Thursday, May 23, 2013

Really Big Update

A really big kiss for Mitchell for bringing me flowers again.

This is a "Really Big Update" because it updates an entire month in my life, it showcases another trip and big time at the beach where I also celebrated completing my first year of hormones, which is a really big milestone for me.  It has been over a month since my first beach trip in a year and a half, when I met my long time internet friend and sister Pam West.  Also, I haven't had a big cry in over a month and while that feels a little weird for me after that being such a regular occurrence in the first part of the year, I guess that it is a good thing even though I have had just a few "little" cries over small things.  I have finally adjusted to living alone, gotten over most of the grief of my spouse leaving and then our first dog, Jumper, passing away.   I am just in a lot better emotional state than I was just a little over a month ago.  Maybe it is because I am not depressed now, but I am getting out more often and doing everything from shopping to dinners with friends and even walking my two dogs a lot more. Going to the beach was a real refresher for me after a period of rejuvenation that kind of kick started me into a good mood this spring.
The week after I got back from the beach trip with Pam, Donna Simms and I had our last class with the Voice and Communication Group at UNC Greensboro. We got our graduation "Certificates of Excellence" and it was wonderful having the "diploma" in my (preferred and soon to be) real name. I have gained more confidence from this class and confidence is key in transition.   I also enjoyed making a great new friend, Donna Simms, and we are trying to continue getting together when we can.  She doesn't have too many chances to get out as herself and I don't have too many chances to get out of my town and do something interesting, so we should be in for some fun times ahead.  Hopefully, we can go to some museums that interest both of us, go shopping more and even find new areas to explore.

Donna and I got a chance to go to the Southern Women's Home Show in Raleigh one Saturday and fortunately Mitch didn't mind going with us, as he was at my house for that entire weekend.  He has been staying over more often on the weekends and sometimes not leaving to go out of town for work until Monday morning. I have appreciated more time with my boyfriend and he has even been fixing some of the broken things in my house, but I know he needs time with his kids too.  I am just glad to have a place for him to come and I have enjoyed cooking for him and all the times we have gone out.

At the Southern Women's Home Show
I went up to Raleigh one day to go shopping with Lisa Lesher, who lives near the coast, as she was in Raleigh for a doctor's (endo) appointment.  She doesn't get up this way much but we had a great time and she has invited me to come down and visit and/or stay with her sometime.  This is cool as she is a fun person and lives only 10 miles from the beach.  The following week Donna and I had our first weekday out together since class ended and we went to several places shopping, including an outlet mall.  She was in her own county and went by the county office to pay some bills, which I thought was very neat.  She even took me to a famous little hot dog stand there in Smithfield, where they serve Carolina Packers "red hot dogs" that are made right in town.  Hopefully we will get to have another day like that soon.

At Crabtree Mall with Lisa
In Smithfield with Donna.

At a cool little hot dog joint.
In my therapy sessions we have been discussing my continuing attachment to my spouse and my therapist, like so many other people I know, is having trouble understanding why Joan still seems to have so much control over me.  Actually, that is one of the questions I had for her as a therapist, and she brought up the idea that perhaps I view Joan as I would a child.  She said that is not uncommon for adopted people who have never had children of their own to take someone under their wing like this, but I don't know what I think of that theory.  I do want to explore that in more depth, as I think my relationship with Joan is more complex that even I had realized.  I have been writing a lot about my relationship with her and its ever changing dynamics and I have not been writing as much about my relationship with Mitchell, perhaps because it is more straightforward and also because it is going so well.  He is still the light in my life and the picture of us at the top of this blog sums up how we are getting along now.  

I still have a strong desire to take care of Joan in as many ways as I can but we have not figured out exactly how that is going to work yet.  I ran into somewhat of a problem when she did not want me to proceed with my name change while we are still legally married.  As I reported recently, she and I are getting along even better now and now she says she is finally ok with it, so I am proceeding to file the legal papers to change my name to Tammy Ann Matthews. :)

Mother's Day came the week after I spent a Sunday afternoon with my parents and spouse for our first time together since I came out and went full time.  Mitchell was in town again the next Sunday, on Mother's Day, and Mom invited him over to have lunch and spend the afternoon visiting.  Two weeks in a row with my parents and first my old and then new partners could be seen as a little odd but I consider them both family, just in different ways, so actually all this was another form of rejuvenation for me.  We had a great afternoon and I wouldn't trade either one of those Sundays for anything, as I think they were both important for my growth and mental well being.  If I could put a title on the following picture it would be "Family" and I hope that will be the case for a long time.  Right now I feel better about this picture than any I have ever taken.

Mother's Day with my boyfriend and parents.

