Saturday, January 7, 2023

Thoughts on funding a retirement

Last year, about this time, I withdrew some money from my 401k.  The person at the service desk told me that I could withdraw money once per calendar year, and not once every 365 days.  He misunderstood what a "Calendar Year" meant, and I could have boxed myself in if I really needed to withdraw some money.

Today, I found out about this person's mistake.  And I now believe that I may have to think about moving my money from its current home to a new home, where I have greater flexibility in accessing my funds.  Am I annoyed?  Yes.  But not as much as I'd be if I absolutely needed the money.  This is the problem of someone who has retired, but still has to manage her money well.

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The other day, I met someone who (due to some misfortune) had to deplete her retirement savings in order to survive.  I feel for those who have not been able to accumulate the assets needed to have a good retirement.  From what I understand, 80% of baby boomers can not afford retirement.  For us transgenders, I'd bet this figure is even higher.  Not only are we likely to have lower Social Security earnings, but we are also likely to have lower amounts stashed away for our retirement.

What's going to happen to us when our bodies can no longer stand the stress of earning a living?  Even I have this type of worry, as I have no one who will look after me as I grow old.  Right now, I have the resources to take care of myself in good health.  But what happens when things change?  Other than my brother, my closest relatives live 2500+ miles away.  And this worries me a bit.  Yet, I am luckier than many transgender folk.  I still have my family.  But what about the rest of us?

Friday, January 6, 2023

Hawaii Vacation - Day 11: A Day in Honolulu and a Long Trip Home


I'll have to do some Photoshop work on this picture before doing anything else with it, as it looks terrible.  Such is life.  I chose the wrong picture to buy last night.  But I burnt off the rest of the $100 credit I had from the cruise line.....

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The more I go out and about, the more that I find that people tend to treat transgender people as "just folks" when we make efforts to blend in as a member of the gender of which we identify ourselves.  Although I heard the dreaded "S" word a few times. I feel that these were people seeing paperwork that was incongruous with my feminine presentation. going with the formality they normally show to others based on paperwork alone.

The two day ordeal started at 11:00 pm the night before I was to leave Hawaii.  I had logged on to United Airlines' website to check in for my coming flights, and found out that a computer error was preventing me from completing the check in process.  Since there was no way that I was going to call United from the ship (at $4.99/minute), this would be a task I'd have to put off until the morning.

Waking up at 4:00 am Hawaii time, I knew that I was going to have an exhausting 36 hour ordeal ahead of me.  First, I'd have to go to my day-use hotel.  Once there, I'd have to call United to see if they could fix things.  Then, after some midday sleep, I would proceed to the airport at 6:00 pm, and be in transit from 10:45 HST to 6:00 EST, not being able to get any real sleep until I got back home.  Well, things didn't work out according to plan.

Once I got to my day-use hotel (the Holiday Inn Express, Waikiki), I called United.  The service agent said that she couldn't fix my problem, and told me that only airport ticket agents may be able to help.  Was she passing the buck?  Who knows?  I didn't have the energy to fight, as I needed to rest before my long trip home.  Around 5:30 pm, it was off to the airport and the ticket counter, where they took about an hour to "fix" my problem.  Although they were finally able to generate paper boarding passes, they didn't fix what was in the computer.  This meant that I had to guard these documents with my life, as I could not retrieve them electronically if needed.

After waiting 3 hours, it was time to board the plane. These had to be some of the most uncomfortable airline seats I've ever been in, as the adjustable headrest would not allow me to put my head in a comfortable position, much less a position where I could get some shut-eye.  Yet, I know I had to have passed out for an hour on this flight, as my cell phone stopped playing music that I had previously stored in its memory.

Next, I had to change planes in Los Angeles. This time, I was on a more comfortable plane.  However, due to limited overhead capacity, I was forced to check my carry-on.  AARGH!  I could live with a gate check, but what would happen if my bag got lost?  (This happens to 0.7% of all bags.)  My winter coat was packed in my carry-on bag. With 40° weather outside, I couldn't afford to lose this bag .  This plane was more comfortable than the first, and the carry on made it to Newark on the same plane.  In fact, both of my bags were dropped onto the luggage carousel first, and I was able to leave the airport within 30 minutes of my arrival. Finally, my airport luck had changed!

