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

2018-04-12

Three Strategies I Use to Combat Fear-Based Procrastination

I have been working on the production of the Fat Kid Dance Party workout video in some form for nine months. (I believe that fundraising to produce a project counts as production work though I’m sure there’s some industry distinction.) We shoot the video in two weeks and I’m really excited. And terrified. And engaging in some fear-based procrastination.

Decision making is really hard for me sometimes. My perfectionism flares hard when I’m up against a deadline. Suddenly I’m afraid of everything being wrong and it makes even minor decisions seem like they will destroy everything good that exists in the world if I choose incorrectly.

This is not unlike college when every decision about every paragraph in my 20 page papers seemed unsurmountable until I was hard pressed by procrastination. Only now do I understand this to be fear-based procrastination and that I do it as a coping mechanism.

Here’s the location we chose and some of the dreamy natural light. All photos by Emily Aguilar, the Director/Producer/Editor of all four workout videos.

I am having to approach my art in a new way and it is difficult for me to adapt to change. But I can love myself through this difficulty and I know by the time I do my next video production I will understand the process more and will have swifter clarity on my decisions.

So even though rationally I am lovingly accepting of my fear-based procrastination, it’s not making the overwhelm, stress and freak-out go away. Emotionally I feel a hot mess!

Here’s the advice my rational brain is giving my lizard brain.

1. Self Care Stretches Time.
I love this advice! My friend Kelli Jean Drinkwater’s therapist said this to her and I repeat it like a mantra. It’s like that adage it takes money to make money. If it costs you $200 to do self care that enables you to make $800 you’re still netting $600. If meditating in my hot tub helps me be even 5% more chill in a day I will produce more because I’ll feel less fear based procrastination.

We are going to incorporate the cool chairs in the space in the chair-based aerobics video! The background is a chalkboard!!

2. Step Away From The Project.
In the same vein, stepping away from a project generally allows creativity and inspiraton to flow back in. Like when you cut off circulation in a limb with a bandage and you release it all the blood goes rushing back to the limb. When I get into stress and overwhelm I am just not as productive.

This morning, stressing over what music to commission to use for when I teach the line dance during my workout video, I wasn’t making any progress on that decision. I cried real tears on the phone with a friend and we decided I needed to take a break. I went to the grocery store and overhead I heard a song that inspired me to know how to direct my composer to create the right beat.

It’s usually best for me when I step away and do something sensory, like be in nature or go swimming so I get my brain into a different state. But, hey, I’ll take inspo from the grocery store!

We did not choose this space because it was up a rickety flight of stairs. No thanks! But we did take a couple bonus photos which are always useful for my social media.

3. Talk to friends.
I have the inclination when I’m overwhelmed to wall off other humans and not talk to them, instead just focusing on work. But I actually get work done faster when I connect to another human.

When I take time to talk things through with people (aka processing, which I normally don’t love) I suddenly gain new clarity and get better perspective. Even today telling McKay how I was feeling and having them mirror to me that they were also feeling overwhelmed by decision-making validated my feelings! Like maybe it’s not me maybe it’s Mercury Retrograde and it’s just hard right now and it’ll get easier.

Or maybe the other person can help you find new ways of doing things that help you make it easier. Or connect you with Big Freedia’s people so you can successfully license Peanut Butter. Or maybe the other person wants to buy the workout videos, which happen to still be available for sale through IndieGoGo’s perpetual funding situation, and thus help create the production to add cool stuff to level up the experience.

I want to end this note on a big positive because it’s just who I am. So here’s what I’m celebrating:

1. My Executive Producer Marcy scored a MAJOR clothing sponsor and the outfits are going to be so cute! I can’t wait to share about it!
2. I get to hire a chalkboard artist to do a Fat Kid Dance Party design on a chalkboard for the background of one of the workout videos!!
3. Fat Kid Dance Party aerobics was mentioned in the New York Times this morning!! I was interviewed for a piece about being a plus size bride. I gave some advice for using that time to get more positive about your body as it is rather than having to change it!

2018-01-02

Year of Ask Vol. 1: Fat Kid Dance Party Aerobics Video Pre-Sale Now Live!

Hey Everybody!!!!!! I am so excited to say that I launched the pre-sale for the first ever Fat Kid Dance Party (For All Sizes to Heal from Body Oppression) workout video! All the info is through this link, but in sum, it is the culmination of all of my 15 years in body positive activism and performance and I am so excited to bring it to life!

Photo by Shoog Colleen McDaniel.

My friend Jen Hollywood wrote a really sweet testimonial about the pre-sale on her Facebook page. She said:

“If you know me, you know I love a good workout video. Cindy Crawford, Richard Simmons, Leslie Sansone. I’ve done them all. I WOULD LOVE TO WORK OUT WITH MY FRIEND BEVIN!!!!!

I love this woman. I used to listen to her podcast back in the day… I read her blog Queer Fat Femme, and whenever I get a chance I hang out with her in real life. She is fun, creative and fat positive. Please donate to this Indie GoGo campaign and get her latest work of genius, FAT KID DANCE PARTY off the ground and into your living room. You won’t be sorry about this early adoption. [Double heart eyes emojis]

For all sizes to heal from body oppression!”

Thanks so much Jen! (Bride selfie from Jen’s wedding where we did a flash mob surprise for Jen and Dani!)

If you read this blog and enjoy it, you’ll probably enjoy my aerobics videos. If aerobics isn’t your thing, I also have a guided meditation and body love affirmations available as a pre-sale. (Change your thoughts change your life!)

The pre-sale includes four videos—a full 60 minute Fat Kid Dance Party workout, a 10 minute stretching video for use every day to help you increase or maintain mobility and relieve pain, a 20 minute cardio workout for those days you need to move but don’t have a lot of time, and a 60 minute Fat Kid Dance party Chaircize video workout. I always invite folks to do the traditional FKDP from a chair if they need to, but I want to center the experience of working out in a chair in this video.

I’m really excited about the momentum of this class that I created and the effects.

Photo by Shoog.

My class regular (and now friend) Kate said this about her experience coming to class at least once a week for the past six months.

“Bevin’s creation has completely changed my relationship with movement. It’s fun! It feels good! It fills me with joy! It is no longer punishment! It is healing! And infused my life with joy and freedom.”

If you can share the sale in your networks, that would be so wonderful. I think everyone knows someone who would benefit from an affirming, uplifting movement class. A personal anecdote about why you resonate with my writing and media or Fat Kid Dance Party also goes a long way to amplifying the share. If you have capacity to financially support the Indie GoGo pre-sale I would really appreciate it. I have long dreamed of supporting my family through my work empowering people to love themselves and having a video I can produce and then sell will really help.

Photo by Shoog–Kate is near me playing the role of monster in our Thriller choreography group photo.

I am doing so much right now to bring the message that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are to the masses. This workout video is just one Ursula tentacle of my whole self love Femmepire, stay tuned here at my blog and in my other social media realms for more!!

Follow me on Facebook (turn on notifications) to watch my daily live videos about self love! I’m regularly updating about the progress of producing and filming and distributing the workout videos. I’m also chronicling the planning of my epic wedding with Dara on my live videos. Plus interviews with some really cool people and adventures!

Follow me on Instagram @queerfatfemme for motivation (turn on notifications there, as well, the Instagram algorithm means the more followers you have the less likely you are to pop up in someone’s feed).

Follow @fatkiddanceparty on Instagram for updates on the video, my upcoming tour schedule and class schedule in LA. (I’ve got a new non-gym venue for class that launches Wednesdays at 7PM on January 10th, in addition to Mondays at 8PM at EVERYBODY gym.)

2017-06-12

Two Important Weeks for Fat Kid Dance Party (For All Sizes to Heal from Body Oppression)

At the beginning of March I debuted my dance aerobics class Fat Kid Dance Party (For All Sizes to Heal from Body Oppression). I have been pouring so much heart, soul, muscles and hustles into this class! Most of the time I have between three and nine folks in the room and we have a fabulous time. I have two special classes coming up this week and next that I wanted to especially highlight for followers who are in LA, visiting LA or friends of mine who keep meaning to come to class.

The totally optional post class selfie has become a ritual I enjoy!

My class is 50 minutes long, 7PM Thursdays at EVERYBODY gym in Glassell Park, Northeast LA. Price is $14 a la carte and gets cheaper with class packages! A mash-up of dance aerobics, line dancing, sing alongs and unbridled enthusiasm, Fat Kid Dance Party is an act of dance floor reclamation. If you’ve ever been called “too much,” “too fat,” or felt too awkward to dance, this is the supportive class for you. More about my class later in the post.

June 15th I am partnering with The Plus Bus, our local LA plus size resale store, to sponsor a meet and mingle after class. Come sweat at 7PM and mingle from 8-9 in the cute EVERYBODY patio! The Plus Bus will bring over a rack of clothes and some water, and you’ll get to meet new people who are also interested in busting up body oppression. Fat community is hard to find most places, and LA can seem so body obsessed that it’s hard to believe there are other body positive warriors out here. But there are! I love connecting people and wanted to facilitate a way for folks to meet by attending my aerobics class so here goes*! Connect on the Facebook event page (pro tip–will be an easy way to social media link up with the folks you meet).

June 22nd Pop Sugar is coming to class to cover it for their website! I’m both thrilled and terrified about this! Part of learning to be an aerobics instructor is studying other aerobics instructors–their moves but more so their teaching style. Whenever I go cruising you tube I inevitably find a Pop Sugar aerobics dance combo from some slick instructor. It’s extremely cool to have Pop Sugar visiting class. Real talk (it’s my blog, so it’s always real talk) I feel kind of odd about plugging press coming to class. Honestly, I would love for them to see the class full of enthusiastic folks of all sizes and have that translated to their readership. Hopefully the folks who read Pop Sugar will want to come to our gym and support it with memberships and class packages! And folks who have never really thought about Health at Every Size who see the feature might be inspired to lace up their sneakers and try it.

More about my class:

There are four rules for Fat Kid Dance Party (For All Sizes to Heal from Body Oppression).
RULE NUMBER ONE: There’s no wrong way to do Fat Kid Dance Party.** I teach at a low-impact cardio level and offer variations and free dance to raise the cardio for folks who need more to sweat and I offer chairs that are rated up to 500 pounds for folks who want to work out from a chair. All my numbers have flamboyant arms, you’ll get a workout from a chair, too!

My friend T does Ironmans and broke a deep sweat in class with me so I know it’s working for all levels!

