Week 174 – Mom’s diamond earrings

About a year before told my mom I was going to transition she took a trip with her boyfriend to Tahiti. She bought me a shell carved into a hook hung on a necklace as a gift. At about two inches tall, it was apparently what the men were wearing there because as she gave it to me she said she hoped I’d wear it because, ‘It would guy you up.’ I thanked her for it and wore it once when I went to visit her. Later I took it off the leather thong and put it in my jewelry box, which is where it resides today.

I’ve documented my mom’s journey from being angry at me about my transition to being more or less supportive, and wrote about how she gave me two pairs of earrings for my birthday in 2015. I treasure them, as they remain the only jewelry my mom gave me. I managed to lose one of the dangly silver and blue ones the first time I wore them, and I’m still upset about that.

When my brother I and took a quick spin through her stuff before he went back home, I didn’t take anything of hers other than a silver bracelet my brother had given her. I stopped in a few weeks back and while I was there I took her diamond studs. Her mom and dad gave them to her when she was a teenager in high school. I know this because I just happened to see the entry she wrote in her diary about them when I was flipping through a few weeks ago.

Post-transition I’ve mostly worn dangly earrings because I had my fill of studs pre-transition. But the diamonds are different. I’ve worn them often lately. They were my mom’s from my grandparents. I think of all of them when I put the glittery stones in my lobes. I like to think they’d be happy to know I have them and wear them.

Thanks, mom.

©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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Week 173 – Living life

Thursday was a busy day for me. The day started with a school meeting to review my eldest’s progress over the past year, (he’s doing great.) Then, since I grew up around my mom’s cigarette smoke, I went and had a CT scan as a diagnostic screen for lung cancer.

The guy running the machine was super-smiley and chatty so I was happy the scan was quick and didn’t have to linger. The clinic was near the hardware store so I popped in to get an electrical junction box for the shop light I was installing in the garage.

The weather was gorgeous so when I arrived home the last thing I wanted to do was be in the garage attic pulling wire so instead I spent some time listening to the birds while I planned my garden. There’s a large-ish lawn in front of my house and I hate mowing since I have grass allergies. When I moved in four years ago transition and divorce coupled with uncertainty if I could keep the house got in the way of any landscaping.

While I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to afford the house a few years out, sprucing up the curb appeal feels like a good investment. A bonus will be enjoying the yard without sneezing. After considering my desire to have a pond and the shape of the landscape, I’ve decided to install a Japanese Zen garden-inspired space loosely modeled after a garden of my grandfather’s.

He lived in South Seattle in a neighborhood called Rainer Valley and when he and my grandmother moved there in the 1950’s, it was an un-landscaped blue-collar urban tract home neighborhood made up of Boeing riveters and ditch-diggers like him. By the 1980’s the area was ravaged by drugs and next door was a crack house stripped down to studs since everything, including the plumbing, had been ripped out and sold for drug money.

One day he was walking back up the hill to his house after a visit to the local bar and the neighbor’s pit bull charged out of the yard and attacked him. While defending his throat the dog sank its teeth into his upper arm. The owner and neighbors couldn’t get it off of him and when the cops arrived they had to shoot it off his arm.

Visiting him was always a juxtaposition as once you entered his property thorough an arching hedge, you couldn’t see and hardly heard the urban blight surrounding him. There were irregular pathways of stones meandering through narrowed, living corridors of mature rhododendrons of every blooming color and multiple species of heather. A flagstone patio with overhead trellis entwined with flowering wisteria was the site of my father’s third wedding. The crowning jewel was a mountain of rock towering seven meters on a side towering five meters high.

He collected all the rocks himself from numerous hikes in the Cascades and brought back rocks from Nepal when he visited Katmandu. At customs the agent purportedly struggled to lift his suitcase and asked jokingly if there were rocks inside.

The only lawn he had was was hardly bigger than the footprint of a large bathtub and was fringed by heather. His garden philosophy was, ‘I don’t want to have to work on the garden when the weather is nice. It leaves more time for drinking. I just let it grow and do some trimming in the fall and raking in the winter.’

