Monday, October 3, 2011

The Best Three Days Ever

As I sit here typing my thoughts and feelings, I am still basking in the glow of a three-day camping and fishing trip with my three children; Gina, Jesse and Tony. And I can say without any hesitation, with no margin for error, those three days were the finest, most memorable days of my life.

There were two catalysts for this get together. The first was Tony and Jesse’s 25th Birthday. The second was finding out the old Judson School in Alpine, Arizona had become an Inn and that we might be able to visit. When the Inn was acting as a summer campus for the Judson School of Scottsdale, Arizona, Gina, Jesse and Tony spent three eventful summers living there. So, Gina and Tony drove down from Denver, Jesse and I drove up from Phoenix and we met at Big Lake for three of the greatest days ever!

I have had wonderful days before, probably more than I can count if I tried to list them. Things like the birth of my children, the day the boys were released from intensive care, Gina’s many ribbons and awards in Three Day Eventing, the day each one was baptized and I can go on and on. No one could be more proud of and grateful for their three children than I am of mine.

At the time of all such wonderful events, they were the best days at that time. Yet they all had one small flaw at the core; I wasn’t who I knew myself to be. That flaw certainly didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the day or the importance of the accomplishment whatever it happened to be. But it did present a deep longing, a pensive musing; if the event is so wonderful, so joyful, so fulfilling, how much more would it be so if I was complete, if I could be true to myself, if the secret I held inside was out and I could be accepted, loved and participate openly as Billie.

And that is what made this trip so much different, so much more wonderful. Billie made this trip. But even more than that, the four of us had a great time, integrating Billie and the journey to become Billie into our family fabric as easily as any other event. For my children, the parent I was, the father I am and the person I have always been has transcended my gender presentation as easily as my graying hair.

We talked of the usual; work, relationships, future plans, the weather and the like. But just as easily, we talked about the things that occurred because of my transition, both tragic and comic. How naturally and casually friends are told, “Yeah, my Dad is a woman” with an inflection that adds silently, “So what?” How my own comfort level encourages my children to address me as “Dad” regardless of the situation, even in public. (See my blog on that topic here.) We laughed at the time I found out the boys had actually caught me dressed as a woman long before I confessed, but kept it to themselves. (Tony said, “We just thought it was something you liked to do on weekends.”) We also talked about how Gina felt a little left out because the boys didn’t even tell their big sister that her father liked dressing up as a woman!

We talked about how I get nervous when dealing with new people but how every instance has turned out just fine. How the children are occasionally concerned about my safety and the things I do so as not to court danger. We talked about the unfortunate reactions a few people have had, but we talked much more and reminisced about the friends and family that have stood by me and what a terrific example of God’s love and acceptance they exhibit.

There is a lot more of those conversations I could share. But the most precious thing to me, the most precious thing for any parent I imagine was to hear from each of my adult children that they were proud to have me as their father that they had learned a lot from me and my struggles and will always be grateful for the example I was able to set for them while growing up.

These are three damn fine children. I couldn’t love them more, I couldn’t be any prouder of them. And I am so honored to be their dad, even when wearing a dress and high heels!

Take Care,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fat Chance

Billie's Special Smoked Rib Roast, USDA Prime
 Whenever a Pastor I know runs across an unanswerable question, he “writes” it down in an imaginary spiral notebook that he plans to take with him to heaven and finally get some answers, directly from God.

So, I have a question for that spiral notebook, “Why does a gram of fat have nine calories?” I guess as cosmic questions go, this isn’t a headliner. But for a binge eating, food addicted, compulsive overeater who would rather have a Double-Double than Oxycodone, it’s at least significant.

A gram of protein has four calories as does a gram of carbohydrate, but fat has more than twice the calories in every gram. What makes this significant for me, perhaps even for all Americans, is that most of the food I really like is loaded with fat. I have developed a palate that prefers the smell, the feel and the taste of fat. ‘Tis a cruel irony that with every forkful of my favorite eats, those fat grams I love so much double up the calorie count and all too quickly, my weight!

It may be God Himself that started this love affair with fat. In the book of Leviticus we find this tidbit, “He shall remove all the fat…and the priest shall burn it on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. In this way the priest will make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven.” (Emphasis mine.)

I ask you, what’s not to like about obtaining Divine forgiveness by charring a rib eye on the backyard grill? As religious rituals go, I’m behind this one 100%. Do you suppose this means there is barbeque in heaven? Another question for the spiral notebook.

