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

2018-06-04

Bevin’s Rx to Increase Your Capacity this Summer—Number 1: Grab the text books

Counting the weeks until the launch of the Fat Kid Dance Party Aerobics video for the wider public, I wanted to talk through how we can increase our capacity. What I’ve learned is that it’s not how many hours we have in the day (they are finite) it is how we use them. And the best way I’ve found to use them well is to do the inner work that keeps me from achieving my dreams.

There is so much great healing available to you this summer just by curating your beach bag / pool bag / commute bag / waiting for your kid while they’re in a class bag. I’m excited to share with you my top picks to thrive and heal this summer!

[This post includes affiliate links to Amazon–if you buy literally anything from clicking on my links to enter Amazon I get a referral credit and I appreciate the support!]

With the Seattle class of Fat Kid Dance Party in May–taking a picture with Jes’ book to tell her that Seattle was ready for her tour stop!

First is Landwhale by Jes Baker.

Jes is the first person to tell you she doesn’t have it all figured out. But her second book is so raw and real it creates empathetic realizations. A memoir titled after a reclaimed name lobbed at her by trolls on the internet, we journey with Jes as an internationally known thought leader in body acceptance who charmingly screws things up and makes peace with her mind and body. Her chapter about how she realized her father was the root of her body dysmorphia, digging into how his cycle of dieting and gaining weight and his judgment of her body created work she must do to make peace with her body. She reflects on how many different kinds of movement she tried to lose weight and how choosing no movement at all was an important pause for her to heal her relationship with exercise.

You’ll find yourself in her stories. Jes looks deep inside the history of her fat body and explores where many of her painful moments can connect her closer to liberation. Bonus for people who like to know other characters of the book, I show up about 2/3 of the way through the book during a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood.

Photo by Kristen Frantz

Second is The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor.

This is the book I will use as a textbook for anything I teach in the future and have already assigned to my intern Asher to read.

It is an incredible reflection about how oppression of all kinds, including body oppression, intersects on our body and interrupts our peace. Sonya is a well-known expert in finding body peace for a reason. She gets it. Her premise about Radical Self Acceptance is that we are all born self loving and that we are taught what keeps us separate from that. How our media perpetuates body terrorism. How we can develop resilience to body terrorism and heal our relationships with our bodies.

This book is so valuable! Definitely throw your journal and a pen in the beach bag along with this book because you will want to do her journal prompts. Do the work and achieve a more peaceful relationship with your body. Increase your capacity by unlearning what limits you!

Me and Amber Rae at one of her book launch events!

Third is Choose Wonder over Worry by Amber Rae.

Amber was called to write this book (she returns to the topic of needing to write this book and what blocked her from doing it many times as a teaching tool). It is so accessible and fast absorbing. I finished her 4 hour and ten minute audio book in one day.

It was an immersive seminar about how to create that pivotal pause between our thoughts and our action. The thing we’ve learned from thought leaders like Mike Dooley, Shaman Durek, Louise Hay, Iyanla Vanzant, and Wayne Dyer is that our thoughts create our reality. Amber gives dozens of pieces of practical application shifting yourself back into a positive mindset.

Without spiritually bypassing, she knows how to create a new and easier reality by embracing what each emotion we don’t like can teach us. Feeling jealousy, imposter syndrome, or shame is yucky but Amber tells us how to become BFF with our shame in order to let it disappear. At a $25 cover price the peace of mind afforded by this book is worth 100 times that value. You deserve to feel good.

I am excited to dive back into the work of Amber’s book and do the journal prompts.

Since I find learning and healing happens more for me in a group, I’m offering a special Beta Group Coaching Process for four weeks using Amber’s book as our text. We’ll do the work of meeting ourselves in our journals and convene to talk about our revelations, our resistance, and I’ll work with all of you to open up what’s blocked.

I’m releasing the tickets for the 8 person coaching group to my email list first. I’ll post the link to sign up here on Wednesday. Here it is!

2018-05-18

Five Steps to Help Me Get Clear About What I Want

I put up an instagram square last week testing engagement around some upcoming tour dates for Fat Kid Dance Party. I’ve been touring since the end of February and I’ve been so many places. Seattle, Portland, OR, Minneapolis, Tuscon, Austin, San Jose, Knoxville, and back to Seattle. Washington, DC and Chicago are scheduled–please go buy tickets!

The circle up after class that I’m doing now is so tender! Finding venues that are affordable enough to have the time to really connect after class is a priority for me! Photos in this post by Jess Milligan.

When I say “testing engagement” that’s just fancy start-up speak for “Hey is anybody out there?” It’s helpful because when I look at my calendar, what is already on my plate and what I’m trying to accomplish, I tend to gravitate towards max efficiency. My inclination is to find out if there are folks out there who might overlap with where I’ll be anyway and make it happen. This is how I ended up in Austin on a random Monday, I was there for a retreat anyway and it helped offset the cost of the trip. But max efficiency doesn’t always align with what I want, or what I have capacity for!

The response was pretty amazing in quantity but it was not geographically specific. There are folks all over who want me to tour in their towns, which is fabulous, but it is also heartwrenching for me! I’m a recovering people pleaser and I want to make everyone happy. And I’m not going to Utah anytime soon!

The whole group in San Jose!

In people pleaser recovery we learn that what we must ultimately do is the work of knowing what is in our heart, what makes us sing, and what we want. I learned from Jeffrey Marsh that we do not need to be “nice” (doing what other people think we “should” or saying what they want to hear), but we can be kind. We can kindly say, “Hey, this isn’t right for me right now.” And we can be kind to ourselves and let go of the need for other’s approval.

After I heard from folks about where they were going to be able to attend class I took a next step and created a google form. This way when I do make it to Utah I can reach those couple folks who want it and make sure they know I’m coming. And I can keep gathering info about engagement over time by having it on my website and it can help with planning as I have more capacity and more income to hire staff to increase my capacity.

Dawn came all the way from Santa Rose to San Jose (this is a 90+ minute drive in traffic) to take the class and won MVP from me for coming the farthest!

This week I devoured my friend Amber Rae’s new book Choose Wonder Over Worry on audio and had a major aha moment. She taught about the method of making a list of what you want to work on and then listing what you REALLY want. Then *gasp/heartbreak* dropping the other things you also want so you can focus on what you REALLY want first. She nailed this for me—I always WANT TO DO ALL THE THINGS but my capacity and income do not yet support doing all the things.

When I sit down and figure out what I really want in the next few weeks—it is to have a killer launch of the new FKDP website and workout videos. The tour helps that, but it also hinders it. When I travel my work capacity diminishes. I want to get lots of social media shareables and help all the folks in my networks and my audience of kindred spirits to have what they need to make this workout video wildly successful.


I considered, briefly, just putting the workout video up for sale and not doing a “launch plan.” Launch plan is start-up speak for all the things you plan to do to get as many people as possible to buy something right away. It involves a lot of media planning, sometimes it is events and sometimes tours, social media shares, lots of asking and receiving.*

Me and Amber (left) and Lauren right after we filmed Amber naked in a field of blue bonnetts reading the introduction to her book.

Watching these past couple months as Amber dialed in and executed a huge launch plan has been so inspirational that I just need to try! I’d rather swing and miss doing something my heart really wants than play it safe and play it small and just casually drop this workout video that could really change people’s lives.

Every time I think of playing small I remember Tr*mp is in office and it is not time to dim our lights, it’s time to shine! The more I shine and put my healing work in the world, the more I heal other folks who will then also shine and put their good work in the world! We need more people who are fully expressed! (I talked more about being fully expressed on my email list this week!)

Because I took the time to get clear on what I really want, it helps me plan my tour this summer. Portland and Seattle are definitely happening in July, Cleveland and Atlanta are definitely happening in August, and the other “efficiency” tour stops aren’t happening. My desire to max efficiency often overrides what I really want! And it takes a lot of effort to take a tour stop to a new place and trying to find and engage that new audience is more work I know I need to apply to my launch. So I’ll go more places in the Fall!

Practicing taking up space and NOT playing small at Fat Kid Dance Party!

I was trying to make something work while I’ll be on vacation with Dara’s family at the Jersey Shore but she asked me to just focus on being on vacation not on tour. And in my priorities being a loving and supportive partner is much higher than work!

Here are some things I do when I need to know what I REALLY want:

1. Journal, free form, from my heart to the page for ten minutes

2. Make a list of what I want and then really think through my capacity, recreate the list in priority order and grieve** my lack of capacity

3. Process with a friend—regardless of what they “think” usually when I talk through something I can feel in my body what lights me up versus what makes me feel tight/anxious

4. I pray for clarity—just a simple ask for clarity “Please show me my next right move”

5. Meditation daily—seriously helps me stay clear and on my path

Being clear about what you want serves everyone in your life! If you’re a parent, showing your kids how to make decisions that align with what they want by modeling how you make decisions about your priorities is a killer life skill that will keep them on their true path and help them not become people pleasers. When you know what you want the people in your life don’t have to guess about what you need or want. It helps you set boundaries! It keeps your drama low and less of a time suck.

For folks who are bummed I’m not touring to their town anytime soon I’m planning a retreat for November 2-4 weekend. I wanted to create an opportunity for folks who want an immersive Fat Kid Dance Party experience. It’s for ALL size people and a chance to take class three days in a row (the joy meter from that alone will be on and poppin’). Additionally we’ll be working through our barriers to self care and creating tangible action plans. For more info see this video and if you want to have the first chance to buy tickets when they go on sale, fill out this form.

