Eight Months on T

36 weeks
Eight months. Eight months and I still feel like my body has changed a LOT and not enough! With a surgery date finally set I am working on getting myself healthy in preparation. I have started eating a lot better, cutting down on soda and treats which has also helped my bank account. I am taking vitamins, and joined a beginner yoga class to build my strength, flexibility, and an opportunity to learn relaxation and stress-management techniques. I am trying to read more and set myself a schedule to make sure I get enough sleep. I am hoping that by the time my one year anniversary rolls around I will feel ready for the surgery, fit, and happy. Now here is the eight month update:

Acne: I had my antibiotic prescription renewed by a new doctor so of course I filled it and when I went to see my regular doctor he said that  I should have gone down to a maintenance dose because the medication can be hard on my liver and even more so because I am also on testosterone. I will be finishing this last batch and dropping the dose down. My acne is pretty much under control now but my back is still prone to breakouts. I am not sure if the blemishes that are there now are scars or if my skin will ever really clear up.

I have been pretty good about watching what I eat lately. I have been diligent at making my lunch to take to work, eating home made foods including fruit and vegetables and drinking more water. I quit drinking as much as I used to staying home from the pub Friday nights. I have cut the amount of sugar I take in my coffee in half and have cut down my soda intake by over half. As a reward I allow myself one lunch from the deli a week on Fridays. Usually fish n chips with out the chips or a soup and sandwich. Just because I get lunch out once a week doesn't mean it can be crap! I am feeling pretty good, going to hockey once a week and to yoga twice a week. Can't wait till it is warm enough to ride my bike to work.

Injection: I haven't injected t into my leg since my last dizzy spell. I know I am supposed to rotate injection sites but I have decided to stick to the ventral gluteal muscles for now until I can either switch to a T patch or find another painless and veinless injection site. Otherwise I am getting better at getting it over with fast and haven't had any nausea or dizziness.

Hair: My hairline is changing. I am definitely losing hair near my temples but not so much that I feel like I am going bald! The happy trail is moving in  and my legs are definitely looking manly. Chest hairs are sprouting up and my belly looks like it is going to be pretty hairy. Sadly I thinkI might lose all the hard won chest hair when I have surgery but hopefully they will repopulate the area again soon after. The hair on my arms is filling in slowly but surely and no doubt in time they will be as hairy as my legs. So far no back hair!

Mood: I am still pretty homesick but the news of surgery before the hottest part of the summer is great news. I will celebrate my first birthday without boobs since I was eight years old! I have some big plans for the future that includes a big move. I know that my mood can vary day to day but I look forward to weekends, lunch hours and little moments of peace and quiet. I am taking one day at a time but now that some dates have been set I finally feel like I can move forward.

Voice: Not much has changed, at least not to my ear. I don't know if it is still dropping... I think it might be a little but perhaps it is just settling. I notice that time to time it feels a little more unstable and sometimes I feel like I just sound like I have a cold. Still no singing in my future. I don't know what I expected my voice to sound like but I still feel like it doesn't sound male. I listen to other guys voices and they aren't deep exactly and so I am trying to figure out what differentiates a man's voice from a woman's.

Other: I started a yoga class and I am still really self conscious about my chest. I am trying not to get too hung up about it but I think I might try wearing one of my looser fitting binders and a workout shirt. I am not really afraid of confrontation as much as I am of glaring stares and I am trying to pull my head out of that space where I feel paranoid about people staring at my body. I worry a lot that I will be betrayed by my tits and outed by my body. I am sick of feeling like I am lying or in hiding but at the same time I wish I could just be me as I am right now and not care about what other people think. Why does being trans make me feel like I am a liar?


The Longest Day

June 21 is the solstice the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. This year it is going to feel twice as long for me because I will be having top surgery on the 22. Everything was finally approved today and I am booked for boob removal the first day of the summer. I am super stoked and hoping that I will not run into any conflicts or other events that would cause me the nightmare of having to reschedule everything. I know one guy who has had his surgery rescheduled twice....hard enough to deal with once but twice?! So until I wake up and they are actually gone I try not to get too exited....but that will be hard! 
The top ten things I am looking forward to the most after surgery:
  1. Not having to wear a binder! 
  2. Running.
  3. Standing up straight
  4. Chest hair
  5. Swimming!
  6. Trampolines.
  7. No more awkward boob moments
  8. Dress shirts will fit better
  9. Shirt-less road trips
  10. Not having boobs!
I am looking forward to having my clothes fit better, not having to layer clothes to hide my body or shrug my shoulders to hide my chest. I will stand up straighter, be more relaxed, stop fidgeting with my shirts. I will feel more confident and probably spend a lot more time admiring the way I look wearing only a pair of jeans. I want to take up running. I will sleep in only a pair of boxers and take my shirt off in the summer when I chop wood or go to the river. I can go to the hospital and not worry about having to take off my shirt or have someone listen to my heart or lungs with a stethoscope. I can wear just one t shirt or wear a muscle shirt even if it has big arm holes.  I will not think about having boobs or feel betrayed by my body. I will finally be in a body that matches my spirit. I will finally be me.