Travelling the country in my mind’s eye, I wonder how many folks celebrated the 4th of July by grilling turkey burgers or skinless chicken breast. Oh, they are out there, but they are not enjoying themselves nearly as much as those filling the neighborhood with the aroma of burning fat as it drips down on hot coals. T-bones, prime rib, country-style pork ribs, and the favorites, hot dogs and thick juicy beef burgers. Add a loaded baked potato, or better yet french fries, fried mushrooms and corn on the cob swimming in real butter and laden with salt. In the words of Jimmy Buffet, “Good God Almighty.” That’s my idea of eats and that’s also how I got to weigh 416 pounds.

In a recent nutrition class at Scottsdale Weight Loss Center, we were given a simple red, yellow, green model to help discern the good foods from the bad. (Our instructor, Franne D. Wilk, RD was quick to point out there are no “bad” foods. Just foods we should eat more of and foods we should eat less of.) Anything out of the ground and unprocessed is “green;” i.e. whole grains and vegetables. “Just eat them,” Franne said. She elaborated that in all her years as a Dietician, she had never told a client the reason they were struggling with their weight was because they were eating too many vegetables.

Yellow foods add a layer of processing, white breads and white rice, vegetable and fruit juices instead the whole fruit or vegetable and the lean meats show up here. According to the chart, these foods are OK; they’re just not the healthiest.

Red foods are the stuff my dreams are made of; full-fat ice-cream, whole milk, well-marbled red meat, fruit canned in syrup, Tunnel of Fudge Cake and anything fried, particularly deep fried. Five-and-a-half ounces of a plain baked potato, a green food, will set you back 143 calories and only .15 grams of fat. (That’s less than a single gram.) A large fry at McDonald’s weighs the same 5.5 ounces, but costs you 500 calories and 25 grams of fat. It takes good ol’ American know-how to turn a green food red and into a fat lover’s delight! (Nutrition info is from the USDA database and McDonald’s website.)

Today I celebrate 26 weeks at Scottsdale Weight Loss Center. I am down 87 pounds, more than halfway to my goal. This is the fourth time I’ve been on Optifast; it has to be my last. Not only is chemistry against me, (or is it physics) but so is an entire industrialized food system geared toward fast, fat food, urging me to eat whatever I want and as much as I want. Do you think we will ever see a Super Bowl commercial for Arugula?

The day I fear the most is the day I start to eat again. Will the classes, the dieticians, the trainers and my own study of our food system drive me to choose the green and yellow foods most of the time and the red ones only on the rare occasion? It helps to know that no food is forbidden, but I still fear that first bite. Will I keep those fat calories in check?

For now, I remain in the safe confines of the “Full-Meal Replacement Program,” watched over by Dr. Ziltzer, Franne, the staff at Scottsdale Weight Loss Center, and supported by my friends and family. My undying gratitude, and I mean that literally, to each and every one of you.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Crank It Up

On the Rim Outside of Payson - May, 2001
According to the folks at Scottsdale Weight Loss Center, there is one constant among the patients that have kept their weight off; just one thread that runs through each successful maintenance program…exercise. If I remember correctly, 75% of those exercisers do nothing more than walk.

I have lost 84 pounds now, I weigh in at 332. Soon I will cross the 100 pound mark and soon the rate of my weight loss will slow. One way to keep up the pace is to increase my activity.

I have never been much of an exerciser. I have had my moments in the few days of my life I managed to be thin. But I didn’t maintain the program and the weight has always come back on. These days I do little, everyday things to burn a few calories; take the stairs, park far from the door, take the long way to get somewhere and even the occasional intentional stroll. It all helps, it all adds up. But lately I have felt the need to up level the effort and walking, let alone running just doesn’t ring my bell. So, my mind went immediately to the one exercise I actually like, maybe even love.

Last time I was losing weight I found myself at Crested Butte in Colorado. I had dropped 100 pounds and was amazed at how much easier it was to get around. I decided to do something completely out of character, perhaps even risky; I rented a mountain bike. The bike was hung on the back of a chair lift and bicycle and I were lifted half-way up the Butte. They dropped us off, bike and me and pointed to the “easy trail.” “That obvious” I asked? “Not really,” my guide lied. “Good Luck!”