RULE NUMBER TWO: We cheer for awkward! If you feel awkward at any time, just say, “I feel awkward” and we’ll all cheer.*** Also, if you go right when I go left or whatever, you’re just making my choreography look more complicated and that makes me look good!

RULE NUMBER THREE: If you want to sing, go ahead. If you can’t sing, sing loud!

RULE NUMBER FOUR: We high five for self care! When we see someone getting water, we high five! When we feel good about movement we’re doing, we high five! Everyone gets a high five for showing up!

I go through the rules during our stretching. I use a stretching modality at the beginning of class that helps to improve mobility, reduce chronic pain and engages all of the muscles in the body. We generally stretch to a Stevie Nicks song and a New Wave song. They rotate every class.

We warm up with a 3-4 song dance combination I teach step by step. I have a cheer dance combo we use all Missy Elliott songs, a drag queen number, a boy band combo (boy in this instance means non-threatening masculinity not determined based on assigned sex at birth), a pop princess combo based on Mariah and Britney, and I just unveiled a confidence routine to all Beyoncé songs.

Each class has a line dance, mostly because I always watch in awe at line dancers but don’t feel confident enough to be awkward and screw up a bunch in front of strangers. But in a safe(r) space like my class we learn the dance first with a slower song then up the tempo a touch and do it on four walls. I pick a real line dance from out in the world of country, oldies, soul and other line dance genres and apply it to whatever songs I want. So far my favorite has been the Step in the Name of Love to Lizzo’s “Good as Hell.”

The rest of class is made up of one-off numbers. I am an artist first and foremost so there’s a lot more to each number than just movements–my years of body positive workshops have infused all over the place.

We do somatic taking up space exercises based on actual research to Prince’s “Baby I’m a Star.” We talk about prison abolition and racial justice with “White Lines” a song that is totally still relevant thirty years later. I do a walking meditation about healing your past bullying and stepping into your light to Erika Jayne’s “How Many Fucks Do I Give?” We heal high school trauma with Gossip’s “Move in the Right Direction.” We do Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” based on a James Baldwin quote I live by.

Plus Dolly Parton, Pointer Sisters, Vanilla Ice, and still more to come. Mary Lambert’s new overtly queer single “Your Name” will be in a class really soon. We end each class with a cool down and a thank you to our queer and social justice ancestors who did all the work so that we have spaces like EVERYBODY and can heal together.

I am doing my Reiki Master training right now and I have learned lots of ways to put Reiki in the room and in the class content so it is at once a movement class and energy healing!

Jenny declared herself a “regular” after her first class (she found out about it when my friend Jes Baker of The Militant Baker posted it on Instagram) and is my first actual regular who comes to class all the time! I feel honored to have a regular.

If someone had told me two years ago that I was going to move to LA and become an aerobics instructor I would have laughed them out of the room. But then I decided to move to LA and when I heard about the new all bodies are good bodies/gender inclusive gym EVERYBODY opening just six minutes from my house I was so confused as to how to participate. I figured I could give body positive workshops like I had been doing for fifteen years. But then I was in the back of an “all levels” dance aerobics class at Heartbeat House struggling to keep up and realized that I could probably turn all of my drag performance and queer dance party production skills into my own class. A class that is actually for all levels not just for folks who can hop around the room like a graceful gazelle.

Actual quotes from people who have taken my class:
“I broke out into a deep sweat but my joints don’t hurt!”
“I feel significantly more joyful than I did before class.”
“This is like somatic therapy! I wish I could send my clients to your class but I want it for myself.” (Said a therapist with good boundaries.)

I hope you all can make it to this very unique healing modality some Thursday to come!! And if you’re interested in a Saturday evening class sometime, or maybe want to visit LA and need an excuse, I am thinking about doing a special event late Summer/Fall. Clickie on this form and let me know what dates would work best for you!

*If you’re doing body positive work in LA and want to partner up to do an after class hang out, get in touch!
**Borrowed phrasing from Glenn Marla’s brilliant, “There’s no wrong way to have a body.”
***Adapted modality from Kelli Dunham’s Queer Memoir series, where they cheer when an author says they feel nervous. It’s great permission giving for folks who aren’t used to speaking in front of a crowd.
****Since I’m an artist first and foremost, my own process is infused in the class all the time, including my friends I want to continue to connect to who have passed on. I honor my friend Amanda every time we practice the Boot Scootin’ Boogie to The Judd’s “Why Not Me,” a song we bonded over a lot. And I honor my friend Taueret in every class because she and I shared a deep love for cheesy 80s aerobics. She would love this class.

2017-05-05

LA Fat Fitness: My First Spin Class

I’ve been brewing this blog series for a year! When I first moved to LA from Brooklyn I didn’t have a gym membership (EVERYBODY, the new radically inclusive gym in Northeast LA, wasn’t open yet) and I was in the middle of a big transition. Exercise is crucial to my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well being. I didn’t know what to do in the absence of my previous exercise favs at the Bed Stuy YMCA so I decided to dabble in various modes of free or cheap fitness that LA had to offer.

I have since become an aerobics instructor at EVERYBODY and dabbling is still important. I learn from different fitness genres ways to strengthen my teaching and movement techniques to share with my students in class and readers (that’s you!) all over the world!

What it is:
You’ve probably heard of Spin before. From what I understand, Spin is being lead through a workout on a stationary bike, switching resistance and positions to get a full body workout. There are a lot of bells and whistles in Spin classes that make it more engaging/distracting from working out. This is really what group exercise is all about, learning how to make movement motivating, enjoyable and effective.

Like golf, people who love Spin REALLY LOVE IT. I have passed classes at other gyms before and heard the high energy music and yelling encouragement of an instructor but was not lured. I enjoy a recumbent bike and use that as my supplement to my go-to cardio on an elliptical. I have always been wary of stationary bikes. Years ago I heard a personal trainer giving advice to a fat woman on a TV show that recumbent bikes are better for supporting your knees. Multiple Spin instructors and friends tell me that Spin is actually not hard on your knees.

Since the bikes for Spin are always lined up against the wall in the MOVE room at EVERYBODY (so many caps in the branding) I kept thinking I should could* give it a shot.

What it Was Like:
My first class was with McKay from EVERYBODY. McKay and I have a special bond and I genuinely think it was fate that had their class right before mine on Thursdays. I’ve so enjoyed hanging out with them and having McKay take my class so I trusted them to walk me through my first Spin class.

Like hiring a lawyer, what you need and want in a group fitness instructor is skill at the modality/area of practice and a genuine feeling of trust and (maybe if you’re lucky) enjoyment of that person. There’s no point in hiring a lawyer you don’t trust and no point in going to a group fitness instructor you don’t trust and enjoy. Because I already liked McKay and would totally spend an hour or more with them, I figured their class would be great.

I arrive and they met me at a bike, personally walked me through setting it up to my specifications. We are both “G” height (where the seat meets your hip) and by using my forearm to measure, we put the seat at a 4.

I’m a G4 not a G6.

They also gave me some tips for first timers. They teach class in sections, three positions and three intensities, and showed me how to change intensity on my bike. They told me the saddle would probably be difficult and uncomfortable the first few classes and I could get up and shake my booty to relieve the pain. They reminded me to go at my own pace and gave variations on positions to use when on the bike during certain exercises.

The experience of Spin class was interesting. It is solid cardio, got my heart rate going and I was covered in sweat by 10 minutes in. I generally wear a regular push up bra to exercise because I find them more comfortable but this was the first modality where I think a sports bra to keep them strapped down was essential. Something about pumping velocity on my legs was making the girls almost hit me in the face.

We did various push-ups on the handlebars while spinning and some stretches, some getting out of the saddle and climbing mountains. I really liked that the harder intervals were over very fast, something other students in the class echoed was especially gentle of McKay and different from other instructors.

I adored McKay’s playlist, from Lizzo to Le Tigre to Britney and Beyonce, some of the songs overlapped with songs I’ve used in my class. I loved McKay’s motivation and spirit, they are just such a joyful sweetheart that it made me want to keep going.

I wouldn’t say that I LOVED Spin or it was the best thing ever, but I enjoyed the experience because of McKay. I also kind of get why people like Soulcycle so much and I’m curious to try that modality out and see what makes it special and spiritual. People in the class asked if I was coming back the next day, and these are folks who go to Spin a lot. I know I’ll regularly attend McKay’s Tuesday class but I don’t see myself being a multiple Spin classes per week person.

Class was 37 minutes of deep cardio with 5 minutes of stretching. The stretching was my favorite part, we used the bikes to balance for deep stretching.

So sweaty.

Cost:
$14 a la carte and gets less expensive as you buy class packages or get an unlimited menbership at EVERYBODY.

Special Equipment You Need or Might Like to Have:
McKay gave me a saddle cover/butt pad to help ease the pain of the saddle. I have my eye on this butt pad if I get really into Spin because it looks very cushy and it’s purple. You just bring it with you and put it on your saddle.

The next day, my butt hurt a lot, not unlike how it feels after a long bout of sex following a dry spell. You know how good that feels for your butt to hurt and then to be reminded of something hot every time you change positions? It was like that except more like, “Oof, Spin.” McKay said that was the best compliment about their class they ever got.

In addition, I suggest bringing water and a towel, everyone else had a sweat towel and I was for sure missing that.

Fatphobia Content:
None! EVERYBODY trains staff members about body diversity and McKay talked about our “personal fitness goals” but never talked about losing weight or body size and that is 100% correct for being inclusive.

Teacher’s Strength(s):
I really loved the individual attention at the beginning and the permission giving to take it at my own pace. I also like the honesty about what might be challenging, like the butt hurting and showing me how to shake my booty to release it.

McKay is also sweet and enthusiastic and teaches with their personality, which makes it feel more like a hang out and less like uncomfortable sweating.

Would I do it Again?

Yes, I will totally Spin again.

McKay is exclusive to EVERYBODY right now. You can take McKay’s class at 6PM Tuesdays, 6:30PM Wednesdays and Thursdays. McKay is always there a half hour early to get folks comfortable and is available for individual interval training on the EVERYBODY bikes outside of class. Follow McKay on Instagram! Or email them directly at McKay.Nield at gmail. Pronouns: They/them or he/his.