Kindergarten for Queers Pt1: Pink Boys

I was watching a tv show called"What Would You Do?" where hidden cameras capture people's reactions when confronted with particular social issues that are set up. The topic that piqued my interest tonight involved seeing what people might say to a Dad out with his son who wants a Barbie or other doll. I hoped for the best but it was amazing to see how freaked out some other parents really were (quietly admitting to the desperate father there was no way they'd let their son have a doll). The other parents or grandparents decided boys liking dolls was just a stage, but just in case it's not a phase, let's whisper the insinuation that the boy might grow up to be gay and there's nothing you can do about that. Women were not afraid to say what they thought about whether Dad should buy his son the doll (he'll grow out of it, it's just a phase, if he's you know it's not going to matter,) but how sad that not a single man stood up for that kid. Why do men resist giving advice to each other when it comes to raising their sons?

The second part of this "experiment" attempted to see what people would say to a father out with his son who was wearing a dress. No one said anything to Dad about his pretty little boy until another actor started a confrontation by asking whether that was a boy or a girl. This hits home for me. I can't count how many times I have been asked that question, how many times I have felt humiliated and ashamed of expressing my gender identity as a young kid because I didn't participate normally for my biological gender. The fear exhibited here once again is that the dress might make the boy gay. Confrontation was once again initiated by a man to the father of a son. All the people who reacted again were women.

Would the experiment have turned out differently if the boy was out with his mom? What if the antagonist had been a woman? What if he had been out with his TWO dads or his mom and mommy in a dress buying a tea set, or a tiara, or an easybake oven? Is there any real men out there who would stand up for that boy and set an example as protector? Is there any man who would show that boy that other men will support his decision to express his gender identity? Is there any real man that will allow that boy to be a pretty little princess and grow up to become a fabulous queer drag queen?

I read something recently that really stuck with me: Western culture is not concerned with raising men; it is more concerned that it does not raise sissies or queers. Over and over and over the "new" stereotype of what it really means to be a man don't include characteristics like tolerance, kindness, strength, standing up for the rights of others, having a solid moral fibre, or being a good father. Showing weakness and sensitivity or being gay or gender variant are absolutely not acceptable for a real man.

click for more about pink boys
Why do these stereotypes persist and what the hell is a real man anyway? Why aren't gay men considered real men? Gays work hard, raise their own and other people's kids. They are teachers, coaches, mentors, artists, writers, and athletes. They are brothers, sons, uncles, nephews, grandsons, grandaddies, and friends.  Gays serve in the military, they volunteer, they raise awareness and fight for the rights of people who don't have the same rights as everyone else. They are kind, sensitive, strong men who often have a great sense of humor despite being bullied, so why the hell are they so feared? Shouldn't they be held up as examples of what good men can be? Can't straight and cisgendered boys learn something about being a real man from gays or trannies or drag queens as well?

I certainly think the make great men and I have been blessed to know a few that have taught me a lot about what it is to be a good, kind man. Maybe if we taught our sons that being a good man doesn't have anything to do with where you keep your tools, boys wouldn't be confused about what it means to be a real man....and neither would the women.


Hand Sanitizer is the New Latex

Well it happened again. I had to go to the hospital which I was planning on doing anyway to get my T levels checked and the liver function tests that go along with HRT.  I wasn't  thinking I would have to take of my shirt and sweater, or get x-rays or be topless and vulnerable at the hospital again so soon BUT I hit the boards pretty hard with my shoulder at hockey and woke up with quite a bit of pain. I don't want to ruin my ability to chop wood or put on a pullover so I decided better safe than sorry and sucked it up for some x-rays. And of course I got to meet the student doctor, which was fine but I really wish the nursing staff would learn that just because the door is closed doesn't mean I can't hear them talking and asking questions. I swear if I (and the rest of the ER) hear, is the patient male or female? one more time I am going to refuse to go back.

