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

2017-04-28

I Need to Tell You About the Tidy Cats Breeze Litter Box System

I have always been so annoyed with cat litter and have tried SO many kinds over the years. I used Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat for Older cats and the formula for long hair cats for a few months when my beloved boys ALF and Bear were still with me. (I did one box with that and one box of clay litter. They appreciated the variety.)

I really appreciate that I’ve inherited all of my Grandmother’s cat stuff. She had a Persian cat throw pillow!

I tried the newspaper litter. I tried one bag of the “World’s Best” cat litter which I immediately hated because of the smell and it almost clogged my toilet. I pretty much never use the toilet for cat litter but it said it was safe on the bag!

There was the regular clay stuff, the clumping clay stuff and it always ended up with bits of litter everywhere. Oh man, one of my biggest pet peeves is being barefoot and having litter stuck to my feet. My Persian Princes would sometimes get the litter clumps stuck to their paws and then there would be weird clumps on my floor. Cat litter is as insidious as glitter but NOT as cute.

The best I found with ALF and Bear was lightweight cat litter. It was a mix of clay clumping litter and the cedar stuff and was a miracle as far as I was concerned, at that point carless in Brooklyn. I had to buy it at Petsmart on Atlantic Ave and take the bus home, with many pounds of cat litter in my granny cart. Let me tell you, lightweight litter made a huge difference in the schlep and in scooping.

When I was pondering Biscuit Reynolds and waiting for the right moment to bring him into my life, I saw an ad for Tidy Cats Breeze on Petfinder.com. I want to support businesses who support pet rescue organizations and websites. I went down the internet rabbit hole researching it months before we adopted Biscuit Reynolds. I knew the litter system I wanted to try before I even had a cat in mind.

It’s been over six months of cat litter dream life–I do not say this lightly, I LOVE MY CAT LITTER SYSTEM.

Here’s how it works. You have a litter box, but instead of tiny pieces of clay litter, it’s got bigger pellets made of some kind of sustainable material (I can’t find it while writing this article but I remember from my internet rabbit hole that it was plastic and foam). The pellets are about the size of a piece of rabbit food. You don’t use a ton and they last for about a month, with regular refills from your stash.

The pee goes through the tray through small slats into an absorbent pad (puppy pads in a specific shape for the box), which is supposed to be changed once a week or more depending on how many cats you have. Biscuit Reynolds drinks A LOT of water because of his Urinary Tract Diet food, and I still only need to change it once a week. When you forget to change it, you will start to smell it and the tray gets soggy and needs to be drained in the toilet before you toss it and rinsed. When I do it just once a week I don’t need to rinse the tray. I use the plastic sleeve from unsolicited newspapers/advertisements that end up on my doorstep to throw away the pads. They’re the perfect size.

Cat poo hangs out in the top amongst the pellets and you are meant to scoop it daily. I didn’t like the scoop (Biscuit Reynolds gets mushy poos every fourth turd, and it makes the scoop messy) so now I use plastic grocery bags and pick it up like I pick up Macy’s poo when she goes on a walk. Dara hates poo so I have a pledge that I will try to immediately remove poo. Biscuit Reynolds LOVES to immediately poo once I’ve grabbed the last poo.

Since we live in California there’s a law against plastic grocery bags, they cost 10-15 cents and aren’t the cheap disposable kind and are more sturdy. I import them from Dara’s mom in Las Vegas who generously supplies us with a huge stash when we see her.

Other than his smelly mushy poos and when I’ve gone longer than a week without changing the pad, I have never had a smell from the box. It is pleasant, the pellets are easy to throw back into the box and I’m dealing with 90% less litter outside of the box than I ever did before.

I change the whole box of pellets out monthly and give the litter system a full scrub inside and out with all purpose cleaner during that change.

I think the cost compared to what I was paying before in conventional litter (where I would have to scoop pee out constantly, and change the whole box at least weekly) is roughly the same. The pads and the pellets aren’t cheap. I buy it on Amazon 100% of the time and have done a lot of math to figure out cost per pad and cost per pound of pellets. Buying in bulk is the way to go. (Here’s a link to a listing for 10 packs of 4 pads each, which is 40 pads, for $61–which is just over $1.50 per week for the pads.)

A couple of Amazon reviews offer some cheap solutions about cleaning the pellets, but I find that because of mushy poos I have a lot of natural attrition and can’t clean (nor do I really want to do that work). Someone suggested using airsoft pellets for airsoft rifles which are waaaaay cheaper. I might try because they come in fun colors.

Anyway, I am truly obsessed with my Tidy Cats Breeze Litter System and have recommended it to at least 10 friends. Try it out, there’s a money back guarantee. It’s $29 for the first month’s supply of pads and pellets and the box, which is a mighty bargain for a cat box.

I will always disclose when I’ve received compensation for a product review and I am just an honest fan of this litter system. If you try it let me know how it goes for you!

Femme Stoner hotel room party with crafts, snacks and squishy faced muppet pets. Katy’s arm makes an appearance.

As an aside, if you find yourself moving and you have a cat, keep your whole supply of litter accessories with you when you go to the hotel. I kept two weeks worth in the car with me when I moved but I still haven’t found the box that has the Tidy Cats Breeze pads in it so I had to buy more prematurely.

2017-03-13

Introducing Our Rescue Persian Biscuit Reynolds

When I first saw the Harry Potter movie that starred Crookshanks the cat, I became singularly obsessed with getting a squishy faced orange cat like him and the lasagna obsessed Garfield comic from my youth. When it came time to get a cat (in 2007) I was on the hunt for rescues that had a squishy faced orange cat, which in cat speak is known as a “red Persian” or an “exotic short hair” depending on the texture of hair you want to deal with. My second choice cat was a Himalayan, the same kind of cat my friends Becky and Christie had. Himalayans are a cross between a Persian and a Siamese, which I now know to mean extra loud.

Fate stepped in and I got the goldmine. Two cats were available for adoption from a woman whose daughter was allergic to them, they were older boy cats (my fav because boy cats are more snuggly and older cats are more mellow). One was a red Persian and the other was a Himalayan.

A Family portrait I had done by Kelsey Dickey the day before Bear POTSA. They were totally fine with me picking them both up at the same time.

I had eight beautiful years with ALF and Bear and I still miss them a lot. I had a hole in my heart after they left. I learned that cats and dogs provide really specific energy work—apparently purring cats heal via specific vibration. The first time I felt a cat purr was at bookstore a few months after ALF passed and I burst into tears, not out of sadness but more of a release of something pent up.

To say Biscuit Reynolds was planned is an understatement. As soon as I knew we were thinking about moving to LA (we started the “thought process” over a year before we left NYC) I had to suspend my only recently begun search. It wasn’t fair to get a cat knowing that I would have to move him cross country. I also was having no luck finding Persians in NYC rescues and there is a Persian cat rescue here in LA so I figured I’d just hold out til we got here.

Our adoption photo.

Of course, even after we found our house, it was months before we were finally ready to get a cat. Honestly, we still weren’t ready I was just in need of special cat bonding and healing. My friend had just taken her life via suicide and I decided we would just go to the next adoption event Dara was in town for and see if there was a cat we bonded with. She travels a ton for work, and the one time I went to an adoption event without her I didn’t get the cat I applied for, partially because Dara wasn’t with me.

It was the day of the Dolly Parton concert at the Hollywood Bowl, not the most ideal timing to schlep to Santa Monica (it’s 40 minutes without traffic), but I was determined. We got there just as it opened and they were still decorating the crates the cats were in. The abundance of gorgeous Persians was so wonderful and most of them were boys.

Biscuit Reynolds is named for a favorite Southern food, reminiscent of a few folks I’ve lost, and one of Dolly Parton’s leading men with a strong mustache.