Additional Notes:
Taking a class in the same room I teach in was actually great because I could experience the ever-changing sound and light equipment from a student perspective. There’s definitely something UP with the wireless headset microphone because I had a hard time hearing more than every other word McKay was saying. I’m now deeply on a hunt to figure out how to improve my sound on a wireless headset and/or start bugging Sam the EVERYBODY owner to get us a better headset. I say a lot of really meaningful stuff during my classes (McKay does, too) and I want people to be able to hear every word!

*I always try to replace my shoulds with coulds, I find it more gentle and supportive for me as I work to eliminate negative self talk.

2017-01-01

This Year Have a Revolution Instead of a Resolution

“But, today, the way I play the game is not the same; no way. Think I’m gonna get myself happy.” – George Michael

Language is so powerful. I believe that if you change the way you talk about things you can change outcomes you manifest for yourself. I like to womanifest positive abundance, so after I learned that concept I really put my shoulder into it. I like to replace “should” with “could” whenever possible, it’s a much kinder way to speak to myself. I like to say “when” instead of “if” about things I am working towards, like “When I am a tea millionaire and I have my Willy Wonka tea factory…”

In that spirit for the New Year I love to use the term “revolutions” instead of “resolutions” because resolutions are so loaded with dominant body paradigms and full of “shoulds.” A revolution sounds like a positive uprising. Like being on a team with yourself instead of a team against how you used to be. This time of year you’ll probably see your feed choked with articles about how to create change and stick to your resolutions and how and why so many of them fail.

family2017nyeWe went to a queer prom New Year’s Eve party last night and it was so fun. This is my real prom dress–it still fits! #chublife

A lot of times when we set out to change things in our lives we do so from a place of self condemnation that is totally counterproductive to actual change. I think that’s why so many diets fail—you do it because you feel bad about your body and want it to conform to a way you think it should be. It’s great to want to make changes, but the key is changing your perspective on how you make change. A revolution instead of a resolution.

In 2010 I talked about this on my blog (content warning: Taueret and Amanda) and set out a revolution intention to eat more kale but my digestion wasn’t having it. So I had to meet my body where it was at and went with spinach.

cozywithfriendsBeing cozy with friends–Jenn, Dari, Tristan, and my partner Dara!

“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

God
is Change.”

― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower

I like to think about making changes in the way I eat to be in alignment with my body. Working with a health coach who is body positive has helped me learn how my body interacts with foods and I have more information to work with. I was also able to heal my gut so I can now digest kale without issue. Working in alignment with my body makes it feel so much more personal and takes it away from the diet industrial complex.

daridaraDari & Dara & a menorah.

Just this morning when I was making a kale smoothie* I was thinking about how the perspective I would have applied to eating kale first thing on New Year’s Day 20 years ago was really different than how I approach it in 2017. In order to get here I had to heal my relationship with my body, my mind and my emotions around my size. I had to check out of the diet industrial complex and dominant paradigms about bodies. How even after I had begun my body love journey I had to unpack all of the ways in which “health” is used as a weapon against bodies like mine. I had to learn that health gets to be for everyone, no matter their size. I had to learn that kale is just a plant which is not owned by fat haters, it’s a nutrient dense gift of the Goddess that together with a blender is easier to digest first thing in the morning.

All of that learning over the past 15 years lead me to the point today where I can eat in alignment with my body and a kale smoothie is simply a choice I’m making in the morning rather than a bummer diet moment. That’s a revolution in how I interact in the world, and it happened in baby steps.

“How do you create in the midst of destruction, chaos? How do you turn darkness into light? It’s more important than ever for us to use this energy to create the lives we want, sometimes rebuilding, starting over, or completely transforming into something new because Uranus and Pluto show us where things are not working.”—Katie Sweetman, Empowering Astrology

This year my revolutions list is just one thing, I want to work on planning my time more effectively so that I can continue to create even in the midst of destruction and chaos. I don’t tend to write when things are hard, I default to prioritizing managing crisis, self care and making money. But my art is a form of self care and I think when we’re doing what we are meant to be doing in the world it helps to bring light and joy to our lives that helps our survival and those around us. So, my revolution is to set up time to write and put the systems in place to make it happen.

I also want to continue to approach the world with silliness and fun, to energize hard stuff into easier to digest stuff.

A revolution doesn’t happen in a day, it happens over time. It happens when you love yourself enough to do something that can help you become who you are meant to be. As Octavia Butler said, I believe change is God, and working towards change is often working towards more alignment with my higher spirit. Spiritually and personally I want to be in alignment with how I can most create change, justice and light in the world. Because the world needs more people who are lighting themselves up so we can light up the world together.

revolutions2017How will you light up the world in 2017?

*Three loose cups of kale, one loose cup of spinach, about 2-3 teaspoons each of chia seeds, hemp seeds and flax seeds, 1 teaspoon of local bee pollen, enough almond milk to make it as thin as I like which is probably a cup, blend til smooth and then add about an inch piece of banana and a small handful of frozen berries for taste, blend again till smooth. Recipe is from Heart Beets Holistic Health. Vic is running another anti-hangry whole foods cleanse starting January 9th, with part of the proceeds benefitting the Dakota Access Pipeline protest efforts (she went out there for a couple of weeks in the Fall working in their healthcare tent in a camp).

2016-12-01

In Response to the Unacceptable Fat Shaming on the Gilmore Girls Relaunch (No Spoilers)

I love Gilmore Girls. My social media followers know I’ve been talking about the impending Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life four episode revival on Netflix for months. I even went to one of the Luke’s diner pop-up events to get in on the fan frenzy!

I identify with all three generations of Gilmore Girls. Like me, Emily Gilmore derives such satisfaction from curating an amazing event. Rory’s place among the strong personality conflicts between Lorelei and Emily is very reminiscent of my family’s dynamic. But it’s Lorelei who I relate to most of all. Her vulnerability that she tries so hard to mask, her fierce (to a fault) independence, her compulsion to make everything as fun as possible. I adore her.

I have been savoring the show’s relaunch since Friday. I finally got to the “Summer” episode and was shocked when the episode opened with Rory and Lorelei fat shaming the people of Stars Hollow at the municipal pool. They sit on lounge chairs and critique fat bodies, including someone they call “Back Fat Pat.” I thought, Surely this is going to be redeemed by some kind of pie in the face embarrassment for the protagonists. The redemption never came.

tumblr_oguzu6b22c1v920jzo2_500

In fact, the fat shaming continued in another scene at the pool, this time with “Back Fat Pat” simply appearing in a speedo, his fat body framed in the shot headless–all we ever see of Pat is a fat body in tight swim trunks. He is simply a body for Lorelei and Rory to make fun of for not conforming to cultural body standards.

The Headless Fatty, a term coined by the fabulous Dr. Charlotte Cooper, is a trope that the news loves to use when talking about “obesity” that is incredibly harmful to fat people. It takes the humanity away and reduces them to a body that society labels imperfect. I have rarely seen this employed in a fictional context and was horrified to see the Gilmore Girls relaunch perpetuating it.

It hurt a lot to watch it happening on a show I love. Here’s the character I relate to most ruthlessly mocking fat bodies. It’s never okay to talk about someone else’s body–I like to say “My body is nobody’s business but my own, and neither is anyone else’s.”

bevinshameless2010suitPhoto by Sophie Spinelle of Shameless Photography.

Gilmore Girls has a real shot to be groundbreaking in terms of fat acceptance. Their show ran from 2000-2007 and featured a main character, Sookie, who was fat. Sure, she was the fat best friend, a role fat people have been occupying forever. But she was at least a fleshed out character, with a romantic life and normalized by the show. Melissa McCarthy, the actress who played Sookie, went on to become an incredibly successful movie actress and fashion designer. The series also included a body diverse cast of supporting characters, including Babette, Miss Patty and Taylor. None of these people has been punished or mocked for their size on the show.

In spite of launching the career of one of the most famous fat women in the world, the original series Gilmore Girls was not immune to casual fatphobia, homophobia and transphobia. Season Four was especially ripe with casual fatphobia.

In my house we use a casual call out system to keep ourselves from allowing fat shaming (or racism, slut shaming, ageism, etc…) to become normalized. I don’t ever want to be hypnotized into thinking that any of that stuff is okay or normal. When we see something, we call it out. “Casual fatphobia,” is all you need to say to remind yourself that all bodies are good bodies and what dominant paradigm the show you’re watching is perpetuating.

I couldn’t help but notice that during their fat mocking, Lorelei and Rory are bundled up in caftans and dresses and not exposing their bodies in any way. The fact that they are doing their body shaming at a pool while totally covering up their own bodies is an interesting juxtaposition. I wonder if it is a commentary on Lorelei and Rory’s body images.

roryloreleiwalkThese aren’t the full caftans from the scene but a similar look.

I like to think about judgement as an exponential force–when you point a finger you have three pointing back at you. This is not just a metaphor. Try pointing your finger and notice where the rest of your fingers rest. I wonder if the styling choice to have them covered up while mocking people like Pat who don’t care about their body being exposed was something we could read into their characters? Were the Palladinos intentionally creating this situation as a commentary on Lorelei and Rory? If they did, they completely failed by not later addressing it.

For me this comes back down to body currency, a concept I learned from Jes Baker of The Militant Baker. Body currency is the idea that certain bodies have more value than others. Lorelei and Rory are mocking people based on their perceived lack of body currency by being fat. When you invest in body currency, the self-judgement (whether for that same thing or for other flaws) is exponentially higher. The choice to stay in judgement, stay invested in body currency, means that you’ll never be free. Everyone is at risk of losing their body currency–our bodies are always aging, becoming fat is always a risk. We are literally all only temporarily able-bodied. Giving up on judgement and disinvesting in body currency is a practice that makes your life so much easier to live.

I thought about Lorelei’s mother and Rory’s Grandmother, Emily who is so full of judgment and clearly so unhappy. Though Lorelei eschews everything her mother holds dear, she is perpetuating one of Emily’s worst character traits.

Rory and Lorelei are both impossibly skinny for how much junk food they eat. We all know folks who eat like that and don’t gain weight–a constant statistic that comes up the Health at Every Size Movement. Plenty of fat bodies are more healthy than the Loreleis and Rorys of the world.

Body positivity is having a heyday. Over half of all US women are size 16 and up, in the past two years we’ve had a plus size model on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a size 22 supermodel on the cover of People Magazine, and national ad campaigns that humanize fat people and recognize size diversity as simply a human characteristic.

In this climate of body positivity, the Palladinos choose to perpetuate disgust of fat bodies rather than create something else to show off Rory and Lorelei’s witty banter. A topic that doesn’t alienate half of their audience. They chose to put teens and pre teen audience members at further risk for disordered eating and fat teens at further suicide risk.