Maybe this whole thing could have been avoided if I had just said something right off the bat but when it took nearly an hour to register at admitting because they had to admit me a second time after some confusion as to how two people could have the same health care number and the same birthday. Once I had convinced them that I was both of those people...one in the same just with a new name and fancy new set of shoulders they admitted me.

Maybe I should have said something to the adorable and super friendly triage nurse in the ER? Or should I have said something to the baby doctor after sitting alone in a room being embarrassed by what I could hear through the door? Should I have said I can hear you? Should I have explained that I heard there was some confusion about my gender because my doctor (who did his residency at a trans clinic) has the decency and understanding to mark me down as M when all the other forms and cards and insurance still list me as F? When do I explain that?

I don't know if explaining my transgender self would have been something I should have listed under OTHER medical condition? Allergies? "Why, yes I am allergic to the big F everyone keeps trying to make me wear....." or maybe... "I'm allergic to my gender, it makes my throat close off and I have difficulty breathing?" sadly sometimes that is the truth.

Would explaining have made it easier to take of my sweater, t-shirt, binder and stand under a thin hospital gown praying that the fresh faced baby doctor didn't just pull it down in front to have a good look at that shoulder?  Would it have been enough to articulate the shame and awkwardness of having him tell me to stand up straight and move my arms around and up over my head (which any good MTF can tell you just makes those damn tits stick right out droopy gown or not). If I had explained my dysfunctional gender identity would it have made it easier to stand next to the young buff x-ray tech who kept calling me buddy while I tried to make sure he didn't stand too close to my chest wishing that I had two larger t-shirts on so I could hide my breasts better?

I doubt it.

Thank god the nurse in the Lab was too busy to look at or care about the M or F on my paperwork and only wanted me to roll my sleeve up enough to get a needle in my vein. She was pleasant enough but I really really wish that they wore gloves. Yeah, for real. Hand sanitizer is the new latex.


Desperate for a Real Hero Pt.1

Looking around for inspiration while collecting little scraps of admirable masculine behaviour, I have noticed a disturbing trend in the way men are portrayed in the media. There has been a long history of male dominated culture meaning that until the last 30 years most print media/movies/and television have been written, produced, and directed by men. You would think that characters would change as women came on the scene but unfortunately the trend to create shallow boring and obnoxious characters of either gender has not abated.

I was discussing the pathetic state of television with a friend recently, lamenting the decline of decent movies that I might actually pay to go and see in a theatre. Likewise, I have nearly eliminated television from my daily life and when I do watch, I tend to avoid comedy or drama shows with people in them and gravitate toward animal, nature and adventure stories. I quit watching the news altogether because it is unflinchingly biased, sensationalized fear-mongering. CNN is a joke. There is so much bickering, finger pointing, misery, and paranoia being fostered from what is supposed to be a "news" station I just quit watching. Never does anyone lay out the many sides of a conflict (objectively) and try to find solutions. No, it is about who yells the loudest while jockeying for position in a debate over who's opinion is the most right. A Canadian network recently ran a commercial that stated they were looking for suffering, misery, depression, tragedy, etc. because these are the stories Canadians want to see. Are you fucking kidding me? I don't want to see pictures of sex offenders in my neighbour's underwear or see the blood staining the street/wall/floor bumper after a shooting/accident/beating. I don't need to know the gory details of a celebrity autopsy/break-up/hook-up/overdose/sex tape and if I hear one more thing about terrorist threats, un-American attitudes or homeland airport security, I might just drop my tv off at the dump. But alas, I am getting off topic...

There are not many characters that could be held up as role models for anyone today let alone little boys. There is really no place you can look and think: man, I want to be like that guy (or gal) and be talking about someone with strong moral fibre, a solid character and  direction. Men on television and movies are mostly pathetic character shells draped over a stereotype.