You guys, the politics of rescue orgs is really interesting. There was one cat that was already spoken for. After interacting with all of the rest of the cats available for adoption we both really liked this orange and white Persian on the end of the cages. We hung out with him and talked to his foster mom and the rescue owner about adopting him and they were so weird about it. They didn’t like him with a dog simply because they didn’t know how he would interact with a dog. Our dog Macy is the ideal cat companion dog because she defers to cats to set the boundaries. This was not a selling point.

Anyway, we went out to grab a coffee and talk about the cat situation and came back and he was already adopted by someone else. We found out that it was someone who was a friend of the foster mom. I don’t understand why they didn’t just say, “We’re saving him for my friend.” It would have saved us from certain heartbreak about losing that cat!

Macy and Biscuit are on instagram as BiscuitandMacy.

We hung out with a couple other cats, this white Persian who I recognized from the Facebook feed for months who had a lot of special needs. Dara was pretty adamant that my time with ALF and Bear in their last three years—subcutaneous fluids for kidney failure, sundowning, peeing in the hallway—was enough special needs and we needed an easier cat. Plus she wasn’t feeling him.

Enter Biscuit Reynolds. I hadn’t considered him because I misunderstood which cat was spoken for. He looked just like the original cat who went to the friend of the foster mom. He was super snuggly with us and really sweet. The thing I wanted most in a cat was a good snuggler. He was supposedly 4 or 5 years old, had been surrendered by a previous owner who had adopted through the rescue. The owner was a touring musician whose roommate let Biscuit get out and he got lost for a few days.

He was on special urinary crystals preventing diet and he “peed differently than any other cat” the rescue owner had ever seen and I might have to give him a bath once a week. I didn’t see that as a red flag. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time and I didn’t think through the lifestyle requirements of a cat that needs regular bathing, and honestly, most Persian cats need regular bathing and grooming to help with their maintenance.

He is so chill about wearing outfits which is a major plus for me!

Once I had him in our home I realized a lot about Biscuit Reynolds. I could tell he was in a LOT of pain based on the way he was sitting and how he never cleaned himself. If your cat stops cleaning himself, you need to take him to the vet, you’ll notice when they develop an uptick of knots in their fur. I wish I had noticed that about ALF, I would have caught his kidney disease sooner and he wouldn’t have collapsed.

I could also tell there was definitely something wrong with how Biscuit Reynolds pees (if you watch, it comes out in just tiny drips, not a stream). He also pees a lot more than a normal cat because his special food makes him more thirsty. His butt is basically a longhair trap for pee and he walks around with wet “pee butt.” The wet pee butt makes his skin really tender on his hind quarters.

We asked the rescue to pay for a trip to their vet to work on his pain and his pee butt. Cat pain meds for chronic conditions are hard because they have sensitive livers. After a couple of trips and a lot of tests, we know he has a pinched nerve in his back (no idea how he got that). We found out he’s actually 7 and that he was in such bad shape when returned to the rescue from his life outside he needed blood transfusions! Their vet had no idea what to do about his peeing other than to keep him shaved. I was grateful for the help with his pain management and the full testing workup we got but not super satisfied about the pee butt situation.

We finally found a medicine that helps somewhat—Gabapentin, which is usually used to prevent cat seizures in a higher dose. We give it to him along with Vet CBD oil with an oral syringe. This is just simply a way of dosing liquids to a specific measurement and then squirting in his mouth. I can tell he is feeling better because of how he acts, the variety of positions he lays in and that he now grooms himself.

Biscuit Reynolds is basically a small friendly monster. He makes these incredibly loud snorting noises when he grooms himself. He excretes gross stuff on his face from his eyes (standard for Persians), he dunks his whole face into his water so he ends up looking really weird and a little scary until it dries, and he has a pee butt. We try to bring levity into the situation by calling him Mr. Peebuddy (pronounced like Peabody) and giving objects like papers we didn’t put away or the floor a daily Peebuddy nomination.

Monster face. We’ve since started cutting the extra floof off the sides of his face because it gets matted and knotted from the water.

He’s the weirdest cat I’ve ever had. He doesn’t eat anything but his food. No treats and no chicken! What cat ever rejected chicken?? He also doesn’t like catnip and is not motivated by it, which is great for me as I have two blends of Bevin’s Tea with catnip in them, since it is soothing for humans. But hard to get him to want to use a scratching post by putting catnip spray on it.

He is just as snuggly as we hoped but I had forgotten to affirm that I wanted a cat that smelled great and was self cleaning. We now have blankets to provide a safety barrier between us and the cat. I have to mop the living room and bedroom floor all the time, use disinfecting wipes on the couch and recliners (thank goodness for wipeable furniture) and use cute towels or doilies on the other furniture he sleeps on. I make a DIY febreeze with essential oils, vodka and water. We clean soooo much more often, which is probably a net positive given how much I hate cleaning but hate the idea of pee butt more.

Biscuit Reynolds is OBSESSED with outside. Persian cats aren’t great indoor/outdoor cats because they have high maintenance coats. ALF and Bear didn’t give any fucks about going outside and they were very easy. We take Biscuit outside on a harness and leash and let him roam around. I tried walking him with Macy one time and that was not so successful since Biscuit Reynolds doesn’t like to walk in a linear fashion and mostly wants to crouch in the grass and chew on it.

I bought him some grass to eat in the house, he refused it. Outside grass only.

We are now getting him groomed as short as possible with no frilly cat stuff like puffy paws so that he’s easier to keep clean. We keep his water bowls small but numerous so he can’t quite dunk his whole head. Our groomer gave me this spray to help neutralize the pee smell on his hindquarters. We are trying a custom diaper next to see if it keeps him dry and still enables him to poo in the litter box.


Biscuit Reynolds turned out to be a lot more maintenance than we thought. If we knew going into it how much care he would require Dara would have easily talked me out of it. However, since my experience caring for my Grandmother while she POTSA (Passed On To Something Awesome) I am rethinking how I feel about “care.” Caring for her was an incredible bond that I’ll never forget. I am rethinking the care I provide my pets as bonding. I wanted to snuggle with a cat but in my tender care it gives me and Biscuit Reynolds a sweetness that is more intense than just having cats, feeding them and scooping the litter box.

I feel like given how much we tried to not get a special needs cat and still ended up with one, it’s like this special lesbian cat work we were called for. We’ve already given him energy healing with Syd, our healer. I also give him Reiki all the time. And on the docket when our money situation is more abundant, we want to seek out a specialist to do a surgery on his urethra to try to correct how he pees. We also got a message from our healer about seeking out essential oil therapy for him so if anyone knows a healer in the natural/herb arts for pets please let me know! Or if you’ve had a similar situation with a cat let me know!

I know the care intimacy is working because within a month I genuinely felt love for him, and it keeps on growing. I’m also kind of obsessed with him because he’s so weird, so sweet and so handsome.

2014-01-23

I Got Back Together with My Ex and Started Relationship Coaching with the Lesbian Love Guru

This is the first entry in a series about my experience with Relationship Coaching with Christine Dunn-Cunningham, the Lesbian Love Guru. Follow the lesbian love guru tag on the blog to catch all the entries!

In November of 2012 I started dating someone who I thought was just going to be a friend with benefits. That turned into a super deep connection I wasn’t expecting. Neither of us did. I went with it and we fell into a “thing” we were calling “keeping company,” a delightfully old fashioned term she picked up from her uncle’s description of his courtship of her aunt thirty plus years ago. We had a lot of fun together but ran into a lot of static around a few areas, including communication. It took me until months after it ended to realize that how disparate our semantics often were. She would be saying one thing, using the same words I would use, but mean something completely differently than I was understanding. Like we’re both calling something an apple but really I mean a peach.

8868390850_f762dea0b1_oLast May. Photo by Grace Chu.

