Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New website for "Housewife: Home-remaking in a transgender marriage" memoir

I am so excited to announce that I have a new website up at www.krisinkcollier.com!

Please visit and view my new book project along with reviews, excerpt, "Snapshots" and more!

Here's what people are saying....

Housewife is an uplifting and beautiful story that shows us what it means to love unconditionally and be honest with both ourselves and others. This book will capture your heart.” – Cat J. Zavis, Empathic Communication Trainer and Executive Director of Network of Spiritual Progressives

Partner and spouse stories are few and far between and are as different from each other as trans people's experiences are. Housewife is an inspiring example of how redefining ‘family’ can save a relationship. Reid Vanderburgh, author of Transition and Beyond: Observations on Gender Identity

“A must-read for anyone who is curious about transgender people and their partners but is too afraid to ask!” – Michael Thessen, author of Lickety-Split: Small Stories and Hysterical Fiction


Saturday, September 1, 2012

City Rabbits

I have these rabbits. City rabbits for sure. The kids and Seda built them a pen to go to ground in – a pen that surrounds the hutch and a nice little ramp to take them to earth where they can dig.

That's what rabbits do, right? They dig. Home, hearth, food, all underground. They dig.

My rabbits dug a hole. They burrowed right into the center of the pen (good rabbits!) and did not try to escape. They worked every day, piling damp earth and rubble at its entrance. We watched the progress as deeper and deeper they went.

Then one day, girl bunny forced boy bunny down the ramp in a flourish and I swear this is what I saw: boy bunny jumped up and down on the ground over that burrow until it caved right in. No more happy home-to-be. And as far as I can tell, bunnies don't cry.

I'm over here in South Eugene, and I'm making home. I'm planting winter gardens and mulching paths, harvesting beans and fermenting them for cold-storage. I'm digging in.

But this year, I'm a city rabbit, too. We all are. The whole family. The boys are trying out public school again, both bravely stepping into their peer group in the most plebian sense – equal opportunity! Everyman's education. They know that doing so means that I can go to work (also in education) and we have a shot in funding Seda's surgery. We're all biting the bullet and working to meet our families basic needs.

We don't ask for too much, I think. At least most days. No TV, no Xbox, no regular vacations. We sign the kids up for sports, and that's a healthy stretch in itself. We eat mostly organic, including much that we've grown or gleaned. Our house payment is high (even for less than 1200 square feet), so we'd better make the yard pay.

Dandelions, plantain, and clover, none of it harvested by claw or tooth. That's what our rabbits eat. Enough to get by on and a natural diet, but not exactly the ways of their ancestors. Not exactly.

The rabbits have been digging again. City rabbits. They made another hole, and this time, they just kept digging. Maybe their GPS was off, or maybe their orientation was affected by too many commercial carrots (not a crop I've mastered). The hole went down then up. They built a tunnel.

Where's the home in that?

I've been planning all day for the social groups I'm leading at Bridgeway House. Hooked up a landline so the kids can call me when they come home from school with their latch keys. In case of emergency, now that I'm no longer available.

Where's the home in that?

It's a pass through. That's what the bunnies built. A detour, fun run, scenic route, temporary underground view of the rabbit world.

I dig in the garden to ground myself as the sun sinks weary. I pull calendula that I didn't mean to have growing next to the parsley. I tuck wood chips in the path next to the tomatoes. I have no energy for constructing supper, no patience for the indoors anymore. My twelve year old notices that in his 6.5 hour school day, they are allotted less than 30 minutes of outdoor play. Try explaining that. Is education healthy?

I know that a home-cooked meal would be very nourishing tonight, but I just need to be in the garden for an hour, just need to see the early autumn light reflected in dandelion puffs, eat raspberries from the vine. But the price for my reverie is now four take out burritos.

Where's the home in it? City rabbits.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Holding Childhood Together

"I want to buy those handcuffs, Mom," he tells me. "I know that you don't agree with that because they're cheap and you think I won't like them for more than a day, but...."

"But you don't care about that, you just want them anyway?"

"Yeah! I just want them anyway," he smiles, relieved. "It's my money after all."

"It is," I say. "And even if I don't like your choice, I can reserve all further comment."

"Good!" he says. "Thank you. And now, can you get them down for me? I'm not tall enough."

I suppress a smile. Why did the supermarket hang the cheap chinese handcuffs so high up? How many times have the keys been "lost" so that little brothers and sisters remained tethered to their breakfast chairs for days? I reach up and take down a pair of chrome-plated pot metal cuffs and hand them to my eleven year old whose feet are nearly as big as mine.

