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

2017-05-17

The Life-Altering Power of Changing Your Mind

On Friday, Dara and I flew up to Seattle to visit my mom for Mother’s Day. The whole flight was a huge comedy of errors and a GREAT opportunity for both of us to practice the life-altering power of changing your mind.

This was a hard trip for me to plan, since it’s just three months after we lost Grandmother and the first time we were leaving Macy and Biscuit Reynolds after our last pet sitters left them alone after an emergency. Even the thought of booking our flights was hard for me, so Dara sweetly took over logistics. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get us seats together for our flight.

There was once a time I believed I did not look good in red so I never wore it. What a great thing I changed my mind about! Photo by Dara.

Since we each had a window and an aisle, Dara figured we would easily convince the person in the middle switching for Dara’s aisle seat. However, when we arrived at my row the woman declined as she was traveling with her son. Dara and I said our goodbyes and proceeded to have individual opportunities to adjust our thinking on our flight.

Flying while fat is rough and one of the best benefits of being in a mixed-size relationship is being able to sit next to each other with an arm rest up. The first thing that woman did was make sure her arm rest went down–I can always tell when someone is trying to mark their territory on a plane.

This was my first opportunity to change my mind. I didn’t dwell on it, I just let that armrest go down and moved on to my next thought. Earlier in my life, I would have spent the whole flight stressed about squishing as far away as I could from that woman and assuming I was constantly in her way. My ability to obsess about other people’s perceptions of myself and my size was unparalleled and it made me miserable. Now I shift my focus to my own life, my art, my work in the world and focusing on my own comfort during a flight.

Next up was the wailing baby. It was clearly several rows behind me but its discomfort was loud. I put in headphones and turned up 9 to 5 so I could continue conceiving of aerobics choreography. I almost always stop myself from feeling annoyed at kid noises to change my thought pattern to compassion. As uncomfortable as it is to be a passenger on a flight with a wailing baby, it’s way more uncomfortable to be a parent dealing with a wailing baby. I prayed for the baby that it would find comfort and moved my thoughts away from it.

Our flight was delayed by a half hour, which gave me a head start on free movie watching. I absolutely love when flights have on demand movies available, I consider it a $5.99 bonus. I started that Will Smith movie about grief, “Collateral Beauty,” from a totally analytical place. I’m cooking up a grief book idea to help me through my grief about Grandmother and I want to consume as much as I can about grief theories. I did not think about the trigger truck that I was inviting into Row 21 of this Delta flight. The beverage service didn’t happen until I was at the emotional climax of the movie.

Suddenly, the woman next to me knocked over her fresh hot cup of tea and it landed all down my thigh, my leg and in my boot. It scalded at first and I blurted, “Ow, ow, ow!” The woman was very sorry and apologized a bunch of times. I was gracious, telling her it was okay, but still needed to advocate for my needs with the flight attendant. It’s hard to ride that line of being generous in spirit but also making sure that your needs get met, I certainly wasn’t going to sit there with a sopping wet leg and no napkins to soak it up, but punnishing her in any way for something that was a mistake isn’t appropriate. Punnishing people for mistakes creates a psychologically unsafe environment and I believe really strongly in creating a life/workplace/home environment where mistakes and accidents are just part of getting to a good experience/output/joy. Dara’s consulting business focuses on this a lot.

I did what I could but that scalding hot water turned cold really quickly. I could have sat in misery but I just kept turning my attention back to the movie and trying so hard not to ugly cry. I didn’t want that woman to think her spill was making me cry but the jarring hot water when I was being really touched by grief was difficult. I was so thankful that the flight attendant checked on me again and I asked for a blanket–it really saved the rest of the flight for me.

I had to do a lot of changing my mind in order to be ready for this wonderful relationship with Dara. I had to humble myself that I didn’t know everything and learn how to do relationships, dating and communication differently. Totally worth it in every way. Photo by Rick Sorkin.

During all of this was epic turbulence. At least twice the plane dipped very quickly. Both times my first thought was, “Well, I guess this is it.” I don’t really have a fear of dying, I think when you’re destined to go that’s your moment. But I shifted my thoughts to visualizing our smooth landing in Seattle so that I wasn’t sitting there in fear of my impending death.

Dara’s experience of the flight was similarly bumpy. She was one row in front of the crying baby and even worse was the father, caring for the child alone, was *yelling* at it. She was having total empath feels for this poor baby who wasn’t even being soothed. The first sudden drop on the flight happened when she was in the bathroom alone! She thought the plane was going down, too, and considered running down the aisle to me so that we wouldn’t die separately.

The person across from the aisle from her started barfing, the sounds and smell were awful for her (chemo was really, really hard for Dara). When the second intense plane drop happened the woman next to Dara started crying and freaking out, which didn’t help Dara.

I asked Dara how she dealt with all of it and she said she would take a deep breath (nose closed during the barfing) and put her focus back on her work. Taking her focus away from the things disturbing her/grossing her out/freaking her out helped to take the power away from those external influences.

When we got off the flight we arrived at the shuttle bus terminal to go to the deep woods where my mom lives on the Olympic Peninsula only to find out that it was sold out. By then I was hangry and overwhelmed and had to carry all our luggage because Dara’s still in post hysterectomy no carrying more than 5 pounds mode.

My problem solving skills were weakening, but after fifteen minutes of trying I figured out how to take a Lyft not at surge pricing to the Seattle Ferry Terminal. They Lyft ride plus the ferry was a little bit cheaper than the shuttle for both of us and it was a negligible difference in how far mom had to drive to pick us up. However, we arrived at the Ferry ticket booth thirty seconds after they announced that they had final boarding on the ferry we were trying to make and had to wait another hour.

When I first heard about EVERYBODY, the body positive gender affirming gym opening in LA, I didn’t know how I was going to participate. By changing my mind about my capacities, I realized I could take all the work I had been doing as a body positive warrior for self love all these years and channel them into dance aerobics. If Richard Simmons could do it, I could to! I’m building up my following and would love to have you join me on Thursday nights!

As luck would have it, the waiting area has a gorgeous view of the Seattle waterfront, the Commuter Cafe at the Ferry terminal had these incredible salads that are hella cheap (take that, $15 tasteless LAX breakfast burrito!) and we were able to just sit and enjoy ourselves and finally debrief our wild flight.

One of the skills I’m most grateful for every day is the ability to interrupt my thought patterns. I can sit pretty steadily in a hell of my own creation if I don’t do this because once I go down that spiral it picks up steam.

I was really taken by how both Dara and I survived what could have been a completely miserable experience by choosing to change the directions of our thoughts and focus on something else. I find gratitude lists are a helpful way to change thought direction, I use the Serenity Prayer sometimes, I take a macro look at the situation from lens of an outside perspective. I use the six month rule–will this matter in six months?

Mom got stuck behind a draw bridge on the way to pick us up (things are slow out on the Olympic Penninsula) and she arrived five minutes before we did on Bainbridge Island to pick us up. The timing worked out perfectly, even if not as planned.

I was always a cat person and it took changing my mind about dogs in order to be open to Macy in my life!! She’s changed everything for the better!

2017-05-03

Why Authenticity is so Vital: In Celebration of Ellen’s 20th Coming Out Anniversary

“As long as you stay true to exactly who you are, you will be rewarded in ways you cannot possibly imagine.”—Ellen DeGeneres

The 20th anniversary of the coming out episode of Ellen’s sitcom was April 30, 2017. It was the first time a lead character on a TV show came out; it was before Will and Grace, the Logo channel, and Modern Family.

For those of you who don’t remember, it was a BIG DEAL. Media was covering it before it aired and endlessly discussing and debating afterward. There was an all star cast of supporting characters and extras, including gay icons George Michael, k.d. lang and Melissa Etheridge.

I found out from my friend H. Alan Scott that Ellen was celebrating the 20th anniversary of her coming out on her talk show because he was invited to be on it! His story about how he watched the coming out episode is detailed in this piece he wrote for Newsweek and on the below video from the show. (Believe me, I hinted hard that I wanted to be invited as a plus one to go to the taping but sadly he didn’t get a plus one.)

“It’s easy to forget now just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages… Not just for the LGBT community but for all of us to see somebody so full of kindness and light remind us that we have more in common than we realize and push our country in the direction of justice.”—Barack Obama on the occasion of giving Ellen the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

1997 was an interesting year. We didn’t have the internet like we do now. We didn’t have smart devices or social media. You had to call people or email to make plans and if you wanted directions somewhere you pulled out a map.

Ellen joked on her show that since we didn’t have Facebook yet in order to make a big pronouncement about your sexuality you had to get a sitcom.

They called the episode “The Puppy Episode” because when the writers told the executives she needed to be in a relationship by the fourth year of the show an executive at the studio said, “Well get her a puppy, she’s not coming out.” You can watch it on youtube in parts, starting here.

I spy Laura Dern, k.d. lang, Dwight Yoakam, Demi Moore, Gina Gershon, Jenny Shimizu, Billy Bob Thornton.

I feel like for gay people in 1997, it was kind of like the Kennedy assassination—people remember where they were when they watched it.

I remember very viscerally what it was like for me watching Ellen come out. I was 18 years old, in my dorm room at UC Davis. Wearing my bathrobe, alone on the couch I shared with my suitemates watching the cable that I paid for because TV was an escape drug for me at the time. Life was really painful, I was depressed and felt very alone. I knew I was gay but couldn’t be open about it. I was still so convinced that if I acted like everyone else and hid in giant, formless overalls I would somehow appear normal and being gay went against that idea. I also didn’t think I was going to get to own my sexuality because I was fat. Fat was, in my deluded opinion, not attractive and I didn’t think people who weren’t having sex should bother coming out.

I was super wrong. Owning your truth, that’s hot. Owning your body, that’s hot. Being true to who you are? That’s priceless and so liberating.

I don’t have any pictures of my Freshman year at UC Davis available but here’s one from two years later when I was out but still working through my relationship with fashion. Deepy appreciate this rainbow beanie. Pictured here with my very supportive through my coming out process friends Mary and Dianna.

“Your whole calling is about you being what you were meant to be.”—Oprah Winfrey

It’s very lonely being in the closet. When you don’t feel like you can be your authentic self, it’s hard to live freely because you’re always keeping a secret. If you’re out there and you are in the closet now, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone and you’re okay. When it’s time for you to come out, it will suddenly feel more uncomfortable to be in the closet than the risks you take to come out. But, like Ellen says, the risks to be your true self are totally worth it.

Sitting right next to H. Alan in the audience was documentary filmmaker Alexis Fish, who had a big party for Ellen’s coming out episode. (I wonder if they overlapped at all at my birthday party last December since they were both there.) I couldn’t believe what an amazing experience it was for Alexis and her friends to watch the episode with community. I’m so glad I get to have that community now, and I’m so grateful for social media for enabling community to be even more accessible to folks in the closet these days.

Oprah Winfrey played Ellen’s therapist in the Puppy Episode, which I had completely forgotten about. She was a guest on this special episode of Ellen’s talk show. Needless to say, I immediately texted H. Alan “YOU WERE IN THE SAME ROOM AS ELLEN AND OPRAH.”

Oprah mentioned that she said yes to appearing on the Puppy Episode immediately, and she gets credit for that. There was so much backlash, the world was reeling because of something that today seems so pedestrian. We needed that backlash in order to start a very important conversation.

Laura Dern was in the episode and she didn’t get another acting job for a full year after the episode—because people thought she was gay. “I hurt straight people for this,” Ellen joked.

