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

2019-08-13

All Kinds of Bachelorettes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Bevin @ 12:53 pm

For those of you who don’t already know, six months ago my fiance decided to end our relationship. It was a huge surprise to me, since a showy proposal 13 months before and a plan for a big wedding was already in the works.

Six months out and I’m still reeling from the change that comes from the break-up of a long-term partnership, the cancelation of a hotly anticipated wedding and making rent in a house that made sense when I lived with someone / I’m still looking for a roommate.

I know “this too shall pass” and I’ll talk more about the emotional fall out in the next epsiode of my podcast. In the meantime, I’ve been deeply reconnecting with my friends and my loved ones.

Rachael, one of my besties and Bride Squad members, flew out to join me at the Glowing Goddess Getaway couples retreat in May. Originally I was scheduled to teach aerobics with my fiance. After we broke up, the GGG leadership told me ABSOLUTELY bring my bestie as my “couple” because they are inclusive by core ethics. Rach and I had the BEST TIME.

One of the best things about a break-up before a wedding is that I had already done the work to whittle down my closest friends into a “Bride Squad” (the cute designation I was using to refer to my bridal party). I dumped the traditional bridesmaids and maid/matron of honor for a gender neutral non-hierarchical group of folks who had been there for me throughout my young adult and adult life.

Having that Bride Squad? It was who was on SPEED DIAL during the last couple difficult months together and in the aftermath of the shock of a break-up. Originally they were meant to be there to support my transition into married life, but now they helped support my transition into my fresh singlehood.

This is the second time I’ve been engaged and not gotten married. I’m beginning to think playing online poker is more of a sure bet (and there is a lot you can learn from poker champs; Live Boeree’s TED Talk is an example).

Both times I was engaged I had to curtail the amount of folks in my Bride Squad due to my fiance and wanting to have even numbers on each side of the aisle. (I think we had 3 each for my first wedding to an introvert and in this past wedding we each had a dozen.)

To be honest, though, I think getting divorced or going through a major break-up you kind of need your squad more than ever. And it hasn’t just been my Bride Squad who has lifted me up these past few months, it’s dozens of my dear friends. Checking in on me, showing up for me, sending me cards, inviting me for dinner.

My friends Elizabeth and Priscilla showed up as my “Cheer Up Cherubs” to take me out to dinner while my ex and I were still living together. Love them!

I got to thinking, what if instead of having a Bride Squad I just had a Bevin Squad? Folks who show up for me, whether they even know me in real life or not. I’ve had tons of support and cards from folks who only know me from the encouraging words I post on the internet.

And the truth is, I have a beautiful lodge with a deposit on it, Dollywood adjacent. My mom put down the deposit and she doesn’t have much and I’m grateful for it. I don’t want it to go to waste. Without the limitations of a wedding, I could throw a much more modestly budgeted but possibly more fun and exciting gratitude party for everyone who loves me and has helped me through this extremely difficult time. And, anyone can be in my Bevin Squad for that because I don’t have to balance the aisle!

Most importantly. I have been engaged twice but NEVER HAD A BACHELORETTE PARTY. This must be remedied. Honestly, I’d rather celebrate my singlehood/non-married life while I’m living it and focus on creating the marriage I want when I find the right person.

East Coast Babes: I’ll be having a sweet, self-care focused Bachelorette at the Glowing Goddess Getaway in the Berkshires, MA on Sept 13-15. West Coast Babes, I know I’ll have a pool party and a trip to a rage room to break some wedding china Late Fall.

2014-03-07

Self Care Recalibration with a Chronic Illness and a Baby

This post is part of my mini-blog series about self care. Click this self care week tag to read all the posts!

When I was thinking about folks whose self care priorities I admired greatly, my friend G immediately came to mind. G left me a comment that changed my life a couple of years ago. Researching for my Love for EveryBODY workshop, I wrote a Facebook post asking friends with gender non-conforming bodies and/or chronic illnesses how they worked to love their bodies. G said “Stress is a toxin.” I quote that all the time and it has helped me reconceive how I think about self care. I have known her for over a decade, since we were both baby queers in nearby metro areas, and was curious how self care changed during and after the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and now that G is a parent in her early thirties how it has changed, too.

photoMy friend G and adorable baby L!

1. When you were diagnosed with MS (at what age?), what was your process around assessing the kind of self care you needed as a person with a chronic illness? What kind of self care did you need to engage in?

I was diagnosed at 26. It was what seemed to me at the time a long time to figure out what kind of self care I needed. A diagnosis like that is SO overwhelming. I really think it was probably two years till all the major pieces of self-care are realized, and it’s an ongoing process of identifying how certain parts of my life need to change in order to enact the self care needs, including ending relationships with people or organizations that used to work for me but I might come to realize induce more stress than joy, for example. Those realizations are difficult and ongoing.

I think the “process” involved a lot of trial and error, and a LOT of re-evaluation of the truths/stories I had in my head about the kind of person I was and what I did with my life. For example, at the time I prided myself for being super scrappy and always landing on my feet, getting by with very little financial resources, always believing things would get better in the future and building a lot of financial and social/emotional debt in the present. I had to accept that I needed to read and buy into “west coast” woo-woo talk of mindfulness and do yoga and eat like a hippie. I needed massage and to drink tea and to calm down.

I came to realize these things out of desperation at first–I was so sick restorative yoga was about the only kind of movement exercise I could do, and I had always ran and ridden my bike everywhere. I could tell that gossiping or ranting about something till I was blue in the face only made me feel extra exhausted and didn’t help things.

When something happens like you get really sick, you end up with piles of bureaucratic BS, with a works that seems unfair and unable to accommodate your sick self, and when I fumed for days about the unfairness of the insurance company or a workplace policy, I would feel sicker, and saw that nothing productive got done anyway. So the calculations look different now. I could spend 4 hours on hold and arguing with Time Warner [an American cable and internet service provider] in order to maybe have them correct the $15 error, or I could think “Would I pay $15 not to feel like this?” and call it a loss and move on. Is that awesome? No. Does it hold that evil company accountable? No. Does it save my health? Yes. I had to really focus and choose my political battles, and I really think my targets have gotten clearer and the related actions more efficient. The same is true socially. My world of what and who I cared about got smaller, and that’s ok, (even though it’s sometimes lonely) because the quality of those fewer connections are better.

Also I came to figure our that, as a person who always took pride in my paid-work ethic, that in order to stay alive I had to treat my self-care like a job. I put “exercise” on my work calendar and held myself to it as if I was going to teach a class. Even if I only ended up walking when I had hoped to run. Even if I couldn’t do it as long as I wanted. Required. As was sleep time, as was not drinking alcohol. Things got very clear and firm.

2. What surprised you during that process?

I think what surprised me at first was the way in which some deep themes, like scarcity, or putting others’ needs first until I blew my lid, we’re not isolated to say, finances or romantic relationships. They were deep and everywhere. I had to show up for myself in a new and major way. And it was scary.

I was also surprised that eventually, I was happier. Again that was some “west coast woo” stuff that I was sure my Protestant Midwest working class cultural pride had no time for-that happiness linked to healthiness. But it was and is true. The happier I am the way healthier I am. Not that I don’t get sick anymore or don’t have MS. I do. But I thrive and shine much brighter in the times between flare ups.

3. How did your self care needs change when you had a baby? What was anticipated and what was something you had to adjust to?

Hahaha. Well. I have to say I still haven’t mastered this one. I draw from lessons when I was a non-parent with MS, but it requires a whole new mantra. Because if I had a TON of extra cash for daycare when I was not working (I work on my phd work 2 days during the week and stay home with our infant 3 days a week) I could maintain my self-care bar. I could schedule yoga 1 or 2 times a week, go on a run a couple times a week. But that’s not happened. Massage and acupuncture has been greatly reduced. One income and a baby is real tight. So I’ve had to modulate what gets me through (aside from the added joy of the miracle of my baby and the stellar support of my partner) is telling myself “It will not always be like this. It will end eventually.” And it does. The days of sitting in how position for hours and hours has passed. The days of not being able to do anything like pee without the baby in my sight has ended.

