Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2017-04-26

General Life Update: Dara’s Hysterectomy and Oophorectomy, Moving and Judgement Resilience

So much has happened since my last one I feel like a new life update is in order.

PRESS!
I am quoted a bunch in this great article on Autostraddle about the gym, EVERYBODY, where I teach weekly body oppression healing aerobics.

I was on Tristan Taormino’s awesome Sex Out Loud Radio show and there’s a podcast download available here of our conversation. I talked about the time I got bounced at the gate of Dollywood for wearing a gold sequin crop top while fat, even though the dress code specifically allows for crop tops.

The crop top chronicles continue because I’m on a BILLBOARD around Northeast LA wearing a mesh crop top and a bra. The front gate manager at Dollywood would be very scandalized.

MOVING!
We moved! Our new house is awesome! It has central air conditioning! We spent $550 last year in credit card points on a portable A/C for our bedroom and an evaporative cooler AKA “swamp cooler” for the living room because it was hot like the surface of the sun in the afternoons most of the year in that tiny not well-insulated house. We didn’t have a single window that could accommodate a window unit A/C and we both work from home so comfort was important and expensive.

The portable A/C was awesome and I highly recommend it, and since we bought it on Amazon it came right to our door and I installed it myself in under an hour. (A reminder if you buy anything on Amazon using my referral link, no matter what you end up buying when you get there, I get 4-6% referral credit, which adds up and really helps out.)

The swamp cooler is only medium effective, somewhere between a powerful fan and a weak A/C, but will be great for outside parties in our amazing new backyard. I think about how much time we invested in researching and implementing climate control modalities on a tight budget and now we’re suddenly in this climate controlled well-insulated environment! I can’t get that time back but at least we’re way more comfortable.

Me and my friends Beth and Tara at a Shabbat dinner exploring virtual reality as a storytelling modality for social change.

LA just had our first 91 degree day last week and all Dara had to do was touch a button and the house was suddenly cool. I haven’t had central heat and air in my adult life, it’s pretty novel. The new house also has a dishwasher that we haven’t used because I haven’t unpacked our dishes and I can’t wait to see if that changes my life.

We’ve been in our house for two and a half weeks and have so many more boxes than I thought we still would. In my visions, we were mostly unpacked by now. In April of last year I had a meltdown about how our house wasn’t yet together and somehow I had that same meltdown on Monday of this past week, a full three months early. The last house we had complex attic clean outs and renovations that slowed things down. This time it was major surgery for Dara.

DARA’S HYSTERECTOMY AND OOPHORECTOMY

Three days after we moved Dara had her first appointment with her new doctors at UCLA. In November and December of last year she had a cancer scare due to abnormal cells in her uterus. Since she finished chemo for breast cancer in 2014, she had been taking Tamoxifen, an estrogen blocker, to help prevent a reoccurrence of breast cancer. Tamoxifen is the only drug prescribed to prevent a reoccurrence to premenopausal women, there are a few types of different inhibitors to prevent a reoccurrence for postmenopausal women. Turns out Tamoxifen increases your likelihood for uterine cancer.

Dara endured multiple, increasingly invasive biopsies until she was told it wasn’t cancer but she should consider a hysterectomy and oophorectomy. Since the doctor that performed her last and most invasive biopsy wrote her a prescription for an IUD because certain kinds help prevent uterine cancer, and Dara pushed back asking if it would interfere with breast cancer prevention and it turned out it would… she took that “oops” as a tell that she should get way better health insurance and transition to the best cancer hospital in the area.

Dara at the new oncologist office. We really loved him.

I have all the Working Class Feels about how money buys you medical access, which is literally life and death for many people. To be transparent about it (because I think this busts up capitalist shame around money) Dara was able to upgrade her health insurance from Silver to Gold because her mom offered to help financially make the leap.

Further, Dara was able to find out who the best doctor was going to be for her cancer treatment going forward because she has a family friend who is a legit “Medical Concierge” who has access to that information. This is what people with money have access to, they get a medical concierge to find the best doctors money can buy and pay tons of money for their health insurance.

I cannot underscore how much I support Bernie’s continued call for universal health care in this country. Health care should be a fundamental human right, like education and access to clean water. Even if we got universal health care, as long as the US remains capitalist, I’m sure money will continue to buy access to “the best” healthcare available because people will continue to pay for it and provide it.

We both feel complicated about it, but her health is important. When she saw the UCLA OBGYN surgeon in the oncology department and she reviewed the findings from the biopsies, she said, “Can you come in on Monday for a hysterectomy?” It was that urgent to get it out. So, even though it was wildly inconvenient to have major surgery a week and a half after we moved, Dara scheduled it.

What a rough day. We had to wake up at 3:40AM to drive cross town for her 4:45AM call time for surgery. I had to teach aerobics that night and I’m still building my following so I didn’t want to cancel class. Her mom flew in to be here for it and I was able to leave at 2PM to make sure I wasn’t trapped by traffic on the West Side, though it still took me 90 minutes to get home. I am not a great napper, so I just did my best to be present and ultimately had a great aerobics class!

I drank a lot of caffeine and prayed for a lot of Divine assistance to stay present and channel the best healing for everyone in attendance.

The surgery was as successful as possible, she was done in an hour (was supposed to take up to three) and her healing has been happening swiftly. It is SO reminiscent of cancer treatment times. She has all the same prescriptions for constipation and I ran out to buy All Bran and prune juice. Dara even weaned herself off the Norco as soon as she was able (within days) because the gas pain and constipation were more uncomfortable than the pain from surgery. She can’t carry anything more than five pounds for two weeks and she’s been very weak.

Poor fifteen pound Macy is used to being able to bark for her human elevators to put her on furniture since she cannot jump up and down on furniture or take stairs, but one of her human elevators is out of order for a few weeks! She doesn’t understand. This all means I am taking care of the house and pets 100% of the time. Between regular cleaning and keeping the house going, it has ground the unpacking progress to a slow crawl.

I’m so grateful Dara busted ass before her surgery to unpack 80% of the living room and office. It feels a little hard since we don’t really have places for everything, however it is ultimately so helpful to have things having motion out of boxes. I have never had the experience of paying movers and packers before, but it seems that they just box whatever into whatever box and label it vaguely “Kitchen” and “living room” and literally none of them are labeled “bathroom” and I still can’t find my hair dye.

JUDGEMENT RESILIENCE

The fact that I am obsessively staring at my roots lately is a symptom to me of a larger issue I’ve been having around judgment. Most of the time I am incredibly resilient to judgment. I feel like it is a kind of forcefield to give zero fucks what anyone thinks about you. Someone I know was worried about my choice to move to LA because “everyone is so judgmental about weight” and I felt like I would be fine because of my resilience.

And yet, in the past month or so, I’m so worried about what other people think it is distracting me. Not necessarily about my weight but the aforementioned meltdown happened because our new landlords were coming over 2 weeks after our move / 5 days after Dara’s surgery, and I worried what they would think about our house progress. I spent two hours cleaning before they got there and left to walk the dog while they were inside because I couldn’t interact and needed to go cry a bunch. I know part of this is residual trauma from months of housing instability and not feeling safe in our home—the thought that our landlords wouldn’t like us and would ask us to move out was really triggering.