For example:

1. Recreational Drug user/alcoholic trying to get laid and/or get high over everything else, Ususally has some charming quirk real women would find annoying.
2. The hero/accidental hero...looks good without a shirt on, kills stuff, saves stuff, fights crime, his moral compass points in only one direction and he single handedly has to save humanity. Oh, and he over uses one-liners.
3. Once bitten twice shy. This guy has been hurt in his past and there is a woman out there who can fix him...if only he'd let her. Gag.
4. Nerd, scientist, ex-husband/boyfriend Smart, oblivious, desperate, his brain will save him and get him the girl even if it is temporary.
5. Slimeball. No morals. Serial killer/rapist/wifebeater/stalker/evildoer/super-villain. Just plain mean. sometimes they have a sad-ish back story (never fully developed) but just because you weren't breast fed doesn't excuse your shitty behaviour. Ever notice that evil exists in a vacuum? hmmm.
6. Comic. Thinks he's hilarious. Usually his jokes are at someone's expense. Treats everyone like crap (usually his wife) but thinks the sun rises and sets just for him.

This is just a few of the examples that make me feel so desperate for a real hero, someone who has to work hard, to struggle to overcome his own short-comings and learn from his mistakes. I want to see men who are sensitive to other people, who are interested in their family, their neighbours, their communities but who have moments of great joy as well as sadness. I want to see a man I can look up to who has a hobby as well as a job. Someone who struggles between doing the easy thing or the expected thing and doing the right thing. I want to be able to see that there are other guys trying to figure out who they are and know that life is about more than getting laid or high or getting the girl or being an egotistical maniac who can't be serious for one single minute.

I realize that mainstream American television or movies isn't the place to find role models but with nearly every kid in Canada and the US brought up with TV as a babysitter at some point where the hell are they learning to be men? Where the hell are we finding heros? Where are those kids going to look when they are faced with a dillemma and need some advice when their fathers are absent and their grandfathers are dead? Who is setting an example for the men of tomorrow, teaching them lessons about what it means to be a friend, a mentor, a neighbour, a father? Where are all the good men?

Other cultures pass on a long history of stories containing heros that teach their children about morals, and values, cultural behaviours, and gender roles. They have stories and oral tradition, legends, myths, and tragedies. Lessons from the ancient Greeks or Chinese philosophers offer advice and direction, a place to go looking for answers in a time of need. Where other kids might have Hercules, Zeus, Odin, Loki, Thor, Confucius, Chuang Tzu, or Buddha to look up to, western culture is facing a time of growing atheism and commercialism that leaves our children with the likes of ronald mcdonald, the cookie monster, a vampire and a werewolf fighting over a dumb indecisive high school girl, drugged up rock stars and slutty professional sports players whom they adore not because of their upstanding moral fibre but because they have lots of money and lots of cool shit.

So look around boys, who's it gonna be? Are there any viable heros for little boys in this day and age? If so where are they and is there a chance they will ever emerge onto the big or little screen?


New Year, New Man, No Excuses.

I wrote a novel in 30 days!
I have been trying to set little goals for myself that will help me round out my life a little. I spent WAY too much time wrapped up in myself at the beginning of my transition but I think that is something that every person who goes through a monumental change like transitioning needs to do. It has to be a big deal particularly if you pursue it later in life to spend some time reflecting on what it is you are gaining, what it is you are sacrificing and what it is you are making up from scratch.

Instead of making new years resolutions (I HATE New Years so you know) I usually try to think of all the things I did in the past year that made me feel good; what did I do that I was proud of? What mistakes did I make and how will I avoid making them again? What do I want to change about my life/situation/health/job this year and what can I do to make that happen?

So this year I have decided that I am going to try a couple things. I am going to make a real effort to be diligent in making these things part of my life: to create new habits instead of trying to quit old ones. So here are some of the things I have planned for the year:
  1. I am going to try to write my blog at least twice a week: Wednesdays and Fridays (and maybe one day on the weekend unless I decide to go fishing, or make some art, or read a book, or go for a bike ride, or a road trip).
  2. I am going to try to read at least two books a month.  When it warms up and there is less snow I will start riding my bike to work.
  3. I am going to make it to every hockey night for the rest of the season AND I am going to take a Yoga class.
  4. I will double the size of my savings account by June and again by December.
  5. I will be a better friend to my friends and a better son/grandson/brother/cousin/nephew/neighbour by writing more letters and making more phone calls.
  6. I will try to participate in one project a month novel/sketchbook/series of prints/short stories/photo essay.
  7. I will volunteer my time to at least one cause this year and possibly two.

That is seven (give or take) little things that I want to make part of my life this year. I want set small goals that I can accomplish. I want to be able to sit down next year and look at the things I made/wrote/ helped create/foster and enjoy the friendships, relationships, and discoveries I made in just one short year.