Back at the hotel I stayed at before my trip, I was able to see why I felt so scared driving there a week and a half before.  Not only was the route convoluted and confusing, but it had enough risky intersections that would invite an accident in dark and rainy weather like we had before.  Luckily, Google Maps was able to get me home by 6 pm with a minimum of confusion....


Thursday, January 5, 2023

Hawaii Vacation - Day 10: Waimea Canyon & the Na Pali coast


Waimea Canyon - when the weather is clear, it is stunningly beautiful.  However, I got there on a less than perfect day.  And it was still well worth the visit.

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This was a day that started by me waking up an hour earlier than desired.   This wasn't a problem, as I spent the time organizing my big suitcase for my return trip home.  If I do this trip with RQS, I will pack less stuff and flip a coin as to which gender presentation I use on the trip.  (When I get home, I'll say of word of thanks to Kim (of Travelling Transgender) for effectively telling me that I should have no problems presenting as female, but carrying male id.)

After leaving the ship, I was directed to an incorrect waiting area.  In a way, I was lucky this happened because I was one of the first on the bus and was able to choose a good seat.  But I felt a little sorry for the fellow who waited next to me, as little special care was taken to make it comfortable to get to and on the bus.


Once we got moving, we went to a small state park for a bio break.  While there, we could go to the fenced in area to view the blowhole associated with the park. Every few waves, we'd see the blowhole spout and this justified using the park for a bio break.  Before I go on, this was the first time I went to a stall in a women's room that did not reach 6 feet above the floor.  So I tried to be very careful about adjusting myself before leaving the stall.  Fortunately, I have developed enough confidence and skills in my feminine presentation (even in rest rooms) that I do not draw attention to myself.  So, I was in and out quickly, leaving enough time for the other ladies in the queue to take care of their needs. 


Next, it was off to Waimea Canyon state Park.  After an hour of driving we reached the park - and the views were well worth the time and effort to get there.  Of course, it was time for another bio break. And again, the stall only extended up to shoulder height.  I wasn't comfortable doing my business there, and was glad I was leaving my stall before the next woman entered the place.  So, I went up the "zig-zag" path to both viewing platforms, and I was impressed by the views of the canyon.  Although it was not as colorful as in the picture at the top of this entry, it was still impressive.

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I hate to contrast Waimea Canyon with the Na Pali coast.  However, I couldn't help but think that leaving port to view the coast today was a waste.  No, it was not because the coast isn't magnificent.  Instead, it's because it rained the whole time we cruised along the coast.  The few pictures I took weren't worth the electrons used to record them. This coast is best appreciated in clear weather, like most of the Hawaiian sites.  On this cruise, my enjoyment was marred by bad weather at the Haleakala Crater, Volcanoes National Park, and the Na Pali Coast.  If I can, I'll try to make it back here in the next 5 years or so.  

And now, back to packing as I leave the ship early in the morning....

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Hawaii Vacation - Day 09: Luau in Kauai


Today's excursion takes place in the evening.  I booked a ticket to Luau Kalamaku, having no idea what to expect from this excursion.  And I hoped that this excursion would be well worth the time and money spent on it.

But first....

Since my excursion took place late in the afternoon, I slept late.  This was likely the best thing I could do, as I had to listen to my body and it was telling me it was time to rest.  Eventually, I got moving at a "civilized" hour, got showered and dressed, and made it off the ship for a couple of hours.  Unfortunately, I did not know of the shuttles that would transport me to and from the nearby shopping center, so I had to move slowly to stay comfortable.  After spending some time eating some ice cream and sitting in the shade, I caught the shuttle and went back to the ship to rest until the luau.

- - - - - -

I called RQS and chatted for a while and then freshened up to go to the luau  By now, I have gotten used to presenting my male ID to security while presenting as female.  Considering where many transgender folk are in their journeys, I consider myself to be very lucky.  Confidence in one's presentation is very important to being accepted in one's gender.  For example, there always seems to be a line for the women's room.  A nervous transgender will give off signals such as: "Will they see me as something other than female?"  "Will someone figure out what I am and cause me trouble?"  And I've silently asked these questions in the past when I was new to presenting as female.  Now, I stand in line with the rest of the women and chit chat when a woman wants to talk with me.  We're there to go and do our business, and being confident in how I do that goes a long way to being accepted as female and being treated as one.