I’m glad I’m aware of the judgment resilience issue because that’s the first step to changing anything. (Awareness, acceptance, then action.) I know there’s an element of self compassion I’m missing, which is the acceptance part. Objectively I know I’m doing the best I can and I’m still having a hard time accepting my progress not perfection.*

I pulled out the big guns and watched an Oprah interview with Tony Robbins. It gave me great perspective and helped me move towards acceptance. I am already very aware that my expectations of myself are so far out of reality because of how I learned to keep myself “safe” by being an overachiever. I can easily and unconsciously punish myself mentally for not meeting my unrealistic expectations. It makes all the sense in the world why grieving for my Grandmother on top of the velocity of changes happening might make me extremely vulnerable. I’m going to meet this symptom with a LOT of self care and I’ll report back on my progress. (I’m already attacking it with lots of gratitude practice and that’s helping.)

REIKI MASTER

This week I started training for my Reiki Master atunement. I had been wanting to do this as a long range plan for Bevin’s Tea and I’ve been relying on energy healing so much lately. The more I level up my own healing capabilities, the more healing I can do for myself.

I’m studying with Syd, the healer we’ve been working with for Macy’s cancer, Dara’s cancer prevention/surgery, my grief, Biscuit Reynolds’ myriad of issues and who we brought out to do a very powerful healing the night my Grandmother POTSA. She offers a monthly payment for the Reiki Master that is the exact amount I make from my job doing social media monitoring for The Militant Baker, so it just seemed like the Universe was aligning it to happen now.

Reiki, in case you don’t know, is a healing modality to raise the vibration of your cells. To quote 30 Rock, it is the “Laying on of hands to improve one’s life.”

Reiki comes in three levels, Level One, Two and Master. Though I only need Level Two to be able to put Reiki into my teas and I can even use my Level Two ability to go through time and space for distance healing, being a Reiki Master was a goal I aspired to as a next level. I also have been wanting to do more direct energy healing work out of our third bedroom, making it not just a guest room but a true Healing Room in which to see clients and help pay rent. So even though this is one more thing to add to all of my other things, sometimes earthly logic is not divine logic. In other words, I just felt like it was the next right thing. Part of my homework is daily self treatment with Reiki and that discipline has been helpful for me.

Between the Reiki Master studies, my ongoing work with B-School developing my tea business, my AFAA aerobics certification (wading through SO much fatphobia to get certified), I think I’m in grad school for healing modalities.

This period of my life right now is reminding me of the Dixie Chicks song that has always brought me a lot of comfort—Long Way Around. I do not know why I am so multi passionate but I am and I am working to accept all the bits about me that will eventually womanifest into something pretty spectacular.

Bucket list item checked off–seeing Dixie Chicks for the first time last October with my bestie Spunky!

*I wrote this post at a Panera and had to have a freak out and resulting thought process around feeling like a failure for being 38 and not having kids yet… I am usually so zen about this. When I have flares of issues I’m usually so resolved about, it’s my tell that I have emotional and self care work to do.

2015-09-03

Dollypalooza is Friday, Look at Our Amazing Silent Auction

You guys, last year I produced Dollypalooza on a faithful impetus after a really profound and spiritual visit to Dollywood during a difficult time in my life. (Dara was going through chemo, my super generous friend and philanthropist Jess whisked me off to Dollywood, we went to Night of 1,000 Dollys in Knoxville and couldn’t get into the club it was so crowded.) So I risked literally every penny I had to secure the $2,000 bar minimum at the venue and the stipends I promised all of the best Dolly performance artists I knew in NYC and Philly. It ended up being a huge success, even though the show started at 11PM! We also raised $1,400 for Dolly’s Imagination Library charity through our raffle and Jess, our matching donor!

Dollypalooza-061-IMG_2230-20140906Me, West Vargina and Sequinette backstage at Dollypalooza last year. I love that my abundance tattoo is above not one but two beauties in Perfidia wigs. Photo by Tinker Coalescing.

This year I wondered if I got the venue for an earlier show (7PM doors, 8PM show) if we could get more folks in the house and if we could raise even more for the Imagination Library. I am aiming for $10,000. Maybe that’s bananas, but we worked really hard to get silent auction prizes and raffle prizes that might get us close! Like Dolly says, “You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you’re brave enough to try!”

The show is on FRIDAY! I can’t believe I got so wrapped up in planning I forgot to BLOG about it and tell my readers to save the date. (To be fair, I have been relentlessly talking about it on instagram and snapchat–queerfatfemme on both.)

IMG_20150902_164503This is what you see when you flip through Time Out New York this week!

I am so excited about our line-up this year. My incredibly talented friends who I am always dying to get on stage World Famous *BOB*, Darlinda Just Darlinda, Lady Quesa’Dilla, Sequinette, Merry Cherrie, Nath Ann Carrera West Vargina, Shomi Noise are all performing–Shomi and West Vargina are doing Melissa Etheridge & Dolly Parton’s duet for “Come to My Window.” Crimson Kitty, a longtime NYC drag producer and performer, is a huge Dolly fan, I can’t wait to see what she is creating for the night. Ula Uberbusen is a TN native and I’m really excited to have someone from Dolly’s home state performing burlesque! Luz performed a tap dancing routine at the Heels on Wheels Open Toe Peepshow and I immediately put it into my secret part of my heart to want to see them tap dance to a Dolly number.

Darlinda Just Darlinda is a burlesque performer and producer who is known for her goofy, outrageous and wildly charismatic acts. Darlinda gave me four Dolly acts to choose from I and I chose the one she said was edgiest. It’s New York City, I love to make a crowd remember about how performance art should push your buttons sometimes. Also, as a producer, I know that edgy doesn’t mean racist, misogynist, oppressive, sizist, etc… and I ask each of my acts to acknowledge a performer respect clause when I book them. In addition to anti-oppressive stuff I ask that they not spray anything into the audience without checking in with me first. This way, no one in my audience gets non-consensually sprayed with hair gel, water, melons, kit kat bars–all things I’ve had to duck to avoid at shows I’ve attended! My hair takes a lot of work!

I’m really excited for Lady Quesa’s story telling. At Everybooty at BAM, a huge 5 floor pride event I went to this summer, I saw her perform a 10 minute storytelling act followed up by a drag queen act that just had me rapt.

Nath Ann Carrera is going to do two numbers and DJ the dance party after the show! Her co-consipirator on the Woahmone parties Nica Ross is doing a custom Dolly visual for dancing! (My friend Jess made a playlist of 60 Dolly videos to be used for the visuals.)

tammyworldfamousbevinbeachAt the gay beach with World Famous *BOB* in her custom donut bikini, and my friend Tammy Cannons visiting NYC from Carbondale, IL–she managed to perform three times and get in the Village Voice dancing at a concert. She did NYC right! (And got me to be out after 2 AM two nights in a row on a Monday and Tuesday! We had a great time!)