636147270862321744-gilmore-girls-behind-the-scenes-at-pool

In Drumpf’s America it is so vital that we engage critically with our news and our media. We cannot let these things hypnotize us and we cannot normalize discrimination. To be truly body positive is to work in solidarity with all bodies–ages, races, sexualities, gender expressions, religions, abilities. Thus, we must also resist normalizing racism, islamophobia, anti-semitism, misogyny, whorephobia, ageism, and all other forms of body shaming.Mocking fat bodies is not acceptable, it is not okay that this was happening on the Gilmore Girls relaunch.

These scenes have taken something I had a lot of joy about (they even played one of my favorite Dolly Parton songs over the credits for Episode One) and soured it for me. I still love it, I still cried through much of the last episode, but there’s a pall on a thing I used to love with full fledged enthusiasm.

I wonder if Melissa McCarthy said anything to the Palladinos after watching those scenes with Lorelei and Rory at the pool? I wonder if a body positive ally has brought this up with the Palladinos? I wonder if they would be willing to offer an apology and a promise to not perpetuate body fascism in further Gilmore Girls relaunches?

I believe all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are. I’m so disappointed that a show that did so much for body diversity on TV does not feel the same way.

2016-09-15

REALITY Storytellers: International Travel and Sheepherding

Welcome to a blog series about my experience with REALITY Storytellers traveling to Israel. For more about the trip and why I chose to go check out this post. I look forward to sharing with you what I learned and the personal, political and creative growth I experienced.

Once I got to the airport I did all the things I needed to do to feel okay about a first 6 hour flight and then a 9 hour flight. It starts with iced tea, a to go sandwich and it moves to an impulse buy of Bible Charts, Maps and Timelines which I thought might be helpful to read on the flight as my Bible knowledge is very small compared to those who were raised with Christian or Jewish religious schooling. I had no idea about how great our tour guide would be and how he beyond obviated a need for supplemental education.

You guys I was really nervous. I was going on a trip with no one I knew and I didn’t know what to expect. Rick, the facilitator meeting us at the gate, gave us a time to meet and told us to look for the Schusterman folder. I reminded myself I was doing this in the spirit of life begins at the end of your comfort zone and how I do all the brave things I do to keep on growing and I walked up to a group of strangers and introduced myself.

abhrahamstent2I don’t have any pictures from the airport but here’s the first meet and greet in a replica of Abraham’s tent at Neot Kedumim Park, a Biblical Nature preserve.

And then I got to forget the scared feelings and just focus on remembering names, a great task when you’re having a social freak out, give yourself something to focus on and get good at it. There were two Ricks, a Natalie, a Sophia, a Liz, H. Alan and more. I think I created a pneumonic chant and throughout the whole first 24 hours of the trip I was pretty great at remembering names because I was channelling nervous energy into name recognition.

I sat next to Sophia and Liz on our flight from LAX to EWR and learned that Sophia is a Christian journalist for a Christian magazine. There were a lot more Christian origin folks on the trip than I thought there would be. Sophia also gave me an amazing list of Korean restaurants to try and I’m excited to go do that with her! She fell asleep in the middle seat pretty quickly after take off and I watched movies instead of reading my book. United apparently has all sorts of free on demand new releases now and I enjoyed a bunch of them. Also I enjoyed what I call “God TV” when we flew past a ton of thunder storms at dusk along the East Coast.

mesophiabillMe, Sophia and Bill at a rest stop in Israel.

I felt a lot of weird feelings flying into the New York City metro area for the first time since I moved away in late December. It felt like I was getting home but I don’t live there anymore. Our layover was a total opportunity to hang with folks from the trip but I couldn’t find anyone so I just roamed the terminal alone and texted friends. We couldn’t go to our gate because they have another extra security check point that doesn’t open until the flight is near boarding. I found out later everyone was in the bar but I don’t drink so it didn’t occur to me to check!

I met Megan in line for the next security check point and bonded over really really not wanting a middle seat. She runs a youth media and filmmaking education program and asked me what I do and somehow I started talking about all of my jobs and overwhelmed even myself. Sometimes I remember that I could nail my audio logo in thirty seconds and could figure out how to translate the what do you do question into talking about the business I’m working on but I’m still kind of clumsy at that and just talk about what comes to mind. Whatever, working for a sex worker’s rights non-profit and a body positive activist and all the other gigs makes for really interesting conversation.

After waiting in line for the second security check they had us put our bags on a table and then did some kind of sensor thing and told me they were looking for narcotics. I said a silent thank you prayer that I had so diligently sorted through everything I packed so I didn’t accidentally bring some “California meds” with me in my purse or carry on.

Megan and I tried so hard to get window seats but the gate agent had nothing for us. It was a good bonding experience for us to try to fight that battle together. I feel grateful that I have this really baller Cabeau memory foam neck pillow that cinches and holds my head upright which saves me from accidentally sleeping on the person next to me and I was really hoping to sleep a lot on the 9 hour flight.

joedanhalansheepherdingDan, Joe and H. Alan surveying the Biblical landscape and watching other people herd sheep and goats. It’s so weird that I’m friends with them now but this photo was just as we were meeting!

Unlike our flight from CA I sat next to no one from our trip, and I could hear everyone excitedly chattering near me but the men sharing my row weren’t so effervescent as nervous excited REALITY Storytellers. The lucky guy with the window seat next to me fell asleep immediately and stayed asleep the entire flight, never once going to the bathroom so I kind of felt grateful to have easier access to walking around.

My friend Michael passed away after getting blood clots from a long flight to Hawaii. Fat people and women are socialized to prioritize other people’s needs over our own and walking around on a long flight is actually super important to preventing blood clots. So even if I feel like I want to not bother people while experiencing all the triggers of being fat on a plane, I use Michael to inspire me to prioritize my health, rise above the shame, stigma and discomfort in asking someone to move out of their aisle seat so I can go use the restroom. I also found a tiny place behind a row of seats to do some yoga while most of the flight was still asleep.

What was surprising about the flight was the meal service, we got dinner and breakfast. I haven’t experienced meal service on a flight in years. Also particular for Israeli travel was that forty-five minutes until we landed we weren’t allowed to walk around on the plane.

I was way in the back of this huge plane so when we finally landed it took me a long time to deplane, and I really only recognized about six people from our trip, all of whom were already on their way to baggage claim presumably. I was nervous about losing the group in a foreign country where I had no cell service but I also really needed to use the restroom and freshen up a bit. On the packing list they had suggested packing an extra outfit in your carry on and I assumed we would have another opportunity to change and put on make-up. This was the only opportunity folks, and I missed it.

I realized quickly as I hustled to baggage claim and through the passport check point that since sun hats were on our packing list almost all the Storytellers had on hats! I started following people in hats. And luckily, this and many times to come, I found Rick Sorkin and Bill in line because they are like 6’5” and easy to spot in a crowd.

bevinsheepherdingI just look at all of my selfies with the herd and wish I was wearing more muppety make-up but it’s fine my gender presentation doesn’t have to be perfect for me to have an amazing time.

I almost blew it in the passport line. Since I had surrendered all trip obsessiveness, I didn’t have any idea what hotels we were staying in and other than a few highlights didn’t know much about where we were going. The passport woman was giving me so much side eye and I was trying to explain “I’m on this leadership development high energy journey through Israel, I’m with all these other…” but none of the Storytellers were left and it was just me.

Eventually I found something saved on my phone that seemed to satisfy her and I got my sticker for entry but it was a freaky moment. I also know I have a lot of privilege as a White person from the US and it might not have been so easy for me if I wasn’t. I also know now to study my itinerary and know it well when I go through a passport check point. I have a lot of feelings about borders in general that have come up for me on this trip I’ll discuss in a later post.

I got to baggage claim and luckily my bag was waiting for me but sadly for three of my fellow travelers they were chasing after United for days. So disheartening. I learned from Sarah Hurowitz on this trip that in her extensive business travel knowledge that if “it isn’t in your possession you might as well never see it again.”

I kept trying to figure out who was on our trip and meeting people and being good with names. We proceeded in a few clumps towards the exit and our waiting tour bus. It must have been so hard for the staff on the trip to figure out who everyone was and that we actually had everyone. As a participant on this trip in many parts you are completely shielded from logistics and in some ways it was an amazing break from real life so we could focus on the experience.

As soon as we got on the tour bus we had our first lecture from our tour guide Michael Bauer (as of this point we had no idea how good we were getting it) about the differences we might find about Israeli culture from American culture and the size and scope of Israel. Then we were off to our first adventure, a sheepherding experience at a Biblical nature preserve. I’m obsessed with animals and feel a strong connection to them, so this was an ideal activity for me. It was not an ideal activity for the strappy sandals I wore on the plane and was struggling with through rocky “Biblical” terrain.

biblicalnaturepreserve

Our group of fifty was split in two. We spent a few minutes learning about what our task was, moving the mixed herd of sheep and goats through several points in a giant pen. While the first half of our sub group was taking a turn at sheepherding our group spent time strategizing, identifying a leader in our subgroup who had experience sheepherding and I pumped the facilitator for more information about sheep and goats that might help us. First of all, in a mixed herd, the natural leader in the herd is a female goat. Second of all, in our herd there was only one breed of animal that may have existed in Biblical times and that was the Syrian goat, who was the leader of our herd.

It was pretty bananas trying to herd animals with a bunch of people you only just met. Our strategy was to create a semi-circle and move the herd that way. It kind of worked, we were ultimately successful. I only got hit by a ram in my leg a couple of times and only got scratched up by Biblical thorny plants a little bit, but I barely noticed because it was so thrilling to get to hang out with animals.

sheepandgoats

The debrief had a lot of good nuggets about leadership. Learning from the group you’re trying to lead about the best way to lead them. Leading from behind so that they take their own initiative. Sometimes groups need a gentle but firm push in the rump to get moving.

After the sunset and sheepherding we moved our group to a replica of Abraham’s tent for snacks, our nametags, swag bags with the printed program in them and the first group go around. I was legit disappointed that with a replica of Abraham’s tent there was no replica of a Red Tent (you’ll remember it if you read the awesome novel by the same name)! It’s my favorite woman-centered activity from Biblical times, a special tent for the women of the tribe to bleed during the Full moon because that’s when people were more moon-focused and bled together.