Wow! What a ride! The easy trail was all downhill on gravel or paved roads. I still weighed 325 pounds, so gravity grabbed hold of every ounce and yanked me down that hill at incredible, even scary speeds. I flew by smaller, lighter, even stronger folks like they were standing still; 21 gears and muscular legs were no match for the laws of motion. I nearly lost control several times, skidded on turns, superheated the brake pads but kept my balance. I was sure with just a little more speed I could pull back on the handle bars and be airborne.

At the end of the run my heart was racing, my whole body trembled from the adrenaline. My face was covered in dust and tears from the wind had streaked my face with the war paint of a victorious outing. I rode up to the rental place, it was getting on toward sunset and I thought they may be looking to call it an afternoon. I couldn’t wait to share my excitement, though I suspected he had heard it many times before. Yet, when I reached him, the strangest words came out of my mouth. “Do I have time to go again?”

“Sure,” came the reply. Obviously this guy had experienced that same feeling and would not deny me a late afternoon flight down Crested Butte. I pledged right then that when I reached 250 pounds, as my reward, I would buy my own mountain bike. And I did.

Sadly the weight soon returned and the beloved GT i-Drive went into storage where it’s been for close to ten years. Tires flat and cracked, tubes rotting, cables frozen, everything covered with dust; the faded picture of happier times, times filled with fun, adventure and hope.

But today the tomb is empty. As I type this, my GT sits in the living room, cleaned up, tuned up, with new tubes, new tires and refurbished shifters. We are reunited once again, ready for our new adventures from the canals of Phoenix, to Papago Park, to White Mountain trails, to a long overdue ride with my son, an avid rider himself and maybe even a return trip to Crested Butte.

I asked one of the instructors at the Scottsdale Weight Loss Center, “How do you define exercise.” She replied, “Anything more than what you’re doing now, no matter how small.” Today I managed about 100 yards in the saddle; after 10 years, at 332 pounds and in 115 degree heat there’s just one thing to say…

Wow! What a ride!


Friday, April 15, 2011

J Crew Flap Has Me Seeing...Pink

Incredibly, I was given the rare opportunity to take a pink…I mean peek into the future and glimpsed the following headlines:

Seventy-fifth Infant Male Dies in Tokyo Hospital
Doctors rule out radioactive poisoning, blame pink toenails.

Huge Spike in US Unemployment Rate Recorded
Moms staying home to paint boy toenails pink gets the blame.

Terrorist Threat Highest since 9/11/2001
Bin Laden: “Mom shouldn’t have painted my toenails pink!”

Health and Human Services Bans Male Sandals
Illusion of paint free masculine toes must be maintained.

TSA To Screen for Pink Toenails on Male Airline Passengers
Girlie men a rising threat to National Security.

Congress Moves to Ban Gender Benders
Majority Leader: "Boys will be boys g'damnit or there's hell to pay.  The only legal bender in this country will include lots of booze and not that purple hooter shooter crap neither."

President Glen Beck Executive Order Bans Pink Nail Polish on Anything Male
“Boys are about snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, damnit!”  Ban on boy Poodles still being debated.

Acetone in Short Supply
Fearful Fathers looking for more than toe jam on young sons.

Deficit and Medicare Expenses Soar
Government prepares for onslaught of Post Pink Toe Stress Disorder (PPTSD).  CDC:  "We're seeing a big increase in the number of little piggies crying wee, wee, wee all the way home."

I just thank the Lord above that the media in America is on this important story and has not been fooled into covering silly shit like the budget, taxes, war, poisonous reactors or poverty.

Let’s all praise the Fourth Estate; they are obviously in the pink.

Take Care,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

When Gain is Gain

When Gain is Gain

So I gained a pound and a half this week. I suppose it was unrealistic to think that I could lose seven pounds each and every week. But, WOW! It was fun thinking about it. Can you imagine losing 100 pounds in just over 14 weeks or 182 pounds in six months? That would be freakin’ amazing! At that rate, I would weigh 235 pounds by the Fourth of July Weekend. Break out the bathing suits girls and let’s head for the lake! That would bring a whole new meaning to “Independence Day” for me!