I’m so honored to co-femmecee the show with one of my idols. The way I feel about Dolly is very similar to the way I feel about World Famous *BOB* as an artist and mentor I truly adore, feel connected to, especially with gender and positivity. I loved her from afar and have since been so blessed to work with her onstage several times and develop a friendship with her. She is such a positive, radiant light in our world and I’m so excited to watch all of the ways she continues to do it on and off stage. She started as a burlesque artist, having worked her way up in the New York City scene. Now in addition to being genuinely world famous, she is going to college for her degree in gerontology studies, she “volunqueers” (her word) at a queer teen program in NYC and producing burlesque shows at the elder queer center in NYC. The way Dolly gives back to people, BOB does that, too.

I kind of structured the whole night so I could be free to just hang and watch the 45 minute set by Doll Parts, the local Dolly Parton tribute band. They are so great!!! I went out to see their sold out show in Park Slope for Dolly’s birthday with Dara and Avory and immediately approached them about booking Dollypalooza! It’s a really fun Dolly upbeat show.

meperfidiaandmywigMe, Perfidia, and my wig who I have named “Darling.”

As a gift to myself for the show I bought a wig created and styled by Perfidia. Perfidia does World Famous *BOB*’s wigs, and Lady Quesa’Dilla, Sequinette, West Vargina’s, too. Perfidia also does the wigs for Hedwig on Broadway. When I went to pick mine up (by the way each picture he showed me with my wig had a different piece of Dolly memorabilia), he showed me the signed photo he has from when he did the wigs for 9 to 5 on Broadway!!! I have been lusting after a Perfidia wig for 2 years and never knew these were the hands that did Dolly’s hair for Broadway. (Since she produced the show, she was responsible for all that hair being good!)

Behind the scenes I have even more help this year. Camille Atkinson (who sings Light of a Clear Blue Morning on the sizzle reel for 2014’s show) is stepping in and “playing the clipboard” as my stage manager. Her work streamlining the performance preparation and venue logistics has helped my sanity soooo much!

I could not be producing this show without the incredibly capable and thoughtful work of my partner Dara. She went to town assembling our selection of silent auction prizes (see below), sending press releases, creating tool kits and trainings for flyering and soliciting prizes. She’s also helping me figure out logistics… I am bananas right now as part of last minute event stuff, but she has taken on so much to ensure it is successful. She is truly a blessing beyond my wildest dreams!

bevindaraprideMe and Dara doing our first karaoke duet (this is a big step in a relationship!) during Pride 2015 at Everybooty. We did Islands in the Stream, naturally. Photo by Tinker Coalescing.

My roommate Damien Luxe is doing karaoke on Dara’s little vintage home karaoke machine from 7-8pm at the venue while the silent auction is getting warmed up. Here’s hoping the Dolly Karaoke cds arrive in time, but we have lots of cute things to choose from if not!

Also I thought since the show is long (three 45 min sets with 15 min intermissions) I thought people would get hungry so I got the Empanada Lady to come cater. She sells empananadas at Khane Kutzwell’s party SWEAT and Dara realized we should text Khane and get her info! Even though I’m gluten sensitive I will be popping a LOT of probiotics and eating a dinner of empananadas!!

If you’re coming to the show, remember the FAN CONTEST: Cash prize for the best fan outfit of the evening! Last year Posadas won! Who will take it this year?

fan-contestPhoto by Tinker Coalescing

I am really excited to have all of this Dolly Parton fan energy in one spot! We’ve gotten some really great press so far. We’re in this week’s issue of the New Yorker magazine! We’re a full page article and photos in Time Out New York. (Performers, send your producers super hi res photos when asked it really helps get great layouts!!)

I officiated a wedding this past weekend–my first gig as a vendor, not as the friend who was asked to officiate a wedding. The couple knows how I feel about Dolly Parton and in addition to my fee for the customized ceremony I wrote for them, they donated $50 to the Imagination Library in my honor! I consider it $50 raised through Dollypalooza, and hopeful for the remaining $4,950.00 to present for our matching donor to meet our $10,000 goal!

merriecherrydollypaloozaMerrie Cherry will always love you. This is her bringing down the house last year, photo by Tinker Coalescing.

And if you want to buy any one of our silent auction prizes, I am taking proxy bids via email–queerfatfemme at gmail. Just send me your name, phone number where you can be texted at 9PM on Friday night and your max bid for the item. We’ll text if you win and arrage for you to call with your credit card number. You’ll pay shipping (if applicable) for the item.

Here’s what I wrote up for the silent auction on the Dollypalooza website!

I believe like Dolly believes that folks ought to Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More. Part of loving Dolly is giving back. 100% of the proceeds from the silent auction will go to Dolly’s charity, the Imagination Library, which gives one brand new book per month to kids in need all over the US and in a couple other countries.

All of the prizes are donated or created by Dolly Parton fans! Through a generous matching offer from a donor, all of the proceeds from the silent auction will be DOUBLED, so your money goes twice as far!

We also couldn’t stop there. We wanted to give the Dollypalooza fans the opportunity to throw five dollar bills at the Imagination Library so we are also doing a Raffle! Each ticket is $5 and you could win:
A 2 night stay in the Dollywood Cabins (a one bedroom condo) plus two tickets to Dollywood
$100 gift certificate to Sam Ash Music Stores
6 tickets to Dollywood!! Tickets to Dollywood

(ALSO I FREAKING LOVE TO SAY “YOU GO TO DOLLYWOOD” AND “YOU GO TO DOLLYWOOD” AT THE END OF THE SHOW. Living the Oprah Dolly Mash-up dream onstage!!!)

SILENT AUCTION PRIZES

1. Trip to Dollywood
Including tickets to the park, a stay at the brand new DREAM MORE resort and airfare from NYC to Knoxville!
Donated by the Dollywood Foundation & Jessica Milligan
*Airfare through United airlines, subject to limitations on availability of flights through United Mileage program, and offer of flights expires on September 4, 2016.

Dream More Resort

2. “All you gotta do is smile that smile”
Teeth Whitening Procedure
Location: West Village
Donated by: Excel Dentistry (see photo below of the actual dentist!)
Value: $500

excel dentistry

3. “Dolly of Many Colors”
Original Painting of Dolly
Harvey Del Rey, Los Angeles-based pop artist
16 x 20
DollybyHarveyDelRey

4. “It Takes a Lot of Money to Look This Cheap”
One of a Kind Handmade Needlepoint Pillow
by Jessica Milligan
Renegade Butch Arts & Crafts

JessCheapPillow

5. Dolly Silhouette
One of a Kind Handmade Needlepoint Pillow
by Jessica Milligan
Renegade Butch Arts & Crafts

JessSilhouettePillow

6. “Tough Titty” Saw
Hand painted saw based on Dolly’s quote, “If you don’t like my language, all I can say is tough titty!”
Original Art by Nik Scarlett

toughtittysawnikscarlett

7. “Last Night’s Lovin'”
Her Name is Rio Vibrator Set
Part of Je Joue’s innovative “mix, match, and play” collection, includes the motor plus two attachments: the Pebble, which offers pinpoint vibration to the clit (or other erogenous zones), and the Classic, which offers both clit and G-spot stimulation. The motor offers multiple speed settings, plus is easily removable making clean up a snap.
Donated by Babeland
$105 value

