Upwords (10/04/2016)
As we drove away from Portland, I felt like I was leaving home. Excited  to see Seattle in the daylight for the first time. Although we were here  around the same time last year, we only saw Seattle during the night.  When we arrived two nights ago, we found it nostalgic to camp in the  same place we camped the first night we arrived last year. Seeing this  area again has put our lives into perspective for me. Comparing October  of 2015 with October of 2016..

October of 2015, we had just left  Grand Junction, Colorado, with a four year old and a one year old,  heading west with hopes of actual help to get out of this situation.  Maintaining at the same level is all we had managed to do since getting  our camper van in Manitou Springs. Getting the camper was a great step  up for us, but we needed to do better than just skim by. So, our course  was set for the West.

Utah was stunning, just breath taking with  the desert and mountain ridges. I had never seen views like it before.  Before leaving Utah, we were supposed to take I-84 West toward Portland  where I-15 splits off from I-84 and goes North to Montana. Well, I  continued on I-15, went North and didn’t realize the mistake until it  was too late to turn around and the best way to Portland, was to go all  the way across Washington from Spokane to Seattle, to Portland. We  wanted to see Seattle anyway, but we also wanted to see Portland. The  three weeks we spent in the Sea/Tac region previously, was beautiful and  adventurous, but something kept calling us down to Portland.

During  our time in Portland, we grew fond of the “Rose City”. During the  spring and summer months the town resembles Emerald City! With brightly  colored green moss growing anywhere it can find a place to sprawl; on  roof tops, parking lots, tree branches, fence posts. Roses and other  brightly colored flowers are sprinkled liberally throughout the town,  around the neighborhoods and down the streets. Two large, beautiful  rivers flow through Portland, making the nighttime city lights look even  more dream-like. It is really amazingly gorgeous when first driving in  on the Broadway bridge, seeing all the lights and huge glowing deer sign  in Old Town, cascading the reflection off the water.

Within two  months of our arrival, I had an interview with a local call center that  handled multiple contracted accounts for the position of sales and  customer service agent. I landed the job and was excited to have my  first job as James. Although I have had many medical conditions, I’ve  not been determined to be “disabled”, so I did not put it on the  application. The first day, I was nervous but so happy to be there and  thought a desk job would be perfect. Only having campaign sales  experience of two months, I wasn’t very versed in sales pitches, but the  trainer said it was simple to just follow the script.

The first  two days of training went swimmingly, we took our first calls, I made a  couple initial sales. The third day of our training class, a co-worker,  obviously uneducated in being respectful to a transgender person, asked  me why couldn’t I just use the ladies room instead of the men’s room and  said “did it really matter?” This caused an instant rush of panic and  general discomfort around this person, which thankfully was on the shift  right behind mine, but unfortunately used my same station and we met in  passing. I tried to still be kind and cordial. The next time this  occurred it was the main supervisor, Raymond. Raymond called me “sister”  when explaining how he understood my feelings on the birthday of my  late first husband and needing to leave early after having a customer on  the phone from the same town as we used to live, I had to excuse myself  to the restroom to calm down, stop crying, rinse my face and then asked  to leave. Many calls due to my voice, despite introducing myself  several times as James, I would be called Jane, or be asked why I was a  woman with a man’s name. It was truly degrading. I called Basic Right’s  Oregon twice but backed out because I kept thinking why did it matter  that a homeless, bastard, trans man was being disrespected, dead named  and misgendered? I should be thankful they even allowed me to work  there. I continued to work there because my family needed me to.