I am 100% behind this philosophy, even though I’m not as much of an alcoholic as he was.

To that end, I set the literal cornerstone for the garden by weeding out and trimming some heather and setting some granite behind it. My ex planted it in one of her rare gestures of support as a present not long after I told her my name.

Proving the estrogen has done its work, moving the rocks around was much more effort than I expected. The large, round rock in the background used to sit in the back yard and in the past I would have picked it up and carried it in one go. That was out of the question so I rolled/drug/pushed it into place with many breaks.

As a transition point between the human lines of the house and sidewalk, it will connect a planned pond and Zen granite gravel feature. Complementing it is moss with deer fern I sliced out from one of the most shady parts of the lawn. Misting heads tapped into the container irrigation line will provide the moisture and humidity the moss needs to thrive.

After spending some time considering if I should shift and curve the gravel driveway (yes) it was time to install that light. While I’ve made much progress on cleaning out the garage of clutter, there were some larger things that needed to go—an old chair I remember my mom buying from an unfinished furniture store when I was a kid, car booster seats, three outgrown kid bicycles, a tricycle, and other random kid stuff and toys.

All of it was underneath where I needed to put the ladder to cut a hole in the ceiling and that was all the impetus I needed to put it all out on the street for free.

I had a twinge putting the smallest bike with training wheels out since it was the first bike for both of my kids. A Hispanic gardener took it for his 1 year-old grandkid and he was so happy to get a free bike it made me cry since it was going to a good home.

The chair disappeared first, which surprised me. It was almost 50 years old, creaky, and the shape of it is ugly as sin. It was the last chair of the set I had, the rest being broken or similarly freezoned. I celebrated many birthdays in that chair while growing up. We only borrow things for a while and I like to think some other kid will sit in that chair for their birthdays.

Installing the light and switch went smoothly. I’ve pulled and terminated miles and miles of network cable in my life and electrical wire is just bigger with easier terminals to connect. The light is super-bright and perfect for illuminating the table saw at night.

Other than putting up insulation, drywall, and shelving, which can wait, the garage is now ready to take on just about any home project. I’m ready to keep busy with stacked up remodeling tasks on the days I don’t want to be in the garden.

The last task of the evening was to move the 55 gallon acrylic fish tank its iron stand to the porch by the front door. I’ve had the tank since 1987 when its glass predecessor popped a seam in the middle of the night and leaked saltwater, threatening the well-being of a pair of mated maroon clownfish, their very large anemone home, various corals, and my sanity.

I sold the whole rig, (converted to freshwater years before,) to a friend in 2002 when I was doing my best to avoid ending up homeless under crushing debt. He gave it back to me about five years later when he moved to Oregon. It was empty and dirty and it’s stayed that way since in storage lockers and garages.

Now it’s on my porch and it’ll hold the nine goldfish my eldest saved from being eaten by Yoshi the turtle. I knew they didn’t like the idea of feeding Yoshi live food but I took a chance earlier in the week when I was close to the pet store.

Long story short, there were tears, a mad scramble for a bucket and net, them spending an hour fishing then out, and repeated pleas to save them. So now I have a fish tank on my porch.

That was a very long ramble. The method to my madness is comparing it to my life of three years ago. My life is completely different now, in a much, much, _much_ better way.

I’m living my life instead of wishing for the one I want. If you’re living a life you don’t want, my heart goes out to you. Know that there is a life post-transition and while it may not end up being the life you dreamt of having, it is _your life_, not the one other people want you to live.

©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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Week 172 – What day is it?

I think I’m two weeks behind on posts. That’s my life right now.

The clock tells me the time and I think, ‘I have plenty of time to get to the next task.’

I finish what I’m doing and, ‘Poof!’ an extra hour or two has somehow disappeared.

‘Shit!’ I think, ‘I’ll have to crank on that task, because I have three others to do today!’

The task takes me much longer than it should. ‘Fuck!’ I say to myself, ‘Ran out of time for those other things I need to do. Guess I’ll do them tomorrow.’

