this Anh and the big kids were playing on this big foam ferry that’s right across from the store. Samwich had a blast, and I could hear Peri and John laughing from inside the store.

The Verizon folks were very nice, and took care of the transaction quickly and professionally. When we were done, I asked the salesman if he could change my name on the account. I showed him my old and new licenses, and he took at look at the system, and it turns out that no, he can’t. Only the on-the-phone customer service could do it. No problem, I took my license, put it in my wallet, and we walked over to the counter to pay.

He said to me:

“I just want to ask, would you like me to call you ‘Megan’?”

I said:

“Yes, that would be great, but how did you know that was my name?” (Because all my records are still under Michael).

He said:

“I DO pay attention, you know. You did give me your license, and even though I couldn’t change your name, I saw your new one.”

I said:

“That’s super nice… thank you!”

January 23, 2008

Flowers for Valentine’s Day?

Posted in family at 9:31 pm by Michael

Roses

Out of the blue a couple of days ago, Anh says to me:

“Would you like flowers on Valentine’s Day now?”

Me: “Huh?”

“Well, girls do like flowers you know. Now that you are really a girl, I was just wondering what you wanted.”

Me: (Blushing) “That’s very sweet….”

I thought it was over at that point, but as you can imagine, nothing is ever all that easy.

This morning, Anh says to me:

“Are you going to blog about our discussion about Valentine’s Day?”

Me: “I didn’t think so.”

Anh: “Why not?”

Me: “Well, ok, I guess I could.”

Anh: “Well, you realize that I wasn’t going to get you flowers on the actual day, right? WAY too expensive! I’ll get them for you the week after!”

The context here is that we have this discussion re flowers for Anh every year. She can’t stand paying full price for anything, and flowers on Valentine’s Day are at least 2x-3x more expensive than any other time of year, so this is a total violation of her values. No matter if she’s buying or receiving, no matter. $100 for a dozen roses – not going to happen.

I expect that we’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day sometime the following week, depending on the market’s net-present-valuation of a rose. Your actual timing for Valentine’s Day may vary.

Me Think You Have Fundamentally Misunderstood Cookie Eating Process!

Posted in family, humor at 9:22 pm by Michael

 Cookie and Prairie Dawn

I was watching Sesame Street with Samwich the other morning. There was a segment on with Prairie Dawn (blonde little girl w/high voice and very pink skin).

The little segment is about “First and Last”, and Prairie Dawn has set out five cookies for Cookie Monster.

Prairie Dawn Says: “Cookie Monster, which cookie do you want to eat first?”

Cookie Monster (cradling his face in his hands): “Ughhh….. no no no!”

Prairie Dawn: “Cookie Monster, what’s wrong? Which cookie do you want to eat first?”

Cookie Monster: “Me think you have fundamentally misunderstood cookie eating process!”

(Cookie Monster eats *all* the cookies at once.)

I laughed so hard, my nose hurt again. I’m not sure why this struck me as so funny… perhaps it was the googly eyes. Anyway, it was hilarious.

January 14, 2008

Rules

Posted in family at 10:31 pm by Michael

Anh and I get lots of questions about how we made it through this as a couple.

Here’s a few of our “Rules” that have helped.

A couple caveats: We make mistakes, just like everyone else (see rule #2) – so these aren’t always followed. Second, this is likely not a complete list.

In any case, here’s our list.

1    Honest. Brutally Honest.
2.   We all make mistakes. Admit them, and fix it.
3.   No Wallowing
4.   Solutions not Problems
5.   If you aren’t ashamed, don’t act like you are ashamed
6.   The middle sucks. Don’t be in the middle any longer than you need to.
7.   Be yourself. Yourself isn’t the TG part, it’s the “self part”.
8.   Find time to be a couple. Date night is great. We run 4+ days a week and talk. This is huge.
9.   Admit what’s hard.
10. Say when you are in love and happy. You are together for a reason, right?
11. Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Delegate the right problem to the right partner.
12. Be happy with yourself first, everything else will follow.
13. Treat and evaluate everyone (family included) as they are, not as you want them to be. I.E. Don’t take any shit that you don’t deserve.
14. Strategize, talk and scheme. Be willing to talk through how to solve problems.
15. Explicitly talk about who is responsible for what (e.g., how to deal with an awake baby at 2am)
16. As Feynman said “Why do you care what other people think?” (it wasn’t actually Feynman, it was said to him by someone serving him tea when he asked for milk AND lemon – but, you get the point.)
17. While you may disagree on stuff – thats for private. In public, let there be no daylight between and betwixt you.
18. Honest. Brutally honest.

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