And also self care right now looks like “good enough.” The day has ended and the dirty dishes cover every inch of my kitchen? I did good enough. Sit down in the couch with your wife for one hour of no-responsibility chill time. I can’t get a vigorous run or yoga session in? I make the baby’s nap time a sleep in the Ergo [a baby carrier that straps to a big human] while I take a 4 mile walk. It’s a lot of approximation and survival. And it has to be good enough for now.

Really it’s an extension of the major learning curve when I was first diagnosed, which is self-forgiveness. I was do disappointed in myself for having the disease, for being able to do less. I still have to practice self-forgiveness for not doing “enough” self care, or for not getting “enough” of my work done or not being a present enough parent the day I felt like crap. And I found that this practice allowed me to have a lot more compassion and generosity towards others.

4. How to you manage self care priorities as a parent with a chronic illness?

See above I think re: good enough and self forgiveness. Also, my wife is really amazing and if she hears me have a tired MS cough she sends me to bed or calls one of her besties over to our house to watch the baby so I can rest when I wouldn’t have done so myself.

5. How do you deal with “missing days” and let yourself off the hook for them?

See self-forgiveness. Also–scaled expectations. I have very long term goals. They are not made or broken in one bad day. I have had to accept that if they are, with the exception of having to push through one big presentation or deadline or something, they are not environments I want to be in. Like, if I am unable to think one day I had planned on reading a ton, then I do something mindless like delete emails, then rest. If my whole career as an academic crumbles because I strategically read the introduction of each book the day before class, it’s not a sustainable career. Also I’ve had to let go of the over-achiever image of myself I’ve had since I was little. I am not going to win 1,000 awards in grad school for service, teaching, and research. I have prioritized my health, stability in my family life, long-term involvement with political movements, and research. My work in the world is not to win awards. It’s to, as I think of that Alice Walker quote all the time, find my work in the world and do it. I will raise supported, loving, engaged children. I will have a robust and happy life-long loving relationship with my sweetie. I will produce research that changes the tides of the homelessness-industrial-complex. I will be a part if meaningful political change. I am doing it, and it us bigger than one day.

6. You told me once you treat stress like a toxin and nix it in the bud right away. How did you realize stress was a toxin and what are your body/mind/emotional warning signs that you’re feeling stressed? What do you do to nix it in the bud?

I can be a super intense person and I tend to recognize stress if something becomes invasive thinking that I can’t stop looping back to, can’t seem to let go of, or if something is taking a lot of my time when it shouldn’t be. Those are the “quantitative” things if you will (the things I can count, recognize, and reason).

Physically/emotionally I notice that I feel anxious and spent. Both exhausted and amped up. I tend to shut down, then suddenly come out of the shut down place very angry and upset. These kinds of things.

Some things, like when my daughter was in the ER last week, are necessarily stressful and they can only be mitigated–ask our friends to bring us dinner in the ER, be kind to and find the joy in my wife and baby even though it’s stressful and my body is tanked by it, cancel our weekend plans so we can just rest.

Other things, like people who are drama, involve not engaging, or being real clear like “our interactions do nothing but stress me out so I am not doing this anymore. I wish you well.” Some things, like undue stress when teaching, involve setting up really clear boundaries from the get go–I don’t check email between 5pm and 10am. Don’t expect me to. I don’t haggle about grades. Period.

Actually, I find email in general, or really any communication devices that are “input” a no-go after 5 or 6. I can’t have stress if I don’t know about it, and I tend to be most tired and ineffective after 5, and stress interferes with sleep, and 8 hrs of sleep is a requirement. So even though I am not working for wages right now I tend to avoid email or lots of texting or going places in the evening. It is time to take care of my and my fam’s bodily needs and go to bed. It sounds so boring on paper, but it’s really great. I love routine, I love slow, quality interactions with friends coming over for dinner. Getting MS is stressful and has been terrible, but it’s given me the impetus to have so much discipline and perspective in making my life center around what’s important, and at a fairly young age for our culture. Thank the Goddess. I am blessed.

Thank you so much G for this interview, this was amazing and gave me so much to think about. We don’t often learn how to distill our core priorities in life and then how to align our time spent with those priorities.

2014-01-15

Guest Post: How to Be a Good Ally to My Crippled Arm

My bestie Jacqueline Mary is disabled in a way where it is not readily apparent to the naked eye. Her arm was shattered in a bike accident a couple of years ago and the initial surgery restored only a small percentage of function in her arm. But because she still has her left arm and most people aren’t particularly observant, it’s not obvious right away that there’s anything different about it. She often has to tell people not to touch her arm, especially strangers in public, and sometimes people we know don’t even believe her and continue to poke, touch, even punch her in the arm because they think she’s joking. She’s also in a lot of chronic pain that has gotten worse over the last couple of months.

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She posted the following note to Facebook and I really loved it. Not just because she’s my friend, but also because I thought it was an exceptional example of stating your needs and asking for help–I believe vulnerability is a sign of strength.

What was a huge bummer about it was that she reposted it several times to her Facebook feed and it only got 10 likes. Whereas the day before when she posted about being hungover she got 30 likes. It speaks to a lot, especially to how uncomfortable people are about disability and vulnerability.

I’ve learned a lot from Jacqueline about disability lately and the most distasteful one was that men often use it as an opener to hit on her. GROSS!

Blanche side eye

So here’s a dating pro-tip: if you see someone has an injury or a cane, don’t use it to make conversation to hit on them. Hit on them in a different way. Get creative. Here are some ideas.

Every person who has chronic pain or a disability has different needs and asks around it, but most folks really want to be heard. So if a friend of yours is asking for help or being vulnerable, a simple “like” to say you heard something, or even (my favorite) a comment heart (<3) is a sweet gesture. I hope you like the following piece by Jacqueline Mary.

This is a brief PSA about the status of my arm – I’d appreciate some likes on this (aka- i read this, that sucks).

Things are not at all great. My radius is no longer attached to my wrist, which means it’s just kind of floating around in there. My hand is quite literally dangling off my ulna. In the last 6 weeks, my pain levels have risen pretty dramatically and my mobility has lessened even further. I’ve been to the clinic several times for this, but since I’m going to Bellevue and they’re seeing me for next to nothing, this is going to be a long process. They’re looking into surgical options and trying to see if anyone is crazy enough to cut me open without knowing what’s really happening in there. My MRI failed because of the amount of metal in my arm (which I’m told over and over again is exceptional).

The result of this is that I need my friends to understand. Guys, I’m tired. Fucking exhausted. Being in pain every moment is a huge head trip in so many ways, but the most noticeable is that it sucks all your energy away. Aside from actual physical fatigue, I’m mentally fatigued. What I need to do for my arm and what I need to do to survive are at war. The strength it takes to not just quit my life and stay in a comfy bed with my arm elevated is really wearing on me. This makes me, basically, bitter and cranky. I apologize.

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In addition, my arm is extra fragile these days. Even a tiny bump creates big pain. This means that I don’t want to go to things where I’m sure it will be jostled. I’m actively trying to avoid anything with crowds (especially shows, unfortunately). I’m driving most places these days. I can’t ride my bike anymore. The train, when it’s busy, is pretty awful for me. Please still invite me to things, but understand that I may decline for what looks like no good reason.

I’m wearing ace bandages a lot more these days, and it’s looking like I may turn back to the sling. Both of these are scary and stressful, as it’s much more of a physical indicator of my disability than I’ve had in a long, long time. This results in even more unwanted attention from assholes on the street. It also creates an appearance of being weak, which is extra scary because, well, I am, and it makes me feel like a bigger “target” to be attacked. However, if any of my creative, DIY, or textile manipulating friends want to make me a beautiful sling and/or wrap, I would seriously love that. Especially if it didn’t look like a sling and therefore made me feel a bit safer.

I know that most of my friends don’t have experience with disability, but I appreciate that you’re trying. Here are a few things you can do to make life a little easier on this crip:

1. Don’t touch my left arm. Ever. Don’t push it, don’t pull it, don’t try to hold my hand on that side, and don’t insist I hug you with both arms. Don’t be insulted if I pull away from you, I’m most likely in pain, aka not trying to get away from you. (And, for the love of god, don’t fucking tell me my scars are beautiful and/or give me character. Don’t downplay my disfigurement.)