4652-a-ooh-her-name-is-rio-set

8. Autographed Occasions Cookbook (includes recipe for Dolly’s birthday cake!) & $40 gift card to Baked
Dolly’s Doughnut Bundt Cake recipe!
Donated by Baked
$75 value

Dollys_BDay_Doughnut_Cake_web_jpg_315x2000_q85

9. Dolly Make up bag, Cropped Leggings or Low Top Sneakers
Donated by Kayci Wheatly
“I love to illustrate my favorite people, but sometimes I illustrate people I don’t even like. I’m a whore like that. But that’s not the case with Dolly!”
Make up bag valued at $28
Cropped Leggings valued at $48 (only available size medium)
Low Top Sneakers valued at $82 (custom size)

dollysneakers

10. Cup of Ambition Screen Print
Hand Printed Silkscreen Poster
PatchworkPrintshop
Valued at $40

dollycupofambition

11. Dolly Saint Art Print
Portrait of dolly as a saint while smoking…
Donated by: Dirty Lola

saintdolly

12. “People always ask me how long it takes to do my hair”
Cut & Blowout or Blowout & Styling
Brooklyn, NY
Donated by Topher Gross Hair
Valued at $125

13. Love is Like a Butterfly
Original painting by David Shouse Mitchell @dsmitchellart and @davidshousemitchell #dsmitchellart

davidmitchellbutterflypainting

14. Glittered Vintage Dolly Record Albums
Six hand glittered vintage Dolly albums in frames donated by Michel Rosenthal, glitter is hard to photograph, here’s a video.
Valued at $75 each

glitterdollyalbum

15. 90s Vintage Country Singers Framed Poster
Includes Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Reba McIntire, The Judds, Dwight Yoakem, Clint Black and Randy Travis among others!
We looked everyplace we stopped along the World’s Longest Yard Sale and this was literally the only Dolly-related thing we could find. Dolly fans really hold onto their memorabilia!!
Donated by your co-femmecee for the evening & show producer Bevin Branlandingham & Outreach Coordinator Dara Barlin

90svintagecountrysingers

16. Dolly Cufflinks and a Dolly Necklace
Donated by Dan Dana Designs.
$15 + $20 value

17. Dolly altar candle and print
Donated by LastCraft
$25 value

dollyaltarcandle

18. Dolly Parton name necklace
Intentionally sized to accomodate big boobs, the chain can be adjusted as needed.
Donated by Geeky and Creepy who can do custom journals, frames and other art for any Fandom!
$20 value

geekyandcreepydollynecklace

19. Painting of Young Dolly
Original Print w/ Frame
Donated by Adriana Raby
Valued at $117

adrianarabydollypainting

20. Dolly Flask
Donated by Miss Marcie Online
$20 value

dollyflask

MERCH
A limited number of Flaming Idols Dolly votive candles will be on sale at the event for $10!

flamingidolsdolly

**About the 6 tickets to Dollywood Raffle Prize: Tickets are good through 1/3/16, can also be used as a discount towards a Dollywood Season Pass ($40 off season pass). Pro tip: If you buy a season pass in November & December it’s good for the following year, so you can go back again (it’s worth it). A Dollywood Season Pass costs less than 2 day’s park admission so get a season pass if you’re going to Dollywood for more than one day. It’s totally worth it. The Smokey Mountains are SOOO beautiful. $420 value!!

2015-01-09

Five Ways I Shake Off Body Oppressive Rhetoric During the New Year’s Resolution Bandwagon

Having spent the last three weeks traveling, between a road trip for a meeting at Dollywood and a family trip to Seattle, I’ve been really off my game. I find it so challenging to travel and meet my self-care needs.

I manage a chronic digestive disorder (Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the Western diagnosis, but I know it’s more complicated than that) with food restrictions and I can feel when my digestion isn’t working. I can get away with not eating in alignment with my body for a little while but eventually it adds up and I’ll pay a price with intense flares and body pain. It’s hard to not want to eat all the amazing food you’re exposed to when traveling. Moderation works for me until it doesn’t.

I also manage my mental and emotional health with exercise. I am still not sure what alchemy I need to carve out time for more than walking the dog when I travel, but more often than not if I pack my gym clothes and shoes I won’t use them. I’ll end up cranky and spiraling by the end of a trip from not getting my angst out on the elliptical. I know that setting better boundaries and time management when I travel is a growth area for me.

15889385960_a7632fe2fa_zWe already had the Seattle trip booked when we got a meeting with the Dollywood Foundation to partner with them for silent auction prizes for Dollypalooza in September… We decided to just go for it and took a road trip, and fulfilled my bucket list dream to see Dollywood at Christmastime. It did not disappoint.

As I was preparing to leave Seattle I found myself really excited to go to the gym and drink green juice, smoothies and detox from sugar. And as I heard the same kind of “drink all the green juice!!!” and “get a new gym membership!!!” trumpets from the anti-fat mainstream media and billion dollar weight loss industry in conjunction with the new year’s resolution influx of people working to lose weight for the umpteenth time, I felt gross about it. Like, here I was wanting to participate in something that is also being used as weapons against bodies like mine.

I thought a lot about what was going on in my head about this stuff and how it was that I have herstorically dealt with the new year’s uptick in relentless weight loss commercials, before and after I began eating in alignment with my body and going to the gym. I came up with some ways that I’ve used to make sense of the complex and seemingly contradictory relationship I have with loving my fat body, hating the sizeist media and making choices that help my body feel its best. I share them below.

1. Run your own race

I like to remember that everyone has their own life and their own life challenges. It’s really difficult to live in a society that literally has a war on body types like yours. In my case, the war on obesity hits home, but other bodies are under attack–people of color, disabled folks, transfolks, aging people. It’s also true that oppression of any body affects all, so the fear of becoming fat, or old, or disabled affects the narrative and creates a society where no body is safe.

So that said, people who need to focus on diet and exercise to lose weight, I just let them do their own stuff. That’s their life path, not mine. I am very self aware and know that my choice to go to the gym doesn’t mean I think my fat body is bad. I also don’t expect some kind of wild body transformation. I do expect that as I keep going back I’m going to feel calmer and more at peace with my surroundings and the onset of Winter and the Winter Blah Blah Blahs (aka Seasonal Depression). (P.S. I’m writing this blog post while sitting under my NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy LampUV Happy Light.)

16085137075_a651db95c4_zSpeaking of lights, that’s a hologram of Dolly Parton playing the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Dollywood production of A Christmas Carol.

2. You are worthy of love exactly as you are.

All of the “NEW YEAR NEW YOU” rhetoric (actual graphic I saw on the itunes store app center thingy this morning) is basically shorthand for you’re not good enough. Remember there are multiple billion dollar industries that require you to feel insecure in order to sell you products. It is not in their best interest that you feel good about yourself.

But here’s the thing. Today, right now, you sitting right there. You are actually good enough because you are human and you are worthy. That’s something you can choose to believe.