Around 4 pm, I walked into the ship's theater which was being used to stage 3 groups of people going to the luau.  There was one person telling us about Hawaii, the Luau, and the Debarkation process to keep us occupied until our buses were ready to take us where we were going.  Since the ship was only 10 minutes away, we were all at the luau by 5 pm.


The luau consisted of 3 parts: General Entertainment, Dinner, and the presentation on Hawaiian cultural history presented in dance. The first part had performers singing various songs (including holiday tunes) to entertain us, and to get us used to the cultural history presentation to come.  I wasn't that impressed by this part of the luau, simply because I couldn't get into the performances - my mind was elsewhere, probably focusing on the dinner yet to come.

Dinner was served buffet style.  There were two meats available to eat - Pork and Chicken.  Both were very tasty.  But one does not go to the luau to rave about the food.  It is more like going to a dinner theater where the food is decent, but the performance is better than expected.  And that was true of the cultural history performance to come.

I was queued for the ladies' room when the show began.  Hawaiians, Tahitians, and others are cut from the same "Bad Ass" stock.  It took a lot of guts to explore the pacific in double hulled canoes and settle in remote islands - all without modern technology.  And this part of the show illustrated what these people went through to find, then settle Hawaii.  Although the show started off slow, it had an exciting climax with men dancing with fire in motion.  

All too soon, the show ended and it was time to return to the ship.  As usual, I had to get wanded by security, even though I had eliminated all the metal from my body.  My first stop was at the photography area, where I bought several pictures for display.  (I had to burn off the bulk of my $100 cruise credit, or lose it.) Then it was back to my room to relax for the evening.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Hawaii Vacation - Day 08: A Taste of Hawaii


Today's excursion was chosen based on the recommendation of MWL, a person who had taken this cruise before. I wasn't too sure of what to expect here, save that I would likely be seeing some beautiful scenery while tasting Hawaiian specialty items.

But first....

For a person with sleep issues, a trip to Hawaii will cause a broken circadian clock to make a person have irregular sleep cycles.  Over the past week or so, I have suffered sleep deprivation before flying out to Hawaii.  I have been craving sleep when by all signs, I should have been wide awake.  And when I should have been sound asleep, I was waking up for the day.  By the time I get home, I will need a vacation from my vacation.

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I ended up waking up much earlier than planned, and started to stuff a laundry bag for the ship's laundry personnel to wash, dry, and fold.  (I get a free bag each time I cruise.)  Unlike my last couple of trips, they weren't offering discounts to the average cruiser.  I had to ask my room steward for a bag, so that I could send it in today.  

Once I was done with the laundry bag, it was time to get showered and dressed.  And then it was time for breakfast.  Around 8 am, I moseyed to the assembly area for my shore excursion - and ended up waiting for almost an hour.  If I had known how long it would take for me to get on the tender boat, I would have taken a bio-break on the ship instead of waiting to go on shore.  But this was just as well, as we had to wait another half hour (or more) for the remaining people on this excursion.

When we got underway, it was off to a small coffee plantation, where we had a chance to taste their brews. It was good coffee, but not good enough for me to take home in my already overloaded luggage.  So, I sampled another cup and got back on our bus.  

During the next segment of our journey (to a Macadamia Nut Factory), one couple (previously residing in Kona) discussed their experiences on the Big Island, commenting on lava eruptions that occurred over the past 50 years - this was a conversation worth listening to, as it was truly educational.  Then we reached the factory.  It was another chance to sample some goods, buy some stuff, and move on to the next venue.  This time, I bought a chocolate/macadamia nut ice cream cup, and enjoyed it while another bus driver talked about Hawaiian history.  

Now it was time for lunch.

For those who have never been on small group excursions where lunch is provided, it may come as a surprise that the quality of lunch varies from excursion driver to excursion driver.  With the driver for the Road to Hana, we were provided with a salad and a choice of wraps.  For today's trip, we got a turkey sandwich, chips, and a cookie.  If I were a vegan or vegetarian, or maybe had Celeiac disease, I'd want to know the food being provided on the excursion so that I could bring my own from the ship.  Now, I don't mind turkey sandwiches, but I would have liked the choice of what sandwich to eat and the choice of bread for that sandwich. At least, it was a tasty sandwich in a beautiful shore front setting.