2. Help me out. Offer to carry things for me. Insist. Help me open jars, doors, envelopes, even my coat. If you see me trying to do something stupid and struggling, offer to do it for me. I know, I know, I can get pissy when you offer, but offer anyway. The pissyness is a result of feeling bad about needing help, not a result of your offer.

Another GREAT way to help is walking on my left side if we’re in a crowd. I’d much rather have a trusted friend on my bad side than for it to be open to whatever dickbag wants to knock into it. Take the lead, guide us to a safer place, and don’t be afraid to yell CRIPPLE COMING THROUGH!

Also, feel free to call people on their shit if they’re not being kind or a good ally to me. I’m so worn out from having to tell people “Don’t touch me there, don’t push me, that hurts, THAT REALLY HURTS,” just to be met with giggles. It’s not a game, I’m not playing, and it’s not funny to me. Think of it as a matter of consent.

3. Be understanding. If I’m cranky, late, or cancel completely – I’m sorry. I can’t do all the things I want to do as it is, but it’s getting much harder lately.

4. Be kind. I’m tired. I’m sensitive. I’m touchy. Just be sweet to me. I try to not be sensational about these things, but I still have pushback where people seem to think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I know I mostly look fine, which is why things have gotten to this point before doctors would take me seriously.

Guys, I’m fucking scared. There isn’t really any other way to say that. Every time I go to the doctor, they manipulate it which makes it hurt even worse. I will not go back on painkillers. The “best” option I have is a surgery where they will take apart my entire arm (from the elbow down) and completely restructure it. This means another hospital stay, recovery time, physical therapy, and a bunch of other things I don’t have the time or money for. I have no idea how I’m going to manage that, but I trust that I’ll figure it out when the time comes.

So yes. This was a “brief” PSA about the status of my arm. Thank you for reading. Feel free to ask questions if you have any, but mostly I’m just very grateful to have friends who will read this, get it, and try their best to accommodate my bullshit.

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey for the Rebel Cupcake Leather Family Photo Booth.

Jacqueline is going in for major arm reconstructive surgery tomorrow morning. She’s going to have a piece of her hip inserted into her arm! The recovery period is going to be intense and require a lot of cabs. It’s so hard to know how to help, but here’s a concrete ask you can probably help with (or signal boost)!

Folks reading this in any city served by Uber cabs–a smart phone cab hailing service that allows you to call a car with your smart phone, which is actually a lot easier in NYC than calling a car service. Uber is offering a special where if you sign up now, as soon as you use your first free $20 ride (that’s right, it’s free for the first ride with this sign up), Jacqueline’s account will get a $20 bonus. Which means a free ride to or from work for her! You can help her just by taking a free cab ride!

Sign up for Uber here, Jacqueline’s referral code is uberjacqueline but should be automatically entered when you click that link!

These are the North American cities Uber serves–I love it and it’s pretty easy to use, especially the UberX service, it’s even just a little bit cheaper than a standard Brooklyn car service.

ATLANTA BALTIMORE BOSTON CHARLOTTE CHICAGO COLUMBUS DALLAS DENVER DETROIT HAMPTONS HONOLULU INDIANAPOLIS JACKSONVILLE LOS ANGELES MINNEAPOLIS MONTREAL NASHVILLE NEW JERSEY NEW YORK CITY OKLAHOMA CITY ORANGE COUNTY PHILADELPHIA PHOENIX PROVIDENCE SACRAMENTO SAN DIEGO SAN FRANCISCO SANTA BARBARA SEATTLE TORONTO TUCSON WASHINGTON D.C.

And if anyone has a lead on how to build a clamshell for Jacqueline to lounge in during her recovery, or the money to finance putting 100 pink and white balloons in her bedroom let me know.

2013-12-25

Leo’s Hammer and the Meaning of Christmas

My bestie Leo has been working hard to reclaim the Christmas spirit for the last couple of months. In the years since her mom passed it’s been hard and this year her dear ones have been watching her diligently working on figuring out what she can do to bring Christmas cheer back into her life.


Photo by The Think Theater Queer Photography. I swear Leo and I are just friends, we don’t date even though we take great photos together.

You should know a little bit about Leo. She’s extremely kind and generous, introspective and intentional, capable and handy. She’s also extremely dapper and wears a hanky every single day. In fact, one of the Christmas cheer things she’s done is to wear a hanky with snowflakes on it. She fixes computers as an IT professional for a living but she really loves working with her hands. Carpentry has become a recent passion of hers and she knows a lot about tools and what it takes to build things.


Leo at my house helping me weatherproof windows. Note the hanky in her left pocket.

We decorated for Christmas at my house, she got a bunch of us together to go to a holiday market outside with apple cider because it reminded her of her childhood Christmas tradition with her folks going around to tree lots in Jacksonville with warm beverages and finding the perfect tree. So we did the adult version of that and she had a flask to spike the apple cider.


The whole time we were at the holiday market I did a new exercise to be okay being un-partnered during the holidays by “Husbandifesting*” with holiday gifts. It was a visioning exercise where I told my friends what gifts I would get the future Mx. Branlandingham–a wooden brain teaser puzzle because they would be super into solving things but not so into getting lost in the iPad, a nice tie with a cool pattern on it, a pocket watch, etc… And I told them what Mx. B would get me–a gift certificate to a tea vendor I was excited about, a teapot with a steeping basket inside, a teal glowy glass lamp of a goddess for my altar. It made it really fun and my friends totally played along!

In the same spirit of visioning for what she wants, Leo has been talking about this hammer for weeks. This very expensive ($200) very light (11oz) framing hammer that is titanium and does your taxes or something. At first I was like, that’s sweet, asking for what you want but where would I get $200 to buy you a hammer. But then I thought, well, maybe I could get it together to get friends to throw in for it. With all the stuff going on in my life I didn’t think I could actually rally the support needed to coordinate a Queer Kris Kringle army to buy a $200 hammer. But then after planning our outing to the holiday market, seeing how jazzed she was about reclaiming Christmas, I was like, “Fuck it, I want to make Leo happy, let’s see if we can do this.”


At the holiday market with Tommy, Marico and Leo.

Leo and I run in three distinct mutual circles that only overlap a little bit, so I’m kind of the perfect person to coordinate this. I started a Facebook message and put about 15 people on it who I knew loved Leo. I asked them to add folks to it. I asked someone to step up and take care of the paypal logistics (Jacqueline, with help by Miss Mary Wanna). Then more people added more people to the “Hey, That’s Leo’s Hammer” thread. Then out of nowhere we got WAY more money than we needed–good because the price of the hammer spiked to $199 from $169 the week before Christmas). Everyone just loves Leo so much they wanted to make her happy. So we did it! And then there was the natural queer processing about what to do with the extra cash and Tommy took care of that part, getting a gift card to a restaurant she likes near her house.

Our friends Miriam and Victoria had a holiday brunch and we totally commandeered their brunch to do the Leo surprise. Jacqueline, a very talented videographer, came up with the perfect way to surprise Leo on camera by asking her to “help” with a project she was doing on the meaning of Christmas. I think you’re going to love the results in this super touching video starring Leo!

*Husbandifesting is a word from Avory Agony about those visioning exercises you do to bring forth a masculine of center version of “The One.” I recently wrote a piece about marriage for Autostraddle that talks about all the different ways you can acknowledge love relationships that aren’t just about marriage. I also still believe for a loving, supportive future spouse while being happy with my life as it is in this moment.

2013-09-03

Five Ways I’ve Learned to Embrace the Velocity of Change

A few years ago a friend of mine suddenly got a girlfriend. We were besties and spent a lot of time together, so I wondered why I was feeling weird about it. I was definitely happy for her, I liked her new beau and I was excited for her to get laid. I sat with the feelings for awhile and I realized what I was feeling was fear—specifically fear of change. I knew that changes in our friendship were bound to happen. We were both single and had a lot of nights free that we spent together. Eventually that situation changes.

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For this post I’m using photos from my Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip. I went on that when I needed to shake up the energy in my life.