“It was hard, I lost everything. I got to be stripped down of everything and start all over again. And that was a wonderful gift to be able to start all over again and to realize that I was strong enough to come back.”—Ellen

Laura Dern said it exactly right while on the couch with Oprah and Ellen. “How incredible to be sitting between the two people who have walked us toward our truth in such extraordinary ways… To celebrate the bravery to remind people to be who they are. And whatever the consequence is of doing that, it brings everyone with you when you’re willing to be that true to yourself.”

Why, in our society, is it brave to be yourself? Because of the White Hetero Capitalist Patriarchy, that wants to keep us small, to punish difference and to make people feel ashamed of who they are. Media creates a feeling of insecurity for your benign human differences so that they can sell products to you to help you feel better.

On the talk show episode there were lots of celebrity messages of congratulations. “You widened the circle of understanding, connection and kindness,” Diane Sawyer said to Ellen.

Me and H. Alan doing partner yoga. I love that he’s always game for a silly photo.

There’s a power in being openly who you are. I continue to practice that by talking openly about things most people don’t talk openly about. Part of my impetus for using this openness is to eradicate shame. I truly believe shame leads to stress, which leads to cancer and other disease. It makes me feel so much better and happier to be open about who I am, how I struggle and the tools I use to move through the struggle. I can’t do it alone and I want to help you all know that you don’t have to do it alone, either.

Last summer, my friend Jeff Scult inducted me into One Golden Thread, a whole movement about being connected to other humans with a golden thread bracelet. He said when yours falls off you should pay attention to what you’re thinking about in the moment. I have been working on staying in gratitude as much as possible in order to eradicate the effects of trauma from the past few months.

With Ellen’s coming out on the brain, I was walking through my house thinking about how grateful I was to be out, to be living with my incredible partner Dara, to have our beautiful new home and how cute my closet is going to be when it’s finished. Then I got to our bed and was super grateful for my weirdo cat Biscuit Reynolds. As I leaned in to give him a belly rub he attacked the string from my golden thread and in one movement ripped it off of me.

I have now watched Ellen’s 20th anniversary coming out talk show episode twice and can’t get through it without crying multiple times. I’m so grateful for all she did to make the world a lot easier for the rest of us.

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

2016-08-26

Dara and Bevin’s Epic Seder

When Dara’s father Passed On To Something Awesome (POTSA) I took very seriously the last email he ever sent me. He had thanked me for attending the family Skype Seder that brought us together from NYC, Vegas, Seattle and Bloomington, IL. Mel said, “Someday soon you’ll host Seder.” Judaism was super important to Mel and I knew it would gladden his heart from the great beyond for me to support Dara in her reconnection with Jewish culture after his passing. So I did the right goy girlfriend thing and bought a book (What to Do When You’re Dating a Jew: Everything You Need to Know from Matzoh Balls to Marriage) and read it cover to cover on the flight to Mel’s funeral.

sedertwilightTwilight at the Epic Seder.

It only took two years for me and Dara to host Seder for the family. Being the nontraditionalist goofball gang that are the Barlins, Seder was a few weeks early and lead by the youngest sibling (Dara). Her mom, brothers and their wives and kids came out to LA, rented an air bnb, we did Disneyland and all of that and added to the vacation plans having everyone over to our new place for Seder dinner. This was my first time. I wasn’t raised knowing how to pull off a huge, traditional family Seder in a working class household of just me and my not practicing Catholic mom. I know Judaism mostly from my awesome wildly nontraditional queer Jewish friends and that book I read. My Grandfather David was Jewish but was not in touch with his Judaism, a tale for another post. Dara had never hosted Seder before, either. We had to start from square one.

coverofhaggadahThis was the cover of the Barlin Haggadah.

I literally cooked the whole meal from scratch. My menu was mostly Martha Stewart and I made a gluten-free option for everything. My pinterest for the Seder is pretty cute and extremely ambitious. The gluten-free matzo balls were German potato knaidelach and I made them specifically to honor Grandfather David who escaped Germany and the holocaust on the last train possible out of their village. When we no longer have our family recipes due to circumstances or anti-semitism, we create our own traditions. Potato Knaidelach matzo balls are a delicious new one.

harosetHaroset made as an experiential performance piece cuts down on some of the prep time.

The Seder at our house was a complete mishigas. We had just moved in 6 weeks earlier, so the house was cray. A bunch of stuff fell through that affected the planning and execution of the meal. The haggadah Dara wrote using Haggadot.com wouldn’t print out at Staples. There was a minute we thought the whole meal wouldn’t happen because Dara’s mom got sick. Due to that, the meal got a late start, yet I was still cooking during the entire meal. Afterwards we had a lot of areas for growth to review. (But the memories of Dara and her brothers singing Pesach Man to the tune of Piano Man, and her incredible nieces and nephews acting out the plagues, and the sweetness and support of Amy and Chau the sisters-in-law Barlin will be forever etched into the mishigas of our first ever Seder.)

bevindarasederI played God and Dara played Elijah for our Seder play. My costume is literally a very pretty piece of fabric I had pinned together but hope to one day sew it into a beautiful see through mumu. The costumes were very DIY aesthetic.

In spite of all that, we decided to push forward and apply for a grant Dara heard about to throw an EPIC Seder. If a regular Seder with 11 family members was such a beautiful disaster, what could we do if we had FUNDING? I want you to know that as I write this I understand the logic is missing but we didn’t really see it. We had the Spirit about it, wanted to do a big fun thing for our friends in LA and consecrate our house as a gathering place for meaningful rituals and karaoke.

bevindarisederWhen I can get my hunky queer friends (like Dari here) in hunky costumes I know I am doing a favor for everyone on my social media.

Last summer Dara went on the trip of a lifetime with the Schusterman Foundation that works to incubate a new generation of leaders. Part of their work is funding cool stuff that their incubated leaders come up with. My perspective on the grant application was threefold: yay to Dara wanting to explore her Judaism by hosting Seder, yay to getting funding to throw a party but also OMG what are we getting ourselves into we just moved to LA and are both starting small businesses.

We got the grant and we pushed on.

mosesOur neighbor Michael played Moses and he NAILED IT.

The planning and execution of the grant was not any more serene than the first Seder, but we managed to do it and the results were extraordinary. I quit the Seder for a couple of days because I got too overwhelmed and went to Grandmothers. Of course, “quitting” the Seder still meant I spent hours working on buying decor for the event in Grandmother’s living room.

backyardforseder

I always believe the Universe has your back and we went to a queer party called Sunday Service in Highland Park a couple weeks ahead of time. The girlfriend of the party promoter was in the back selling brisket sandwiches and we got her info. Luckily Amber was super excited about and willing to cater the party for us at cost and told an amazing story of resilience you can see in the video below. It was a relief to me to not have to cook everything, but still a bummer because I love to cook for people. My perfectionism is a difficult burden to bear but I have to honor my capacity!

tablescapeI’m very proud of my tablescapes and wish it hadn’t been so windy. The plates are all from Amazon, the burlap is from JoAnn’s (I went to TOWN on coupons) and plants were from Home Depot.

Dara wrote an entire Seder play. She conceived of a whole event styled after Sleep No More (if you’re not familiar with the epic immersive performance experience, I wrote it up here) and cast our friends in roles in the play. In addition to reading from the script, they were also going to be part of the experiential hour ahead of time. I designed a room to look like an Egyptian Royalty Den, Dara made a spinner to give people ways to interact with the royalty. (Alana was the Pharoah and Jenni was the Princess and they both nailed it.) Our buddy T and his adorable pit bull Blue acted as the “guards.”

egyptinroyaltyQueer Femmes Jenni & Alana playing the Pharoah and the Princess. Nailed it.

There was a brick making station where folks made Haroset and put them into these bricks that Dara bought meant for kids’ building blocks. We had a room for people to make Plague finger puppets. Everyone was wearing costumes, that’s how we greeted people so they could get in their parts. I think you can imagine the logistics were outrageous.

plaguepuppetsmatzoballsoupPlague finger puppets.

We rented furniture for the courtyard between our house and the house behind ours. I took some of my Girl Scout event planning roots and bought cute plants, took cute paper and wrapped the pots to make centerpieces. Cute pinwheels and handmade bunting lining the yard made it look so festive. I also designed a “burning bush” out of our avocado tree. I spent HOURS trying to figure out the right lighting solution for the burning bush but I don’t think I nailed it.

femmeswithpowertools2Build out of the Egyptian Royalty Den.

In addition to the play, Dara wrote another Haggadah. Much shorter. We did some prayers, four questions and then had small group discussions about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Some of my favorite event and performance work is making stuff really fun, then going deep, then going fun again. I think it makes the emotional and educational work more effective.We honored resilience from slavery, both the Jews from slavery in Egypt but also the ways in which slavery and oppression affect us today. The stories of resilience people offered were so incredible.

talkbacksederResilience talk back. Dara and I are both professional facilitators so…

After the second part of the play we capped the evening off with Schmores (chocolate covered matza, coconut covered marshmallows roasted over the fire) and Jewish karaoke. It was really fun and a great way to end the evening. Did you know Paula Abdul is Jewish? Check out some of the Jewish karaoke gems in the amazing video Dara edited together below.

costumemakingOur friends really went there making stylish costumes out of burlap.

Thanks again to the Schusterman Foundation for their generous support of creating weird, queer, beautiful, contemporary takes on Jewish tradition.

Check out this fabulous video Dara did about our Epic Seder, it really tells the story better than I can. I know folks walked away from that night ignited and so did we.

I want to acknowledge all the folks who helped make the Seder happen on the ground. Amber and her amazing helper behind the buffet table, Scott our neighbor/videographer, Dari and Jenn for helping us get our house together, all the friends who had roles in the Seder play, and especially Victoria who swooped in three days before and was wildly helpful setting it up. I love you, miss you and pray for you.

darasteps

2016-08-24

I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times: General Life Update from Bevin’s HQ

Friends! I just got back from one of the most inspirational and fulfilling weeks of my life. Intentional community, dream trip, deep emotions, deep caring, connections, luxury bathtubs. It was such a surprise to me that the experience was so deep and so much of what I needed.

I was blogging through the process of my transition to LA from Brooklyn, but things got pretty derailed for me as I have been affected both by the de-stability of the transition and the effects of the mental illness and substance abuse of a close friend. Shit has been rough.

How blessed I feel to have had this experience. Intentional community is incredibly healing for me. Summer camp did that for me as a kid and a teen. The Femme Conference did that for me for awhile, so did performing with my drag king troupe in the early 2000s. Now I have this new experience to reflect on. I’m excited to dive in and tell you all about what I saw, heard, learned, felt and experienced. But first, I think I need to paint a picture of what’s been going on in my life for context.

Exciting Stuff for my Body Positive Art and Activism
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I’m presenting at the Fat Activism Conference in September! It’s an online conference happening September 23-25, 2016 that you can listen to by phone or computer from wherever you are, you’ll also receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so you can listen/read at your convenience. It is super financially and time accessible as far as conferences go. I recorded my speech Disinvesting from Body Currency and Building Activist Resilience in July and I can’t wait to hear what all these other influencers and thought leaders have to say. Big love to the Fat Activism Conference organizers for all their hard work putting it together! <3<3

I was featured in a Buzzfeed article about non-traditional beach wear. Lots of hot and stylish people give their ideas. Many lustworthy instagrams to follow are aggregated. Your girl represented for the fat, flamboyant, vintage collecting femmes.

My friend Jes Baker reposted an article of mine on her incredibly influential body positive blog The Militant Baker. She’s been doing some amazing writing herself and amplifying other body positive thought leaders you’ll be interested in. My post she reposted is 5 Simple Things You Can Do to Start Feeling Okay About Your Body Today.