He must be on the verge of outgrowing these toys, I think. I would like to find the patience to make my way through this last stretch. But when will our spending habits ever perfectly coincide? Trinidad assures me point-blank that it is not wise to wish for that ever.

We load the groceries into the crate on the back of my bike. We load them into the boys' backpacks and into mine. There are too many boxes of cereal, jars of salsa, cans of beans, bags of rice. "Oh no," I tell them. "I think I may have done it this time."

I situate the gallon jug of filtered water this way and that to make room for a bunch of bananas that I suspect I will crush with my backpack anyway. Every week I test the limit of what I can actually bring home on my bike during our grocery expedition for a family of four. Every week it is almost too much.

This week it is too much.

"Mom! You can use the handcuffs to strap that bottle of water to your handlebars!" cries Trinidad, eyes shining. "I knew they would have a purpose."

I allow him to hook one cuff to my rusty handlebars and one to the handle of the gallon jug. We survey the set up.

"I think that the jug will give before the handcuffs do," he says. "But if not, I know it's my fault, not yours. I take responsibility if they break."

"You're on," I tell him, and we peddle off. Each corner we round, I say a breathless prayer to remain upright. Every wheel revolution, I am grateful that the kids have not accidentally swerved in front of me so far. The jug swings violently back and forth with every small adjustment in my steering.

We ride three blocks before the chain of the handcuffs snaps when I hit a bump. The jug skids out between and behind my wheels. Miraculously, none of us or any other oncoming cars or bikes hit the bottle as we coast into the parking lot of a shopping center.

"Oh!" Trin exclaims, disappointed. "Well, I guess they weren't the quality that I hoped they were. Now we know." He examines the break and sees that it makes sense that the cuffs would fail in that place, even though he hadn't seen it before.

"It was a good try," he says.

"A learning experience," I agree. And I watch as all the fantasy of boyhood collapses happily into size 7 sandals, an accepting nod, and then an impish grin.

"There's always duck tape!"

And so it was that childhood was held together just a little longer with a set of broken handcuffs and a roll of silver adhesive tape, impervious to tears and sun. I trust that he'll know when to take it off.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Prayer Left on the Beach at Sunrise

I am part of this greater whole. I know that.

I  am all breath, in and out, or a heart beating the march of time as no mechanical clock can record. I am both the feet and footsteps of a people racing headlong into sunset.

Last week, the boys and I joined a team of conservationists (Save A Turtle) that track and protect the nesting of sea turtles in Florida. Twice a week, we will walk Smather's Beach at sunrise when the contour of the sand is most evident. This is the time of day for tracking. The wind is more likely to be still and the asymmetric, inverted commas left behind by passing loggerhead turtles will lie a little longer in cool and silence before jet skis and parasailers arrive.

Green sea turtles nest here, too. The green turtle's path mirrors itself, one side against the other, with a tail drag in the middle which deepens to form something like an exclamation point when the turtle stops to rest. If the path doesn't quite match up in symmetry, it could be due to an old injury -- one flipper sliced half back so that the turtle drags and swishes through the coarse coral sand in a path unique to its species.

If you have trouble identifying a track, and it is not a classic or text book case, our teacher says, "then don't dwell on the oddity of the track. Look for familiar signs instead."

Look for the familiar signs. Is that how its done?

Space travel, navigating stars and planets, moons and comets... just look for the familiar signs that lead to what you best understand. Look for the paths that make known territory out of the infinite mystery in which we live. Look for signs of life.

If I am faced with your anger, I must find in you the traces -- miniscule and vast -- of the love that I know. I will look to your hands and remember them soft. Your cheeks I will recall as they bowed in deep reflection, and into your eyes, I will look beyond the barricades. I will soften the way with my own gaze until I feel the depths I know, familiar and warm.

I will find my way through.

This is a prayer scrolled in the sand at dawn: Don't look for the oddity of the track. Look for the familiar signs, and you will know.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Another* Modest Proposal

Yesterday, while doing our weekly trash pick up at the estuary behind the Winn-Dixie, it occurred to me once more what a national treasure our children are. Watching my nine and eleven-year-old sons snake their slender bodies through the mangroves to reach for empty beer and vodka bottles, I marveled at their tenacious dexterity and the value of its good use in this application.

Still, I am aware that our family is but one small segment of the population discovering a hidden value and economy amongst us. I feel moved to make a proposal at large that includes the use of our youth in ways that they are often naturally drawn to and that may support us all in avoiding our rather unnatural demise as a race -- at least by weeks, months, or years.