I parceled it out and realized that the changes were really triggering my fear of abandonment. My parents divorced when I was 18 months old and my dad was mostly out of the picture while I was growing up. That’s a pretty classic recipe for adult fear of abandonment.

Once I could label that it gave me something to do on my side of the street. I could address my fear of abandonment without blaming or getting mad at my friend just for being happy. I don’t ever want to be mad at my friends for following their hearts and being happy! I want them to be happy. This fear of abandonment is something I’ve worked diligently to remove over the last several years, and it involves a lot of embracing the velocity of change.

I’ve noticed my friends going through a ton of big changes lately. Huge new jobs—dream jobs. Sudden moves. Losses of many kinds. A lot of them have gotten into romances in the last few weeks–it reminds me so clearly of that time where I thought I was going to lose my friend. I’m still having to remind myself often that I’ve weathered these kinds of friendship changes before and it is going to be okay.

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Being a hipster in Austin, TX at their monthly Femme night.

I’m positive all of these big changes aren’t just isolated to my friends. Since this is probably relevant to my readers, too, I thought I would do a round-up of some of the things I’ve learned along the way about embracing the velocity of change.*

1.Accept that change is part of living.

I like to remind myself that when things are changing and tranforming that I’m really living. The only constant in life is change. When I get a little dizzy with the “too much too soons” about change (because sometimes the good and the bad changes seem to happen in a flash without warning) I remind myself of that Pearl Jam song titled Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town. For some reason, when I was a fourteen year old devout Pearl Jam fan I heard that song and I would get so afraid that would be me—changed by not changing at all. And given how resistant I was to change at that age (and for many, many years after) it is a miracle I have gotten as far as I have.

I’m also the kind of person who initially resists even the little changes (I have feelings when my roommate moves around the appliances on our countertops), so my square one about change is generally negative. Accepting change as a constant has helped me hop away from that negative box faster than I used to.

Since change in life is a constant, accepting that as true—we cannot grip the happy times just as we cannot escape all the hard times—is actually a relief. When I’m having a shitty feeling I like to chant to myself, “Everything is temporary.” That helps.

Re-envisioning change as a good thing, a sign that my life is dynamic and magical, works for me.

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Having my cards read by a roaming psychic.

2. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Similar to the sentiment above, sometimes seeking out change is a really good thing. I’ve made big changes in my life before—I moved across the country at age 21. That was the first big thing I ever chose to do that forever altered the direction of my life. And it wasn’t my first choice, I really wanted to go to law school at my alma mater but I didn’t get in. Rather than hang out another year in Davis and re-apply I just bit the bullet and moved to Camden, NJ.

This was absolutely the best thing I did for myself at that young age. Without friends, a sense of safety or comfort, I really had to learn who I was. And I found myself. The year after I moved I started identifying as queer, made peace with my body and learned that femme was a thing you could be and it was awesome. I don’t know how long those changes would have taken if I’d never moved. I don’t know if those changes would have ever happened! I had no idea how resilient I was until I had to be.

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Slow dancing with that dreamboat Jessie Dress.

3. Small changes are good practice for the big ones.

Despite my desire to see change as a good thing, I remain a contented, homebody earth sign. I am so comfortable with things I’m familiar with I have to consciously seek out the discomfort of change. I try to push myself once a month to go to an event that’s out of my scene, I encourage myself to do new stuff. The weird panic I feel even for something as small as taking an unfamiliar subway stop is actually great practice for the big changes I have no control over. The tiny panics are prep. And once I’ve done it once it expands my worldview just a little bit more.

I also like to instigate change just to shake up my energy. Moving things around in my room, doing a purge of a drawer, slightly changing my hair, getting a piercing or a tattoo, going on a trip, these all help me feel change energy in order to shift my perspective on my life.

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Macy interacting with some chickens.

4. Remember all the times I weathered change.

When I started getting that panic about, “OMG the summer is ending and all of my besties are in relationships and I am going to spend all of my Saturday nights alooooooone,” it was helpful to stop and remind myself I’ve been through this before. Some friends just bail when they start dating something. That’s not about me at all. (You know, when they become the “I have to check ‘our schedule’ friends.” And the friends I have now slipped in there for the friends who slipped away. It’s the ebb and flow of life. My closest friends, our relationships have weathered a ton of changes. Including long stretches of not talking or moving long distances. But those are the kinds of friendships where you can pick up the phone and it’s as though no time has passed at all.

I’ve realized I never know what a friendship is going to look like when it starts and it is only time that tells me whether it will endure the shifts in our lives.

Just like friendships, I’ve gone through a ton of other changes that, at first, felt like a huge crisis but eventually became great opportunities. The whole memoir I’m writing is basically about how I weathered some tremendous changes in my life. (My wedding was called off six months out, I lost my job of five years and six months later was forced out of my apartment.) The good thing about those changes was (spoiler alert) I learned how resilient I am.

When I got laid off again by a small business I worked at for a three years, I learned it definitely gets easier the second time around. Applying this even to unfamiliar change is really helpful to shift my perspective from fear to curiosity. I don’t know what life is bringing me with each new change, but I know I have a choice about how I look at it.

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We were in Louisiana long enough to stop for gas and this photo at a rest stop. Definitely need to get back there and do NOLA!

5. Use your shitty feelings to teach you about yourself.

As someone who likes to learn and grow, I’ve found that often my shitty feelings are trying to teach me something about myself. Like how my panic around my bestie getting booed up taught me about my fear of abandonment, often there’s a lesson in my resistance to change.

Leaning into the shitty feelings is something I learned from my life coach when I was being life coached by Lynnee Breedlove. He told me once that if you imagine shitty feelings like an ocean wave that going through them is the best way to get to the other side. (Rather than fight them or just get out of the ocean altogether.) He said he likes to send up a prayer of “Thanks” whenever he’s facing a yucky change, reminding him to stay in gratitude.

I’ve got a couple of book recommendations. One is by SARK, a thought leader I enjoy who writes playful and deep books. Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity is an amazing book! SARK details a year where she lost a partnership, the death of her mother and her beloved cat companion. She walks through the process of turning these losses into opportunities to grow. It’s playful and deep and taught me a lot about learning how to embrace changes as they come. There are a ton of questions to ask yourself, workbook style. But even the narrative alone, if you’re not ready for the work, is worth the read.

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At Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium in Atlanta.

For the spiritually inclined, I also really enjoy Transitions by Julia Cameron. She wrote the Artist’s Way, so when I saw this in a tiny twelve step bookstore I visited when I was traveling cross country I snatched it up. Lately I’ve been reading the bite size reflections on change before I go to bed. It’s really amazing perspective on the good elements of change that we often can’t see through our pain. I like it a lot. It’s non-denominational and talks about God in the Spirit/higher power sense.

The result of my friend getting booed up years ago? We drifted apart. But it wasn’t nearly as hurtful or catastrophic as my panic at the time acted like it would be. I weathered the changes in our friendship and I’m confident I’ll keep weathering all the new changes my friendships have to offer.

*I am borrowing this term from an affirmation in Badass Resilience: Black and Brown Femme Survivor Love and Desire Affirmations by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Keisha Williams.

2013-04-08

Lean into the Discomfort and Breathe: 10 Strategies for Moving Through Grief and Loss in the Wake of a Break-Up

I love to match make for my friends, and occasionally this comes in the form of me logging into someone’s OK Cupid account while we’re hanging out and soliciting people for them. It’s often a lot easier to hit on someone if your friend is doing it for you.

One of my besties let me loose on her iPad and OKC profile last Fall and reported that she ended up getting a few dates from my efforts. Ironically, one of these dates ended up talking random shit about me to my friend. This date said she didn’t like “Bevin or Sarah Jenny,” another party promoter friend of mine, because we “seem happier than normal,” in a way that was about maybe we didn’t deserve to be happy all the time. (My friend, of course, stood up for me and isn’t going out with this girl again. When the date was informed that Bevin was the reason they were even on the date the girl about died.)

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Me and Sarah Jenny in November. I want to point out that SJ and I are both fat femmes who promote parties but we’re really different people and don’t look much alike. I want to believe this girl didn’t say we’re “happier than normal” because we’re both fat and maybe don’t deserve to be happy because of that. I think being happy in a society that tells you that you should hate yourself is a radical act.