There’s a myth that losing weight and modifying yourself is going to make you feel worthy, but self-acceptance is actually the surest way to make yourself feel that way. I know a lot of people who have lost weight in a myriad of ways, and the thing that seems the most common among them is that people who started out hating their bodies had a lot of self hate left once the weight was gone. Wild insecurities pop up when you lose weight and haven’t lost the hate for your body.

It’s not like we don’t all have ways we want to grow and change, change is the only constant in life. I’m a lifelong learner and self-developer. But I know even as I have “areas for growth” (I’m always working on improving my language to be more gentle with myself) I’m worthy right now. It’s just choosing to shift your perspective to believe that you’re worthy and accept yourself as you are. Maybe that’s a change you can work on for the NEW YEAR NEW YOU.

15897718658_474ccf4ff1_zThis kettle corn that I watched get made in front of me was very inflammatory and very delicious. Moderation in all things, including moderation, said Maya Angelou.

2. Be critical of the media you consume

When I was first getting involved in size acceptance I went on a complete media diet. I focused only on size positive or size neutral things. I obsessively collected pictures of cute fat people and put them around my house so I could see them. I trained myself to see fat as positive.

Now I’m able to employ lots of techniques for consuming mass media (that’s probably a whole other blog post). I work to be very critical of what I consume.

I was in the airport and saw the new Self magazine with a big headline of “Love Your Body.” I didn’t have the chance to read it because I was too busy being paranoid because I was accidentally high, but I went onto the website to find out if they were really joining the bandwagon of loving your body as it is. And I saw that the Love Your Body headline right where every other month has weight loss tips, and I looked through their website and saw all of their weight loss articles, so I realized they were just co-opting language to sell weight loss! Real classy Self magazine!

This time of year especially, I work my hardest to remind myself that mass media is not the boss of me and try not to get defensive or mad every time I see something that advertises quick weight loss or uses headless fatties to scare folks about fat. Getting defensive or mad is totally a valid response, though, and my rage does flow through, but rolling my eyes is better for my stress level. I remind myself that lots of fat people are really healthy. Health at Every Size is all about people at all sizes having access to activities that are good for your health. And that is an inconvenient truth for magazines that rely on fear of weight gain in order to sell copies.

I know that choosing to go to the gym is all about me loving my body and not about me losing weight in order to love my body, a complexity that seems contradictory but is actually not at all to me. I worked really hard to make peace with that.

I also know that people who are fat and don’t choose to go to the gym or restrict their eating are totally worthy of love, too! There is no “good” or “bad” way to have a body, it’s just a body!

16076930595_5d2229e69f_zMe and my fat friend Santa just hanging out on a porch in front of the Christmas buffet. I actually found the buffet meals to be full of food options for lots of dietary restrictions. In addition to a mac and cheese station.

4. Replace should with could

This is a wonderful strategy for treating yourself with kindness. I used to be the kind of person whose resting thoughts were always on the ways in which I needed to improve myself. “I should learn Spanish. I should eat better. I should be working on my book. I should get back into working on neurolinguistic programming.” That’s an actual transcript of my inner self abuser that I just tapped into. I can go DEEP into self-shaming with shoulds.

Because I’m still a work in progress and I believe language is so powerful, I have been working for about a year on replacing my shoulds with coulds. “I could learn Spanish. I could be working on my book…” It’s so much gentler. This constant New Year’s chatter of all the ways you should change keeps reminding me of the ways I want to change. But instead of hearing “You should go to the gym” I am hearing, “I could go to the gym.” I am hearing, “I could organize my room.”

5. Every BODY is different

Dr. Phil is full of complexities and I don’t love all of his messages, but he said one thing that really hit home for me when I was early in my fat activist days. I was in a place of “I’ll eat a cupcake whenever I want” as a way to express fat rage. (That’s still a totally valid place to be, of course, but I like to be strategic about my fuck yous and eating a cupcake more than once in awhile will cause me a lot of pain so I don’t.)

Dr. Phil said something on his show specifically about sweet tea that I haven’t ever forgotten. It’s that, basically, all bodies are different and he drinks a glass of sweet tea and gains weight and lots of folks drink a glass of sweet tea and stay thin.

His point was that he had no control over the type of body he has and he had to accept it. And that’s just kind of how things are. Like, it feels really shitty that I got this amazing huge gift basket from a professional colleague for the holidays and pretty much everything in it, wine, crackers, pretzels, caramel corn, hot cocoa, is all food that will make me sick. That fucking sucks. But I’m at a place where I am choosing to accept and love myself for who I am and that means cherishing the complex body I was given.

And I would love to eat a fuck you mass media cupcake, and I probably will eventually. But in the meantime I’m going to accept my body and do the work it needs to do to feel good, so that I can do the work I want to be doing in the world to change it. To create media that helps people feel good in the bodies they have and become the people they want to become by cheering them on instead of shaming them.

15890219499_633f4fb47f_zHow about a fuck you 25 pound apple pie from Dollywood?

Do you have additional ways you choose to shake off the body oppressive media this time of year and/or manage to strike a balance with your own personal wellness goals?

2014-10-04

How Dolly Parton Taught Me to Have Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

I have been a Dolly fan my entire life. The more I’ve gotten to know her personality, her charity work and her life philosophy she’s just endeared to me even more. I consider Dolly Parton a business and professional role model as well as a spiritual guru.

My favorite way to get folks to really get to know Dolly is to encourage them to listen to her audiobook version of My Life and Other Unfinished Business, her 1994 memoir. I’ve listened to it over a dozen times and it’s the reason I still own a cassette player because that’s how it was published. I love to put it on while I’m cleaning the house.

My favorite quote from her book is this, “All my life … I have been driven by three things; three mysteries I wanted to know more about; three passions. They are God, music and sex. I would like to say that I have listed them in the order of their importance to me, but their pecking order is subject to change without warning.” As quoted from this great 2000 Salon.com article about Dolly.

I think it’s pretty amazing that one of my favorite celebrities has her own theme park and I wanted to make the pilgrimage someday. It’s hard as a working artist to be able to carve out money and time to do a trip for fun like that. In fact, I’d planned about eight trips with friends that had all fallen through, including going to Knoxville for business just an hour away from Pigeon Forge but not having time to go to Dollywood.

My dear friend Jess is also a deep Dolly Parton fan, and had free tickets to Dollywood good for this past Spring. She invited me and Dara to come along, knowing we were going through chemo as patient and caregiver. Dara ended up declining because a theme park would be too taxing for her low energy level and being immune compromised around little kids is a dicey proposition. She encouraged me to go anyway, so I said YES to Jess’s generous offer of her airline miles to get me down there.

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Because I’d had so many Dollywood trips fall through it took until the week before the trip, once the flight was really booked, that I believed it. Once I believed it, I started listening to nothing but Dolly Parton and took another turn through her memoir.

On the first audiocassette of the book Dolly talks about having faith the size of a mustard seed. She’s not super Bible focused when she speaks about God, mostly she’s into the generally benevolent higher power version of God, but this instance she talked about how one only needs to have faith in the tiniest amount, but really believe in it, in order for the faith to be effective.

Jess was flying in from San Francisco and we met late on Thursday night at the Knoxville airport and drove to our Dollywood Cabin.