The workout video launch is happening early July. If you want to get access to your videos on June 15th, barring any post-production delays, as part of the soft launch, it is your last opportunity to buy the workout videos now! They cost less at pre-sale than they will full price so if you’re thinking of getting them as a gift and want the discount, get it now! I’m closing down pre-sales on May 24th.

*To be honest I have no idea what a launch plan really looks like so if you’ve done one please send me a copy so I can use a template!
**For real, my expectations create a need to grieve sometimes!

2016-10-21

You are Stronger Than You Think: Grief, Resilience and Capricorn Resistance

Last week I was shaving my newly adopted cat’s legs in an effort to mitigate his pee smell from peeing on his legs. “Shaving Day” was not a success and continues to be the official low point in our three week relationship. Lucky for me, it was a very consumptive process because I missed the texts from my mother when Grandmother went missing.

biscuitreynoldsHe’s so cute but the pee smell is so gross.

After I released Biscuit Reynolds to his 18 hours of post-shave sulking, I checked my phone. Mom’s series of texts were heart-wrenching, but I was already relieved to have read the most recent one. “I called Eisenhower and talked to Grandmother. She was in the hospital getting tests. She’s being released right now.” The first texts talked of asking me to join the hunt looking for Grandmother. She lives independently and doesn’t love her cell phone so we have to catch her at home in order to reach her. Mom hadn’t reached her in too long and got worried. On a whim she called Grandmother’s favorite hospital and asked for her room—and got her!

bevingrandmothermay2015Me and Grandmother in May 2015 on a visit from NYC. Being closer to her geographically was a big reason I wanted to move to LA.

I’ve been kind of wrapped up in my grief around Amanda’s suicide, so I was glad for a happy and swift resolution. Then I recounted the story to my partner Dara and started weeping. A coping strategy I have from my traumatic childhood is to be able to stay separate from my Feelings during crisis. I’m a complete rock star in crisis, I can solve shit, I can organize, I can motivate—I know how to stay safe and I know how to keep other people safe. This is a great skill but not great for emotional health and the Feelings always come. The weeping while I was telling Dara gave me the warning bell that I wasn’t done having these Feelings about Grandmother going missing.

Later that day I walked into Target and then started melting down. Have you ever sobbed at Target? It’s not cute. Part of what has been hardest for me with Amanda isn’t just the loss of her, it’s how much I identify with her and it’s scary. If the world was too hard for Amanda, will it be too hard for me? This thought often propels me to make the phone call even though I feel awkward talking about my Feelings in Target. I know I need to not isolate and I need to ask for help. So I called Bridget (she’s been so amazing this past month).

grandmotherbevinshermansMe and Grandmother at Sherman’s on Friday. When I asked the waitress for Shabbat candles for the table she was very confused.

I got through everything and then talked to Grandmother. Her test was a biopsy on a mass on her lung. She had gone to urgent care because she was coughing up blood and then they sent her right to the ER who admitted her to find the mass, do the biopsy. Grandmother didn’t call us because she doesn’t get a cell signal at the hospital and “didn’t know anyone’s numbers by heart.”

The fact that Grandmother might have cancer was a lot for me to take. Dara just celebrated two years out of cancer treatment in August. I, unfortunately, know a lot about cancer from supporting her through it. In spite of looming work deadlines, Dara offered to come with me to Grandmother’s the next morning to keep her company while she got the biopsy results from the doctor.

cancersurvivorpark1In May 2015 we did this photo shoot at the Cancer Survivor’s Park in Rancho Mirage, CA. We had NO idea Grandmother would have cancer–that’s the one thing that doesn’t really run in our family.

That night I was snuggling with Dara in “the nook.” My thoughts started floating to the grief places and I was crying. I realized I was soaking her shirt with my silent tears and I rolled over to my side. I felt like I was getting away with something. When you’re grieving sometimes you think your sadness, hurt, confusion, anger, depression is too much for your loved ones. Because often, it’s too much for you. Normally I spit in the face of anything that says I’m “too much” but I’m an independent Capricorn and sometimes I like to seem more together than I really am. Crying silently on my side of the bed felt like I could be more of a mess than Dara thought.

I instantly related to Grandmother. Like me and Dolly Parton, Grandmother is a Capricorn. So is my Great Grandmother and my Great Great Grandmother. An epic line of Capricorn women who in each past generation with deepened misogyny had to seem together and not lose it in front of anyone about grief and abuse and alcoholism and who knows what other trauma legacies are in there. Capricorns are the goat climbing the mountain. Persistent, ambitious, success-driven, not showing weakness. The cardinal Earth sign. The Keep It Together and Look Good Doing It sign.

I understood Grandmother’s reticence to ask for help when she got swept away to the hospital, to sit in a bed by herself and not call her kids or grandchildren. Just to do it on her own and not bother anyone. Getting away with not seeming like a mess or like she needed anything.

cancersurvivor2

I felt glad to relate to her and understand her motivation to isolate. I understand it with love and not judgment. I was also glad to be forcing myself on her to support her through the diagnosis the next day. I was sure she didn’t need someone to be there. She is always so happy and grateful when I come to visit I knew it wasn’t an imposition.

Dara caught on to me crying eventually and got me tissues and was her rock star supportive self. She drove two hours with me into the desert to Grandmother’s house in Rancho Mirage. She sat at the table with me and Grandmother googling the diagnosis, a mass on her lung but possibly a type of adrenal cancer or maybe lung cancer I still don’t know. She showed Grandmother her chemo karaoke video from her cancer vlog “Cancer Can Be Cool” and talked Grandmother through her experience with cancer treatment and how Dara insisted on positivity from everyone in her life.

daragrandmotherchemokaraokeDara worked so hard on that Chemo Karaoke video–she filmed it on her birthday during a chemo infusion at the Memorial Sloan Kettering chemo center where she got her treatment.

My idea was to go out to Sherman’s, our family’s favorite restaurant, a Jewish deli. (Better than most places I’ve been to in NYC—there I said it.) I wanted us to have a celebration for Grandmother’s cancer survival and success. I believe in the power of positive thinking more so than just about anything in my faith arsenal. If you’re going to go for a positive attitude might as well celebrate and have fun.

celebrationfood

We’re in the day by day diagnosis phase right now, where we wait for the next test result, next doctor referral. It’s maddening to a Capricorn like me who wants to plan and know what’s happening. But that’s not how the world works and I have to keep using lots of tools to be cool with it. I’m on my second listen to the just-released audio book The Universe Has Your Back by Gabby Bernstein and it’s got a lot of tools for working with the flow of the Universe, womanifestating and for finding serenity.

I told Grandmother that part of my vision for being a rich lesbian is having a big ol’ compound where she would be able to live in her own space in our house, hold court with my friends (who all love her or will love her, she’s so charming) and she won’t have to deal with telling the gardeners they are not doing a good job she can just tell my house manager. But since I’m not yet a rich lesbian I need her to hold on a lot longer. We gotta beat this.

cancersurvivorpark2The Cancer Survivor Park in Rancho Mirage is really great. Worth a visit if you are in Palm Springs.

There’s a lot to worry about, both me and her. She’s older than she looks and that means she gets a lot of ageism when people look at her chart instead of her whole picture of human health. I can certainly relate to doctors looking at weight and not the whole picture of human health. She is always concerned that she won’t get to live independently anymore. I want to be able to be there a lot for her treatment but we just adopted this cat and he stressed out with us gone for one night that he started pooping blood. I just recommitted myself to finishing the memoir I shelved during Dara’s cancer treatment.

I get that worry is a misuse of imagination. I’d rather focus on how fun it will be to make art projects and adventures out of her cancer treatment. We almost convinced her to sing a Dolly song for an instagram video to help me promote Dollypalooza LA on October 29th! She’s got cute stories about being almost famous early in her life, about being constantly mistaken for a celebrity while living in Beverly Hills and now I think everyone thinks of her as an older celebrity while she’s tooling around Palm Springs. We are hopeful she’ll consent to being part of Dara’s cancer vlog. Grandmother is basically a gay icon waiting to happen.

daragrandmotherwalkingHeart emoji. Literally every time I write a gratitude list Dara is at the top.

Before Amanda died, the phrase “You are stronger than you think” kept popping into my head. I didn’t realize it then but that was the Universe telling me I am ready and resilient, even as I don’t really feel either just yet.

cancersurvivorpark3

2016-02-26

LA Week Five: Turning Social

I’m loving these weekly check-ins about the transition to LA. I keep reminding myself of the power of six months, that in six months everything will be different, settled, and all of this transitioning stuff won’t be in the forefront of my mind all the time.

There’s so much more to the transition than I thought there would be. I guess I thought I could prepare and plan enough, since I spent months preparing and planning for the move. But I don’t think I had any idea what kind of energy it requires to not know where anything is and get acclimated to a whole new place. Most of the time when I’ve moved in the past I had at least a passing comfort with the neighborhood.

heatherwithdollymintHeather, drinking my Dolly Mint Reiki tea blend by a fire pit. #blessed

The biggest thing that happened this week was the launch of my Reiki Tea pre sale. People tell me I’m “brave” all the time but I don’t necessarily feel brave. It’s so scary to put your dream out on the line and be open to failure. It’s really vulnerable!

The Reiki tea blend business was a great idea and was very “safe” in idea phase. The sweet and awesome news is that as soon as I put the post up I made a sale (thank you Allison!!) and I’ve gotten enough orders that I’m nearly 20% of the way to making the B-School tuition! (Including $100 from Grandmother she gave me for my birthday and Christmas.) I had been planning a pre sale at some point but having the deadline and the big goal was really helpful. I feel good that at least I’m trying and I get to share this awesome healing modality with my blog audience!

barbtommyselfieWith Barb and Tommy!