I take this (and most) criticism from people who don’t know me with a giant grain of salt. This statement says more about the person than it does about me.

I’m sure a lot of people perceive me to be very happy, perhaps event “happier than normal.” Most people who are not my close friends or even my acquaintances only have a really limited view of my experience. On my blog and in public I tend to focus on the positive, joyful things about my life. That’s a choice I make to live in a positive framework. But, please do not mistake that I am living a happy 24/7 lifestyle because that is far from the case.

Right now, for example, I feel like dead flowers in a vase. My resting state is sort of wilted and sad. The person I had been keeping company* with for a few months in an intensely connected, spiritual, sexual, emotional, intellectual powerhouse kind of way broke up with me two weeks ago. I am heartbroken and focused on healing. My creativity has been sapped and I’m back in a familiar yet different place of heartbreak.** I contain a lot of conflicting emotions at once, which is a hard place to be in because it can feel like a war is going on. I love her and want her to be following her path which, right now, excludes a relationship. I also love us and want to fight for us.

In helping other heartbroken and healing folks out there, I made a list of strategies I am using right now to get through when the only way out is through. My friend Elisabeth told me last week, on a particularly bad day when I listened to too much Taylor Swift (she helps until she hurts), “Lean into the discomfort and breathe.” Much easier said than done, but I know it can be done because I am actually doing it right now.

I am also using things that have been helpful from the Heartbreak MFA post I wrote in 2010 and from Zoe’s Break-up Survival Guide that she wrote in 2007. At least all of this collective pain is turning into a break-up survival treasure trove.

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At Rebel Cupcake/Sweet Fox Mariah Carey tribute last week. Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

1. Remind yourself that Feelings are temporary and Feelings aren’t facts.
I know feelings are temporary. I know this from a strong belief but also I know this because I am living Feelings on about a six hour cycle. If I feel really shitty right now probably in about six hours I’ll feel less shitty or differently shitty.

2. Be in the present moment.
When I can get into the present moment fully, I can sometimes distract myself. And sometimes I just really let loose and have a lot of fun, dance with my whole body or engage in a full gut laugh, or a full experience of art. But those in between times are a killer and the sadness seeps in.

I never knew how to “be in the present moment” (which sort of sounds like new age hooey, but it really works) until I practiced it. Here’s a beginner trick. Look around where you are and do an inventory of noticing things. Like when I’m walking/traveling my Feelings are the most dominant so I try to check in with my surroundings. “Look, there’s a cute bird,” “Look there’s a place where the wires look like they spell a lyric to a Bruce Springsteen song,” “OMG that sunset is painting the sky full pink and orange how beautiful.”

3. Stick to the plan even when you don’t feel like it.
Making sure I have plans outside the house with at least one other human and at least once a day has been crucial. I work for myself by myself, my beloved roommate has been on tour this whole time, so I can get really lonely, especially because of that void left by the person you used to talk to multiple times a day. Even though sometimes these plans outside the house involve a lot of internalized kicking and screaming, faking it till I make it often means I end up having a great time and usually/almost forget about my heartbreak for several minutes at a time.

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During the entire performance at Rebel Cupcake last week I felt elated. I realized during the second act, “Good lord I haven’t felt bummed out in over a half hour!”

4. Name your feelings.
I’ve learned that Feelings just need attention sometimes in order to move through them. Being okay if I can’t name them at the moment and maybe just getting into the quality of the feelings. “Sucky” and “bummed” totally suffice in this category.

5. Take excellent care of yourself.
Going to the gym, doing all of the regular self-care work I usually do but treating it like my job is crucial right now. I actually have a really hard time eating when I’m emotionally distraught and I’ve been scheduling meals out with friends a bunch so that I can distract myself enough to eat. And at home I make sure I have V8 and smoothies and vitamins so I can just get something in there even when I don’t feel like eating.

Have you ever written out a list of what it means to take excellent care of yourself? Maybe now is a good time to start.

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The genius of Shane Shane. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

6. Doing whatever spiritual work makes sense to you.
I’m a really spiritual person, so much of these things fall into my regular self care, but some are special things that might fall into “treat yo self.”

Here’s a list of spiritual activities that help me:

Prayer
Meditation
Tarot reading
Astrological reading
Past life reading
Yoga
Meeting with a spiritual group
Doing rituals by myself or with a group***
Attending or listening to services (I don’t belong to a religion but appreciate spiritual wisdom in many forms and listen to services via TV or podcast by folks who preach positivity)
Going out to sit in nature and watch birds, the ocean, the trees or whatever
Gratitude lists (there is so much to be grateful for)

Tarot reading with Jacqueline. #babestagram #lesbianteabasket
Jacqueline reached out to me upon hearing about my break-up to offer her tarot services. We met up at Teany and now are blossoming a new friendship! Also it really helped me sort through my stuff.

7. Feel your feelings right now. Be a liberated hot mess.
There’s a lot of empowerment from feeling your feelings as they come. I’ve been crying a lot, wherever whenever, just to let it out, and thus have added to my old lady chic by stuffing tissues in my bra, every pocket and keeping my fancy hankies in all my handbags. I already did that hanky thing, it’s just more diligent.)

I’ve been very honest about my feelings to everyone. Obviously I’m a social butterfly, but the thing about me is that I cannot stand small talk. I also know how empowering it is to be honest about how you are and so I just let people know. Sometimes I soften the blow by making a joke out of it. (“This is my lot in life as a lesbian.”) But even though I soften it being real about my experiences helps me get through it. Authenticity is a very important value to me.

I’ve learned stuffing my feelings as a coping mechanism, hiding from them or doing that classic escapism, rebounding, just makes me have to feel them worse later. Feeling shitty comes with a late penalty. I’d rather just get the grief over with.

Sometimes I feel a little bashful about how sad and needy I am right now, but I know I have people who are safe spaces for it. Spunky has done a lot of watching me cry on google video chat when there’s nothing more to say. (Also, though I am wary about being an energy suck, I actually got a great compliment from someone about how positive I am being in my grief.)

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I was sitting like this eating with my friend Bridget before the party started and Hana walked in and said, “All I can see is tits and barbeque.” Tits deep in BBQ is one of my favorite things to be.

Reaching out for help has been great for me, and letting people who have capacity to lend an ear, text, dinner out come to me has been really successful. Using facebook filters has been a great way to all-call for this. Also, it’s nice to get sympathy from people (and I got a lot of sweet, supportive comments on the “I’m going through a break-up I can’t stop crying” post). That first day when I couldn’t go more than a few minutes without crying, my eyes were so puffy I could barely see, I was supposed to go to a dinner party. I debated going (especially since my ex had been invited so there would be all those weird “She was supposed to be here” realizations) but then I realized that this group of people is part of a spiritual work group I’m in, they support me, and if I had to keep running to the bathroom during Seder to cry they would get it. It turned out that it was a perfect distraction, and I didn’t have to worry about “sparkling” with these women, I could just bring my sad self.

It’s incredibly amazing how, if you learn how to receive, times of heartbreak can really show you how loved you are.

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Moment of woo before Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

8. Doing new things with your appearance.
I rarely wear my hair “flat” to my head because I like big hair. But I’m just trying a new thing because new things while I’m feeling intense discomfort help me feel better. And also there’s a lot of empowerment in reclaiming your body after a break-up. I am vaguely considering going all the way blonde.

9. Proceeding with unconditional love.
I used to play the victim role big time in my break-ups. Learning to acknowledge my loss without vilifying a person in it is a new experience for me. I am hurting, that is my truth. She can’t be in a relationship, that is her truth. I learned a lot from this relationship, including what it is like to really experience unconditional love and conflict from a loving place. I want that to be our experience in a transition place from sweethearts to whatever we’re going to end up being, whether that’s friends or Boston Friends**** or just people who were very connected once but don’t really interact anymore.

This is very difficult work, unconditional love. Especially when that’s not always modeled well, in families, in past relationships, even in the media. How often do you see exes who remain friends in popular culture? How often is it complicated? (Also, as an aside, I think we can all agree that Rayna and Deacon on Nashville are totally Boston Friends.)