Things ended at the end of March when the fact that she didn’t want to be in a relationship, and hadn’t wanted to be in one in the first place, meant we needed to break-up. In our first iteration, things were just always so hard for us together emotionally, and when you don’t want to be in a relationship you don’t want to do the work to be together. She was also preparing for an epic, possibly forever, road trip. Selling all of her possessions, getting some part time consulting she could do remotely, and staying with loved ones a few weeks at a time. A life in an RV I’ve been visioning for a long time, a tiny version of which I took in 2011, but she was going solo.

I had thought we could eventually transition to long distance in some way, and we fell back into an “ambiguous” relationship status within three weeks of breaking up. Eventually that fell apart, too, she left town and I thought I’d never talk to her again. By the end of that ambiguous period I had my own reasons for not wanting to be in a relationship with her. Our mutual frustration lapsed into a long period of radio silence.

I recognized that the grief I was feeling about the break-up was incommensurate with the loss. I started doing some spiritual work through the help of Katie at Empowering Astrology. She helped me cut emotional cords and end what she described as a karmic cycle Dara and I were in.

Cut to October, when we had a pretty organic reconnection. She was back in NYC for a couple of weeks and we met-up and made peace. I thought maybe we could try “benefits without friends,” as a way to just focus on what always worked with us. (Sex.) I could slot her into my life the way a few treasured friends have; when we’re in the same town we sleep together if our relationship statuses allow for it and the rest of the time we’re just casual friends that text every now and again. This was a mildly complicated idea for me because I knew I was still in love with her I just couldn’t be in a relationship with her.

8867777135_1606770681_bPhoto by Grace Chu.

Life threw us a giant curve ball because when Dara was in town she happened to visit her GYN for her annual exam and they found a lump. She was diagnosed with breast cancer after she had gone back to LA (where she was at the time) from her NYC visit. (She’s been video blogging her experience with cancer.)

What does it mean when your ex gets diagnosed with breast cancer? I didn’t know. I knew I was still in love with her, that had never changed. I knew I didn’t want her to be my girlfriend because I’m really dedicated to loving unconditionally and to want her to be my girlfriend would mean I would require her to change… and I didn’t want to do that. So I resolved myself to just be there for her as much as I could be. “Open heart and good boundaries,” became my mantra. A witchy friend even prescribed a tincture of Ocitillo which I serendipitously found in a South Brooklyn apothecary.

We hung out when she got back to NYC to start treatment. It was really great and really easy. We hung out again. And then another time. The quality of conversation, the ease at which we were able to tread topics that would have been hard or hurty before was surprising. I was able to do the things that I liked to do to support her–cooking nourishing meals, being sweet to her, giving massages. As well as encouraging her to relax and do self-care, two things she is now learning how to do post-diagnosis that she’s never prioritized before. The ways in which I thought I needed her to change kind of melted away, and somehow I was different, too.

I was a little confused. I mean, when does your ex become your lover again? She has breast cancer and sex is life affirming. And all the in between moments were so magical. I kept telling my friends I felt like Dara and I were in a different dimension.

There was other stuff, too. I kind of thought I could be there for her but there’s no way she could show up for me, having cancer. And then my December 2013 took hold, three friends passed away in the span of two weeks and the week before Christmas I unexpectedly and quickly had to put my beloved cat ALF to sleep just six months after his brother Bear passed. And through it all Dara was a champion–supporting me, handling logistics, making sure I could bring Macy with me to the vet when I had to rush ALF to the kitty ER for his final moment. After my fiance and I broke up I swore I wouldn’t get serious about someone again until we had gone through a crisis together. Being with Dara in this iteration feels like we’re running a gauntlet–except we’re laughing, holding hands and getting through it in this hopeful and happy way I never knew was possible. Like if we can be this good in a crisis how nice will life be when we can just work and travel together?

1497957_10201768063297968_397615989_oAfter her first lumpectomy surgery (she had to go back in for a reexcision lumpectomy two and a half weeks later) I was in the recovery room with her and we made a game about how silly of a photo we could create with found hospital objects. Together we conceived her Rudolph look.

With the heady mix of old intimacy and new relationship energy, I suggested we might want to get relationship coaching. In fact, neither of us is willing to call each other “girlfriend” yet because we want to eliminate fears of slipping back into old communication patterns and the stuff that was so hard before. It hasn’t happened yet, we’ve done a great job of communicating through rough spots; often we just stop a conversation that feels like it could get sticky and awkwardly back out of it. But it could happen, and a professional might help us set the kind of foundation we never had before.

Enter Christine Dunn-Cunningham, the Lesbian Love Guru, who I met over the summer. I was thinking of working with her as a single person who wanted to open myself up to finding the future Mx. Branlandingham. When Dara and I were starting to become a “thing” again, I read some of the Lesbian Love Guru blog entries (full of incredible tips) and this one about High Quality Quality Time totally helped me. In the entry she suggested having a conversation where you figure out which activities create the deepest sense of connection between both of you. So I had that conversation with Dara one day cuddled up in bed. Thinking about what I needed in a connected moment helped me ask for that the next time we were both having a rough day. (The connected activity for me was praying together, by the way.)

12090937296_0e745e3a5f_o
Hanging out in this week’s blizzard.

The success I had with applying the tips from the blog entry definitely told me that Christine would make a great coach for us. And there’s a huge difference from following advice in a blog and working directly with someone to create a program for you. That’s why I love coaching!

We corresponded via email and she offered me one of her free introductory sessions.

I talked to her on the phone during the session and she explained that her coaching can take different forms. Sometimes she works just with one of the people in a relationship, who then takes the work back and applies it to the relationship. Sometimes she works with both partners separately and sometimes she works with them together. I had originally envisioned the two of us on Skype with Christine building capacity for our communication, but she said she would want to start with a session where the two of us spoke to her on our own to get our perspectives.

1484050_10152125663973749_1871562914_o

Christine also has experience coaching folks in polyamory, which was great for us because some of our stickiness is around establishing a foundation where we can create some kind of non-monogamy or polyamory that works for both of us. I’ve never successfully done non-monogamy in a primary relationship and Dara has been practicing polyamory for twenty years.

Even though she’s called the “lesbian” love guru, Christine actually coaches folks of all genders, on the trans spectrum and some straight couples. Because at the end of the day, relationships are relationships.

During the first session where we each spoke separately, Christine asked us for each of our versions of our first iteration, what areas of growth we wanted in our relationship and what we were hoping for out of coaching. Dara remarked afterward that she felt “heard” about our first iteration for the first time ever. Christine is really easy to talk to and is great at asking the right questions to open you up.

I’m excited to work with Christine moving forward. I’ll be blogging about the experience so stay tuned!

Christine is offering a limited number of free introductory sessions to readers of my blog (with folks later in the game on a waiting list). The first session is great–it’s a great way to see if she’s a match for what you want. Again, Christine works with established couples and single folks and people of all genders and sexualities (even though the landing page is geared towards women specifically). She’s really great and in that introductory call you’ll walk away with tangible stuff you can apply to your life to help you open yourself up to a great relationship.

Also, this week Christine and I were both featured in the Happy Healthy Lesbian Telesummit. Hopefully you got to catch our interviews when they were released, but if you missed them you can download them as a package (along with a slew of other great interviews about money, nutrition, love, travel, healing and body love). Click here to view more details

2013-12-23

New Episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket! Birthday Cake Tea!

Filed under: Lesbian Tea Basket — Tags: , , , , , , , — Bevin @ 5:54 pm

There’s a new episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket!! I review Birthday Cake Tea from David’s Tea in NYC. It’s a super brandy brand kind of tea store with overpriced tea with fancy things inside it like birthday cake sprinkles (as in Birthday Cake Tea). My birthday is tomorrow so I kind of went for it with this $4 cup of tea. Also I said in the video they were in NYC but apparently they are all over North America.