This fifth week in LA was all about turning social. Up until this point I’ve seen a couple of folks a week, having been so overwhelmed with setting up the house I had to lay low, but people have been in town and it is good to take breaks and see people.

We also had to have a major overhaul of our travel plans and intentions. We thought we’d be done with the house set-up so much quicker, but we weren’t. We were going to go up to Las Vegas to support Dara’s mom in the Nevada caucus last weekend (she was a precinct chair), but Dara ultimately decided that we should stay home and get more settled in. I was going to go up to the Bay Area this weekend to go to Bryn’s SF memorial and when another friend of mine passed suddenly last week I knew that my self care interest would be served by not traveling. The grief pile-on has been kind of a lot.

I think I can sometimes use socializing and traveling as a way to not stay present. I love both of those things, but I know I also need to balance it by feeling my feelings, doing my self care work, etc… Traveling is a lot of energy and disruption. Not traveling these two weekends has been great because I was able to find a humane butcher at the local farmer’s market and get a pork shoulder and bones. I feel like once I make bone broth, maybe that’s how I finally feel settled? Anyway, it has felt great to eat nourishing food I spent a long time brewing.

greenspartyGreens!

It also feels super nourishing to get to see friends I’ve known a long time and who are familiar in a new and not yet familiar place! That has been a nice antidote to the newness.

Friday night we did a little York Avenue taco tour in Highland Park with our friends Kristen and Madeleine. I met Kristen eight years ago at the Femme Conference with her feminist burlesque group the Miracle Whips. (The Miracle Whips are also featured in the Glitter and Grit Anthology, a brand new book I highly recommend from Heels on Wheels!)

tacoparty

The four of us, rather than choosing one taco place decided to try first the Vegan taco truck (delicious), then we thought there were street tacos but instead was a woman selling sausages wrapped in bacon (extremely delicious), and then another taco truck across the street from the Vegan truck that was “conventional” tacos and also really delicious. A street dinner for less than $10 each. I’m still trying to figure out my exact right condiment preferences for tacos. Definitely cilantro, but which kind of hot sauce? Onions? Radishes or no?

sausageparty

Saturday morning Dara went for her first and last run along the LA River (it hurt her knees which were weakened during chemotherapy) and I went for an aura cleansing class in Hollywood. I’m thrusting myself into the woo lifestyles of LA and I feel really great about it.

I moved out here to work on my spiritual gifts and I am super into any class for $15 that will teach me woo modalities. This was taught by the owners of the House of Intuition here in LA, which now has three locations and the stores and products are great. I visited when I was here in May and so many folks told me it was a must-see. (They also have an online store.)

houseofintentionworkshopauracleansing

The owners are queer women of color (a couple) and I learned SO much. About starting a business based on your intuition, building altars, magic, and the promised aura cleansing methods, which involves a ritual bath or shower. It gave me a lot of great ideas for enhancing my ritual for tea blending!

My friend Heather (co-editor of the Glitter and Grit anthology) was in town this weekend so I visited her at the apartment she was staying in. It was like a gorgeous human terrarium, with a running brook through the complex, a grotto, a heated pool with a fountain, a community grill, an outdoor fire place and a dry sauna. We used all of those things with Caitlin, another LA transplant from Brooklyn and Heather’s friend Monica. It was awesome to be around Femmes for the afternoon and just hang hard and look really cute.

poolpartyThis pool party was also my first time in a bikini as an LA resident.

I wore a semi-slutty dress over there because I have gotten so tired of wearing the same ten outfits. All of my clothes are still in boxes pending the completion of my Mariah Carey closet in our attic, but due to my weirdo packing some clothes have surfaced, including this super cute dress that is just so low cut I only like to wear it when I’m feeling really confident or with a group of folks I feel safe and supported by. Femme gatherings are great for fashion risks.

The truth is, I haven’t felt as confident since we got here. Being in that constant state of “I don’t know this area I don’t know where I’m going” has left me a little more vulnerable and thus less inclined to take risks or draw attention to myself aesthetically. I just want to hang out with cats / not get cat calls right now.

Heather’s partner Silas came home before I left and it was great to squeeze him and catch up! He’s directing and doing some other work on Transparent Season 3, you totally need to check his instagram for the dish. I’m so excited for his work coming out. Did you see the amazing video he directed for Peaches that came out a couple of months ago?

Then we party hopped to dinner with my friend Tommy who was visiting LA with his girlfriend (and Dara’s good friend) Barb. We went to this place down the street from us, Links n Hops, a SAUSAGE RESTAURANT. I am committed to trying all of their many kinds of sausages.

barbtommyFirst time seeing Tommy since my going away party in December!

Monday I finally went to the beach for the first time since living in LA and that was great except for super sad reasons. My friend Melissa Tracy, who is just a little bit younger than me, passed away suddenly last week. I have very few regrets in my life but I now definitely regret not aggressively pursuing a hang out with her before I left NY. We met when she lived in Baltimore, she moved to SF, then back to Baltimore, then to Ventura, then to Nyack, NY (near NYC). I will probably write more later about Melissa, but whenever I imagined her in Ventura I imagined her on this very specific beach I love there. I met up with my old friend James Leander who also knew Melissa and we said a prayer and lit a candle. It was super windy at that beach and I felt it was extremely auspicious that we were able to easily find a tiny candle cave to keep it lit.

candlecave

On the way back from Ventura I stopped in Camarillo to visit with my Aunt Shari. It’s so nice to just get to drop in and see my family! I watched the full moon rise over the mountains near East LA from I-5 on the way home. Did you catch the full moon on Monday? Celestial gorgeousness!

Tuesday we drove Heather to the airport and because avoiding traffic is a huge hobby of ours, Dara had a meeting in the late afternoon in Marina Del Rey (beachside town near LAX) and it was an adventure we made a day of it. We did a post-airport drop off Panera work date, had a post-lunch stroll on the beach, then back to another coffee shop for more work and Dara’s meeting. It was a looooong day but totally worth it for the beach break.

bevinmacybeach

Tuesday night I reunited with a longtime Femme friend, Jenni, who is another NYC area LA transplant, but had a year and a half jump on me. I got to make her dinner, which we ate with a huge pile of “to sort” stuff looming in the living room, but it was a super sweet reminder of what me and Dara are working so hard on our house for. I cannot wait to have dinner parties and regular parties and social things.

In fact, we planned a painting party/mild carpentry party this coming Saturday for some friends to come over and help us work on the Mariah Carey closet installation. It’s been hard for us to carve out the time and I truly love throwing parties way more than painting. I figured combining the two would be a really great way to motivate. Even if three people show up the extra help would rule. And then I get to be social and feel like I’m making progress on our house.

Oh also, we played tennis outside yesterday. Though the transition is still rough and scary sometimes, LA is definitely really sweet right now. I think, among the laundry list of physical, emotional and spiritual work to do right now is to really feel that I deserve all of the tremendous blessings that LA is offering. The weather is beautiful, the things we have access to are so phenomenal. I mean, my friend invited me over to swim in a heated pool and lounge by an outdoor fireplace at a random apartment complex just six minutes from me. Like, making this change has been a ton of work and hard, and it’s so much easier to not make change and just think about or long for what it would be like to make change. But pulling the trigger and walking through the gauntlet yields some pretty amazing stuff.

I’m really praying that pulling the trigger on starting the Reiki tea business is not scary for long and is one more beautiful blessed thing that I get to do now that I live here.

2015-11-30

Queer and Indie Holiday Gift Guide!

holidaygiftguide2015

It’s Cyber Monday again (I kind of still hate that it’s a thing now but it’s a thing now). I believe in putting a dam in Capitalism wherever possible. If I have some wealth, I am going to redirect it to prioritize helping the lives of small businesses, especially those run by queers and POC. I don’t want my gift money going to increase some bottom line on the New York Stock Exchange.

I figure if you’re going to participate in gift giving, I’m super into connecting people to small businesses. I’m also into giving people good gift ideas because I love to shop. I have some ideas for literally anyone on your list.

My holiday gift guide this year is not compensated–I included small businesses owned by folks I know and indie businesses suggested by my followers who commented on my instagram and facebook posts asking for their favorites. Every now and again a proprietor sends me a sample of something or a discount. Many thanks to my friends Lexi and Jamison who helped me come up with some of these ideas, too!

My astrologer once told me that money is energy in 3D form and I totally believe in being mindful about putting your energy out there, especially when you’re doing holiday shopping. So here is a big list of possible holiday gifts for all kinds of folks on your list, enjoy!

jewelryandadornments

Jewelry & Adornments

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I am so into Stitch Prism Jewelry this year. Handmade by KellyAnne Mifflin, the jewelry is aesthetically gorgeous woo. Maybe you just want something pretty, I love the designs so much! Maybe you want something energetically supportive–it is so powerful to wear crystals on your body. I bought a necklace at their booth at a craft fair after asking which stones I needed have hovering over my heart while traveling.
KellyAnne makes custom work, custom chain sizes, too. I have a custom Capricorn necklace with additional stones that I love. They are also great about “Hey I have this piece from you and need the chain reworked” so if you’re nervous about chain length for your gift recipient you can always get it amended. Also consider a gift card for a custom piece!