But this week’s weigh-in burst my bubble and I was disappointed. I not only didn’t lose seven pounds, but now I had to “relose” a pound and a half. I had to round up 5,250 calories that somehow managed to find their way back into my fat cells and kick them out again. (I have always suspected that “Veteran” calories require more energy to remove than “Plebe” calories, something on the order of 2 to 1. I am not sure whether the body builds up a resistance or if the calories get craftier. I suspect it is the latter. Why do you suppose the last ten pounds are the hardest to lose? Practically speaking, I guess it doesn’t matter, they’re tough little bastards the second time around, that’s for certain; “why” is not important.) It was hard enough deflating those damn fat cells the first time, now I had to do it all over again.

This was all still swimming around in my head when I started reviewing the printout from the scale. Scottsdale Weight Loss uses an impedance scale to weigh me. The scale sends a current through the body and measures how long it takes to get back to the scale. It can then calculate (a more accurate term is probably “estimate”) how much of my weight is fat, lean and water. The readings can be affected by certain things, dehydration, exercise and alcohol, but even so, it does provide some unprecedented insight into what is going on in the battle of the numbers.

And just what was going on with the numbers? I gained a pound and a half, sure enough, but I LOST five pounds of fat! Whoa! “Cancel the calorie round-up!” There was no surplus at all! Something else was going on and all of the sudden I realized there was a lot of good news in that twenty-four ounce gain.

Last week Dr. Ziltzer recommended I cut my Lasix dose in half. (Lasix is a savage water pill that causes me to pee every 10 to 15 minutes for two to three hours after I take it. You can read about the events that got me on Lasix - here.)  My systolic (upper) blood pressure readings had dropped from the 150’s to the 120’s for three weeks running and blood tests were showing I was dehydrated. I needed to pack on some fluids.

And that is exactly what happened, about ninety-six ounces or 6.5 pounds worth. My weight loss was helping to improve my circulation. Improving circulation meant I was retaining less fluid. With less to pull from, the Lasix was sucking up fluids I needed for good health, especially in our desert climes.

The printout was telling me that I was already reaping benefits from my efforts. I wasn’t gaining weight, I was gaining ground; on my goal, on better health, and on a better life. This was all GOOD news!

I am excited about the changes happening in my body and my life. I am beginning to see how this thing we call “eating” has many, many components and understanding the various parts can change what the sum looks like.

Success isn’t always a down arrow.

PS:  A note about the image.  I titled it "Death by..."  Current total loss is 35 pounds.  Just in case the hyperlink above isn't working, the link to my Lasix story is:

Take Care,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

On The Lighter Side

I reached a milestone today, a milestone I have kept carefully hidden in the back of my mind. It was one of those things one dare not think about, at least not to the point of dwelling, certainly not to the point of hoping lest it be crushed under the weight of arrogant certainty. When I thought of it, I thought of it in whispers, if such a thing is possible, afraid to hear the whole thing completely, afraid it would suddenly take form and reveal itself as a commitment, a promise to myself and others, a promise I had failed to keep a thousand million times before. But today I reached that milestone and I am ready to reveal it.

A month ago I started on a Physician supervised weight loss program at Scottsdale Weight Loss Center. You can check them out here:

For eight years I have hovered around 400 pounds, give or take 25. I have made hundreds of halfhearted attempts to gain control over my eating, to no avail. I would likely still be getting nowhere had 2010 not been a “do I have your attention” year for me physically. Blood pressure barely under control, edema in my legs, a gallbladder attack in November, my first fasting blood sugar reading in the Type II Diabetes range and more, all screaming I was out of time. I was wearing down and my body was wearing out. I looked ahead and saw the road ending before my journey was over. There was too much left to experience. I decided to get help and after some research called the folks at Scottsdale Weight Loss Center.

I had the blood work and first weigh-in on December 17, 2010; 416 pounds. I started the program on January 7th. (I had to have at least one more rack of Claxon’s hand rubbed ribs!) On January 6th, I had a 40 minute session with Dr. Rob Ziltzer and decided on the 1,500 calorie per day, Full-Meal Replacement plan using Optifast shakes, bars and soups. Optifast worked for me in 2000 and 2001 when I lost 185 pounds and Dr. Ziitzer’s plan also allows salad greens and a frozen entrĂ©e in place of an Optifast. (It’s amazing how much one can look forward to Salisbury Steak and Asparagus!)

Since that initial weigh-in I have lost 37 pounds and have begun to believe that I will make it this time. I have tasted success and it tastes wonderful!