Why not employ the children to clean up behind us full time? The empty beer cases, old shirts, shoes, and vodka bottles stacking up behind the Winn-Dixie do not mark an anomaly in human behavior and experience; there are circumstantial dumpsites in many gullies, streams, and empty lots near shopping centers. Why not have our children clean them up?

Children are small. Their bodies are built for shimmying up trees to grab flyaway plastic bags and crawling between bushes in search of wayward styrofoam peanuts. They are naturally compelled to hunt and climb -- I say, let them do it for a purpose! Adults let the wind and weather carry off to nether reaches what we casually toss behind us. The results pose too great a difficulty in the clean up. And despite the fact that we inevitably attempt to teach our children to pick up after themselves, little respect is bestowed upon the janitors of the world. Children generally are not seen as citizens either (how many public restroom sinks are built for people three or four feet tall?). Let them join the ranks!

Children have little else of value to contribute. We withhold them from the workforce lest they provide overmuch competition in our capitalistic hierarchies, and the test scores from public schools are reportedly so poor that our efforts in teaching and administration appear to be a waste. I suggest that we cut our losses and send them all outdoors where they long to be.

Surely, there will be concern for the safety of this venture. Despite the fact that we regularly use our children as laboratory rats in testing the safe consumptive levels of FD&C yellow number six and the like, we do profess a certain level of parental concern for our young as a whole. This is healthy and sound! We harbor this instinct to protect the future of our people.

I propose that we simply realign our strategies to meet our needs for sustainability. In light of the fact that we already subject our children to genetically modified corn syrup, endless electronic games, and artificial colors and flavors of all sorts, their genetic viability across multiple generations is already likely compromised. The greater problem we face at this moment is overpopulation. Forfeiting a few children to toxins received in the process of clean up or in the act of diving for submerged shopping carts would not be so great a loss when one considers how far this "pruning" puts us ahead in terms of saving humanity as a whole.

In light of sustainability and full circles, another significant advantage to employing our youth as litter patrol is that their time spent in clean up frees the adult population to consume and discard their trash helter-skelter as they please, thereby closing the loop so that our children do not ever "finish" the job and risk unemployment. Their work has a component of built-in security in this respect.

Finally, the use of child labor to clean up adult waste (of all sorts! Why stop at just litter?) allows us an unprecedented opportunity -- even a demand -- to show up in integrity. Our children will clean up the polluted world we are leaving them. They will inherit the oil-spills and extinctions that are by-products of our petroleum addiction. They will be left with the countless square miles of shopping bags that float in southern oceans like the unnatural ghosts of jellyfish past. They will take on the consequences of our consumption and our waste as it affects weather patterns and water rising, wars between people, and the collapse of biodiversity and sustainability of whole ecosystems. Why pretend anything different?

This is our chance to really show up for the next generation. So, let's do it! Pitch a wrapper. Drive a car. Employ a child. It may be our only chance.

*With all due respect to "A Modest Proposal" of Jonathan Swift.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Tale From San Francisco

The boys and I decided to take the city bus to the Exploratorium. We boarded the transit four blocks from my sisters home in the Dogpatch and slowly rolled across the city.

I hoped that my children would taste the more complex flavors of city life by viewing San Francisco from the vinyl seats of public transportation. I hoped they would begin to get a sense of what "multicultural" means. (In Eugene, people of color are so rare that their appearance sometimes scares the dog.)

In our first ten minutes, a large black woman boarded the bus with her iphone blaring. I marveled at the sound she coaxed from that little machine. My iphone has never projected so well. I sat for several minutes bearing witness to her rap concert while other thoughts leapt from every available window in my head. Soon, it became clear that I could hold no interior conversation, harbor no dream or plan of my own in the presence of music at that volume.

I considered my options. Would I ask her to turn it down? I imagined that the request would not be warmly received. I expected that I would likely be seen as another white person demanding that my needs be considered first.

I understood and had compassion for such a response. How many generations had black people passed down the suffering of white domination in this country? I trusted that my family had certainly taken part in this grief-making, though the record of it was lost to me. I accepted responsibility for this, even as black people today shoulder the burden of pain passed down by nature and nurture and live their lives beneath the implicit weight of it.

I felt terribly sad thinking of the ways that cruelty has shaped black culture and opportunity across generations so that people of different colors who have never met could be perceived as enemies without even meeting. I mourned the pain that countless people of color have endured, the native cultures lost, and the struggle that many experience now to get their basic needs met in the fallout of a history of explicit and implicit discrimination.