I look back at what I accomplished in the last year and I am proud of the lessons I learned and the things I did. I can see where I can use some improvement as well but for the next six months I will focus on these few things and hope that the satisfaction of a full and busy life will help me become the man I hope to be. After that if all is going well maybe I'll make another seven new habits!


Creating My Own Masculinity Pt 3

There are a few essential qualities I feel are necessary in creating my own masculinity. Not having been socialized as a boy I have missed out on a lot of the machismo and competitiveness I see inherent in the biological male. I was thinking today about the transgender folks on the same road as me headed in the opposite direction; the girls who were born into boy bodies. I wonder if on their journey they feel like they need to create their own femininity and if they are intimidated or enamoured with any of the female archetypes? Do they fear the place of women as it was created by men? Are they feminists now? Were they feminists before? Has existing in a woman's world changed their point of view about feminists or the feminist movement?

I have been thinking in reverse a bit to see if any of these questions apply to my journey and I would say yes to most of them. I do feel like I need to create my own masculinity, I fear being "outed" in the male world, I am still a feminist maybe more so now that I have perspective from both sides of the fence. Moving into another world has changed my perspective on many things about gender stereotypes and how they are perpetrated.

This is a snippet of an article I stumbled across while reading about gender. It outlines the way gender stereotypes hurt men, why men tend to not fight them the way women have through feminism and what we might do about it:

 Let’s not kid ourselves here: men as well as women are limited by gender stereotypes. The idea of men as stupid and sex-obsessed is an enduring generalisation that is allowed to flourish in – dare I say it – a much more brazen way than the stereotypes about women, mainly because no man ever stands up and says: “Hey, that’s sexist and it offends me!” The problem is, while women are encouraged to reject the ludicrous ideas that are held about them, men are supposed to embrace them….

I wrote a little about this in my post Shopping for a New Myth. I was not entirely aware of the ways in which I am being perceived; not only is my appearance changing but so are the assumptions people are making about the way I think based on what they perceive my gender to be. I am slowly learning which behaviours are no longer acceptable if people perceive me as a man including: crying or showing other outward emotion in public, being overly friendly with children or teenaged girls, physical contact with men other than a handshake or pat on the shoulder. There are others that I am still trying to navigate and I am sure many will come as a surprise.

I remeber feeling trapped in a position where the gentleman sitting beside me somehow felt I would be complacent and perhaps even participate in his degredation and sexist remarks toward some women out of earshot. I wasn't sure what to do so sort of shrugged and nodded. Because my body is not yet at a place where I feel comfortable and confident I find I am less willing to stand up for what I might have before. I feel trapped in a place between man and woman unsure of how to assert equality, decency, and common courtesy in the face of assumptions that I will take part in sexist behaviours.

Working with women recently I noticed they never seem to stop and think about the message they are sending to their sons and nephews as well as husbands and co-workers when talking about what useless, unfocused, horny,  deadbeat dad men are. And worse they poison their own daughters by teaching them to be afraid of men because they are perpetrators of the most heinous crimes. I wonder if  I need to worry about getting maced if I happen to be following a woman through a parking garage late at night because my car is parked on the other side of hers...

If we are ever going to bridge the gender gap we all need to stand up against negativity whether it is related to gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, biology, mental capacity, weight or whatever. Listen closely to what comes out of your mouth and look around because you might be surprised who is listening.


Sharp Dressed Man

My mother and I could never shop together. Every year when it came time to shop for new school clothes we could never reconcile what I wanted with what was appropriate. My mom has always appreciated someone with a keen eye for fashion and fine attention to detail. She likes looking put together and classy and firmly believes people should not leave their houses in sweat pants or pyjamas. I agree with that, I had to get up and get dressed today, so should everyone else. When it came to fashion, I always aimed for functional and comfortable over stylish or gender appropriate.

I knew from a very young age that my clothes were one way that I could express my true self. I could wear jeans and t-shirts and running shoes most of the time but there were always fights and arguments when it was suggested that I wear something dressy or feminine. I couldn't articulate how awkward I felt in feminine clothing. I didn't have the vocabulary to explain that feminine clothes were contraindicated by my gender. All I could say back then was I didn't like them and neither I nor my mother could understand why.