In the past month, I have had my shakes, soups and bars, spinach, cucumbers, lettuce, celery and a tomato here and there. That amazes me. But even more amazing is what I have NOT had. No burgers, fries, pizza, bread, bologna, pasta, chips, Twinkies or Ding Dongs have passed my lips; not so much as a crumb. To be fair, my apartment is so void of food I imagine any varmints that might have been around have moved to more fertile ground. Even so, I haven’t forgotten where all those fast food joints are and I remember the phone number to Pizza Hut. For these last four weeks I have taken control of what goes in my mouth and I have to say, it feels powerful!

I am still seriously messed up and there is a lot of weight yet to lose. But I am committed to working the program and on the problems. I have had counseling before to try and sort through the debris, but they were all skinny men who couldn’t gain an ounce if they ate a train load of ice cream. Thankfully, I found Dr. Lisa Galper, a specialist in eating disorders who works with The Center. She became a specialist because she battled the same things I battle now, losing over one hundred pounds and keeping it off for years. She knows what it is like to be an emotional prisoner locked in an all-you-can-eat buffet. But what’s more, she got out. With her help, I will learn how to cope without food.

I am further blessed with an accountability partner, my dear friend Jeff. He suffers as I do. Though ten years my junior, his knees are already giving him trouble. Not a good sign. We text each other as we eat something. So, before something goes in the mouth, I know I will have to text that to him. It helps and the texting record provides a nice archive.

Please pray for me. There is a lot I would like to do in real life that needs a thinner, physically fit Billie to avoid dropping dead in the act. The people I am working with now are great and now that you know, you can hold me accountable as well. This is the most important thing in my life right now; I welcome all the help I can get. I will keep you posted. (Pun intended!)

Take Care,

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In the midst of recent tragedies involving gays, I hope I can bring you a small bright spot.

Last week I was in Los Angeles attending the annual Workplace Summit hosted by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. I was one of six representatives sent to the Convention Center in downtown LA by Intel Corporation who has supported Out & Equal since day one.

Out & Equal champions safe and equitable workplaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. They advocate building and strengthening successful organizations that value all employees, customers and communities. The conference was four days of inspirational speakers, workshops, seminars and most importantly the fellowship of all those LGBT folks and Allies. (Well, there was also the “bling.” I now have a dozen tote bags, twenty five or thirty pens, tons of note pads and half a dozen coffee cups.)

The conference had 114 corporate sponsors and was attended by 2,410 company representatives, records for both. In addition to Intel, I saw folks from IBM, Accenture, Aetna, Dow Chemical, Inuit, Clorox, New York Life, Boeing, Northern Trust, Citi Bank, Microsoft, Chrysler, and dozens more. These companies have policies ingrained into their corporate cultures designed to bring about a non-threatening workplace for LGBT employees as well as providing benefits for Domestic Partners and Transgender healthcare.

It was quite an experience for me, not only in what I learned in the sessions I attended, but to see how such a diverse group of individuals can work together for the common good of our community. It renewed my hope that there are other options out there for service; that I can find and work with people interested in building bridges with respect and kindness. I had given up hope of finding such an opportunity. Tonight I am reinvigorated.

What does all this mean? To me, it shows that corporations are leading us into an age of greater acceptance. They understand the value of diversity and use it to their advantage and we reap benefits as well. They are doing this while showing respect for the beliefs and traditions of all their employees. Even now, companies are looking to future policies regarding Transgenders who desire to remain fluid in their presentation, more male on one occasion, more female on another. I suspect it will be Corporate America that finds answers that will meet the needs of this newest generation while remaining thoughtful over the concerns from non-LGBT men and women.

And a note to those Transgenders that curse the Human Rights Campaign; read the article I have highlighted below. It will revolutionize health coverage for Transgenders within the corporate environment.

Are these companies completely free of harassment? Unfortunately no. As long as we are dealing with people, there will be misunderstandings and hate. What they bring is exposure and education. I was approached by a coworker recently who wanted to thank me. She had no idea what life was like for many LGBT folks. Through my transition and stories, she was motivated to find out. She is now a dedicated Ally. Through their policies, companies are bringing about the opportunity for us to change hearts and minds. People learn that even the most flamboyant in our community are not a threat and are deserving of the love and respect due every human being.

I am so fortunate to work for Intel Corporation and proud that they are such a dedicated supporter of workplace diversity. Whether it is LGBT, religion, race, creed, color or gender we work together, side by side and in the process gain understanding and respect for each other.

Take Care,