It was nearing 9PM and even though there were snacks out we were still going to get dinner in Tel Aviv. I had no idea how many hours it had been since I left home. It was only the first indicator of the fast pace of this trip.

storytellerssheepherdingIf you could hear sound in this photo you’d hear some guns going off in the military training ground off to the right.

2016-05-04

Six Reasons Why I Love Aqua Jog

Hey there! I’m doing a pre sale for my Reiki Infused Tea Line now through May 10th. I have some important financial goals for the sale that also affect this website–I really need to move my blog to a new host and install a new theme because of these ongoing back end buggy issues that are not yet fully resolved. I also need to begin the build out for the website for my tea line, so this is all very tied together. The whole project will cost thousands of bucks, but I’m tackling it one thing at a time. The tea is delicious and supports me living my dream to support my art and activism through healing work. Please consider buying a tin for you or a gift, or sharing about the sale on social media!

sixreasonsiloveaquajog

I approach all exercise from a Health at Every Size approach. Since this term has been co-opted by so many folks, I’ll tell you what it means to me. It means that all people, no matter what their size, should be able to have access to good, nutritious food and should have access to move in ways that make them feel good in and about their body. Health at Every Size to me includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. The way I feed and move my body affects all of those things for me.

Given that I am in a state of transition, having moved to the West Coast recently, it was super important that I find ways to move my body. There was a while where working on the house was all about the body–the renovations on my attic were so corporeal. In my last update on the transition post I talked about how I started swimming in the local pools. I am okay to swim laps but I find it a little boring. Really using a HAES approach means I want to be excited about the exercise I’m doing.

Since the local community pools have lap swimming and recreational swimming together and very few rules about what you have to be doing in the lanes, you can totally do aqua jogging instead of just swimming laps. Once I realized that I went for it.

I started aqua jogging at a class at my former gym the Bed Stuy YMCA. It’s taught by a community volunteer every morning at 9AM who has a spinal issue that really benefits from her exercising a lot but does not allow her to exercise on dry land. Aqua jogging takes water aerobics to a new level. Other than aqua boot camp (also at the Bed Stuy Y) I have not felt such a complete workout from water aerobics.

Here are all the reasons I love to aqua jog:

1. Working out in water is great low impact high resistance activity.
For folks who are recovering from injuries or who have tender bodies for a variety of reasons, the pool is awesome for movement. As an efficiency loving Capricorn, I also appreciate that I can work out in a pool and get more results than from the same period of time on land. Also, if you are the kind of athlete who is often nursing injuries that keep you from staying in shape, aqua jog is a great tool in your repertoire to help!

grandmotherspool

2. The movements are really easy and help you diversify your workout so you don’t get bored.
Here’s a basic primer on aqua jogging. It includes instructions on how to do it if you don’t have any equipment.
This is not the workout I do but it is one to consider using the shallow end for part of it.

I learned to aqua jog from my instructor in Brooklyn so I do different movements based on what I learned from her, including backwards jogging, cycling, and different arm movement intervals with water weights. There are SO many videos on you tube to learn techniques for aqua jogging. I work hard not to link any videos or web content that have a weight loss focus because that is not the tone for my blog. (No shade to anyone who has weight loss goals–you do you!) If you can “take what you like and leave the rest,” there’s a lot out there to sift through in aqua exercises. I couldn’t find any videos that did what Dinette does but if I ever do find them I’ll come back and edit this post to include them.

3. You can listen to music.
When I was aqua jogging at my Grandmother’s pool it was amazing because I just threw on a Spotify playlist of songs I could sing along to and would enjoy working out to. Since she doesn’t have a clock outside I timed my workout based on how many songs it took to get to 35 minutes or more. (My personal workout timing goal is 35 minutes or more. On days I don’t feel like going past it I don’t, on days I have more energy I just keep going.)

waterdumbellWhen I finally got my dumbbells to add to my aqua jog workouts it felt so nice to get back to them! I didn’t realize how much I missed having my dumbbells after I moved away from the Bed Stuy Y!

4. It helps save your hair!
Swimming is great but I have high maintenance, tender, color-treated hair. (I’m not naturally Ginger Spice haired–my pals Garnier Nutrisse and 20 vol + bleach help me look this fabulous.) It is really difficult to keep hair dry even in a swim cap. “It is a fact that no swim cap can keep your hair 100% dry every time” says Swimcapsguide.com. The best you can do is a harm reduction approach to keep it kinda dry.

Mine is a cutie pie vintage rubber hat. When I’m swimming I manage to get about 50% of my hair wet which is better than no protection. I also have a classic Speedo cap (they come in so many colors) I got when my vintage swim cap was on a moving truck going from Coast to coast. The same exact results from swimming–about 50% hair wet.

Thus I prefer to work out with my head above water 100% of the time and aqua jogging helps me do that. I still wear the cap in the community pool because of splashing children and sloppy swimmers in adjacent lanes. My hair stays 100% dry that way. At Grandmother’s when I was just using a top knot to keep my hair out of the water it got damp around the hairline by my neck.

5. It’s easy to mix in ab and core work to an aqua jog routine.
I find it way easier to do sit-ups and crunches in the water than on dry land. This helps me strengthen my core and helps to alleviate back pain and lots of other barriers to dry land exercise. I do a version of this without the barbell under my knees.

aquajogequipment

6. The equipment is pretty inexpensive and not a barrier to activity.
I did aqua jogging with no equipment for the first three workouts in our local pool and that proved to me I was serious about moving forward. I get paid a gift card every few months thanks to thoughtful blog readers (THANK YOU!!!) who buy their Amazon products through my affiliate links. Even if you don’t buy what I link, if you buy anything at all I get a tiny percentage commission and then that comes in the form of a gift card. I keep a link on the sidebar in case you’re ever interested. I usually use the money for something I want to try for my blog, so this time I bought aqua jog equipment.

I totally love what I got. In my Brooklyn aqua jog class we used water weights and floatation belts, so I got a six piece aqua fitness pack that included those plus some resistance gloves for only $29. I was nervous about the floatation belt being too small (some of the ones they had at the YMCA were not made for a plus size waist), but this one had plenty of room to spare on me and my waist is about a size 22/24.

The kit even comes with a routine! I’ve incorporated some of those moves into my workout and enjoy it!

I’ve used the weights and the gloves to jog and prefer what I can do with weights but the gloves are a good alternative for certain exercises.

aquaglovesThese are the gloves that came with it–kind of like having duck feet for your hands.

Another alternative piece of equipment I found in my aqua jog class that some of the folks brought in addition to what the YMCA supplied was Aqua Runners which provides more leg resistance for a harder workout. I look forward to stepping up my game (pun intended) at a later date with these $25 babies. They come in lavender!

It can be a little bit hard to be the fatty at the pool swimming laps and it can be even a little bit harder being the fatty at the pool doing weird water exercise with weird equipment. However, I try to mitigate my intimidation by not concerning myself with what people think, recognizing that every young person that sees a hot fat girl with tattoos and a pin-up girl bathing suit and vintage swim cap doing her thing and working out is possibly empowered. And also, because my self care is waaaaaay more important to me than what people’s judgments are.

As Prince said, “I don’t really care so much what people say about me because it usually is a reflection of who they are.”

PurpleReignVery excited about my Prince memorial teas (one caffeinated tea and one herbal tisane) and the wisdom they will include is going to be a prototype of how I will do the wisdom component for my teas in the future.

2016-04-27

LA Transition Month 3: I Started Swimming

We’ve officially been LA residents for three months! I got my CA Driver’s License finally. I got my DL when I was 17 and living in the Bay Area, so they managed to find my old record and give me my old number. (Big Brother is real.) I had a little disagreement with the entirely pleasant clerk who took my application. I stated “red” on the hair color question. However, I actually identify my hair color as “Ginger Spice.” She had to fight me about whether I am blonde because when I was 16 and got my permit I was blonde. I don’t identify as blonde but I guess because of bureaucracy that’s what is happening on my ID. Lots of people don’t have their true identities on these documents and I’d rather work towards a third no gender marker on IDs than self-selected hair color.

IMG_20160413_194959I guess with the bangs now I look more blonde than ever, other than in high school.

I was stressing about taking the test because I know some folks who have flunked the first try, so I wanted to just get it. I needed my license in order to go to the Medical Marijuana dispensaries to use my prescription I got back in February. I’ll post about the process, it is fascinating and has really helped me physically, mentally and emotionally. For anyone getting their CA DL I suggest reading the manual once through and doing the practice tests online. I’ve had to take written tests in most of the states I’ve been licensed in, having hopped from CA to NJ to PA to NJ to NY in my life, but never felt as stressed as I did this time. I think I’m just tender right now and prone to stress.

I passed on the first try after reading the manual a few hours leading up to my DL appointment, and while I was waiting. It still took two hours of waiting in lines to get my license in spite of the appointment, so definitely make an appointment.

IMG_20160413_174934794I made this dog bed for Macy out of a vintage suitcase from Goodwill ($10), an old pillow (free dollars) and a vintage blanket with a stain on it I got at the World’s Longest Yard Sale ($0.50).

You know that old chestnut “I’ll do it when things settle down.” I started saying that to myself a few weeks ago when we were dropping everything to prepare our house for the Seder for Dara’s family and then preparing the Seder and then the tea pre sale and then preparing my Schedule C info for my accountant to file my taxes (this is like a week of non-stop accounting and bookkeeping) and then… I’ve had so many projects back to back and not achieved any semblance of balance and I’ve been reminded (I’ve realized this before and forgot) that I need to bring my own serenity to every situation. And that I can’t just keep dropping everything to focus all of my attention on one thing with a deadline.

This is how I lived in Law School, it’s how I have lived when I’ve been the most high strung and I can’t live like that. I need to plan, sort, execute, and let go of the stuff that’s not that important. I need to live in alignment with my values!

I decided that I would start organizing my schedule around my self care. And the thing that is the best at helping me chill the F out is exercise. I do it primarily for my mental and emotional health, but it also really helps with my physical and spiritual health as well. Since I haven’t joined a gym yet, waiting for the body positive gym Everybody Los Angeles to open somewhere around here, I decided to start going to lap swim at the community pool. Because we have those here, and some of them are outdoor heated pools.

I had to do some clever searching because the LA website just gives you addresses not neighborhoods, and some of the pools close in the “Winter” here. But the Glassell Park pool, just a six minute drive from my house, was a great candidate.

bevinatpoolMe at the Glassell Park Pool.