I also must take this opportunity to plug Dollypalooza in NYC Sept 3rd and LA on October 29th! Come out and party for a cause!

Self Care

I believe self care stretches time (thanks to Kelli Jean Drinkwater’s therapist for that nugget) and in times of rough stuff I have been centering my life around that. In terms of time management I try to pick one modality and wrap my schedule around that per week. I just kind of assess what my greatest needs are and go from there.

4684915640_cddd098660_zDear Goddess: Please give unto me a trip to Sydney to visit my soul sister Kelli Jean. Love, Bevin. Photo from NOLOSE in 2010.

I have mentioned for years that I’m in a 12 step program for family and friends of alcoholics and it has been one of the best choices I have ever made for my well-being. Since shit has been going down with my friend, I’ve been going to meetings about 3 days a week. It’s kind of easy to center life around meetings because they are scheduled. Unlike working out at the gym or “whenever” self care, you make a commitment to get to that 10AM Tuesday morning meeting.

I have had a hard time working out because of my heat sickness and the 100 degree hot like the surface of the sun weather in LA (like that time I passed out at the Getty after doing aqua jog) so instead lately I’m doing light stretching, dancing, and taking sunset walks with my partner Dara and our magical dog Macy.

I believe food is foundational and for awhile I was doing a lot of emotional eating. Eating from a place of “I know I gotta eat and it will gladden my taste buds to have this food that doesn’t serve my chronic digestive disorder so I’m going to do it anyway.” I jumped in on another whole foods summer reset cleanse with my body positive health coach Heartbeets Holistic Health. It’s a keep you hella full and take you by the hand and teach you how to prepare and eat anti-inflammatory foods program. Very veggie focused with access to meat if it’s your thing. Tons of recipes. Tons of self care modalities like dry brushing and detox baths.

Once you do Vic’s cleanse one time subsequent cleanses are gratis. I find when I’m doing a lot of traveling it is soooo helpful for me to focus on whole foods anti-inflammatory eating at home. It’s centering and also keeps the travel food from totally fucking up my life while I’m out of town and don’t have as much control over my food. So during the cleanse I was centering my life around cooking, grocery shopping and nourishing me and Dara.

I was shocked at how much better my capacity for dealing with life’s shit storms got when I was doing this cleansing. My moods stabilized and I was better able to be present with Big Feelings. Like, literally improved my relationship because when I’m in a better space emotionally so is Dara (#Empath4Empath is a tightrope sometimes). By Day 5 I could feel that initial impulse to freak out about something but I didn’t actually freak out. I was like seeing my Big Feelings from a calm and centered space and didn’t need to let it melt me down. What a gift I gave myself by focusing on healing my gut.

10176302283_70a9713433_oThank you forever Vic. I love you. (Vic’s in the center, we’re surrounded by Randee and Leo.)

Spirituality

I moved to LA to deepen my spiritual gifts and have continued to open myself up to new thoughts and ideas and create new spiritual practices. Given all of the tremendous devastation going on in the world at large right now, listening to NPR makes it hard to resist bawling your eyes out or settle into a default mode of rage. I know rage doesn’t serve me. So I like to employ prayer, gratitude and meditation to help elevate the world. At least it’s a thing I can do. I believe in good vibes. I believe do gooders in the world make the world a better place just by believing in hope. I’ll revisit that idea in a later post.

But let’s just say right now faith is kind of all I have in a lot of arenas of my life. I find it strengthens me when I can lean into it. It’s kind of like when you work out and build your core muscles your back pain gets better? Working out my faith really helps me stand tall in the face of an oppressive world that doesn’t value all human lives equally.

$$$ Hustle $$$

Capitalism is real and your girl has to pay those student loans and health insurance premiums, rent and vet bills. Moving to LA we knew that we had a finite amount of savings to live off of, we knew that I was working to retire from the practice of law and that we’re both building up small businesses. (Dara has a consulting business focusing on educational leadership.)

I believe being transparent about money is a form of classist resilience. They don’t want us to talk about money because keeping us in shame about how we are surviving because shame keeps us complacent. Right now I have about $1,500 in my bank account. Dara just got a check so we know how we pay October’s rent. But last week we didn’t know.

Seven months into our move to LA the hustle is real. I’ve lived before not knowing when next month’s rent is going to come and having to have faith it will—it never feels great. Here’s a list of how I’m gathering my acorns:

Desiree Alliance: I am so fortunate to work with an incredibly bad ass activist, Cris Sardina, who runs Desiree Alliance, a sex worker’s rights non-profit. Things got really busy before our biannual conference in July in New Orleans. We bring together activists working for decriminalization, direct service providers, professionals, academics, current and former sex workers and allies for five days of programming. We had some extraordinary keynote speakers, like Miss Major who is one of our surviving elders from Stonewall. She’s a trans woman of color dedicated to supporting trans women of color in the prison system through her non-profit TGI Justice (trans women of color are disproportionately incarcerated due to transmysoginy, racism and classism). Miss Major is a source of strength and resilience inspiration and just such a sweetheart. There is a movie about her that is winning awards all over the documentary circuit called Major! and you should prioritize seeing it. Her story is important and so inspirational.

I don’t make a ton of money as the finance officer of Desiree Alliance but it is meaningful work I feel honored to do. I’m looking forward to writing more grants with Cris to set up a sex worker activist mentoring program.

crisbevindararueMe, Cris, Dara and her baby granddaughter Rue, named for Rue McClanahan from Golden Girls.

Social Media Party Monitor for The Militant Baker: My friend Jes Baker is what I would call a “more famous body positive activist than me” and has hundreds of thousands of followers. That’s a lot of folks who comment and interact with her on social media and since her work challenges the concept of body currency the trolls who have nothing better to do than hate on awesome fat women uplifting people come out from under their bridges to say shitty things. I feel like a guardian who gets to make it easier for Jes to do her great work in the world. Read her book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls (I’m quoted in it!!!). 

Dara wondered how I do it without having it affect me since I do the same kind of activism. I don’t know, it’s just easier for me partially because I get paid and partially because it is not directed at me and I know it makes Jes’ capacity greater. One of my life dharmas is to support activist resilience and somehow the purpose makes it easier for me read and delightfully block shit. And one day I’ll be influential enough to hire my own body positive activist friend to do that work for me! It’s great to have a job that is literally in line with your activism, however small it is.

jesbakerbevinchangetheworldHelping Jes change the world is an honor.

Law: I’m still maintaining an office in NYC so that I can practice real estate closings and estate planning for returning clients and friends in NYC. Most of my work is remote anyway and I have a great closing attorney who works with me when I can’t get to NYC for a closing. I just binge watched a ton of Continuing Legal Education classes in June and it was kind of fun learning about cannabis law, a very fascinating area I have no desire to practice in (still working on retiring from practice not starting something new) but as a media maker it’s helpful to have a fuller understanding of the evolving legal climate around cannabis.

The class about substance abuse for lawyers was fascinating, it taught me about how the qualities that makes one an effective attorney lends itself to suicide (the third leading cause of death among lawyers) and really highlighted for me why I am retiring.

Bevin’s Tea: I am still working on my Marie Forleo’s B-School course work and developing my business. I went to the World Tea Expo and cannot wait to have capacity to video blog about all the great teas I learned about. It’s both fun to be working towards a business I am extremely passionate about and frustrating about how long it takes to start something with no capital.

I have been learning so much both in practice and in B-School about creating a product-based business. Supporting artists and activists who maybe don’t have time or money to go get energy healing to take the fifteen minutes to prepare and consume a cup of reiki-infused tea is definitely part of my dharma. Thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered tea, it really helps a lot to learn the business by doing and I love the feedback. Can’t wait for you to see the product packaging I’m developing with my graphic designer!

bevinstea_logo_wcrystals

I also had no idea how much work it takes to start a new business and am taking each failure, mistake and triumph as necessary stepping stones to becoming the wildly successful energy healing mogul I know I can be. Also I want a line of clothing on QVC someday. As Dolly Parton says, Dream More!

Blog: My blog is a source of trickling income. I get gift cards for Amazon.com. When readers click links and buy literally anything on the site I get a commission. That helps me buy stuff for the house.

I get cash money from Bandelettes, the single sexiest form of chub rub prevention on the market (I used to spend all my commission on fatkinis but lately it’s gotta pay the bills).

The blog leads to the occasional speaking gig or sponsored blog post. If you want to reach a bunch of awesome people about your product or service, hit me up queerfatfemme at gmail.com. A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has pre-ordered tea through my blog or used the Amazon referral link. Seriously helping right now.

everybodyeverybootyMe in my EveryBody tank and Dara in her Everybooty tee-shirt. East Coast West Coast queer lifestyles. Gym vs pride party.

OMG how many people have told me I “should just get a job” when I have a lot of them and am working towards being a full time body positive artist/activist/healer. But… I am getting a job, in addition to all the other jobs I have. I had to write my first resume focused on body positive activism! There’s a new body positive gym opening up 6 minutes from my house in Northeast LA. EveryBody is revolutionary, I’m honored to be part of the team.

It’s my deep pleasure to announce that I got a job as a fitness instructor doing body positive, accessible movement classes. I don’t think I would have ever thought in my whole life I would move to LA and become a fat femme Richard Simmons without the diet talk, but I’m really cute at it. I had done two different drag acts where we did fitness routines and those were for revolution not movement motivation but I’m stoked to get to be doing it for cash. I’ll give you more info when I have it.

Friends who visit LA–keep me updated because part of the class will involve interviews with artists and activists. Imagine a drag queen special guest star in a fitness class? I can’t wait to blow your mind. It’s like the next step to my body positive dance parties is to facilitate a dance party as part of moving and loving our bodies and healing collectively.

TRAVEL

I love to travel and have had some great opportunities this summer. I went to New Orleans for the Desiree Alliance conference and my friend Dana just happened to be staying at the same hotel after a bachelorette party. There’s nothing better than being at work at a conference dealing with the complaints of the AV guy and have a hot butch friend wearing a Dolly Parton tee shirt interrupt to hand you the best fried chicken in the world. I ate that fried chicken later on naked in my hotel room and it was the best moment.

danadollyshirt

I went to Columbus a couple of weeks ago to visit my close friends Christie and Becky and their daughters/my nieces Etta and Joey. Our friends Erica and Amy joined us from Philly with their kids August and Ani. Yes, I have lesbian friends whose baby’s nickname is Ani and I think that’s a #lesbianlevelup. It’s such a gift to be close to children and get to be part of their growing up. My heart swelled with pride when Etta and Joey were on a meditation pillow showing me how they find “Inner peeeeessss.” I love those kids so much.

Next week I head to NYC for Dollypalooza for my first time back since we left in late December. My heart is happy and also breaks a little because I know I won’t get to see nearly everyone I want to while I’m in town.

Last week I was overseas and I have an epic series of blog posts about that a comin’.

auntbevinettaandjoeyMy goal is to always have it be THE MOST FUN EVER when Aunt Bevin comes to town. I taught them how to hop train cars using this long cart at Target.

BEVIN <3 DARA

Dara and I never formally lived together before we moved to LA. Shit has been rough for us externally but we continue to find one another as a source of strength. Every time we hit a rough patch, we get through it and things get even stronger between us. We’ve talked about marriage obviously (and the legal protection offered would be really cool) but we’re waiting until we have the cash to have the blow out epic wedding of our dreams to pursue the level up. Queers have been finding creative ways of honoring our love connections for years outside of marriage and I am having a great time creating family culture and ritual with her based around our super woo spirituality and her Jewish cultural heritage.

bevindarathemedressI don’t support colonial imperialism but I do love red white and blue. How lucky that Dara loves theme dress as much as me?

