Saturday, May 27, 2006

New Driver's License

I had been meaning to get a new driver's license picture for a while because I really didn't look like the one I had anymore. So last weekend I went down to get one. The woman sat me down in front of a very old looking digital camera and took a picture. She showed it to me and I hated it, so she took another one. I looked at that one and hated it too! So after she took the third picture and I just got up and said "I'm not looking at it. Don't let me look at it." Today when I opened the envelope it was the first I had seen of it and I think it looks pretty good - at least I look somewhat like a woman in it.


This is an animation made from my new driver's license picture and the one I had in 1998. The interesting thing is that I didn't do anything at all to line up the faces. Apparently six years ago I had the same head tilt, with the same head angle, and I sat the same distance from the camera because the eyes, nose, chin... everything lines up perfectly.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

SGI Safe Driver Rewards

Last week I got a $95 cheque from SGI for being a safe driver. I was a little surprised to be honest, but then I saw the results of a survey on The Tonight Show:

It appears SGI's opinion of transgender driving is the majority.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

One Window, Two Break-ins

Thursday night I was out with Megan. We parked my car over at the Mendel Art Gallery, and then walked to the Broadway Cafe where we had an excellent supper, then we walked back. Along the way we stopped to take a look at a couple of churches. When we finally got to my car Megan said "ooooh... Sarah..." and I looked over and saw that my window had been smashed. I took a look under the seat and saw lots of pieces of broken glass where my purse should have been. I was pretty quiet after that. I'd never directly been the victim of a robbery before. Now I'm an old hat though because little did I know that this was only the first break-in in a matching set.

I took Megan home and went to the police station where the attitude was a friendly 'oh well'. I don't blame them though, there really is nothing to investigate. The policeman was nice and sincere and looked honestly sorry it had happened. He took my statement as to what was stolen. All tolled my initial purchase prices added up to about $200. Of course it was all used so there is no way the thief would get that much. I estimate that maybe the thief would get $30 tops. I left the police station feeling like the cop had seemed almost more upset over the incident than I was, and he wasn't the only one. When I got to my car where there was a man kneeling before an upset 3 or 4 year old boy. The boy's face was all red and wet looking and he was pointing over his dad's shoulder at my car and fighting back sobs he said "It's bwo-o-o-ken... it's bwo-o-ken..." Now that boy was really feeling bad for me.

I went to my mom's house to plug the hole in my car. I used the carbboard from a box that once contained an Ab Lounger, which of course my mom bought from the Shopping Channel. I cut that cardboard so it fit my window perfectly, and I'm pretty sure my duct-taping was water-tight. I was proud of the job I had done. Considering it was cardboard, it was quite attractive. In fact as I drove along I noticed people staring at it intently. It wasn't until later I realized they were not admiring it - they were reading it. The side of my car now featured writing that urged readers to get 30 minutes of physical activity 3 times a week.

That night I left my car in my parking spot, but not before making sure it was completely empty of anything of value. That makes sense right? If someone has already broken into your car and stolen the most valuable stuff, then you will likely remove everything left behind because your car is even more vulnerable with a broken window. It makes perfect sense to me... but apparently not to robber #2.

Some time in the night some highly intelligent individual must have realized the cardboard on my window was covering up a hole, so he peeled back my duct-tapestry and stole whatever he could reach. Unfortunately for him the only thing left in my car was a little plastic Safeway bag that I was using to hold garbage. Yes, this clever guy broke into my car to steal from me, but just ended up taking out my trash.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sleep Paralysis

When I was going to school at SIAST I would only have a good night sleep once or twice a week. Raina used to ask me why I always looked so tired and I would jokingly answer that my bed was haunted. I don't think there were ghosts in the basement, but I wasn't really joking. Many nights I would just stay up too late, but other nights I would spend half the night awake - too scared to fall asleep.

I am not the sort who gets irrationally scared, but these nights I truly would be. What would happen is I would have these nightmares... or something. I say 'or something' because these were no ordinary nightmares. I was always completely aware of my surroundings and I was completely aware of my body, and my eyes were open. Those sorts of things don't usually happen in a dream. In fact I was as aware of my surroundings as any person would be after waking up in the middle of the night in her bed, so by that account I was awake, but where it gets mixed up with the dream world is that I could never move - not even a finger or a toe or my tongue. The most I could do is move my eyes around and blink.