When I showed up for the first time and paid my $3.50 I was amazed to see that the locker room looked just like it did in the community pools in the Bay Area where I grew up. I remember as a kid those cement floored, wooden benched locker rooms with modesty changing areas that only cover you from the neck to the calves. So that means this locker room hasn’t been updated in thirty+ years. Amazing. And when I went out to the pool after giving my bag to the locker room attendant behind the window in exchange for a safety pin with a number on it, I marveled at how huge the Olympic size pool is. And how few rules there are.

My recent public swimming experience is from swimming at the Bed Stuy YMCA in Brooklyn. An indoor year-round pool with strict rules and schedules. Lap swim means lap swimming only, you must wear a cap, when more than two people are in a lane circle swimming is mandatory. These are all spelled out on a long list of rules.

Here there are very few rules other than no running on the pool deck. No caps required! No lap swim guidelines except the lifeguard’s half-hearted “You have to share the lane” when a man was super rude to me. Lap swimming and recreational swimming are at the same time. It’s a bit intimidating to go swimming in public for the first time, especially as a fatty, so I brought Dara as my body positive ally. It was great, I swam for almost an hour, alternating between swimming and aqua jog moves. I love aqua jog, that will be another post.

I have kept going, managing three times a week most weeks for the past month. It’s still cheaper than going to a gym and it’s been helping me. I need to add yoga to my routine to stretch more, but this is a nice way to center.

IMG_20160412_191109Unfucking the guest room.

The house continues to come together. Sadly my Mariah Carey closet hasn’t been sorted out, so once my friend Taylor helped me get everything upstairs and put on the floor or hung on the pipes, that’s where it has laid. I can’t wait for it to be in full working order. Every time I go up there to get dressed I’m kind of drawing from my red suitcase or various piles. It’s pretty much the opposite of what I imagine it can be.

Dara and I were dissatisfied with the orientation of our bed. We paid to move a bunch of my mom’s hand me down furniture from the Bay to LA (I detailed this in a previous post) and the movers set it up originally. I didn’t find it accessible for me to walk around a CA King size bed to the other side of the room so Dara took one for the team. The snuggle position required from that orientation had me on Dara’s left side, which is the side she had a cancerous tumor removed from her breast. It’s more sore, it had radiation and surgery. So we decided to try the bed against a window. (Not my favorite aesthetic choice, but definitely an improvement in snuggle land.)

sleepnumberbed

Here’s some advice about moving a sleep number mattress. Make sure it is completely zipped up before you move it. If you do not do this step, it will fall apart into a bunch of pieces and look like a play space for 3 year olds. There will be foam and air mattresses everywhere, because all a sleep number is is a very expensive air mattress with foam on top of and surrounding it. This bed cost $4,000 apparently and is an air mattress. It took us over an hour to put it back together and get the bed set-up again. I’m excited to someday buy a Casper or a Tuft and Needle mattress–if you know anyone who sleeps on one ask them if you can lay on it, they are exquisite and much less expensive than standard retail mattresses.

sleepnumberbed2Dara is physically in that mattress in this photo.

Anyway, so far the bed in the new spot is fine, but we have to sell and replace the nightstand we had because it is way too big to fit on either side of the bed. Two steps forward one step back is going to be the title of the memoir about moving cross country into a house without a bunch of money or the correct furniture.

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We finally moved everything into the guest room from the staging area in the dining room before the Seder. While Dara was away on business again for 8 days, I tackled the guest room and made it so we could blow up our fancy air mattress (that cost $100, which is literally pennies compared to a sleep number mattress…) for our second overnight guest, Jacqueline. This just meant a lot of stuff got Tetrised against the wall but progress not perfection is my motto. To be transparent, though, it feels hard for it not to be perfect.

IMG_20160426_221241373The wall of the guest room looks like this right now.

I set up all of my tea stuff in the dining room because for now I am in and out of it a lot and need it accessible. On the long-range plans are to convert our cellar (presently storage) to a tea studio.

IMG_20160416_133608285_HDRFemme Tea Party offerings: Hibiscus Coconut iced tea (I’ve added Nettles to the blend and it’s amazing), Self Love iced tea, Dolly Mint iced tea, Feelings tea served hot.

I’ve been getting amazing feedback about my first round of Reiki Infused Teas that I sent out. Only one got lost in the mail, which did eventually find its way to the intended recipient along with the replacement tin I sent–she joked that she must have needed a lot of Feelings Tea support. I believe in the Universe and so maybe yeah. That Scorpio Full Moon was extra difficult. I learned a LOT about the process of starting a product based business and am learning a lot in B-School.

B-School is good but slow going. Marie Forleo gives all this bonus content when you sign up and one of them, Start the Right Business, is required reading before you begin her modules. With 60 pages of reading and exercises, that itself was a lot of work. I’m glad they tell you right away to go at your own pace because I needed my own pace.

IMG_20160414_214512721Jacqueline is the first person to wear a bikini as an outfit on our porch.

Jacqueline and I did a bunch of stuff while she was in town. We went to In-N-Out Burger and the Pleasure Chest on her first night. We had Korean BBQ with my favorite plus size porn performer turned incredibly sweet, smart and wonderful person I know in real life April Flores (we called it BBW BBQ). We went to Disneyland with our friend Jenni, James Darling, Jenni’s sweetie Fin and her friend Michele. It was epic, there’s another forthcoming blog post.

IMG_20160416_182418Femme Tea party part one!

IMG_20160416_182219Femme Tea party part two!

I hosted a Femme Tea Party where I served four kinds of my tea blends and made some delicious rice crispie treats with Good For Me Lifestyle’s amazing Energize Me Better Butter. My guests got Reiki infused tea and delicious superfood supplement treats–I love being that woo kind of hostess.

IMG_20160416_133634312_HDRAlso included in the snacks were gluten-free scones made by Jenn and guacamole from my avocado tree.

I kind of ran away to visit Grandmother this weekend. I knew I owed her a visit having not been since early March, but also I wanted to get away. Sometimes running a house and not having the house set up completely feels overwhelming. The Scorpio Full Moon was in full effect and making me feel at odds with lots of things, including Dara. It’s nice to have family you can go visit in someplace beautiful. This guy at a pizza place asked why I wasn’t at Coachella (it’s really close to Palm Springs) and I said I was going to have a lot more fun swimming in my Grandmother’s pool listening to Guns and Roses.

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All in all I would say that LA is gorgeous, I love living here, the transition is hard, I’m not sure if I miss NYC, I’m overwhelmed with how much I have left to do to settle into my house and I’m really excited to get my tea company running so I can make a living off being a tea proprietress. The next pre sale will probably start on Monday. I had been hoping for this week but there’s a lot going on here. Dara got a grant to throw a 30 person Seder dinner in our backyard. Even as I’m not in charge of it, there’s still a lot for me to do.

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!

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2015-11-03

I went to the DNC’s Women’s Leadership Forum Conference and it was Rad!

“The most important office in government is the office of citizen.”–President Barack Obama

October 22nd and 23rd I attended the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum’s 22nd Annual National Issues Conference in Washington, DC. Say that five times fast. In short, it was wildly more awesome than I expected it to be.

bevindarawhitehouseIt was very close to the White House.

I had a friend on Facebook ask me what brought me to the event and that’s a great question. I’m not that involved in mainstream political activism. In college I worked for the CA State Attorney General’s Press Office and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I think it was the hybrid of policy and media that I found so exciting, plus a great boss who was inspirational, fun and liked his job a lot.

Once I went to law school, George W. Bush won that election through the Supreme Court, I realized how disempowering the legal system can be and I got burnt out on politics. I was exposed to more radical liberal politics and developed a passion for making change through personal narrative and DIY media. (Hence my work blogging, vlogging, podcasting and social media.)

When Dara brought up the idea of going to this conference I was lukewarm about it. My curiosity of what the Democratic National Committee was up to, the idea of attending as a person who is pretty far left though I always vote Democrat, and the low low price of $100 to attend as a person under 40 was what got me in the door. (Tickets for the over 40 crowd were $1,000 or having raised $2,500 or more for the DNC.)

WLFstepandrepeatI wore a vintage polyester dress from Re/Dress owner Rachel’s previous business Cupcake & Cuddlebunny vintage.

When we signed-up Michelle Obama was scheduled to speak and I thought it would be cool to take a Mishelfie while she was on stage. In my fantasy I would love to talk to her about how targeting fat kids for being obese doesn’t actually help overall health and wellness for kids and there is a lot of body positive rhetoric and Health at Every Size methodologies that would be more successful at creating a healthier United States.

The line-up changed a bunch and by the morning of the conference Barack Obama had replaced Michelle as the keynote speaker, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were scheduled in the morning and several panel discussions were in the middle of the day full of women who seemed like they could be impressive.

I was entirely blown away. The curation of the event was great. Not one of the sections of the programs was a snooze–I was shocked given how political it was that no one boring got stage time. Women of color were centered in the programming. The panel discussions were incredible–very smart, accomplished women, nearly all (or possibly all) of the panels were majority women of color. There was also age diversity and a diversity of economic backgrounds. Unsurprisingly there was not a lot of size diversity or visible ability diversity.

secretserviceAt one point I was surrounded by Secret Service. I want to acknowledge my privilege, that as a cisgender, White person being surrounded by law enforcement I feel delighted at how weird it is and can snapchat about it rather than being stressed or worried about it, like many POC in our country.

Hillary’s appearance was the day after her 11 hour Benghazi hearing. Did you hear about this? Apparently the Republicans on the committee have a wine club that celebrates how glacially slow their work has been. Anyway, her joke at the beginning of her fifteen minute speech was hilarious. (See below video from my Instagram.)

Hillary’s speech was charming and just what you would expect from her. The room was VERY pro-Hillary. I heard many times throughout the event about how much folks were looking forward to the reality of a woman POTUS. They were careful not to create an allegiance unless they were overt Hillary supporters (this is politics, after all) but the temperature of the room was Hillary degrees fahrenheit.

I kind of wish Hillary came off more genuine on stage instead of feeling like the kind of person she’s trying to get folks to think she is. Her speech reminded me of Tracy Flick’s speech from Election, where she spoke of having conversations with specific constituents. “I spoke with so and so, whose mom works in the cafeteria and he is concerned about xyz.” I generally agree with her politics though I wish she was a little more working class focused. Highlights for me included quality affordable healthcare for all (remember she’s been working on this since Clinton was elected in ’92), gun control, strengthening the middle class, fair wages, paid leave for all genders of caretakers, and funding women’s healthcare including Planned Parenthood. And maybe someday I’ll get to hang out in a hot tub with Hillary and she will be real with me and I can report back about genuine. I just feel like people get more real when hanging out in a hot tub.