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Leather Coven! I bought the above-pictured Medusa harness from them after my holiday gift guide last year and it fits so well! Seriously, getting a custom, hand made piece of art is such a marvelous experience. Mateo is a leatherworking genius and I love their stuff! You can style it in lots of ways–wear it over your clothes for a baller accessory, wear it over an undergarment to amplify sexy, and if you want to really go for deep sexy wear nothing under it!

For a simpler style I love the Sebastian Harness for only $41.40 (pictured above, modeled by Mateo) and I am deeply coveting the new Elektra crop top that just came out this Fall. They take Etsy gift cards if you are unsure of the measurements of your loved ones. If you’re ready for their Cyber Monday deal, for today only CYBERME20 for 20% off!

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I love Chubby Cartwheels so much. (This is the brand behind my beloved Diet Industry Dropout crop top.) I think it can be hard to buy other people clothes, but as a Fat Femme, I love when my lovers buy me great lingerie. How about these Chubby Cartwheels All Around Mesh Undies? I feel like they work well for folks who love lingerie and folks who just love to be comfy. Both sexy and cozy. (I would count this as loungerie.) At $18 and sizes 1X-5X I think it’s a great choice. If you don’t know your sweetie’s size, go check out their underwear drawer, find a couple pairs you know they enjoy and scope the size tag! And if you’re really unsure, email Shawna, the babe behind the brand, and say “It’s a Torrid 2X, what size is that for your garments?” A lot of fat femmes know what a Torrid 2X fits like and can translate.

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Speaking of fab fatties, I also gotta shout out Rachel Cupcake’s Re/Dress. Every time I’ve bought online it comes really fast. They have all these AMAZING microfiber bright print leggings for $28. If you’re shopping for a babe who is size 14-26, the leggings fit that whole size range so you can’t go wrong. I love a bold print legging, it goes with my easy tunic tops and I don’t have to think about how to really wear an outfit. Also, it puts me in touch with my inner Peg Bundy.

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Dapper and Swag’s Livery and Adornments has some very fabulous Collar Tips. My well-dressed dapper friend Lexi says Collar Tips are her new favorite accessory. Dapper and Swag has this great Nautical themed collar tip for only $15! I also love the stag antler ones.

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Project TransAction (in their words) is an eco-conscious, artist driven, independent leatherwork and screen printing company in Boston, MA. We use only top quality American cowhide and source our hardware from small – often family owned and operated – US companies. All of the inks, dyes, and finishes that we use on our leather are water based, and our screen cleaning products are biodegradable. All of our work is 100% Quality and Satisfaction Guaranteed. We aren’t satisfied until you are. Right now I’m obsessed with how good leather suspenders look and really want a pair for Dara. Their base price is $85 for leather suspenders and they have so much great leather to choose from. This is another item to order custom sized. If you want to go pricier these Distressed Brown Leather Suspenders (swoon) are $150.

It can be so hard to find a belt that fits for a larger or smaller than average person! Project Transaction also sell really cute custom belts like this Gears and Cogs belt for the nerd in your life. Find Project Transaction on Facebook and Instagram! Get 15% off with Promo Code WINTER and free holiday shipping!

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Kelly Horrigan Handmade makes such great earrings, shoulder bling, necklaces, wall hangings, etc… From Kelly: At least 75% of the leather used at KHH | KELLY HORRIGAN HANDMADE is repurposed from high quality scrap leather. We strive to make sustainable choices whenever possible. I love the Diamond Teal Peacock earrings so much. This Python Necklace is so baller. Kelly makes a lot of things in hot pink and I am very into bright leather. Receive 15% off when you use code HANDMADE at checkout.

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Wild Fancy Design has some of the coolest jewelry for your favorite witch, feminist or queer. The Dandy Unicorn collar tip shown above is $33. Yes Homo necklace is $25. Or how about flagging with a Switch pin for $16? With code DARKSKIES you can get 15% off through December 31st!

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Deliciousness & Potions

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Do you know a tea lover? The Plum Deluxe folks have an amazing tea of the month club with a hand-blended seasonal tea exclusive for their tea of the month members. They sent me a sampler of their tea to check it out for my Lesbian Tea Basket series and I’m prepping a video about all that. I looooved the seasonal sample they sent from an autumn monthly delivery. In fact, my dog groomer Sequinette came over and asked for a “seasonal” tea and boy was I a proud lesbian busting out my tea of the month for the moment. (And it was delicious!) You should definitely consider the gift of a tea of the month! They do the gift subscriptions in 3, 6 and 12 month increments, either one tea at a time ($10 per month) or two teas at a time ($16 per month). As a tea lover who loves to sample new tea, I would be super into this gift.

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(Hint hint if any of my loved ones are reading this and want to buy me this tea of the month club gift please go for it, email address is queerfatfemme@gmail.com I will update them with my address as I make my way cross country.)

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Gemly and Fern is the potion arm of Stitch Prism, which is really great. Such great potions to choose from if you have a loved one going through it: Deep Self Love, Heal Through This, and Mercury Retrograde Support Potion.

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As someone who has food sensitivities I have learned to rely heavily on my cooking skills. I have definitely leveled up my cooking game and doing so, relying on high quality great spices. I’ve also learned that high quality delicious salt can transform any vegetable. (I have more than five types of salt right now and I feel really great about it.) My friend Lexi suggested Penzey’s, a local spice shop located in Boston and Missouri, for cute gift ideas for literally anyone who cooks. The Sunny Paris seasoning, is salt free. It is pricey but it is definitely because of the dried shallots inside. Lexi shared it with me and it smells delicious. And for $10 for 1/2 cup it will help jazz up pretty much anything. Jamison and I used the Buttermilk Ranch spice mix on chicken the last time I visited their home and it was out of this world. The Sandwich Sprinkle is also recommended from the Lexi/Jamison household. They also have gift cards and gift boxes, and all the salts.

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Kids & Pets

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Queer kid’s coloring books! Jacinta Bunnell has a whole line of them for the gaybies and small children in your life! The Big Gay Alphabet Coloring Book is only $12.95 Sixty-four page coloring book illustrating twenty-six words that highlight memorable victories and collective moments in LGBTQP (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Pansexual) culture. Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon Coloring Book is only $10. There are lots more, check out the store!

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If you know a high school or middle school-aged person consider the gift of this amazing young adult book I just finished, Dumplin. I definitely plan to write up a full review on my blog but until I get to it (I will be done moving in 3 weeks, maybe then I will finish my backlog of blog endeavors!) you should know it is a heartwarming tale of a fat but mostly okay with it girl and her coming of age. She lives in a tiny town in Texas and loves Dolly Parton. There’s teenage (hetero)sexuality in it. It was such a great book I had a hard time putting it down.

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Ruff Haus is the pet collar arm of ProjectTransAction and I love their gorgeous work–the prints are so unusual! I especially love the circus horses and polka dot design.

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For cats, I have an unusual present that’s pretty cheap. I follow a really cute flat faced cat named Kyle on instagram. Kyle has a big online presence and because his adoption origin story involves his previous mom being killed by domestic violence, his new parents use his online swag to raise money for a pet friendly domestic violence shelter in NYC. This tickle pickle is only $4, stuffed with catnip and I’ve seen many famous instagram cats playing with it so I know it’s a hit among the feline sector. What an amazing win-win, a great stocking stuffer and a donation to benefit a pet friendly DV shelter!

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Books & Prints

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Glitter & Grit – Queer art anthology

My writing is featured in a new anthology that is coming out on a limited edition pre-sale run! Glitter and Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy features writing and art by over 60 queer artists, all of whom have worked with Heels on Wheels — the notorious all-femme, DIY touring & community art troupe. (I wrote about my experience touring with Heels on Wheels in this blog post.) To fund this printing, this anthology is on pre-sale Nov 30-Dec 14, only at this link. First 30 books sold @ 20% off – $20 + shipping, next 100 books sold @ 10% off – $23 + shipping. Note that you can select express shipping and get it in time to gift, if you want! This is the kind of thing you’ll want to give other people and you’ll want to give to yourself. STOCKING STUFFER MAGIC for the Femmes and Queers of all genders in your life!

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Charlotte Cooper has a new book coming out! Maybe you want to pre-order it and give a card to your friend/relative/partner who needs or wants something like this? In Charlotte’s words: Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement is going to be published on 4 January 2016. I picked this date because it is the beginning of the new year weight loss season and the first day back to work for people who have to hustle for a living. I thought that this would be when readers would need something really encouraging about hope and social change at this bleak time of year. Also definitely don’t miss the cute holiday video starring Charlotte!

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For someone who needs a little more of a body love 101 ride, and someone to walk them through the process of loving your body like a friend I am reading and loving Jes Baker of the Militant Baker‘s Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls. I’m also quoted in it! (What a total honor!!!) That photo above is me and Jes Baker at the book launch in NYC!

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I went to a craft show this weekend and I barely looked at the letterpress booths because I love Panorama Press so much! Queer owned and operated, Madeline makes such amazing beautiful creations. Tons of cards, the amazing California Poppy print above I love so much, and occasionally jewelry. And Don We Now Our Gay Apparel for only $5 is the BEST gay holiday card.

Other Things!


I have had this Ring Thing on my phone for the past year and it’s frickin’ amazing. Here’s the blurb from Zachary, Dara’s friend who runs it and its awesome charitable arm. Never drop your phone again! Ring Thing allows for a comfortable, safe & secure grip for any smart device. Ring Thing can be used for a verticle or horizontal kickstand and rotates 360 degrees & swivels 180 degrees. New phone, new case, no problem, Ring Thing can be peeled off and reused over 100 times!** So if you’re looking to take the perfect selfie or watch a video with ease and comfort, you need a Ring Thing!