Well being paralyzed sounds scary, but I never had a feeling it was permanent or anything. If I ever did wonder why I couldn't move, I am sure the phrase 'paralyzed with fear' may have come to mind. I don't actually remember concern over being unable to move though because my mind was always 100% occupied with sympton number 2 of my not-nightmares. There was always something I could hear but not see such as whispering voices, footsteps or breathing. What makes it worse is that I always felt these sounds were coming from something inhuman.

The earliest memory of a nightmare like this is from when I was probably 13 or so. I was sleeping in bed when a sound wakes me. When I first open my eyes it is nearly completely dark with a thin beam of moonlight shining though a crack in the curtains. For an instant I think I see something. It was as if a man was standing over me and had just backed into the shadows of the corner of my room, and I had just caught a glimpse of the moonlight across the contours of a retreating, strangely shaped face just before it was completely obscured by darkness. I laid in bed unable to move, but at the time I thought it was my choice - that I am purposely not moving so the man in the corner of my room doesn't know I am awake. As I lay there I can hear breathing coming from the corner and for whatever reason I begin to think it is not a man at all, that it is something a lot scarier and I decide I have to bolt. For what seems an endless amount of time I struggle to move. The effort it takes feels like I am struggling to lift ten times my body weight - but all I am trying to do is reach for my lamp. Finally something gives and without warning I jump to life. I can move. I turn on the light to see an empty room. The belief that something was ever in the corner is gone - but I still remember that feeling of terror. The nightmare is over but the fright doesn't end for hours because I am rethinking it over and over.

For years similar events would occur. I spent about two years sleeping on a couch, and countless times I would be sleeping, turned away from the room so that when I was woken up by a strange sound I'd find my nose buried into the cushions. Behind me I would hear voices as if three or four people were speaking a language I didn't understand. Other times I would hear footsteps and the sound of opening drawers, things being pushed around. Again, each time I would not be able to move and as soon as I managed to break that paralysis I no longer believed anything was there, but my heart would be pounding and my imagination running wild. Then one day I was watching a show that was debunking claims of alien abductions and they were explaining the phenomenon of sleep paralysis. The explanation of sleep paralysis was exactly what I had been experiencing - waking up unable to move accompanied by foreboding feeling hallucinations. The theory made total sense. If you've ever heard eye witness accounts of alien abductions you may recall that they are always paralyzed, and they believe aliens are in their room doing stuff to them, this is the same as with me (except that I no longer believed it to be happening once I fully returned to consciousness).

Once I heard about sleep paralysis something changed. I had a few more episodes, but when I'd wake up paralyzed with something scary going on I would just assure myself it was sleep paralysis and I'd easily fall asleep again. Eventually I stopped having them altogether and it has been years since it happened... until a couple nights ago.

I didn't even recognize it as sleep paralysis because this was the first time I had a visual hallucination to go with it. I was sleeping out on my balcony and at some point a mosquito bit my cheek, so I remember brushing it off me and pulling the blankets up over my head. I was still covered up like that when I had my S.P. and that is why I didn't recognize it as one because I couldn't see where I was. It seemed like I was laying down looking into a field of blackness. The hallucination, believe it or not, was of a fat adult cupid with teeth like a shark. It was flying above me and had reached over and was holding my mouth shut. As usual I was terrified and I was trying to yell out but the cupid was holding my mouth shut so I was only able to make garbled panicky sounds. I don't know how long I was doing this in my dream but it seemed like forever. When I was finally able to wake up I realized that I wasn't just making those sounds in my dream - I was also making those sounds in reality. I clammed up immediately of course and then from a neighbouring balcony I heard a woman say "Holy shit... that was heavy."

I have no idea why I get these. A possible cause is irregular sleep patterns - which is totally me. If I knew the cause I'd certainly try to do it on purpose because it is honestly the scariest thing imaginable, but like everything once you know a little bit about it you find yourself less scared and more curious. For now though I can only investigate this through reading. In case you are also curious, I copied down some links. I find them interesting because in every case it seems to be that the dreamer is convinced something supernatural is going on. It makes me wonder how many legends of demons and angels, monsters and aliens began during nights similar to so many I've had in my life.

