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

2017-04-26

General Life Update: Dara’s Hysterectomy and Oophorectomy, Moving and Judgement Resilience

So much has happened since my last one I feel like a new life update is in order.

PRESS!
I am quoted a bunch in this great article on Autostraddle about the gym, EVERYBODY, where I teach weekly body oppression healing aerobics.

I was on Tristan Taormino’s awesome Sex Out Loud Radio show and there’s a podcast download available here of our conversation. I talked about the time I got bounced at the gate of Dollywood for wearing a gold sequin crop top while fat, even though the dress code specifically allows for crop tops.

The crop top chronicles continue because I’m on a BILLBOARD around Northeast LA wearing a mesh crop top and a bra. The front gate manager at Dollywood would be very scandalized.

MOVING!
We moved! Our new house is awesome! It has central air conditioning! We spent $550 last year in credit card points on a portable A/C for our bedroom and an evaporative cooler AKA “swamp cooler” for the living room because it was hot like the surface of the sun in the afternoons most of the year in that tiny not well-insulated house. We didn’t have a single window that could accommodate a window unit A/C and we both work from home so comfort was important and expensive.

The portable A/C was awesome and I highly recommend it, and since we bought it on Amazon it came right to our door and I installed it myself in under an hour. (A reminder if you buy anything on Amazon using my referral link, no matter what you end up buying when you get there, I get 4-6% referral credit, which adds up and really helps out.)

The swamp cooler is only medium effective, somewhere between a powerful fan and a weak A/C, but will be great for outside parties in our amazing new backyard. I think about how much time we invested in researching and implementing climate control modalities on a tight budget and now we’re suddenly in this climate controlled well-insulated environment! I can’t get that time back but at least we’re way more comfortable.

Me and my friends Beth and Tara at a Shabbat dinner exploring virtual reality as a storytelling modality for social change.

LA just had our first 91 degree day last week and all Dara had to do was touch a button and the house was suddenly cool. I haven’t had central heat and air in my adult life, it’s pretty novel. The new house also has a dishwasher that we haven’t used because I haven’t unpacked our dishes and I can’t wait to see if that changes my life.

We’ve been in our house for two and a half weeks and have so many more boxes than I thought we still would. In my visions, we were mostly unpacked by now. In April of last year I had a meltdown about how our house wasn’t yet together and somehow I had that same meltdown on Monday of this past week, a full three months early. The last house we had complex attic clean outs and renovations that slowed things down. This time it was major surgery for Dara.

DARA’S HYSTERECTOMY AND OOPHORECTOMY

Three days after we moved Dara had her first appointment with her new doctors at UCLA. In November and December of last year she had a cancer scare due to abnormal cells in her uterus. Since she finished chemo for breast cancer in 2014, she had been taking Tamoxifen, an estrogen blocker, to help prevent a reoccurrence of breast cancer. Tamoxifen is the only drug prescribed to prevent a reoccurrence to premenopausal women, there are a few types of different inhibitors to prevent a reoccurrence for postmenopausal women. Turns out Tamoxifen increases your likelihood for uterine cancer.

Dara endured multiple, increasingly invasive biopsies until she was told it wasn’t cancer but she should consider a hysterectomy and oophorectomy. Since the doctor that performed her last and most invasive biopsy wrote her a prescription for an IUD because certain kinds help prevent uterine cancer, and Dara pushed back asking if it would interfere with breast cancer prevention and it turned out it would… she took that “oops” as a tell that she should get way better health insurance and transition to the best cancer hospital in the area.

Dara at the new oncologist office. We really loved him.

I have all the Working Class Feels about how money buys you medical access, which is literally life and death for many people. To be transparent about it (because I think this busts up capitalist shame around money) Dara was able to upgrade her health insurance from Silver to Gold because her mom offered to help financially make the leap.

Further, Dara was able to find out who the best doctor was going to be for her cancer treatment going forward because she has a family friend who is a legit “Medical Concierge” who has access to that information. This is what people with money have access to, they get a medical concierge to find the best doctors money can buy and pay tons of money for their health insurance.

I cannot underscore how much I support Bernie’s continued call for universal health care in this country. Health care should be a fundamental human right, like education and access to clean water. Even if we got universal health care, as long as the US remains capitalist, I’m sure money will continue to buy access to “the best” healthcare available because people will continue to pay for it and provide it.