This holiday season, you can support Schools That Can (STC) and get your stocking-stuffing-shopping done. Enter the “SchoolsThatCan” coupon and $9 for each RingThing purchase will be donated to STC, helping them provide quality programming, partnerships, and thought leadership to their schools. To learn more about STC and Ring Thing, visit www.GoodForMeLifestyle.com/Fundraising

P.S. Watch a holiday video starring me, Dara and Macy on you tube from the Schools that Can/Ring Thing mash-up last year!

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And I always want to shout out my friend Mackenzi’s great store Lockwood! She has three locations now, one in Astoria, one in Jackson Heights and a clothing store in Astoria that carries sizes 0-24. If you’re a NYC local go shop in her store, I can literally buy all of my presents for everyone there, she curates epically. The webstore has only a fraction of her inventory, but online I love the plates with cute sayings on them, like these for $24.95. Watching Mackenzi work so hard and actualize her dreams is very inspirational for me. Her store has really bloomed over the past 7 years of our friendship!!

2015-04-24

You Should Read Michelle Tea’s Book How To Grow Up

I love Michelle Tea. I can’t say much more than at 22 years old I read Valencia and finally found a literary voice that sounded like my own. Kind of breathless excitement about life, stories and a fascination with other people and my feelings and how they affected one another. Reading Michelle Tea told me I could be a published writer, too. It also told me I could maybe one day be an artist and have an amazing group of inspirational kind of reckless friends and all of those things came to pass.

How to Grow Up is her latest memoir. I have read much of her work over the years and I think it is my favorite. Her writing has evolved a bit, it’s still chatty like a friend telling you a story over coffee rather than writing a story and letting you read it. But the sentences are tighter, shorter and the sentiments are clearer. Also, she has a lot of really deep self-reflection and self-compassion that sharpens what she says through lessons learned. It is familiar to her early work but it is a different and more developed literary voice.

It’s written in essays, which makes it easy to read in chunks, but it is also very difficult to put down!

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I thought at first that the book was basically going to be an almagamation of her great column in xoJane Getting Pregnant with Michelle Tea. (I remember a road trip a couple of years ago where I would take breaks from driving at gas stations and read a couple of articles on my phone.) I was totally wrong about that, the pregnant stuff is only a couple of chapters and it is in a more nuanced, self-reflective tone than the columns.

Her book covers so many topics like doing the work on yourself so you stop dating people who stomp all over your heart, going to Paris fashion week, deciding whether or not to drop being a full-time artist in exchange for steady employment, getting over a huge break-up, having a wedding without spending a fortune, and so much more. I related to so much of it on such a deep level.

1937764487_495d6304f0_zIn November 2007, I had just been dumped by my fiance. I was devastated. My friend Mamone was in DC (I was in NYC) at the Sister Spit show and, knowing what a huge Michelle Tea fan I was, asked the group to pose with this sign to make me feel better! It was such a wonderful gift to receive this photo!

If you out there are reading this blog post, I think you should buy Michelle’s book How to Grow Up. However, these people in particular are going to love it:

Working class folks.

I love how much Michelle Tea talks about money, her feelings about it, growing up working class and oh my goddess how being an artist with an uncertain income is affected by that working class upbringing. I have never read anyone talk about the intersections of those two realities about money–working class/poor childhood and taking the leap to freelancing. It is scary as shit and I need a lot of tools in order to navigate this. I’ve already begun using one of her tools, which is to invite her higher power into

Spiritually curious people.

Michelle opens up about her spirituality, including a Stevie Nicks higher power that helps her through things. Tarot readings, how she meditates, explores Buddhism and explains some Buddhist principles in terms of hilarious real life examples of her love life. She also talks about how meditation has really helped her navigate life with more stillness. And the weird fears we get when we venture into a new kind of deeply religious or woo place with ritual and worrying about getting it “right.” I related so intensely to that I put that sentence in “we” and I’m not going to edit it.

I’m a super spiritually curious person, I’m always interested in hearing folks spiritual practice and woo modalities, so I loved that thread throughout the book.

XO-lv4KJThis amazing photo was taken by my friend Sophie Spinelle of Shameless Photography fame.

12 Step People.

I’m paraphrasing Michelle in a blog post I can’t find that I read a few years ago that she breaks the 11th tradition of AA about being anonymous at the level of press, radio, TV and films–being transparent about where her tools for sobriety came from–because she couldn’t have gotten sober without it. Not telling people about her work in AA would be like lying and acting like she could have done it all on her own.

Anyway, she has so many great recovery gems going on in the book in some ways I felt like I was reading really engaging sobriety stories. I found a lot of good tools for my work in my own 12 step program (for family and friends of alcoholics) and I will recommend this book to my pals in recovery.

I have been thinking a lot about whether or not people who don’t like 12 step language or tools would be put off by the book and I don’t really think so. (I know a lot of folks who had parents or former partners in recovery who have been really damaged by recovery language and don’t like it.) It doesn’t overwhelm the content, and if you take what you like and leave the rest you’ll still enjoy it.

Political people like queers or femmes who critique the fashion industrial complex but also love it.

There’s a whole chapter about Michelle buying her first designer piece, a leather hoodie, and all of the feelings that come up about it from her working class background and history being a vegan punk. How her deeply committed political beliefs are complex and how she had to learn to lighten up a little in order to actually enjoy life and eat enough food to live off of. Um, also there’s a whole chapter about Michelle deciding whether or not to get BOTOX.

20150212_015937Macy’s ankle broke while I was reading the book.

On a personal note, this was the first time I read a Michelle Tea book and actually knew some of the people she talked about because our queer worlds are very small. I had always wondered if I would read a Michelle Tea book one day and know people in real life, and then it happened. Knowing who they were did not change how I perceived them independently of the book and also it did nothing for deepening the story since Michelle writes very well from her own perspective and experience. I kind of thought if I knew someone and read about them it would be a thing but it wasn’t.

(I am always curious about how people talk about people they know and use pseudonyms and all of that because of my blog and the memoir I’m working on. My privacy ethics are very nuanced after years of blogging, but I still sometimes feel nervous about people’s reactions to being in print.)

I highly encourage everyone to buy Michelle Tea’s How to Grow Up and savor it. You will love it.

And then consider picking up Valencia because it rules.

2015-04-20

We Need to Be Talking About Lyme Disease in the Queer Community

I’ve been trying to find a way to talk about Lyme Disease and how it affects the queer community. I grew up a woodsy outdoorswoman going to Girl Scout Camp in Northern California with signs that warn of deer ticks carrying Lyme disease. I saw the signs that told us to do tick checks, as a camp counselor I’ve coordinated big groups of young people in looking for ticks and being aware of them. I know to seek medical attention if you see a bullseye rash, especially if you get a fever or aches following exposure to a tick bite. (The CDC has a guide to symptoms of tickborne illness, if you’re lucky enough to know you got bitten.)

I’ve heard that only 20% of folks with Lyme Disease had a tick bite that was identifiable. It’s a disease that sneaks up on you, is vastly underreported and very difficult to test for. (It’s estimated that the cases of Lyme Disease are actually 10 times higher than what is reported.) Because of these factors it is really difficult to get a diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Insurance companies and the US Government are both very unwilling to concede to the actual appropriate treatments for Lyme Disease, doctors lose their license for treating it effectively, paying out of pocket for treatments is wildly expensive… This is a very scary, very real and very deadly thing that is happening to more and more people.

Over the years I’ve known a few queers with Lyme Disease. I’ve connected with some about treatment as they’ve used a similar anti-inflammatory food plan as I have, or who have battled candida overgrowth like I did because of the mammoth amount of anti-biotics used to treat Lyme.

small_selfportrait_sunX400Photo of Leslie Feinberg from Advocate.com. Have you read Stone Butch Blues yet? You should.

Ever since Leslie Feinberg died from Lyme Disease, I’ve known we need to talk more about Lyme Disease in the queer community. I didn’t know how to have that conversation, so I just started to bone up and educate myself.

I watched the documentary Under Our Skin, free streaming on You Tube, which according to folks I know with Lyme, it is an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to seek treatment for Lyme Disease and it is shitty. It’s the kind of helpless I feel when I see really big world problems that need solutions. But I know what I do have control over and that’s learning more about it, asking questions and opening conversations.

Here’s the trailer for Under Our Skin:

Under Our Skin – Trailer from Open Eye Pictures on Vimeo.

Here’s a link to the whole documentary on you tube.

I also watched the Punk Singer, the Kathleen Hanna documentary by Sini Anderson. Kathleen opens up about her Lyme Disease and how it affects her life. It’s a really powerful double feature. The Punk Singer is available on Netflix and to buy on iTunes. (It’s great in addition to the Lyme content to hear about the Riot Grrrl movement, see great interviews with queer heroes like Lynnee Breedlove.)

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Here’s the trailer:

I may not know what to say about Lyme except, I’m here and I’m listening and reading about the disease and experiences of those with the disease. And I want more people to listen to folks with Lyme and hear them. And see them, and help them be part of the queer community even if they physically can’t be there.

4116744_1428627138.8138Photo from Jessica’s Lyme Treatment Fund.

My friend Jessica Scarlett and her wife Nik are fundraising $9,000 for her Lyme treatment. Maybe you have a few extra bucks for a stranger or maybe you know them from somewhere on the internet, like both of their really awesome art and etsy stores. NikScarlett.com
Jessica’s vintage collections and sales are the coolest.

I met Jess when I was a baaaaby gay in Sacramento, CA in the late nineties and Nik when I moved to Philly. They are a really cool couple and battling a really shitty disease.