Science News
Sleep Paralysis Information Service
The Skeptic's Dictionary
University of Waterloo

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day Surprise

We took my mom out for supper on Mother's Day this year. We were all sitting around the table eating and I noticed mom's shirt was pulled down a little in front and as a result she was showing some cleavage. Well naturally I had to put a stop to that - after all, she is my mom, so I told her about it. "Mom! I can see the tops of your boobs!" I think I probably sounded more alarmed than I needed to be, but this is my mom we are talking about. There is an unwritten rule that for the comfort of her kids, a mother needs to keep her stuff stowed.

Reflexively Mom readjusted her collar into a more suitable position. I realized I had just made everyone at the table think about my mom's boobs and so I wanted to change the subject quickly. "Is that a new shirt? I've never seen it before."
Mom stayed quiet and Bob said "It's new 20 years ago."
"Is it really 20 years old? Where did you get it?"
Mom replied, "Closet."
"Is it really that old though? I've never seen it before."
"I have lots of clothes you've never seen", she said and she went back to eating her supper.
"So has that been in your closet for 20 years?"
She didn't answer so I looked around the table. All eyes were on mom, but her eyes were on her food. It was like the origin of the shirt was a secret somehow. I was really confused, but at least nobody was thinking about her cleavage anymore, surely everyone was wondering what the big secret was. I know I sure was, so in keeping with my natural nosiness I pressed on, "So where did it come from?"
"Oh, I bought these pants from Sears I think. I got them abou..."
"No mom. I'm asking about the shirt, not the pants! Why don't you want to talk about it?" I glanced at my sister who seemed to be thinking the same thing as me. I said "What's the big secret? She isn't revealing anything."
My sister quickly replied "...except her boobs."

The Final Tip-Off

Hair style is the final tip-off whether or not a woman really knows herself.
~Hubert de Givenchy, Vogue, July 1985

I don't know who this de Givenchy guy is, but he must have known something. Not only haven't I had much time to get to know myself, but my hair style is also completely non-existentent.

For years I would get a haircut every 3 weeks. My hair averaged about a centimetre or two long, and often Eric would say I looked like I had backed into a lawn mower. Upon reflection I have to admit that my hair did maintain a certain 'freshly mowed' look. My friend Becky has this way of speaking her mind, and so knowing her it is no surprise that once she said my haircut made my head look like a bullet. What did make this a surprise though was that it seemed rather blunt considering she had only spoken to me twice prior to that.

Oh hi, nice to meet you, your head looks like a bullet.
~ Becky McT, 2002

Anyway, enough of my friends and their disparaging remarks. My haircut may have been bad, but my point is that with hair that short you don't really have to learn to control it. Now that I have shoulder-length hair I find I haven't any idea what to do with it. Even if I did, I'd have no clue how to accomplish it. My hair has some randomizing quality and as a result I can't seem to make it do the same thing twice. I feel like if I ever did manage to get my hair to look good on purpose, then I should probably run out and buy a lottery ticket.

Unfortunately on those rare times that I get my hair looking pretty good nobody ever gets to see it because it is about as stable as a house of cards. After a walk out to the car and I end up with a bird's nest all over again. It's frustrating, but not really a surprise. There are a lot of things I knew would be a struggle, so I look at doing my hair as just another of the things that will take me some time to learn. The part that I didn't predict though is why I wish I had learned it all by now.

My hair hair not only has a mind of it's own, but just recently it achieved a length that makes it possible to get itself into things. At first my hair would just get into my eyes, a few times it got into my mouth, but now it just seems to be getting into anything it can. Recently I made the first BBQ'd hotdog of the year. If you've ever seen me eat a hotdog you'd know that to me it is just a convenient way to scoop condiments into my mouth. I had it loaded with mustard and it was delicious. Later on I went to tuck my hair behind my ear and I felt something cold and wet on my neck. It seems that as I was eating my hair blew into the mustard and scooped up a big blob of it. Not only was I thoroughly grossed out but my hair was kind of stained yellow.

I thought that was bad enough but it gets worse. I've had a big bad messy cold for the past week or so, and last night I felt a huge sneeze coming on. I ran to the bathroom and held a piece of toilet paper to my face just in time to contain the mess. Afterwards I headed back to my room, and on the way I felt a little something oozing onto my shoulder...