When I was about fourteen my favourite piece of clothing was an old red and black flannel jacket that I had found in a field. My mom hated it and thought I looked like a trucker but I loved that soft male jacket and how it made me feel when I wore it. I felt the same satisfaction and happiness when I wore a shirt and tie for the first time. I wore that jacket everywhere and part of the reason I was so attracted to it I think is because it was definitely a man's jacket and wearing it made me feel good in a way I couldn't yet describe. The jacket represented something to me that I hadn't yet figured out: the clothes can make the man.

Fights over having to wear a dress or something more feminine was always a matter of decorum or expectation. Girls wear this, boys wear that. You can't wear that because people will think you are a boy or you can't wear that because it makes you look like a boy. I began to realize that my clothes could act as camouflage to a certain degree and allow me to navigate the world and be read as male. I could be a boy if I just dressed the part.

Recently my mom and I were talking about clothes again and she asked me what kind of things I wear. I have very specific likes and dislikes when it comes to clothes. I haven't really felt like I can wear whatever I want because things don't fit the way they should. Until I have surgery and a flat male chest I will never feel completely comfortable in my clothes. I often see clothes that I love and covet. Clothes I think will make me look classy and masculine but when I put them on they never look as good as they do on the mannequins. (yes I am sure the ladies experience this a well) My clothes are looking better though, now that I have some shoulders to fill them. While I am more self conscious of my breasts than ever, I seem to be the only one to notice my chest in every t-shirt, dress shirt or sweater. I am hoping that my disphoria will disappear once I have gone under the knife.

I have started to save pictures of clothes I like from the internet to help me establish my style. I can see a definite pattern emerging and it is interesting to see how my clothes reflect my idea of masculinity. Not only are my clothes a fashion statement but they also serve to reinforce the kind of man I want to be. Something my mom told me once is that if you want to be successful you have to dress the part. Sometimes dressing up a bit can improve your mood and looking good is halfway to feeling good.


Homesick Heartache

Moving forward means leaving something behind. With the dawn of a brand new year and my transition to manhood slowly becoming a reality, I find myself feeling quite lost and alone and I fear that my homesickness is getting the best of me. My home, the land, the mountains, the rivers and meadows, lakes and back roads that hold so many memories for me will always be accessible to me in my mind but only there will they remain pristine.

January in KNP
I have spent a lot of time imagining myself back home, closer to my friends, my family, and the landscape that has shaped my heart. I know returning there will be like trying to travel back in time and it will never be what I remember. Once I have completed my transition I will not be able to enter my old life again, I can not go back to the life I had when I lived as a female any more than I can re-enter my life when I was twenty-three. Returning to a small town as a man after a lengthy absence will be awkward for a lot of people and I think it will impede my ability to find work. There is no way for me to make a living in that small town nor are there any adequate facilities to exhibit my artwork or receive funding for bigger projects. There are a million reasons not to move back and only one reason that makes want to return: my heart.

This year I need to find a place where I can prosper and grow and make new friends. I need to find a place where my heart can relax, my lungs can breathe in fresh mountain air and I can grow into my new body. I need a place where I can exhibit and make art and have a fulfilling job that pays me enough to get out of debt and put a little something away. I suppose any move doesn't necessarily have to be permanent and maybe that thinking is why I am having such a hard time making up my mind. Maybe I should move west for a bit, get some experience, pay off some debt, save up some money, see what happens.

I used to have an adventurous spirit and lately I am not sure what happened to me. Transitioning is about so much more than just reorganizing your spirit into a new body it is also about learning how that new body interacts with its surroundings, culture and social expectations. It is about re-creating yourself and your life in ways you never conceived of. It presents challenges and opportunities to see things and experience life in ways that other people never will. Transitioning makes you courageous, terrifies you, validates you, threatens to destroy you and offers you bittersweet victories at every turn. The hardest thing about transitioning is that all the decisions you make are your own and right or wrong you have to live with the consequences and rewards. I am trying to figure out what happened to that strong-willed, adventurous woman I used to be and reconcile the parts of her I love into the patient, soft-spoken, shy man I am becoming. I hope the challenges I face this year will help me merge my strongest character traits into a well rounded and good person.

One day I want to return home and fish in clear glacial streams, walk among the wonderful pine and cedar scented forests, listen to the cry of the ravens, the howl of the coyotes, and the panting of my dog as he crashes through the bush. I want to be close to my family. Hopefully at the end of this journey, all of those things will be in the same place. Who knows maybe a move will find me a home I didn't even know I had....

I hope that this year you become the person you have always dreamed  by facing your own challenges and struggles with patience and grace and finally reap the treasures and rewards of your hard work.