Tomorrow comes and, ‘I should mow the lawn while the weather is nice,’ and three hours and six miles trudged later, I’m sweaty, gross, and tired.

‘I’ll pay the bills after I get out of the shower,’ I tell myself.

An hour later it’s, ‘Shit! Shit! Shit! I’m going to be late to pick up the kids from school!’

Then I rush to get them and when we get home I point them towards homework while I do the dishes I’ve been ignoring for a couple of days so I have space to cook dinner. My foot is splashed with water halfway through the scrubbing, and then I’m frantically pulling stuff out from under the sink to find the leak.

It was where the U-bend couples with the sink drain. It leaked and overflowed the small metal bowl I put below it when I replaced the sink a few months back because now and then it dripped.

With wet towels and the stuff that collects under kitchen sinks all over the floor and the dishes half-done, I’m deciding what my next step is when, ‘I’m really hungry,’ comes pitifully from the mouth of my babe.

Realizing the kid needs to eat, we pile into the car for the grocery store and then they decide once we get there they don’t want what we came to get and time is ticking by and my other kid’s ADHD medicine is wearing off and they’re starting to bounce around like a hummingbird on crack and I’m, ‘Fine. Get what you want. I have to get other groceries anyway. Come find me.’

They don’t have the wax paper bags I use to put my eldest’s half-sandwich in for lunch so I sigh and find the sour cream and the kids find me and pelt me with questions so fast I’m stunned like I’m at my own stoning after I’ve blasphemed. Herding my cats towards the checkout register, it’s like everyone in my town is here to buy groceries at the same so I steer them to a different set of registers and the lines are still long but I spy one that’s moving faster than the others and the hummingbird darts away to the food sample table at the back of the store.

I want to strangle them but I don’t want to lose my place in line so I wait, pay, and head to the car.

‘What about [sibling’s name]?’ My youngest asks.

‘They can walk home or meet us at the car.’

They come skipping out of the store as I unlock the car. We get home and I juggle silverware and plates for them and only then do I realize I didn’t get anything for myself in all the hubbub. At this point I’d settle for a liquid dinner but there’s no alcohol in the house.

I heat up some soup and let the kids watch TV while I eat. Then I fix the sink, accidentally splashing myself and the skirt I’m wearing. It’s a sports skirt, so I’m not freaked about it and then I remember riding my bike earlier while wearing it and realizing that was the first tim I’d ridden a bike while wearing a skirt and it makes me smile.

Turns out I had the compression fitting pointing the wrong direction. I’m happy I’ve fixed the sink, but then I have to get the fan out to dry under the sink and then it’s bedtime for the kids, and where did the day go?

©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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Week 171 – Beauty culture is a velociraptor

This past week I ventured out of the house sans makeup a few times to mixed results of how people reacted to me. At this point in my transition I’m very tired of people being weird around me when they come to the realization I’m trans. I know because I’ve also become bored of the whole thing via grinding repetition.

It’s the cheerful, friendly, ‘How are you today?’ at the checkstand that snaps to intently punching in a key-code and trying their best to ignore me and my attempts at small talk. By my observation, it happens due to random cosmic rays. Some sort of relativistic mass bounces off a neuronal spark in their head and I transform like magic from a random woman who appeared before their counter to tranny at register 3.

Or it could be my voice, my jaw line, my brow ridge, or any or all of the many other things about me someone else adds up to ‘trans.’ In any event, my experience on this front has been fucking strange and repetitious.

The early trans raptures of being triangulated by a fundamentalist Christian who clocks you as a reincarnated walking pillar of salt, some dude who’s trying to pick you up, and any person or people who is/are completely ignoring you or treating you like they would any other person because you’re just any other person were…dislocating. I felt like a pinball bouncing off of rubbers, kickers, and bumpers in rapid, random succession. Some days I was concussed, unable to wrap my head around how differently people treated me now compared to before.