We both feel complicated about it, but her health is important. When she saw the UCLA OBGYN surgeon in the oncology department and she reviewed the findings from the biopsies, she said, “Can you come in on Monday for a hysterectomy?” It was that urgent to get it out. So, even though it was wildly inconvenient to have major surgery a week and a half after we moved, Dara scheduled it.

What a rough day. We had to wake up at 3:40AM to drive cross town for her 4:45AM call time for surgery. I had to teach aerobics that night and I’m still building my following so I didn’t want to cancel class. Her mom flew in to be here for it and I was able to leave at 2PM to make sure I wasn’t trapped by traffic on the West Side, though it still took me 90 minutes to get home. I am not a great napper, so I just did my best to be present and ultimately had a great aerobics class!

I drank a lot of caffeine and prayed for a lot of Divine assistance to stay present and channel the best healing for everyone in attendance.

The surgery was as successful as possible, she was done in an hour (was supposed to take up to three) and her healing has been happening swiftly. It is SO reminiscent of cancer treatment times. She has all the same prescriptions for constipation and I ran out to buy All Bran and prune juice. Dara even weaned herself off the Norco as soon as she was able (within days) because the gas pain and constipation were more uncomfortable than the pain from surgery. She can’t carry anything more than five pounds for two weeks and she’s been very weak.

Poor fifteen pound Macy is used to being able to bark for her human elevators to put her on furniture since she cannot jump up and down on furniture or take stairs, but one of her human elevators is out of order for a few weeks! She doesn’t understand. This all means I am taking care of the house and pets 100% of the time. Between regular cleaning and keeping the house going, it has ground the unpacking progress to a slow crawl.

I’m so grateful Dara busted ass before her surgery to unpack 80% of the living room and office. It feels a little hard since we don’t really have places for everything, however it is ultimately so helpful to have things having motion out of boxes. I have never had the experience of paying movers and packers before, but it seems that they just box whatever into whatever box and label it vaguely “Kitchen” and “living room” and literally none of them are labeled “bathroom” and I still can’t find my hair dye.

JUDGEMENT RESILIENCE

The fact that I am obsessively staring at my roots lately is a symptom to me of a larger issue I’ve been having around judgment. Most of the time I am incredibly resilient to judgment. I feel like it is a kind of forcefield to give zero fucks what anyone thinks about you. Someone I know was worried about my choice to move to LA because “everyone is so judgmental about weight” and I felt like I would be fine because of my resilience.

And yet, in the past month or so, I’m so worried about what other people think it is distracting me. Not necessarily about my weight but the aforementioned meltdown happened because our new landlords were coming over 2 weeks after our move / 5 days after Dara’s surgery, and I worried what they would think about our house progress. I spent two hours cleaning before they got there and left to walk the dog while they were inside because I couldn’t interact and needed to go cry a bunch. I know part of this is residual trauma from months of housing instability and not feeling safe in our home—the thought that our landlords wouldn’t like us and would ask us to move out was really triggering.

I’m glad I’m aware of the judgment resilience issue because that’s the first step to changing anything. (Awareness, acceptance, then action.) I know there’s an element of self compassion I’m missing, which is the acceptance part. Objectively I know I’m doing the best I can and I’m still having a hard time accepting my progress not perfection.*

I pulled out the big guns and watched an Oprah interview with Tony Robbins. It gave me great perspective and helped me move towards acceptance. I am already very aware that my expectations of myself are so far out of reality because of how I learned to keep myself “safe” by being an overachiever. I can easily and unconsciously punish myself mentally for not meeting my unrealistic expectations. It makes all the sense in the world why grieving for my Grandmother on top of the velocity of changes happening might make me extremely vulnerable. I’m going to meet this symptom with a LOT of self care and I’ll report back on my progress. (I’m already attacking it with lots of gratitude practice and that’s helping.)

REIKI MASTER

This week I started training for my Reiki Master atunement. I had been wanting to do this as a long range plan for Bevin’s Tea and I’ve been relying on energy healing so much lately. The more I level up my own healing capabilities, the more healing I can do for myself.

I’m studying with Syd, the healer we’ve been working with for Macy’s cancer, Dara’s cancer prevention/surgery, my grief, Biscuit Reynolds’ myriad of issues and who we brought out to do a very powerful healing the night my Grandmother POTSA. She offers a monthly payment for the Reiki Master that is the exact amount I make from my job doing social media monitoring for The Militant Baker, so it just seemed like the Universe was aligning it to happen now.

Reiki, in case you don’t know, is a healing modality to raise the vibration of your cells. To quote 30 Rock, it is the “Laying on of hands to improve one’s life.”