Our house is cute as fuck and I’m learning how to let go of my perfectionism about it. House projects are constantly mounting and my Mariah Carey closet is still not finished. I was making myself suffer mentally and emotionally because I had this idea that everything “should” be done by now. I know now I had expectations that weren’t aligned with reality and given lack of cash, time and capacity we can’t have everything done yet. Houses are a lot of work, it’s like having another pet but way more demanding. I’m relying now on the power of six months and sitting in gratitude for what is done. We have a fridge (that wasn’t always true). I have my dream kitchen faucet we paid for through a rent reduction when the last one burst.

Now I just let it go, trust the universe and sing that song I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times

My goodness it feels good to be back to real talk on the blog. More soon. Sending love out to all who need it.

2016-03-08

LA Week 6: The First Doctor’s Appointment is so Stressful

I kind of accidentally started titling my LA transition posts about the week I was in rather than the week I had passed. It always bugged me a little bit. I like the process of earning time passed rather than counting time passing. It’s also kind of like how annoyed I am that Time Warner makes me pay for the month of internet service ahead of time instead of like credit cards and electric bills you pay after the month has passed and the service has earned its money or whatever. This adventure just turned six weeks old on Saturday!

eaglerocklumberWe went to a lumber yard that was playing Adele in the warehouse. Also, I love love love the old vintage signs all over LA.

The biggest thing that happened last week was enrolling in B-School! I earned enough money through pre-sales and donations to take a big chunk out of it (saving lots more than I’ll need for materials because I might need to order stuff expedited and I’m not yet selling enough to buy in deep bulk) and the remainder left to pay for B-School was the equivalent of less than one month’s expenses here in LA. I’ve had lots of times where I had no idea how I was going to pay for next month’s expenses and I have at least three month’s savings still. I am feeling really called to this B-School experience and really have faith that what I learn will make my business flourish–before I use up my savings. So thank you thank you thank you to all who pre-ordered and who donated and who shared the page. I cannot wait to show you how great my teas are and keep you updated about the progress of building this business!

Last week Dara and I doubled down on making progress in the Mariah Carey closet attic renovation. We spent all of Thursday afternoon and Friday during the day working on walling up the sides of the attic. We have this beautiful stand-up space that slopes pretty steeply and I realized that the unusable space would be better off walled up. Boy was that an adventure. After the whole rennovation is over I’ll do a recap DIY blog post like all those people on Pinterest do and show you how we did everything.

femmeswithpowertoolsMe wielding a power tool!

atticinprogressProgress!

The very first moment I stepped into the attic when we saw the house I immediately saw the vision for the Mariah Carey closet. But having never taken on any home renovation projects I didn’t vision for the HOW. Luckily, Dara’s friend Dari and his wife Jen came over last weekend and Dari gave us a prescription for how to wall up the sides.

Jen kept me company while I continued to paint the ceiling and looked really cute.

Dari and Jen moved to LA from Brooklyn a little less than a year before us and it was great to hear about their transition process! It made me feel really good to hear what it was like for them to hit the six month mark and realize there were no further boxes and everything was set-up. It also made me feel SOOOO grateful for all of the friends I already have out here. It has been very grounding and reassuring to have people I know visiting and hanging out here. I think if absolutely everything including all of my friends were new it would make my transition even more difficult.

dariandjenWe already had a bunch of friends in common and yet never met in Brooklyn!

I’m actually feeling more settled as the weeks move on. I know our neighborhood pretty well now. We went to the farmer’s market and I found the humane farm to market meat I wanted to find! I made my first pork shoulder and bone broth. (That link is my go-to recipe from my health coach Vic, and my additions are a bunch of green onions/scallions and more salt than you think. My bone broth game is on point.) OMG it feels good to be getting back to how I like to cook! I never realized how much work it was to set-up a kitchen and I definitely thought it would be easier and cheaper and faster to get microwave safe plates I enjoy from thrift stores but that is actually not going as swiftly as I’d hoped.

My guacamole game is getting stronger! My friend Lauren suggested white onions, chopped ridiculously fine (I used a tiny chopper appliance) and garlic salt and so far that has been the best batch of guacamole yet! The next one I made had too much onion, not chopped as fine and was not as good. I’m still soliciting guacamole recipes so if you have one, leave it in the comments!

We have done a lot of weird clean-out projects here, a few weeks ago I cleaned out the cellar and found epic amounts of scrap wood in varied condition (we used a lot of it in the attic). Right now we’re using the cellar for deep storage–my mom is retiring and sent me all of my childhood ephemera. I’m choosing not to deal with it just yet. Before I could use the cellar for deep storage I needed to clean it out so there I was hauling wood and sweeping a hundred years of dust out.

bevininthecellar Pro tip: Tie up your hair or you will get weird dust all up in your hair.

Ideally folks have just one big life change at a time. I’ve talked to lots of friends about THE CALL, when their parents or guardians make a big life change and call to say “You need to get your crap childhood artifacts out of my garage/attic/basement crawl space.” Not everyone has living parents or family they are in contact with in that way, but for those of us who do, it is a rite of passage.

I went through all of that stuff on one visit to my mom about six or seven years ago. I thought I got it down to about six rubbermaid tubs but there were several cardboard boxes that I didn’t know about underneath my mom’s house and it all came when the moving truck with my mom’s hand me down furniture arrived and is now in the cellar. It’s big emotional life work, to go through and decide what to keep and what to get rid of, especially if you have experienced trauma as a child. So I am doing what I do well, and saying what is urgent isn’t important and what is important isn’t urgent and choosing to go through it slowly and not right now.

Because right now, Dara and I are planning our first Seder.

My friend Bridget and I had a great conversation where she told me her strategy to get settled into the Fox Den (her gorgeous Jersey City apartment) was to have a party where people were flying in for St. Patrick’s Day. That way it put enough pressure on her to get her apartment together.

constructiondaraDara is nervous about the ceiling of the attic (it’s a stand-up in the middle with some slopes that are prone to head hitting if you’re not careful). She loves wearing this hard hat up there. Plus it’s cute, she’s a fox!

I realized Dara and I unintentionally did that by saying to her out of state brothers, their kids/wives and her mom that we would host Seder dinner when they visit LA the week of March 20th. I’m very very excited about this, I love planning and executing major events, throwing parties and cooking for people. I also love encouraging Dara’s engagement with her Jewish cultural heritage and I love making things fun. We are going to have the most fun Seder ever. (As an aside, the last thing Dara’s Dad, Mel, ever said to me privately before he passed was after the family’s skype Seder dinner that I would be hosting Seder for the family soon enough… I know we will do Mel proud!)

One of the things I keep saying as I do stuff I am not enjoying to set up the house is that I can’t wait to throw parties here because that is fun for me. Methodically measuring wood, screwing things in until my hands cramp and painting until I get calluses on my hands is not that fun for me, but I know we’ve got to get this all done before the Barlins descend on us.

andymoviesMy friend Andy loaned us some movies and, more importantly, a saw! Totally saved our butts! Andy is going on tour with Chris Pureka soon, you can get the album pre-sale for the next 10 days, I hear it is great! I’ve loved Chris’ stuff as they’ve evolved as an artist.

So because of this deadline we realized we have had to be more strategic about getting stuff in order rather than just kind of picking at different parts of the house as we were doing. Dara declared this and she’s right, we need to finish the attic so my clothes can move out of the office and upstairs and then we can turn the office into the staging area and set up our living room at last.

In all of this, I am so in awe of my Virgo friends who move into a place and are unpacked and set up in a week. Virgos are the organized meticulous Zodiac sign. I have a Virgo rising, I may appear so organized and methodical but on the inside I’m not so much.

My friend Holly from Brooklyn & previously the Bay Area was in town last weekend. She moved to a new apartment with her sweetie Topher just before New Year’s Eve and she is a Virgo. So their progress was fast and furious AND it still felt reassuring that she said she had dropped wads of cash at IKEA every week for a couple of months getting set up. Having not had the wads of cash to get all that we need to make things work just yet is hard but we have no shortage of things to do in the meantime.

lissainstallationLast weekend I went to my friend Lissa’s installation as the Senior Minister at the Unitarian Universalist church in Pasadena. She’s the youngest Senior Minister of a large congregation and her congregation’s first female and openly queer Senior Minister. Red lipstick on the pulpit! I’m so proud of her! It’s so amazing to watch your friends flourish!! I’ve known Lissa for a long long time and it’s so great to see her living her dreams!

I hosted my first small dinner party here on Friday night when our friends Anne and Susanna were in town. Anne is Macy’s second family, she’s been her primary dog sitter for years and years. As someone who loves her dog and loves to travel, having a home she can go to where I know she has as much or more fun than she would with me feels so reassuring. Honestly, Anne was a big reason I was having pause leaving Brooklyn! And then she decided to move to Boston! She just got there last month.

Having Anne over was a big priority so Macy could get some Anne time on the couch. Macy was so excited to see her she actually fell off the couch because she wasn’t looking where she was going!

meannesusannadaraOnce the attic is done all the stuff on the staging area goes in the office and we install IKEA blinds over the windows instead of our temporary privacy drapes.

It’s so humbling and vulnerable to have people over to your house when things aren’t set up yet. I served dinner and didn’t realize I only have three dinner plates. (Again, working on only having things that spark joy, but a slow roll to getting plates apparently.) So Dara ate off of a really interesting platter we have.

I had my first doctor’s appointment with Kaiser. I went with Kaiser after I lost my health insurance in NY for failure to re-apply or something I didn’t realized I had to do because I didn’t get mail about it. I had Kaiser before when I was a kid and I like the concept of getting all of my specialists and doctors in one place. It’s the closest to universal health care I’ve ever experienced. Anyway, Kaiser called me and kind of pushed me to see a doctor right away for an intro visit. I felt kind of adult about it, since many times I’ve not seen my PCP until I had an illness. I figured this way if I need a prescription for an illness I could call her and maybe get it. I asked the Kaiser representative who called me for someone LGBT friendly just on a whim in case they had that and they did!

It was stressful, though, going to see a “health” practitioner for the first time. Not knowing if they were going to be fatphobic or not. I want a doctor who treats me as a human and not as a number on a scale. I wore a full face of make-up because that makes me feel better, and I was ready to recite to the doctor things about health at every size.

bevinatthedrFull face of make-up at the doctor.

I got nervous in the room waiting for her because there were not just one but three posters about weight loss stuff. They have SIX weight loss/”health” programs, and I’ll say I feel glad for it if simply because by offering them for free they are taking money away from the billion dollar diet industry. You can give Oprah your money at Weight Watchers (right now I’m not paying any money for Oprah things, she can just take her billions from toxic diet culture she doesn’t need my money), or you can get free nutrition counseling on the phone from Kaiser or one of the other five programs. Or, you can love your body as it is and work on your overall health and wellness and learning to be in loving communication with your body about what it needs because your size doesn’t need to change for you to be a whole, worthy human being. That’s the tactic I’ve been using and my happiness is pretty great.

ANYWAY, my new LGBT friendly doctor who might be younger than me didn’t mention my weight once and just did regular stuff asking about my family health history. I also got a tetanus shot because of working on the attic and those rusty nails.

Kaiser has a whole medical center in Hollywood (near the Scientology hive), and the one annoying part is that they charge you for parking in addition to your co-pays. But otherwise everything was pretty seamless.

After Kaiser, I stopped at the Dunkin Donuts in Hollywood. It’s the closest one to our house (about 15 minutes away) until the one in Atwater opens up later this month. Dara and I love Dunkin, East Coast nostalgia, she loves their coffee, they have almond milk and endless flavors and solid iced tea. We have always had this thing since we got back together about “I love you a latte.” So I bought her a latte because we had been fighty on Wednesday.