A  couple weeks into the job our van broke down on the side of I-205, we  couldn’t tell what was wrong but large plumes of white smoke had been  coming out of the tail pipe and the engine was too hot! I tried to get  attention of people by jumping and waving, after several minutes one man  finally stopped. He informed me he was on his way to take his wife to  work and thought it was something simple like maybe we needed a tire  changed. He identified the issue, which was a broken plastic outlet to  the radiator causing the contents to spew out rapidly on the backside of  the motor, if we cranked the van, we could ruin the engine. He couldn’t  stay and we had no one we could call. I posted a help needed status in a  few Portland area groups in just the nick of time, minutes before my  phone died and we couldn’t crank the van to charge it again. We had just  enough phone battery to tell the information we needed and to see a few  people begin to respond. Finally, the phone did die and two people  drove up several minutes later, with AAA to help. They took us to their  place, had us stay the night, cooked breakfast for us, drove us to the  auto parts store and allowed us to fellowship with them. Katherine was  able to get the outlet repaired with a six dollar part the next day!

By  fortune, we met another lovely couple that we became friends with. When  our camper had troubles again they agreed to allow us to camp near  their place, where they had our camper towed. During these weeks travel  was accomplished by foot, bus or train, which notably increased travel  time. Katherine took a break from the lifeline and I took off work to  attempt the repair on the water pump ourselves, but to no avail. A  mechanic friend of theirs was able to help us get back running and we  were free to roam the city in our own wheels again.

For several  days in the early summer I got sick with green goo. That’s the best way I  could explain what was happening with my nose, throat and lungs. I took  off several days due to coughing beyond my control and lots and lots of  green goo. After that, the sales kept flowing, people at work were  generally friendly, the boss said hello with a large, blinging white  grin; I thought things were going well. I had put nearly five months  into my job. Barely any time had passed and we had another bout with our  van. This time we broke down at the Safeway just caddy-cornered to my  work place. Three days spent pondering on what could be wrong with the  van and why the mechanic wasn’t returning our calls. We replaced the  battery and was sure that was the magic trick, sadly the engine didn’t  turn over. Even after I had ridden the bus down to the Auto Parts store  with the dead battery, in hand, heavy, dirty and illegal to take on the  bus; which I didn’t know until after I got to the parts house. I  was left to figure out my own way back to the camper since every driver  at the station refused to take me back to my stranded family. After  asking several other customers could they give me a ride, one individual  originally said no, then returned to offer me a ride back. A sigh of  relief as I climbed into the tall man’s blue Volkswagen. He said he was  from Wisconsin and was a “Transplant Oregonian”. I told him I liked his  Vanagen and we made small talk on the way back to my humble little home  on wheels.

Ignorant of the fact I was nearing the end of my job, I  hadn’t received any warnings; no write ups, no conversations about my  attendance, no inquiry to what was going on, why all the appointments,  no feed back or reviews what so ever. Being let go came as a surprise to  me. I thought they had been understanding of our delicate situation and  the medical issues I battle daily. I believed they were liberal,  inclusive and respectful; but they proved me wrong and then let me go. I  filed for disability for the fourth time, shortly after this.

Katherine,  our children and I have crossed many bridges, over come many battles,  surpassed many trials to come back to this spot a year later. These  experiences, along with our children has taught us patience and how to  work together when faced with adversity. The people of Portland  opened their hearts to our family that blessed us more than I can ever  express here. We have been humbled by their embrace.

Being  back in the Seattle-Metro, has shown me just how much we’ve changed in  these several months. Jay will be six the end of this year, Marie is  nearly three. Katherine has put in eight months as an advocate,  volunteer and crisis intervention operator, which has seasoned her in a  way that daily life wouldn’t have in ten years. Friends have come into  our lives that we will be forever grateful for meeting. Old friends have  gone their way, I guess in order to make room for the new.

From  my feeble understanding of the Jewish faith, this week is the New Year.  When Jewish people all around the world cast their sins and the old from  the year before out into the water to be renewed for the year to come. A  ceremony in which bread takes the form of the transgressions and water  is cleansing and healing. During the last two days, I’ve had a chance to  look back over the previous year and see how far we’ve come as a  family, as individuals and as travellers.

We’ve grown, we’ve  changed, we’ve lived and adventured another year together. It’s been a  wild, awesome year; hard times were had, new tasks accomplished, names  changed, happy moments, life lessons, acceptance of ourselves and our  past.. in short, it’s taught us about life, about survival and about  being a family and sticking together through the difficulties no matter  what.