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

2015-05-20

On Activism, Capacity and Seeing Yourself as “Enough”

I’ve been thinking a lot about capacity, self care and activism lately.

This morning I got one of my daily spiritual emails* that talked about directing our energies without regard to the need to be successful in an outward way. It told a story about Mother Teresa, who was asked why she devoted herself to such a massive problem as alleviating the suffering of the poor, when obviously she wasn’t going to solve poverty. Where did she get her dedication, “knowing that all the poverty and sickness would still be there long after she had died? Didn’t she realize she couldn’t win?”

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“Her explanation was simple: Of course she knew the task was immense, but “finishing” wasn’t her purpose.” Since Mother Teresa was a person of faith, she was willing to do what she believed was the right action for her, regardless of the outcome. She was focused on the task itself, not the completion of it.

This resonated with me today, as I’ve been focusing on learning my capacity for work, developing systems of self care, and thinking about activist burn out. I think the tendency as one is socialized in systems of oppression, is to give and give of oneself until there is nothing left. This is a value often taught to women, the idea that you have to put everyone else’s needs before your own.

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Activist movements, as in almost all things, can suck you dry—there is always more to be done, more people to reach out to, more actions to plan, more art to make, more reaching out. But at a certain point you have to be able to say, this is my limit. But we’re not socialized in a way to know what our limits are, to think thoughtfully about our capacity, and how to use self care in order to build our capacity. We’re not socialized to be able to say, “Enough, I can’t do this any longer.” I’ve seen it wear down on people until disease forces them to make big life changes.

I had to learn how to start saying no to things, how to learn how to ask folks for time to respond to them (I usually take at least 24 hours to say yes or no to volunteer work), and how to assess whether I wanted to continue working on things that were pulling a lot of my energy. I have flares of my chronic digestive disorder whenever I start getting really stressed out emotionally or with work.

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Today I went for a walk on Venice Beach. My partner is in LA for a work conference and I got to stay with her at the conference hotel. I’m so grateful for a super flexible day job where I can work remotely from a hotel! I took an hour and a half off for lunch and a drive to the beach. I was very charmed by the beach but so troubled by the amount of trash that was washing ashore. I grew up as a Girl Scout in Northern California and we were always doing eco events, picking up trash in wetlands and things like that. It’s a great way to have intimacy with nature and be of service.

Whenever I’m in nature I can’t help it, I just start picking up trash. I get so troubled by seeing it, imagining plastic wrappers wrapping around the necks of birds and things like that. I am 36 years old, I’ve been hearing about environmental conservationism my entire life. It feels so sad that beach clean-up and litter in the ocean is still an ongoing issue. And don’t get me started about the Pacific Trash Vortex. I can’t even.

17721574790_ee6a1b7bc8_zSome kind of corporate stress ball that looked like it could have been a jellyfish from afar. The weirdest trash I found today was an empty bottle of Patron Silver.

My brain is wired in this way where I just start to go there, I think about how big the problem is, how futile it feels for me to walk on the beach and pick up trash without a trash bag. Just gathering things in a found Starbucks cup or precariously clutching them in my paws. I had to think about what I was doing with my time. Was I going to spend my entire walk on the beach picking up litter? Or would I take the relaxing walk I had originally intended?

I decided to asses my capacity and go from there. So I focused with the intensity of a Capricorn for two ten minute bursts, and spend the rest of my thirty or so minutes on the beach in contemplation of birds in the surf and walking along. It felt like a great way to put into practice just doing something I felt called or compelled to do, without regards to the fact that my twenty minutes of litter removal was not even a drop in the bucket compared to trash island. I needed to see it as good enough and let go of the outcome.

17906139372_6e7f32ce97_zI’m obsessed with this bird. Did it ever find the fish it was looking for today? It didn’t the whole time I watched it but I hope it found something delicious later on.

I want to be the kind of person in the world who is of service, and also a person who enjoys life. I think that enjoying life and being person who is receptive to good in the world makes me better able to dismantle systems of oppression that say that fat people, queer people, and women, folks raised working class should not be free to enjoy their bodies. That by being a living example of a fat, embodied, sexually liberated person enjoying life is a form of activism. And that enjoying life is a way of increasing my capacity to do good.

I also know that I can use my privilege as a White person, a person with higher education, a cisgender person, temporarily able bodied, some level of “pretty privilege**,” and a person who has access to media privilege to help causes that are important to me. I never believed that by posting a blog post about Lyme Disease that I was going to somehow cure it. But I did know that by raising awareness of it, encouraging even one of my followers to watch that documentary about Lyme might make someone more sensitive to it and make the experience of Lyme for someone they know easier because someone “gets it.” That’s something. Or maybe just one of my readers has $50 to throw at my friend Jessica’s Lyme fund.

17288704433_242a2f15b2_zWhen I’m a rich lesbian I will have lots of money to give to all sorts of great organizations doing good in the world, and will create a foundation dedicated to funding projects that mainstream funders avoid–like fat stuff, radical queer stuff, sex worker organizing–and building capacity in those movements to make them more effective and support their self care matrixes. Also I will have a baller house on the beach and all those windows will have a giant mural that says “All bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.”

It can feel so daunting to be an activist and want to work to make the world better. To get stuck in spirals of inactivity because you don’t feel effective. To get stuck in spirals of inactivity because you’re depressed, anxious, need to focus on making money or just survival and feeling so helpless. Getting used to seeing what you are doing as enough, learning that because you are human you are worthy of love and it’s not about what you “do” that matters it’s more about who you are.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the matrix of success lately, as I struggle through yet another round of letting go of my need to “accomplish” and “prove my worth.” I spent an entire session in therapy trying to talk about how I can get more done and my therapist arguing with me about how I am way too hard on myself. I have had to go through this so many times in my life and it usually ends up the same. I learn to let go of how much I accomplish, learn to feel worthy in spite of my ideas of success, and release blocks that enable me to find deep bursts of energy, creativity and the ability to work more effectively.

That airplane idea about putting your oxygen mask on first before helping others? I want to help create movements with folks where that is the norm and we help each other learn what our oxygen is.

17722918699_c035db8ea3_zLearning about my self care and what is effective self care has been really important for my journey to building my capacity and refilling my tank. Being at the beach really helps me. Such cleansing energy, with the wind (air), earth (sand), water (obvs) all that is missing is fire for a full four element cleanse.

*The one I am referring to is Today’s Gift from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, which supports my work in a twelve step program for families and friends of alcoholics. I also get a daily email Note from the Universe which is super cute and whimsical.

**It feels really weird to say that you have pretty privilege when you are talking about yourself. I have so much to talk about in a subsequent post about that, but there’s definitely an element of being someone who has some level of conventional attractiveness that affects your privilege in the world, even as a fatty.

2015-04-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working class folks.

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

Spiritually curious people.

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

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

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

12 Step People.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then consider picking up Valencia because it rules.

2015-03-16

Florida Keys: Curating the Sunset

My second favorite thing we did on our trip to the Florida Keys was curating the sunset. I absolutely love doing this. By curating the sunset I mean, finding out when the sunset is going to start and finish in my vicinity and setting aside the time and effort to go enjoy it. This means not just noticing that the sunset is happening but finding the exact right place to watch it happen.

I call things like sunsets “God TV.” If it’s something naturally occurring that is interesting to watch, I call it “God TV.” I like watching the sky turn all the different colors, notice the changing shadows around me and finding a spot to watch it that affords a lot of great ambiance.

The Keys are ALL ABOUT THIS. Most notably there is a sunset ritual every single night in Key West. My pal Maura in a super helpful email to me about my impending visit to the Keys that watching the sunset from the Mallory Square sunset celebration was very Lez and woo in a satisfying way. I could not agree more.

16766270835_edcd34fe77_zStreet vendors and performers line the square. The sunset celebration is free, but Dara decided to jazz it up by buying this non-alcoholic frozen pineapple coconut juice concoction. Beautiful and delicious!

16558999917_1633abaf18_zHere you can see the big crowd just in front of us, it was pretty thick the length of Mallory Square by the time we got there.

I have not been in such a diverse crowd of collective rapt attention on something spiritual since I attended my Uncle’s ordination as a Deacon in the Catholic Church (it was a very long ceremony in a HUGE cathedral). Sure, lots of them probably just thought the sunset was pretty, but there was a significant payment of attention to something I felt very reverent about. It was churchy, even if it wasn’t a brick and mortar institution. No religion or belief necessary, just payment of attention. Crowded but not loud, at least during the 2 minutes or so the sun was really sinking.

4731417391_0f4900890d_zMy cousin Sooz (yes, I have a queer cousin, it rules) at her dad’s/my uncle’s ordination.

16765201512_95c905e4c0_zWe creeped up through the crowd to get a better view.

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16559009917_cb5388b3f9_zI was obsessed with all the creatures we met, and the different kinds of pelicans were a highlight.

Outside of Key West I found it pretty easy to pinpoint a good sunset spot. A quick yelp search of “Islamorada sunset” in the restaurant category got me to Lorelei’s Cantina, a spot on our road trip back up to the mainland to catch our flight home. It’s this huge outdoor bar and restaurant where you don’t even have to order anything, you can just grab a plastic chair and chillax watching the sunset while listening to live music. It was so beautiful and such a disappointment when the sunset was shrouded in a rain cloud.

16644041818_5ff227d273_zThis is the big mermaid that looks out on Southbound Interstate 1, the two lane Overseas Highway that connects all of the Keys. The parking lot was VERY crowded so this Escalade just decided to park blocking the sign.

16145663324_4eb599f559_zThe view was spectacular but sadly the clouds did not cooperate.

16560705517_461654b905_zI swear to the Goddess that while we were sitting watching the clouds covering the sunset the dude-fronted Jimmy Buffet style jam band that was playing did a Dolly Parton cover. I realized I knew all the words.

The same thing happened with bad weather luck when we went to see the sunset at a beach in Key West the night we had a hotel room in town. We were at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park’s beach, which is just off of old town Key West (the neighborhood with all the cutie pie wooden buildings). It was $2.50 for each of us because we came in on bicycle not car. We sat on the beach, I was so regretful I didn’t wear my bathing suit, the one day I didn’t just have it on under my dress, and I wished I could have gone swimming in the gorgeous clear blue water.

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We didn’t spend enough time at the beach during our vacation overall, which was my own fault. There were just so many fun things to do in the Keys that sitting still for a few hours a day was not a priority. We did a great amount of taking it easy and letting things flow in terms of planning so I never felt stressed, I just was so absorbed by my surroundings at all times that I didn’t ever crack that copy of Southern Living magazine I dragged all over the Keys.

But I got to the beach twice, both for sunsets. The time the sunset was a bust at Fort Taylor I still saw a couple of tiny schools of fish from my ankle-deep vantage point, and we watched an entire flock of seagulls leave their rock to go fish for dinner. Hundreds of birds taking off at once is a breathtaking vision you only get to see when you watch God TV or as intro cutaways on one of the coastal Real Housewives franchises.

16144219244_cd4c9d5459_zWater so clear I felt totally fine swimming in it. I get the creeps when I can’t see the bottom, even in the deep end of a dark pool.

The best sunset we saw was our first night in the Keys. It was about 10 minutes from our cabin on Big Pine Key, about 2 keys North of BPK. (Do they abbreviate in the Keys? I hope so.) Bahia Honda State Park has been voted one of the top 10 continental US beaches for several years. I heard this from a few sources. I’m not sure what this list is, or if we just happened to see it at a particularly sea grassy moment, but it wasn’t super amazing. It was cute, don’t get me wrong, but I kind of had big expectations for the beach.

16757039142_39611c34b5_zI saw this on the beach and because of the intense blue and plastic looking filmy bubble I thought surely this was manmade, like a condom or a plastic bag. I am the kind of person who appreciates nature AND picks up litter. (I was a Girl Scout for so many years this kind of habit never dies.) So to find out if it was litter to be picked up with a stick for the garbage can… I popped it. It was clear it was organic matter and I left it alone. Found a couple more on our beach walk. Thank Goddess I popped it with a stick because a later google search told me this is a Portuguese Man o’ War jellyfish and I could have gotten stung and gone to the hospital! The Wikipedia says that sometimes whole beaches close down when these appear on shore.

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We got there and the first place we went was SO seagrassy we didn’t want to sit in it, so we kept walking. Then we bailed on that beach and crossed the parking lot into the info center, who told us that they beach they’re known for is on a different part of the key. Which meant that to see the good sunset view (pointed East) we would not get to be on that super cute part of the beach. We did check out that super cute beach on the way out after sunset and it was quite pretty. We would like to go lay around on it on a later trip to the Keys.

Undeterred, I went out to a third beach of theirs, this one was Gulf Side (to think I walked from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico in just the span of minutes) and started following the shoreline. Dara followed dutifully along as I searched for something I couldn’t even fully articulate to her. “I want to watch the sunset,” I told her, not even sure myself what I was looking for but knowing that once I saw it I would realize what I was looking for.

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We walked the length of the beach and I took off through some palm trees up a nature trail that went under the abandoned railroad bridge. Dara had suggested a few spots on the beach that might be a little less crowded but gave up when she saw I was on a mission. I climbed under the railroad tracks, went to the chain link fence under the bridge to take a couple of photos, retraced my steps and went to the other side of the train tracks, back to the Atlantic but much further down than we could see from our original vantage point in the thicket of washed up sea grass.

16138168973_200ebb52d4_zThat road in the background is the Overseas Highway I’ve mentioned.

16135808124_de577ca163_zUnder the train track bridge.

I found an inlet of trees that looked like a great make-out spot, then went down a rock “scramble” onto a patch of nearly empty beach. With a perfect view of the sun, just about to start lowering. We took some photos and cute video in the surf and laid down to watch the sun take its journey. We soaked this in for a good thirty minutes before the incoming tide convinced us to move down the beach a bit. We did some yoga while watching the sun’s descent. It was so profoundly beautiful. Worth every bit of work to find the just right place to watch it. The curation of the moment was almost as fun as the moment itself.

16138173863_ae0ddc6128_zAs a fat person I’m used to being the one who is being coaxed down rock scrambles. But I have a lot more bravery for nature because of my scouting past, so I lead Dara in these matters. It’s a really interesting to have the table flipped and me being the brave one offering a hand to the person behind me. But I’d like to think knowing how uncertain a rock scramble can make me feel helps me be a more supportive partner when I lend the hand.

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16570745720_1560559ce6_zDara is such a wonderful partner in crime for adventure. I have so much fun with her. She’s instagramming now after this trip, @daremedara if you’re instagrammy.

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16550904177_52dd24bcf9_zThe moon rise on the other side of the beach was so pretty.

16572055289_1319b04a29_zMoney shot.

I rarely, if ever, curate a sunset in Brooklyn. There are so many variables here–it takes me 30 minutes to drive to a spot to get a good, clear view of a sunset, only if that’s the direction of the sun that time of year. Buildings that are in the way sometimes are not in the way other times. Weather is a huge variable. It is often cloudy. I make it a point in NYC that when I see the sunset colors in the sky I take a pause and notice them.

Out of town I make it my unspoken priority to ensure that we are exactly where we need to be to enjoy the best sunset possible. I love organizing my day around this. It feels so natural and cleansing and really meaningful. I came back from the Keys and I know, as I start working towards the next phase of my life, I want to make it a priority to have abundant access to beautiful sunset viewing options. I can see this ritual becoming a big part of my self care.

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2014-12-01

Queer Fat Femme Holiday Gift Guide

It’s Cyber Monday (I kind of hate that it’s a thing now but it’s a thing now) and I am fresh from watching so many movies about how the spirit of the holidays is not about capitalism it’s about feeling warm and generous. I, personally, love all things glitter and magical and really appreciate the holidays in a take what you like and leave the rest sort of way. I love that people decorate their houses in glitter and lights. I also enjoy supporting small businesses and queer owned businesses. So if you’re going to participate in gift giving, I’m super into connecting people to small businesses. I’m also into giving people good gift ideas.

My holiday gift guide this year is not compensated–I included small businesses owned by folks I know and indie businesses suggested by my followers who commented on my instagram and facebook posts asking for their favorites. I also threw in a couple of wild cards from more corporate origins that were just good gift suggestions for folks struggling with what to give. I’ve got ideas for the femmes, queers, masculine of center, pets and woo/spiritual folks on your list!

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

IMG_20141201_151407The Medusa Bustier modeled by Art Queen Caitlin Rose Sweet from the Leather Coven Instagram.
Leather Coven, “LUXE LEATHER AMULETS FOR ALL BODIES by chicano FTfeMme papi Mateo” was by far the most popular suggestion when I crowd-sourced gift ideas, but they were already on my list! I met Mateo at Hampshire College at a queer conference I performed at with Heels on Wheels and was impressed forever with the design Mateo was wearing! I’m so excited to see Leather Coven taking off lately, with queer babes of all sizes sporting some of these gorgeous designs. I love the Pentagram Harness ($56 and up depending on your choice of hardware) and the Medusa Bustier ($52+) and love love love that the designs work well both for fashion and for kink!

Leather Coven takes Etsy gift cards, which is great if you don’t know your intended’s measurements, or you can just order the gift and send the measurements in when you give the gift. (Their instagram is worth a follow–@leathercoven!) Cyber Monday savings through 12/1 (that’s tonight!) enter code CYBERSAGITTARIUS at check out.

IMG_20141201_151436Vinyl & Sequin Bow Tie as seen on GNATGlitterKink Instagram in the Gender: Queer photo series with Jacob Tobia and Sunny Frothingham. Photo by Chelsea Pieroni.
GNAT Glitter Kink. For vegan kink & fashion harnesses and for other accessories in an array of flamboyant glitter vinyls! I especially love the Vinyl & Sequin Bow Tie for the flamboyant Dandy on your holiday giving list! $25. Use code CYBERME for 25% off through December 1st!

Brownstargirl Tarot! I’ve had my tarot read by Leah Lakshmi Piepzana-Samarasinha many times since 2008 and she’s so amazing! She offers readings all over the world via skype, google hangout, phone and in person where she might travel (based in Toronto right now). Tarot, one and a half hours: $60-140 sliding scale, Tarot and numerology combination reading: $100-160 sliding scale, Group, couple or two-person readings: $80-130 sliding scale. I love what she says about sliding scale: I appreciate my clients with access to financial wealth sharing it as a form of economic justice and accountability. I appreciate this because I love working with other raised or currently poor and working class folks, and if you’ve got money, honey, your paying at the higher end of my sliding scale allows me to make a living while providing high quality divination to badass broke geniuses who have access to less cash.

If someone you know loves woo, get them a reading with Leah! It’s going to help center them for the New Year, or gird them for the Winter ahead!

bobby-pins-print_thLockwood Shop is owned by my friend Mackenzi, who has exceptional taste in gifts. I’ve successfully shopped for 90% of my holiday gifts at her store over the past few years. For bobby pin identified femmes what about this bobby pin print? ($28)

Whisky stones ($22.95) are a great choice for the drinker on your list. For the little one (or space inclined one) on your list, the Galaxy Night Light is so magical. ($8) You should cruise the website to see all of the other things they have, including lots of Queens and NYC inspired gifts. And if you’re in Astoria definitely stop by and get one of the Shop Keeps to help you shop!

il_570xN.681311055_io9hJessika Fancy is a queer femme in Portland, OR with some amazing jewelry and fashion designs as well as gem essence blends. I adore the Full Moon earrings (out of stock right now) and the Queer Magic Femme Hands patch ($11). Maybe someone you know is going through a rough patch and a protection blend aura spray for $14 might help them out a bunch?

Jessika Fancy is also part of the Spinning Wheel Apothecary, that makes seasonal woo boxes!

il_570xN.603522703_jbzvAdam Rabbit Jewelry: So many raw crystal designs at really great prices! These raw amethyst chunk earrings are only $15! Raw crystals are so powerful. Amethyst is great for healing and developing patience and calm. I really appreciate crystal jewelry designs that leave the crystals looking like a rock.

Peacock_necklace-berryKelly Horrigan Handmade! Kelly is really great queer designer and I love all of her stunning pieces of jewelry and clothing. Her peacock feather leather designs are so striking (I’ve seen them in several colors) and for my queer holiday gift guide I had to highlight her new Yoni necklace design.
Yoni_necklace2Regardless of whether or not you identify with a yoni, you can totally wear one as a necklace. Through December 2 you can get 45% off in her online store with code CYBERWOW.

slide3The IRing is a little kickstand device that you adhere to the back of your smartphone case and it acts as a vertical or horizontal stand for your phone. My partner Dara has one and it’s actually really handy. The adhesive doesn’t screw up your phone case, allows you to take it on and off though it is very sturdy once applied. You can hang your phone from a hook, a carabiner, or watch videos. It’s such a great stocking stuffer.

The reason Dara is involved with it is that there is a special fundraiser benefitting a non-profit supporting school improvement in the urban school community. If you buy an IRing for $20 and enter the code “SchoolsThatCan” (all one word) $8 of your purchase price goes towards Schools That Can.

P.S. I star in a video Dara made to promote the fundraiser.

il_570xN.540347972_el51Mister Sister NYC is a vegan bakery run by a queer in Queens. I’ve had the vegan fudge and it’s so delicious! You can get a vegan fudge gift pack for $12! Would make a great stocking stuffer for your vegan or non-vegan pals.

il_570xN.691982428_6iplFemme Anarchist. So much amazing queer and feminist schwag! I love the above glitter queer broaches for queer visibility! ($9.99) Or the Femme necklace for Femme visibility! ($12.99) I also love the trans inclusive feminism always pin, cats against cat calls pin, riots not diets patch, pizza slut necklace (to my friends: no one else get that for Miss Mary Wanna, I already ordered it), or baby got books necklace. A stocking stuffed with prizes from this shop would rule! Use code FEMMEFATALE for 10% off!

IMG_5032Age of Eleven. A friend of mine has been raving about the concept of a crystal dick. That’s right, crystal power in the form of a penis and insertable. So imagine the healing power of a quartz phallus. For $249 you can use it as a toy or a massage wand or an altar piece or whatever you can imagine doing with a penis shaped crystal. They also sell yoni eggs, earrings, necklaces and other jewelry.

cats-are-the-new-kids-3Best in Show SF has a great online store with tons of unique dog and cat items. I especially love the Cats are the New Kids / Dogs are the New Kids tee shirts. ($29.95, sizes S-XXL) Also comes in tote bags and coffee cups.

Paco Collars: I absolutely adore this word bracelet ($40-$50) for a simple way to say something custom to a person in your life. I think the leather is sooo handsome and I really like their font choice. Paco Collars also has a custom dog collar feature on their website and some really great leatherwork for dog and cat collars.

image6For the woo person in your life who loves affirmations, I really enjoy the I Can Do It page a day calendar from Louise Hay. A friend turned me onto it a couple of years ago and I find it really uplifting and enjoy writing folks notes on the back of the pages. It’s $8 right now on sale at the link above. If you need it to be on sale later I just got a circular in the mail that offers free shipping and holiday savings with the code 6124.

Self Serve Toys: Literally anytime someone mentions Albuquerque to me I tell them they need to go to Self Serve Toys and say hi to my friend Matie (even people I’ve never discussed sex toy shopping with). She’s owned and operated this store for five years! It is a gorgeous store and very well-curated.

My gift suggestion is the NJoy Pure Wand from Self Serve, but pretty much anything you need from them you can call and get recommendations. The NJoy Pure Wand is a great indulgence present ($109) that is a welcome addition to a sex toy supply, especially for people who enjoy a g-spot or p-spot stimulation. Check out Matie showing you how wonderful this toy is in this video. “This toy feels different than anything or anyone you’ve ever had inside you.” Shipping is free for $100 orders or over, or flat rate $5 for anything less than that.

il_570xN.683521950_cge4Right in the Childhood has cute masculine of center accessories, like this Lego Wonder Woman Tie Bar. ($17)

il_570xN.679721099_7cshYes Ma’am Designs (you know I love that name!) has fantastic accessories, including this flagging red duct tape clutch!

2014-10-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chronic disease.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Candida Cure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what did I eat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-10-04

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2014-08-02

August Astrological Forecast and Self Development Worksheet with Empowering Astrology

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August is here and it’s time for some more planetary shifts to bring us in alignment with the next round of ways we can improve ourselves. I agree with Katie from Empowering Astrology, rough astrology is either our chance to get knocked around or it’s our chance to use the energy to be our best selves. Saturn is making some difficult conjunctions this month, anyone who has gone through their Saturn Return knows it’s rough to get real about what is going on in your life. But it’s also a great way to grow.

As always, I’ve written exercises working in conjunction with this month’s astrology to create self improvement with some celestial oomph. The activities include learning how to respond instead of react (good strategy no matter what’s happening in the stars), a full moon ritual about getting real with yourself, and incorporating health at every size into your new moon intentions.

Click here to download this month’s report.

Enjoy!!

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.

2014-07-07

July Self Development Astrology Worksheet with Empowering Astrology

Filed under: Self Development,Spirituality — Tags: , , , — Bevin @ 11:20 am

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In this month’s astrology self development worksheet in partnership with Katie from Empowering Astrology, we’re tackling play as stress relief, checking in on lessons and themes from the last couple of major astrological events in October of last year and April of this year, taking stock of how far we’ve come in big projects and practicing living life with authenticity.

Download the worksheet here!

2014-06-20

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

I read a lot of blogs, especially design and mommy blogs, where it kind of seems like the blogger has this magical, perfect life full of sunshine and roses. I know that’s an easy thing to think about someone who publicly shares about their life that things are easy all the time. But it’s part of my artistic intentions that I talk about the way shit is hard sometimes, too. This piece is about how it is okay to not be okay sometimes.

On Father’s Day every year for the past four years my magical, powerful, wonderful roommate Damien Luxe produces an event called Fuck You Dad: A Cabaret to End Patriarchy. It is a way for her to reclaim Father’s Day, which always falls near her birthday. It’s such an empowering event and I’ve really loved getting together with other artists to perform in a cute backyard and DIY empowerment we maybe (probably) didn’t get from our dads.

14428960215_f66d930428_oFrom a previous year’s Fuck You Dad offerings, as published on the Heels on Wheels instagram.

As an only child raised by a single mom in off and on working class/poverty, with a family legacy of alcoholism, I’ve got lots of dad issues. I work through them in a few venues, most helpfully in a twelve step program for families and friends of alcoholics. Much of the time, maybe even 95% of the time, I’m really fine. I have lots of compassion, detachment with love, etc… But this year it took me by surprise.

My girlfriend, who has been going through treatment for breast cancer, just lost her beloved father. He was a wonderful man, he radiated love and support and everything a Good Dad can be. (And I’d like to point out here that the patriarchy makes it really hard even for Good Dads to be Good Dads.) I am so grateful I got the chance to meet him.

The day after Dara’s last chemo treatment her dad went to the ER with chest pains and a little over a week later he passed away. It is really shitty to want to be celebrating a cancer treatment milestone and instead be packing up to go to a funeral. We were supposed to be getting together for a family vacation where I was going to meet her brothers and their families for the first time and her folks were going to meet my mom and Grandmother, my two closest biological relatives. It was weird how all of our travel had changed and it was a grief tornado.

As far as I could tell for myself everything was fine, considering. I was holding it together and feeling really helpful with the family. Dara’s family rules, they are really sweet and awesome. I really appreciated being able to be helpful—managing food as it came to the house, cleaning up, grocery shopping, making sure Dara was eating. All the kinds of things I’d learned to do as a cancer caretaker in a more concentrated form.

14445164014_98c990f573_oDamien emceeing and Heather and Daniel Rosza preparing for their Fancy piece.

We flew home from staying with her mom for the week after the funeral and the next morning was Father’s Day. I was working on my piece for Fuck You Dad and it wasn’t gelling. I was feeling really distracted and moody. Dara and I got into a really dumb fight and I didn’t know why.

Until I got to Jacqueline’s house to workshop our pieces and I kind of lost it during her rehearsal. And then when I got to the cabaret and started crying as soon as I hugged my friend Heather, I just realized, I’M NOT OKAY.

This was both a surprise to me and also kind of sucked. When I perform I want to have more control over myself and not feel like I might cry when I get up to the mic.

What I’ve realized about resilience is that it’s there when I most need it. During a crisis, I’m a rock. I am a logistics mistress, I will get everything taken care of. I generally am not feeling my feelings when I’m going through something hard. I’m just getting through. Given all the dad grief going on so acutely for the previous three weeks, given all the caretaking energy I’d been putting out for the past six months, I just didn’t have all my resilience I usually do on Father’s Day.

The dad stuff that’s usually on the shelf and very tidy for me was a total mess. But because I was performing in this space, with these people around me all at once, all these amazing Femmes who have been my rocks (some of them for years), I could afford to lose it a little and have time to collect myself before I went on stage. And it was okay.

Being a Feelings Squirrel kind of person, where a squirrel saves her nuts to eat during the long winter, I kind of unconsciously save my feelings for later when I have space. I recognize that this is a survival mechanism that I learned out of necessity in a not great childhood. This is something I’m only recently learning about myself so I am still working on how to constructively let out my feelings when it’s time instead of having them come out in not so great ways later.

I’m experimenting with ways for me to have some space to feel feelings. Like when we were in Vegas I took a friend’s recommendation for a Korean day spa, one of those places where you pay $20 and get to go lounge in a sauna or hot tubs for as long as you want. I went there because I knew I needed a place to feel feelings.

14435415852_70ef34c5bb_oJacqueline spray painting Fuck You Dad on a comforter. Photo courtesy @mxjackdawson on Instagram–the modern day Getty Images.

But it wasn’t enough. I totally got to the point on Father’s Day where my feelings were coming out of me like I was an overfilled sandwich cracker and the peanut butter was squishing out the sides.

When I found out that my performance at Fuck You Dad was the last in the line-up I knew what I needed to performed. I scrapped what I had prepared and I decided to do a healing exercise with the audience.

As my introduction I had the emcee call on three people that new me to solicit compliments. This is a totally hard thing to do, solicit compliments, but is a really quick and easy way to access strength and resilience when you need it.

When I ask my friends for compliments, I’m not doing it from an insecure place. When I’m feeling not okay, having my friends remind me why I am a babe or a bad ass or competent or whatever really helps me get out of the negative thought patterns that love to rush in when my vulnerabilities are high. Try it next time you need a boost—call on folks you consider body positive allies when you need a boost about body self confidence, or call on folks who you trust to support you when you need general confidence reminders.

They were perfect compliments, too. One was about being a good dog mom, one was about my blog and the other was about how I have a spirituality that is very big but I don’t push it on other people. It was helpful to have that framework for what I did next with the crowd.

14430104821_d0d57e77f4_oI didn’t even get it together enough to dress how I wanted to for Fuck You Dad and Jacqueline loaned me this babely leopard dress. I’m pictured with this totally nice person who looks like my bestie Leo who has been on the West Coast for months.

I told the audience I was not okay and that it was okay that I was not okay. I testified a one minute version of this post about my dad stuff. I thought that probably, like me, hearing 11 acts, many of which really went there with exorcising Bad Dad stuff, brought things up for people and they might need some centering, healing and cleansing.

I lead a breathing and prayer exercise. Breathing in healing and breathing out fear. Breathing in love and breathing out anger. I offered a Reiki healing to everyone for their childhoods—at my present level of Reiki training I can heal through time and space. I had them picture a time in their childhood that needed healing and I beamed the healing out to them.

Then I did a centering exercise based in gratitude, where I had the audience turn to someone next to them and thank them for being with them in this moment. I find it really helpful to make human connections in times when I’m not okay.

So that was my offering at Fuck You Dad. I wanted to share it with folks out there in my blog audience. Kind of like how even the most ardent fat activist still has “bad fat days” even folks who have done lots of work on different areas of their lives have hard times and it’s okay to not be okay. It’s taken me a lot of work to release the shame that comes up for me when shit I thought was long settled gets stirred up for me again.

And Father’s Day is almost a week over and I’m working on doing the things I know that work to take excellent care of myself. And I know I’ll be okay, even though I also know it’s okay to not be okay.

2014-06-12

My Reading with Spiritual Advisor Alex and Kazoo

I like to think of meetings with spiritual advisors, psychics, astrologers, past life readers and all manner of woo folks to be a cross between spiritual practice and therapy. You get a chance to work through issues you are having with someone who has more insights than you might at a given time and it also relies on your belief in a power/energy/spirit world greater than yourself.

A friend of mine had a reading with Alex and Kazoo and recommended him. Alex, that is, who is the human part of the duo, Kazoo being the spiritual end. Alex communicates with Kazoo, the name he gave his spirit guide at a young age.

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I started working with Alex and Kazoo with a twenty minute reading, which he offered as a special a couple of months ago. After our first reading I was sold on his gift, our connection and I was curious what a longer, hour long reading would be like.

Both times I met with Alex and Kazoo via Skype. I’ve done other spiritual readings over skype before and I find them to be just as good as in person, sometimes even better because for some reason my focus is a little more sharp. When I’m with someone in person it takes me longer to focus in on the interaction and I get more distracted.

Kazoo connects with spirit guides and tells Alex what the spirit guide is saying. So the reading is kind of like Alex reporting what two metaphysical beings are saying about you. This is basically where my recent interest in talking to psychics and mediums is coming from–at this point I know so many people who have POTSAed* I’m convinced everyone is partying out there and I want to know what’s happening. I’m nosy.

Alex knew things about me that you wouldn’t know about me, even if you scoured my blog and my social media. There are psychics out there I have worked with who I can tell are making a genuine connection with me and Alex is one of them.

The thing that really got me with Alex and Kazoo was during the first reading he gave me really great advice about something I had been struggling with without me even needing to ask about it. After my first reading I was able to rest assured I was doing the right thing and it became more and more clear that he had been right about that in a very specific way (sorry to be so vague about the subject) that he couldn’t possibly have just guessed and thrown that at me. So having had that great advice and comfort, I decided to reach out to Alex for a full hour-long reading.

Both times Alex and Kazoo connected with a male spirit guide of mine. From his first description I thought it might be my paternal grandfather, who I have felt a closeness with since his passing in 2012, but Alex explained it is someone who tunes into me out of respect for someone close to me.

During the second reading I asked if there were any other spirit guides around and he said a couple of sisters popped up. The sisters thing was interesting because during my visit to a psychic medium in January (a crowd-funded birthday present from my friends) a pair of independent sisters appeared, who I believe to be great aunts of my father. Both readings, by Alex and the other medium, explained the pair of sisters in really similar ways.

In the reading Alex reported first what my spirit guide was excited to talk to me about. He noticed a marked difference in my energy from the first reading to the second reading. When I had my second reading I was at a house alongside a babbling brook–a weekday vacation I took at the end of May to get out of the city. He said I needed to have this be a more regular thing that I had let my energy get too depleted and it’s an important renewal for my spirit to be out in nature.

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Alex then switched to me needing to spend more time doing things in a “selfish” way, things that have no purpose whatsoever. Spending time working on stuff that requires my concentration but pulls me out of the world. I asked if it was like working on a puzzle and he said, “Yes!” as I had been working on a jigsaw puzzle for a few months but hadn’t yet gotten to finishing it. After the reading I set aside a bunch of puzzle time, telling my girlfriend that I needed to have some puzzle time to unplug.

My spirit guide told me to spend less time studying and more time paying attention to my intuition. I had noticed my internal tapes kept berating myself for needing to learn more. I often get into weird thought spirals where I think I need to learn things–I was recently on a tear telling myself I needed to learn more languages, to play the banjo and a few other things I keep thinking I need to “study.” It was interesting that I got the specific message that I needed to spend less time studying. I found this advice to be eerily timely. I had told Alex nothing about me thinking about studying and he knew to tell me not to do so much of it.

He also told me more dessert and indulgence.

I was also told that life has been sending a lot of shit my way and instead of dodging things I should just start letting them hit me and not letting it affect me. It’s less like playing frogger in life and more like just walking across a street and not letting the trucks break me, if that makes sense. It was helpful advice that I’ve found really empowering in the couple of weeks following our second reading, as life has delivered more shit storm.

I enjoyed hearing what my spirit guide was excited to talk to me about, but what I found most valuable was towards the end of the reading I just started bouncing ideas off of my spirit guide through Alex and Kazoo and getting some very detailed feedback. It helped me flesh out some things that I’m working on.

I talked about my idea to craft Reiki infused tea blends, as I am now Reiki Level Two attuned, using Reiki energy to invigorate the healing power of herbs and super charge the tea itself with Reiki life force energy. Alex said, “Ding ding ding!” about the idea. And we worked through some things that I hadn’t even gotten to with the idea that my spirit guide was really excited to tell me about.

One thing that was really interesting that came up was when I was talking about an event I’m planning, my first foray into nightlife after a six month hiatus. At first my spirit guide was supportive, but then Alex’s face got very concerned. He warned about something very specific that had happened and I knew immediately what it was. It was super powerful and important that I get affirmation/warning from my spirit guide on and I was really glad I brought it up.

14140094159_af8998ee54_zAfter I got home from the trip to the babbling brook I turned back to the puzzle I’d been working on for two months and finished it in three days. It’s missing five pieces and I really don’t care.

If you’re feeling called to have a reading from Alex I highly recommend it. I found them fun and soothing.

Alex and Kazoo’s readings can happen via skype or in person if you’re in the New York City area. He also does readings for up to three people at a time, which I imagine is really fun.

Alex is offering a special for my blog readers–if you book a reading and mention my site before June 30th (the reading can be for later, you just have to book by the 30th) you can get an hour reading for $50 off his standard rate. So instead of paying $150 you pay just $100.

Get in touch with Alex through his website, connect on his facebook page or email alexandkazoo at gmail dot com!

*Passed On To Something Awesome (the idea that when you pass you are going on to a higher consciousness).

2014-06-02

June Astrology Self Development Worksheet with Empowering Astrology Now Available

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I’m running around doing last minute trip planning for a family emergency–we leave tomorrow. Everything was just me feeling like a capable caretaker/organizer taking care of business and then I couldn’t find a bill I need to get in the mail before I leave and I lost it a little bit. Realizing that Mercury is turning retrograde on Saturday, the planet of travel and communication, I know things could be a lot worse and that perspective has helped remind me to stop, eat something and breathe.

This month’s worksheet with Empowering Astrology has some great journaling prompts to use the power of the upcoming Sagittarius full moon to alchemize transition in gentle ways. A reminder about embracing shitty, inconsistent meditation using the Neptune Retrograde on June 9th to get more bang for our meditation buck. And there’s more, including Katie’s thoughts on the month’s astrological highlights.

You can download the worksheet free right here!

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