I’ve also followed Fran Varian’s battle with late-stage Lyme Disease for years, as she is an incredible writer and femme so many folks I know have adored for a long time. The thank you letter up on her Help Heal Fran website is a poignant article about living as a queer with a chronic, expensive illness.

franindiPhoto of Fran Varian from HelpHealFran.org

The below passage from that piece really hit me. I think a lot of Femmes participate in queer community from a place of giving–but it is so hard to be Femme and in a place of needing help sometimes. We have this notion about ourselves as Femme that we have to be resilient warriors doing it on our own.

Before I knew that I was sick I was proud to be an activist. I worked for social justice in the health care industry and I donated my time to teach kids about poetry. I read and I performed at fund raiser after fund raiser. I wrote and spoke extensively with the earnest hope of making a difference in someone else’s life. Before I became sick I held a deeply-rooted belief that it is noble to give of one’s self and shameful to require gifting, though I never would have said that out loud.

Now I think differently. And because my body does not frequently cooperate and allow me to physically accomplish all of the things I want to I have a lot more time to think. Before late stage Lyme became my daily reality I allowed the pride I felt in being helpful and in giving to define me. I thought it said something about me. Unlearning that vanity has been almost as difficult as learning how to live each day with a daunting, progressive illness.

Avril Lavigne was on the cover of People Magazine last week coming out about her retreat from the spotlight while she underwent extensive Lyme Disease treatment. It’s awesome when celebrities bring awareness to it. Wealthy folks obviously have a different experience with treatment because they have access to funds for treatment insurance doesn’t cover. But still, the more awareness people have about it and the more we talk about it the more we can turn the tide of these awful insurance companies and maybe move closer to single payer healthcare/government run medical coverage for everyone.

Do you have an awesome Lyme resource to share? An article you read and resonated? A documentary, video, blog? Leave the link in the comments!

(I had some cool ones on my facebook fan page, but I’m still locked out of Facebook pending giving them a government id to their satisfaction).

2015-04-15

Fun Home The Musical is Totally Awesome

I was offered press tickets to see a preview of Fun Home, the new Broadway musical based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home. Alison Bechdel is famous (to me and to every lesbian from the 90s, as the author of the famed comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.
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I knew a bunch of people who saw the first version of the musical when it played at The Public Theater, and also I know the dog walker of the woman who adapted the graphic memoir as a musical. It’s a tiny queer world. (Her dog is REALLY sweet.)

I have very few feelings of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as someone who lives in New York City, developing FOMO resistance is a survival strategy. Yes, somewhere at this very moment there are a ton of parties going down and I’m not missing anything. I feel this way about books and TV shows sometimes, trusting that one day I’ll get to it if it’s that good. This is why I didn’t read Fun Home when it first came out and I was too broke to see it at the Public.

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Ugh, I wish I had read Fun Home when it came out! It was so good!

The setting of the story is Alison’s family’s obsessively restored house not unlike the Addam’s Family’s period mansion. Additionally, the family’s funeral home business (the “fun home”), time traveling to college when Alison came out, and in the musical there is time traveling to present day while Alison is working on the graphic memoir and trying to understand her father.

Her dad is volatile, moody, obsessive, difficult, secretly gay and it isn’t certain but probably he committed suicide, just four months after Alison came out to her parents.

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Due to the literary references and analogies in the book I kind of found myself wishing I had read Henry James, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald and more heavy hitters in American and European literature so I could better understand Alison Bechdel’s when I was reading the graphic memoir (imagine a cartoon doing that), but then I remembered that my brain is full of the entire works of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Dorothy Allison and I’m not missing any of the old white dude set.

In reviewing the photos from a family (minus her mother) trip to the shore with one of their young male baby sitters, with new eyes, she draws connections to literary hard hitters.

“In one of Proust’s sweeping metaphors, the two directions in which the narrator’s family can opt for a walk–Swann’s way and the Guermantes way–are initially presented as diametrically opposed. Bourgeois vs aristocratic, homo vs hetero, city vs country, eros vs art, private vs public. But at the end of the novel the two ways are revealed to converge–to have always converged–through a vast ‘network of transversals.'”

This is all written over a drawing of the family’s station wagon in the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s the kind of book that you can glaze over the stuff you don’t understand because of the pictures, but if you’re a word whore like me you’re looking up the two words per page you don’t know.

I went to see the musical on Broadway fresh from reading the book and so curious how that sweet elderly poodle’s mom had adapted it to the stage. Here’s Alison Bechdel’s comic in video form about the transition from book to Broadway.

I thought the musical was great. It was super tender and distilled the important parts of the book for me. It was brilliantly staged in the round, with furniture moving up from the floor and around through holes in the stage. It struggled to flesh out the mother’s character, who I thought had a bigger part in the book.

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Dara thought Bruce Bechdel (Alison’s closeted gay dad) could have had a bigger emotional payoff, but I also wish I had been listening to the soundtrack ahead of time so I could really hear what he was singing in the last couple of songs, which is I think where the payoff was. Also, it’s so heartbreaking to watch the story of a person, especially a queer person or otherwise non-societally conforming, who lived their whole life in a 1.5 mile diameter circle.

The part that I felt was most different in the musical was the part played by Joan, who in the book is kind of a background character, but the dimension she gets in the musical makes her so charming and also the actress has some great swagger.

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It’s also really freaking cool to see a masculine of center Lesbian as the star of a Broadway musical, as the narrator character is present-day Alison Bechdel (not the real Alison, an actress) in all her tee shirt, jeans, converse, short hair, bespectacled glory.

The book is a quick read, and I think my having read it made a huge difference in how I was able to experience the musical.

It was also so great to learn soon after the show that there is a sequel to the book! Are You My Mother.

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Everyone I’ve talked to about the book says they love the scene where young Alison sees a butch for the first time. Here’s the you tube video of the song from the musical. It’s so amazing when you see a butch for the first time and you’re not used to seeing gender non-conforming people who you identify with!

Tickets are Broadway pricey at $75-$150, but this one is worth it. It’s on Broadway through September 13th, so grab them fast! And if you can’t make it to NYC to see it, read the book and then get the soundtrack. Both are really fantastic! (Ugh, especially the cute coming out dialogue “Thanks for the Care Package.”)

2015-02-13

Half the Self Hate: Kate Bornstein Wriggling Towards Fun

For years I’ve been noticing the People Magazine annual “Half Their Size” issue. It comes out around New Year’s Eve and the cover is always the same: before and after photos with big graphics about how much each person has lost. People Magazine devotes pages and pages of a feature story to readers who have lost over half their body weight. They ask them how they did it, what motivated them, what their “rock bottom” was as a fat person.

I kept thinking, What if we talked to people about how they lost more than half of their self-hatred? What would it look like? I find it so inspirational to hear how people have risen out of oppression and cultures that don’t value their bodies/identities and have learned to love themselves in spite of that.

I reached out to several artists and activists whose work and self love I admire to ask what practices they employ to love themselves and how they defy a culture that commodifies self hatred. I wanted to know what inspired them to work to reduce or eliminate their self hate.

This is a series about self love triumphing over self hate, and valuing yourself as a radical act of resistance.

The Half the Self Hate series continues Monday with my interview with Be Beautiful Project founder and poet, Denise Jolly.

kateauthorphotoKate with her pug, Mollyanna.

I discovered Kate Bornstein when I was 17 years old and taking my first Women’s Studies class (this was 1996, before it was renamed Women and Gender Studies). How lucky I feel to have known Kate’s work for almost half my life! Her book Gender Outlaw radically shifted how I saw gender, people and identity and I have continued to learn so much from her work ever since. Kate works to make the world a better place, whether that’s through her engaging keynote speeches on achieving world peace through gender anarchy and sex positivity, her numerous books, social media work preventing suicide with #stayalive, or just one on one over fried chicken and good conversation.

I knew I wanted to include Kate in this blog series about battling self hate because her memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today, is an incredible book that delves deep into how Kate’s mind works. She writes very candidly about working through feelings of strong self-hate and how she wiggles through that to become both profoundly accomplished and self-actualized. On top of all of that, Kate is also one of the kindest people I have ever met. I’m so thrilled to bring her words to you as part of Half the Self Hate.

How do you identify?

Currently, that’s in flux. It’s something like genderqueer BDSM asexual transsexual diesel femme dyke crone.

What does that identity mean to you? How do the intersections of it help you bloom? What are your struggles?

It means I don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules about gender and sexuality—rather, I can explore the non-binaries of me. The struggle? I’m a double Pisces. I don’t struggle so much as I wriggle. I’m wriggling toward being the most fun me I can be. The challenges all seem to come down to someone else’s respectable rules, regulations, standards, and values. I’m wriggling away from all that, as best I can.

Do you identify as someone who loves themselves or something else? Maybe just working on not hating yourself?

Love myself? Oh goodness, no. Well, rarely. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally come to a place of having compassion for myself.

kate_bornstein santiago felipePhoto by Santiago Felipe.

Do you remember when it became obvious to you that you had a self-hating internal monologue? Was there ever a time before that you loved yourself?

Ummmm. Since the moment I was self-aware, I’ve always felt that I’m less-than. Less than a real boy was the start of it all. My life from that point on has been all about how I don’t measure up, how I get it all wrong, how I never get enough done. And that’s been the state of me until quite recently—say a couple of years ago—when, in one of the very early crowdsourcing campaigns, thousands of people raised over $100,000 so that I could pay for two years of wriggling through lung cancer to the point where I’ve now been in remission for over nine months.. That many people helping me stay alive, well, that marked the end of my low self-esteem and self hatred.