I definitely don’t want to be a blogger who only reports the good stuff and acts like my relationship is perfect all the time. It’s not. We struggle and we work on our communication and sometimes we get into dumb fights over why the dishes aren’t clean enough. Wednesday was such a day (so ironic since I had just posted about those strategies we used to strengthen rather than stress out our relationship during our move). On Thursday, after my doctor’s appointment and before we headed into the attic, I wanted to start off on a solid “I love you let’s have fun together” foot, so I went to Dunkin and got her a latte. And as I pulled up to the house I saw her in the doorway, she had flowers in her hands for me! We were both on the same page about wanting to be in a good space with each other and make this project fun!

Which was great, because our muscles were soooo sore by Friday night. Progress!

dariteachesdara

2016-02-29

5 Strategies We Used To Fight Less (and Cuddle More) During Our Cross Country Move

Moving is hands-down one of the most stressful things you can do. It’s right up there on the list of life stressors with losing a job, divorce and death. Disrupting routine is really draining, so is the discomfort of living amidst boxes on an air mattress.

There’s a lot I did to mitigate the stress of moving before we left Brooklyn for LA that did not work. For example, only moving things that spark joy was a great idea, but I ended up having to replace things I got rid of with stuff from the dollar store that would not have made a dent in our moving inventory.

I am really happy to report that the work that Dara and I employed to mitigate the stress on our relationship has been wildly successful. Every step of the way we have been having fun together and able to feel completely supported. Even when we both have mini-breakdowns under the stress of the transition. Even when we sometimes get snippy with each other.

Dara and I have a history of hard communication and fights. We have gone to couple’s therapy and read relationship books to work on our communication and managing conflict.

virginiabevindaraOn our road trip at the Welcome Center in Virginia.

These strategies help us recenter and refocus on what is important (our relationship, supporting our love) and what we can let go of (pretty much everything else). I also think these strategies are totally relevant for relationships regardless of whether or not you have an impending move!

Here are the five best strategies we used:

1. Generosity of Spirit

This is something that is a choice to make that influences everything in your relationship. In fact, I think it is the best tool for relationship success period. Having a generosity of spirit means being open to doing things to make your partner feel good, even when they’re a hassle or they are grumpy. It’s giving more than is expected and being compassionate and kind as a resting state.

It’s like applying mindfulness to a new level, how can I be generous in this moment to my partner?

Ways in which we are generous in spirit: Making tea for one another (Dara and I do this all day long, since we both work from home). When someone is crying from being so tired, helping them get what they need to get into bed as fast as possible is really nice. Thinking of them and doing nice things, and letting annoyances and frustrations go really quickly.

It also means assuming best intentions and working hard not to hold grudges. (I know Dara did not mean to interrupt my meditation by playing basketball just outside the meditation room today.)


2. Three Step Daily Relationship Makeover Tool

This tool I got from my friend Christine, the Lesbian Love Guru and fabulous relationship coach for folks of all genders, sexualities in couples, singles, triads+. It’s SO SIMPLE. It is a daily check-in that takes less than a minute and allows you to recenter and cleanse from the day, week or month prior. Here’s Christine sharing the tool on a video:

If you can’t watch a video, here’s the idea: Look each other in the eye. Each take turns saying the following: 1. I’m sorry for anything I did that hurt you or made you feel less than awesome. 2. I forgive you for anything you did that hurt me or made me feel less than awesome. 3. I am so grateful for you for [insert reason] or just I’m so grateful for our relationship.

Dara and I sometimes do it as Christine suggests, when going to bed, but sometimes we just do it as it occurs to us. It really does make things feel better and helps us remember our generosity of spirit and our priority–a happy, healthy and fun relationship!

It felt really cheesy the first couple of times we did it, but now as we continue to do it I think the shorthand meaning for us is that we value one another and our relationship.

tusconbevindaraIn Tuscon, outside of our friend Cris’ house.

3. Strengths-Based Check-Ins

We started this ramping up to our move in order to focus on the good things in our relationship and not highlight things that don’t work. The idea is rather than having check-ins that focus on areas for growth, we instead simply focus on what is working for us.

For example, our check-in this week I am going to thank Dara for being so careful with her language around our budget when she emails me. I can tell she puts a lot of thought into being as gentle as possible with a topic (money) she knows is scary and triggering for me. Acknowledging the things that we do that work helps us continue to do them.

The check-ins feel really good and help us stay in a positive mind-set, with team spirit and resilience.

bevindarapasaden

4. Written Agreement

The whole reason I was able to move to California was because Dara had enough savings to finance the physical move and pay for much of our living expenses for the first few months in LA. I had worked for years to build a law practice and was going to have to leave it in order to move.

I realized about three months prior to the move we weren’t clear on which living expenses were going to be covered and what the expectations were around that. I was scared shitless of being moved out West and abandoned. I’m living off some savings, but not enough to secure me if I have to suddenly find a new home.

We decided to create a written agreement detailing what our projected budget was, what Dara was paying for, what her expectations were for me during the transition.

The process of writing it all out wasn’t smooth but it was important. It helped me feel secure knowing I wasn’t going to be abandoned, and having written agreements forces you to have tough conversations! (This is also why I HIGHLY suggest pre-nups because I think they strengthen impending marriages.)

Did I trust Dara? Absolutely. Do I trust her more now for being willing to put things in writing? Yes. We’ve decided together what happens if either of us doesn’t meet our obligations and that helps us feel more secure and happy going into a super unknown situation.

5. Safe Word Out of Arguments

Dara and I are very different people who have had to work hard to live in harmony with one another. We communicate differently and often get very frustrated with one another because we don’t feel understood. We are constantly working to improve our communication.

Sometimes we do get into fights, but when we do we have a safe word. (Waffle.) We can waffle out of an argument simply by saying it. Neither of us likes to fight, it’s often a relief to have someone else Waffle. Fighting energy is draining and hard and I don’t want to have relationship conflict on top of all the other stuff I’m dealing with.

Anytime we’ve ever waffled out of a fight, it eventually gets resolved. We are so much more productive at creating solutions when we are in a positive space and fighting doesn’t solve things for us.

Do you have a creative tool you’ve used to mitigate relationship stress? I would love to hear it, please leave it in the comments!

neworleansnyebevindaraIn New Orleans on New Year’s Eve!

2016-02-19

LA Week Four: We’re Getting There

Tomorrow marks four weeks since we took possession of our dream house / super quirky rental. I kind of can’t believe that it’s been so long because it has gone by so fast.
guacamolerentMy first batch of guacamole from my first round of gathered avocados from my tree. How much guacamole is included in my rent? I can’t wait to find out! I also am going to get GREAT at making it so if you have a recipe you love (especially if it’s been handed down) please send it to me!

We’ve been so focused on getting the house put together while trying to manage all those new things that affect how you settle in somewhere that it is hard to feel that we’re in LA for real. If you ignore the time of year and weather, which is very special and wonderful, I could be anywhere learning new stuff. Where is the bank? Where is the grocery store? Which grocery store do I supplement Trader Joe’s with? How many times can we go to Home Depot before we become a lesbian cliché, and do I get a pass for a certain period of time after moving? Where is the most ethical/farm to table butcher shop? (The last question still unanswered.)

Dara’s bestie Big T said we need to start doing LA things on purpose. I haven’t been to the beach yet. Or Griffith Park even though we live five minutes away from it. It’s a great idea to carve out time to do the awesome things only LA can offer in order to help us feel more grounded in our new location.

sunset

I feel in awe that we live here, though, every single time I drive down a palm tree lined street I catch my breath. I will even pull over to the side of the road and take a photo or a snapchat. The sunset show is just gorgeous almost every single night, God TV really delivers in a town that manufactures TV for the rest of the world. In Brooklyn, surrounded by six story buildings I couldn’t see the sunset colors at all unless I walked two blocks away to the above-ground LIRR tracks. Here in my neighborhood of ranch style one story homes, all I need to do is look up and around starting at 4:30.

I am also so mesmerized by the glittering hillsides at twilight. Northeast LA has all of these hills that are dotted with cute houses up twisty roads. As the sky turns dark blue they all light up and it is so beautiful.

Our Mercury Retrograde lease signing/landlord accidentally giving us the wrong address thing affected us yet again. Listen, if there’s one thing you should learn from my experience it’s that if you turn on all of your utilities to one address and find out it is incorrect by one digit, just cancel all of them and start fresh. Literally all of them will say “sure we can change the address” when you call them and literally all of them will be wrong.

This time the gas company surprised us by turning off our gas without warning, even though a technician from So Cal Gas had come to the house a week prior, we explained what was going on and he said it was fine we didn’t need to do anything to change the address because it was working in our house. He was wrong and I found out the hard way when I tried to cook cauliflower and the stove wouldn’t turn on.

barbdarabevinOur friend Barb came to visit LA and we had dinner. Also, it gets cold here at night, so we wear warm clothes. The temperature seems to change 30 degrees in a day. Within six months I’ll really understand how layering works in this climate.

A call to So Cal Gas yielded an appointment to turn it on two weeks out. Dara bringing it up the chain of command (“Can I speak to your supervisor”) got us a week earlier, but it still meant a week of no hot water, cooking gas or heat. So Cal Gas is responsible for this huge natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, every day NPR in LA is talking about it, and I don’t think customer service or their public image is their first priority. Their negligence is literally making people sick and displaced from their homes.

This experience was a great reminder to me about how self care really helps no matter what happens. I had just gotten back from going to a $20 Korean day spa, soaking in a hot tub and sitting in therapeutic saunas. It’s the easiest way for me to go from stressed to mellow. (Victoria Mucha and I would go monthly last Winter to the $55 Korean day spa and it really helped my seasonal depression.) So when the whole gas company thing happened, I said “It’s cool, Big T lives six minutes away we can shower there, we can go visit Grandmother, we’ll just keep eating from the microwave…” It was the opposite of how I would have reacted the day before, when I probably would have started sobbing and overreacting to yet another set-back in this move.

Going into a move, especially cross country, you know it’s a hassle and it’s one of the top five stressful life events. But I guess as a Capricorn I wanted to know HOW it was going to be stressful so that I could somehow game the system and outsmart the stressfulness and mitigate it. I would say I managed to make it 30% less stressful through that method but there was just so much I didn’t think about. (If I had thousands of bucks to throw at it I probably could have mitigated 70% of the stress.)

thinkharderGrandmother has had this in her garage for years, I keep thinking about it when things frustrate me with inefficiency. (I’m such a Capricorn.) I can think of ways it is harder. So at least, even if shit isn’t as easy as it can be it could be worse. This is way better than going down my efficiency/perfectionism thought spiral!

I didn’t realize how much extra time gets lost to the process of moving. I was watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills the other day and Kyle is getting a closet put into one of her spare rooms. The closet designer referenced her co-star Lisa Vanderpump’s closet (it’s very enviable for many reasons). “You know, she has everything at arm’s reach. She can get dressed very fast.” And that’s a good example for ideal home organization in general. Once you have everything put away in an orderly manner you can do everything else in your life swiftly, a stitch in time saves nine if you will. But when you’re constantly looking for that one thing you need it takes up a lot of time. Even though my upstairs attic closet rennovation is still underway and my clothing is still mostly boxed up, I spent 30 minutes sorting everything I’ve been traveling with into separate bags so I could find things easier. If all my dresses are in one place, my leggings in another, my pajamas in another, my these can get dusty and disgusting working on the house clothes, etc… I can at least get dressed quickly.