Check out all the episodes of the Lesbian Tea Basket here! And if you know anyone who sells tea and wants to send me some to review I am stoked to support small businesses on the LTB!


Me and my two Persian Princes, Bear and ALF, who passed about six months to the day apart. ALF was four years younger but he’d never known life without Bear and I think he just couldn’t hang.

This week has been kind of intense. I ended up having to put my beloved cat, ALF, to sleep on Wednesday, and I supported a loved one through breast cancer surgery so it’s been intense. But the super bright spot is I finally got my new laptop that I crowd funded through the support for this website! Thank you all so much who have donated so far. Your words of support have been so amazing and I’m super excited to be able to create more content for QueerFatFemme.com!

If you want to donate the page is here and there are a ton of cool prizes, including lots of services donated by my awesome friends. My hope was to raise $1,000 per year the site has content up and gather funds to be able to continue creating the content I’m super stoked to share with you, including more episodes of the Lesbian Tea Basket!

2013-12-17

Link Farm: Marriage is not a Coupon to Redeem, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Supporting a Loved One through PTSD

I have three things to share with you today that I’m pretty excited about. The first is an article I wrote for Autostraddle to celebrate the launch of their fancy new redesign! It’s all about marriage rights for queers and how marriage isn’t our only option.

“Marriage is like a chlorinated community pool that we now have access to. I think that people forget that queers have been swimming in the ocean the whole time. We have always had to be creative about how we create our love relationships and, now that we don’t have to be creative, I hope we still can be.”

Check it out on Autostraddle!

IMG_1997.JPG
This dress is the closest thing I have to a wedding gown right now and I love it so deeply. Gratuitous shots of two of my favorite people and heroes, Barbara Carrellas and Kate Bornstein. The documentary about Kate is available to tour to schools and festivals, get in touch with Sam the director–I saw it last weekend and it is phenomenal.

The second thing is that it is December 17th, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. It’s a day of remembrance and solidarity for folks lost this year. Sex work is work, and it can be extremely dangerous as media, laws and other social constructs create a society in which sex workers are not seen as people who deserve protection and are disposable. Working to legalize sex work is something I’ve been interested in since I was in law school over a decade ago. Right now I work with Desiree Alliance, an organization that brings together harm reduction, direct services, political advocacy and health services for sex workers.

IMG_5287.JPG
Me and Jacqueline at the Desiree Alliance Conference last summer. The next one is in the Summer of 2015.

To borrow from my friend Fancy Feast, who says it so eloquently:

I would be nowhere without the sex workers in my life. Today and every day we need to be doing what we can as allies and advocates to make their work safer. That means all sex workers everywhere, not just the white ones, not just the cis ones, not just the ones with college degrees. Every. Last. One of them.

You can learn more about December 17th events and projects here.

The third link I wanted to share was this article about Supporting a Loved One Through PTSD or Panic Attacks. I’ve been going through a lot lately both on my own level with many deaths (three in total) and then also as a caretaker and supporter of a person with breast cancer. As of this morning, I’m maybe going through the process of putting down my other cat (I put down Bear six months ago). It’s a lot! And the last three weeks have been kind of a huge emotional roller coaster. I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a difference in care and support and I liked this article and thought it might be useful for folks who look at someone going through a hard time and wonder what to do. For me, right now, it’s just folks being there and being willing to listen.

Often in the midst of the episode, the distressed person doesn’t necessarily have their full vocabulary and can’t articulate exactly what they need in that moment. Afterwards, they may avoid talking about it out of embarrassment, fear, or a desire to preserve the peacefulness of the present.

So how do you learn what is helpful?

If you’re like my partner, mostly through trial and error. However, this cartoon inspired me to draw up a list of tips, taking from my own preferences as well as those of some friends. They’re not universal, but they’re a starting point, I think, for the right mindset.

Untitled
My friend Avory cuddling ALF on Friday night.

2013-05-31

Care and Death, Death in Care, Care in Death: Bear’s Peaceful Passage

The past two weeks have been a doozy. My elder cat, Bear, a handsome eighteen years old, got really sick. It’s hard to tell when a cat goes from being just an old cat with some bouts of dementia and a propensity to angry poop in the hallway, to actually-really-sick-call-the-vet. There’s a subtle shift. He had a really bad accident on a Saturday, the kind that involved a grumpy roommate and me just mopping the whole house. Then he puked, then he just sat still. More still than usual and he sleeps about 23 1/2 hours a day. I put a call out to my friends on Facebook if there was a vet person I could talk to about whether I should go to the vet. I’ve known so many people who have dumped thousands of dollars into an old cat to find out what’s wrong only to have to let them go anyway. I didn’t want that to be Bear’s experience in his senior years, I just wanted him to be comfortable and happy.

The answer never came from Facebook, but it did come from my heart. Jacqueline came over to hang out that Sunday night and told me about her awesome vet who does house calls and I thought that was perfect. I mean, I like my other vet but I couldn’t imagine schlepping Bear if he was feeling so crappy. I’ll spend $55 for an exam to find out if Bear is getting ready to go be with the goddess or if he has something easily treatable.

bevinfamilyportrait-07.jpg
Me, ALF, Bear and Macy. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

The poor little guy was so sick and I was really glad to get an appointment same day. My friend Hadley came to support me during the visit. The vet reminded me a lot of me, professionally. I have made a lot of unconventional decisions with my law practice that make me better able to service my clients and it makes so much sense for a vet to be able to come see animal companions in the comfort of their own environment. She was very matter of fact and compassionate, which is an incredible balance to maintain and works really well in a vet.

The doctor touched Bear and took one look at me with a pained expression and I just said, “Oh god!” thinking she was going to say that I had to put him down right then and there.

She said he was 12-15% dehydrated and was likely in kidney failure. She suggested a few courses of action and I settled on an injectable antibiotic, anti-nausea meds and subcutaneous fluids. I decided to wait on blood work because it’s expensive and I wanted to see how he did with treatment.

20130514_120637.jpg
This is what subcutaneous fluids looks like. It’s not a big deal, takes less than five minutes when you get used to it.

Eight months ago, ALF, my younger cat (14) was diagnosed with hypertension and kidney failure and has absolutely thrived with treatment. After he got on fluids and I changed his food to the special kidney diet food he has been better than he was for years. He’s just being a wonderful little weirdo and now likes cat treats a lot more (probably because they’re more awesome than his kidney food).

So I thought Bear would rally. The rest of the vet visit was sort of funny. She made a lot of jokes that I thought were hilarious, also I probably laughed a lot more because I was so relieved that Bear was sick with something I understood and I felt like there was a course of action. She did tell me, “Don’t be surprised if you wake up one day and he’s passed.” And she talked about how she has to send cats via Fed Ex (in a cooler, overnight) to the crematorium because of how far away it was.

IMG_8956.JPG
I can always tell how old a photo is of my cats based on the bed spread. This is from when I was engaged!

I made a Facebook post about the whole adventure, because it was just a bad day. In addition to the vet visit and the very sick cat, our building sent some plumber to “check out” our toilet and that turned into taking the toilet physically out of the wall with no notice that we would have no bathroom access for several hours. It was a lesson in acceptance, since we could call 311, we could complain to the super, but nothing but being nice to the plumbers would get our toilet back. And nothing but accepting that Bear was sick and might not make it was going to help me have peace about it.

20130513_145232.jpg

I have spent a lot of time in my life railing against things that I had no control over. In the last couple of years I’ve found that working with the current of life, instead of fighting against it, is the best way for me to have serenity. Sometimes it’s a nice flow, sometimes it feels like whitewater rafting and I’m only holding on with my white knuckles barely in the boat, but it’s a lot more peaceful on the daily than screaming and pushing against the natural order of things.