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Bernie Sanders was amazing. I really love that he brings the working class into the conversation every time. “Our government belongs to all of us not just a handful of billionaires,” is his rallying cry and it’s taking off. If you’re curious about what he stands for and love thinking about eradicating class disparity, especially with regards to taxation, go down the rabbit hole with videos on his website. “We need an economy that works for working class. So many rich people are pouring money into the political system.” I have so many thoughts about money and politics and the ways in which social media and personal connection are actually more valuable than money, I’m going to have to write another post.

We had some lively discussion at our table about Bernie vs Hillary (the college student, Eric, who was sitting next to me is a huge Bernie supporter) and someone said that Bernie + Hillary = Obama and I would say that seems pretty accurate. I’m curious to see what the primary has in store and how their disagreements will flesh out policy stands between them. Also I love that Bernie is pulling Hillary to the left. (Have you heard about Hillary going after the school to prison pipeline?)

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By far my favorite speech was Nina Turner, a former Ohio State Senator who is an incredible public speaker. She left the podium with a wireless mic and spoke so passionately and vibrantly about honoring our inner purpose. (I wish more politicians left the podium! It gets very endless-graduation-speakers to see people speaking from a podium again and again.) Nina reminded the audience that fierce women shake the world and use both hands, one to reach forward and one to reach behind. “We are a country that lifts people. Everybody should have the right to live a good life. Not just decent, a good life.”

She focused her talk on living for your purpose and not for a title. “This world will be right if you live for your purpose. Many of our foremothers didn’t have titles but they had purpose.” I think it’s great to hear a reminder about being true to yourself in a room full of politicians. I think politics gets way too caught up with the horse race and the “winners” when it’s important that we have leaders whose discussions lift up issues that are significant, regardless of whether or not they hold office.

ninaturnerI really tried hard to find a full length shot of Nina Turner’s amazing gown but haven’t yet found one! Here’s a partial from Getty Images.

Bernie Sanders made a joke out of having to give his speech right after Nina Turner, who is so inspirational and really brought the house down.

The day began with breakfast that started at 6:30AM. Dara and I thought we were there early by arriving at 7:30. Ha! We had to sit on the far right side of the room. These women who were early birds? They were getting worms and by worms I mean really baller coffee service (three types of syrups including sugar-free vanilla), fruit and quiche. And an oatmeal station!

Nancy Pelosi gave a speech and reiterated a theme that was brought up again and again over the two days at the conference–that women politicians are more effective. She said, “If we reduce the role of money in politics and increase the role of civility we will elect more women.” And that the DNC has women running in half of their targeted races.

There were about 10 different times that they called to the audience to encourage those in attendance who wanted to run for office. There was an emphasis on the training programs available for women, (Emerge America training is a good example) and especially those trainings that support candidates and campaign staff of color.

The keynote speech closed the conference and was delivered by President Obama. I never thought I’d see President Obama speak while in office, this was like a dream come true I hadn’t even articulated. It was exciting to see him for the first time! His whole vibe was pretty casual since it was a room of friends, basically. He said he loved being in a room of Democrats and especially a room of Democratic women. It was like ultra charming because it was both super flattering to women but also not delivered in a way that was too flirtatious to be professional. Such a hard line to walk.

obama

He was so charming and engaging, I couldn’t believe his whole speech was 30 minutes long!

Obama focused on rallying the troops for the 2016 election, and definitely had a lot of harsh words for Republicans. “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

“America’s greatness doesn’t come from building walls it comes from building opportunities.”

Obama jumped on the theme of the evidence of effectiveness of women and Democratic leadership. According to Obama’s speech, empirical evidence shows when there’s a Democratic president & Congress that the economy does better.

He also told some jokes! “Republican politicians are down on America. They are gloomy. They’re like Grumpy Cat.” That was hilarious.

There were five 45 minute long panels after the first stretch of speeches and before Obama’s keynote. Some of my highlights from the panels are below–seriously could write a blog post about each one):

The one and only panel where size diversity was mentioned was the Women Breaking Barriers panel, through an audience question, as two of the panelists were in fashion. Moderated by Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama and assistant to the President, Tina Tchen (who is a bad ass, definitely go see her speak if you ever get the chance), an audience question about wanting more diversity in clothing sparked some great soundbytes about the need for fashion to represent all sizes.

Rebecca Minkoff said “Companies need to listen to their consumers and change to include everyone.”

Jana Babatunde-Bey, who works for Will and Jada Smith in their production company and in their Foundation, said, “You have to decide how you are comfortable in your own personal style. Be unapologetic.”

The WNBA President, Laurel Richie, is a plus size woman and had a lot to say. “We have the ability to show them how it will work by showing it is possible.” She wants plus size women to get a great tailor and not be limited by what’s available, and that continuing to be fashionable it will change the tide of limitations on size. As the response to a different question on how to exude power in the corporate world she said to find what works for you. For her, she wears red lipstick, it recalls the energy of her mom who exuded power.

bathroomfernsThe men’s restroom on the floor where the event was held became an additional women’s restroom for the day.

The panel also talked about work-life balance. Laurel Richie said you should take time to determine what work is important in the organization you’re working for and what is important to you and balance those two things.

A couple more valuable gems I found were Tina Tchen’s advice about when men are speaking to men in the room and ignoring women. “Don’t get thrown by it. Have confidence you have the answer.”

“I make it a point to speak first and I’m not afraid to contradict the popular opinion,” Jana Babatunde-Bey.

Another panel highlight for me was the Media Messengers panel. This was the first time feminism was spoken about. I was shocked at how, in a room full of folks who are where they are because of the work of feminism they didn’t use the word even one time except for this panel. They said “foremothers” a lot and spoke of the work of women before them but did not mention feminism.

The panel included the Editor of Feministing, Lori Adelman; Senior Editor from Ebony, Jamilah Lemieux (whose Twitter is great); and the “millenial voice” of Elizabeth Plank, a Senior correspondent at Mic News.

I loved that intersectionality was a big topic for the panel. In response to a question about intersectionality and poitics, Jamilah Lemieux said, “My feminism & race are not in conflict. Racism and sexism are in conflict against me.”

In a room full of White feminists, it was great to have this media panel dropping truth. Jamilah say that Black women are essential to feminism and how mainstream (aka White) feminism has herstorically erased the experience of intersectionality. Elizabeth Plank (29 year old White journalist) said it was important for White women to step back and listen to Women of Color perspectives. Lori Adelman reminded folks that three queer Black women started the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black Lives Matter came up a lot all day long and Jamilah also used a great metaphor. Men who complain about feminism being about women trying to be above men are missing the point. Feminism seeks to make women equal to men–the things that we need to work on like paid leave for caretakers helps all genders. Just like saying Black Lives Matter naturally leads to all lives mattering, but saying All Lives Matter erases what we need from Black Lives Matter–the work to make all lives important in a society where that is not the case because of oppression. (Read more here.)

daraatpotusThere’s a great gift shop near the White House that lets you take some photos in their set if you spend $10. We bought a Santa sitting on Lincoln Memorial’s lap ornament just for the photo opp.

In the panel Why Women’s Leadership Matters, I was enamored of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who said, “The most powerful thing you can do is be heard.” And who talked about a bill going through Congress to remove barriers to LGBT people fostering children.

Ayanna Pressley, Councilor at Large from Boston, said “An advocate is greater than an ally–they bring up issues when it’s not convenient or politically expedient.”

There were men in attendance, too, but the majority were women. I get feminist offended when the media focuses on what women are wearing in politics, but this is a part-fashion blog so I gotta dish on these outfits.

I expected a lot of lady suits and while I saw several blazers I was impressed at how well-dressed and stylish many of the attendees were. I was a little too shy to do street-style photos of folks in the lobby (plus the lighting was terrible for equipment without flash) but I took a lot of notes about how to dress professionally stylish. There was a woman in a black dress with black leather details that reminded me of the Monif C line three years ago that I loved. Not that I needed any reason to lust after a Monif C dress, but calling something a work-appropriate investment is always more seductive.

I also want to shout out to Nina Turner who wore a stunning floor-length variegated green gown. I love when women in politics dress beyond the skirt suit!

The first day of the conference was a training program but I didn’t walk away with a ton of skills, though I got a lot of information. I loved the presentation by Jessica Byrd who began a consulting business focused on getting people of color elected to office!

jessicabyrdPhoto from JessicaByrd.com and definitely go see her speak if you can!

“Diversity is the people who are invited to party, inclusion is who gets to choose the music,” Jessica said. “What would it look like if people of color and women had a clear path to elected office?”

The rest of the day was a lot of facts and figures about women running for office and how to fundraise, the presentation of which gave me a lot of mixed feelings about the way in which folks who fundraise interact with class backgrounds and people who are not wealthy, but that is for another day and discussion of politics and money!

The things that were not addressed that could/should be, especially if folks in the DNC want to be in touch with the millenial generation (as many said they did):

Non-binary gender: If we’re talking about being inclusive, especially with regards to millenials, we need to acknowledge non binary gender identities. I know it’s hard at an event that relies on a binary gender but we can (and should) absolutely talk about womanhood in a context of a non-binary gender!

Size diversity only came up the one time, with regards to fashion. Weight based discrimination is still alive and well! It is not okay to discriminate against people about their body size. We have a long way to go beyond being included in clothing racks.

Sex workers’ rights: This wasn’t mentioned even once, in spite of this summer’s groundbreaking stance by Amnesty International supporting the decriminalization of sex work, and the raid on Rent Boy by Homeland Security. (Talk about a weird use of Homeland Security to go after sex workers, rather than maybe focusing on trafficking or actual threats to homeland security.) If you want a primer on what decriminilization means and a primer on sex worker’s rights, this is a good article. Sex workers’ rights are a passion project for me, and I work as an ally to sex workers for the Desiree Alliance, which, among other advocacy, creates a conference that brings together folks working for sex workers’ rights. The next one is in New Orleans, July 10-15, 2016.

Disability justice and access: This was only discussed in a cursory manner.

Immigration: This came up a lot but not in any meaningful ways that proposed policy changes.

Anyway, would I attend this event again? Hell yes. Did it make me feel more engaged in my role of the public office of “citizen” as Obama called it in his speech? Hell yes. Do I want a DNC “I hate Tea Parties” reusable mug to have on a future episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket? Hell yes.