~ Sarah JM, last night.

I REALLY need to learn how to control my hair.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Good Memory

I am a little bit late with this, but only because I feel asleep shortly after getting home from work last night. I wanted to record that yesterday marks one year after one of the best days of my life. It was a day where I must have totally looked insane to my friends, but it was the first time in over a decade that I had worn women's clothes and to my surprise I thought I looked pretty good.

Don't get me wrong, the clothes were not the important part of that day - clothes are just clothes. At this point in life though I had revealed to my friends, family and co-workers that I was transgendered. I knew having people know meant that I didn't need to try to be someone I wasn't, and I was finally going to be able to act naturally. To be honest I didn't expect much more than that of my 'transition'. I fully expected that I would find a place in life where I could balance my feminine feelings with an masculine appearance but I didn't know where along the female <-> male spectrum I'd find that balance. It was that night one year ago, when I saw how I looked in those clothes, that I realized that the balance point would be a lot further to the female side than I had originally considered. It was the first time I had realized that I could actually live what had been a lifelong dream.

My life really did change that day, and I have to thank Joanne for it. She was always there to encourage me and support me, but best of all she pushed me. She helped me find out what I really had inside me. She made me feel like I wasn't even just normal, but that to her I was special. Despite the daunting situation of changing genders I was able to actually do it with pride because Joanne not only displayed faith in me but she proved to me that I was worthy of it.

One Year

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sign Language

Today I had to pick up a prescription so I was looking for a spot in the parking lot at the Centre Mall. It was pretty busy for a Monday, I was on the third lane from where I wanted to be before I saw an open spot. A few cars ahead on the passenger side, there were actually two spots side by side. Since the closest spot had a big truck next to it, I decided to skip that one and park in the far one. I didn't really swing out when I made my turn. I just started turning as soon as I cleared the truck... and to my surprise I saw a woman standing there. I stopped, and I expected her to just hurry on out of the way, but she didn't. She just stood there, looking confused. The car behind me was obviously hoping to do some syncronised parking with me, because he too was halfway into his own park job intending to pull into the spot I passed over. He couldn't finish though because I was in his way, and I couldn't move at all because the woman was in my way.

She did a quarter-turn so her body didn't face me anymore, but we still made eye contact as she swept her gaze across the lot in a wide arc. She did a slow deliberate sweep as she scrunitized every car, then she'd quickly move her head back to the start position and start over again. She reminded me of a sprinkler. When she was looking in my direction I gave her a big exaggerated shrug. I meant it to mean "OMG WTF?" but I think she took it to mean, "My dear lady, what seems to be the trouble?" because she didn't move. Instead she sighed, held up her keys, (on an impressively long and complicated keychain - I think it had feathers on it), and shook them. With her other arm she did a part shrug, part gesture at the ground and part sweeping motion across the lot. I think she was trying to tell me her car was parked in that spot, but now it was nowhere to be seen.

I can understand her dismay, but even if it was parked there before - it wasn't there now! It was as if she was waiting for it to return. I almost expected her to invent a complicated sign indicating that her car just stepped out for a minute and was coming right back. Instead she just gave me a shrug along with a defeated look that meant "what can you do?"

Well, I was pretty sure I knew what she could do. I pointed at her in a repetitive short stabbing motion until I was sure she knew I was pointing at her, and then I waved my hand off to the side ina motion like I was brushing crumbs off my dashboard. This time my meaning should be crystal clear: "You. Move!" Well as it turns out, one of us, I am not sure who, is terrible with impromptu sign language because this was the second time in one minute that she had totally misunderstood my meaning. She didn't move, she actually just looked happily over in the direction I was motioning in as if she thought I was telling her where her car is. Her expression was clearly relief mixed with a bit of "oh silly me". It was like she was saying "...well I already looked over there and didn't even see it." I guess she not only thought I knew what car she was driving, but that I also remembered where she left it.

I just started to roll down my window so I could ask her to move and then I heard a honk coming from behind me. I turned around just in time to see the guy behind me poke his head all the way out his driver window and yell "get the f*** out of the way". Then he punctuated his words with a gesture nobody could misinterpret.