My therapist also thinks I need more of a social life to help me take my mind off things that bother me, like my separation.  Well, I think I stay pretty busy and between taking care of my parents, spending time with Mitchell  and going out with friends in Raleigh, I think my social life is pretty full.  I have been making an effort to meet more friends lately and spend more time out with other people.  I don't have any friends here in my own town, so my weeknights are usually spent at home alone, but I am busy almost every day during the day.  Facebook have helped me connect with more people like myself and luckily I have been able to meet more of them in person lately.
After having that great (but too short) beach trip last month with Pam, I also wanted to make another 2 night trip to the coast with my dogs, so we went last week on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Nightingale had never been to the ocean and it had been about 3 years since Buddy went down to the coast.  In the past, Joan and I would always take Buddy and Jumper and Night would stay in the kennel.  We needed a family vacation after all we have been through with Joan leaving and Jumper becoming handicapped then passing away, so I decided to take them to the Outer Banks before the rates go up on Memorial Day and before it gets too hot and humid.  We rented a little 2 bedroom apartment at a motel for 2 nights in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

Walking on the beach with Nightingale and Buddy
Buddy (top) and Night and Buddy, in the apartment.

A friend I met on Facebook, Brenda Roberts, drove down to the beach from Virginia on Tuesday to spend some time with us and celebrate her birthday and also my one year anniversary on HRT, a birthday of sorts for me.  Both milestones were on Wednesday May 15th.  I had never met Brenda in person, but we hit it off right away so she stayed with us in the spare bedroom the first night.  We had a blast talking, walking on the beach, going to the pier and lighthouse, then going out to dinner and to a great local brewery that night.  She is a little bit older than me and had SRS back in 1977.  I am honored that she also wants to be my sister as well as friend and help guide me in any way possible during transition.  Everything about my transition seems to be blessed so far, and meeting Brenda and having this great trip for my one year anniversary line right up with that experience.  I can't wait to see what my second year has in store for me but I feel like its going to be even better than the first.

Brenda and I on Jennette's Pier in Nags Head.

Bodie Island Lighthouse

Brenda and I at Outer Banks Brewing Station Tuesday night.

Nightingale and Buddy on the beach Wednesday.

Brenda went home Wednesday afternoon and I chilled with dogs a little while and then met my friend that lives close to the beach, Lisa, at her workplace and went out for dinner with her on her break.  She works until midnight and she also said that she had stopped by the bar the night before but missed Brenda and I by about 20 minutes.  We had a nice seafood dinner (I only ate seafood on this beach trip) and after dinner I went back to the room.  Wednesday night I spent some quality time with the dogs and some quiet time alone by the sea, writing this Facebook post when I got in.

After spending most of my beach trip with friends, I took tonight to quietly reflect back on my first year of transition and look ahead to the rest of the journey. It was a nice clear night on the Outer Banks and I enjoyed the rest of the IPA beer from Outer Banks Brewery while watching the stars and ocean on the motel's upstairs crow's nest and down by the surf.

Thursday morning I got up, walked the dogs on the beach and got ready to check out.  I got a call from Lisa saying that she was unexpectedly off for the entire day, so we made a plan to take my dogs back to her house over across the bridge, leave them in her fenced in back yard, and come back to the beach for some lunch and a round of miniature golf.  It had been years since I played any sort of golf, but after one last seafood lunch at a cool little take out place, we went to the big Lost Treasures Miniature Golf course and played 18 holes.  

Working on my short game

Inside one of the caves at Lost Treasures Mini Golf
Cooling off on a hot day
The trip had started off on a cool Tuesday, perhaps the last really cool day of spring.  Wednesday, a stiff southwest breeze blew all day and it warmed up and by Thursday it had gotten pretty hot, so I am glad the dogs had a shady place to spend the afternoon so that I could enjoy one more afternoon at the beach and spend more time with my friend Lisa.  Lost Treasures is a really cool putt putt course and after we finished we went to a gift shop then left the beach, heading back over the bridge one last time.  Lisa lives very near the Albermarle Sound so we stopped by a little beach there to look at the water and get a few pictures.  Here I am, in the picture below, showing ya'll the big body of water that I used to spend a lot of time on.   I worked on a boat sampling fish with various types of commercial gear when I lived in Elizabeth City and worked for Marine Fisheries as a Fisheries technician II.

The Albermarle Sound

We left Lisa's house about 4 pm and on the way home we stopped by Elizabeth City to view the pretty waterfront there, then drove out to see the trailer I used to live in on Hall's Creek.  The trailer and trailer park were in worse condition than when I lived there in the mid to late 1900's, but not much worse.  The one thing I really loved about that place had not changed, the water.  I used to enjoy some very good freshwater fishing right behind my trailer and great saltwater fishing was not far away.  My trailer had a canal out back that opened up into a widening creek that led to the wide Little River, which after a few miles flowed into the miles wide Albermarle Sound.  There is a lot of water in that part of northeastern North Carolina and in many ways it is still God's country up there.

Elizabeth City waterfront, Pasquotank River

Hall's Creek Trailer park and my old home

I lived here for almost 4 years.  During Hurricane Fran, in 1996, I spent the night in this trailer rocking around in the heavy winds and in the morning we were surrounded by flood waters.  By noon the canals were almost dry as the wind had shifted and blown the water to the other side of the sound.