Can you create work as an artist when you are having a bad self esteem day? If so, what is your process of working through it? If not are you able to let yourself off the hook about it?

Oh yes! Art got me through a LOT of suicidal periods of my life. A lot of art gets made that way. There’s a wonderful collection of essays by me and others who do exactly that: “Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction,” edited by Sabrina Chap. Now, doing art hasn’t always made me love myself, but it almost always has gotten me through periods of my life when I just might have acted on that self-loathing.

What practices do you employ now to be more self loving and less self hating?

Over the past four years, I’ve been doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy. When I’m lost or losing my way, that’s a huge help to returning to a place of compassion. DBT is a therapy developed by Marsha M. Linehan. As I understand it, it’s part Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and part Zen Buddhism. I love Zen. Along with Sufism, Zen is one of the world’s last remaining slapstick spiritual paths.

What’s your favorite self-care activity?

Cuddling with Maui, the Siberian cat I live with.

IMG_20150212_183722Kate and Maui. Photo from Kate’s Instagram.

You do so much work helping others Stay Alive. Your #stayalive hashtag on social media, your book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws, and virtually all of your other work helping people feel at home in their gender(s). How has doing that work influenced your self love journey?

In addition to Zen, I’m also a follower of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. Love him. Studying his take on Buddhism, I’ve become familiar with the spiritual path of bodhisattva. Google it. It gives me a lifetime to lifetime goal and focus of ending suffering for all sentient beings, by means of becoming as wise as I can possibly be. During the moments that I’m aware of that goal and life focus, yeah… I love myself.

Kate-infront-of-books1byDavidHarrisonPhoto by David Harrison.

You can find Kate Bornstein touring on the lecture/workshop/performance circuit (her schedule is here and you can also book her for your college/conference/retreat/etc…) as well as touring with Sam Feder and the film he made about her, Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger. I was so surprised, thrilled and honored to have my femmeceeing included from Rebel Cupcake in May, 2012 in the film about Kate. I’m wearing a cute dress.

I also want to second Kate’s book recommendation for the anthology “Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction,”, it has helped me come to a lot of understanding of how my depression (I get seasonal as well as just regular depression) affects me as an artist, and helped me not feel so alone in my struggle.

You can follow Kate on social media, her Instagram and Twitter are fantastic, and sometimes she tucks you in bed with a sweet benevolent message. If you haven’t read her books, start with her riveting memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today, then explore My New Gender Workbook, Gender Outlaw, and Hello Cruel World.

If you or a friend are in need of alternatives to suicide, there’s the free Hello Cruel World lite and if cost is an issue, you or your friend can reach out to Kate directly to get a full copy of Hello Cruel World.

Thank you so much Kate for your insights!! I love you!!

******************

Half the Self Hate Instagram and Twitter contest:
**Contest extended!!**
I want to know how you’ve lost half your self hate! Write a tweet or an Instagram post about one practice you have employed to lose half your self hate. Or commit to employing one practice to lose half your self hate! (You can borrow a practice you learned about in this blog series!)

Hashtag your post with #halftheselfhate and make the post by February 20th at midnight Eastern time. Two winners will be chosen by a random draw.

One winner will receive a $50 gift certificate from Self Serve Toys a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Albuquerque, NM with a great online store!

A second winner will receive a Vesper vibrator worth $79 from Sugar, a queer-owned feminist sex toy shop in Baltimore, MD which also has an online store!

Self Serve Toys and Sugar believe, as I do, that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.

*To qualify to win your Instagram or Twitter needs to be public! The winner will be selected by random number generated by random.org of all entries to the contest between February 11th and February 20th February 24th Midnight Eastern time.

2014-10-15

I Lost a Bunch of Weight and Feel Really Complicated About it

Last year I lost a bunch of weight without intending to lose weight.

I’ve debated writing about it for a long time. What do you say when you’re a body liberation activist, who is fat and totally okay with it, when your body shifts in an unintended way? My silence around the how and why of my weight loss has partially been political—my body is nobody’s business except my own—and partially been because I needed to make my own peace with the shifts happening on a very intimate corporeal level.

IMG_20140906_045612Me, backstage at Dollypalooza with MILK from RuPaul’s Drag Race and Camille Atkinson.

During this process I’ve learned a lot about making peace with a changing body. I have been fat my entire life, since I was maybe 5 and it was identifiable to me that fat was a thing you could be and that’s what I was. I’ve been the fattest in most of my friend groups, among the fattest people almost everywhere I go, and generally at the higher end of plus size so that not all plus size stores carry clothing that fit me. My experience of fat came with some privilege—I have not had a Super Fat experience, for example—but I definitely was decidedly fat.

And I loved my body. I still love my body. I had gone from hating my body and being completely checked out of it to being an embodied, yoga attending, dancing full body in spandex outfits on the dance floor, person who could tell you exactly how her body was feeling at any moment. I did so much work to get to that place and to love every inch of myself.

Chronic disease.

Starting in about 2006 I was dealing with chronic digestive issues. It would flare up differently and at different times. Stress, anxiety and I was extremely reactive to fiberous foods—like broccoli and raw salads. My digestion was so bad at times I couldn’t leave the house, or I was often late getting places because I would need to spend time having diarrhea or cramping. I went to see gastroenteologists about my condition twice over the span of a few years. Both came up with different diagnoses, both had me go in for a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy. The first diagnosis was colitis, but that was later ruled incorrect. The ultimate diagnosis was IBS—Irritable Bowel Syndrome—which my last doctor explained as, “We know something is wrong with your digestion we just don’t know what it is.” I have tried several different prescription medications for it and nothing resolved it.

I knew from paying attention to my body that coffee was something that made my digestion way worse, so I dropped that habit a couple of years ago. It helped. Replacing coffee with tea in my life is what inspired me to start the Lesbian Tea Basket.

I knew from paying attention to my body that alcohol, especially bourbon, caused a revolution in my intestines. When I gave up drinking at the beginning of 2013 it was partially because of wanting to address these ongoing digestion issues.

IMG_20140419_170005I could never have gone through this process without a fat positive health coach who I could call from the grocery store. “Hey Vic, is spelt the same as wheat?” “It’s better than gluten but still in the starchy carb category.”

Along came the candida overgrowth. It started for me as the presence of yeast during sex. Just a kind of weird, what is that white stuff presence. Then it happened more and more. Because it wasn’t itchy or causing any other symptoms of a yeast infection I didn’t think it was the “chronic yeast infections” a few folks I knew who had gone on the Candida Diet. But my friend and health coach Vic, of Heart Beets Holistic Health, said she was pretty positive my yeast presence was a Candida overgrowth. Vic suggested I read the book The Candida Cure and consider going on what she called the Candida Starvation and Murder Plan.

A lot of people call it the Candida Diet and I hate the term because “diet” is so loaded with baggage. In the media and in common parlance, it is used often as a violent word to attack bodies like mine. So often people don’t understand why fat folks “don’t just diet” when weight loss is much more complicated than that.

Number one, fat might be just the way someone is built. Number two, the systemic oppression of fat people actually makes it really difficult to take any lasting measures towards health. Number three, my body is nobody’s business but my own. Number four, plenty of fat people are healthy. Number five, it’s also okay if someone just wants to eat how they want to eat, they should not experience oppression because the genetic lottery means that will show up as a larger body. No one’s value is based on their choices—all humans are worthy of love and respect.

I could probably rant longer about how much I hate diet culture but that’ll do.

The Candida Cure.

Setting aside my issues with “diet” language, I read the Candida Cure, taking what I liked and leaving the rest. The author of the book was diagnosed with MS and uses the Candida Starvation Plan as a way to live symptom free. Since the whole point of the eating plan is to starve the candida, which feed off of sugar, I began referring to the eating plan laid out in the book as the Candida Starvation Plan, playing off of Vic’s jovial ways of making complex nutritional issues extremely accessible.

I learned a lot about what causes a candida overgrowth—big factors are any period of stress in your life (stress spikes your blood sugar which feeds the candida), going on antibiotics, eating a lot of sugars over a period of time. The book said that up to a third of people probably have a candida overgrowth and Western medicine really doesn’t talk about it. (Which is true—I saw Dr. Oz a few weeks ago and a guest was talking about how antibiotics are causing digestive issues but totally danced around ever using the word “candida.”)

I learned that candida was living in my intestines, eroding the lining and likely causing my years of chronic digestive disease and inflammation.

The Candida Starvation Plan is brutal, when compared to the typical American Diet. No sugar, not even fruit sugars, no caffeine, no gluten/wheat, no corn, no soy, no grains or carbs of any kind besides brown rice in limited quantities. No nightshade veggies like mushrooms or peppers. No sugary veggies. The Candida Cure even says no pork because the antibiotics given to pigs might feed the candida.

IMG_20140901_133725Ribs, when prepared with no sugar, are debatable on the Candida Starvation Plan. My body needed the pork, though.

After I read the book, having gone on her Spring cleanse and determining by the direct cause and effect (“Hey, when I eat a banana I get a yeast infection”) that I did have a candida overgrowth, Vic stepped in to help me design a Candida Murder Plan. The Starvation Plan works a lot better if you’re actively killing off the Candida, too.

Vic gave me a cycle of four herbs to take, since candida can get used to one herb and then not be affected. She also prescribed this “dirt drink” that takes an oil that kills the candida, mixes it with psyllium husks and powder to take it to different parts of the intestines and delivers it with food grade diatamaceous earth and bentonyte clay. Once I was using the dirt drink every morning I could tell that I was healing.