But I am unequivocally a happier person since I stopped fighting myself to become myself. The massive reduction in gender dysphoria is nothing short of astonishing. The massive increase in the daily friction of my life when interacting with people was a reasonable trade-off now that I have some mental scar tissue where I had none before.

It’s the little decisions and experiences that add up over time. It’s learning to seek help in a store from a woman before a man and if you have to go to a man, find a nice or dumb one, and figuring out how to help yourself if neither are available. It’s the smile needed at that moment for the bath-, dining-, and showrooms I will pass through as a normal course of the traipse of my life. It’s deciding when to play dumb or smart, or instead, whatever it is I’m really wanting to feel like at that moment.

Again three poles to mark the triangle. Everywhere you go, it’s the fucking triangle along for the ride, too. How it devils! At first it pricked me with its pointed tips, causing me to jump in nervous agitation. Then it cut me with the young flaked blades. And it cut me and it cut me and it cut me, each and every time until the wounds healed to scales of dragon-hide.

And over time, those stones of blood and tears hurled at me wore to smooth and I am instead now bruised, not cut, by those stones. Other blows I didn’t dodge wrote in pain my plan to become stronger, muscle by muscle.

Beauty culture is a velociraptor with a hair-trigger reflex reaction for prey detection and will cut you as soon as look at you. The wrong jacket slice. The shitty makeup application stab. The frizzy hair chop. The outfit dissected.

This too was…dislocating.

A scaly hide covers most of my body now and the muscles beneath ripple in claw-clenching anticipation of devouring any fellow traveller who’s not with my program. To discover there are two species of velociraptor and I’m one of them?! No one fucking mentioned that.

And here I am, a terrible lizard, without makeup. Hear me roar.

©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by buying one of my poetry collections. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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Week 170 – Are you the spouse?

“What is your name?”

“Heather Coldstream, your honor.”

The Commissioner looks confused.

“Are you the spouse?” she asks.

“Daughter. My name change order is attached as Exhibit A. It matches the name on the will.”

“Ah.” She flips to take a closer look and cocks an eyebrow.

“Is there a surviving spouse?”

“No, your honor.”

She flips through the rest of my Petition for Probate.

“Do you have a copy of the death certificate?”

“Yes, your honor, I do.”

I hand a certified copy to the clerk who passes it to the Commissioner. My new name is on it. She skims it and inserts it into the sheaf.

“Do you have the original will?”

“Yes, your honor, I do.” I pass it forward.

Satisfied, she inserts it and reaches for her stamp.

She signs off and amends a statement.

“I’m going to make a small change here to note that you’ve changed your name. It will have your old name, then ‘now known as’ with your new name.”

She passes the paperwork back.

“Take the Petition upstairs to the Clerk’s office and they will issue the Letters Testamentary.”

“Thank you, your honor.”

We smile at each other, and I thank the universe for the small comfort of not being outed in open court.

©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by buying one of my poetry collections. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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Week 169 – Chop wood, carry water

Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.‘ – Zen proverb

The companions of the depression afflicting me the past few months has been household clutter and cleaning tasks I’ve put off because I could. Paperwork and random stuff has migrated from location to location without disposition or a permanent location to reside. My floors have been grimy and the carpets received only cursory vacuuming. My charges of children, tropical fish, and a turtle have been suffering the unrecognized indignity of environments bordering on unhygienic.

The good news is that spring is here and I’m slowly coming out of my funk and tackling the things that need to get done in a burst of Spring Cleaning energy. After this winter’s record rainfall in the Seattle area, the sun broke through the other week and it lit a fire under me to get the house in order for hosting a birthday party for one of my kids.

Last weekend was a frenzy of mopping floors, vacuuming, mowing the lawn, decluttering the living room, family room, and kitchen, and cleaning the downstairs bathroom and kitchen before noon last Sunday. I had hoped to change the water and scrape the algae in the tanks but ran out of time.

As a further spur for more cleaning, I invited a neighbor couple to come to dinner last night. This drove more vacuuming and scouring, but again my fish tanks were neglected.

