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

2017-11-24

Shop for the Holidays and Smash the Patriarchy (Getting the Deals, Too)

You need to shop for the holidays and you want to dismantle the patriarchy? Me, too! Supporting small businesses owned by women, queers, people of color and other minorities warms the cockles of my heart. Since my wealth is more in influence than it is in bucks for the time being, one of my favorite holiday blog traditions is my gift guide!

This is what I look like when I blog for the holidays. I’m rocking one of my All Bodies are Worthy of Love stickers 1.0 on my laptop and my Stitch Prism necklace of pyrite and blue kyanite.

On Cyber Monday at Noon Pacific time I’m going live on the Plus Bus facebook page. The Plus Bus is a local plus size resale store here in Northeast LA and I’m stoked to get to bring resale plus size clothing to people all over the world who don’t have a plus size resale store nearby. As a bonus I get to help bolster this plus size women owned store and hone my skills as a QVC hostess by curating a great inventory and featuring indie plus designer Proud Mary Fashion. Like the Plus Bus Boutique Facebook page and turn on notifications for live videos so you get reminded!

I love this All Genders are Valid Tee shirt (sized to 2X) from Genuine Valentine. I also love the To Be An Ally is to Show Basic Human Decency shirt (XS to 4X) and the Making My Own Path onesie (to 24 Months)!! (Pssst… I’m collaborating with the designer on a line of Fat Kid Dance Party tee shirts! Stay tuned for those!)

All weekend long use code “PARADOX” for 25% off orders over $60!

If people you know love their pets the way I love mine, these wood pet portraits are exactly the right gift. Rufus Reineck of The Pop Box sent me the cutest paintings of Macy and Biscuit Reynolds shelacked on wood. I cannot express the leaps my heart made when I got this gift from a self proclaimed “big gay family” who are fans of Biscuit and Macy on Instagram! Macy is pink glitter! It looks amazing on the wall and the colors are both true to our pets and make them seem like pop art. I’m obsessed. Get the custom dog portrait here or the custom cat portrait here. P.S. Someone go snag this amazing pop art of Prince before it goes.

Sometimes you just wanna craft for people. For three bucks you can get a PDF pattern for a pretty simple Feminist Killjoy pattern or for seven bucks you can get Nevertheless She Persisted (I would totally do this for a pillow). All I Want For Christmas is a Functioning Democracy is a fav if you don’t have time to cross stitch yourself. Check out the whole inventory of Caustic Cross Stitch.

Leather Coven is your go-to for body affirming leather harnesses and the leather cage skirt I’m forever obsessed with. The Priestess collar is a great smash the patriarchy gift at $27. I have a piece from there I bought during a cyber Monday sale a couple of years ago and it fits perfectly because it was made to measure. The handmade leather ornaments are so beautiful and are the perfect hostess gift for the leather femme in your life or someone who loves modern design. So beautiful and on trend!

Monday only get 15% off with code CYBERANGEL!

I met Scarlett River of Dirty Lola through Dollypalooza when she donated to our fundraising auction for the Imagination Library. (Stay tuned here for a worldwide online holiday raffle to benefit Dolly’s Imagination Library chapter in Belize–the raffle pull is December 16th!) She makes some beautiful fan art–Dolly prints, Prince candles, and darling vintage pussy plates. But apropos for this gift guide is her Smash the Patriarchy print–only $18!

On Monday 11/27 use code DIRTYMONDAY for a deal!

Stitch Prism is one of my favorite jewelry merchants. I have a couple of pieces and absolutely love them and use them in my crystal practice. This Saturn Return necklace is perfect for the 27ish human in your life who is going through it with the taskmaster in the sky, Saturn. I love the double triangle with agate, as well, or you could customize a piece with a type of crystal that speaks to what your pal is going through!

20% off Stitch Prism until Monday 11/27, automatically applied on Etsy!

Joshica Beauty is a Black-owned natural small batch beauty supply line. This Beard Maintenance gift set is under $20 and the beard oil is a five star rated product! This is a great gift for someone who is very excited about their beard. I know a few very beard-identified people who this would be perfect for!