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Friday morning we stopped for breakfast in Pigeon Forge on the way to Dollywood at Reagan’s Pancake House. We noticed all along the main drag in Pigeon Forge that folks had set out camp chairs as though for a parade, but no one was there. First of all, we noted that no one in a big city would be able to leave anything anywhere and expect to find it again. It was super quaint and country, we were totally delighted by those trusting chairs.

When our server sat us he asked if Jess and I were visiting from Michigan. That was odd but, we felt, the Goddess giving us a high five—since Jess is originally from Michigan and that’s where we met.

We asked him what was going on and he said, “A parade.” We asked if we would like it and he answered with an apathetic shrug, “I guess, if you like Dolly Parton.” We were shocked!

First of all, I was wearing a “What Would Dolly Do?” tee shirt, and we were visiting the Smokey Mountains from really far away, chances are high we like Dolly Parton. Second of all, pretty much all fans are primed from the beginning that it’s rare to see Dolly at Dollywood. She’s a busy celebrity doing her celebrity things all over the world (this summer, in fact, at 68 years old she started another world tour).

14111684103_79592f3cd8_oMy What Would Dolly Do tee shirt is a handmedown from my friend Bridget. This is me and Jess on Dolly’s tour bus at Dollywood. I’m holding her tea set, which is glued to the counter.

We quickly smartphoned all the information about the parade and the weekend. We had stumbled upon Dolly’s homecoming weekend! We knew we’d be able to see her in a parade at Dollywood that afternoon and again at the parade in Downtown Pigeon Forge, where all the chairs were waiting, at 6PM. We decided this was the Goddess bringing us to Dollywood on this specific weekend and were delighted at this turn of events!

We got some advice from park workers about the best strategy to see Dolly’s parade in the park and then get downtown for the big parade (by making sure we went towards the exit of the park to see the tail end of the park parade, to get us ahead of the crowd). I got pretty good at sensing the fan energy and started noticing when folks would congregate in weird spots, those were the folks to go ask about Dolly goings-on. We learned about dollymania.net, the premier Dolly Parton fan website, that had a whole list of Homecoming Weekend activities.

Dollywood has tons of shows, which I think makes it a great all-ages kind of place that’s not just about thrill rides. I noticed that there was a show called “My People” premiering the next morning that had a bunch of Dolly’s family in it. I told Jess, “I bet Dolly is going to be there.” Nothing published on fan sites or in the Dollywood schedule confirmed my suspicion, but I just knew. Dolly is so family-oriented, if she was in town for the premier, of course she’d be there!

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We saw both parades and they were awesome. We even go to walk the parade route through Dollywood on our way to strategically be near the exit and it was really cool to have the Dolly perspective on the parade route, all the eager fans lined up waiting to wave at her. It was so magical and a little overwhelming. Though, I’m sure if you had been a celebrity for 50 years like Dolly has, you might get used to it.

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This was the first time I’d ever seen her in person and she was so cute! In person she looked a lot like my Grandmother, another blonde femme icon of mine, who is a glamorous woman with a big smile and lots of lip gloss.

After the parade, we left the park and I had a hunch Dolly would be getting off her little wagon thing just inside the parking lot and I was right, catching a quick photo of her getting into her Dolly van, that matches the Dolly tour bus we had gone through that morning in the park.

14106260314_06f3203455_zI try to be a super respectful fan and keep my distance. If she hadn’t just been doing a public appearance I wouldn’t have tried to snap a photo.

At dinner that night, after seeing Dolly again in an outfit change at the downtown parade, we tried to figure out how to get to the 10:30AM premier of the My People show as early as possible. The park opened at 10, so we figured we could get into the parking lot at 9. Nothing confirmed any of this, but we had a hunch and just kept following our intuition. Following our intuition kept aligning us with things that were totally delightful.

13919219119_92e5c91e95_zThe Downtown parade was very Southern, small town and a great way to sample all of the dinner shows and entertainment available outside of Dollywood–Pigeon Forge is a big tourist town.

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13919227430_8cf7c81127_zJust after Dolly went by us there was a rainbow that came out of nowhere just above us. Another high five from the Goddess.

We were prepared to stand in line at the gate to the park for a long time, but though we got in line at 9:15 or so, they started letting us in right away. I didn’t exactly RUN to the theater where the My People show was playing, but I walked really fast. And by the time we got there, the line was already incredibly long.

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In front of us was a Southern family. The matriarch’s aesthetic was totally delightful—she had a gorgeous white Southern hairdo, right from Steel Magnolias and a matching seafoam green pantsuit that was likely from QVC. I love that kind of style, and I told her how much I liked her outfit.

The family in front of us kept talking about how we “definitely” weren’t going to get in to the show. I mean, it was 9:30AM and we were already in line for it, but because there were VIPs at the show people were filing into a special side entrance to the theater. The more VIPs that came, the less likely it was that we, the general public, would get seats.

A park employee told the dad from the family in front of us that there was “no way” we were getting in. I just kept telling Jess, pointedly, that Dolly Parton says to have faith the size of a mustard seed, and that we were going to have faith that this was our time to see Dolly. Jess kept supporting me by saying, “Whatever you want to do, I’m following you.”

I was surprised that the family in front of us even stayed in line, given how Doubting Thomas they were about our chances of getting seats. They could have just gone on to enjoy their day in the park. I saw the line behind us thickening and the VIP line streaming folks, including several obvious Parton family members. (Dolly is one of twelve siblings—that’s a big brood.)

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Once our line started moving I got a little nervous for the moment of truth. We wound our way to the entrance of the theater and stopped about ten people from the front. A theater personnel in a Dollywood smock poked her head out and said, “Sorry, no more seats.” Many of the people behind us left, but me and Jess and the folks ahead of us stayed put.

The theater person poked her head out again and said, “We’re not going to be able to seat you.” A couple folks ahead of us in long denim skirts abandoned the line. I turned to Jess, “Well, if I were Dolly Parton I’d point out that she didn’t say anything about standing room.” I had my faith set on seeing Dolly that morning.

She came out a third time and tried to shoo us away but we would not be moved, even the Doubting Thomas family stayed put. I figured maybe they were doubting in words but not in action. I kept repeating that we were having faith the size of a mustard seed to Jess.

Then, moments after the last naysay, the door opened and we were let into the theater. We streamed in, quietly and quickly shuffling through to a huge section in the center of the theater, a bunch of seats marked “reserved.” We were fifth row center!

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And just after we sat down, out of the corner of my eye I saw a rhinestone costume through the curtains and followed the costume up to see Dolly Rebecca Parton eyeballing the crowd! I gasped and pointed Jess towards it.

My heart was so full at that moment I started to cry. It’s so rare that you get the visceral experience of having faith in something that required triumphing over doubts, adversity and people saying “No.” Most of the time these things play out over months of years, rarely does it all happen within an hour with a very satisfying crescendo. It was a lot of emotion! And I felt so vindicated following my faith and intuition.

Dolly came out and took a seat about two rows and a few seats to the right of us, right off the aisle.