After lunch, we went to a rum distillery and a brewery before returning to port.  This was the first tour of the distillery since the beginning of Covid, and there was not much to the tour other than to show the distillation equipment and to provide an educating tasting of 4 different types of rum.  To me, this was the highlight of the trip, as I learned something about distilled spirits that I didn't know before. Next, it was off to the brewery.  After viewing the promotional video for the tour and being shown the production floor, it was off to the tasting room to sample their wares.  I was underwhelmed, as all of their "beers" (I define a beer as one that follows the German Beer Purity Law - these did not follow the law) were flavored in ways that made me take a sip, then leave the rest of the beer in the glass.

We finally made it back to the pier at 4:30, and went directly to the tender boats that took us back to the ship.  And then it was time to rest.  But my rest was broken by the delivery of clean laundry.  So I took the opportunity to fold and store the clean clothes into storage bags that will make packing my luggage much easier.

One thing I've noted about this trip, and keeps surprising me about this trip is how I'm being treated as a female.  I can still remember the meetup with the FTF group where a woman changed her shirt in front of me - something she wouldn't do if she felt I was a man in a dress.



PS: I had to take a bio break at the Kona Brewing Company.  Normally, this would not be anything of note, save for something most cisgender females would appreciate.  Inside the women's restroom was a basket of tampons and pads freely available to women who may need one, but didn't have available.  This is a nice touch, and it shows something good about the nature of the people who run this company.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Hawaii Vacation - Day 07: Volcanoes National Park

It's hard to believe that my vacation is more than half over.  But it is.  And so far, I've had a relaxing time going out and about as Marian, leaving Mario behind when possible.  People who need to see my identification tend not to bat an eye when I'm presenting paperwork that identifies me as being Mario, when I'm out as Marian. 
Why is this so important?  Not having to worry about what people will think of me has allowed me to grow as a person.  The woman inside me has been freed to explore the world on her terms.  

But I digress....

I have had to present both my cruise ID card and my passport card (I could have used my drivers license instead) almost every time I have come back from a shore excursion.  Being transgender is not a big deal - especially in Hawaii.  On this ship, I'm being seen as the female I'm displaying to the world.  And this is a great experience for me.

With my face, I always have to go out with my makeup on.  But once applied, people are seeing me as female.  But I am still forced to do code switching, turning my relationships with women to relationships with men when discussing my past in general conversation.  If people see me adjusting my wig, I mention that I have alopecia, but never mention that it is male pattern alopecia.  Ideally, I will get partial facial feminization surgery, so that I can go out and about without makeup as long as I have my wig on.

Yet, I still digress....

Today was an excursion to the Volcanoes National Park.  Like yesterday, weather played a part in how I would enjoy this trip.  It was in the high 70's when we left the ship, with more than a significant chance of rain.  And it did rain on the way to the park.  One bus had to get unstuck from the mud on the road, and we ended up passing that bus so that we could get to the park on time.

I had forgotten my rain poncho before I left my cabin, so I ended up buying a cheap poncho at the park's visitor center.  When I put it on, I realized I was going to deal with one problem many transgender women have: Keeping my wig in place while putting the poncho on is where I had to be careful, as I didn't want to advertise that I was wearing a wig.

Once my poncho was on, it was off to the Sulfur Springs Trail.  It was much more comfortable to walk in the drizzle when wearing the poncho, and I made it halfway on the trail.  It was interesting to see sulfur on the rocks, along with the steam coming from the vents with a distinctive sulfur smell.  
Next, we were off to see the volcanic crater pictured in the video above.  Although we couldn't see much, it was an interesting sight.  I only wish that it wasn't raining so that I'd have had a better view.

This was the second time where the weather got in the way of enjoying a view of nature.  I guess this means that I will need to come back to Hawaii again to see these sights.....

Sunday, January 1, 2023

RQS went home, and I got keys made - a quick post

  One of the problems with going about as a female is that almost everything one carries around during a typical day is carried in a handbag...