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2015-07-13

An Open Letter to Oprah about Crop Tops and Body Positivity

This is a letter I wrote to Oprah Magazine in response to a call for reader input in the August 2015 issue. It is in response to the totally banal and fatphobic response to a reader question in O Magazine that folks should wear crop tops “If (and only if) they have flat stomachs.” I generally skim or skip the style and beauty content in O Magazine every month because it’s written towards folks who are seeking a more neutral style than I am looking for. But given the deep internet controversy I thought this was a great time to offer Oprah some unsolicited advice about how she could be doing better.

Since posts are better with photos of lots of folks with different bodies, I have asked my friends to be part of a crop top army, their photos and links are throughout this post.

IMAG0213If I had a Bevin Magazine and I did it like Oprah with my photo on every cover this is what my cover could look like one month.

Dear Oprah:

I am writing this from the place of being very steeped in Oprah culture. Like many folks, I am a longtime fan. Growing up watching your talk show at my babysitters and getting more interested in your message of self-improvement once I got to college in the late 90s. I remember saving up to buy an Iyanla Vanzant book I saw on your show. I’ve always identified strongly with you and your interview style, my friends even started calling me “The Queer Oprah” about a decade ago because of my way of asking the right follow-up questions and getting deep into someone’s story, similar to your skillset. I like to ask questions until I really understand something and walk through the world with curiosity, which I believe you do as well and what makes you so good at what you do. I buy all the book club books. I’ve had a subscription to O Magazine for several years, and maintain a hoard of back issues for reference.

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Photo of Laura Luna, one of my favorite folks on social media. Her insights and vulnerabilities and fun are very inspirational. Here are her words as a caption to this photo. I highly recommend an instagram follow! “That time at #amc2015 when I got pulled up on stage by @leahrosegallegos from @lascafeteras to share a dance and everything around me felt magical cos femmes and a little of LA in Detroit and how because of seeing so many brilliant fats strutting their stuff at the conference I felt safe and even a little liberated to wear this outfit and dance dance dance in front of what seemed like a sea of people.#femme #queer #qpoc #qwoc #femmesofcolorvisibility #fat #xicana #latina #femmeofcolor #fatvanity #pocbodyposi #effyourbeautystandards #fatpoc.” Photo was taken at the Allied Media Conference by Ara Howrani.

Ever since you started OWN, I’ve been an even stronger fan, your spiritual programming really resonates with my eclectic mix of spirituality. I kept cable much longer than I could afford to because I wanted to continue to have access to OWN. (Because it streams online the parade of spiritual thought leaders on Super Soul Sunday is still part of my life, but if you made Next Chapter and Iyanla Fix My Life available for purchase like Bravo does with their shows I would be a very happy camper who doesn’t have cable.)

I say all of that to position what I’m about to say from a place of love and constructive feedback. I get what you do in the world, I get where you have been going recently, and I think you can do a whole lot better when it comes to talking about people’s bodies.

The original instagram post that started it all, according to news reports.

You were at the forefront of diet culture for decades, folks watched you openly struggle with controlling your body. Your value for your body echoed the dominant culture, that you should be thin. I think it’s important to recognize that the diet focus you had for many years influenced people, and caused harm by reiterating body shame and body hatred for all of the people watching who view you as a role model.

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Photo of Amanda Joy. Check out her art website and her instagram!

People change and people evolve, and I’ve noticed in the past few years much less emphasis on dieting in the Oprahverse–that has been a welcome shift.

I hated my body for so many years. So when I watched you dieting growing up, I identified with feelings of futility and wanting to try yet another thing to control my body. I hated myself so much that it consumed me. More often than not, my idle thoughts were spent berating myself, rather than focusing on bigger ideas or being open to seeing the world around me. I didn’t know how to be present. I was always focused on the future, the thin body I would one day have that would solve all of my problems. Or I was focused on the past, my failures, and deep depression.

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My friend Chavon modeling for Booty and the Geek. In Chavon’s spare time she makes geeky themed frames and journals, check them out on instagram.

Ironically, though the Oprah show reiterated my body hatred, it was an Oprah Book Club selection that helped me begin my journey to stop hating myself. Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone featured a fat main character who hated herself so completely I felt shame for identifying with her so strongly, and vowed to work to stop hating myself.

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Photo of Pizzacupcake, one half of the duo GAYMOUS, showing the important relative to the crop top–the side belly cut out. You can buy the incredible GAYMOUS EP here. (Their Let’s Pretend We Don’t Have Feelings video is also worth watching!) Photo by Danielle Billingsley.

It would be years until I got to the stop hating my body part of that journey, but once I did I was free to open my mind up to the world and step into an activist role working to help all people realize that they are worthy of love no matter what their body looks like. I really believe that my purpose in life was blocked and my spirituality was not accessible to me when I let myself stay obsessed with hating my body and myself. A big part of my spiritual awakening happened because I was able to love and inhabit my body, realizing that I was here in the body I was given for a purpose. Part of that purpose is to help folks heal the shame of a society steeped in body currency. (Body currency is a term coined by Jes Baker that I explain in this post.)

11202448_914884111888521_3032253831620096736_nI just started wearing crop tops this year. I’ve been slow to start wearing crop tops, even though I’ve been rocking a fatkini for a couple of years. I am forever indebted to my queer fat femme style icons for doing it for so long and helping me learn that it’s okay to flaunt and love your belly at any size. Photo by my friend Anne at Rebel Cupcake in June, 2015.

Now I’m present. I love my body and it frees me up to really inhabit this life. To focus on my purpose. To enjoy the world this time around. To have so much fun that it makes up for the years of depression, self-loathing and misery.

Fringe shorts on the Fire Island Ferry! Heading to Cherry Grove! 🍒

A video posted by Bevin (@queerfatfemme) on

Speaking of fun, press play on this video and see how much fun I’m having in my Diet Industry Dropout crop top!

The body shaming response to a reader’s question about whether she could wear a crop top, “If (and only if)” she has a flat stomach is causing public outrage for good reason. This is a chance to get on the right side of history. More and more folks are deciding to love their bodies and wear whatever they want to display those bodies.

I was disappointed that the public response from O Magazine (as printed on People.com) was trite and shallow. “We support, encourage and empower all women to look great, feel confident and live their best lives – in this case, we could have expressed it better. We appreciate the feedback and will be more mindful going forward.” Actually, doing what you did caused harm to folks, much like the constant diet chatter caused harm on the Oprah show. Not just “could have done better” but how about instead of being just mindful you really do something different?

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This is Al Benkin. “I’m a otherly abled gender non conforming queer working artist. I am a proud She. My bramd is Beautiful Mutant Art aka Mutantland.” You can follow Al on instagram!

This is an opportunity to move forward with utilizing your platform to include body positivity. I think you can acknowledge that every person has humanity–do all humans deserve dignity regardless of their body’s appearance? Can you be open to the fact that our culture creates a hierarchy of bodies and that race, class, gender, gender presentation, sexuality, culturally approved beauty, amount of cellulite, body hair, age, ability and a ton of other factors ranks us and pits us against each other?

That keeping us hating our bodies and focused on dieting is a way to hypnotize us while folks who have their body currency on lock (white, thin, straight, wealthy men) use it to profit off of us?

This is a chance for you to use your clout to actually change our culture. You are a thought leader. What you amplify in your media makes a difference in people’s lives. You know from your experience on the diet roller coaster that body shame does not help people lose weight. It simply helps people hate themselves.

IMG_4486Photo of Jenna Riot, amazing femme DJ and style icon! Jenna’s instagram is here. More fun than the Kardashians.

Here are some ideas I suggest to adopt throughout the Oprah media platforms, including O Magazine, Oprah.com, and the Oprah Winfrey Network programming.

1. You can talk about nutrition and body love from the perspective of “all bodies are good bodies.” You can do this from a place of knowing that working to eat in alignment with the comfortable functioning of our body and movement for so many great, body loving reasons don’t necessarily have to be focused on an outcome of weight loss. That weight has nothing to do with people’s value. You can do a whole show about Health at Every Size!

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Photo of very talented performance artist Shane Shane by Odalys Diaz. I love Shane Shane’s FANCY belly tattoo.

2. Continue to suggest foods, eating patterns and physical movement that is focused on nourishing the body. You totally do this about half the time. (The other half of the time is printing a bunch of intense dessert and indulgent food recipes. Both are great! Both can be about celebrating food and bodies.) When you do this, try to not assign value to the food and movement you talk about.

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Photo of Kelly Higgins, self identified body positive straight girl. (I definitely think fatkinis are cousins of the crop top.)

3. How about a lifestyle show about people loving their bodies? Doing loving movement at every size. Getting various body positive activists to work with folks one on one on the show to help them work through their body shame. I have a lot of ideas for shows celebrating body love. There is so much fun to be had celebrating body love!

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Marina wore her first crop top last week! Here’s her tumblr.

4. Place a thematic emphasis throughout the Oprahverse on body love and healing aimed at young people. I imagine how different my life would have been if the Oprah Show had talked about body positivity and loving your body where it is at when I was an adolescent instead of making me want to go on a liquid diet. It would have been so freeing. It can still be so freeing to so many teens if you make this turn now.

You know who should be wearing crop tops? Everyone who wants to be wearing crop tops. Non-normative bodies wearing crop tops are important because they help make the world safer and easier for other folks to feel comfortable in their bodies. I’d love to see you in a crop top, Oprah. I don’t care what condition your belly is in, I know it is beautiful.

xoxo,

Bevin

P.S. I want to mention in this letter, because it’s an open letter, that it’s important to talk about the fact that just because people with all bodies CAN wear crop tops they don’t have to. It’s okay to be somewhere on the body love journey (or fashion preference journey) to not wear crop tops. No one should feel shame about their body love journey because they’re not ready to Rock the Crop.

Side note: How amazing would it be that, instead of the shallow “We’ll try to do better!” statement they actually issued, Oprah instead issued an apology with a promise that she’ll be on a future cover of Oprah Magazine wearing a “Diet Industry Drop Out” crop top?

Just saying.

11747402_10155735014085702_614776046_oPhoto of Jacqueline Mary by Courtney Trouble. Jacqueline wrote a great guest post about how to be a good ally to her crippled arm. She also is a DIY smut artist inclusive of all bodies, the link here is totally not safe for work: Heartless Productions.

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