Reiki comes in three levels, Level One, Two and Master. Though I only need Level Two to be able to put Reiki into my teas and I can even use my Level Two ability to go through time and space for distance healing, being a Reiki Master was a goal I aspired to as a next level. I also have been wanting to do more direct energy healing work out of our third bedroom, making it not just a guest room but a true Healing Room in which to see clients and help pay rent. So even though this is one more thing to add to all of my other things, sometimes earthly logic is not divine logic. In other words, I just felt like it was the next right thing. Part of my homework is daily self treatment with Reiki and that discipline has been helpful for me.

Between the Reiki Master studies, my ongoing work with B-School developing my tea business, my AFAA aerobics certification (wading through SO much fatphobia to get certified), I think I’m in grad school for healing modalities.

This period of my life right now is reminding me of the Dixie Chicks song that has always brought me a lot of comfort—Long Way Around. I do not know why I am so multi passionate but I am and I am working to accept all the bits about me that will eventually womanifest into something pretty spectacular.

Bucket list item checked off–seeing Dixie Chicks for the first time last October with my bestie Spunky!

*I wrote this post at a Panera and had to have a freak out and resulting thought process around feeling like a failure for being 38 and not having kids yet… I am usually so zen about this. When I have flares of issues I’m usually so resolved about, it’s my tell that I have emotional and self care work to do.

2017-03-28

General Life Update

Beloved readers, here’s what’s been going on in my life lately. Anyone following me on Instagram probably knows about what doozies life has been hurling at me lately.

Me and Dara at the Cuties fundraising carnival on Sunday. Their fundraiser is going on for a few more days, you can still donate to this vital safe(r) space for queers in LA!

Your Girl is Getting Great Press

I’ve had a couple of fabulous interviews come out in the last week!

Fat Sex Week XXL is coming! It starts on Thursday and I’ve already gotten press about it. I love serendipitous press. I was nominated as a Sex Hero and I was already thinking about another Fat Sex Week because a lot of great content was floating my way and poof! Check out this fabulous chat between me and Noah Michelson Editorial Director of The Huffington Post Voices about fat sex, why Fat Sex Week matters and what you can expect! (Spoiler: Fat Sex Week is always fatter than a regular week.) What an honor to be called a Sex Hero!

Me, April Flores and Tristan Taormino, also big time sex heroes!

I’ve been telling everyone about Jeffrey Marsh’s incredible book How to Be You (seriously should be required reading in high school) and so admire their work helping people to love themselves. Jeffrey and I have such in sync life purposes.

I was totally thrilled to be interviewed for their new Facebook fan page. We had such a beautiful conversation about how I came to be a body liberation activist and how my turning points to love myself came about. Check it out here and be sure to like their page! (Like my fan page while you’re at it! I’m always popping in great articles and self empowerment.)

I Started Fat Kid Dance Party

A month ago I launched my new dance aerobics class Fat Kid Dance Party (For All Sizes to Heal from Body Oppression). When I heard about EVERYBODY the new body positive gender inclusive gym opening up just six minutes from my house I had to figure out how to get involved. I started taking dance aerobics in LA and was frustrated that the classes were so fast-paced and not really open to all levels, even though they said they were. So I decided to do it my way. I had been producing body positive queer dance parties, this just meant that I was not only Femmecee and Producer but I was the choreographer and DJ, too.

This is what a gender neutral locker room looks like! Now if only they would install in a make-up mirror/vanity for the Femmes of all genders who want to put on their face/take well-lit selfies.

I spend hours on this every week as I learn this new art form and healing modality. I’m so excited how I’ve been able to use the concepts I’ve incorporated in the workshops I teach about body positivity into lessons during aerobics numbers. It is a very unique class and, I think, very healing with high joy vibrations. I’m getting great feedback from folks coming (bring friends, it’s so much fun in a group). Last week we did a cheer dance routine to all Missy Elliot songs, we did an aerobics dance for peace, a Prince song exploring body postures that give confidence, a 90s dance retrospective to Vanilla Ice and more. Every Thursday at 7:30PM! When you sign up online ahead of time, your check-in at the gym will be very fast.

My philosophy is if I would go to a dance party wearing it, I can use it to teach class. I love wearing overtly political shirts to teach aerobics. You can grab this and many other fabulous shirts/tanks/onesies from Genuine Valentine!

Since I often use exercise to prevent depression, I think my partner Dara genuinely believes I am going to be a happier person because I’m an aerobics instructor. Using an actual line of factual reasoning from one of my favorite movies, Legally Blonde.