I had no idea how long it takes to establish a kitchen! I love to cook, but I’ve been slowly becoming better and better over time and gathering equipment. I find cooking really great self care on so many levels. Cooking is a spiritual act for me, I like to put on a spiritual thought leader or a sermon of some sort and listen while I cook. I meditate while cooking. Cooking nourishing food for me and my loved ones also is good for our bodies, and sometimes I’ll put reiki energy into food. It’s also great stress relief and grief management for me when I have feelings, especially baking. It is really hard for me being on the road and not being able to cook, it was the thing I was most looking forward to doing when moved in.

I’ve unpacked all of the kitchen boxes we can find (I am certain we are missing one–the inventory from our moving truck was complete, so it must be mislabeled and not unpacked yet) and there are still some items missing. Also, I didn’t move my whole spice cabinet because of my desire to “only have shit that sparks joy” and not “waste money moving” stuff that wasn’t good enough. This is theoretically great, however, to cook something that would normally be a no-brainer-I-have-all-that-stuff-on-hand, I have to do an inventory of the spice rack and, whatever at least Trader Joe’s is only 6 minutes away and has a parking lot. I had no idea how much I use bone broth on the regular and I cannot wait until we get that butcher situation figured out.

daratoiletJust trying to change the toilet seat took up a lot of time for Dara, trying to deal with the rusted out nuts holding on the old one. A still unresolved project.

Also when you move without shit that sparks joy, and none of your dishes spark joy you have to spend time thrifting for the right dishes. We now have three Pier One plates from Goodwill. Still no pyrex casserole dishes. We’re getting there.

That’s the overall theme of the move right now. We’re getting there.

We haven’t joined a gym yet, so last Friday we went to this park near our house along the LA River that has exercise equipment outside. We wondered why no one was there at 11:30AM and the answer is because it is really hot at noon in LA and not a great time to exercise. Learning these lessons is part of acclimating to a new place and environment I guess.

sparksjoytangerinesThis new bowl sparks joy! It matches our tile backsplash and holds tangerines from my aunt’s house for delicious snacks. Got it at a yard sale for fifty cents!!

The furniture my mom sent us from her house finally arrived on Sunday, so we had the two steps forward, one step back experience that seems to be par for the course about moving. Finally we have a sofa, it makes such a difference to feel physically comfortable when you’re resting (my high heel shoe chairs are gorgeous and good for sitting at a party but not when you’re physically wiped and just need to kick it). However, now we have a huge pile of stuff we have to tetris to fit in the house (the boxes had to move to make room for furniture, so much is in a staging area waiting for my upstairs closet to be ready), and a couple pieces turned out way bigger than they looked on text photos so we need to sell them.

grandmotherdinnerOn our trip cross country we were supposed to spend a few days with Grandmother and it ended up only being a few hours because of how quickly we got our house, so going back to visit her was a priority.

We went to visit my Grandmother in Palm Springs this week, to experiment about whether we could go there to work during the day and hang out with her on our off times. Since both Dara and I are virtual workers, we can work wherever we can be uninterrupted, make tea and have strong wifi. Anyway, it turns out that it’s hard to work at Grandmother’s and we need to work more on setting up timing and boundaries around that but it’s all a learning process. By the way, Grandmother hates having wifi, she thinks it’s too vulnerable, but she has it because my mom rightfully insisted on her getting it. It’s a team effort introducing her to technology.

workingfromhomeHer backyard is gorgeous, so it is a delight to work out there.

I am getting to know her better and that feels pretty amazing. To get to know people better who you have known your entire life is surreal but awesome. She has been feeling sick so she is crabby, which is true for me, too, having been so stressed. Capricorn vs Capricorn can either be a really great collaboration of ideas or it can be deeply head butting, and Grandmother can be way more of a know it all than I ever realized. Usually she is very open minded but it’s a dance to figure out how to disagree with her in a way that opens her mind up about something new and when everyone is crabby it’s harder to have that dance. As I learn more about compassion and unconditional love I’m able to accept imperfect interactions with love, and take what I like and leave the rest.

developingmeditationchairPretty stoked about my favorite armchair for meditation being in a corner with a morning sunbeam.

During one of my cooking spiritual experiences this week (using my Ninja 3-in-1 system because of no cooking gas) I heard the following quote from a Course in Miracles:

“We should be grateful for all situations that make us most uncomfortable because without them we could not know there is something unhealed in us.”

I’m sitting with that this week. Knowing that things are uncomfortable because they are new. That I can reflect on my progress and that I can be proud of myself for putting myself in this uncomfortable, stressful, sometimes painful process of moving because I know I am opening myself up to new opportunities. I have no idea what LA has in store for me, but I’m really looking forward to easing into feeling comfortable here, exploring what makes it unique and wonderful and opening up room for the Goddess to surprise and delight me.

louisehaycalendarFrom my Louise Hay I Can Do It daily calendar.

2016-01-27

How We Found Our House in LA

As soon as we decided to move to LA I insisted I would only move into a house. They have all of these houses out here that are 2 bedroom, 1 bath bungalows, with little yards and washer/dryers and no walls sharing with anyone else. I’ve never lived in a stand alone house as an adult.

A huge part of why I was so ready for a departure from NYC was to live in an area that had less population density. Not that LA is a small place but it is more spread out. My apartment building was a huge pre-war beauty, with a Flintstones meets Camelot style grand lobby and truly the biggest two bedroom apartment of anyone I knew. But it was also a box in a building full of boxes, with people surrounding me at all times.

As I’ve developed my woo, I am realizing how much space I need, physical, emotional, spiritual. It’s helpful for me to get recharged in places where all I can see in one direction is what (in my belief) the Goddess made. Nature. The beach. The forest. The rolling Smokey Mountains. The desert. It’s also really exciting for me to get to live in a climate where my seasonal depression will be more low key.

When deciding to move to LA, here’s all of the factors that swayed me back to the left coast (I grew up in the Bay Area):

10% Seeing Grandmother more frequently
10% Seeing my Aunt/Godmother of choice more frequently
15% Developing a closer relationship with my family (who are all really funny and awesome)
25% Lessening/eliminating my seasonal depression
20% Living in a house
20% Further developing my spiritual and artistic gifts

Anyway, I knew having a house would be instrumental to all of that. (For more about our process, read this post.) When we visited LA last May, it was my intention to wander the city, get to know it and decide where we were going to live. Dara was just glad to be coming back to LA, she left it up to me to decide our neighborhood. (Obviously she still had veto power.)

grandmotheranddaracancersurvivorparkGrandmother and Dara at the Rancho Mirage Cancer Survivor’s park. (Dara survived cancer, Grandmother has thankfully not had cancer.)

I considered a pretty wide stretch of spaces. My Grandmother is in Rancho Mirage (two towns over from Palm Springs, I’d call it a low-key ritzy retirement area). The area has great developing professional industry. Which is good for me because I have to start my day job career over again. It’s two hours from LA proper, though, and it’s even farther from the beaches. But it’s 15 minutes to the mountains and the desert from Grandmother’s house.

My beloved Aunt/Godmother of choice is in Camarillo, so are two of my cousins and their kids. My family immigrated there from Canada when my mom and her siblings were pre-teens. It’s a magical place with a lot of energy for me. I know a bunch of awesome queers in the next town over, Ventura, which is a gorgeous sleepy beach town that I adore.

I have some awesome friends in Long Beach and considered that for cheaper rent and access to the beach. We stayed there for a couple of days during that May trip and got a feel for it.

We stayed a couple of nights on “the Westside” as I’m hearing folks call it, the area of LA by the airport and the beaches. We were in LA proper at a hotel (Dara had a work conference, I was “conference wife” in the fancy hotel room) and seconds from Marina Del Rey, a gorgeous beach town. Not far from Santa Monica and Venice, both totally captured my heart I loved them. I really thought I might want to live out there.

But then we visited my friends in the Northeast section of LA (Highland Park, specifically) and there were wild parrots flying overhead, it’s nestled into these amazing hills with huge regional parks with hikes and views of the sunset and an abundance of those 2 bed 1 bath bungalows with detached garage art studio spaces and yards. And then we went to a party at another one of those houses with a bunch of awesome queers and I realized it reminded me of the best parts of living in Brooklyn. It was going to ease my transition to start in a neighborhood where I knew folks who were easy to get to.

sunteaMy first pot of sun tea. The first thrift store we went to on Sunday had this beauty and two matching glasses for only $5! The first brew I’m doing is my reiki infused tea “calm” blend because me and Dara need to find our chill during these unsettling house taken care of times.

We visioned hard for the house we wanted. We wanted to be able to see the sunset every day while I drank iced tea. We wanted a porch, a yard for Macy, a garden for me, at least two bedrooms plus a sunroom/office. Abundant closet space, a nice bathtub, a great kitchen, on site laundry, and no shared walls. A driveway. I also loved my joke about having an avocado tree. My friend James Leander (in Ventura) had an avocado tree and said they got “bathtubs” of guacamole. My rent in Brooklyn included NO guacamole.

Every time we Craigslist researched the neighborhoods we were interested in living in, we always saw listings for bungalows for $1800 a month. One time we saw a place with a FRIGGIN’ COMMUNITY POOL for that much. I immediately imagined teaching a fatty and allies aqua jog classes in the pool.

night1intilehouseFirst night in our new house!

But when we got to actually looking for our house, we weren’t finding much of anything. We cut our road trip short in New Orleans after I got sick and wasn’t getting better on the road, heading straight for Tuscon and then Dara’s mom’s place in Vegas. We had intended to spend a week with her mom getting our stuff sorted to head to LA to look for houses. We started looking and things were bleak. Here are the websites we looked at:

Craigslist
Westside Rentals (free to search, $60 for the contact info for each rental)
The Rental Girl (not a ton of inventory)
Padmapper (GREAT for apartments, not great for houses)
Lee’s List (you have to get invited by an industry person and it costs to be a member, but there are listings there in NYC and LA, really great for short term rentals, house swaps and furniture, too)

Here are the neighborhoods we looked at (for my friends who are in the process of moving to LA), these were all within about 10 minutes of someone we know:
Lincoln Heights
Cypress Park
Highland Park
Atwater
Silver Lake
Los Feliz (Dara used to live there)
West Hollywood
Echo Park
Eagle Rock

Among all of those we found five possible contenders for houses, and getting a response was really difficult. Among our first round of reach outs was this quirky looking place with blurry photos but great tile work. “The house with the great tile” wasn’t going to be ready to see until after the weekend, which was great timing for us.

housewithtileThe front walk is all fancy tile from the 1960s. Having never remodeled a home I had no idea how expensive nice tile is.

We kept looking every day at the rentals and found maybe five other places that could work. Several were snatched up before we even heard back from landlords. Dara’s persistent, so she reached out to folks to express continued interest when we didn’t hear back.

The house with the great tile scheduled a go-see with us on Tuesday for Wednesday, so we had to last minute pack up the car and find a place to stay in LA. Grandmother came through so we arrived at her place at midnight. We left extra extra early the next day to make sure we wouldn’t hit traffic and miss the showing of the house.

Once we got there I did a snapchat video saying, “Are you our new house?” because I love snapchat and thought this could be a funny ongoing series while we looked at houses. There was another couple visiting the house, too, and the landlady showed all of us. She didn’t realize we weren’t all looking at the house as one big group, even though Dara was actively trying to cock block the other couple because she already loved the house.