Screen shot of @sharpbiscuits photo of me giving fluids to my sick cat Bear. He has kidney failure like ALF but is four years older. Rough day all around but feel slightly hopeful after in home vet visit.
Giving fluids to both cats at once reminded me how when I was growing up I was convinced I was going to have twins because twins run in my family. Two cats getting fluids is a hilarious effort in multi-tasking, but I’m glad my boys are mellow.

And, oh yeah, on that Facebook thread about my bad day I mentioned that the vet was really hot, which she was, and this sparked a hilarious conversation involving Jacqueline who concurred (as it was her vet, too) and lots of femmes bantering about the benefits of having a hot vet. Like, mostly during the visit I was concerned with my cat but then of course you notice that kind of stuff. It reminded me of how my friends in Rhode Island all go to the same hot dentist. And with no identifying details (other than hot vet) two people asked if it was a specific person they knew and I was quickly reminded how unprivate Facebook is.

So, our toilet was back, the bathroom looked like a disaster area and Bear was being pumped with fluids and spending most of his time sleeping. I set him up as comfortably as possible. He made some big improvement the next day, eating some watered down turkey baby food. I felt like a pushy mom, trying to give him anything he would eat. A tiny piece of chicken, some bone broth, etc… He went for a treat and I was ecstatic!

IMG_4747.JPG
Bear in his winter coat.

By day three he started to rebel against his two favorite convalescent spots (my armchair in the bedroom and the spot on the couch closest to the window) and began wandering the house in short stints. I would follow him. I documented a lot of his progress on my instagram. I watched him move into the hallway and sit down and get confused. He was already a cat that got confused a lot (he had good days and bad days, like people with dementia) but it seemed way worse now that he was sick. He also wasn’t sleeping on his side, or curled into a “puddle,” but sleeping sitting like a meatloaf. He didn’t look very comfortable.

Bear is better than he was on Monday but he's still really sick. Not moving around much or eating much (but some which is better than none). ALF is charming as always and I'm unsure if he's being comforting to Bear or just jealous I let him convalesce in
Bear on his sick bed.

I wanted him to get better, but tending him to when he was sick was a lot more work. I’m on a cleanse and between my morning alkalizing beverage, smoothie, my regular morning rituals, giving fluids to Bear, tending to any accident spots in the house and cleaning him off when he pooped on himself (I gave many kitty sponge baths) it was three hours before I could leave the house. It’s a good thing I work from home most of the time.

I wondered what was Bear’s quality of life and what was his convalescence. I didn’t want to give up on him before he had a chance to get better. I didn’t want to be selfish about my time–I consider animal companions to be life partners and I’m not the kind of person who just gives up when shit gets hard. Having an elderly cat means doing elderly cat care. But I also wasn’t sure what was normal for his age and what were signs that his body was shutting down.

I sent a long email to the vet asking what was normal and what I should be looking out for. She gave me a very thoughtful, lengthy response and I was left with a lot of ideas for what was possibly wrong with him, his meatloaf sleeping was probably discomfort, more treatment we could do, but also “Putting him down would not be premature.”

20130516_171655.jpg
Moms of toddlers take toilet training photos, moms of elderly convalescent cats celebrate litter box use.

She never once said, “You should put him down,” which were the magic words I was waiting for. Now, I adopted Bear when he was 10 and ALF was 6 (they were companions from their previous household that came together). Having older cats, I have always known that at some point in my life I would have to make a euthanasia call. I also have heard many people’s stories but they all seemed to sound the same. The pet got sick, the person was left with thousands of dollars in treatment that may or may not work and it was “the right decision given the circumstances.”

I just thought it would be really black and white and where I was in was a shade of gray. I had a cat who was getting slightly better but not all the way. Who was a lot more work and I felt okay giving him that work if that is what he needed me to do. He was still purring when I held him, especially when he snuggled up to my heart. But he felt like a flour sack in my hands. He wasn’t meowing–I think he meowed three times after he got sick, which was about a 95% decrease from his yelly hallway yowling ways. When I set him on the ground he couldn’t hold himself up right away, he flopped over to the side.

bevinfamilyportrait-01.jpg
Good therapy is to pick up both cats at once and snuggle them. They don’t usually struggle when I hold them together because Bear and ALF really love each other. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

Euthanasia, even though I had thought about it so often for the past several years knowing that “someday” I was going to have to make that decision, was not an easy black or white decision to make at all. All of that worrying I did ahead of time was absolutely wasted. You cannot pre-live grief and pre-worry. I wish I had spent all of that time during all of those years I spent worrying and just spent it living in the moment and enjoying my life with my beloved cat.

ALF & Bear
Vintage photo of ALF and Bear.

I turned to Facebook once again (and this is why I mostly am only friends with folks I know in real life on FB) to ask about people’s experience with euthanasia and how they “knew” when it was time. I got a LOT of answers and stories. About how pets are very much in the present moment and when they’re sick or in pain they are very scared. How people often report they waited too long. I got many great private messages, including a very detailed astrological answer that involved last week’s lunar eclipse and Saturn in Scorpio.

“The issue here on an astrological level is about care and death or care in death or death in care. or care through death or other prepositional mediations of this care/death combo.
the question then becomes who’s care…who is caring for whom…what is care. and similarly although strangely—the same sets of ontological questions can then be asked of death.”–Tina Z.

I also read through a couple of articles people sent to me about death of a pet that I found really helpful in terms of deciding one way or the other whether I should let Bear go be with the Goddess or wait to see if his health improved.

My friend Tom suggested this book, The Last Walk, where the cover and the name just broke my heart so much I couldn’t really even try to read it but I trust his opinion in all book matters, so I’m passing the suggestion along. It was very helpful to hear my friends’ stories about letting their pets go, so I think this might help some folks out there who aren’t into soul baring/crowd sourcing on the Blue Grid.

How to know when it’s time to euthanize your pet from Yahoo News (I found this one particularly helpful).

The ethics of spending $25,000 on pet healthcare in the NY Times.

And in a very gay way (because of the connection, not the content), this amazing quote from my ex-girlfriend’s fiance, Rachel, really helped me. “Think of 2 or 3 things that really make her HER and when those are no longer there, you’ll know.” What Rachel was considering when she put her gorgeous dog down.

In thinking about all of this, I wondered about Bear. He really liked yelling in the hallway, yelling to get a good snuggle while I was at the computer (I’ve done a lot of working with Bear awkwardly in one arm), he loved parties where he got as much attention as he could possibly consume, he loved expressing his emotions by pooping in the hallway when he was mad, and he loved eating paper and the covers of books. He hadn’t done any of those things in a couple of weeks (well, the party thing he couldn’t control).

20130409_231011.jpg
Bear, snacking on some paper (a map).

I went to bed that night praying to the Goddess to tell me what was the right course of action for Bear. The next morning I sat down on the couch to watch some Super Soul Sunday while drinking my smoothie and Macy and ALF were all over me. They could not get enough attention from me or pay enough attention to me. I remembered back to when Bear first got sick, about a week prior, and I woke up one morning with both of them laying on my chest. Neither ALF or Macy is a big chest layer, and they prefer to keep about 3 feet apart most of the time so it was really weird, them close together and on top of me. That’s when I realized that Macy and ALF were paying attention to me because I needed care, and were leaving Bear alone. I trusted their intuition–that Bear was checking out or totally checked out. And that I was the one who was struggling emotionally with whether he should stay.

I had a great talk with my Mom, since she had put down both of the cats I grew up with when I was already across the country in law school (the other cats we had previously had run away so we never had to make that call when I was younger) and it really helped me settle into the decision. She also said, “Bear doesn’t want to live a life where he’s pooping on himself.”

I sent an email to the housecalls vet asking for an appointment for in-home euthanasia. I knew from an article I had read awhile ago that this was the best choice for me–rather than schlepping your pet to a foreign place to go, he can go in peace in your home. It’s also good for the other pets because it apparently helps them understand better the process of what’s going on. I didn’t want them to think Bear was just at the groomer for the rest of eternity.