I met the Gay Pin Guys at A Bear Named Troy‘s brunch event at The Plus Bus. They gave me their Spill the Tea pin and I adore it and featured in my Facebook Live video about how to brew Matcha, the cancer fighting delicious elixer. The Rainbow Resist Pin is a great gift for the militant lesbians, radical queers and PFLAG Moms in your life. The You’ve Got This pin is such a charming way of encouraging someone.

Don’t forget the queer/women/POC healers, massage therapists, tarot readers, mediums, astrologers, and other small business hustlers in your life. If someone you know is going through a rough time, a trip to a healer they usually only see when they have cash flow is a really nice thing to crowd fund for. I got a great medium reading as a crowd fund birthday present one year and it is still a treasured experience.

If you want to buy your 5778 Hannukah candles with a portion of proceeds going to domestic racial justice projects (I am not sure anyone else who makes Hannukah candles can say that), head over to Jonah at Narrow Bridge Candles. I have watched their chandelery in action many years ago and it is a truly beautiful and sacred process. It’s more impactful and intentional than buying your candles from Rite Aid. The North Bay fires (where Jonah’s chandlery and herbal apothecary are located) have affected their sales of the candles this year and they are still available! First Night of Hanukkah is December 12th 2017 / 24 Kislev, so get those orders in ASAP.

My friend Sabine Maxine of A Tribe Called Queer is the curator and designer behind Patty Wack Vintage (some plus vintage available). Sabine is offering 20% off through 11/30 and her shop is worth the look for the photography alone. This sale alone is a great excuse to treat yourself to something cute and new for the holidays!

I watched a lot of Muppet Christmas movies while writing this post and my favorite joke was: Did you hear about the church that burned down? Holy smoke! (Insert Statler and Waldorf Laughing.) Please make no mistake I love churches, of course, and I really love puns.

Do you have a small business you want to plug? I’m looking for brands who want to partner for a giant unboxing party in mid-December. Email me at queerfatfemme at gmail to be included!

When you love yourself, ​everything gets easier. Join me LIVE on Facebook everyday to learn how to love yourself more.

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

2016-08-08

Dollypalooza NYC is September 3rd, Here’s How to Get a Free Dolly for President Poster

Dara and I have been so hard at work expanding Dollypalooza, the epic fan tribute to Dolly Parton I started in 2014.

dollypaloozagroupsingLast year’s big finale! All photos by Ves Pitts for Dollypalooza unless otherwise noted.

First expansion: we moved to a bigger venue in NYC and doubled our capacity! We sold out last year and hope to get even more Dolly fans in the door. Tickets are on sale now for the September 3rd show (Labor Day weekend) and if you buy them by August 10th (Wednesday) you’ll get a free Dolly for President poster! Pick it up at our merch table, it will be under whatever name you give when you buy your tickets.

Second expansion: we added an LA show! October 29th, we’re calling it “Dolloween” because we hope people will dress like Dolly or related Dolly characters/country cuteness. Tickets are not yet on sale, I’m still booking it out. If you know a performer in LA or willing to come to LA, send them the online form to apply! I especially want to curate a diverse cast, so folks of color, queer folks, older folks and folks of size are highly encouraged to apply. I cast drag queens, burlesque artists, performance artists, tap dance, puppetry, anything campy or fun and in the spirit of Dolly Parton. Application deadline is August 23rd.

ladyquesakimberlydarlindaLady Quesa’Dilla, Kimberly Clark (who played accordion with Doll Parts last year!) and Darlinda, Just Darlinda.

Here’s all the good stuff about NYC:

This is the first year we’re having a photo booth! My incredibly talented artist friends Ryan and Matt are driving in from St. Louis to install it with 40+ props! Including Dolly wig cut outs, boobs, quotes and other memory makers. One of my favorite queer photographers, Shoog McDaniel, is taking portraits!

We added a trivia component! I always wanted to play Dolly trivia so I am putting it together. The webmaster of the longest-running Dolly fan website, Dollymania.net has agreed to write the trivia. The winning team at trivia will get a basket of Dolly goodies to divvy up between them.