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She watched the show with us, which involved her family members and a band playing music live along with a video screen of Dolly performing from above them. It was very surreal to watch Dolly perform on a TV while she was sitting just to our right.

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15243325217_69093e255b_zHer super hot niece, Heidi Lou, performing in the show.

15243328327_1abec55f9e_zDolly on stage with her sister, brother, niece and some other relation.

If I had given up when it seemed hard, impossible or a waste of my vacation day to wait in line for the chance to see her, I wouldn’t have had that experience. During a year in my life that proved to be the most difficult, with one crisis following another, it was the perfect time to be reminded of the power of faith. As much as I’ve admired Dolly for so many reasons, she is a model to me for perseverance and believing in yourself, in spite of all of the Doubting Thomases in the world.

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2014-09-16

Post Cancer Treatment Life in a Nutshell

It’s been awhile since I posted substantively and when I get to this point I get into these quagmires, “But there’s no context for me on my blog anymore!” I like this space to be an ongoing narrative of who I am and what I’m doing at the intersections of these identities of queer, fat and femme. So to kick off more posts about what I’m excited about, here’s a newsy update.

IMG_20140816_203125Dara and I had a great “progressive dinner” date where we went to three different restaurants for different courses. This was for the vegan ice cream course at Van Leeuwan in Brooklyn.

Post Cancer Treatment

Dara is doing well post-cancer treatment. She is really loving life, she has a zest that is similar to her love of life pre-treatment, except her zest is more gentle and self-loving now. She has a way of really being present and relaxing into the idea that a day doing nothing is the perfect way to keep from working too much.

IMG_20140822_220118Me and Dara at a rooftop party a couple of weeks ago. I love when you get to tower over a sea of blingie skyscrapers.

We have so much fun together. We had fun during cancer, she often tells me I “made cancer fun.” My opinion throughout was why should cancer treatment not be a series of tumblr post worthy, good photo opportunity adventures? So that’s what it kind of was. But even as we made the best of things, it was still with a bit of a pall covering everything. Without most of that damper we’re having even more fun now. Everything feels a bit more joyful, with the gratitude of not being in cancer treatment.

We’re doing tons of new stuff. We went to a park neither of us had been to at the foot of the George Washington Bridge on the Hudson River to take a tennis lesson. I haven’t played tennis as an adult and I never took to it in high school; I don’t mean to brag but I lettered in badminton. I was all set on racket sports and didn’t need that clunky tennis racket to cloud my badminton focus!

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But tennis as an adult! It’s pretty fun and quite a workout. I’m sold! Dara and I went to another tennis lesson in a different park and it wasn’t nearly as fun, so now we’re on the hunt for the perfect city tennis situation.

She has her zest back but not quite her endurance… she injured her knee and two other body parts within a week. She has insomnia from the Tamoxifin, a hormone blocker that she has to take forever. Or like 10 years. So that’s another ding for energy.

We are hoping to go apple picking and camping this month! And next month we’ll reprise our trip to Southern California we were supposed to take in June when her father passed away suddenly. It feels healing to schedule out the adventures we want to take and folks we want to visit. I feel really lucky we’re able to do that.

Lucky is a great way to describe how we feel post treatment—we saw the movie the Fault in Our Stars, about a teenage girl with terminal cancer. It really hit home how temporary love can be. And even though the length of love is sometimes short, it can still have important, life changing intensity.

I feel like Dara’s cancer treatment was a life changing intensity time for me… as it was for Dara. We’re excited to see what our relationship is like after cancer treatment. I think we’ll both be different after treatment. (This was also why I declined to move in with her after cancer treatment—I want us to just have fun together for awhile instead of adding another pile of stress to the end of what has been a really difficult year for me.)

Macy’s Recovery

20140821_175210Family selfie.

My beloved dog Macy had surgery for a ruptured disc in July and her recovery is ongoing. Her intense separation anxiety post-hospital has finally waned. Perhaps it was taking her to that first tennis lesson with all that noise and flying balls that convinced her that insisting on being with her people 24/7 wasn’t necessary, but she is finally able to be left at home alone again. For awhile I couldn’t even leave her in my bedroom for two minutes without her wailing. It was very intense.

Macy has to begin pricey physical therapy for her hind leg. She is walking on all of her legs, which is huge progress from the surgery, but she’s limping really hard, her body is shaped kind of like a comma when she walks, curved to the right. She can’t jump onto furniture and she can’t push open the doors in the house anymore like she used to, and she’s bearing 80% of her weight on the front legs which can lead to more problems down the road.

I hope that the physical therapy involves hydro therapy because it is very cute to watch in you tube videos. It’s also very successful at strengthening weakened legs so I’m hopeful for a full recovery.

IMG_20140816_214812The third stop on our progressive dinner date, short ribs poutine from Mile End. Macy in her “accessibility backpack” that enabled us to take her all over the place this summer when she couldn’t be left alone. She even went to an outdoor YoYo Ma concert with Dara in the Berkshires! I picked up the backpack on Amazon for $44 and think it’s a great value.

Macy’s only ten years old and she’s otherwise perfectly healthy. Her veterinary neurologist expects that she’ll live out her days (Shih Tzus live to be about 16). So here’s a pro-tip, if your friend’s dog has had major surgery, don’t say anything like “She’s had a great life!” It’s really different to have a pet diagnosed with a chronic illness or an injury than to get a terminal diagnosis! She has had a great life (she was photographed in Time Out New York and Curve Magazine before I ever was!) but she has a lot more life to live!

I am still visioning for Macy to make it into People Magazine and Southern Living Magazine, two of my favorites. Maybe even Oprah Mag. But mostly, I’m still visioning lots of fun adventures for my charming and magical Shih Tzu!

Plus Size Party Girl

Instead of producing monthly parties, I’m now focusing my energy on less frequent bigger productions. Though, in lieu of all of that, I took a hiatus while Dara was going through treatment.

I just finished producing Dollypalooza, an Epic Fan Tribute to Dolly Parton on 9/5 (get it?). It was the biggest production I’ve ever taken on single-handedly. (Way to come back to party planning with a bang!)

bevingroupsingdollypaloozabyJenaCumboDrae Campbell, Miss Mary Wanna, Me, World Famous *BOB* and MILK from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6. Photo by Jena Cumbo for the Village Voice.

It reminded me of the intensity of Picnic Day when I was in college. That was the UC Davis open house—all departments, student organizations, sports teams, etc… put on some kind of exhibit or event. There was a parade, six stages of entertainment, a student activities fair. Legendary events during my tenure on the Picnic Day Board were the dachshund races in the basketball stadium, cockroach races in the Entemology Department and the fistulated cow demonstration by the College of Agriculture. The fistulated cow was a cow who had a hole cut into her stomach so people could put on a glove and reach their hand into the cow’s stomach to retrieve partially digested grass–cows digest the same food several times. It was rightfully shut down by animal rights protestors in the late 90s.

Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into coordinating that kind of event, involving a board of 20 and 500+ volunteers. There was a frenzy that overtook me and the entire board of organizers of Picnic Day the week before the event. I remember super late nights in the Picnic Day office laminating photographs into security passes. Dollypalooza was the closest I’ve ever come as an adult to that feeling. I love planning and executing major events, especially unusual ones that bring people joy. The lights in folks’ eyes when I fliered for Dollypalooza let me know I was on to something.