IMG_9298.JPG
Bear with our friend Avory.

Bear’s passing also forced me to confront one of my worst fears. Part of being a full-time freelancer/small business owner is that often life is financially feast or famine–and the last vet catastrophe last October wiped my savings and I just haven’t caught up yet. When I’m feeling afraid a method I’ve learned is to write a list of the things you fear most, then antidote with a gratitude list. One of my greatest fears is that I wouldn’t be able to financially care for my pets. Here I was, needing to make this big decision for my sweet little guy and worrying about how I was going to pay for that and my rent. I had to face that fear, though, and I was able to ask someone for a loan (which is not something I do very often).

I had already made the “Peaceful Passage” appointment, opting for Thursday at 5 because doing it the very next day (Wednesday) at 2pm didn’t give me enough time to say goodbye to Bear. It felt rushed.

I had my friend Kelsey Dickey come over and do a family portrait sitting with me, Bear, Macy and ALF. It was something I had wanted to do for years and I’m glad I did it. Even though Bear looks pretty out of it in some of the photos, it’s really nice to have. It’s also very hard to wrangle pets in a portrait sitting. Bear had a great day that last full day. He used the litter box. I caught him cleaning himself vigorously during our photo shoot, which was the first time that had happened in a couple of weeks. I was like “Are you trying to tell me something?”

bevinfamilyportrait-04.jpg
Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

That night, the night before the peaceful passage, I was throwing a party with Nicky and Jo for Yes Ma’am. Nicky told me that they were friends with my hot vet and showed her the whole thread on my Facebook wall. I was like “How do you know that’s my vet!?!” but of course it was the same person. I was also sort of embarrassed since she was coming to my house the very next day to put my cat down. I guess if people were talking about me being hot on my friend’s friend’s Facebook wall I would want to read it, too. This is definitely proof that nobody ever died of awkward because I’m still around.

I got home from the party and Bear wasn’t in any of his regular spots. I was worried about him. This had happened to me many times before, he switches up his sleeping spot, but ever since my vet had said he might be dead one morning I was afraid he’d crawl under a piece of furniture and pass. I couldn’t really hunt for him in the house because my roommate’s mom was sleeping on our couch, so I just let it be and knew I could look in the morning. On my way to bed at 4AM (after a party, remember), I saw his two furry feet sticking out from under the bookshelf where my altar is. He had spent so much of the past few days sitting with his legs tucked under I thought for sure he was dead. I put my hand on him and he didn’t startle like he usually did when I would think he might be dead (he slept pretty heavy and scared me a few times). I thought for sure he was dead. I was distraught but I didn’t know what to do and it was so late, I just went to sleep crying about not saying goodbye and knew I would take care of it in the morning when I wasn’t going to disturb an entire household, a sleeping guest and freak out.

I woke up and texted Hadley, “Can you come over and help me move Bear, he passed last night.” The last thing I wanted to do was interact with his dead body. Hadley was on their way over when I peeked under my altar and saw that Bear had moved. I called Hadley and said it was Resurrection Thursday, Bear was alive, I was just delirious the night before.

20130518_233518.jpg
How I spent much of the last couple weeks of Bear’s life. Holding him as much as possible.

I spent Bear’s last day pretty chill. I had no out of the house activities, I just hung out with him and the other two Muppets. I was no longer wondering if the previous day’s feeling better was permanent, he was really out of it and started pooping on me when I would hold him. I changed my outfit and got a towel to cuddle him with. I started to feel glad I had made the decision to give him a peaceful passage, the night before I was so worried he was scared and alone when he had passed I knew this would be with love and community.

People began gathering. I sent out a call to some friends. Either folks who had bonded with Bear or who were friends of mine who were going to bring pork tenderloin (Jacqueline) or other snacks and food. All told there were five people there with me when the vet arrived with her assistant.

Bear
If I wrote a pet euthanasia book I would call it “The Last Selfie.”

Bear was curled up next to me on a towel on his favorite part of the couch. His head resting against my leg, my hand on his heart chakra. I wasn’t petting him anymore, just holding him while he rested. The vet was great, she explained everything as it was going to happen and that once he was gone she would leave us with the body for a bit and we could text her to come back up.

She offered that I could have his ashes returned, or a cast made of his paw, which I declined. I don’t need a physical representation of him. I have so many photos and so much Persian cat hair in my house, I’ll be physically remembering Bear forever, behind every piece of furniture.

She injected something into his hind leg to keep him asleep, though he was already very asleep. Then she injected another something to send him to be with the Goddess. The room fell silent and I was praying for his easy transition and thanking the Goddess for all of the time I got to spend with him as my animal companion and crying big fat tears onto him. It happened really fast. Suddenly she said, “He’s gone,” squeezed my hand and left.

I kept my hand on his heart because his body was still warm and I couldn’t bear to let go yet. My friends brought Macy over to see him (she sat quietly for a bit, sniffed him) and ALF (who ran off very fast).

At first it seemed weird to have “time” with his body but it was actually really nice and peaceful. We eventually called her back up, she brought a towel and curled him up in it just like he was sleeping, and got ready to go.

I was still crying and asked, “How do I pay you?”

“Do you have Chase Quick Pay?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll send you an email.”

One of my friends piped in, “This is the most fucked up Chase Quick Pay commercial ever.”

We all laughed.

Folks stayed for some food, and a couple other friends came by later. It was nice to not be alone.

At one point I looked around at Macy and ALF and realized I was doing a subconscious Muppet count as I had done thousands of times before. The three of them triangulate in almost always the same pattern in the living room. I could look to both of them and know where Bear would be sitting. Only he wasn’t.

In the days since it has been pretty weird and sometimes hard. Old familiar grief settled on my chest. But it’s a different kind. It’s like missing a part of myself, since Bear was so much a staple of my home life. I feel like with my friends I’m only about 90% there, but doing my best to continue to function and acknowledge the sad feelings as they come. And to love on my Muppets who are still with me and who I get to continue loving in this lifetime. They’ve been really clingy to me, which I appreciate because I feel very clingy to them.

My mom is a Lesbian Catholic and I asked her to ask the Lesbian Woo couple across the street (they had four when I was a teenager, not sure how many they have now) for a good ritual for Bear. They suggested getting a candle for each color chakra and burning it. As each candle burns out it releases a different emotion. I got the candles from a religious candle store near my house. I’ve been burning the candles since Bear passed and it’s really helpful to have a place to look in the house to acknowledge him. I can say hi to him, pray for him and let them represent my emotions.

Bear's chakra candles. Rest in power little guy.
The photo on the right is from about six years ago, when he was younger and more sly.

The loss is hard, but I know I did the best I could. I read a lot of mommy blogs and I know there’s no way to be a perfect mom, but there are thousands of ways to be a good mom. I know I’ve been the best mom I can to these three critters. I know my Bear was loved very deeply and lived a comfortable, sweet life. And I know now how to be even more present and grateful for the pets I still have.

2012-11-21

Sandy’s Aftermath

I’ve been working on this post for a couple of weeks and I’m still not totally done with the sentiment. But in the efforts of not being a perfectionist, here it is! More thoughts on the hurricane to come, I’m sure.

I was just telling someone about my experience living through the Loma Prieta earthquake when I was 10 and that I was less scared during that than I was during Hurricane Sandy. I was raised with earthquakes and disaster drills so I knew what to expect from it and what to do. I was home alone and I weathered it pretty well and waited patiently for my mom to get home from class.

IMG_4045.JPG
My cats, Bear and ALF.

I didn’t grow up with crazy weather and last year’s preparation for Hurricane Irene was the first time I had ever prepared for a storm. I mean, a lot of it is similar to growing up with earthquakes. Having an emergency earthquake kit on hand is just something we did as California kids. I remember having to bring a separate one for school each year to keep in our homeroom. The addition of filling up the bathtub with water is new and interesting disaster preparedness.