The performers are amazing as always.

♥A full 45 minute set by the very fun and gifted Dolly Parton Tribute Band, Doll Parts. The enthusiasm they play with is from the hearts of people who love Dolly at level 10.

dollpartsfinale

♥My hero/friend/legendary burlesque super star World Famous *BOB* joins me again as Femmecee. Dollylujiah!

♥Sequinette you’ll remember from the Double Dolly act and last year’s epic Backwoods Barbie/Dolly signature cape act.

sequinettedollyback

♥ Lady Quesa’Dilla, teacher of the children and much like Dolly herself, a charming storyteller.

♥Darlinda, Just Darlinda, a fabulous cutting edge burlesque star, producer and teacher at the School of Burlesque.

♥NathAnn Carrera joins us again as Dolly DJ and will serenade us with 60s era Southern Gothic Dolly tunes and gossip about Dolly and Judy’s moonlight naked runs on her estate.

♥Not on stage but a very talented performer herself, Camille-Bettina Atkinson is my wildly indispensable stage manager. If you know her, get her to belt a few lines of “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.”

camille

New this year to the NYC stage:

♥ I am very excited to bring Sweetie–a legendary New York City drag queen (drag mom to my friend Glenn Marla). This article from Paper Magazine about Sweetie is great, I especially love how she talks about how things are opening up around age, femininity and size in the gay community due to the Bear movement.

sweetiePhoto from Paper Magazine.

♥Tammy Cannons!!! I always wanted to bring a small town gay bar drag superstar to Dollypalooza and Tammy is a bright, passionate light and the kind of glitter beard Queen who makes you rethink your ideas about gender.

In addition to our marvelous performers, we have a fan costume contest! I highly encourage folks to dress as Dolly or as a related character (Carl Dean, Burt Reynolds, Judy Ogle), a country queer, or HIGH DOLLY FAN EXTREME whatever that means to you. You can win a cash prize based on audience hollerin’!

nathannNathAnn.

A big part of the show is the benefit for the Imagination Library, Dolly Parton’s early literacy charity that sends books to kids in need from age 0-5 every month. We have some merch for sale (Dolly for President posters and buttons, Dolly Mint reiki infused tea) and some raffle prizes in addition to our silent auction.

Last year we raised over $7,000 and this year we’re aiming for $10,000! We have Dolly fan art from all over to go to the highest bidder, in addition to a trip for two to LA for the LA Dolly Parton show at the Hollywood Bowl, and trips to Dollywood!

Do you have fan art you want to donate? Do you have airline miles you want to donate to help us make awesome silent auction prizes? Do you want to be a matching donor? We would LOVE to talk to you about it. Email me queerfatfemme at gmail and we’ll coordinate.

For both events I have the honor of working with Jessica Scarlett for graphic design (she’s amazing, I’m having her work on Bevin’s Tea as well!) and my friend Bridget Sweetz for web and branding work (also amazing). I love doing work and getting to collaborate with my talented friends!

Here’s the Facebook event

Sign up for the Dollypalooza email list!

Purchase tickets here. Get ’em by August 10th to get your free Dolly for President poster.

dollypalooza_pc_backweb dollypalooza_pc_frontweb

2016-03-01

Dolly Parton taught me to Dream More and I’m Doing It!

You all know that Dolly Parton is one of my heroes. She taught me to Dream More. It’s part of her four pillars of success, as she outlined to the University of Tennessee graduating class commencement speech and then elaborated in her book Dream More. (I highly suggest the audio book read by Dolly herself.)

jessbevindollymatiequinnI met Dolly last summer because I work hard, dream more and have generous friends.

Anyway, I’m dreaming. Those of you who have been reading my blog over the past few days know that I’m hustling a pre-sale of my Reiki infused tea blends in order to make tuition for B-School, an online business school whose sign-up ends tomorrow. It’s a stretch to make the money needed to go to the school when you are a freelancer living off savings after a cross country move but I am working on it!