It’s a quirky place. The backyard area is shared with the rear house and is cobblestone. The house is basically original from 1920. Almost 100 years old. The rear area has a shared garage space that is full of storage. There’s a cellar with a washer/dryer hook-up. The landlady is an antique tile dealer and she took great pride telling us all about the fucking gorgeous tile backsplash throughout the kitchen. There is a breakfast nook that gets morning sun. AKA A SUNROOM. There’s a built-in BBQ from the 1920s that would be a great open flame grilling situation and/or a fire pit for parties.

There are two bedrooms and the bathroom is a “Jack and Jill” bathroom (with breathtaking antique tiles, natch). The Jack door to the bathroom is totally fatphobic, I have to turn sideways to get in. The master bedroom isn’t huge but it has a door to the side yard where our landlady built a fountain. When I read fountain in the Craigslist listing, I thought it was a like a standard fountain but it’s a five tiered cement trough left over from watering animals she thinks. Now it is a fountain that trickles below the master bedroom window. The side yard is a private yard that has great shade for plants that don’t need full sun and maybe room for a hammock. And oh, yeah, a really tall avocado tree. When I saw that, that’s when I started really thinking this house could be a contender.

I had really been visioning for a version of our friends Madeline and Kristen’s gorgeous house, so when this didn’t look like it right away I didn’t see it. But then when I was able to really take in the quirks of it, I could see this was so much of what we had visioned for. And sometimes when things don’t look right away like what you wanted you don’t notice it.

We hung out long past the other couple (they were gone in 10 minutes) and I noticed that the sun was starting to set–and we could watch it from the front porch. I could easily make sun tea on that porch with the afternoon sun.

But the best and quirkiest part of the house was the weird staircase ladder to the stand-up attic that runs the length of the house. As soon as I got up there I saw that it was a prime place for me to put in a Mariah Carey closet.

atticphase1I have already borrowed my uncle’s shop vac to start working on my closet build out.

Ever since I saw Mariah Carey on Cribs she’s been my closet idol. Like, her closet situation is on point. I love my clothes, they have taken up roughly half of the footprint of my bedroom in my past several apartments. I knew it would be a challenge to cohabitate with Dara and my clothing. When I’m a rich lesbian I will have an entire suite as my closet. With a circular shoe chair.

circularsofaI saw this at a furniture clearance sale in Mid-Wilshire today.

Anyway, the amazing tile house had a ton of applications, but the landlord didn’t like anyone who had seen it. I mentioned casually my FAVORITE piece of small talk, “I don’t know if you’re an astrology person, but, it’s Mercury Retrograde, it’s not a great time for contracts or communication.” That’s how you have to intro it–“I don’t know if you’re an astrology person, but…” and it will open up spiritual convo if the person is into it. Usually they are.

Turns out, in addition to dealing antique tiles she’s been a tarot reader for 35 years and does energy cleansings and house cleansings. The houses energy was clean (I could feel that) and you know how many energy clearings were included in my rent in Brooklyn? None.

We paid the $30 application fee for the credit check, went back to Rancho Mirage and spent forever on the application, emailing it that night. The next day, when our landlady emailed us to say we got the house, we were in the living room of my Grandmother’s jumping up and down all three of us hugging.

Grandmother was a real estate agent in Beverly Hills for years and said, “Remember this feeling,” before she gave us lots of rental advice of taking photos of everything so we get our deposit back.

We had to quickly drive back to LA to sign the lease and put down the deposit on Thursday (remember we saw the place Wednesday), moved in on Saturday even though the floors were still tacky from the refinishing. We had to do a lot of cleaning and I have a huge task of cleaning out the attic and building out my closet.

But you know what I have? The house I visioned for. I believe in thinking positive and dreaming big. As someone who struggles with depression, thinking positive is a big piece of my self care. I can easily slide into the vortex of thinking there’s no house available for me and I have to settle. But I kept on believing for it and I worked for it (we spent SO much time looking at places and A LOT of time on our emails to landlords and the rental app). I really believe in the “ask, believe, receive” idea of the universe (Notes from the Universe is my jam), and we really went for it.

Dara kept saying that we were cutting our road trip short because our dream house was waiting for us. And I kept praying to have the house hunt be easy on us. And even though there’s a ton of stress when you don’t know what’s waiting for you on the other end of the unknown, I find it worth it to lean into it and try to have fun along the way.

Also, the house happens to be in the exact middle of all the neighborhoods we were looking at. And we’re 9 minutes from Chase and Taylor, 9 minutes from Kristen and Madeline, 13 minutes from my awesome cousin Sooz and her GF Masa. Every time I look someone up it’s so fast to get to their place!

I’m super excited to blog about the process of fixing up the house. Right now it’s like we’re camping–the house is drafty as fuck and it’s 42 degrees at night, we’re sleeping on an air mattress, our landlady still hasn’t gotten us a fridge so we’re eating out of a cooler. (Perhaps most awesome is being just 6 minutes from Dara’s bestie TR, who lives in a legit log cabin on a hill in Echo Park with a gorgeous view–being so close has been pretty crucial for us in these times with no fridge because we’re keeping Macy’s homemade dog food in TR’s freezer.) But we’re also making a home and I look forward to our house being comfortable and even more the place of our dreams.

viewfromTRporchThe view from the legit log cabin where I am writing this blog post because our house doesn’t have electricity right now because of the former tenant’s delinquent bill and LADWP bureaucracy. I feel like Megan Draper up in this hill because her house on Mad Men was nestled in a hill like this.

2015-12-29

See You Laters instead of Goodbyes: My Last Moments as a New Yorker and First Stop on the Road

On December 18th the moving truck came and took all of the belongings we decided were important enough to ship to California. For me, this involved my beloved high heeled shoe chairs and four wardrobe boxes of hanging clothes. For Dara, her karaoke machine, keyboard and guitar. Thank the Goddess for the incredible help of Victoria in that process.

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Pro-tip: if you know someone going through an intense cross-country move, text them “How can I help?” Pro-tip: if you are going through a cross-country move and someone asks how they can help, take them up on it. I have had to work through some intense “I’m an independent babe, I need to appear perfect” in order to be in a place to receive help. I’m so glad I have done that work because we really needed that help. If I had said, “No, we’re okay!” I would have lost out on hanging out with Victoria AND likely devolved into sobbing and fighting with Dara. I did neither of those things in our last few days in NYC. (The closest to a fight we got into was snipping for a few minutes and I thought that was a giant victory.)

I feel like Dara and I said “We’re almost done!” way too prematurely but there was no way to actually know what we had left to do in the packing process, it was all whack a mole dealing with the next right thing. So with the help of Victoria disassembling my desk, unscrewing things in the wall, taping up boxes, showing up on moving day with coffee and breakfast sandwiches, we managed to get through the final firestorm of stress and get ready for our road trip.

highheelshoemovingI worked hard to have the moving process be as low stress as I could manage but just seeing the photo of the high heel shoe chair wrapped for the moving truck only a week and couple of days later I can feel my stress hormones ramping back up again! Probably a good occasion to employ tapping.

So here’s the thing, typically you plan a road trip across the country and it is your primary activity for a period of time before you hit the road (I did this in 2011). Or at least if you are a Capricorn like me, you do it that way. This time, packing for the road trip was the first thing I did after the moving truck left.

Somehow, (I have no idea how this happened…) when planning my wardrobe for this trip I kind of overdid it. As I packed up the clothes in my dresser and vanity (two pieces of furniture I could hold onto until I left that weren’t going with the movers) I just kind of shoved what I thought was going to fit into my two suitcases. Clothing that would have to work for multiple climates (from below freezing to 90 degrees, potentially), professional meetings, possible dressing up, casual hangouts and comfy clothes that can handle being in the car for 12 hours. This is the type of sartorial challenge I excel at, yet still required more edits than I allotted before the movers took the last box. So, we had to pack a bonus box to ship ahead of us. Victoria was great at editing this with me while Dara ran our last minute leaving town errands like returning the Optimum online modem and router–why the return place has to be in the far reaches of Brooklyn is beyond me–picking up prescriptions, etc…

hollyaliceMe and Holly and her pup Alice B Tokeface. Holly just moved to NYC from the Bay a few months ago and was full of great advice for me. So sad we won’t be living in the same city anymore!

The last night in town my friend Topher hosted a really cute mixer right near my apartment. If you’re in NYC and want to meet people, Select All is the party to go to. I walked in and there were tons of people I knew and literally all of them were quality awesome people you would want to meet. It was a great last chance to hug people I love. DJ Average Jo was spinning and played me a 20 minute block of Hall and Oates for old times sake. (During the Yes Ma’am parties we always had a couple of Hall and Oates songs for dance floor nostalgia.)

joandbevinMe and Jo!

My good friend Miss Mary Wanna came up from Philly for the last night to hang out and help with the transition to the new Femme roommate in the Haus of Femmespiration–MMW is a Virgo cusp Femme professional organizer, office manager and apropos to this, mega house cleaner. Paying halfsies for a deep clean was an act of self love my roommate and I did to ease the transition. No question about whose mess was whose or me having to clean after I got everything out of the apartment. Also bonus–keep money in the queer economy. Double bonus–she’s a friend who won’t judge our lifestyle, who we can trust to leave the house while she’s working.

After we got back from Select All, Miss Mary Wanna and I sat up in my living room hanging hard. We don’t get to see each other often and our slumber parties are some of my favorite memories. We met in 2009 when I threw a Zombie Queer Cabaret and she came up from North Carolina to perform. I booked her a bunch after she moved to Philly and we became friends. We were up reminiscing about my favorite memories in the apartment and I was loving talking to MMW and kind of procrastinating going to bed on my last night as a New Yorker. Though I was ready to leave I was also kind of sad.

bevinmissmarywannaLove this babe so hard.

I had all the feels. Excited. Sad. Nervous. Overwhelmed. Relieved that the packing and moving part was pretty much over. Nostalgic. Ready. Exhausted.

Victoria and I had packed our car for the road trip and it seemed liked Dara and I had plenty of room for all the stuff we had left in the house (our “go” bags, overnight stuff, Macy’s cooler with her frozen homemade food in it and my reiki tea making supplies). We parked it overnight in a garage and when we took stuff downstairs on Saturday morning for our departure it was a cluster fuck trying to get everything in there. There were some last minute items ditched and we did the best we could to make it work.

reikiteaArt works well with a deadline, so having decided I was going to give samples of many of my reiki infused tea blends to friends as hostess gifts while we travel cross country gave me a deadline… So naturally I was blending tea the last night in Brooklyn. I’m pretty stoked about how they all came out, though, and can’t wait to get feedback from my friends as they sample the tea. The Feelings blend supports going through Feelings and has a tart flavor as an acknowledgement that even things that are a bit uncomfortable can ultimately be delicious.

Jacqueline made a joke about wanting to be at my last-minute waving goodbye party and it ended up manifesting even though she didn’t come. Like, I couldn’t leave town without saying a real goodbye to my BFF Brian even though we had just had dinner during the live broadcast of Dolly Parton’s TV movie Coat of Many Colors on NBC. (My girl got the highest ratings of any TV movie since 2011!) But every time we saw each other we said we’d see each other one more time, so it was super sweet that Brian and his huzz Arnolfo came by to wave.

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None of this is really goodbye, I will see everyone again, just in different permutations and more intentionally as we become out of town visitors or as I convince people to move to LA, too. (So far mostly just Miss Mary Wanna, Sequinette and Victoria.) I am trying really hard to just say, “See you later.”

All of the see you laters has been kind of overwhelming in a good way. Moving really gets people saying how much you mean to them in a way that I didn’t expect. I am still really moved (pun intended) by some of the incredible things people said about how knowing me has touched their lives. Impacting so many people I respect, admire and love is incredibly humbling.