Today I had planned to take care of paperwork for my mom’s estate. Instead I ended up binging on Netflix while I changed water in my 125 gal/470 L tank and changed water, scraped algae, gravel vacuumed, pruned and thinned plants, and redecorated my 30 gal/110 L tank.

I spent all day doing these two things. I wanted to get ahead of the care curve and prep the smaller tank for new plants when the rest of my new LED lighting system arrives late next week. The before picture for the smaller tank is too embarrassing, so here’s the after shot:

A 30 gallon freshwater fish tank

Tomorrow I’ll attack the large tank’s algae and take care of Yoshi the turtle’s 75 gal/280 L tank.

Tending freshwater tropical aquatic fish and plants has been a lifelong hobby and passion and been my career twice. My custom hose/siphon rig makes water changes quick and that’s about all I’ve done with the tanks for months, so it felt really good to only focus on them for the day.

But this is a blog about gender, not a Spring Cleaning and tropical fish and plant blog. You might be wondering what they have to do with gender stuff.

Nothing at all.

The quote above speaks to being present during the tasks you perform during the day and not letting other things intrude while you’re doing them.

Cleaning the house, mowing the yard, and tending to my tanks are just some of my, ‘chop wood, carry water’ tasks. By focusing on the task at hand, I am not being trans, I am being.

Enlightenment and transition are similar. They are not destinations or achievements, but never-ending processes with moments of transcendental insights, with each insight accreting to a fuller understanding and appreciation of the universe and your place within it.

Don’t forget to chop your wood and carry your water while you transition.

‘Before transition; chop wood, carry water. After transition; chop wood, carry water.’ – Heather Coldstream

©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by buying one of my poetry collections. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in gender transition, LGBT, observations, personal history, self-acceptance, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Week 168 – Unexpected donations

Spring is my favorite season. The days here in Seattle become noticeably longer, plants burst from buds into infinite shades of green, and the weather can change from hail to sunshine to rain in ten minutes. It also heralds a change in wardrobe from winter browns, darker reds, grey, and black to the bright yellows, pinks, and greens of spring.

Last week I began to rotate my wardrobe by packing my winter clothes into a storage bin. During this process I realized there were many tops I hadn’t worn at all since the winter before. This puzzled me as they still fit well and were basic styles always in fashion. It took me a while to realize they all had three things in common: they were gray, bought pre-full time, and pulled double-duty for me in boy and girl mode due to their somewhat androgynous styling.

I bought them with the intention of being able to use them pre- and post-transition. Many trans people buy clothes before and during transition that are passed along or donated after hormones have done their magic to change the shape of the body. It’s just part of being trans and transition. A new wardrobe can be a large expense and shopping at thrift stores before and during transition helps minimize the cost for clothes that many only fit for a few months.

But I’ve been on hormones for over three years and while I’m still filling out at the edges somewhat, these clothes I hadn’t worn still fit. I know this because I tried them on.

So why hadn’t I worn them?

After thinking about it, I realized they reminded me too much of my pre-transition phase and they also didn’t fit into my evolving style. I found them uniformly dull.

My pre-transition phase felt like it lasted a very long time and as I considered each article of clothing in turn, memories welled up. My ex scowling at this one. My frustration at waiting for my body to fill in and make that one fit better. The top I didn’t buy because it was too femme and this was the consolation prize. The stress of buying that one hoping the clerk wouldn’t smirk at me.

Of course I didn’t want to wear these again!

Relieved at my understanding, it was easy to put them in my donate pile and not look back. With this newfound understanding I culled through all my clothes, casting away items with too much freight.

The biggest surprise for me? It felt like a larger milestone to me than when I donated my guy clothes. Getting rid of the guy clothes was a checkbox—I had no more need for them.

This was something different; it was moving on from an era where I felt forced to live a half-feminine life into one of being fully myself and having all of my clothes reflect that.

Farewell, pre-transition clothes! May you find another life to help across the threshold.

©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in clothing, coming out, gender transition, LGBT, observations, personal history, self-acceptance, transgender | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments