Bevin's Blog I'm blogging the relentless pursuit of my joy

2015-01-08

My Fun Story About the Recreational Cannabis Store in Seattle

OMG you guys I had no idea that marijuana is legal for recreational use in Washington state until I got there. Apparently there are only three stores that sell it recreationally, everywhere else requires you to have a doctor’s card (which to me feels like the grown-up version of getting a doctor’s note for school absence caused by illness).

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Dara brought me on a family vacation to Seattle, to hang with her family and for the headstone unveiling for her father who is buried there. After our time with the family (on the “east side” I’m told) we went to stay with her BFF from college who also lives in Seattle.

The last day of our visit I really wanted to go do something in nature. Seattle has these pretty spectacular views of mountains (almost 360 degrees) and gorgeous parks and evergreen trees and I knew going back to Brooklyn meant WINTER in full effect. Nature chills me out and helps me reboot. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and it wasn’t just gloomy and no views that day, but raining. No one else was game for nature so I said, “Let’s do something really Seattle-y.” We decided to go to the flagship REI store to look around and to stop at the recreational marijuana store because I had never been to a store to purchase cannabis before and I thought it might make a fun story. Like “Hey friends, guess what I did in Seattle??”

Dara and I had tried to go into a medical establishment earlier during our trip while she was at an appointment that was next door to a joint that billed itself as “Seattle’s Amsterdam.” We walked in expecting it was one of the recreational places, but instead it was medical. Since we didn’t have doctor’s cards we couldn’t go in but the receptionist was nice enough to tell us what lay behind the curtain. There was a bar lined with many vaporizers where one could vape one’s choice of weed (we could actually see this beyond her desk, no one else was there). Then there was a lounge area with many couches and video game systems and movies and maybe snacks I don’t remember. It sounded to me like someone’s parents’ really cool rec room from like the 90s or something.

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This place we went to was one of the three recreational stores. We heard that the location in Downtown Seattle sometimes has shortages of product, as they can hardly keep it in stock to keep up with demand.

We walked in and were greeted by a friendly bouncer not unlike those you’d meet at a NYC club only those aren’t always friendly. This guy was super nice. The gentleman asked to see our IDs and then had us wait behind a rope before we were assigned a “budtender.” Readers of my blog know I love creative use of language and I’m stoked to have learned this new fun word!

16047341879_49668dce3e_zThe place we went to was right next door to a medical establishment–you can tell by the big green plus sign, obviously.

It wasn’t more than a minute before we were ushered into a room that looked like a jewelry store without a design aesthetic–gray walls, peg boards with some hanging bags and shelves and cases of well-lit product. All product was professionally vacuum sealed or ziplocked, and there appeared to be no decor.

The buds themselves (for those that don’t speak weed, those are the parts of the plant you consume by smoking, vaporizing or making into edibles or however you do your pot) were in clear easy to see pouches. Super nice for looking at since it is actually a really pretty part of the marijuana plant and I bet people who are more fluent in weed know what they’re looking at when they are shopping for it.

Rethinking Pot WashingtonPhoto from Columbian.com

The “budtender” we were assigned to walked us through how the product was organized. Given what I was told about a history of shortages, I did not expect to have as much choice. First, there were three farms who were supplying this joint. Second, each farm had many strains to choose from. All manner of various feelings elicited from each different plant. I like to shorthand weed varieties to “sit on the couch weed” indicas and “clean the kitchen weed” sativas but there’s also the “giggly have a good time” hybrids. (Also, being barely weed literate myself it is a struggle to not call sativas “stevia weed.” P.S. I just learned how to spell sativa for this blog post.)

We didn’t have a super charming relationship with our budtender. I wanted to have a lot of fun with him, allow him to be our personal shopper in this realm. Given that we were assigned a worker who was helping us I kind of thought how that would go. I’ve been a shop girl and worked retail a lot in my life, I am an awesome personal shopper.

marijuanauseinwashingtonconcordmonitordotcomIf you ask a budtender a question about the legalities of marijuana use in Washington they will hand you this pamphlet. Photo via AP Photo by Ted Warren.

However, our budtender didn’t really know how to take us and didn’t really interact with us quite well. Maybe he doesn’t get a lot of exuberant, curious out of towners? Maybe he is more accustomed to selling to people who are fluent in weed? I know he would have been great for someone who was just stopping in and knew what they wanted, as he did know the product, just not quite how to sell it. Personal shopping is really about matchmaking, reading energy and meeting people where they are at. Anyway, I hope that weed novices have a better guide through the experience than the one we were given.

I have a complex political relationship with the legalization of marijuana movement. I like it in that I believe it should be legal on principle. But I also know that many people of color are behind bars because of drug crimes and it’s primarily white men who are the folks with access to capital and who are opening the establishments who are profiting off of the legalization. I’d love to see some use of the taxes for buying marijuana used as a kind of reparations for folks who lost years of their freedom to drug crimes.

That is the background to the question I asked our budtender next. I wanted to know about the origins of the product. “Do you have any pot grown by lesbians?” He seemed flustered and totally unable to answer any questions about the origins of the three farms who produce the product they sold. I mean, I know some lesbian legalized marijuana farmers. And I bet there are some farms run by people of color. I want to support them if I can!

I am going to own once more that I was expecting a personal shopping experience. But really, if you have only three farms wouldn’t you do meet and greets with the farmers and your staff to know who you’re buying from? Or is that not how this works and I’m confusing legalized marijuana with artisinal cheese stores? Am I too much of a hipster?

Anyway, after we settled on an arbitrary giggly weed as a thank you gift to our hosts for the last part of our stay in Seattle, I moved on to examining the edibles they have for sale, most hanging from the wall. The best part of the legalization of marijuana in my opinion is knowing how much THC is in a given edible. You don’t want to end up eating too much and having to chant the serenity prayer to yourself in order to not lose it while walking home alone because calling a taxi or taking the bus is too complicated. Just a totally random example of what can go wrong with edibles that aren’t dosed.

But here’s the thing also, everyone’s body is different and reacts differently. I knew that and when the budtender told me that these keefe capsules were on sale and took effect within a half an hour, I believed him. I didn’t remember what I know about everybody’s body being different. I also thought it would be a better bet for me than buying some lozenges ($45 for a tin, but easy to dose in 5mg portions) or a big bag of chocolate covered pretzels because we were leaving the next day and I just wanted something to make the gray day of Seattle more interesting and possibly have a LOT of fun at REI.

zootsThey sell this brand of lozenges.

I was only just told about kief like two weeks before this by a good friend who often rolls her eyes at how little I speak weed. Kief (I only just learned how to spell that for this blog entry, too) is the resin from the pot plant that is super powerful. So I was like, great, why eat something when I can just pop a fast-acting capsule?

So I bought the 2 for $20 thinking I would use one and leave the other behind with our hosts.

We checked out (by the way they use a totally normal point of sale system like a retail store would). When I was charged $41 I thought “Oh wow, the 50% tax thing is so real here” as I had heard the legalized recreational marijuana was taxed at 50%. But before I left I checked in with someone else besides our budtender and it turns out he had heard “I want the 2 for $20” deal as I somehow wanted two packets of two capsules for $40? Yeah. So I got to do a return for one of the packets in spite of their very strict no returns policy because of budtender error. And I got to meet the manager and it was a fun time. And by fun I mean a hassle but whatever it was pretty easy just time consuming.

Oh yeah, it’s cash only.

After the retail experience, I took a kief tablet–around 2PM on Sunday. Waited two hours and just kind of barely felt a body high and decided to take the second one. On account of sometimes larger bodies need larger doses. And not really feeling anything. I chalked it up to a loss and enjoyed the REI trip and our last night in town.

IMG_20150104_162638There is a Game of Thrones Iron Throne replica made of skis, poles and snowboards painted silver at the Seattle REI right now.

Our flight was at 8:50AM so we had to wake up around 6AM. I was feeling kind of groggy but thought it was lack of sleep. Once we got to the airport and I interacted with the baggage attendants I knew I was high.

Of course when I was high the interaction was wildly awkward. I was worried that my suitcase was over 50 pounds. I gave it to her and she put the tag on it without weighing it. Rather than just letting it go and not worrying about it I asked if it was under 50 pounds. So then she weighed it! I was going to get dinged for the overweight charge. (In the states we have to pay extra money for our luggage if it exceeds 50 pounds, and the first bag costs $25 to check each way.) Luckily it was 48.5 pounds but dealing with an awkward social interaction with monetary consequences is stressful when you’re sober, not accidentally really high. Now I was going to have to process those feelings and interact with airport personnel while those tablets were kicking in. Some 17 hours after I consumed them.

Next thing that happened was that we were in security and there was no line. Usually there’s a line at the end of the long maze of rope barriers to give you time to pull out your ID and boarding pass, but we walked right up to the security officer. Of course that’s when my id won’t come out of my wallet thought I keep trying, and a line is forming behind me. And then that’s when I hand her the wrong boarding pass, the one for our connecting flight. Oh that was stressful and terrible while high.

Then we’re getting through the xray machine and we’re taking forever because we have to pull off shoes and pull out laptops and we had Macy and she had to come out of her bag. And again we arrived at no waiting and a line formed behind us. And when Dara was pulling Macy out of the bag the zipper on her backpack caught her tail and we couldn’t get it loose, nor could the TSA agent who tried to help us and we had to get them to get scissors for us so we could cut her loose. And then I’m walking through the xray machine, getting pulled aside to get my palms tested for explosives while holding a shih tzu and unexpectedly getting higher than I was before. I have no idea how I held it together.

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We got to our gate and noticed a long line to speak to the gate agent and didn’t think much of it until we heard the announcement that our flight was delayed due to a mechanical error and they weren’t sure if we were going to leave at all. The whole thing was very stressful and I was so glad I had Dara, sober, there to spot me and make sure I wasn’t going to get arrested or die at the airport.

Also I was high so I accidentally said aloud on our flight that I was stoned and horrified Dara as she was charming our seatmate, an elderly woman whose politics and lifestyle judgements we didn’t know. And I also accidentally spilled coffee on my leg, which I didn’t realize until the guy behind me pointed it out.

But other than that, we got home fine. Our flight was ultimately delayed 2 hours, we somehow had our connecting flight delayed 45 minutes and was right next to the gate for our first flight so we managed to just barely make it and got home within a couple of hours of our original ETA. And by the time I got on the ground in NYC I was sober and grumpy. And it was really really cold here.

I said I wanted a fun story–that’s my fun story about recreational marijuana sales in Washington State.

2014-09-16

Post Cancer Treatment Life in a Nutshell

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

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

Post Cancer Treatment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Macy’s Recovery

20140821_175210Family selfie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus Size Party Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental and Emotional Health

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

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

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

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

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

2014-07-16

Macy’s Surgery and the Power of Showing Up Imperfectly

The first time I visited my beloved Shih Tzu, Macy, after her ruptured disc surgery, I freaked out. I didn’t even realizing visiting in a vet hospital was a thing but once I found out I could do it I knew I’d be there every day. Macy’s there for me through thick and thin, I knew I needed to be there for her.

I couldn’t visit until the day after her surgery. When I went in, they put me in the same exam room we had seen the veterinary neurologist for her initial consultation, watching Macy painfully hobble around the room. Now I was in the room alone, waiting for Macy, who wasn’t even 18 hours post-op.

The vet tech brought her into the room cradled in a towel and set her in my lap. He left and I was staring at Macy. I didn’t expect her to look so crappy. There was the obvious stuff that I had never thought about, like the rectangle shaved over her spine with the frankenstein stitches woven across. But then there was the stuff I didn’t expect; the pleading, confused look in her eyes and the sour smell of a dog that has gone through it and bathing isn’t in the cards just yet.

IMG_20140708_161532Our first visit post-op.

I felt panic and shock as I held her. I began calculating in my mind how quickly I could leave. They said I could visit not that I had to. Would she even notice if I was gone? Did my being there matter?

This panic lasted for about a minute and I started to talk some sense into myself. I am the kind of person who believes we are more than just our bodies—our spirits matter. If I was in a coma I think I could still sense that people were in the room with me and that my loved ones would matter to me. I know that Macy’s consciousness isn’t developed in the same way as mine, but I also know that me showing up for her would matter in some way I couldn’t explain.

So I stayed. I sat with her, in a way we don’t usually do in our day to day lives. Quietly, lap sitting, togetherness. No TV, no work, no distractions. I cried a bunch, I told her it was going to be okay, and while doing so was half telling myself. I showed up for Macy.

20140713_190929I really appreciated everytime the hospital brought Macy in with a flamboyant blanket or towel because I felt like they really saw my gender.

I’m never really positive how Macy feels about me. She’s not a lap sitting dog, with the exception of butch laps. With me she prefers to be four feet away at all times—when I work she sits in her bed four feet to my right. When I cook she sits in the kitchen four feet away and watches me. When I’m in the living room she’s on the couch just out of arm’s reach. Sometimes I get a complex about how little she wants to snuggle me and how much she wants to snuggle Dara.

In the week after her surgery I visited Macy every single day. Some days we just sat together, some days we worked on physical therapy exercises her neurologist showed us. I got daily calls after her neurological exam. She stopped making physical progress for a few days (the vets expected this) but when I visited I could tell things shifted for her. One day she was much more “herself” again. Later she seemed to almost get excited about things, especially when I started bringing in high value snacks like chicken and sausage. I was glad I was visiting because I could tell from her spirit progress that was different than the surgeons.

20140709_143004 (1)This is Macy’s little walking tool–it’s a harness for her back legs to keep her moving and give her practice using her back legs as she acclimates to mobility.

It’s been really difficult during this time because my girlfriend is going through radiation therapy for breast cancer on the Upper East Side. If you don’t know NYC geography, she’s basically an hour away via train. She got an apartment around the corner from her radiation hospital so she wouldn’t have to endure a daily commute for her daily hour long radiation appointments. It’s sucked so much to not be able to be supporting her as I thought I would be doing this month, and to not have her support during Macy’s recovery. We did squeeze in a visit one night (benefits of the hospital being open 24 hours) and another visit the next day where we did some good walk therapy. Macy loves her Dad and will always come when Dara calls.

20140711_170632Dara’s mom was in town and came to visit Macy, too.

My initial discomfort with seeing Macy in the hospital really got me thinking about the power of showing up for people in their time of need. Showing up sloppily, imperfectly, but with a big heart and good intentions. It matters.

The shock of seeing Macy in that condition reminded me of how folks must have felt the first time they saw Dara with a bald head after the chemo hair loss began. How hard it must be to see how tired and out of it she gets. It’s easier for me because I’ve watched this happen gradually, but it is difficult for folks to witness it when they haven’t seen her for a few months.

Sitting in your own discomfort with shock and change, having faith that you’ll get through it is an incredibly powerful gift you can give to the folks in your life who are suffering.

I’ve seen how important it has been to Dara’s spirits during recovery from surgery, chemo and now raidation for her friends to show up for her. Sometimes all she can do is sit and watch TV with people but it means a great deal and definitely puts her in a better mood.

IMG_20140714_113430The hospital was really amazing and sent me photos of Macy in her crate.

People have been showing up for me in the past nine months in amazing ways. Little texts of, “Thinking about you, sending woo/prayers/love,” make me smile. I think that positive energy has so much power and being thought of is really nice. Folks have brought meals. Folks who keep inviting me out even though I haven’t been able to go out as much and often have to decline—it’s nice to be remembered. The people who relentlessly play phone tag with me in order to have a catch-up. It all matters.

Dara convinced me to take a few friends up on their offer to pitch in for Macy’s astounding medical costs, the whole thing is in excess of $7,000. When I first heard the price tag of what it might cost (we had to pay for a $1500 MRI to find out if she even needed surgery), I couldn’t even fathom how I was going to pay for it. I was lucky enough to know I could borrow the money. However complicated I felt about asking for help with pet medical expenses, I knew I had to open myself to whatever help we could get. We raised $500 in the first 24 hours, and it’s already up to nearly $2,000 a week later.

MacyEstimateThis is the initial estimate of her prognosis–the low end was if we only got the MRI, the high end was if we got surgery. It didn’t include the vet visits and blood work leading up to surgery.

And the thing about crowd fundraisers? It’s about opening the channels to letting people support you. I feel like sometimes we pass around the same $20 to each other when we need it. I think it’s amazing. Katie from Empowering Astrology blew my mind when she told me that money is just energy in 3D form. She’s totally right—we’re passing energy to each other. The person who donated $2 and said they wished they could pay for the whole surgery—that meant so much to me.

My BFF Spunky told me when I thanked her for donating to Macy’s fundraiser, “It’s literally the least I can do.” Because our friends, especially our far away friends, often want to show up for us in tangible ways that they can’t do. But money is energy. And for me, going through this, knowing that a great deal of the financial burden is taken care of? That blows my mind. It has enabled me to take some of the stress off the shelf and focus on caring for my beloved Macy.

It can be so hard to think that what you are able to do is not enough for your friend or loved one. I had no idea whether visiting Macy in the puppy hospital mattered to her or not, especially in those moments when I had to give her back to the vet techs. Saying goodbye was awful. It wasn’t perfect that I could only be there for an hour, or a half an hour, or whatever, but it was something. I had to trust it was going to help her get better and not feel so lonely.

IMG_20140714_145911Me with Macy on Monday when I got to take her home after a week in the hospital!

Since Macy was discharged on Monday I can’t leave my bedroom (where she stays in a playpen on bed rest for at least the next week) for five minutes without her barking her scared, “Please don’t leave me alone” bark. The vet said it’s normal for dogs who were in the hospital for a long time to feel really anxious and have a difficult transition home. What I’m realizing is that Macy missed being four feet away from me at all times just as much as I missed her being close to me. And I realize it mattered that I showed up for her.

2013-05-31

Care and Death, Death in Care, Care in Death: Bear’s Peaceful Passage

The past two weeks have been a doozy. My elder cat, Bear, a handsome eighteen years old, got really sick. It’s hard to tell when a cat goes from being just an old cat with some bouts of dementia and a propensity to angry poop in the hallway, to actually-really-sick-call-the-vet. There’s a subtle shift. He had a really bad accident on a Saturday, the kind that involved a grumpy roommate and me just mopping the whole house. Then he puked, then he just sat still. More still than usual and he sleeps about 23 1/2 hours a day. I put a call out to my friends on Facebook if there was a vet person I could talk to about whether I should go to the vet. I’ve known so many people who have dumped thousands of dollars into an old cat to find out what’s wrong only to have to let them go anyway. I didn’t want that to be Bear’s experience in his senior years, I just wanted him to be comfortable and happy.

The answer never came from Facebook, but it did come from my heart. Jacqueline came over to hang out that Sunday night and told me about her awesome vet who does house calls and I thought that was perfect. I mean, I like my other vet but I couldn’t imagine schlepping Bear if he was feeling so crappy. I’ll spend $55 for an exam to find out if Bear is getting ready to go be with the goddess or if he has something easily treatable.

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Me, ALF, Bear and Macy. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

The poor little guy was so sick and I was really glad to get an appointment same day. My friend Hadley came to support me during the visit. The vet reminded me a lot of me, professionally. I have made a lot of unconventional decisions with my law practice that make me better able to service my clients and it makes so much sense for a vet to be able to come see animal companions in the comfort of their own environment. She was very matter of fact and compassionate, which is an incredible balance to maintain and works really well in a vet.

The doctor touched Bear and took one look at me with a pained expression and I just said, “Oh god!” thinking she was going to say that I had to put him down right then and there.

She said he was 12-15% dehydrated and was likely in kidney failure. She suggested a few courses of action and I settled on an injectable antibiotic, anti-nausea meds and subcutaneous fluids. I decided to wait on blood work because it’s expensive and I wanted to see how he did with treatment.

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This is what subcutaneous fluids looks like. It’s not a big deal, takes less than five minutes when you get used to it.

Eight months ago, ALF, my younger cat (14) was diagnosed with hypertension and kidney failure and has absolutely thrived with treatment. After he got on fluids and I changed his food to the special kidney diet food he has been better than he was for years. He’s just being a wonderful little weirdo and now likes cat treats a lot more (probably because they’re more awesome than his kidney food).

So I thought Bear would rally. The rest of the vet visit was sort of funny. She made a lot of jokes that I thought were hilarious, also I probably laughed a lot more because I was so relieved that Bear was sick with something I understood and I felt like there was a course of action. She did tell me, “Don’t be surprised if you wake up one day and he’s passed.” And she talked about how she has to send cats via Fed Ex (in a cooler, overnight) to the crematorium because of how far away it was.

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I can always tell how old a photo is of my cats based on the bed spread. This is from when I was engaged!

I made a Facebook post about the whole adventure, because it was just a bad day. In addition to the vet visit and the very sick cat, our building sent some plumber to “check out” our toilet and that turned into taking the toilet physically out of the wall with no notice that we would have no bathroom access for several hours. It was a lesson in acceptance, since we could call 311, we could complain to the super, but nothing but being nice to the plumbers would get our toilet back. And nothing but accepting that Bear was sick and might not make it was going to help me have peace about it.

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I have spent a lot of time in my life railing against things that I had no control over. In the last couple of years I’ve found that working with the current of life, instead of fighting against it, is the best way for me to have serenity. Sometimes it’s a nice flow, sometimes it feels like whitewater rafting and I’m only holding on with my white knuckles barely in the boat, but it’s a lot more peaceful on the daily than screaming and pushing against the natural order of things.

Screen shot of @sharpbiscuits photo of me giving fluids to my sick cat Bear. He has kidney failure like ALF but is four years older. Rough day all around but feel slightly hopeful after in home vet visit.
Giving fluids to both cats at once reminded me how when I was growing up I was convinced I was going to have twins because twins run in my family. Two cats getting fluids is a hilarious effort in multi-tasking, but I’m glad my boys are mellow.

And, oh yeah, on that Facebook thread about my bad day I mentioned that the vet was really hot, which she was, and this sparked a hilarious conversation involving Jacqueline who concurred (as it was her vet, too) and lots of femmes bantering about the benefits of having a hot vet. Like, mostly during the visit I was concerned with my cat but then of course you notice that kind of stuff. It reminded me of how my friends in Rhode Island all go to the same hot dentist. And with no identifying details (other than hot vet) two people asked if it was a specific person they knew and I was quickly reminded how unprivate Facebook is.

So, our toilet was back, the bathroom looked like a disaster area and Bear was being pumped with fluids and spending most of his time sleeping. I set him up as comfortably as possible. He made some big improvement the next day, eating some watered down turkey baby food. I felt like a pushy mom, trying to give him anything he would eat. A tiny piece of chicken, some bone broth, etc… He went for a treat and I was ecstatic!

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Bear in his winter coat.

By day three he started to rebel against his two favorite convalescent spots (my armchair in the bedroom and the spot on the couch closest to the window) and began wandering the house in short stints. I would follow him. I documented a lot of his progress on my instagram. I watched him move into the hallway and sit down and get confused. He was already a cat that got confused a lot (he had good days and bad days, like people with dementia) but it seemed way worse now that he was sick. He also wasn’t sleeping on his side, or curled into a “puddle,” but sleeping sitting like a meatloaf. He didn’t look very comfortable.

Bear is better than he was on Monday but he's still really sick. Not moving around much or eating much (but some which is better than none). ALF is charming as always and I'm unsure if he's being comforting to Bear or just jealous I let him convalesce in
Bear on his sick bed.

I wanted him to get better, but tending him to when he was sick was a lot more work. I’m on a cleanse and between my morning alkalizing beverage, smoothie, my regular morning rituals, giving fluids to Bear, tending to any accident spots in the house and cleaning him off when he pooped on himself (I gave many kitty sponge baths) it was three hours before I could leave the house. It’s a good thing I work from home most of the time.

I wondered what was Bear’s quality of life and what was his convalescence. I didn’t want to give up on him before he had a chance to get better. I didn’t want to be selfish about my time–I consider animal companions to be life partners and I’m not the kind of person who just gives up when shit gets hard. Having an elderly cat means doing elderly cat care. But I also wasn’t sure what was normal for his age and what were signs that his body was shutting down.

I sent a long email to the vet asking what was normal and what I should be looking out for. She gave me a very thoughtful, lengthy response and I was left with a lot of ideas for what was possibly wrong with him, his meatloaf sleeping was probably discomfort, more treatment we could do, but also “Putting him down would not be premature.”

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Moms of toddlers take toilet training photos, moms of elderly convalescent cats celebrate litter box use.

She never once said, “You should put him down,” which were the magic words I was waiting for. Now, I adopted Bear when he was 10 and ALF was 6 (they were companions from their previous household that came together). Having older cats, I have always known that at some point in my life I would have to make a euthanasia call. I also have heard many people’s stories but they all seemed to sound the same. The pet got sick, the person was left with thousands of dollars in treatment that may or may not work and it was “the right decision given the circumstances.”

I just thought it would be really black and white and where I was in was a shade of gray. I had a cat who was getting slightly better but not all the way. Who was a lot more work and I felt okay giving him that work if that is what he needed me to do. He was still purring when I held him, especially when he snuggled up to my heart. But he felt like a flour sack in my hands. He wasn’t meowing–I think he meowed three times after he got sick, which was about a 95% decrease from his yelly hallway yowling ways. When I set him on the ground he couldn’t hold himself up right away, he flopped over to the side.

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Good therapy is to pick up both cats at once and snuggle them. They don’t usually struggle when I hold them together because Bear and ALF really love each other. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

Euthanasia, even though I had thought about it so often for the past several years knowing that “someday” I was going to have to make that decision, was not an easy black or white decision to make at all. All of that worrying I did ahead of time was absolutely wasted. You cannot pre-live grief and pre-worry. I wish I had spent all of that time during all of those years I spent worrying and just spent it living in the moment and enjoying my life with my beloved cat.

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Vintage photo of ALF and Bear.

I turned to Facebook once again (and this is why I mostly am only friends with folks I know in real life on FB) to ask about people’s experience with euthanasia and how they “knew” when it was time. I got a LOT of answers and stories. About how pets are very much in the present moment and when they’re sick or in pain they are very scared. How people often report they waited too long. I got many great private messages, including a very detailed astrological answer that involved last week’s lunar eclipse and Saturn in Scorpio.

“The issue here on an astrological level is about care and death or care in death or death in care. or care through death or other prepositional mediations of this care/death combo.
the question then becomes who’s care…who is caring for whom…what is care. and similarly although strangely—the same sets of ontological questions can then be asked of death.”–Tina Z.

I also read through a couple of articles people sent to me about death of a pet that I found really helpful in terms of deciding one way or the other whether I should let Bear go be with the Goddess or wait to see if his health improved.

My friend Tom suggested this book, The Last Walk, where the cover and the name just broke my heart so much I couldn’t really even try to read it but I trust his opinion in all book matters, so I’m passing the suggestion along. It was very helpful to hear my friends’ stories about letting their pets go, so I think this might help some folks out there who aren’t into soul baring/crowd sourcing on the Blue Grid.

How to know when it’s time to euthanize your pet from Yahoo News (I found this one particularly helpful).

The ethics of spending $25,000 on pet healthcare in the NY Times.

And in a very gay way (because of the connection, not the content), this amazing quote from my ex-girlfriend’s fiance, Rachel, really helped me. “Think of 2 or 3 things that really make her HER and when those are no longer there, you’ll know.” What Rachel was considering when she put her gorgeous dog down.

In thinking about all of this, I wondered about Bear. He really liked yelling in the hallway, yelling to get a good snuggle while I was at the computer (I’ve done a lot of working with Bear awkwardly in one arm), he loved parties where he got as much attention as he could possibly consume, he loved expressing his emotions by pooping in the hallway when he was mad, and he loved eating paper and the covers of books. He hadn’t done any of those things in a couple of weeks (well, the party thing he couldn’t control).

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Bear, snacking on some paper (a map).

I went to bed that night praying to the Goddess to tell me what was the right course of action for Bear. The next morning I sat down on the couch to watch some Super Soul Sunday while drinking my smoothie and Macy and ALF were all over me. They could not get enough attention from me or pay enough attention to me. I remembered back to when Bear first got sick, about a week prior, and I woke up one morning with both of them laying on my chest. Neither ALF or Macy is a big chest layer, and they prefer to keep about 3 feet apart most of the time so it was really weird, them close together and on top of me. That’s when I realized that Macy and ALF were paying attention to me because I needed care, and were leaving Bear alone. I trusted their intuition–that Bear was checking out or totally checked out. And that I was the one who was struggling emotionally with whether he should stay.

I had a great talk with my Mom, since she had put down both of the cats I grew up with when I was already across the country in law school (the other cats we had previously had run away so we never had to make that call when I was younger) and it really helped me settle into the decision. She also said, “Bear doesn’t want to live a life where he’s pooping on himself.”

I sent an email to the housecalls vet asking for an appointment for in-home euthanasia. I knew from an article I had read awhile ago that this was the best choice for me–rather than schlepping your pet to a foreign place to go, he can go in peace in your home. It’s also good for the other pets because it apparently helps them understand better the process of what’s going on. I didn’t want them to think Bear was just at the groomer for the rest of eternity.

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Bear with our friend Avory.

Bear’s passing also forced me to confront one of my worst fears. Part of being a full-time freelancer/small business owner is that often life is financially feast or famine–and the last vet catastrophe last October wiped my savings and I just haven’t caught up yet. When I’m feeling afraid a method I’ve learned is to write a list of the things you fear most, then antidote with a gratitude list. One of my greatest fears is that I wouldn’t be able to financially care for my pets. Here I was, needing to make this big decision for my sweet little guy and worrying about how I was going to pay for that and my rent. I had to face that fear, though, and I was able to ask someone for a loan (which is not something I do very often).

I had already made the “Peaceful Passage” appointment, opting for Thursday at 5 because doing it the very next day (Wednesday) at 2pm didn’t give me enough time to say goodbye to Bear. It felt rushed.

I had my friend Kelsey Dickey come over and do a family portrait sitting with me, Bear, Macy and ALF. It was something I had wanted to do for years and I’m glad I did it. Even though Bear looks pretty out of it in some of the photos, it’s really nice to have. It’s also very hard to wrangle pets in a portrait sitting. Bear had a great day that last full day. He used the litter box. I caught him cleaning himself vigorously during our photo shoot, which was the first time that had happened in a couple of weeks. I was like “Are you trying to tell me something?”

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

That night, the night before the peaceful passage, I was throwing a party with Nicky and Jo for Yes Ma’am. Nicky told me that they were friends with my hot vet and showed her the whole thread on my Facebook wall. I was like “How do you know that’s my vet!?!” but of course it was the same person. I was also sort of embarrassed since she was coming to my house the very next day to put my cat down. I guess if people were talking about me being hot on my friend’s friend’s Facebook wall I would want to read it, too. This is definitely proof that nobody ever died of awkward because I’m still around.

I got home from the party and Bear wasn’t in any of his regular spots. I was worried about him. This had happened to me many times before, he switches up his sleeping spot, but ever since my vet had said he might be dead one morning I was afraid he’d crawl under a piece of furniture and pass. I couldn’t really hunt for him in the house because my roommate’s mom was sleeping on our couch, so I just let it be and knew I could look in the morning. On my way to bed at 4AM (after a party, remember), I saw his two furry feet sticking out from under the bookshelf where my altar is. He had spent so much of the past few days sitting with his legs tucked under I thought for sure he was dead. I put my hand on him and he didn’t startle like he usually did when I would think he might be dead (he slept pretty heavy and scared me a few times). I thought for sure he was dead. I was distraught but I didn’t know what to do and it was so late, I just went to sleep crying about not saying goodbye and knew I would take care of it in the morning when I wasn’t going to disturb an entire household, a sleeping guest and freak out.

I woke up and texted Hadley, “Can you come over and help me move Bear, he passed last night.” The last thing I wanted to do was interact with his dead body. Hadley was on their way over when I peeked under my altar and saw that Bear had moved. I called Hadley and said it was Resurrection Thursday, Bear was alive, I was just delirious the night before.

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How I spent much of the last couple weeks of Bear’s life. Holding him as much as possible.

I spent Bear’s last day pretty chill. I had no out of the house activities, I just hung out with him and the other two Muppets. I was no longer wondering if the previous day’s feeling better was permanent, he was really out of it and started pooping on me when I would hold him. I changed my outfit and got a towel to cuddle him with. I started to feel glad I had made the decision to give him a peaceful passage, the night before I was so worried he was scared and alone when he had passed I knew this would be with love and community.

People began gathering. I sent out a call to some friends. Either folks who had bonded with Bear or who were friends of mine who were going to bring pork tenderloin (Jacqueline) or other snacks and food. All told there were five people there with me when the vet arrived with her assistant.

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If I wrote a pet euthanasia book I would call it “The Last Selfie.”

Bear was curled up next to me on a towel on his favorite part of the couch. His head resting against my leg, my hand on his heart chakra. I wasn’t petting him anymore, just holding him while he rested. The vet was great, she explained everything as it was going to happen and that once he was gone she would leave us with the body for a bit and we could text her to come back up.

She offered that I could have his ashes returned, or a cast made of his paw, which I declined. I don’t need a physical representation of him. I have so many photos and so much Persian cat hair in my house, I’ll be physically remembering Bear forever, behind every piece of furniture.

She injected something into his hind leg to keep him asleep, though he was already very asleep. Then she injected another something to send him to be with the Goddess. The room fell silent and I was praying for his easy transition and thanking the Goddess for all of the time I got to spend with him as my animal companion and crying big fat tears onto him. It happened really fast. Suddenly she said, “He’s gone,” squeezed my hand and left.

I kept my hand on his heart because his body was still warm and I couldn’t bear to let go yet. My friends brought Macy over to see him (she sat quietly for a bit, sniffed him) and ALF (who ran off very fast).

At first it seemed weird to have “time” with his body but it was actually really nice and peaceful. We eventually called her back up, she brought a towel and curled him up in it just like he was sleeping, and got ready to go.

I was still crying and asked, “How do I pay you?”

“Do you have Chase Quick Pay?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll send you an email.”

One of my friends piped in, “This is the most fucked up Chase Quick Pay commercial ever.”

We all laughed.

Folks stayed for some food, and a couple other friends came by later. It was nice to not be alone.

At one point I looked around at Macy and ALF and realized I was doing a subconscious Muppet count as I had done thousands of times before. The three of them triangulate in almost always the same pattern in the living room. I could look to both of them and know where Bear would be sitting. Only he wasn’t.

In the days since it has been pretty weird and sometimes hard. Old familiar grief settled on my chest. But it’s a different kind. It’s like missing a part of myself, since Bear was so much a staple of my home life. I feel like with my friends I’m only about 90% there, but doing my best to continue to function and acknowledge the sad feelings as they come. And to love on my Muppets who are still with me and who I get to continue loving in this lifetime. They’ve been really clingy to me, which I appreciate because I feel very clingy to them.

My mom is a Lesbian Catholic and I asked her to ask the Lesbian Woo couple across the street (they had four when I was a teenager, not sure how many they have now) for a good ritual for Bear. They suggested getting a candle for each color chakra and burning it. As each candle burns out it releases a different emotion. I got the candles from a religious candle store near my house. I’ve been burning the candles since Bear passed and it’s really helpful to have a place to look in the house to acknowledge him. I can say hi to him, pray for him and let them represent my emotions.

Bear's chakra candles. Rest in power little guy.
The photo on the right is from about six years ago, when he was younger and more sly.

The loss is hard, but I know I did the best I could. I read a lot of mommy blogs and I know there’s no way to be a perfect mom, but there are thousands of ways to be a good mom. I know I’ve been the best mom I can to these three critters. I know my Bear was loved very deeply and lived a comfortable, sweet life. And I know now how to be even more present and grateful for the pets I still have.

2012-11-21

Sandy’s Aftermath

I’ve been working on this post for a couple of weeks and I’m still not totally done with the sentiment. But in the efforts of not being a perfectionist, here it is! More thoughts on the hurricane to come, I’m sure.

I was just telling someone about my experience living through the Loma Prieta earthquake when I was 10 and that I was less scared during that than I was during Hurricane Sandy. I was raised with earthquakes and disaster drills so I knew what to expect from it and what to do. I was home alone and I weathered it pretty well and waited patiently for my mom to get home from class.

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My cats, Bear and ALF.

I didn’t grow up with crazy weather and last year’s preparation for Hurricane Irene was the first time I had ever prepared for a storm. I mean, a lot of it is similar to growing up with earthquakes. Having an emergency earthquake kit on hand is just something we did as California kids. I remember having to bring a separate one for school each year to keep in our homeroom. The addition of filling up the bathtub with water is new and interesting disaster preparedness.

So the hurricane came in and I left my house on Sunday before the MTA shut down and I wasn’t going to get to go anywhere. It was just to a coffee shop to work on my book but I figured it was better to stave off stir crazy if we did get stuck in bad weather. Thought I didn’t really believe we would, I’m glad I took that break.

I hunkered down alone. My wonderful roommate was off visiting her sweetie in Philly and I have three pets and my apartment isn’t in a flood zone so it seemed like a safe thing to do. I have all of this Girl Scout wilderness survival skill and I don’t worry about crises and emergencies. One of my favorite sayings is “Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” This philosophy works for me about 90% of the time unless it’s about dating.

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About 24 hours after the subways shut down the storm really settled in. Everything was rattling, windows, the kitchen cabinets. It was sort of terrifying. I also felt like I was starting to get sick so I just crawled into bed and tried to rest a lot and drink tea.

Eventually my internet went out which was awful because that was where I was feeling social support. Constant updates on my friends’ Ariel Speedwagon and Sarah Jenny’s awesome alternate news network plus other folks’ updates about their safety and sentiments in the storm.

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Ariel Speedwagon.

So I was alone and feeling isolated in my apartment, calling my best friend in California periodically to get reassured and watching TV to distract myself.

The next morning in my neighborhood wasn’t so bad. Tons of branches and leaves everywhere, a couple of fallen trees but not much happened that was catastrophic. But something felt very unsettled.

The news began pouring in about the devastation throughout Brooklyn. Red Hook, the Rockaways, Lower Manhattan, New Jersey. Dis/abled and elderly folks stuck in high rise buildings with no electricity or running water. Disaster after disaster.

I couldn’t shake my anxiety for a couple of weeks afterward. I felt scattered and weird. It was awful. My roommate came back to town and shifted into full-on community organizing gear. She was coordinating donation pick-ups and drop offs, getting volunteers out to the Rockaways. It was incredible to experience. Ariel Speedwagon came over one day and kept creating amazing round-ups of where to donate money and where to volunteer. She’s a pro at information dissemination.

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We went forward with our housewarming/naming ceremony on November 1st, and the moment of woo was actually very healing. The power of community woo is pretty amazing.

I could signal boost information and I could cook for people. So that’s what I did. Somehow pouring love into the universe in whatever way I could was how I could help.

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Not pictured: many casseroles.

I guess I’ve been slow to write this post because I was waiting for the aha moment of why I got so anxious after the storm. I think some of it was how connected human beings are–in Brooklyn we were literally surrounded by devastation. Some of it was the mistake I made of weathering the storm by myself. I can be confident and independent to a fault sometimes. I think having someone to be with during the storm I probably would have felt a lot more secure. It felt similar to the time I had emergency surgery when I was 22 years old and I told my mom not to bother coming out, but when I woke up from the surgery alone I knew it was a huge mistake.

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I think some of it was feeling really trapped. The subways weren’t working yet, we were just able to go as far as we could walk (since I don’t have a bike). And the gas shortages were freaky. We were okay, thankfully, but we couldn’t really leave.

I gave up on Halloween entirely and went to bed at 8PM that night. The next week we had a Nor’Easter snowstorm and it just felt so weird.

Some things were so odd. Like how Park Slope seemed “Business as usual” within a week of the storm but folks were still without power in so many other places. And in spite of the gas shortage people were still driving around.

The gas stations stopped having gas, they just ran out. Then when they would get gas there would be these hours long lines to fill up. The NYPD started doing gas rationing at the stations–it was full-on martial law at the pump for a couple of weeks.

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Martial law at the gas station near my house at 4AM.

When we found out that the gas shortages were going to continue because so many refineries were affected by the storm and you could only buy gas every other day. I told Damien, “What if the Mayan calendar is right and it really is the end of the world?”

Well, then I guess people should be having more sex,” she answered. I think it’s a good response. Go have more sex, folks!

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Things aren’t back to normal yet. I was at a Butch Burlesque hurricane relief fundraiser this past Saturday night and someone who has been doing a ton of relief volunteering got up to talk about what is going on with the relief efforts. That the Red Cross was only just then getting to the Rockaways. That they really need day care services because kids can’t go to school. That they only just got power back. That’s three weeks after the storm, with no power, isolated in the aftermath.

That benefit was the first time I went into Manhattan since the storm. I hadn’t even gone further than Williamsburg prior to Wednesday. It’s been a slow recovery process. I’m still not sure what’s left to come.

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Me and Damien.

Damien wrote an amazing post a week after the storm about a progress report.

You can donate money or time to Occupy Sandy. Grass-roots on the ground volunteers are really effective in the post-Sandy recovery.

2012-09-21

Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip Part 7: Layover in Bay Area, CA and Tips to Survive Returning to Your Hometown

Dubbed the Lesbian Jack Kerouac by my BFF Brian for my propensity for long distance romance, “A girl in every port and on the road with a broken heart,” he describes me, I set out on a life-changing adventure in November of 2011. This is my tale of deep heart exfoliation via asphalt. Check out all the tales in this series at the Gay American Road Trip 2011 tag.


Castro Valley, CA and Berkeley, CA

[Hey so I stopped blogging my road trip redux after I crossed into the CA border arriving at my mom’s place in the Bay Area and I’ve been wanting to get back to memorializing the amazing epic journey. It doesn’t take a degree in psych to know that I stopped at California because suddenly it got emotionally difficult! My home state had a lot of baggage for me to unpack, but the trip was really healing on so many fronts so anyway, here the journey continues…]

In planning my trip I had budgeted the day after Thanksgiving to hang out with my mom and Grandmother and soak up a little bit of the Bay Area. I was ready to stop driving so intensely and excited to have a “destination” for more than a couple of hours.

It’s worth noting that I was miserable growing up and thus unable to appreciate or notice much of the beauty around me. I really love visiting the Bay now. Part of the impetus for this trip was to get to spend some time in California.

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View from Dolores Park in San Francisco. Why I only went to DP once in my entire time living in California I’ll never know.

Thanksgiving dinner was great, even if consumed late, and Mom was visibly overjoyed to wake up to find me, Grandmother and Macy in the guest bed (which comes down as a Murphy Bed on the wall of her quilting room which is also known as the “cat library”*). Mom adopted Bella, a rescue who literally walked into her classroom one day, inspired by Macy’s cuteness and charm. Macy truly is an ambassador for her breed and muppet dogs everywhere. Bella and Macy sort of got along, though it was clear that Bella was used to being the Queen of the Mountain and Macy was a charming interloper.

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A family portrait with Bella and Macy featured. Macy LOVES Grandmother.

Spunky came by and the four of us went to a local breakfast place. She and I have been friends for almost 14 years and she knows my family better than any of my friends. It’s nice to have that. Spunky’s straight and suburban-dwelling. Grandmother asked later “How are you and Spunky such good friends?” Spunky’s the sister I never had and we make up in emotional similarities what we lack in basic life commonalities. We’ve known each other through so much.

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Me and Spunky.

We went to Doug’s Place, a well-known omelet destination in Castro Valley. Their pancakes are great. I randomly saw someone I recognized from high school at the restaurant but I didn’t say hi. He and I were very close when we were sixteen/seventeen and had the weirdest falling out. We lost touch while we were still in high school. So how weird is it to awkwardly catch-up this much later? This is totally the kind of thing that happens when you are the prodigal daughter returning to your smallish suburban hometown.

I’m not one of those people who has a lot of lingering friends from that time in my life. I’m in touch with about 5 people out of my graduating class of 400 and I feel really great about it. I sincerely love Facebook for the opportunity to peep in on and chat with folks about their awesome kids or whatever.

I really struggled with whether or not to say hello to this high school dude. If I had been alone or circumstances were different I might have gone up to him–nobody ever died of awkward. But I was also trying to focus on my precious few hours with my mom and Spunky (I was slated to visit Grandmother again a couple days later when she returned to Palm Springs).

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Spunky with Bella.

Even though high school dude and I didn’t acknowledge each other, it was kind of cool to see this person, that they had a family (a really cute kid) and were in town for Thanksgiving, too. It was enough to see one another from across a restaurant. Why chat and make vague promises of facebook reconnect? Anyway, my hair and features are pretty different than they were in high school but probably he still recognized me.

Oh, home town discomfort you are so real. Being in Castro Valley was itchy like a scab! Where you grow up is loaded, especially if you didn’t have a great or happy adolescence. After Spunky left to go home, I was riding in the backseat of the car with my mom and Grandmother and seeing the Castro Valley suburban streets from the backseat was super triggering. Like I was a grumpy middle/high schooler again and I just needed a dose of my own present reality to snap out of it.

But see, I love my family and I want to see them! And I also love myself and I want to take exceptionally wonderful care of myself! So how do I go home and not get into a crazy spiral triggered by a really rotten adolescence?

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Self-care tips from the wall of Jonah.

I’ve learned through trial and error in my twelve years living on the East Coast a lot of coping mechanisms about how to have a good time going back to the Bay Area. I start with myself, I bring the version of myself that is most authentic and don’t get bogged down in acting like I’m still 16 like I used to do when I came home. I have a lot of things that help me stay connected with who I am now, like staying in touch with friends through my phone, journaling and reading. I also rarely sleep in Castro Valley, opting instead to stay with friends in Oakland or San Francisco. That helps the most, really.

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San Francisco view from my Prius.

A year and a half ago I was going through some serious emotional work and I actually made an important boundary to not go to Castro Valley at all and instead met my mom for yoga and dinner in the city a couple of times. It was great to see her on neutral ground and avoid the hometown land mine altogether.

Another thing I do is I don’t engage in diet talk. I’m far more practiced now, but my family (like many others) loves to talk about their bodies from a not Health at Every Size/All Bodies are Good Bodies perspective and it can be really hard for me to hear. It used to be so hard for me to work around that. I have a lot of compassion for it now and I am pretty good at detaching from it and not engaging. When people talk about their bodies it isn’t about me and I don’t let it be about me. I also don’t let people talk about my body on anything other than my terms. And I will say my family is really understanding about my politics and my mom is definitely much more embracing of the HAES approach than she ever was, which makes the diet talk stuff much less of an issue for me than it ever used to be.

I also find it a lot easier when I can bring a pal home with me but that’s not always possible. Going into this trip I set myself up for success by scheduling a 2 hour catch-up over tea with my dear friend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, both because I wanted to hang out with her and also because I knew the break would be good.

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LLPS is such a hardcore babe!!!

No sooner was I having uncomfortable flash-backs to my youth in the back of my mom’s car then I was able to slip into my own Prius and go visit Leah. She met me on the street of her Berkeley neighborhood wearing a slutty apron. I met a bunch of her neighbors and housemates and we went over to her friend Jonah’s room to watch them make candles. Yes, Jonah is a chandler.

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It was incredibly soothing! Jonah makes anti-zionist candles for Jewish rituals. At the time (just after Thanksgiving) they were making candles to fulfill orders, many were tiny collections of menorah candles for Hanukkah. I got to ask Jonah a lot of questions about the process and being in their environment with the warm smell of wax and all of the nettles drying along the wall was like being in a fairytale.

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Nettles drying above us! Reason #203 why the Bay is awesome is being able to harvest Nettles and make your own tea. I love Nettles tea.

LLPS and I got to have one of our power catch-ups on the bed while watching the candles happen. She took me to her house and showed me her tiny magical garden shack in the backyard, which was so much more incredible than I ever imagined from her descriptions over the phone.

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We hugged goodbye and I got back into the Prius and headed back to my mom’s house.

Mom’s BFF was over and we got to watch photos from her summer and some photos of her husband’s memorial service. I couldn’t afford to fly out to attend and was so grateful to get to see pictures from it and spend some time with Linda having grief community.

One of the things that sucks about living across the country from my family is that I rarely can take my family’s hand-me-down furniture. I wanted my mom’s clear glass dining table so bad! But mom saw an opportunity to give me the Kitchen Aid mixer that she rarely used and I gleefully accepted it!

Growing-up my ex-step-dad was notoriously selfish. Like, remarkably, irrationally selfish. Picture a 50-something year old man acting like a 4 year old. Mom and I weren’t allowed to use the Kitchen Aid and I’ve always wanted one. Mom got one not long after they divorced and she knew I would appreciate it like no one else could. So the Kitchen Aid (which, by the way, I totally use at least once a week) got nestled safely into my trunk. I always thought I’d have to wait until I got married or something to get a Kitchen Aid.

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Grandmother had to wear mom’s sweatshirts because it was “so cold” in the Bay Area. Which, compared to Palm Springs, it totally was.

I also raided my mom’s Lesbian Tea Basket** for a sampler of teas for the road, including a lovely hibiscus and some mint.

In the morning I said my goodbyes to Grandmother, Mom and her wife. I was leaving Macy in their care while I headed into San Francisco to go to a meeting I had scheduled into my trip right between visiting my mom and my dad. (I’m in a 12 step program for family and friends of alcoholics, which I joined as a result of an alcoholic boo but has helped me heal a lot of family stuff I didn’t expect.) I loved the idea of going into the city even for a couple of hours and was bummed I wouldn’t see my friends but didn’t have time on the road trip.

I went to my meeting, walked briefly through the Castro and took a quick detour in the Mission to grab a burrito before I left town. I also stopped at Multi-Kulti for a pair of sunglasses and some cheap fake eyelashes. My pal Alix Izen saw my twitter check-in and texted me to meet me for my quick burrito, which was a fortuitous and awesome catch-up.

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I got back on the road, crossed the Bay Bridge and headed to my dad’s house in Merced.

Next up! I visit Merced, CA for the first time in a decade and drive through some crazy fog!

*Let us not forget that my mom is also a Lesbian.
**I’m sure I mentioned this on my webseries before, but my mom putting all of her teas in a basket on top of the fridge was the original Lesbian Tea Basket and the namesake for my own LTB and starting the LTB web series.

2012-09-13

Things That Delight Me

I’m sitting in a West Philadelphia coffee shop drinking all the cheap beverages (iced coffee, green rooibus tea, soon to be followed by CHAI probably, caffeine I’m getting crazy on you) and working on my book. So far my shitty first draft* is 30,000 words long and that is an incredible jaunt down my emotional, sexual and party roads for the last four years. Someday soon I will share it with you, dear readers, in a form you can hold in your meaty paws and will hopefully make you laugh and cry and want to go out and have hot fat sex.

In the present time, however, I have some stuff that delights me that I want to share with you. A lot of it has to do with cats.

Macy loves visiting Philly because my nieces drop a lot of food.
Macy loves visiting Philly because my nieces drop a lot of food.

ITEM THE FIRST:

I am delighted to travel and am totally seeking opportunities to travel to colleges, retreat centers, gatherings, community spaces, coffee shops, rooftops to speak, perform and facilitate workshops. Here is a list of the performances and workshops I offer!

ITEM THE SECOND:

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Me and Quinn at our friends’ wedding in May.

Free form idea-creating with my friend Quinn in New Mexico about a future Cat Ranch for rescue kitties. This all stemmed from a discussion about a real-life cat circus that Quinn’s girlfriend Matie** took her to.
Q: A cat played the drums.
B: It’s like Magic Mike for Lesbians.
Q: I will freely admit that I have a DEEP adoration for cats and would have several if I could. If I lived on a farm it would be all over. ALL THE BARN CATS!
B: There was a lesbian lawyer I knew who always wanted to have a rescue farm full of rescue cats that were fixed and just got to live their days roaming in a herd.
Q: Hi I’m Quinn, Ranch Hand and Professional Cat Herder. Overalls sans shirt, kitty buttons. These are all service cats.
B: You and Matie live in New Mexico, this dream could become a reality. Imagine how happy the ranch cats would be eating lizards.
Q: And other giant fast-moving insects. PERFORMING PUSSY EXTRAVAGANZA.
B: THE PUSSY RANCH. There could be a giant vulva on a barn.
Q: Would you come help us paint it? Maybe we could get a world record for biggest painted vulva.
B: I would totally come help you paint it. Imagine all the cat hair tumbleweeds during a dust storm! You could do adopt-a-cat from afar things like they do for cows at the Farm Sanctuary.
Q: Silverbutch quinner and her cats-a-plenty.
B: Also there are folks who go from farm to farm doing workshares in exchange for a place to stay and food. Imagine the lesbians coming through town to hang out on the ranch. I hope Matie is down with this plan since we’ve basically done everything except put a down payment on the ranch.
Q: I sure hope so, I’ve already mapped out what I’ll be doing from the age 45 on. Growing catnip.
B: Did you know catnip has the opposite effect on people as it does on cats? It’s calming!
Q: I will also grow sage, rosemary, and other things to fill the lesbian tea basket and cat farm. “This is our house blend.”
B: Uniquely fertilized herbs. We can do meditation classes where people come and meditate while brushing the cats. WIN WIN.
Q: Cat therapy that caters to lesbians. Have you lost a loved one? Was this loved one a cat? Let us help you heal.
B: The annual benefit will be a CAT RODEO.

So basically we’re just a kickstarter away from making THE PUSSY RANCH a real thing.


My cat Bear.

I pushed through the screen door and I stood out on the porch thinking "fight fight fight at all costs." #anicat
My other cat ALF. I post a lot of photos of my cats and Ani DiFranco lyrics on my Instagram. @queerfatfemme

ITEM THE THIRD:

This video of the extremely talented Ashley Aron fronting the Vancouver, BC based Butch Choir called Leadfoot. It’s amazing!

ITEM THE FOURTH:

This video by Kitty Crimes called Yogue Out. If you are a fan of Leslie Hall, be it for her gold lame’ body suits or for her amazing beats and hilarious songs, I feel you will enjoy this rap about yoga.

ITEM THE FIFTH:

Helpful to the writer is a friend you can gchat and demand simply “Inspire Me” and she comes up with something like this. (Thanks Bridget, for being that friend.)

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Okay, dear readers, back to writing the bridge to the next chapter of my life…

*Much love to Anne Lamott for that liberating language from her amazing writing book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
**P.S. All future suitors take note that’s a great date for Ms. Branlandingham.

2012-04-11

Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip Part 6: Salt Lake City to Bay Area, CA

Dubbed the Lesbian Jack Kerouac by my BFF Brian for my propensity for long distance romance, “A girl in every port and on the road with a broken heart,” he describes me, I set out on a life-changing adventure in November of 2011. This is my tale of deep heart exfoliation via asphalt. Check out all the tales in this series at the Gay American Road Trip 2011 tag.


To Castro Valley, CA from Salt Lake City, UT via Interstate 80–through Utah, Nevada and Northern California.

I left Salt Lake City at 9AM on Thanksgiving. I didn’t realize until the night before that my Thanksgiving day journey was going to be a twelve hour drive. There’s a big difference between ten and twelve hours in the car.

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Stunning view from the parking lot of the Salt Lake City La Quinta.

When initially planning my trip I was planning to stop just Northwest of Sacramento for the holiday as one of my BFFs lives up there and we love spending Thanksgiving together.*

In a twist of fate Spunky was going to be in the Bay Area but my mom was hosting Thanksgiving at her house. And my beloved grandmother was going to be there, up from Palm Springs! My mom rarely hosts big holidays—she was a single mom and I’m an only child—and while she’s married now it’s not like there’s a big kerfuffle of family around. She often spends holidays with her best friend Linda or with my Aunt and cousins in Southern California. Linda’s husband, Peter, who has been in my life since I was 14, almost twenty years, passed away in a sudden boat accident at the end of August. After their loss, Mom offered to host Linda’s family (daughters, husbands, grandkids) at her house.

I was really sad that I couldn’t afford to fly out for the memorial service earlier in November. So the twist of fate that helped me be able to go to my mom’s for Thanksgiving was a wonderful opportunity to hug family friends in this tender time.

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In planning the details of the trip I never updated my estimated travel time from Salt Lake City to Spunky’s house to SLC to my mom’s house (another two hours). OOPS. So twelve hours in the car it was, and leaving at 9AM was way later than I wanted to start but I was so wiped the night before I needed to just let myself decompress and sleep. Lest we forget that my goal of driving solo across the country in five days was ambitious.

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I only lamented the lack of a human passenger on this trip a few times, and SLC was one of them. I drove past the Great Salt Lake and with a mind on hustling through my twelve hour drive without dawdling, I wished someone had been shotgun to read to me from my AAA guide books.

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My view of the lake.

As an aside, I am a huge fan of Sister Wives and have always wanted to do more than sleep in SLC, so it is a goal of mine to go back for a couple of days and poke around a little more. All the snowy mountains in the distance were beautiful!

After the Great Salt Lake I hit the Salt Flats. I had no idea what I was driving through until Macy and I stopped at a rest area and read a sign that told us about it. We took a little walk to the edge of the Salt Flats and poked my little boot into it.

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The next part of our journey brought us across the Utah/Nevada border. I stopped for gas, knowing from previous experience driving across the country that Nevada is extremely desolate with not a ton of consistent cell phone service or frequent gas stations. This oasis was exciting, there were casinos on one side of the block and the other side of the block were Utah pawn shops.

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It occurred to me in a moment of panic that the fact that it was Thanksgiving might mean I had no access to food on the road. What if all the fast food places in Nevada were closed for the holiday? I bought a lunchable at a gas station and threw it in my road cooler.

The high desert in Nevada is gorgeous. I saw a lot of mountains in the distance. Tried to get photos of them. Lamented that I hadn’t downloaded the audio book of Kerouac’s On the Road before I left. Started Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer instead. Started taking photos of Macy on the roof of my car because the scenery around her was so stunning. I felt like I could see forever, which is something I miss a lot living in the city.

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The day wore on, stopping occasionally in desolate towns for gas or a stretch. I ended up finding a McDonalds and immediately regretted eating it. I listened to Liz Phair’s “Go West” a lot, a song I heard with new ears on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway when I was in the midst of the grief/emotional crash times of last September and fantasized about hitting the road and disappearing for a few weeks. (The little nuggets of inspiration to go on this trip were all very tiny but persistent.)

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Nevada is a huge state and I was near the border of California as the sun started to slip slowly toward the horizon. I followed some signs on the outskirts of Reno for a Starbucks and was super delighted to find one open in a strip mall. Inside was a flamboyant boy who was excited to learn I was from Brooklyn. When I see that glimmer in folks’ eyes when I’m far away from home I encourage them. “It’s a lot cheaper than you think to live in Brooklyn. I pay $875** a month for half of a 2 bedroom. The Starbucks are always hiring. I throw a queer dance party called Rebel Cupcake. If you feel like you want to come to New York you totally should. Look me up.”

Anyway, seeing this young queer was the highlight of my trip that day. I just love seeing queer folks on the road.

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I started down the Sierra Nevada after I got through Reno and this was my second great OOPS of the day, timing-wise. Had I realized how treacherous that drive was going to be I would have gotten a motel room and called it a night. In fact I almost stopped a couple of times to do just that but couldn’t find an easy spot to do that while traveling down this huge mountain range.

Recall this was the end of November. The Sierras are mountains about three hours from where I grew up that I got to go camping and hiking in with my girl scout troops and sometimes we would be adventurous and go cold camping. Sometimes in college my sorority or women’s honor society would take a weekend trip and we would go rent a cabin in Tahoe or Reno and experience the joys of Nevada gambling and snowpack. None of these occasions required me to drive or put chains on a car.

I have lived on the East Coast for 11 Winters now (does this past year count as a Winter?). We don’t really have chain requirements here. Sometimes you get special snow tires for the winter but not me. I just review tips for snow driving before the season starts. (Another benefit to AAA membership—this road trip/car magazine that is really practical and interesting.) I have driven through a lot of scary snow storms on all of the local highways between Philadelphia and New York City. I don’t prefer to drive in the snow but that’s my life now.

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Macy, DJ and snack distributor.

However, I’ve never driven through steep, dark and twisty mountains like the Sierra Nevada while a rain/ice storm starts. Chains were not required but had the temperature been just a bit colder they would have. Of course, it was dusk so the risk of deer was real and a doe darted out in front of a car a bit in front of me. I was white knuckled and terrified.

This did not stop me from enjoying the last bits of daylight. Man, the mountains were beautiful. I stopped at a lookout area to pee in the woods (not even a single restroom along the highway during this stretch) and really appreciated the grace and glory of the trees, the waning light, the crisp air. It was the wilderness of my youth and I loved it.

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Earlier in the day.

I went about 30-40 MPH the whole time, sometimes slower. This is on Route 80, where cars were just speeding right by me, all self-assured about their driving in the slippery downslope of the Sierras. You do you, cars. I’ll do me.

I pulled off to go to the bathroom again (the whole stretch of mountains was probably close to two hours of drive time) but couldn’t find somewhere, so I just took a break and walked Macy in a closed for Thanksgiving grocery store parking lot. It helped me regroup, and it helped to smell the pine trees.

We hit the road again and I was so thankful to find we were finally in the foothills (near where Spunky lives) and Sacramento was imminent.

There is something about the smell in the air in Sacramento that just smells like home to me. I lived in Davis, CA, just 20 minutes from Sac, for four years during undergrad and I had so much fun (and depression, but that’s a larger story). College was a meaningful time for me and it was exciting to be there.

I always love driving through Davis, even if it’s just to get a quick cup of coffee or something. I stopped for gas on Mace Road. I wished it was still light and I wasn’t running late for Thanksgiving dinner (Mom was making me a plate) so I could have gotten a photo of Macy on a statue of a cow or on the UC Davis sign or in front of Thoreau or Regan Hall or something. One of these days I’ll bring Macy out for Picnic Day (the largest student-run event in the country—I was Vice Chair my senior year) or something.

I got back on the road and it was a quick 90 minutes to my mom’s house. I thought about going the back way zigging and zagging through tiny North/East Bay highways but the extra 10 minutes it was going to take me to go on 80 all the way to the end was sort of too awesome to give up. I drove past my birthplace in the North Bay and along Berkeley and across the Bay from San Francisco.

And then I was at my mom’s place in Castro Valley. It was 9:30PM (even with the hour change of time from SLC it took me 13 and 1/2 hours to finish my drive). Some folks were leaving and I got to say goodbye to them on their way out.

And on the inside of the house was my mom, her wife, Linda (who is like an aunt to me), Grandmother and more of Linda’s family. It was wonderful. And I dove right into that green bean casserole like nobody’s business.

Next up! My first day of rest and a quick trip into San Francisco!

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*I learned early on that the best way to plan this epic road trip was to let the plans shake out as they were going to and not force anything. In fact, other than the first three people I was stopping to see, I didn’t make any firm plans regarding arrival dates and gave everyone I was visiting a two or three night range, to be confirmed later. This flexibility proved to be crucial when accounting for road conditions, my whim and where the Goddess was taking me.

**My rent is also a little cheaper now, BTW, and I know folks who pay $500 who live in tinier places or in Queens.

2012-02-24

Balance, Priorities, New Lesbian Tea Basket, Everyday Glitter

Hey, things are really amazing in all of these tender and small ways. I think it’s pretty impressive when I feel settled and calm even when the stuff around me is far from perfect. Boxes everywhere. An ill-conceived pile of shoes in the path to the bedroom door because I couldn’t figure out where they should go until I install their shelves. Macy looking plaintively up at me because she cannot scale the pile of the shoes to the tote bag she is using as a makeshift dog bed because her actual dog beds are still in boxes someplace. My vanity mirror is still packed so my desk is the site of hand mirror make-up application, meaning my day to day make-up look is either more colorful than intended or a little haphazard.

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Me a little haphazard and my fresh niece, AJ. 5 days old. By the next day my hair just looked like an updated version of a witch from a Disney movie.

But still. Even in all that. There is calm. And there is joy in little and big things that make the agita of the post-move bearable.

Someone interviewed me for a school project and asked me how I “do all the things” that I do. The answer is that I live a balanced life with priorities. And it’s not like I am standing rock solid on the teeter totter of my life like Wonder Woman somehow doing it all. I don’t do it all.* But I know what’s important to me and I do that.

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Etta Pearl, big sister, with newbie AJ.

The thing about priorities in life is that they change. As I got to know myself more I started to shift and adjust what I plan to do with my days to align with my core values. I am nowhere near perfect at this. I had to really learn how to have reasonable expectations of myself. When I first started working from home and had my own business my to do list was far beyond any possibility of what I could get done but I thought by creating this giant expectations I was doing myself a favor, that somehow I was going to conform to this perfect superhuman level of task completion. No way! It was sort of like I was doing what the weight loss industry wants to do to fat folks–shaming them into losing the wight. Shame actually has the opposite effect, it causes you to freeze up and do nothing. Feeling bad about yourself is not the way to get anything done.

When I feel seized by my perfectionism and shame, I just check out and play clickie clickie games on the internet. Nothing gets done. I feel the shame spiral. It sucks.

To change this I got simple. Started from scratch.

When I was a teenager this motivational speaker told this parable during an assembly about time management. He was describing life as a jar and the things we have to do every day as tiny pebbles. Our priorities make our pebbles bigger or smaller, depending. He asked how we get as much as possible in the jar. The answer was to fill it first with the big pebbles, your priority rocks. Then fill it with the other smaller pebbles so they can shift around it. And that’s the thing about little rocks. They slide into the rest of it.

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I really wanted an armchair to put next to my fire escape garden. Damien calls it my “feelings chair.” $35 from my favorite South Jersey thrift store!

And that’s what I did with my to do list. I got the big stuff and let the little things slide into it. Sometimes they get done, sometimes they don’t but it is rarely make or break.

In the last couple of years as I’ve learned what is really important to me and learned to let go of what isn’t, how to say no to things and how to check in with myself about what I am doing and how I am doing it. Moreover, I’ve learned how to identify for myself what is important to me, how to turn off all the voices of what I “should” be doing or who I “should” become, what my body “should” look like or how much I “should” love myself even when it’s hard. I got tired of shoulding and wanted to instead be living and enjoying my life. Thus, I have created a practice whereby I check in with myself about my priorities. I try to do this every week, but basically it comes up for me when I feel off balance.

When I let go of the shoulds and am instead leading my life based on my priorities it is a lot easier to get things done, go to the gym, be happy. Let go of expecting to do it all.

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I really wish I could always have time do do fancy make-up and hair. But when I do make time it feels really great.

Moving felt like I was working at work and working at home and trying to keep up with the minimum amount of self-care I could get away with. Which isn’t a very gentle life. And then my new niece was born, so I shifted again, because seeing this little baby at 5 days old was worth another week amongst the boxes, grabbing a cocktail dress and thinking it was a nightgown because I don’t have my closet rods up and my loungerie looks like going out attire inside a suitcase. You should see the weird disaster outfit I came up with for painting. Sure, the perfectionist inside me wanted to have the exact right painting clothes but stuff still got painted. And sure, the perfectionist inside me told me it sucked that my painting didn’t all get done in one night like I planned, but I had to change my expectations when I realized I didn’t have the tools I needed to get it all done.

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Chavon helping me paint.


Post painting lavender.

So, all the imbalance of moving is just a reminder to stop, think about what is the biggest priority, and be guided accordingly. Sometimes it feels like I am flat on my butt on the ground having fallen off that teetertotter. I’ve noticed my attention getting swayed in different directions which are not in line with my priorities and don’t give me balance or peace. Gentle shifting.

Right now my big rocks are my spiritual practice, self care, work and creating a peaceful, artistic and fun home environment. And at some point they will shift as they need to but I know I need to go to the gym to feel calm and I know I also need to focus on what is working and what is delighting me in order to not focus on all the unfinished stress. That’s what Everyday Glitter is for! Focusing on the small joys that make up the whole of a fulfilling life.

Glitter Item the First: There is a new episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket! I review Mackenzi’s chalkboard mugs (buy them here) and also this incredible tea I found at a local store in Brooklyn, Choice Greene.

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Glitter Item the Second: The Body Love Revolutionaries Telesummit I participated in was really amazing. The last minute addition of Ivette González-Alé of Marimacho clothing, Azucar party and the new web series The Peculiar Kind (omg, totally go watch it, episode one is online), a reality series about queer women of color in Brooklyn.

You can register and download the telesummit recording for free until 3PM Friday, after that you have to buy a pass for the conference and you can download all of the telesummits through the end of March (sliding scale starts at $20).

Glitter Item the Third: I am really into making comfort foods for myself in these days of new job and moving transition and stress. You know how when you’re moving you have to keep eating take-out because your kitchen is in boxes? Between work food and home food being take-out I spent all my money on food. I also got reaaaaaaallly broke from the cost of movers (renting a truck and trying to get friends to do it was going to cost almost as much and eat up all my favors from my friends) and coming up with unexpected first, last, security. So while I waited patiently for my first paycheck (a long month) I had to get unpacked in the kitchen really fast and find something to eat that cost next to nothing.

Twice Baked Potatoes! Seriously, I hadn’t had them since childhood but a friend told me about one she had stuffed with short ribs and then I was ready to make it real for myself. I bought a bag of baking potatoes, baked them in the oven for an hour, cut them like little canoes, shoveled out the insides into a bowl, being careful to leave enough potato on the skin to keep the shape. Added some sour cream, butter, salt, pepper, sauteed onions, cremini mushrooms (I got the fancy kind, since enough for several twice bakeds was only $2) and mixed it together. I filled the potatoes again, sprinkled the tops with gruyere from trader joe’s and also the lids with some gruyere (making potato skins) and baked again for 15 minutes or so. I think I got 10 potatoes out of all of those ingredients for $10. Super comforting food and easy to reheat (toaster oven is best) and great for winter and cheap.

Heather said “Bevin you’re a lawyer, how do you have time to bake this twice??” The weekend. That’s how.

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Heather temped in our office one day when the front desk gay had strep throat.

I also made bolognese sauce from scratch. It took over two hours. It makes me feel really special when I eat it for lunch at work. This was not as cheap but taking the time to make something for so long felt like I was taking extra special care of myself.

Glitter Item the Fourth: I’m on Pinterest. Still not sure what that’s all about but I am enjoying making visual boards. If you’re on there I am @queerfatfemme.


Fashion wins by Heather and Erica.

Glitter Item the Fifth: I made a new Spotify playlist! (Clicking the link opens Spotify, which is free.) An everything bagel sort of playlist, it’s a mix of what I was obsessed with listening to about two weeks ago. A little top hits, a little dance, a little country.

*I also want to mention that I have a lot of free time because I am single. Relationships take a lot of time! I am not saying it’s not worth it but certainly it is more difficult to be both productive and have self-care when you are also negotiating with someone else’s time and priorities.

2011-12-23

Christmas is Coming Look Busy

When I settle into it and pay attention I really really really love the holiday season. I love having lots of social plans. I love the colors. I love the music. I love the fact that folks coat their houses in glitter and lights just for the joy of sharing festiveness. My friend Silas pointed out tonight that it is awesome that other people do lights, buy them, put them up, figure out how you maintain security in your home and provide a power source from a 100+ year old brownstone. Dust them off after snowstorms and pack them up when Christmas is over. And we get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

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Being single and child-free around the holidays can be really hard. I mean, I totally admit to having some holiday blues here and there. My life has lots of reasons to have the blues, I am unemployed and also the whole Seasonal Depression thing. (There is no light! I am a plant I need to rotate toward the sun!)

However, in the last few days I have felt my life perk up noticeably and I think it was because I let myself settle into the joy of the season. On my own terms and not because a TV show or commercial told me to.

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Christmas sweaters for everyone.

First, I recognized that I was putting too much pressure on Christmas THE DAY. There is so much in this season that is worthy of celebrating that it’s sort of like living your Senior year of high school for Prom only and forgetting about all the other amazing stuff you get to do like graduate, sneak around behind your parent(s)’ back, pick colleges if that’s your thing, get a letter in badminton or choir or whatever. There’s a lot to the holiday season that have nothing to do with one day and just about a generally agreed “We are going to be festive this time of year, OKAY.”

Second thing that helped me get into the holiday groove was seeing community care taking. In our queer misfit community more often than not we’re looking to each other for our joy and wonder in this season. Families are super hard to rely on and I have really enjoyed seeing the ways in which my queer community (especially nearby) is really there for each other this time of year.

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Macy in candy cane jammies is so cute it hurts to look at her.

I still have a relationship with my family of origin but they are 3,000 miles away from me, geographically and financially out of reach most holidays.

Thirdly, I just LET GO. More often than not, I have had some giant bummer during Christmas. I feel like twice I had huge partnership break-ups that lead up to me going home for Christmas only to be sort of miserable anyway because I missed my ex. Focusing on Christmas THE DAY means there is so much pressure on it being good and I just needed/wanted to be bummed the fuck out.

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I mean, CANDY CANE JAMMIES. Thanks for the prezzie, Miss Mary Wanna!

It’s extra hard for me sometimes to get into the holiday groove and create plans for Christmas because my birthday is Christmas Eve. I don’t like being the extra sheep at someone else’s family because I want to celebrate my birthday. And sometimes I get so bogged down in “How can I make my birthday perfect” that I don’t just let the wonder of casual plans happen. It is also hard to transition from “This is how we celebrated your birthday as a kid” to “This is how we celebrate your birthday as an adult” when your birthday is on a holiday.

This year I just really let go. I didn’t make any plans happen for Christmas, I just let everything I was putting into the holidays be Rebel Cupcake: Holidazzle on December 10th and after that allowed the month to roll out as it did. And it rolled out really well.

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My look for Rebel Cupcake: Holidazzle was “Fat Red Head Amy Winehouse Christmas Tree Topper.” With Leslie and Mackenzi.

I made cookies for a cookie party in Philly. I love that every year I get to see my niece Etta around Christmas time.

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I stayed in Philly an extra day and was able to go to my friend Miss Mary Wanna’s cervical pink apartment for a tree trimming party the next day in Philly. Four dogs ended up being there!

For a holiday potluck I signed up to bring music and joy. I made a boss holiday mix to play over ipod speakers and wore a christmas sweater set from Quacker Factory and a bright gold skirt.

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I accompanied my pal Lissa to a Murray Little Christmas, Murray Hill’s annual Christmas show. It was so hysterical and heartwarming.

We got queso afterward and it was exactly what I was craving. And apple cider.

I met my pal Leslie out at the Bryant Park holiday market and hung out chatting about our forthcoming monthly shopping event Double Chin Win watching the ice skaters circle the rink. Posed by the tree.

I didn’t have money to buy gifts this year but I did a lot of personal shopping for people. (For last minute gift ideas see my tumblr post–if anyone goes with the My Cherie Amour serenade please let me know.)

It’s weird how there is this societal pressure to Have Something To Do on December 24th and 25th. My darling friend Heather made a proclamation: “Henceforth, I do Declare Dec 25, a Day of Eating Nachos & Doin Whatever the Fuck You Want.”

I loved the invitation to come by her apartment (happily around the corner from me).
“Please rsvp w/ nacho supplies & other snacks & friends!
This is what we have.
We will have everything we need.
Me. You. Us.”

On Christmas afternoon my BFF Brian (neighbors with Heather) will be making Christmas ham and I am bringing the main dish for the lone vegan attending. Green chili. Garnished with a red tomato.

Mackenzi popped the birthday question by asking me if she could take me to a Chinese/Jewish fusion Christmas party on my birthday called Woks and Lox (I love New York). Of course I said yes.

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Silas and Macy at Solstice.

I started creating an intentional spiritual practice about 15 months ago and this is the first time I felt drawn to honor the solstice. I got a last-minute invite to a queer solstice party and did a small letting go ritual around a bonfire. It was so lovely. I spent the late evening cleaning the objects on my altar and smudging my house–the solstice is for letting go of things and it felt like the cleansing of energy was exactly what I needed. And I feel lighter now.

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Next week there’s a really fun last night of Hannukah party to attend. And Sarah Jenny is making me a birthday cake for her Christmas Eve for Jews and other Misfits potluck.

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Sure, there are things I miss about the holidays with a partner. I like having the person I love most in the world close at hand and upon whom I am able to shower attention and love. In a different life path I had kids by now and I’d be doing what my friends Christie and Becky do by being Santa for Etta. But that’s not the path I’m on and that’s okay. And by letting go of control of the path, and the direction of December, I was able to have a really amazing month absolutely chock full of the holiday spirit (and cookies, I’m actually sick of cookies).

So, here’s to celebrating the spirit of joy in our darkest times with chosen family, calling family of origin so my mom can wish me a happy birthday eve (she loves doing that, and I really love that she does that) and making some incredible Christmas nachos. Red and green, of course.

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2011-12-21

Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip Part 4: Longmont, CO, Queers and Wealth

Dubbed the Lesbian Jack Kerouac by my BFF Brian for my propensity for long distance romance, “A girl in every port and on the road with a broken heart,” he describes me, I set out on a life-changing adventure in November of 2011. This is my tale of deep heart exfoliation via asphalt. Check out all the tales in this series at the Gay American Road Trip 2011 tag.


To Longmont, Colorado from Chicago via Interstate 88, Interstate 80, Interstate 76, CO 52–through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado

I departed Suzanne and Jen’s around 6:15AM. I am a big fan of hitting the road early on long driving days for many reasons. Maximizing visibility by driving during daylight. Safety reasons (better to break down during daylight). Abundance of bathroom breaks (when alone I don’t stop at rest stops after dark). I freely admit to stopping to pee every 50-100 miles. Usually about every 100 but if I’ve had coffee it is more frequent. But the major benefit to me for leaving early is getting to arrive at my destination with some amount of the day left.

This driving day was going to be a big challenge, and I knew it. My AAA trip tik had estimated the drive at 16 hours, which was incorrect, as google maps GPS on my phone quickly alerted me when I plugged in the destination. I sensed there might be something up with the AAA estimate when Suzanne looked at me wide-eyed over the dinner table in Chicago “You’re going to Cam‘s tomorrow? I’ve driven there from here–we had three drivers! It took a long time!”

I’m not afraid to drive for a a great distance (obviously, taking this journey by myself) and know to add about two hours worth of stops when calculating the time it will take.

I believe one day google maps will create a feature called “Bevin time” where it knows I walk approximately 3 minutes slower than it assumes for public transit directions and transfers and when calculating road trip directions will add a 7 minute stop for every hour traveled, which I think it my average amount of stopping time including meal breaks and all the iced teas I require to go the distance.

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In preparation for the trip I had with me a printed AAA Trip Tik from the travel office, maps for every section of the country I was driving through, AAA guide books and a printed updated AAA Trip Tik from my computer (my route changed a little bit from when I had spoken with the AAA agent). All of these resources were free with my $55 yearly membership. However, despite all the trees used in the creation of my navigation safety net, 90% of the time on my trip I used google GPS for android. Tree-free.

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This was super helpful when I got within 30 miles of each destination, as obviously, most of the folks I was staying with lived near my route but not quite on it. Sadly, the GPS navigated me in a circle in Chicago’s early morning “Oh god I hope I get out of the city before traffic starts” commute. I felt like I was in a toilet bowl going in circles trying to get on I-88.

I sat in some traffic and the toilet bowl finally released me into the suburbs and onto the Illinois turnpike. Playing “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” was pretty perfect considering how gray and entirely un-enthusiastic that road was.

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The sunrise was entirely obscured by gray clouds and the overcast Illinois turnpike was really boring. All morning I worked with the spiritual tool of finding beauty in anything–here’s a gorgeous colorful train working its way across the landscape, here’s a pretty farmhouse I wonder what their holiday traditions are? Another game I like to play on the road (or on public transit) is writing stories in my head about people and what their lives are like. The more unexpected the better.

I was surprised to find at the rest stop that the line for McDonald’s at 7:30am was almost out the door but the line for Starbucks was non-existent. I happily bought some oatmeal and iced coffee and went back out on the highway.

We got to Iowa and highway 80, crossed the Mississippi with little fanfare. Maybe it’s years and years of Indigo Girls fandom but I have high opinions of the Mississippi River and the fact that it costs $12 to cross the Hudson into New York City, $5 to cross the Delaware River, and there’s barely a sign warning you that you’re about to pass across the colloquial demarcation of this country? I mean, I am not complaining that this was a toll-free crossing, I’m just saying get a bigger sign. Have some build-up. I barely had a chance to crane my neck looking for steam ships.

Iowa was hilly, as per Dar Williams’ foreboding, and a little more interesting than Illinois. I noticed here was where folks started staring at me openly at rest stops. I wasn’t even wearing something that scandalous.

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I stopped in Des Moines at a Panera (my favorite road food) for salad and a half sandwich. Walked Macy along a strip mall’s faux sidewalks and kept going.

I was delighted that the rest stops in Iowa had weather tracking tv screens and I was able to determine that the weather was going to shift to clear once I got to Nebraska.

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Before there was clearing, there was more overcast.

This was a Tuesday and Tuesdays for me are my spiritual homework day. I am in an anonymous fellowship that focuses on healing relationships through focusing on yourself. Keeping Tuesdays sacred has been an important part of my dedication. Driving as long as I was I hoped to take a moment with the sunset to do some reading and reflecting. I thought maybe I’d catch a rest stop in Nebraska for that.

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The break in the clouds was really dramatic for me.

Ten hours into my journey I was craving more coffee–good coffee–and the possibility of a Starbucks once I was long past Omaha seemed far-fetched. I pulled off for a McDonalds restroom break somewhere in the middle of the lengthy state and somehow the only Starbucks for 200 miles appeared on my right hand side. I stopped and had the aforementioned goddess rest break with Macy in the outside sitting area. It was sunny now and the sun was starting to perform her swan song.

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The rest of Nebraska went by in a blur, with a brief stop at a Goodwill to get my shop on for Double Chin Win (the pop-up vintage shop for all sizes I am developing with Leslie).

I got a little stressed out about timing my arrival to Cam’s. The GPS seemed to stretch on forever, but she texted that she was a night person. Preparing for my arrival she had asked what kinds of food I liked and had made a lasagna from scratch which she was going to pop in the oven when I was an hour away.

The last few hours were spent on I-76 into Colorado, total blackness on the road with big signs warning about “Big Game Crossing.” Yikes. My hitting a deer fear went into overdrive, brights on and heavy tears from the end of Just Kids alternately working for an against my clear vision.

Arriving at Cam‘s was amazing. Her house is so bright and lively, lots of vivid colors and interesting art to look at, sumptuous furniture just begging to lounge on. Not only had she held dinner for me, she offered a massage. She’s a professional massage therapist and this was the third state we’ve done massage work in. (We have set a mutual goal to massage in every state. I can’t wait for Hawaii.) In fact, I think she’s one of the only massage therapists I’ve used in the last couple of years.

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OMG the lasagna was extraordinary.

Her in-home massage studio is so incredible! It is just beautiful and warm and if you live near Longmont, CO you should book an appointment. She makes her own massage oil and I got my choice. Also Macy accompanied me. I was hoping she would settle down and sleep in the peaceful mood but we were practicing “Attachment Travelling.” She pretty much wouldn’t settle down until Cam put her on the table with me.

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I knew that my self-care in traveling required that an 18 hour drive day needed a morning off, so Cam had planned an omelette bar. She took post-it notes like a short order cook and we could pick pretty much anything we wanted. All the cheeses. Spinach. Red and green peppers. Onions. Top that off with a skillet full of bacon and sausage and it was probably the best breakfast I had until I hit Atlanta.

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I met her sweetie John and Macy met their gorgeous black cat and feisty puppy Riley who stood outside the back door holding a series of toys trying to entice someone to play with him.

The morning in Colorado was stunning. I arrived in the dark with no idea that the Rockies were just on the horizon outside of their sliding glass door.

I felt so warm and welcome at Cam’s. Beyond cared for. Wrapped in a tortilla of love and care.

Cam keeps a guest book in her massage studio and asks folks to sign as they come through–it’s an idea she got from our friend V and I think it is wonderful. So many of our tribe travels through it is nice to remember who stopped in.

The toll booth workers in Illinois were chatty–the first woman I gave my dollar and change to gave me two biscuits for Macy. The second toll booth worker told me, as I heaved my teal Cynthia Rowley bag I got for $20 onto my lap, “You must be rich to have such a big purse.” I told him I was just well-prepared.

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It’s so interesting folks’ perception of wealth and monetary ability. You can’t tell anything by looking at people about their net worth. Honestly. Even the “expensive shoes” trick is a farce. My big purse has more to do with being raised poor than it has to do with being of any means. A scarcity mentality coupled with wanting to feel secure that I am prepared for anything with a sprinkling of being captain distraction and not particularly good at editing. I battle this constantly. I genuinely appreciate when people do not comment how heavy my purse is when they hold it for me. Yes it’s heavy but I do have hand sanitizer and am prepared with a hanky when you need it. You need lip gloss? I have seven. Three shades of red lipstick.

I think wealth has everything to do with your attitude about life and how succulent you live rather than your monetary means. I say yes to opportunities and live on faith (faith it til you make it) and have far less means financially than I could if I just shut myself away in corporate America making someone else rich. I think that by living my life this way I am a wealthy person. Simultaneously, I genuinely do not know how I will pay my rent on February 1.

Obviously there is a balance–I am sad that I can’t be the Lesbian Bette Porter to every queer arts organization that needs $1,000 to launch something incredible. I wish I could fund all of my schemes. I don’t want to live without health insurance. But I am super grateful to have cultivated my adventurous spirit and find more fulfillment from that than I would from making a hundred grand a year. And goddess knows how much it is worth in dollars the quality and quantity of incredible friends in my life who enrich it daily through words of affirmation, kind acts and lots of other ways.

I also think there’s a significant issue with queers and other folks from marginalized groups valuing themselves and the work that they do. Job hunting like I am now I have to put a value on my time and my skills–it’s really hard! I have to remember just like I believe myself to be wealthy because of the value I put on my experiences and the wonderful life I have cultivated, I need to believe myself to be worth the money people pay me and valuing myself monetarily takes a lot of practice. It is important to remember that when I am hired for an event as a performer or workshop presenter or at a company as a lawyer or as a social media maven, I am selling not just my time but also all of the years of experience and education I have behind me. All those years working for free as an event producer in high school, college, girl scout camp, the drag king community, gay prides, etc… add up to someone who has an effective and valuable knowledge base.

That said, the wealth I enjoy in the life I have cultivated, on this trip of a lifetime, certainly womanifested when I visited Cam. There is no amount of American dollars that could have bought the love, comfort, sweetness and generosity I received visiting Cam. Our friendship is wealth. And for that I am eternally grateful.

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I am welcoming another QueerFatFemme.com Blog Benefactor on board! Domino Dollhouse is an online retailer of gorgeous, sexy and exciting plus size clothing. I have been a huge fan for a long time and got to paw through her collection recently. I was impressed at the quality of the garments and found them to be great value for the money.

My favorite piece from the collection came home with me.
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Birthday Bash dress. This one has a price point of $169 (worth every penny in my opinion). But most of her dresses hover around $60-$80.

The Ava Adorable dress is only $54.99 and sooooo cute.
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This Full Skirt looks so foxy on lots of different people (I watched folks try it on all weekend during the final Indie+ show at Re/Dress). $54.99 and comes in grey. There is a similar style in black as well.
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Marianne Kirby models the Minnie Day Dress $79.99.

I also own the Tail Feather dress. I received many compliments when I wore it on my road trip. It was easy to roll up in my suitcase and look cute and casual.

She sells vibrant clothes up to a generous 4X, totally boss leggings and accessories.

Tracy, the designer and total babe behind Domino Dollhouse, is offering a special coupon code for QueerFatFemme readers! Enter “QFF15” (case sensitive) at check out to get 15% off your Domino Dollhouse order!

Thank you for your support of QueerFatFemme.com, Tracy!!

2011-12-13

Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip Part 3: Cleveland, Chicago

Dubbed the Lesbian Jack Kerouac by my BFF Brian for my propensity for long distance romance, “A girl in every port and on the road with a broken heart,” he describes me, I set out on a life-changing adventure in November of 2011. This is my tale of deep heart exfoliation via asphalt. Check out all the tales in this series at the Gay American Road Trip 2011 tag.

My friend Rachel Cupcake (designer of Sweetooth Couture and Cupcake and Cuddlebunny) lives in Cleveland. Since she was in town for the final blow-out weekend at Re/Dress, we negotiated a fatty friendly way of passing off the key and I was able to feed her cats for her.

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This is from Rachel’s recent collection, I think of it fondly as a labia coat, but she calls it Candy Ribbons.

To Cleveland from Brooklyn via Interstate 80–through NYC, NJ, PA, and OH

I spent way longer packing than I intended and had breakfast with my friend and revelator Taylor Black. I didn’t get on the road until 5:30 and I met much Holland Tunnel traffic on the way out of town. It was 7 hours to Cleveland once I got through the tunnel, much of which was the desolate wilderness of Pennsylvania along Interstate 80. I love to stop at the Panera bread near Dover, NJ and used that as my first stop, stashing half of my sandwich for later in the journey.

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I took this photo of the Alexis Bittar store while in traffic at the Holland Tunnel. Have you seen the Chloe video on Accessories?

I took turns surfing for pop stations looking for the new Rihanna song and listening to Just Kids by Patti Smith
on audio book.

I experimented with gas station rooibus tea (sub par), making a mental note to pick up a box of something good, and had a glorious moment during a dreary wet stretch of 80 around 11 PM.

A flashing road sign told me to tune to an AM station for road warnings and when I did it was playing a staticky version of Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” the song I had been spending the first part of my trip surfing pop stations to locate. Suddenly there was a glow from the other side of the mountains―probably from a tiny town’s streetlights, but in the darkened wet road and at the beginning of this epic journey I took it as a sign of hope and joy ahead.


We found love in a hopeless place.

*SAFETY TIP* I needed to pee around 1 AM in Youngstown, Ohio. Everyone keeps telling me to “be safe” and one of those ways is not being on the road that late, but this was an exception. I rely on my instincts for safety and pulled off in what looked like a populated area. I found a new, brightly lit 24 hour dunkin donuts not far off the freeway where I knew I could pee safely. There was a woman working behind the counter and a man using their free wifi super late at night. I bought a decaf coffee and continued on. If I hadn’t found something close to the freeway and well-lit I would have continued until I did.

My directions had me take several small Ohio highways to Cleveland, I drove through a bunch of farmland and woods and popped on the brights scanning for deer. (I hit a deer once in New Jersey on the road home from work and am now super paranoid about it.)

I arrived around 3AM and met Rachel and Michele’s cats. Snacks the Kitten was a highlight, since he is pretty much an internet celebrity. Macy was very Snacks curious, but they didn’t really interact much.


To Chicago from Cleveland via Interstate 80–through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois

Because of my late night I decided to have a mellow morning. I also needed to revamp my ipod and download that Rihanna song from itunes. Rachel and Michele have a gorgeous house with incredible details. I loved that there is a xylophone in the dining room, a sewing machine and a copy of a bell hooks book on the table in the kitchen. I enjoyed a cup of coffee with truvia and almond milk (luxuries not found on the road).

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I hit the road and got on the Ohio Turnpike. As a woman who does a lot of road tripping, I have a favorite rest stop system and Ohio’s is the best. They are like airport terminals, huge, clean bathrooms, well-lit all night long, and they usually have a sandwich shop. I got Einstein’s for lunch (turkey sandwich) and they all have good pet areas.

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It costs $10 to cross Ohio and the bathroom facilities alone are fairly worth it.

I was delighted by Indiana–their rest stop had a huge selection of fresh fruit in to-go containers and I got some red grapes. Sometimes being on the road for long stretches your highlights involve pre-school snack options.

My Prius turned into a time machine and I turned back the clock an hour. I was heading to the Western side of Chicago to stay with my friends Suzanne and Jen.

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Genuine Chicago traffic and that’s the tower formerly known as the Sears tower in the distance.

They live in a beautiful house with hardwood floors and the entire second floor is their bedroom and private living area. It was super cozy and full of great photos of them from their youth. I know Suzanne and Jen from Michfest and I really enjoy the opportunity to see my worker pals outside of the woods. I think we get a better chance to connect than we do during the Festival when we’re constantly on the path heading someplace else.

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Me and Suzanne at Festival.

We went to dinner at 90 Miles Cuban Cafe. It was beyond delicious. We chatted about a lot of things, especially their upcoming trip to Tanzania. They are going over winter break to visit friends who are doing volunteer teaching work. (They’re bringing supplies and collecting donations for supplies if you have the ability to give $5 or $10.)

I was really touched by Jen’s story about how her parents reacted to her coming out. Jen’s folks don’t welcome Suzanne in their lives and their religious fundamentalism sees lesbianism as a choice. It was really sad to hear about that, harsh words from her parents’ pastor, and reminded me very clearly the need for the families we create. There is so much love we have for each other in our communities and it is so important that we hold each other in our hearts and homes. It is really a wonderful feeling to find family in our identities and our communities.

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On the steps of the El train. It was mostly like I didn’t visit “Chicago” and just visited Suzanne and Jen–too hard to fit in anything else in a 10 hour stop. I learned that quickly on the pace I needed this road trip to take, that I had to make choices about where I actually lingered.

I have had to work to be queer and visible but it didn’t cause problems in my family or cause employment discrimination, but these are things that happen to queer folks every day. My family situation isn’t particularly easy, and I am actively doing work to heal it, but I am at least accepted for being my whole authentic self and haven’t encountered much homophobia from my extended family.

During the holiday season it can feel especially isolating to be excluded from our families of origin for lots of reasons–geography, family trauma, and belief systems that excommunicate queer kids.

Getting to visit Suzanne and Jen, experience their hospitality and love in their home, was so heartwarming. Not just as a wonderful love oasis on a solo road trip, but also as a reminder of how important family of choice is for queers.

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Their house, before dawn.

Macy loved the visit and meeting Sylly, their old black and white cat who was very curious about Macy’s dog food. Rocket, the other cat, wanted nothing to do with Macy.

The next installment on the road trip is Longmont, CO! Stay tuned!

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I’ve welcomed a new blog benefactor! Elisha Lim’s Sissy Calendar is available NOW and can still ship to you in time for the New Year. It’s really gorgeous and celebratory of femininity. It is also universal, so usable year after year. If you spend $30 in Elisha’s Etsy store (that’s a calendar and a couple of greeting cards, or two calendars) and mention “Bevin” in the notes section you get a free greeting card with your order!

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