We’re Finally Moving

My beloved Grandmother POTSA (Passed On To Something Awesome) on January 26, exactly a year after our lease on our little house in LA began. Two days later our landlady told us she was selling our house. Things here haven’t ever been great—it’s an old house and took a lot of work to become comfortable. We put heart and soul into it and even did a very DIY remodel of the attic to create a Mariah Carey closet for my clothes and Femme accoutrements.

Photo by Jes Baker of the Militant Baker. I’m still working every weekday monitoring her social media.

Our landlady used to live in the house behind ours that shares our driveway and while she was there with her grown children it was chaotic but not awful. We even had some really sweet holiday gatherings for Seder and the High Holidays in the courtyard between our houses. However, she moved out in October with her son and things got way worse. Basically, her daughter is selling meth and we suspect that at times have been cooking it. (Based on tells, like rotten egg smells, SO MUCH GARBAGE, etc…)

This is the Epic High Holiday. I used glitter burlap to artfully cover their weird pile of junk that included three old TVs (one was a big screen) that sat there for months until they cleaned it out and immediately replaced it with a broken down convertible that is now collecting a different pile of junk. But this pic is a great example of that old adage “When life hands you a pile of junk in the middle of your event space, break out the dreamy twinkle lights and glitter burlap.” Photo by Rick Sorkin.

I’m a person who believes really strongly in body autonomy and people getting to make their own choices about their bodies and what they do to them. That’s why I don’t shade fat people who make choices about weight loss and that’s why I don’t shade folks who use whatever drugs they want. However, one of the first things I learned as a young adult was “Never trust a tweaker.” That’s really stuck with me and I keep my distance. I also work hard at a 12 Step program for families and friends of alcoholics and drug addicts and I know the realities of that life very well. It’s been hard to have that energy so close by, the Trigger Train is making all stops.


The foot traffic next to our house has been rough. Imagine strangers constantly streaming past your living room and kitchen windows. It’s like having a coffee shop open up but not exactly coffee. The worst part is Macy, my dog, now has cancer and I highly suspect it’s from the stress and energy of the people passing. If you’re not a spiritual person, from an earthly logic place any dog would get stressed by so much foot traffic. From a spiritual place we had Syd, our energy healer, come by to do a healing for Macy and Biscuit Reynolds and she described the energy of the person walking by as being “hit by wasps.”

Things got to the biggest breaking point when we were up in San Francisco for my friend Amanda’s memorial. The folks in the back house had a party and someone was screaming about a gun. 9 cop cars and 2 helicopters later our pet sitters left Macy alone in the house overnight and I just hit my own breaking point. I knew I couldn’t be present for a memorial while scrambling to coordinate pet care from afar. We turned around and drove home the next morning. (Only one arrest, they are very good at hiding their drugs and guns.)

Anyway, we’re happy to have finally found a place! It was a difficult search. I’ll write a post about it in the future, but we were looking at a leap in rent no matter whether we got a smaller 2 bedroom house or a bigger 3 bedroom house. We could say yes to this paradise in Eagle Rock because it is well set-up for a room to be an occasional air bnb, which will help with our rent jump until Bevin’s Tea becomes wildly successful. And once we get the motor fixed, we will have a hot tub! Healing Oasis!! Thank you to everyone who sent us good vibes, woo, and prayers that we would find a great place!

I’m Throwing Myself into Spiritual Work and Grieving

Clinging to anything leads to suffering. I know that intellectually but I struggle with that a lot in grieving. I’m definitely still mourning my Grandmother big time but without a lot of capacity to do so because of the new aerobics class, house chaos and the moving. I’m also grieving all the stuff I wanted to do in our current house to bring it to fruition that I don’t get to finish.

I have been struggling to stay in faith these past two months about finding a place that works for us, and trust that something better was coming along. Many thanks to Alex, my fabulous psychic, for the pep talk that there was something better.

A quick trip to Sacramento last week while Dara attended a conference was just what I needed. My bestie and soul sister Spunky just moved to a fabulous new apartment in Sacramento. We toasted to NOT SETTLING and trusting the Universe to always deliver bigger and better with change.

Energy healing, going to an astrologer, card reader or psychic, or attending a class like a sound bath meditation, yoga or any of the Heal classes at EVERYBODY is a combination of therapy and spiritual practice. I have been throwing myself into all of these things because I know they help and will help me keep my energy moving. Grieving is part of life, and as someone with a lot of losses I want to do my best to process it and still really LIVE. It’s hard to live when you’re stuck in grief and sadness. This blog is a chronicle of my relentless pursuit of joy and I believe you can have joy no matter what, but that you gotta look at and acknowledge your darkness and sadness in order for it to pass.