My friend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha told me today, “I hope you are being sweet to yourself and opening your heart to transformation.” That’s what I’m intending to do with this break-up. Transforming myself through love. I think with love all things are possible, even hope from a really sad place.

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10. Throwing yourself into a big art project.
This was mentioned in a previous break-up post, but this time around I’m combining my love for traveling in the wake of a break-up (my last one had me heading out on a cross country road trip two weeks later) and my love for consumptive art projects to get through loss. My friends Sarah Jenny and Avory of Hey Queen asked me to produce the decor for the “Queens of the Road” themed party this weekend the day after my sweetheart broke up with me. I thought it was a very serendipitous call to action and I’m knee-deep in hot glue, maps and glitter getting ready for this upcoming weekend.

*Our actual relationship status. Our previous relationship status was “dating or whatever” after I said, less than a month into it, “If we’re still dating or whatever this summer I want to go…”

**It’s sort of crazy how much I can open myself up to loving even more after every heartbreak! And then I feel hurt again when it’s over in a new and different, yet somewhat familiar way. It is a comfort to remember I got over this before, in bigger and worse break-ups, therefore I know there will be gifts waiting for me on the other end.

***A ritual I did recently, after I pulled a tarot card that told me I needed to exfoliate, was to rub my skin with oil, soak during a long, meditative bath, then took great fist fulls of epsom salt and scrubbed my skin invoking newness into my life. I rinsed off and smoothed it all out with lotion.

****My new friend Jacqueline gave me that expression for “More than Friends.”

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This is my “Know Your Own Strength” tattoo. Photo by Kelsey Dickey. Tattoo by Jason June. New year’s intention by me.

***
I’m fundraising to sustain QueerFatFemme.com and my art projects! Please consider supporting with a gift subscription (and getting some great prizes) if you have been touched by this site!

2011-10-17

GAY SEX WEEK: The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Finding People to Have Gay Sex With You

Hi friends and welcome to NATIONAL QUEERFATFEMME.COM GAY SEX WEEK, where each day this week I am going to talk about GAY SEX to increase LGBT presence in the media. I thought that the first thing I would address about was how to find other people to have gay sex with you.

Conveniently, this solicited advice question landed in my inbox a couple of weeks ago. I offer some solid tips to you, dear readers, and some direct advice to someone who has a specific desire.

Dear Bevin,

I’m not sure who else to come to with this and you seem like the kind of person who doesn’t mind listening- so here’s my problem, I don’t know where to meet femmes that are into other femmes. I’m a cisgendered female and I present in a very feminine way and that also happens to be what I’m attracted to, but ever since I came out, I’ve dated butch identified women because that’s what I thought I had to do. I don’t want to do that anymore, I’m twenty five now and I want to be with someone that I’m actually attracted to.

My problem is finding them. All the femmes I meet either say really offensive things right off the bat (a big red flag for me is women who say, “if I wanted to date someone that looked like a man, I would just date a man”) or prefer to be with non femme identified people. Where are all the femmes that are into other femmes (and are also not racist/sexist/homophobic/mean and are body positive feminists)? They must be out there, right? Where do I meet them? Should I lower my standards?

I realize you’re not an advice column, so thank you for listening. Your blog is wonderful, it’s guided me through some serious issues and I will forever appreciate your willingness to be a voice in the dark.

Thanks,

NO FOFA FOR ME

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Femme on Femme! Miss Mary Wanna gropes Fancy Feast. Both will be performing on November 10th at Rebel Cupcake’s Cat Party! All photos by Nogga Schwartz for Rebel Cupcake.

Dear NO FOFA FOR ME:

Thank you for the compliment about my blog! I love being a voice in the dark for folks. Or a voice in the glitter for other folks. I have every confidence you are going to get laid. Sometimes it really seems like you are a Femme wandering the desert wanting a glass of water to drink with nothing but mirages on the horizon but just like that (imagine a swishy gay snap) everything will change for you.

GETTING LAID TIP THE FIRST: Do It Yourself
This is a little bit of a trick answer, because before you do anything about finding a sex partner it really helps to be having an enriching solo sex life. Light candles, take yourself out on dates, take a bath, woo yourself. Be physically experimental. I’ll admit to often defaulting to being a lazy masturbator, but I think nothing attracts someone to you like the glowy glowy aura of having good orgasms on your own. During my “walking through the desert” times anytime I go out if I’m doing myself right I have more fun in the world and get more flirts.

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GETTING LAID TIP THE SECOND: Name Your Desire
You are already doing something right, which is you’ve found and named a desire. There is nothing in the GAY SEX handbook that says you only get to have sex with certain other kinds of gays. Femmes don’t have to just have sex with Butches, just like the sports dykes don’t have to just stay isolated to their own kind and lesbians who look like Justin Bieber don’t just have to have sex with pop star lookalikes. The queer umbrella is pretty magical in that way, folks who run in my circles have sex with all kinds of different gender presentations and preferred gender pronouns, cisborn or not.*

I know this is not true of all gay circles, what with gender and sex policing. Gender and sex policing makes it harder for other folks to get laid! That makes me sad. When it comes to sex I think the more the merrier. I want all of my fellow gay comrades to be getting as laid as possible.

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That said, I think the climate for how accepted Femme on Femme Action (FOFA) is changes from queer group to group. I believe really firmly in being the change you want to see in your community. Be really vocal about your desire, tell your friends you like Femmes. Most people want to help you get laid. I have a really specific kind of pairing I like to partake in (Femme/Fag**), I articulated it to a bunch of folks while I was walking through that desert, listened to that Stevie Nicks song “Leather and Lace” a lot and then it sort of happened for me. I didn’t do these things specifically to get laid but just to honor my desire (see below), and I think it happened for me because I articulated my desire and then let go of the results.

GETTING LAID TIP THE THIRD: Honor Your Desires
Another thing I want to make clear is you should never lower your standards. Being a picky identified person myself, I know that not lowering my standards means a lot of sex-free months between sweethearts, walking through that desert longer than usual. My mind is my erogenous zone and when I don’t like someone that much personally/politically I just lose my wood for them entirely. But it also means I am never spending time with folks just for the sake of getting laid. (Hence the importance of item one above.)

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Katie (center) wrote on PrettyQueer.com about how she is not that into sex. I think everyone should get as laid as they want, not everyone likes to have sex and I believe the right 10 minute person is out there for her who will do it to her while she watches Real Housewives.

GETTING LAID TIP THE FOURTH: Get Your Friends to Help
I think it is good karma to help other people get laid. It’s like this feedback loop of if everyone is getting laid I’m going to get laid, too, eventually. I am a natural matchmaker and keep my eyes and ears peeled for folks I know who are single. So tell all your friends what you’re looking for and eventually someone will know someone.

It is also super important to let folks know your relationship status! I always ask people’s friends if they are available. Lots of people are in open relationship situations. I think that if you have a Free Ass Pass or are Monogamish or PolyOneWay the onus is on you to let your friends know so they can help you get laid and help their other available friends zero in on you.

I also believe in starting your own community groups to create affinity. I am sure there are lots of other body positive, anti-racist queer folks near you hankering just as much as you are to find community and get dates. Whether you want to sleep with them is variable, but I find if you make friends with someone with politics that match up with yours they likely have friends who have similar politics and can introduce you. Community organizing is a great way to meet folks. I wrote up a blog post about starting a community organizing group.

I mean, do community organizing because you’re passionate about something not because you want to get dates (we’re not living in a sitcom–I can easily imagine Neil Patrick Harris’ character on How I Met Your Mother doing this) but if you’re genuinely pursuing your paths and your desires you will meet folks and have more dates.

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GETTING LAID TIP THE FIFTH: Rejection is Expected
Rejection is a practice. Nobody ever died of awkward. Anytime you are pursuing getting dates or laid it is going to involve rejection. The more you get rejected the easier it becomes and besides, why waste your time coveting someone who is not able to see how awesome and succulent you are?