The great news is that I have sold a bunch of tea and gotten a few donations, so I am now officially 30% funded!! Thank you to everyone who has purchased tea so far and donated, and thank you to all of my friends who have shared the fundraiser!

I need your help to get closer to my goal!
Would you consider posting the link to my pre-sale on your social media, emailing friends you know who love tea and/or healing modalities?

If you’re on Twitter here’s a tweet to copy and paste: Help Bevin @queerfatfemme get to #BSchool! Buy some #reikihealing infused tea! Sale ends Wednesday! http://queerfatfemme.com/reiki-tea-pre-sale-ends-march-2nd/

I know I’m on the right track for a business because I am excited to blend the teas! I’ve already started to dry the tangerine peels for my Rooibos Citrus blend, carefully carving out the pith so that the peels brew sweeter.

I’ve gotten great feedback about my tea through this process, too!

Jes Baker of the Militant Baker said when sharing the tea sale with her readers, “Bevin of Queer Fat Femme is a healer and one of the most inspiring people I know. She’s launching a Reiki tea line and is starting a pre-sale now. She left ‘Feelings Tea’ with me last month and it changed my life. Go support a rad chick and get rad tea, my loves. Everyone wins.”

dollyquotemugI got this mug at Dollywood! The quote says, “If you don’t like the road you’re walking start paving a new one!”

Dari, a friend of Dara’s, came over and said my Self Love tea (I served it iced, it is great both ways) has a good flavor that lingers in the mouth.

My little niece Joey (4 years old, her favorite music is “Dolly Parton” and I have her saying that on video) said “Yum!” when her mom Christie gave her my Find Your Chill blend. I got a cute video text about it.

My friend Holly said she loved the Dolly Mint I served her when we were hanging the other night and followed up by buying a tin!

bevinmilkbobMe, backstage at the first Dollypalooza in 2014. Right between World Famous *BOB* and MILK (RuPaul’s drag race). I never knew my life could be so awesome and I am really excited to see where it can go! There’s another Dollypalooza happening in NYC in the Fall and one planned for LA next Winter, so BOLO (Be On The Lookout) right here or at Dollypalooza.com.

I’ve also heard some amazing things about B-School since I launched the fundraiser and gotten support from folks who love Marie Forleo’s work and, in the words of Paul Thomas (a follower of the Militant Baker, who heard about my tea from her), “Marie Forleo is the real deal.”

I’m so excited to get this business off the ground using my blog and to share the progress with my readers. I would love your support by sharing, buying tea or even just thinking good thoughts that I can womanifest this goal by tomorrow evening!

Dolly says, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” That’s what I work to do with this blog, and that’s what I’m hoping to support with this Reiki-infused tea business!

2015-09-03

Dollypalooza is Friday, Look at Our Amazing Silent Auction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fan-contestPhoto by Tinker Coalescing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SILENT AUCTION PRIZES

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

Dream More Resort

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

excel dentistry

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

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

JessCheapPillow

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

JessSilhouettePillow

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

toughtittysawnikscarlett

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

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

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

Dollys_BDay_Doughnut_Cake_web_jpg_315x2000_q85

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

dollysneakers

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

dollycupofambition

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

saintdolly

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

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

davidmitchellbutterflypainting

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

glitterdollyalbum

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

90svintagecountrysingers

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

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

dollyaltarcandle

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

geekyandcreepydollynecklace

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

adrianarabydollypainting

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

dollyflask

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

flamingidolsdolly

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

2014-10-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chronic disease.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Candida Cure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what did I eat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-09-16

Post Cancer Treatment Life in a Nutshell

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

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

Post Cancer Treatment

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

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

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

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

IMG_20140821_204956

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

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

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

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

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

Macy’s Recovery

20140821_175210Family selfie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus Size Party Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental and Emotional Health

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

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

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

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

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

2014-07-22

Announcing Dollypalooza September 5th in Brooklyn, NY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and MANY more performers!

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

IMG_6566Examples of great Dolly fan outfits.

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

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

RSVP on Facebook!

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

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