When I know I’m not processing my grief enough it is really helpful to throw myself into healing modalities. It’s a thing you can do helps to turn on a spigot and let all the feelings out. About a month after Grandmother POTSA, I realized I was constantly in classes and environments where people were guiding me in taking deep breaths.

I’ve been enjoying Jasmine Danielle’s classes at EVERYBODY. They are strengthening, Barre, and yoga infused and so great. A three pound weight packs a bigger punch than you think!

If you feel so moved, take a deep breath right now. Breathe in for four, hold for four, breathe out for four, four times. This Four by Four breath I learned from Tara Magalski, is a real savior in centering.

The next big spiritual work I am going to do is to let strangers pack my house. I will leave my current house with Macy and Biscuit Reynolds on Sunday, let Dara supervise the packers we are paying to pack up our house, and come back with the pets on Monday to the new place. We both have had a lot of work taking up our time, we knew getting packers was essential to our being able to move quickly. Dara said I should just leave and let her handle it (she admitted later it was both a gift for my sanity and it will be easier for her without me around).

California is gorgeous right now. Due to all the rain this Winter the wildflowers (and bugs) are poppin! The hills look like they’re painted orange but these are just swaths of flowers. So beautiful.

I’m a controlling Capricorn and have serious issues with people moving my stuff around but I also know this will open up my capacity to write more and get more done. I can heal more folks and do more work in the world if I learn let other people do things that bring me stress. Plus, my friend Katy is in town and was just going to chill at her pet friendly hotel all day and invited me along. Yes please, Universe, I will accept this gift and learn these lessons while being a fat babe at the pool with Katy.

Bevin’s Tea is Still Brewing

I’m still hustling my tea business, though much of my business development was put on the shelf in October when Grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Right now I’m kind of a low-key tea dealer, selling to my friends and folks through my blog. Soon I’ll launch on Etsy, once I have the photos done and new labels designed. I am thinking about investing in a fancy label printer and I’m also deepening my work as a healer so that the blends become even more powerful energy healing. I want to return to blogging the process of developing a product based business, because the more work I do with Marie Forleo’s B-School the more I realize how much I benefit from reading other people’s small business journeys.

Got to hang out with Jes Baker a couple weeks ago when she was in town for a speaking gig at a college!

So, beloved readers, get ready for the launch of Fat Sex Week XXL on Thursday! It’s going to be fatter and louder than ever before. For now catch up on the last Fat Sex Week!

2016-04-08

Finding Balance and Going Home to the Redwoods

I’ve been in crunch-mode the past three weeks. First there was “drop everything and get the house ready for Dara’s family to visit” which included hosting an overnight guest in our narrow living room on an air bed (we moved everything from the “staging area” into what will eventually be our office/guest room).

Then there was spending lots of time with Dara’s family, which was lovely and we love them. We also hosted our first Seder dinner and it was approximately 500 times more work than we planned for even though we knew going into it that it would be a lot of work.

Then it was crunch time to finish my tea blends and get them out to the folks who ordered in my first pre-sale. Dara said, “I have never seen you work so hard.” Seriously, pulling 14-18 hour days blending, packaging, writing labels, designing labels, printing, dealing with printer issues, buying last minute supplies I ran out of, packaging, going to the post office, etc…

lesbianteabasketTHE FIRST EDITION OF THE LESBIAN TEA BASKET IN REAL LIFE! I’m loving doing these in batches because I can constantly adjust the composition and the aesthetic. It’s like an art project meets tea and I’m really loving it. Everyone who ordered their tea should be receiving it this week!

So I haven’t been blogging like I want to be and I am now circling back to “balance.” I find that creating balance for me involves a lot of constant trial and error.

I picture my life as a two lane highway through gorgeous countryside/forest/oceanside (those are my favorite roads). Being on the pavement is “balance.” That’s feeling like I’m getting things done, going in forward motion and taking care of myself in the ways I need–mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

everyayisawindingroadEveryday is a winding road.

Life happens and I’m constantly course correcting back and forth across the pavement until I sync up with it again. And then the road starts curving or somehow I veer off the road and then I am doing it again, course correcting until I get back on the pavement.