GETTING LAID TIP THE SIXTH: Turn Getting Laid Into a Hobby
In the spirit of getting your friends to help, I asked a friend of mine who is getting very laid right now to send me some tips about how to get laid. They told me that getting laid was their main hobby, which is why they were so successful.

A) To improve your odds, go where the action is. Find out where like minded people who share your interest will be and show up.*** If you want sexual connection, go to a sex positive environment like a sex/play party or sex education event. Once there, talk to folks about what you are interested in and be open to learning if this is a new experience for you.

B) Persistence pays off so be prepared to show up more than once. Any kind of connection with folks is a combination of repeated presence over time and community requires participation. Find the groups or events that you feel drawn to and become a regular so people can get to know you and what you have to offer and vice versa. For the biggest bang for your buck, volunteer!

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Kit Yan!

C) Be open minded about your own desires. There’s a fine line between knowing what you want and going after it, and being too focused on a specific thing that might not exist exactly the way you envision it. Your best bet is to be curious about meeting people where they are and seeing how that resonates with you. Be open to being surprised so you can see what is actually being offered even if it doesn’t perfectly match your expectations.

D) Practice safer sex. Protect yourself and your community with pride. Know your boundaries of what is safe for you and learn how to communicate that to potential partners. This includes being able to say no to people who might be using substances that would impair their judgement. You want a hot and joyful connection that both (or all!) of you will remember with no regrets.

Sex is part of your lifelong journey of self expression. Since it’s the part with orgasms, it can be worth a little effort to step outside of your comfort zone and into something new and exciting. Enjoy the ride!

I hope this list helps you all find folks to have lots of GAY SEX with in celebration of NATIONAL QUEERFATFEMME.COM GAY SEX WEEK!

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*My favorite PGP is Majestic’s “gutteral moan.”

**I’m attracted to lots of different folks, including Femmes, but Femme/Fag (no matter the gender looks and acts like a Fag) tends to be my most common pairing and is oddly specific. Also, lots of folks say “[That person] is a Fag” to me a lot as though that should discourage me from pursuing it. But lots of queer folks do it a lot of different kinds of queer folks, including Muppet Femmes like me.

***Also, no matter your attempts to get laid, it is really important to show up for causes and parties and local businesses that are important to you. Your participation is important, your dollars matter and your community will shrivel up without your support. Don’t stop going to parties assuming they will always be there, keep shopping at your local store that caters to you and supports your community first.

2011-09-14

Guest Post: 20 Things I Learned From Surviving a 20 Year Flood by Natalie

My friend Natalie moved away from Brooklyn to Central Pennsylvania and shortly thereafter her new apartment flooded, she had an emergency evacuation and suddenly lost just about everything. Her thoughts within a week of the flood were very inspirational to me and I thought they might be to you, as well. Learning how to lean on folks in times of crisis is really difficult and it helps to be reminded that it happens and our communities can reach out in very surprising ways. Vulnerability is a sign of strength, but it doesn’t make it easy.

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Me and Natalie at Michfest.

20. It is ill-advised to move during a tropical storm.

19. If you must move during a tropical storm be sure not to move into an apartment nestled between a reservoir and a river.

18. Stepping out of bed into foot of water in which things that are precious are floating will render your brain almost completely useless for quite some time.

17. It is best to have some one who loves you a great deal very close at hand under those circumstances

16. National news coverage is useless in an emergency.

15. Local weather coverage is even more useless in an emergency.

14. Having seen images of homes flooded on CNN is in no way preparation for being flooded

13. Even in the midst of “catastrophic flooding” there will be miracles, like a co-worker offering to let me live in her house which is unoccupied, has been on the market for months, and is staged for showing while I sort it all out.

12. Some people you love will disappoint you when you need them most, i.e., my father suggesting that maybe this happened as a result of my “lifestyle”. (My apologies to Central PA for bringing the wrath of gawd upon you all)

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Any lifestyle that involves tiny crowns is a very powerful lifestyle.

11. Nothing beats getting a call from a friend you haven’t talked to in years who wants to make sure you are going to be alright.

10. Sometimes when people ask if you need anything they are hoping you will say no.

9. The most expensive part of recovering from a flood is rebuying things used frequently towels, underwear, socks, salt, soap, toilet paper, etc.

8. Never use cardboard to pack valuables. Plastic bins all the way.

7. The shock of waking up surrounded by water pales compared the heart break of trying to decide what’s most valuable in the moments before a mandatory evacuation.

6. Gawd has an impeccable sense of irony as demonstrated by having a pair of my ex’s underwear be the only ones not rendered useless by flood waters.

5. When you are as powerful as I am it is best to be thoughtful what you say. Case in point: remarking that I wish I owned a fourth of the things I did while unpacking the uhaul the day before the flood.

4. Even waterlogged and beginning to mold there are some things I can’t bring myself to discard (signed copies of S/he by Minnie Bruce Pratt and Wounded in the House of a Friend by Sonia Sanchez; a butterfly mobile my husbutch gave me; a love letter I received in college.)

3. Bubble bathing will go a long way towards restoring your faith in water post flood.

2. Sometimes people who have nothing to spare will offer you their last. Being overwhelmed with gratitude is to be expected.

1. The definition of Love is the Strange Black Girl who will stop the world to hold your hand while you cry over a waterlogged pile of cards, pictures, and gifted art.

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Natalie you are amazing! We are sending you all of our love from your Brooklyn and Fest crews!

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

2011-02-22

Get into it: Femmes and Friends Fa(t)shion February

My friend Jessie Dress is a miracle. Not only did she design that awesome redo of the fatphobic PETA ad, she starts some amazing projects to gather people around things she’s passionate about. Example 2: Co-founder of Austin’s Femme Mafia Chapter.

I present for your joy and eye candy her latest idea, Femmes and Friends Fa(t)shion February. It’s basically a community outfit blogging project, mostly by queer fat femmes and their friends and allies from different body types and sexualities. Jessie said, when launching it, “I want to see your hot ass! I want to see people wearing work clothes, or house clothes, or going out to dance clothes. I want to know where you got what you’re wearing, and what you did to make it fit your body and your life.”

I have been an almost daily contributor to the blog. I put all of my entries on my own tumblr, peppered throughout the month.

I participated for a few reasons. One, I am friends with Jessie and I like making her happy. Another was because my bestie Mackenzi pointed out to me when I was trying to do the math to afford* a Sweettooth by Cupcake and Cuddlebunny dress that I have more clothes than anyone she knows and many of those outfits she’s never seen. So it was an impetus to pay attention to what I’m wearing, take stock and purge some of my wardrobe.

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Shark dress. My first contribution.

I learned a lot from outfit blogging almost every day. It is really hard to get a full outfit picture taken unless you have friends who are willing to be patient with you. It also helps that I work part-time at a store, so on those days I got a fellow Shop Girl to help me out.

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The first time I repeated an outfit, but I remixed it with a different cardigan/tights combo.

I also learned not to put so much pressure on myself. One day I took a picture of what I was wearing and I suddenly understood why some celebrities only leave the house after taking a photo of their outfit. I thought my business casual outfit was flattering, but not so much in a photo. I didn’t love the outfit and I decided not to blog it.

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I think a creepy angel head belt is totally to opposite of business casual.

I watched my bouffant get bigger as time wore on for the busiest party/gig weekend of this month, from Rebel Cupcake on Thursday through Nerd Love on Monday. There was a lot of hair action.

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Right in the middle of that period of time, wearing my Femme Flannel outfit.

I contemplated posting my loungewear, but when I’m wearing loungewear I’m typically working or lounging, not messing around with a camera.

Catifabulous did a write-up of the project in the blog Sociological Images. Fatshion February definitely had some limitations in terms of the participants (namely, very few people of color and above size 24 folks), but I still think it was fun and gave me a fresh perspective on my wardrobe.

I liked looking at all of the different ways people wear their clothes and the stories they tell about them. I also like to know where people get their clothes and how much they spend on them. I included that info on my outfit blogs when I knew what I spent on something.

I never realized this, but I typically compose outfits consisting of one item that is pricier and many other, under $10 pieces. I also never noticed that I privilege jewelry that’s at the top of my heap, so I’ll wear the same four or five necklaces in rotation until I go hunting through the box/shelf/many jewelry organizer bags I have. Accessorizing is often something that is an after thought for me.