We drove for what seemed like forever that first day. We hit a bunch of traffic in DC and Richmond, VA, on our way to my friends’ Farmlet in North Carolina. Fae and E have this amazing homestead I’d heard so much about over the past couple of years. Fae’s blog Species Confusion is awesome, I’ve read the whole thing.

The blog is great recipes and stories of homesteading. The amount of knowledge that goes into farming for one’s family is the equivalent of a graduate degree. Both in research and what is learned in trial and error. I love to learn new things and we spent the whole morning on their Farmlet feeding the critters and learning about the mechanics of the Farmlet.

In fact, Fae posted that pigs love pumpkin and I never carved my pumpkin from Halloween so instead of getting rid of it in the last swirls of moving I decided to save it to bring to their pigs, Tofu and Tempeh.

farmletI saw my three year old niece Joey the night I wore these pants and she said, “Aunt Bevin you’re wearing pants.” I’m not much for pants but was trying something for this tee shirt.

They have rabbits and chickens, too, as well as Hamster whose farm product is love. He’s a tiny yorkie Fae rescued years ago who I had only seen in photos on Facebook and was happy to introduce to Macy. They got along well, Macy even tried to play with Hamster, and I seriously regret not getting photos.

Dara and I are working on an adventure video blog and I’m very stoked to have some of Fae and E’s Farmlet tour on the first video! Our 40 day trip West will hopefully have some stops that will allow Dara time to edit the videos.

Right now we’re paused in Normal, IL, waiting out an ice storm at Dara’s brother’s house. More soon!

hopestatueOn our last week in town we stopped at the HOPE statue in Midtown. I thought it was an appropriate bon voyage NYC photo!

2015-11-30

Queer and Indie Holiday Gift Guide!

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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!

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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.

Collartips

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

coloringbookbiggay

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!

dumplin

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.

ruffhauscollar

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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.

kyleticklepickle

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!

booksandprints
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!

fatactivism-seconddraft-cover

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!

meandjesbakerthingsnoonewilltellfatgirls

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!!

2015-09-18

I’m Moving to LA and Here’s My Process

I’m really getting right to business in the title of this post. Yup, I’m moving. From Brooklyn to LA. I’m a queer, let’s process about how I got to that decision!

Two years ago, if you had told me I would be moving to LA at 36 years old I would laugh in your face. I grew up in Northern California. I have lots of complex feelings about my hometown and the East Bay surrounding it. I love to visit SF and Oakland and especially the Northern California coastal lands (e.g. Marin and Half Moon Bay). But I wouldn’t want to live there. Dot com stuff really changed how expensive it is there and most of the Bay feels pretty suburban and not appealing to me.

bevininbigbearMe visiting Big Bear, CA, which I LOVED and is only 2 hours from LA.

When you grow up in Northern CA you are taught a kind of regional disdain for Southern CA. I think Northern Californians buy into stereotypes that LA is all airy fairy and image-obsessed. Whenever I’d flip through LA Weekly and see nothing but ads for plastic surgeons I would allow that to be my perception of the entire region. (Not to mention the fact that I’ve become pretty airy fairy as I’ve become spiritual in my 30s.)

Much of my extended family is in Southern California and I thought that because I’d visited it twice a year most of my life that I had an understanding of the area. But mostly I know their suburbs (Ventura County, which is actually phenomenal and beautiful, and Palm Springs, which I adore) but not LA proper. I literally only stepped foot in LA for family events or the airport.

I moved to Camden, NJ for law school in August, 2000, from my cozy college town in Davis, CA. I didn’t expect to stay on the East Coast. I thought that I’d go to school and come back to settle in the Bay Area because that’s what I knew and my friends from college were mostly concentrated there. But things changed. One of my favorite people from college moved to Jersey City and I spent a lot of time visiting John in Jersey City. John’s couch generosity for those two years really changed my life. I got to experience NYC the best way you can as a broke law student, with close friends and a lot of alcohol.

MeJohnGroveStPath2002Me and John at the Grove Street PATH station.

I was drawn to NYC by magic—I genuinely felt a creative life force energy in me whenever I would come up to NYC and frolic in the East and West Village. It was a different place back then, Meow Mix was still open, and The Cock was somewhere by 9th Street and the Lower East Side was really queer whereas now it’s covered with hoardes of drunk straight folks on weekend nights.

JohnNicoleTheCock2002John and Nicole in front of the Cock in about 2001 or 2002.

That creative life force energy when you visit NYC and it is calling to you is pretty different once you get here and have to hustle hard to make rent. Midtown during the day has a really different energy than nightlife in the Village. But still, NYC kept her promises and I got really creative here. It’s always been a struggle for me managing the practicalities of feeling “safe” with the call to produce and create cultural events, community organizing, performing and writing. Surrounded by the artists and activists I know here I was given so many great examples of creating art while holding down a hustle.

I always knew that I wasn’t a lifer in New York City. I don’t know if I’ll have kids, but if I do I would love to do it somewhere with a driveway. I really enjoy parking in a parking lot that is attached to Target. I love going out into nature, I find it really soothing and centering. One of my favorite most spiritual things I can do is be somewhere where I can look in one direction and only see what the Goddess has made. (The beach is great for that.) I guess I always thought that I’d eventually move to Atlanta or Austin or another medium sized city.

Enter Dara, my wonderful and supportive partner. The first time we dated, she brought up that she was thinking about moving to LA. Having lived there just after college for two years she loved it and always wanted to go back. She pulled the trigger, deciding to become a “single nomad” and broke up with me. (OMG if this was the Mindy Project I could make a funny joke right now but mostly I’m just happy for the messy beginning so we can have a stronger now.) She traveled the country, ending up in LA and just after she landed was diagnosed with breast cancer. She wanted to be treated in NYC, so back she came, her attempt to move thwarted. When she got back here and I reunited we talked about her desire to move to LA and I laughed because I didn’t want to go, but that we would figure out our departure from NYC when the time came.

grillinginbigbearWhen we move to LA my intention is to get one of those adorable 2 bedroom bungalows with a backyard and a detached garage. You can rent them for about what each of us pay in NYC for apartments. Macy is going to love a backyard.

I could feel my swan song with NYC beginning last Fall. Coming off the most chaotic and difficult year of my life (but still really great in complex ways) I started doing some heavy reflecting on my values and priorities. I realized that my seasonal depression (which can be as long as six months) was grinding me to a halt creatively. As I work on developing my psychic gifts, I realize how draining it is for me to be around a lot of people all at once. For me, even going to the gym can be draining because there’s at least 100 people on the trip from my house. And self care is one of my top priorities. I realized I was living in a place with an expiration date. Here I hustle hard for the money to live here, as well as hustle hard to maintain the self care that helps me feel good and that doesn’t leave a lot of time or energy to do the work that I am passionate about.

On our post chemo road trip through CA last October we stopped in LA for a day. Dara really wanted to show me what she loved about it. We just went to Echo Park to meet my friend Taylor Black for lunch and a wander, but it surprised me. The energy was different than I thought. It was a mellow city hustle bustle, but with nature right in there, with big, undeveloped hills and regional parks throughout the East LA area. I started opening up to the idea of moving there.

As a spiritual person, I understand the decision making process to be self-correcting. If I’m following my inner guidance from the Goddess, I’m going to be on the path I’m meant to be. So if I were to decide to move to LA and it wasn’t right, I’d get signs. Doing self care is really important for me so that I can be calm enough to notice the signs and feelings directing me.

I think sometimes the Goddess guides me nicely in a whisper, the stern voice is somewhere in the middle and then I get the hollering through pain. A lot of my biggest turning points in life happened after really painful endings before I had the chance to act on that gut instinct about how that day job really didn’t suit me and I wanted more flexibility to work on my art or how my fiance and I really wanted different things in life… Things like that. I was worried that I would stay in NYC until it got painful.

bevinwatchingeclipseWe visited LA last October during a solar eclipse, and this juice bar just gave out glasses to go watch it. So magical.

So, when I’m making a big decision, I start out by just acting as though I’ve decided. What does that look like, how does that feel? I spent about 4 months considering the move to LA, and then a friend of mine passed away. We weren’t close, but I took it as the sign I’d been praying for. (The thing I knew about her most was that she had moved cross country from a comfortable existence and a job she liked and then moved on faith and it was a great choice for her. Laura Mulley’s blog is here, I recommend starting fro the beginning it’s amazing.) I’ve had lots of friends pass under the age of 40. It has really sucked to get this practiced at grief. But I also know there is usually a learning in my grief and it was that week that I decided moving cross country was the right choice. This was March, so I gave myself 9 months, human gestation period, to get my ducks in a row and ready to go.

My Grandmother is another big factor in my move. She lives in Palm Springs, she’s still very independent and we have a lot in common, being Capricorn glamour babes who love woo. I have always hoped that my money situation would pop off and I would get to go visit Grandmother every couple of months from NYC but that hasn’t happened. I would love to get to spend more time with her.

Also, my Aunt and her progeny all live in Southern California and I love them a lot. I don’t know them very well, since I was raised 8 hours away and we saw one another twice a year. But whenever I do get to see them as an adult I enjoy them and I think it would be rad to see them more often.

I genuinely never thought that I would be one of those queers who moves to be closer to family. But I guess I am? I watched a lot of 19 Kids and Counting over the Winter (I have a LOT I can say about the Duggar scandals) and one of the things I loved most about the show is seeing what it is like to be intimate with your family. As the only child of a single mom, I did not have an experience of unconditional love and support and family intimacy growing up. I’d love to know what it’s like to have someplace to go every holiday, even the little ones I don’t super acknowledge in my hustle bustle NYC life.

So, all of this came down to feeling pulled to LA. I visited in May to get to know all the various areas of LA and finalize what neighborhood we’re looking to move to (more on that in another post).

bevindarasurreywithfringeontop

It was important to me to have my own independent reasons to move rather than just going with a partner. A friend of mine pointed out it’s totally okay to move for and with a partner and she was right. I am really excited to do this with Dara because doing things together is fun as we love an adventure. We haven’t lived together formally (though she stayed in my apartment with me during the last two months of chemo) and we are fatigued with the schlep inherent in not living together.

I’m really looking forward to the changes from this move. God is change and I want to be open to the next big things happening in my life by opening up all this energy!

I’m also kind of scared. I don’t know what my day job is going to look like. I promised myself when I took the Bar exam that I would never do it again, and I am going to keep that promise. (When I looked into the CA requirements the yearly bar fees are double the ones I pay in the two states I’m licensed in and I got that feeling in my stomach I had when looking into a law career 12 years ago when I graduated law school.) Also, as a real estate closing attorney out here, my skills translate to either a real estate agent or a title company attorney and I’d 100% rather be a Realtor. My Grandmother was a big deal real estate agent in Beverly Hills in the 80s & 90s so it’s kind of a family thing. And, with any luck, my line of Reiki infused teas will pop off and I won’t need a day job and can just focus on stuff I’m passionate about! (I enjoy real estate but it’s not like my life blood energy the way doing work in the world to help people feel at home in their bodies is.)

I’m also presently planning the logistics of the move (just to get a quote from PODS I was on the phone for 40 minutes… $5,000) and starting a project management plan for getting everything done. I have no idea how and when to get rid of stuff, so I’m going to do some interviews of folks I know who did a cross country move before.

Me, Macy and Dara leave NYC on December 20th, and arrive in LA around March 1st. We’re taking a month for a DIY artist residency so I can finish my book finally, and then taking a lingering trip through the Southern route to see lots of friends/family and for me to do readings and parties. Currently we’re planning stops at Dollywood, Atlanta, Key West, Ft Lauderdale, New Orleans, Austin, Albuquerque, Tucson and Las Vegas.

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