The whole Candida Starvation Plan was about 7 months, with a couple of times where I got off the plan because of life circumstances—travel with limited food options. If I could have avoided the life circumstances it might have worked in about 3-4 months.

My IBS symptoms cleared up about 60% within a month, and were almost entirely gone within 2-3 months. I now only get flares when I eat trigger foods or am very emotionally stressed out.

Losing weight affected me in complex ways, and most of them were difficult.

First of all, it startled me. Having tried to lose weight a lot of different methods over the years and rarely seeing a shift above or below a certain 60 pound range (I called it my pendulum, where as an adult I never went above my pendulum or below it) I really thought I’d just plateau around my normal “low” weight and stay there. I rapidly sunk below that low and kept going. I genuinely didn’t think my body was going to have that in store for me.

Second of all, since the weight loss was unexpected, I felt kind of resentful of it. If you’re one of the billion typical people who are seeking weight loss, the kind of hassle that comes along with it is bearable and perhaps even embraced. But if you aren’t expecting or seeking a weight reduction having to buy new clothing and replace really simple stuff like bras is annoying and a cost that is hard to absorb. Also, when the weight loss was coming on I was also at a period of really intense brokeness and couldn’t afford to replace my wardrobe.

IMG_20140713_125708This dress was a handmedown from a dear friend. I had two friends do closet purges and invite me to dig through their leftovers–goddesssends in a time of brokeness when I needed some staple dresses to wear and many of my favorites were too big.

Third of all, I was impressed with my friends and family. Sure, there have been lots of folks who have given me the nonpliment of “you look great.” There is one friend who I’ve distanced myself from, in part because she just never heard me when I said, “I need you to stop calling me skinny and telling me how good I look. It makes me uncomfortable when you talk about my body.”

The majority of my personal community and family has been really neutral about my weight loss, waiting for me to bring it up if I do bring it up and not showering me with praise. This has been really awesome, because I know I’m doing a great job surrounding myself with body positive allies, and educating folks about how to be an ally to fat folks who appear to have lost weight.

Fourth, I made a decision once I realized I was losing weight to be extremely neutral about it with myself. I even made it a spiritual challenge, to see myself as just a soul having a human experience, that my body is going to change no matter what I do (hello, aging) and that this was just another change. I don’t want to feel bad or glad if I do end up increasing weight in the future. I want to accept it as another phase my body is going through.

I also wanted to really live the phrase Health at Every Size. I’m willing to do the work of knowing what my body needs to feel healthy and do the work to love myself at every size I’m at. If I am going to advance the belief that all bodies are good bodies I am going to treat my body that way as well.

Fifth, I was surprised that sex was different when I lost weight–and not how I would expect. Weight loss rhetoric would have you believe that sex gets so great when you lose weight, but actually it was super weird for me. I have lost sensation in many parts of my body and I can no longer get fisted. I don’t get it. I’ve had sex with two people before and after the weight reduction and both noticed the difference. Vic thinks it might have to do with less adipose tissue, which means less estrogen and less sensation. Who knows, but I’d love to get fisted again. I mean, I’ll continue to have great sex no matter what, but it would be nice to not have to learn a whole new language about how my body wants to be touched sexually.

Sixth, I actually felt weird when asked to pose nude for an international magazine (look for Diva Magazine out on October 18th) that I had lost so much weight. I ate a bunch of dairy before the shoot so I would look plumper.

So what did I eat?

I had to learn a whole new way of eating for my body. I tried the Candida Starvation Plan for a month with no pork, at Vic’s suggestion. That part really sucked and after a month of no pork I went back to bacon—antibiotic free, hormone free, organic heritage humane pork is my preference anyway so I became very strict about that aspect of the pork.

IMG_20140420_182121Vic suggested when I was hungry to make sure I was eating enough fat. Fat fills you up. Deviled eggs are full of fat, but it’s rough finding a no sugar added mayo. I went to Whole Foods.

I got really good at slow cooking meats. I would make a pork shoulder in the crock pot which would feed me for 3 weeks. I ate a lot of bone broth (Vic’s recipe is great).

Breakfast was a challenge. I would have eggs, bacon and greens on some days. Some days I’d make kale, bone broth and pulled pork. Other days I’d have this weird grain cereal called Quia, being sure it was the type of Quia that didn’t have dried fruit in it. I’ve since found this amazing paleo baking queen named Brittany Angell who sells a $10 premium membership that comes with a breakfast recipe ebook.

I had big salads, veggie stir fries, tons of thai food cooked without sugar, and meat. I was doing a lot of cooking and thus doing dishes, but I though I was starving the candida, I was never starving!

I would get a little carb crazy sometimes, and then I would do some baking. Almond flour biscuits were a saving grace, as were brown rice tortillas from trader joe’s.

The Candida Cure allows half a grapefruit, or a handful of blueberries, or a small green apple per day, as all are relatively low sugar fruits. Also sweet potatoes a few times a week, so I got some fries every now and again. I was very strict on the candida starvation (I wanted to be one and done with the Candida Starvation Plan) except for caffeine which I had in iced tea probably once or twice a day because I drink a lot of iced tea. It’s decaf at home but I grab it at Dunkin Donuts often.

It was remarkable, actually, how different food began to taste when I took sweet out of the equation. Regular stuff, like veggies, get sweeter when you aren’t having sugar regularly.

I had tried to diet a many times before I decided to love my body as it was. I always failed. I hated my body. But this time, I was totally embodied and paying attention to how food was affecting me. I love my body and I like paying attention to it and doing things that make it feel good.

Being able to feel the difference in my chronic digestive disease so quickly was really helpful. I knew what I was doing wasn’t some amorphous “maybe it’ll help the candida;” I really knew it was working.

Since I weaned myself off the diet, I try to eat a generally anti-inflammatory food plan. I focus on no gluten/wheat, no soy (this is the most reactive food to me), no dairy during allergy season and limited dairy otherwise, sometimes no corn, low sugar, low starchy carbs. I focus on eating veggies, fruit, meat and protein. It’s really similar to my partner Dara’s anti-cancer diet, so that is helpful.

IMG_20140510_161609I’m really delighted to be back together with honey.

I can tell when I’m eating inflammatory foods because my stomach gets really hard. It’s much squishier when things are moving well. I kind of err on the side of Paleo because that’s a pretty big food movement that is most similar to my food guidelines. Thanks cross fit folks for making a food plan that helps me find recipes easily.

So, that’s the elephant in the room. Longtime readers of my blog probably noticed that I reduced my weight and were curious. I’m annoyed that so much of how I lost weight had to do with not eating cupcakes and donuts and things that I freaking love. Food celebration is a big part of my body liberation performance and activism.

But I also really fucking love my body and don’t want to be all cramped up unless it’s worth it. (By the way, my friend Maggie and Karen’s epic, decadent, weekend wedding extravaganza last weekend? Worth the whole week of yucky digestion.)

I would never have been able to love my body the way I needed to in order to do what I needed to do to resolve my chronic digestive issues before I loved my body.

A long time ago I made peace with my body and began to love it. I’m really glad I can love my body no matter where it is on the weight pendulum. And even though I lost a bunch of weight, I’m still fat.

2014-10-04

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2013-11-28

Free Download of Kate Bornstein’s Hello Cruel World Lite

It’s Thanksgiving here in the US and folks are either gathering with family of origin or choice and maybe having feelings about that, or NOT gathering with those folks and maybe having feelings. Sometimes there’s no winning! The feelings just come no matter what you do!

As part of the THX4SUPPORT hash tag project happening today on Twitter, I wanted to point readers to a resource I think is totally invaluable! Kate Bornstein, gender warrior and auntie to so many of us, provides this free pdf of the “Lite” version of her book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws.

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Me and Kate and Carmelita Tropicana at a reading for the Feminist Press in 2010.

Head to this link for the free pdf download.

I just want to say about suicide that I’ve been there. I’ve thought that life wasn’t worth living anymore and gone to great lengths before to end it all. And I’m so grateful that each time I even started down that road that there was something by the grace of the goddess that got me to reconsider, or at least procrastinate about it long enough to decide not to. I’m so grateful.

If there’s anything that you can do (and hopefully Kate’s book can help you come up with things to help procrastinate) to stop yourself, even just for a few minutes, do it. Reach out for help if there’s someone out there you might be able to talk to. Reaching out for help doesn’t work for me in the moment, though. I haven’t ever been good about asking for help when I’m that dire because the shame of that shit getting so dire, the gremlin thought of, “I should know better how to manage my depression that I shouldn’t want to kill myself,” is a pretty deep and hard gremlin.

BUT, there are a lot of things you can do and Kate’s book does a great job of outlining a lot of them (101, in fact). Go for a walk, write down 10 of the most awesome things you can think of, write a mini vision statement “If I were supreme ruler of the universe…” Look your dog square in the eye and promise her you’re going to fulfill your life commitment to her.

And on a personal note, I want to say that you are valuable, wonderful and your body is exactly right the way it is because all bodies are good bodies and the culture that tells us otherwise is just trying to make money off of us. We need you here, because the more freaks, outlaws and body warriors we have the better and more fabulous this world is for all of us.

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I’m pretty stoked to have stayed alive to see this little munchkin grow-up! Joey’s almost two now and I’m spending Thanksgiving with her.

Follow hash tag #stayalive on Twitter any old time for lots of good reasons to stay alive. Thank you, Auntie Kate, for everything that you do.

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