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My favorite outfit of the month is almost always for Rebel Cupcake. This was my ‘fit (except my sparkly pink heels) for RC: Erotic City. Also pictured, Mackenzi.

And it’s not too late to get into it! The Femmes and Friends Fa(t)shion February tumblr page explains how to submit!

*See, I work at a resale store and sometimes I make some store credit, so I rarely pay cash for my clothes. This makes a big difference in the life of the broke artist.

2011-02-12

Glitterpositive Valentine Sentiments

Happy Validation Day everyone!

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Chalk art from Re/Dress NYC by Erin Bunny Burrows.

This time of year life is inundated with prix-fixe Valentine’s Day specials at restaurants and single-phobic, glitter-phobic rhetoric. (“Don’t be different! Do everything the same! Don’t be a wild pony! Find one person to love and do it in this totally heteronormative way!”) I find it gleefully ironic that these messages are sometimes sent using glitter*, when glitter to me represents people who shine really bright and really differently without regard for trying to quiet down or dim their shine in order to woo a mate.

I am a big fan of doing good things for yourself on Valentine’s Day, partnered or not. I’ve written about calling it Validation Day before and celebrating the joy of your life on Valentine’s Day. I’m into buying yourself something frivolous, delving into the cheesiness of hearts and confetti** just because it’s fun, or getting together with friends to make lasagna, drink red wine and revel in each others’ fabulousness.

I did the last thing one year with a whole bunch of boys. I was 22, being a fag hag and hiding out from the scary world of actually risking rejection by dating queer women. If I went out with a group of gay boys to a chorus of how fabulous I was*** it became much easier than the bizarre rejection I felt in a sea of lesbians who didn’t acknowledge me out at the queer girl events. I didn’t realize then that most people are just shy and socially awkward in big group scenes, my own awkwardness exponentially increasing the discomfort.

I don’t regret those days at all. I really needed to develop a sense of comfort with the woman I was turning out to be and it was like I was in a special baby Femme incubator. I also really loved Dolce and Gabbana cologne, watching old episodes of Absolutely Fabulous and going out dancing and so did they.

I thought I would do a round-up of glitter-positive, fat positive things that have caught my eye lately and share with you so that you, my queer/gender-fabulous/glittertastic lovelies out there can revel in some glitter-positivity out there. Shake off some of that mainstream-media Valentine’s Day hype.

Queerness, for me, is my choice. I am an active agent in choosing who I want to sleep with, who I want to have relationships with, and how I politicize my life.

Glitterpolitic is one of my favorite new blog projects. How is Ashley so hot and so smart? With the addition of her roommate/blog partner Erin their tumblr is unstoppable.

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Ashley at the Femme Conference, with Queer Fat Hungry. Photo by me.

I’m fat positive because I’m a feminist, and I refuse to acknowledge in the magical thinking that if you’re small enough, quiet enough, compliant enough and saccharine enough, you will somehow be enough.

Great article called “Why I’m Fat Positive” by You’re Welcome.

Co-dependent love is constantly represented as the ideal. ‘I can’t sleep/think/ live/function without you, romantic partner’ leads to the inevitable crash of despair when things don’t work out because you’ve set up someone else to meet the impossible expectation of completing you. ‘Forsaking all others’ doesn’t just imply sexual partners but in a nuclear model of family, seems to also speak to friendships and extended family.

Amazing article from Crunk Feminist Collective called Living Single.

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Erin from Glitterpolitic. So much hot in one blog!!

Shame doesn’t work. Diets don’t work. Shame is a tool of oppression, not change. Fat people already are ashamed. It’s taken care of. No further manpower needed on the shame front, thx…You know what’s shameful? A complete lack of empathy.

From “Hello, I’m Fat” by Lindy West.

Go forth, live and love radically!

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Source.

*I love a good post-Valentine’s day craft store sale.
**My Butch Ironworker roommate is making heart-shaped mini cheesecakes for Valentine’s Day and I am very inspired.
***I have always adored nightlife fags as they are liberal with compliments.

2011-01-16

2011… Sparkle Hard

When we were reunited after the holiday shuffle released her from her day job, my friend Heather declared to me “My theme for 2011 is ‘2011… Fuck it.’ 2010 was supposed to be 20WIN and nothing ever came of it. So 2011 I’m just saying ‘Fuck it.’” Heather is the kind of person who says to Pollyanna optimists like me “You call it thinking positive, I call it denial.” And though I have not abandoned my Pollyanna ways, I think her logic is sound.

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Me and Heather performing a staged reading of Steel Magnolias at Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Jeep Wheat.

Now, in no uncertain terms, 20Femme for me was not bad. I had a lot of crazy shit go down and it certainly didn’t turn out at all how I expected it to. The lessons and growing I had from my antics in 2010 are among the most pivotal of my life so far. I also had a pretty good time for some of it, existential angst and heartbreak aside. But, let’s be real, growing like I had to is not for sissies and sometimes it downright sucked.

When contemplating my year, I was thinking about the things I wanted to leave behind and the things I wanted to womanifest in the new year. I really want to focus on continuing to grow but just having a good time. Learning how to let go of expectations, keep asking for what I want, and squeezing the juiciest things I possibly can from every moment.

I think a lot of my lessons came to fruition during a Prince concert I went to the week before New Year’s Eve. I have a friend who has a ticket hook-up and is always trying to give me sporting event tickets that I politely turn down. He asked around my birthday and I said “What about Prince at Madison Square Garden?” Since Heather’s birthday is a week after mine I asked her to be my date and we went.

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This is Stuart. He’s responsible for carefully creating the purple rain above Prince’s purple piano during his medley of many great songs, including “How Come U Don’t Call Me?” one of my favorites.

I didn’t know this ahead of time but the tickets were floor seats. Right in front of the stage. For some reason, hardly anyone in the floor seats was dancing in the ample room around the end of the Prince symbol arrow. As soon as his first song was over me, Heather and about six other people were dancing around to many of our favorite Prince songs. It was incredible. I was wearing a gold sequin dress and I think if you’re on the floor at Madison Square Garden dancing you should just sparkle as hard as you can.

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After the show, up on the deck to get a view of the Prince symbol stage.

A lot of 2010 was spent on a collision course between myself as I am now and who I used to be before I gained self-confidence. I would never have worn a tight sequin dress, let alone a gold one, would never have thought to wear something interesting to a concert in the first place and would have spent the entire time at the concert feeling sad that, as good as it was, it was going to eventually end. I also wouldn’t have had the chutzpah to try to go dance away from my seat and even closer to the stage.

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Purple rain on the floor. And my sparkly Christmas purse.

Growing up fat and flamboyant, I learned early on to suppress my glittery tendencies and try to hide my plus size self as best as I could. I always second-guessed how I wanted to look and really took to heart terrible fashion advice. Such gems as “Don’t wear horizontal stripes” and “When you leave the house always remove one accessory.” I say fuck that. Watching Heather get ready is like watching a really cute hen walking around picking up one sparkly thing after another and I think it is probably one of the most fun things in the world to witness.

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Heather always looks as a good as a pin-up.

Having friends as flamboyant and supportive as Heather and the giant network of amazing artists I hold close helped me get and sustain the courage to be as outrageously Bevin as I possibly want to be on any given day. The last decade has been pretty transformative and I am so grateful every day for the unflinching courage to be myself.

Last year I started meditating and focusing on living in the moment. I have some big dreams but the way they are going to come about is by working hard and making my current moments as memorable and fabulous as possible. I can’t possibly recommend meditation more to help alleviate anxiety and increase happiness.

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The Prince concert helps to increase happiness, too.

I want to spend 2011 experiencing every moment, even the mundane inbetweens. I’ve been finding some really amazing stuff on my walks with my dog because I’m using my time and attention to notice. As my life coach said after I mentioned noticing a glittering piece of cellophane in a pile of leaves after our discussion about paying attention to each moment, “Attention makes garbage gorgeous.”

So in the spirit of “2011… fuck it” I’m just going to sparkle as hard as I can every moment. I feel pretty great about it.

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