It was a great trip and a its been great month to reflect back on with this update!  After the separation with my partner of 25 years I needed a vacation, so I took 2 short ones in the course of a month.  Getting out of the house, going out of town, spending more time with my boyfriend and more time with friends old and new has really made me feel wonderful again.  I am enjoying my life as Tammy now and I am honestly enjoying life more than ever.  Remembering back, I did enjoy all the time I spent travelling with my parents when I was a child, but when I was about age 12 my mind went black in a way and I was not able to fully enjoy life the way the way it should be.  Now that I am feeling more and more comfortable with myself and comfortable around other people, things are really cool.  I can't wait to see what my second year of transition has in store for me.  What is next in Tammy World?  It should keep getting better, so stay tuned!

Mr. Buddy at Hall's Creek

Mrs. Nightingale on the beach

On the pier
Standing on top of the Atlantic Ocean
The winds of change are blowing
Tammy World 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Lost Duckling (Separation Anxiety)

The tiny yellow duckling swam frantically along the shoreline of the calm, quiet pond.  It was making bleating noises as it weaved bank and forth between the bank and deeper water a few feet out, always swimming forward with an apparent sense of urgency as it moved down the shoreline...

My estranged spouse, Joan, came to visit today as she was in town for her therapist appointment.  She lives and hour away in Raleigh now and ironically she comes back to our hometown to see her therapist while I drive the hour to Raleigh to see mine.  We had plans for me to take the truck to the recycling center to sell the plethora of aluminum cans that have accumulated here over the last several months, while she drove my van to her appointment.  Afterwards we were going to go to the DMV to transfer the title of the truck to her name.  Rain showers put a damper on those plans today so we will try that again another day but we did have time for a visit, lunch and a walk around the lake with our dogs. 

We are communicating now, about more than just the little things, and we actually had a good conversation today about what has happened with us in the past and what might be in store for the future.  I am glad that we finally, firmly established that we both to divorce (but stay friends and also family), and we might possibly live together again one day as friends.  My life seems to be moving forward now at a rather fast pace and I don't think I need to take a step back into the past in such a way as to impede any progress I am making personally or with my relationship with my boyfriend, so my thinking is now that it is best for us not to move back in with each other at this time.  Also, to obtain a legal divorce in North Carolina a couple must remain separated for an entire year.  During that year you are not even supposed to spend a night under the same roof, although our situation would fall into a grey area there because I do technically have two houses on my property.

She mentioned how much she missed going to eat with my parents and I, feeding the birds in the yard and watering all her flowers.  It is also the little things that I miss about her being here.  The best solution for us both might be for her to get a small apartment here in Rocky Mount, as she is tiring of living in the bigger city, but our main problem is paying for that apartment.  Perhaps I will end up settling with her in the divorce and paying for an apartment for a number of years in lieu of paying her for her portion of the house we own together, but we have not gotten that far yet. 

I think the key element here is that Joan and I are talking again and getting along, as I have reported in the last couple of blog posts.  She has recently started acknowledging me as Tammy, not just Tam as I reported in the last post.  She made one slip today and quickly caught herself, correcting it to Tammy.  Also, we are now actually talking about substantive matters and making some progress towards figuring out how to settle our marriage and move forward with whatever kind of relationship we will have.  Time and many more conversations will lead us to our destination but at least we are communicating and I have learned that communication is key to any successful relationship.  If we had figured that out sooner we might not be in the position we are today, but that can be said about so many things in both of our lives.  All we can do is go from here and move forward.  We will find our place eventually.

So, we drove the dogs over to the lake to walk them around the half mile shoreline path  as a light rain fell intermittently.  When we were about a fourth of the way around, I noticed a little duckling swimming along the shore all alone.  Most of the ducks born this spring are almost fully grown and even now stay close together with their mother and siblings.  To see a duck this small and all alone was odd , so we all stopped to check it out.  It was a yellow duckling so it must have born of the white ducks that inhabit the pond and share the habitat with colorful Mallards and Canadian Geese.  We looked around and saw no other white ducks but there was a family of Mallards, a mother and several young, swimming along the shore towards us. 

The little yellow duckling swam out deeper in the pond to avoid the Mallards, who seemed to want nothing to do with the loud little loner.  Joan and I walked a little farther down the shore and one point I stopped and looked back and there was our little yellow friend, still making her way along the bank.  It was as if it was following us so we stopped and waited for it to catch up.  When I would approach it on the bank, it veered out to deeper water, but kept chugging along and kept making bleating noises. 

We figured out that it was lost and probably looking for its mother, but no similar ducks could be seen.  Had someone dropped off a pet duckling at the park that they no longer wanted?  Had its parents flew away to another pond?  Had they simply become separated somewhere in the big pond.  Joan and I talked of trying to rescue the little duck and thought back to the time we lived in a trailer with a pretty, little pond in the back yard.  Maybe we could have rescued it and the duck could have had a home there, but we don't live there anymore.  We live as apart as the little yellow duckling and its lost family were at that moment.

Slowly, we made our way around the lake with the tiny duckling keeping pace with us.  Its little legs were paddling at a frantic pace and I worried that it might not be able to sustain the energy to make it all the way back around to the parking area, where we could not see all sorts of ducks being fed by the park goers.  People constantly stand right in front of a big sign that says  Do Not Feed The Waterfowl and throw bread and other goodies out to the ducks.  They may be breaking the rules but the ducks seem to eat pretty good so nobody complains. We walked past a couple of Mallards and some loud Canadian Geese, who did not seem to appreciate either us or the little duck swimming by.