So the hurricane came in and I left my house on Sunday before the MTA shut down and I wasn’t going to get to go anywhere. It was just to a coffee shop to work on my book but I figured it was better to stave off stir crazy if we did get stuck in bad weather. Thought I didn’t really believe we would, I’m glad I took that break.

I hunkered down alone. My wonderful roommate was off visiting her sweetie in Philly and I have three pets and my apartment isn’t in a flood zone so it seemed like a safe thing to do. I have all of this Girl Scout wilderness survival skill and I don’t worry about crises and emergencies. One of my favorite sayings is “Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” This philosophy works for me about 90% of the time unless it’s about dating.

IMG_4018.JPG

About 24 hours after the subways shut down the storm really settled in. Everything was rattling, windows, the kitchen cabinets. It was sort of terrifying. I also felt like I was starting to get sick so I just crawled into bed and tried to rest a lot and drink tea.

Eventually my internet went out which was awful because that was where I was feeling social support. Constant updates on my friends’ Ariel Speedwagon and Sarah Jenny’s awesome alternate news network plus other folks’ updates about their safety and sentiments in the storm.

IMG_3993.JPG
Ariel Speedwagon.

So I was alone and feeling isolated in my apartment, calling my best friend in California periodically to get reassured and watching TV to distract myself.

The next morning in my neighborhood wasn’t so bad. Tons of branches and leaves everywhere, a couple of fallen trees but not much happened that was catastrophic. But something felt very unsettled.

The news began pouring in about the devastation throughout Brooklyn. Red Hook, the Rockaways, Lower Manhattan, New Jersey. Dis/abled and elderly folks stuck in high rise buildings with no electricity or running water. Disaster after disaster.

I couldn’t shake my anxiety for a couple of weeks afterward. I felt scattered and weird. It was awful. My roommate came back to town and shifted into full-on community organizing gear. She was coordinating donation pick-ups and drop offs, getting volunteers out to the Rockaways. It was incredible to experience. Ariel Speedwagon came over one day and kept creating amazing round-ups of where to donate money and where to volunteer. She’s a pro at information dissemination.

IMG_3984.JPG
We went forward with our housewarming/naming ceremony on November 1st, and the moment of woo was actually very healing. The power of community woo is pretty amazing.

I could signal boost information and I could cook for people. So that’s what I did. Somehow pouring love into the universe in whatever way I could was how I could help.

IMG_3974.JPG
Not pictured: many casseroles.

I guess I’ve been slow to write this post because I was waiting for the aha moment of why I got so anxious after the storm. I think some of it was how connected human beings are–in Brooklyn we were literally surrounded by devastation. Some of it was the mistake I made of weathering the storm by myself. I can be confident and independent to a fault sometimes. I think having someone to be with during the storm I probably would have felt a lot more secure. It felt similar to the time I had emergency surgery when I was 22 years old and I told my mom not to bother coming out, but when I woke up from the surgery alone I knew it was a huge mistake.

IMG_3985.JPG

I think some of it was feeling really trapped. The subways weren’t working yet, we were just able to go as far as we could walk (since I don’t have a bike). And the gas shortages were freaky. We were okay, thankfully, but we couldn’t really leave.

I gave up on Halloween entirely and went to bed at 8PM that night. The next week we had a Nor’Easter snowstorm and it just felt so weird.

Some things were so odd. Like how Park Slope seemed “Business as usual” within a week of the storm but folks were still without power in so many other places. And in spite of the gas shortage people were still driving around.

The gas stations stopped having gas, they just ran out. Then when they would get gas there would be these hours long lines to fill up. The NYPD started doing gas rationing at the stations–it was full-on martial law at the pump for a couple of weeks.

IMG_4042.JPG
Martial law at the gas station near my house at 4AM.

When we found out that the gas shortages were going to continue because so many refineries were affected by the storm and you could only buy gas every other day. I told Damien, “What if the Mayan calendar is right and it really is the end of the world?”

Well, then I guess people should be having more sex,” she answered. I think it’s a good response. Go have more sex, folks!

IMG_4043.JPG

Things aren’t back to normal yet. I was at a Butch Burlesque hurricane relief fundraiser this past Saturday night and someone who has been doing a ton of relief volunteering got up to talk about what is going on with the relief efforts. That the Red Cross was only just then getting to the Rockaways. That they really need day care services because kids can’t go to school. That they only just got power back. That’s three weeks after the storm, with no power, isolated in the aftermath.

That benefit was the first time I went into Manhattan since the storm. I hadn’t even gone further than Williamsburg prior to Wednesday. It’s been a slow recovery process. I’m still not sure what’s left to come.

IMG_3996.JPG
Me and Damien.

Damien wrote an amazing post a week after the storm about a progress report.

You can donate money or time to Occupy Sandy. Grass-roots on the ground volunteers are really effective in the post-Sandy recovery.

2012-09-13

Things That Delight Me

I’m sitting in a West Philadelphia coffee shop drinking all the cheap beverages (iced coffee, green rooibus tea, soon to be followed by CHAI probably, caffeine I’m getting crazy on you) and working on my book. So far my shitty first draft* is 30,000 words long and that is an incredible jaunt down my emotional, sexual and party roads for the last four years. Someday soon I will share it with you, dear readers, in a form you can hold in your meaty paws and will hopefully make you laugh and cry and want to go out and have hot fat sex.

In the present time, however, I have some stuff that delights me that I want to share with you. A lot of it has to do with cats.

Macy loves visiting Philly because my nieces drop a lot of food.
Macy loves visiting Philly because my nieces drop a lot of food.

ITEM THE FIRST:

I am delighted to travel and am totally seeking opportunities to travel to colleges, retreat centers, gatherings, community spaces, coffee shops, rooftops to speak, perform and facilitate workshops. Here is a list of the performances and workshops I offer!

ITEM THE SECOND:

IMG_2124.JPG
Me and Quinn at our friends’ wedding in May.

Free form idea-creating with my friend Quinn in New Mexico about a future Cat Ranch for rescue kitties. This all stemmed from a discussion about a real-life cat circus that Quinn’s girlfriend Matie** took her to.
Q: A cat played the drums.
B: It’s like Magic Mike for Lesbians.
Q: I will freely admit that I have a DEEP adoration for cats and would have several if I could. If I lived on a farm it would be all over. ALL THE BARN CATS!
B: There was a lesbian lawyer I knew who always wanted to have a rescue farm full of rescue cats that were fixed and just got to live their days roaming in a herd.
Q: Hi I’m Quinn, Ranch Hand and Professional Cat Herder. Overalls sans shirt, kitty buttons. These are all service cats.
B: You and Matie live in New Mexico, this dream could become a reality. Imagine how happy the ranch cats would be eating lizards.
Q: And other giant fast-moving insects. PERFORMING PUSSY EXTRAVAGANZA.
B: THE PUSSY RANCH. There could be a giant vulva on a barn.
Q: Would you come help us paint it? Maybe we could get a world record for biggest painted vulva.
B: I would totally come help you paint it. Imagine all the cat hair tumbleweeds during a dust storm! You could do adopt-a-cat from afar things like they do for cows at the Farm Sanctuary.
Q: Silverbutch quinner and her cats-a-plenty.
B: Also there are folks who go from farm to farm doing workshares in exchange for a place to stay and food. Imagine the lesbians coming through town to hang out on the ranch. I hope Matie is down with this plan since we’ve basically done everything except put a down payment on the ranch.
Q: I sure hope so, I’ve already mapped out what I’ll be doing from the age 45 on. Growing catnip.
B: Did you know catnip has the opposite effect on people as it does on cats? It’s calming!
Q: I will also grow sage, rosemary, and other things to fill the lesbian tea basket and cat farm. “This is our house blend.”
B: Uniquely fertilized herbs. We can do meditation classes where people come and meditate while brushing the cats. WIN WIN.
Q: Cat therapy that caters to lesbians. Have you lost a loved one? Was this loved one a cat? Let us help you heal.
B: The annual benefit will be a CAT RODEO.