I sat with that and made my peace silently. Several minutes rolled by. My children stared out the window. The bus filled. A few white people cast disgusted looks in the direction of the iphone which continued to erupt with expletives that I doubted that my children fully grokked.

A new thought emerged. What if I asked her to turn it down just so I could have the opportunity to connect? The request risked discomfort on both of our parts, but what if I was successful and a bridge was built? That bridge could be crossed by more than just she and I -- it might extend with good will on the next bus ride and the next. My children might see the model and brave the opportunity to connect with someone else who seemed similarly separate. The effects could be statistically significant. And best of all, I liked the challenge and the opportunity to see the heart of someone else apparently marooned in the seat across from me.

"Excuse me," I said. "I'm having trouble thinking with your iphone at that volume. Would you be willing to turn it down just a little?"

"No way, lady! Listen, I play my music at the volume I want to play it at and nobody's goin' to tell me what to do with it. This here's a public place, and I can listen to whatever I like!"

"Amen, sister," said a large black man slumping in the seat behind her.

"I want you to listen to whatever you like," I said. "I just wondered if you would be willing to turn it down to support me thinking my own thoughts, too. I see you aren't willing, and I'm okay with that."

"There ain't no foul language in this music. I know, because I have a kid of my own. The only people I'm willing to turn it down for are kids." At this point, she leaned forward and extended her hand toward my boys.

"You alright, babies?" she asked. They nodded quickly and emphatically.

"Y'see? They fine," she said, sitting back. "Now, I've had a really tough day, and I will listen to what I damn well please to listen to."

"Sure," I said. "I'm sorry you've had a tough day. Music helps, huh?"

"Yeah, I'll turn it down in a minute," she said and within a couple of seconds she began to press at the volume control with her thumb.

"No, don't do it!" called the black man behind her. "It's your god damned music!"

"Oh, thank you, brother, thank you," she said warmly. "This lady, she asked me so nicely. I'm happy to do it. Thank you, though."

"How old's your son?" I asked.

"Oh, he's fifteen now. And I always listened to all kinds of music around him. I played Mozart when I was pregnant. You never know what kids will like and maybe even want to play -- you might have the next Eminem over there," she said nodding to my towheaded children.

"Never know," I agreed.

"This my stop, honey, so I'll see you later," she said, scooping up her things and pulling the cord. The bus jounced to a halt and the woman's body pressed hard into the bar she held from above.

"'Scuse me!" she said with a smile to the man beside her, and she stepped down from the bus.

As we sped northward, a heavily pierced white woman two rows ahead of me said to her partner, "Well, at least someone is happy."

Now, that's my kind of ending.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Becky Thatcher

It happened on our first evening here in Key West. The sun dipped low into balmy skies as we walked, en famille, through our new neighborhood toward the Atlantic.

A block and a half away from home, I heard a sharp clapping sound, and I turned to see a girl of about twelve years old standing in the middle of the sidewalk staring back in my direction. Her eyes did not focus on mine, though her gaze was intent and her smile broad. I turned to follow it.

She was looking at Trinidad, now eleven and a half. Trin's flaxen hair rumpled gold in the evening light, and he guided a soccer ball casually back and forth before him as he walked.

"Trin," I said. "Someone's trying to get your attention."

Three more claps sounded as he turned to look. The girls smile widened more still, and her white teeth shone beneath dark, almond-shaped eyes. Black hair fell smooth and shiny to her shoulders, and her long legs hung gracefully straight under narrow hips. She sprang behind a telephone pole, and all we could see then were feet, elbows, and black hair wisps over bare, caramel-colored shoulders.

Trin looked to me questioningly. Two more claps issued from behind the telephone pole. Trinidad shrugged, one eyebrow raised, a half-smile on his lips. I grinned back.

"Remember this morning in the airport when we were reading Tom Sawyer?" I asked. "We read the chapter about Tom meeting Becky Thatcher, and how he was 'showing off' with all sorts of absurd gymnastics to get her attention?"

He nodded. "Well," I said. "That's the sort of show that's going on for you now."

Trinidad's eyes widened a bit, then he looked down, blushed, and smiled. Trin shrugged again and glanced back her way, shyly. The girl now stood in the middle of the sidewalk, feet planted wide, hands on her hips, smiling at him. Trinidad dropped his gaze, turned, and shuffled off with his ball.

I had the sense that I had just witnessed my sons first awkward steps on land all over again, this time in initiation to the threshold of romantic awakening.

A prayer of thanks went up that I got to see it happen ~ sunrise, sunset.