As we approached the parking area, we noticed "our little duck" swimming out to deeper water.  Then we noticed a lone, large white duck swimming out from the feeding area and quacking.  As they got closer to each other they both became louder and as soon as the little duckling caught up with the bigger duck, she began to follow behind her closely.  The tiny, lost yellow duckling had found its mother!  We watched for another couple of minutes and another large white duck approached and they all began to swim together in harmony.  The family was reunited.  All was well so, with smiles, we loaded the dogs into the van and drove home.

On the way home I mentioned to Joan that perhaps the lost duckling finding its parents symbolized her beginning to find her way back home.  It was just a spur of the moment thought and upon reflection, we both agreed that it did not symbolize anything.  It was just a chance to witness something cool in nature, something that neither one of us had ever seen before, although she mentioned that it was similar to things she has seen on television nature shows.  She and I share sort of a childlike vision of the world and, at our best times, some common interests in things like nature and an enthusiasm for the appreciation of life's little things.  I am glad that the tiny duckling found its family and I am glad to have Joan still in mine...



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Full Circle

Two years ago, my spouse told me that I should come out to my parents and go full time.  She didn't really know everything that would be involved in transition and she also told me that if/when I did it that she would leave me.  She had first seen me as Tammy a couple of months before and had just started being able to tolerate being around me being myself, here at home.  She had figured out in this short time that this was really who I was and that I owed it to myself (and to them) to tell them.  This was about 7 months after I finally worked up the courage to come out to her and tell her that I wanted to see a therapist; and after at least a year and a half of trying to get up the nerve to talk to her.  Before that I did not want her to find out about me because I didn't think she would understand.  At this point 2 years ago when she told me this, I didn't want my parents to find out about me because I didn't think they would understand.  I only did both of these things (come out to my spouse then parents) because I had to.  I needed to progress and there was no other way to do it without these people knowing.  In the past, I just fantasized about running away and starting a new life, but I wasn't fantasizing any more.  I had to live my life and I needed to transition in order to keep living, so I had to take these steps and do these things I never thought I could do and never wanted to do.

So I owe a lot to my spouse for being the person that really got my attention with regards to coming out to my parents.  Well she wasn't the first person to suggest it, other friends had, but when she told me that I Needed to come out to them it really hit home.  She made me believe that I could do it and that it would not necessarily be the disaster I had imagined.  I don't know how I could have transitioned without coming out to them, unless I ran away like the childish fantasy I used to have.  But I am grown up now (sort of), and one of my main responsibilities is to take care of them as they get older so I couldnt' just run away from that. 

She also came through on her end of the bargain; to leave me when I found the courage to tell my parents and begin to live my life as me, full time.  I will have to admit that she has some marvelous insight (for someone that I was never fully honest with until recently) and seems to know me pretty well.  The only person I have Ever been fully honest with, about everything from Day 1, is my boyfriend Mitch.  I think that by the time I met him I had learned what worked and didn't work in my life, and dishonesty and deception had not worked out well for me.  I have to thank him for showing me how liberating and productive complete honesty is, and perhaps he should also get some of the credit for me finding the strength to come out.

Followers of this blog know what a struggle it was for me to conquer my "Mt. Everest" (coming out) and know of my inner struggle in adjusting to life without my best friend and spouse living here with me.  My parents accepted me right away, and in the last 4 plus months I think my spouse has finally started to fully accept me as well.  When she lived at home I feel she was more tolerant than accepting.  I think she understood me but she didn't accept me and perhaps she was hoping that I would never change.  Part of the reason it was so hard on her was that she had to maintain a secret, as I had for so long.  I brought her into my secret and I am sure that it created a lot of stress within her.  I know a thing or two about that stress.  She couldn't tell certain people (like my parents) about me and I know that made it more difficult for her, especially when we would be around my parents together.  She must have felt as uncomfortable as I did and I hate that I put through all that.

Full Circle

Last weekend things finally came full circle for my family.  My spouse has been talking to my parents, especially my mom, and they all decided to go to church together last Sunday.  Mom wanted to go to a different church than the one she is a member of, still a Baptist Church but not a Southern Baptist church.  She has not been going to church lately but she wants to get back into going.  It is encouraging to me that she wants to go to try a different church and it is better for her that this church is in the neighborhood, only a block from her house.  I didn't go to church with them but I did go out and get chicken and barbecue takeout for lunch and had it waiting for them when they got home. 

Thia was the first time I had been around my spouse, Joan, and my parents at the same time since coming out.  I have mentioned that she recently began calling me Tam (at least most of the time) as she dislikes the name Tammy right now.  We all got along great at lunch, probably better than we ever have.  At least I did not feel as tense and uncomfortable inside and I believe the feeling rubbed off on Joan and my parents as well.  For awhile I was very uncomfortable around my parents because I was hiding my transition (and I think Joan shared some of that as well) but to a lesser degree there has Always been a level of discomfort and angst around them and everyone else.  Now that I am happy with who I am and comfortable within myself, it makes it easier being around other people. 

I can't tell you how good it felt to be at that table and in that house as myself with my three closest family members and have us all get along so well.  Everyone calls me Tammy (or Tam in Joan's case) and her, me and my mom talk about female things like ear rings, shoes, what other ladies in the church were wearing etc.  After lunch we sat in the den and talked for a bit.  The ironic thing is that Mitchell was down at my house during this time, working on my leaking sink.  My dad went to sleep in his chair, but I told Mom and Joan about him being there.  Joan remarked how good a job he had done fixing our fence (last year) and they both seemed to think he was a great guy and very good for me.  That makes me feel awesome and quite relieved in what could have been an awkward situation, although I have never really sensed from Joan that she disapproves of my boyfriend.

I walked down to my house, got my dogs and walked back to my parents so that Joan and I could walk them around the lake at the local park.  She said she was not comfortable yet going to the house with Mitch there and I fully understand that, after all we are still married.  After we walked the dogs I rode with her to get some gas in her truck and we had a good little talk.  We are getting along so good now and I think we are happy together, when we are together.  We are friends but we are more than just that, we are and will always be family.  I still tell her I love her sometimes before hanging up on phone calls with her.  Sometimes I say we love you, meaning the dogs and I (although I have had a lifelong habit of sometimes referring to myself as we), but often I just say goodbye or "I'll talk to you later".

She talked about possibly coming back to live at the house, but she wouldn't be comfortable with Mitchell coming over, especially until the divorce is final.  As badly as I wanted her to come back over the last few months, now I am thinking that it is not such a good idea.  We are developing the relationship that we need now and we just need to build it slowly.  I know she is getting tired of living in Raleigh because it's not as easy to get around up there in a bigger city, but maybe we can get her an apartment here in town or something one of these days. 

She also talked about how much calmer and happier I seem these days, and she mentioned it to Mom also.  I am much happier within myself and now that I am pretty much over the depression from Joan leaving and not having her in my life, I have finally been able to come full circle into being myself And being fully happy with my new life.  The last piece of the puzzle has come into place.  Now I can relax for a moment before going on to solve new puzzles.

“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Tammy Ann Matthews...2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

At the Mall Today

Very interesting day the mall today here in Rocky Mount. I was out there to buy a Clinique product (CC Cream) for my mom from Belk's for Mother's Day. I had been at another Belk's yesterday, with my spouse, and gotten samples of their BB and CC creams. After we left, my (ex) spouse snatched my BB cream sample, but I still had the CC cream and I let Mom try it today. She liked it so I decided to buy if for her for Mother's Day.

I was going to Belk's last, so I decided to walk around the mall and shop/look around, mostly look. I was approached by someone from Avon and she told me they were looking for more reps. I have wanted a part time job I can do from home as myself, but I don't want to get involved in any multi level marketing or anything that can take money out of pocket in any way, so I took her brochure and politely said no.

I went in a few more stores and when walking down the long hallway after leaving Ross (I did buy a sexy teddy to wear for my boyfriend this weekend), I saw someone that looks just like my spouse, who I am separated from. I thought to myself, I really miss Joan and a little tear formed in my eyes. She has moved to another town and I meet her halfway every week to see her and let her visit with the dogs. As I got closer I thought to myself, wait a minute, that really looks like her, so I approached her as she went in a costume jewelry store.

Now it really gets interesting because it turns that it was Joan after all, and she was in town to pick her meds from the drug store. We talked a little bit and she wanted to see what I had bought from Ross. I was only a little embarrassed to show her what I bought "to sleep in" and she didn't seem that interested, so we looked around. I ended up buying us each a pair of ear rings at 2 for $3. She said that her nephew had ridden to Rocky Mount with her and that he was at the mall and they were going to meet soon for lunch. She didn't think that he would want to have lunch with me there but she was going to go with me to Belk's.

As we left that store, up walks her nephew and we spoke a minute. He has met the real me one time when they came to get her furniture and stuff when she first moved out but he is not a real fan. We said hello but then Joan left with him to eat. She acts like she is a little bit embarrassed by me around him, although her and I have been getting along great lately. I know he doesn't approve of me now but he doesn't really understand either I don't think. Oh well, at least he was cordial but I would have liked to spend a little more time with her.

Then, I get to Belk's and was waiting for someone to help me at the Clinique counter when I see a guy walking towards me that I used to know. Except for running into him at the mall once every few years, I have not seen this guy in years and years but he used to be a drinking friend that I knew since I was a teenager. I don't think that he knows about my transition, but he might because people talk in this town, but when I saw him walking towards me while I was in the makeup department I assumed that Joan had run into him and sent him over to talk to me.

This man is really nice but he is a little bit slow mentally and lives with his mom even though he is older than me. He walked right up to me and he had to walk around me because it was crowded in that section. I was looking right at him and said hi and he said hi back and gave me that shy smile of his that he does around women. I thought for sure he would know who I am and talk me to but he did not recognize me so I let him walk on by. Maybe if there had not been so many people around , I would have stopped him and re introduced myself. Oh well, I am sure I will bump into him again, it is a small city.

I am home now, but as I am typing this I get a call from Joan and she is still at the Mall. She went back to Belk's and looked for me after she ate lunch. I should have hung around, I would gotten to spend more time with her, but I was a little let down that she had left me so quick when her nephew came up and I wanted to come home and work on my blog. We are actually getting along better than ever and have a great time shopping etc. together now, so I will just wait until Monday when I meet her again.

It almost killed me when she left home because I felt like a part of me was gone forever, but I am feeling so much better now that part is slowly coming back.

Photo of me at another mall, Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, last week.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Off to the Beach

The rejuvenation I wrote about in my last post has continued throughout the month of April. Spring has sprung in the Carolinas and most of the winter blues have passed over me, allowing me to finally enjoy my full time life to the fullest. May is already promising to be quite interesting with new changes, challenges and more fun awaiting me. It's time to look back on the last half of April here in Tammy World and catch y'all up on what's been going on.

April 15th I began my twelfth month of HRT and I am really starting to see my body begin to catch up to my mind as far as being female. On the morning of the 17th I put my dogs in the kennel for three nights, drove to Total Hair salon in Raleigh to get my hair colored and got highlights for the first time, then drove south to Carolina Beach to meet up with my good online friend, Pamela West (whom I had never met in person but consider a sister), and enjoyed my first beach vacation in a year and a half.

Leaving the salon with my first highlights
Off to the Beach

Interstate 40 from Raleigh to Wilmington, North Carolina is a wide open 4 lane highway with a 70 mph speed limit and the 132 miles takes about 2 hours to drive, non stop. From Wilmington it's about another half hour to Carolina Beach, driving through town with all the stoplights, and I crossed the bridge onto the island about 5 o'clock. Pam was in town with her boss working at a conference on Tuesday and Wednesday and she had finished up a couple hours before I got there. She had her room booked through Friday so we had 2 nights and one full day to enjoy the beach before heading back home.

The conference had been held at the Courtyard by Marriott oceanfront hotel and her/our room was on the 8th floor. This was one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed at and definitely the finest accommodations I have ever had on the coast. I believe it is the biggest and nicest hotel on Pleasure Island too. When I pulled up to the hotel Pam met me in the lobby and we proceeded to get my van full of stuff upstairs. As usual, I packed enough clothes etc. for a week's stay but I did really want to fit a week's worth of living into those 2 short days and I think we did a pretty good job of that.

Room with a view: this picture shows the hotel pool, parts of the historic boardwalk, the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. Carolina beach is sub tropical but the water in mid April was too cold for a swim.

Another view from the deck of our hotel room of cottages, condos, the beach and The Atlantic Ocean.

When I got settled into the room we decided to go the bar across the street to meet up with Pam's boss and some of the other people from the conference. The little bar across the street, The Fat Pelican, was quite a contrast to the elegant hotel. It's a little beer joint/dive bar but it does have an outside area with sort of a beachy, tiki bar feel. I introduced myself to the table full of people and we sat down and drank a few beers with everyone. Besides Pam's boss, I think all the other people were from North Carolina and a couple were from Tarboro, the next town over from where I live. In the past, I always felt uncomfortable and hated sitting down at a table of strangers, especially having to introduce myself to people, but now it doesn't seem bad at all and I was very comfortable in that situation even though everyone knew I am trans because of Pam being out at work. Feeling comfortable with myself seems to make me more comfortable around other people whether I know them or not. Hopefully this will open more opportunities up for me in the future and make life a little more pleasant.

Pam's boss is a trip, he sort of reminds me of my old friend Mack with the way he drank beer after beer, talked a lot and never wanted to eat dinner; but this man is successful, has a very responsible job and is married so he is not that similar to Mack. Everyone was very nice and some had been there awhile drinking before we arrived, so they were very relaxed. I was impressed with how Pam is accepted and treated by everyone. She teaches classes (sometimes with hundreds of people in them) to professionals working for the state or private companies who need certification or training on specific issues in their field. This was her first trip teaching out of town since she transitioned last fall and the fact that she is so well accepted by people with various backgrounds and belief systems, even here in the bible belt, is refreshing. So naturally, I was well received myself and had a good time at the bar, although I am a little bit of an outsider so I mostly listened to everyone talk about the conference and their work.

After awhile another lady from the conference came up and pulled up a chair, squeezing in between me and Pam's boss. Everyone pretty much knew each other but she was a big talker and became the life of the party. Her name is Rene and she works with a company out of Charlotte, NC and was apparently there by herself. When it started to get dark, Pam and I were really ready to get something to eat and Rene wanted to go out and grab a bite too. Actually, everyone at the table was supposed to go but it must have must have been hard to pull themselves from the cold beers there at The Fat Pelican, so the three of us went next door to a nice seafood restaurant and sat down at the bar. Rene wanted to buy everything, so she ordered us all beers and shots of some type of liquor. As ya'll know from reading this blog I really do not drink hard alcohol anymore and Pam wanted no part of her shot either. I did bend my rule for the night (we were at the beach after all) and drank my liquor shot while we sat around and talked.

Being away from the group, Rene sort of opened up to us and told us she was fascinated by us but she did show us much respect. It is no surprise, but she had never met anyone trans before and she asked us some questions about our transitions and so forth. She even had a few tips for us from her own perspective and I could tell that Pam had impressed her earlier in the day, as Rene had been in her class. After looking at the menu, we decided this place was too expensive for us to eat there, so we left the unfinished beers and headed on down the road. I like Rene's style, when she is ready to go she just gets up and goes whether the drinks are finished or not. They will always serve us another one at the next place.

We ended up at a Sushi bar down the block and after we ordered our beers we looked at the menu and tried to figure out what to order. Rene is a lot of fun and a real character; she ended up getting the staff to make her up a special sushi dish that was not on the menu. I ordered some "cooked" tuna, and what came out was very interesting, and Pam got the old standby, a chicken sandwich and french fries. My tuna was not that good, but it was edible, and we ended up sharing the sushi dishes anyway. The special sushi was quite good although we never got the staff to explain exactly what it was. Rene ate some of it, but I think she had been drinking with some others before she met us and was sort of tired, so she got up and left at some point and left Pam and I to finish the meal. She did pay for everything so we thanked her and before she left she took our picture with her cell phone and got our email addresses. I sent her an email back when I got hers and she gave me her information and said if i was ever in Charlotte to look her up and she has a little place at Myrtle Beach that she invited me or us to as well. She is just good people and a real Carolina girl so I know if I ever see her again she will treat me like an old friend.

Pam and I left the sushi bar, took a walk through the quiet boardwalk (its not beach season yet and most of the businesses are closed) and made it back to the hotel in time to get a Starbucks coffee from the Bistro before it closed at 10 pm. Pam had been up since like 4 am for work and I had sort of a long day too so we were in bed before midnight. In the past it would have been hard to stop me from drinking and I might have been like Pam's boss and keep ordering "one more" beer until last call. We did hear later that he did make his plane in Raleigh the next day, but barely, and he didn't feel too good. He did have a good time at the beach after the work was done and so had I on that first day. Pam and I hit it off like old friends and we remarked later how comfortable we were around each other the whole weekend, just like real sisters must be.

Day at the Beach

Thursday was a full day at the beach and I woke up early, hoping to see the sun rise over the Atlantic ocean. I missed the sunrise but we still got up before 8 and Pam wanted to chill in the room awhile before getting ready to go out for the day. I had a slight hangover but after a long, refreshing walk on the beach I felt great. I had been bothered by some back problems in the days before this trip, a recurring issue for me, but they seemed to fade away for the most part in the salt air. We rode out and got some breakfast at McDonald's, then rode around a little bit and walked out on the fishing pier. Being on the pier is always a breath of fresh air for me, as I have spent countless hours on them fishing and watching the beach. Its a great view anyway, being 1000 feet out over the ocean, and after that we drove back to the hotel and walked back down the boardwalk. I wanted to get some of the famous Britt's donuts, but at this early point in the year they were only open on weekends. Pam had already gotten her shower and did her makeup while I was walking on the beach, so we went back to the room, I got my shower and we got ready to go out on an afternoon adventure.

View of Carolina beach from the pier. The Courtyard by Marriott hotel is the large building with the blue tower, just to the left of the middle of the picture.

Brown Pelicans.
Pam and I left the hotel and rode down to the south end of the island to the ferry terminal at Fort Fisher. Being from Oklahoma, Pam had never ridden a ferry before and I was a child the last time I rode the Southport- Fort Fisher ferry. Seeing that we had over an hour until the next ferry, we drove back up to Kure Beach to have lunch at a nice little restaurant I knew about. Lunch at Jack Mackerel's was awesome and I had fried grouper bites while Pam had her first ever fried flounder dinner, complete with the classic french fries and cole slaw. The ferry ride is about 30 minutes each way and crosses the lower Cape fear River. As we approached the landing, a man on the ferry pointed out a very old, little lighthouse on the riverbank and told us a little bit about Price's Creek Lighthouse. I had never heard of it, so it just goes to show you learn something new every day. We spent some time in the quaint, historic town of Southport, riding around looking at historic homes and going to a few shops before riding the ferry back.

Pam and I at Jack Mackeral's

Price's Creek Lighthouse

On the ferry

On the return trip, we caught the second to the last ferry of the day so it was pretty crowded and the afternoon winds made it a little bit too cool to spend the entire ride on the observation deck upstairs, as we had on the way over. After that outing, we went back to the hotel, sat on the balcony overlooking the beach, had a few beers and talked while enjoying the ocean breezes. A few rain showers moved in so about dark we took umbrellas and walked down to a little surf shop and grill where I enjoyed a really good Mahi sandwich. After dinner, we walked down the boardwalk again and saw a couple of gift shops we planned to come back to the next day for souvenirs. We made it back to hotel before the 10 pm closing time of the Bistro and Starbucks, so that I could get my nightly frappuccino. We were not in the mood for any more beer, so we called it a night pretty early again after a fun filled day. The best part of the day, and the entire trip for that matter, was spending time with my sis Pam and getting to know her better. As I have written in earlier blog posts, Pam and I have a lot in common. We starting talking online when we were both in therapy and much of our transitions so far have sort of mirrored each other, with her usually a step ahead of me. I know I have a friend for life in Pam and I am glad we finally got to meet in person and enjoy this little vacation. Hopefully we will get to meet again and in fact I am sure it will happen.