So basically we’re just a kickstarter away from making THE PUSSY RANCH a real thing.


My cat Bear.

I pushed through the screen door and I stood out on the porch thinking "fight fight fight at all costs." #anicat
My other cat ALF. I post a lot of photos of my cats and Ani DiFranco lyrics on my Instagram. @queerfatfemme

ITEM THE THIRD:

This video of the extremely talented Ashley Aron fronting the Vancouver, BC based Butch Choir called Leadfoot. It’s amazing!

ITEM THE FOURTH:

This video by Kitty Crimes called Yogue Out. If you are a fan of Leslie Hall, be it for her gold lame’ body suits or for her amazing beats and hilarious songs, I feel you will enjoy this rap about yoga.

ITEM THE FIFTH:

Helpful to the writer is a friend you can gchat and demand simply “Inspire Me” and she comes up with something like this. (Thanks Bridget, for being that friend.)

263926_10152085985220942_2090506479_n.jpeg

Okay, dear readers, back to writing the bridge to the next chapter of my life…

*Much love to Anne Lamott for that liberating language from her amazing writing book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
**P.S. All future suitors take note that’s a great date for Ms. Branlandingham.

2011-04-03

Home is Wherever I’m With You

I came home Thursday night and felt as though I had been stood up. Perhaps my relationship to Netflix has become a little codependent. I used to be a total Netflix failure–the type of customer that is the reason they are profitable. I would get a dvd, let it gather dust on top of the TV, distracted by my fast-paced lifestyle, steadily losing interest in the contents. Eventually losing the dvd and letting my membership expire months of no activity later, after my credit card number changed or expired. This has happened many times.

In the last few weeks suddenly I am a rapt user of Netflix discs. Maybe it’s like a retroactive winter hibernation even though the calendar says Spring. (I’m still using three comforters at night and the “real feel” temperature is 22 degrees right now.) My social plans have ground to near stop and I’m using my free time to get my life more manageable, focus on my spirituality and rest.

Macy Chaise
I’m spending a lot of my time nose to nose with Macy, my Shih Tzu.

I’ve actually been craving this kind of down time. Sometimes my life is so non-stop I lament that I don’t take time to record the amazing things that happen and give them appropriate reverence. Also, I am practicing being compassionate with myself and that starts with slowing down and prioritizing self-care. I feel such a weight lifted off of me when I say no to doing something I would be doing out of obligation and not genuine want, or schedule a night home for myself. Also when I stop to think about my compulsion to be social and fear of missing out versus taking it easy I have a better handle on what my actual needs are.

I was telling my co-worker Bunny after a 9.5 hour Shop Girl day that I was really looking forward to a Thursday night at home with the movie Baby Mama that Netflix lead me to believe was going to be waiting in my mailbox. I mean, you develop certain expectations and when the email says it’s arriving “tomorrow” I imagine that to be the case.

Not so. The mailbox was cavernous, not even a junk catalog from one of the million affiliates of Jessica London that I get every other day. (I have only ever shopped from them once and it was online! Their junk mail is relentless.)

IMG_8955.JPG
The cats (Bear, left, ALF, right) were home to greet me.

At least when I get stood up by Netflix I have the charms of the Branlandingham Bunch to keep me company. They are all squishy faced and they each have distinct, sweet and ever so slight snores. And, you know, the Netflix has watch instantly so I wasn’t totally empty handed.

But instead of streaming I grabbed a book and put on some Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. And instead of reading I started daydreaming (this is why I am such a slow reader). I was thinking about what home means, especially what it means to me these days. I think slowing down has helped me notice that I treat my home as a closet for my stuff but not as a sanctuary for my mind.

I had an incredible experience at the Queer and Trans conference I presented and performed at Swarthmore College last weekend. (More on that later.) There was a workshop given by Mia Mingus and Stacy Milbern that has totally reshaped how I think about home. They have a blog about their experience moving together from different locations in the South to their new shared home in Berkeley, CA. They are two queer disabled diasporic Korean women of color and there is an incredible amount of thought and intention behind their home and their shared values. In addition to an incredible primer on dis/ability justice, what it means to create truly accessible space, crossing the boundaries between different kinds of dis/ability, they also showed us in a truly intimate setting–their home–how they are re-imagining how they and the collective “we” support liberation.

Their presentation was given via skype and projected from a computer onto a huge screen. (I wish I had a photo of it, it was a spectacular use of technology.) They showed us the guiding principles and shared values they wrote and put up (not unlike art, because it sort of is) in their living room from their living room. They could see us (well, half the room) in a lecture hall in a nice liberal arts college campus 3,000 miles away.

IMG_8958.JPG
I was trying to explain to a friend the weird places Bear likes to sleep. Like curled up next to the bathtub.

They talked a lot about how to create interdependence and what that means. That healing is organizing and healers are organizers. That social justice can start right at home. Building a home with intention is important.

Some of their shared values were intimacy, making time for each other, shared meals and adventures. I also appreciated their acknowledgment of the importance of their relationship with one another but also building their community support network and dating relationships.

I listened in awe of what they created together and how much intention they put into it. How important it is for activists to put a lot of love and care into their home in order to be centered. Being centered is where we must start in order to do the work we want to do to make change in the world. It’s just like that airplane emergency speech–put your oxygen mask on before you assist a child. How do you help someone else breathe if you can’t breathe yourself?

IMG_8959.JPG

When I was in the workshop I admired Mia and Stacey and also felt some grief and sadness. There are a lot of people I considered family of choice, who I longed to create this kind of domestic situation with who are no longer in my life. I thought I had built unshakable bonds that turned out to be strong for as long as they needed to be, but we’ve drifted apart. And in a more tangible way, I don’t put a lot of intention into my homes. I have interest in it–I read Southern Living magazine every month–yet I have barely paid attention to decorating my homes (yes, multiple) since the last time I lived with a partner. I seriously have two boxes of art I haven’t put up since I moved into my Brooklyn apartment nearly two years ago. I have basically made my apartments livable and functional but never finalized anything.

And maybe I find home with a lot of different people and not just in a space. Sometimes my home is 90 miles away with friends I’ve had for a decade, who helped me learn to be at home in my body and on stage.

IMG_8940.JPG
And sometimes they become parents and you get to be an aunt to their magical baby.

Sometimes my home is on the road. I really do feel at home in adventure. I think a lot about getting an RV and piling the muppets in to tour the country giving workshops about body love, performances and getting to hang out with my friends all over.

IMG_8949.JPG
Etta is the greatest baby.

Two weeks a year my home is a tent in the woods with a rolling garment rack, people I cherish and the Pandora station of cicadas and tree frogs.

Right now my work and my home are here in this charming Brooklyn brownstone apartment. I’m doing a lot of centering and spiritual work that deserves a place. I have an amazing roommate who doesn’t care that the living room is a craftastrophe and sometimes buys me fruit. I want to paint my living room at long last and turn it into a real design space so that there aren’t spools of ribbon everywhere (glitter will likely remain no matter what, I’m okay with that). And I want to stop waiting for someone else to be in my domestic life plan to settle all the way into my home. I’m the one I’ve been waiting for. I am enough.

IMG_8964.JPG
I’m never alone with animal companions. She waits for me to come to bed by sleeping on the side of the bed (and two of the three comforters).

So I am learning from Stacy and Mia’s example without waiting for a Stacy or a Mia to enter into my life. I am incredibly inspired by their example and the intention behind their home. I want to write guiding principles for my home life. I want it to be peaceful.

And while I work on that, I’ll finish watching Baby Mama.

Powered by WordPress