IMG_20140906_153536Me and my hero World Famous *BOB*–as her performance she told an amazing story about meeting Dolly Parton and had everyone from the show on stage at the end to group sing Hard Candy Christmas.

We made almost $700 for the Imagination Library in the raffle, Dolly’s literacy charity that sends books every month to kids in need, and it was an unforgettable show. I am brimming with ideas for next year. But I definitely know I can’t take on anything like that single-handedly again. I’m super grateful for Dara’s help—she did some amazing PR work that got a videographer from ABC News to come by, and some interest from People Magazine. My friend Jess, who brought me to Dollywood for the first time, took over the raffle and made that part so easy for me. We also figured out how to do a contest to send the performer who brought the most people in the door to Dollywood and got a raffle donation from Dollywood Cabins! At the end of the show, I felt like Oprah telling people “You go to Dollywood! And YOU go to Dollywood!”

IMG_6337The gorgeous view from the Dollywood Cabin I stayed in last May.

Mental and Emotional Health

Seeing a counselor with the Lesbian Cancer Initiative was the best choice I made as a caregiver during treatment. She pointed out to me going into post-treatment that I would have an adjustment period, and so would Dara. It is a significant energy shift.

IMG_20140829_162150This isn’t for the LCI but it’s from Callen Lorde, my physical health provider.

I’m in the weird process of looking for a therapist for the first time in my adult life. I’ve got about 50 possibilities from friends and am whittling it down. I am intentionally being really public about this process because my mental and emotional health are really high priorities for me and I want to encourage folks to feel empowered about seeking help. While things feel like the “calm after the storm” right now, I also think that the amount of life traumas I’ve faced in the past 12 months is unusual and I’d like to sort through them with a professional. Last night I had a dream about a friend of mine who passed last November and I’m about to go to Atlanta for the first time since her funeral. Crisis mode means you just scoot from one trauma to the next without digesting time, and I want to make sure I can go back in and digest things. Kind of like a metaphorical fistulated cow demonstration.

So that’s me in a nutshell (I really wish I had a picture of me in a nutshell).

Oh, and the first stop on our progressive dinner date (all in outdoor venues that allowed us to have our special needs Shih Tzu) was crispy kale salad in the backyard of Battersby… It was a great date!

2014-07-22

Announcing Dollypalooza September 5th in Brooklyn, NY!

About three months ago I was in Pigeon Forge, TN on a trip to Dollywood with my friend Jess. We are both super fans of Dolly Parton but didn’t think that our adventure to Dollywood was going to be anything more than just a fun trip to check something off my bucket list. We stumbled onto Dolly’s homecoming weekend at the park and a convening of more Dolly fans than I’d ever been around at one time. The energy was intoxicating!

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One highlight from the weekend was going to Night of 1,000 Dollys at a gay bar in Knoxville. There were actually only about 8 Dollys I think, but I couldn’t tell for sure. We couldn’t make it into the bar because it was so packed, but we had a great time in line meeting local folks and taking photos with all the amazing Dolly styled queens who walked by!

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I was super inspired by the event. I’ve produced several Rebel Cupcakes around Dolly Parton themes, including a staged reading of Steel Magnolias with me performing as Dolly’s character Truvy. But I wanted to do it bigger than I have ever done before.

When I got home I booked a great venue, with a huge stage and a backstage area worthy of a LOT of queens ready to honor the glitteriest star in modern times. I love Dolly Parton and I am so thrilled to bring this vision to life!

IMG_6618I kept taking pictures of Jess with the queens and she would be like, “Are you sure you don’t want one.” And I told her, “When the right Dolly comes out, I’ll know it’s time.” This was my Dolly choice.

The event takes place on 9/5–fantastic homage to the song 9 to 5!

Friday, September 5th, 2014 * New York, NY
Bevin Branlandingham Presents
DOLLYPALOOZA: An Epic Fan Tribute to Dolly Parton
Doors 11p, Show 11:45 * $12 early advance, $15 advance, $20 at the door
http://dollypalooza.brownpapertickets.com
LITTLEFIELD, 622 DeGraw Street, Gowanus, Brooklyn, NY
Atlantic Terminal (2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q trains) /Carroll St. (F & G trains)

Dolly Parton has inspired generations of performers and we gather to salute her positivity, flamboyance and high glitz glamour!

Come one, come all, as we use drag, burlesque, live music, performance art and glitter to celebrate all there is to love about Dolly Parton!

Featuring:
World Famous *BOB* performed Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” while distributing candy canes from her bra at a Rebel Cupcake show in 2011.

Nath Ann Carrera performs a show entitled “I Don’t Want To Throw Rice, I Want To Throw Rocks: The Early Southern Gothicism Of Dolly Parton!”

Merrie Cherrie is a glittery leader in performance communities, much like Dolly herself.

Chris (of Hur) was deemed the most avid Dolly Parton fan of the New York drag scene.

Sequinette created an act about Dolly’s secret Butch lesbian lifestyle.

West Vargina joins Sequinette in recreating Dolly’s vision of the Stairway to Heaven.

Miss Mary Wanna once performed a risquee butter double team number to Dolly’s “Potential New Boyfriend.”

Femmecee Bevin Branlandingham named her law firm after her favorite Dolly Parton movie and considers Dolly a spiritual guru.

and MANY more performers!

Interested in performing at Dollypalooza? Apply here by August 10th.

IMG_6566Examples of great Dolly fan outfits.

FAN CONTEST: Cash prize for the best fan outfit of the evening!
Nath Ann Carrera also DJs before and after the show, there will be epic Dolly dancing!

RAFFLE: A raffle to benefit Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (a literacy program that provides one book per month directly to children who need it) will feature amazing prizes!!

RSVP on Facebook!

Accessibility notes: There is plenty of street parking available. There are gender neutral single occupancy bathrooms. Littlefield is wheelchair accessible. Some seating available for folks who need it. Email queerfatfemme at gmail.com

2014-05-07

May Astrology Self Development Worksheet with Empowering Astrology

may_woo

I was just thinking to myself that since it’s May 7th and Mercury moved into Gemini that I needed to schedule an informational interview to take advantage of this astrological energy as per my worksheet with Katie from Empowering Astrology… And then I remembered I finished it as I was off to Dollywood and haven’t posted it to the blog yet! Sorry about that folks! I got distracted by the celestial magic that happened when I was among Dolly super fans… and oh yeah, Dolly Parton herself not one but four times this weekend! WHAT!?! Such a great weekend, more to come.

14107969796_4fdc1ff0cc_bMe and my amazing friend Jess at the Dollywood sign.

13919217139_192e24c75d_bDolly Parton atop her float in her Homecoming Parade through Downtown Pigeon Forge.

In the meantime, May is a great month to move ahead and make some inroads into all the things your curiosity is leading you to! This month’s exercises are all about paying attention to those secret things your heart is longing for and taking some steps to make them happen.

You can download the free guide here!

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