My van on the ferry with the return ferry in the background

Beach bum: chilling on the balcony with a cold beer.

Pam with a beer and a Big smile.

Last Day

Friday was the day to check out and make the 2.5 hour drive back to my home in Rocky Mount. Pam's had to catch her flight out of Raleigh on Saturday afternoon, so we would stay at my house Friday night and make the one hour drive to Raleigh on Saturday. We still had a lot to do before leaving the beach. We wanted to do a little gift shopping, go to the aquarium and visit the USS North Carolina battleship in Wilmington. I missed the sunrise again but got up before 8 and had another long walk on the beach while Pam started to get ready. Being the older sister (by a mere 14 months) she takes a little bit longer to get ready but it takes me forever too, so we had to start early if we were to both make it before check out time, considering there was just one bathroom and shower. As it was, we got late checkout at noon and then walked down to the boardwalk for lunch and some souvenir shopping at a couple of gift shops.

On the Carolina Beach boardwalk Friday.

Shopping at one of the boardwalk souvineer shops.

The boardwalk on a windy and sort of cloudy day on our last day at the beach.

After lunch at a boardwalk sub shop, we headed off to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. We spent about an hour there looking at the fish and exhibits, then it was off to Wilmington to tour the battleship USS North Carolina. We got to the battleship at 4 pm and were told that it closes at 5. I figured it would take about an hour to see the aquarium and an hour to see the battleship, but it turns out the battleship was actually bigger with more to see than I had remembered when I was last there as a child. Pam has a son in the Navy and is really into the old war ships and stuff, so I wish we had a little more time there, but they didn't close right at 5 and we actually stayed until 5:30 pm. The USS North Carolina was nicknamed "The Showboat". It was involved in the Pacific theater during WWII and was even hit by a Japanese torpedo. After the war it came back to Wilmington, was retired and now serves as a museum and historical reminder of a great era for the US Navy. The ship is impressive visually and was very fascinating to me. I will let the pictures describe the battleship and the aquarium, but suffice it to say we had an awesome afternoon touring both, before grabbing one last seafood meal at famous Hieronymus Seafood in Wilmington and hitting the road towards home.

Pam and I in the large atrium area which houses the fresh water fish and reptile exhibits. Below is a picture of a rare albino alligator. North Carolina is the northern most range of the American Alligator.

We timed it right for the Dive Show.

The large Cape Fear reef exhibit during the Dive Show.

Me inside the jaws of the ancient Megalodon.

Jellyfish exhibit.

Tropical reef

Tam and Pam at the USS North Carolina

The Showboat

War medals for the USS North Carolina

There are alligators in the marsh surrounding the ship.

Below decks...

Pam is happy to be at the showboat. She has toured a couple of other battleships, but this was her first time on "The Showboat".

In the engineering room

Part of the Marine Corps exhibit. Marines were the only people on the ship that had firearms.

Taking our turn at the helm, with Pam at the wheel.

Sleeping in the Big House

On the way home we drove through a storm front with tornado warnings, nothing unusual for Oklahoman Pam, and finally got in about 10 pm. Pam got to see my house and we watched a bit of television in the little house before bedtime. Something fairly major happened that night. I had not been able to sleep in my own bedroom in the main house since around Christmastime so I have been sleeping on a futon here in my little house. I was putting Pam up in the guestroom in the main house and I didn't want to abandon her by making her stay over there alone, so I actually slept in my bed in the master bedroom that night for the first time in months. When she was getting ready for bed, I had a little moment of emotion, but nothing major, and when I hit the sack I went right to sleep. I woke up a few hours later after having a weird, bad dream, but was able to go right back to sleep and had a good night's sleep after all. Thanks Pam, for forcing me to get back into my own room again. Well, she didn't Force me but the situation kind of pushed me into it and I am glad.

The next morning I was at the dog kennel minutes after it opened so I could pick up Buddy and Nightingale. They were Very happy to see me and I took them to walk in a park, then stopped and picked up breakfast for Pam and I. We took our time getting ready, as usual, and I had fun doing most of her makeup before we left to go to the airport. We barely made it too as she got there about an hour before the flight left, but with security and everything, the timing was close. Like I told her, everything will work out in Tammy World, even if its a close call.

After dropping Pam off, I drove straight back home in an hour. Twenty minutes later, Mitch showed up and we had a great romantic date at my house and went out to dinner. It was the first time we had ever made love in my own bed in the main house, but in the couple of weeks since that has become our spot. During the week I am sleeping in the house alone, but Buddy has been keeping me company in the bedroom on his pad while Night sleeps on a chair in the office. She is important like that..:)

Overall, I had a fabulous week with meeting Pam, the beach trip, finally having my boyfriend stay with me in my main house and moving back into that house full time making this the best week of the year so far. It is going to be hard to top that wonderful week but I will be back to fill ya'll in on what has gone on during the rest of April and what's in store for May. Spring is bringing much change here in Tammy World, not just for myself during my transition, but in my life as well and I look forward to every bit of it!!

Mitchell and I on the couch, in the "big house".

Romance on the couch in My house. What a way to end an awesome week!!!