Life is inevitable forward motion and inevitable curves. I’m just always working to make sure that the road is pretty, mostly enjoyable to drive and that I make sure to appreciate the view. I’m not always on the pavement.

macyinthewoodsMacy’s first time in the redwoods. She found them too prickly to walk in.

After three weeks of crunch time, not even seeing the pavement, we took a trip to the Bay Area on Friday. It wasn’t optional, otherwise I would have put it off again to try to stay here and get centered. Dara had work meetings and I really needed to get stuff from my mom’s house. We paid movers to send stuff down in February, but mom forgot a couple of tubs of important to me photos and I wanted to harvest some mint*.

It was a whirlwind trip, we were back by Sunday night. We stayed with my dear friend Leo, who lives in the redwoods on the mountains along the coast on the Peninsula. As soon as we got on the seriously winding road up her mountain I felt immediately at peace. It was an energy that felt super familiar to me and very soothing.

leoscaribinercupLeo has had that coffee cup since I’ve known her. It is superior to all other travel mugs because it has a caribiner clip for a handle. Let me know if you find them for sale anywhere!

Pretty soon I realized that we were in the woods that housed a lot of outdoor memories for me. My first summer camp is 10 minutes away from Leo. The campgrounds my Girl Scout troop would frequent is right next door to that camp. I spent a lot of time up in those redwoods as a kid.

In California most kids who went to camp only went one week per summer, not like on the East Coast where lots of my friends (of higher economic access than I had) went for the whole summer. What a dream that would have been! Luckily I got hooked up in Girl Scouts and my troop from 7th grade through 12th grade was super outdoor focused so I got to go weekend camping a few times a year as well as summer camp sessions.

gstroop1994This photo is over 20 years old and Leo lives 10 minutes from this hotbed of Girl Scout outdoor skills competition activity.

I was not spiritual as a child and though I now know I was sensitive to energy I was not conscious of it. But as a fat, working class weirdo girl who moved a lot and didn’t have a ton of consistency or experiences of unconditional love, shit was hard for me.

I am so grateful to the amount of outdoor experiences my mom enabled me to have because there was something so freeing for me to be in the woods. I would go to camp and feel more okay about being a weirdo, I would feel loved and held in ways I couldn’t articulate then but were vital to my survival. It’s like somehow in the outdoors, with less people and less societal pressure, I felt free to be me long before I could find it in myself to feel free to be fat and weird and queer and confident–no matter what my surroundings.

bevinleowoodsThis outdoor grill is outside of Leo’s house and I learned how to cook out on one of these when I was a young person at camp.

campmailCamp mail from Spunky I found while going through a box at my mom’s.

Now that I’m spiritual and developing my abilities and sensitivities, I can go into these places that were so vital to me and understand a bit better. I have often wondered how I survived my childhood. Because I survived I now feel a calling to make the world more survivable for other people.

This weekend was incredible to realize, “Oh, hey, the energy of these woods helped me survive.”

It was a true homecoming for me. It was a feeling of safety and regeneration I couldn’t have identified as a child, and I really appreciate all the work I’ve done on myself so that I can be present and be in wonder at how amazing it is to stand among redwoods.

surfingleoLeo surfs now.

Leo lives in this extraordinary upstairs apartment with skylights that look up into a canopy of redwoods. She’s a good friend of mine and her apartment is also basically a giant altar full of great energy. I went up to the Bay Area thinking I was “not getting done” what I needed to get done, but I found in it balance and recentering I so deeply needed.

meandmomSome of the photos at my mom’s place included this gem we recreated. I was about 6 years old–that was 31 years ago!

We have to go back up there soon, there’s still more to get from mom’s house (she’s downsizing so now I get tomato cages, a bunch of additional herbs and pots, and a garden table), and there’s still more hikes and adventures to have in those redwoods with Leo!

leointheredwoodsLeo got a special Lesbian Tea Basket with a redwood tree ribbon.

*We moved into the house when I was 13. I moved 13 times by the time I was 13. The mint was the first thing I planted and it has been acting like a weed at her house ever since. It pops up everywhere and I cannot wait to cultivate it on my tiny land here in Los Angeles. It’s kind of the one literal thing with roots that I have if that makes sense, and now that I’m starting my own tea business I know there is some deep magic in that specific mint plant and I can’t wait to use it!

duartesleodarabevinWith Leo at Duarte’s. You have to stop if you’re ever near Half Moon Bay and have the “half and half” soup.

2016-02-10

LA Week Three: Overwhelm, Gratitude and You Can’t Make Old Friends

We’re in our third week in LA!

Dara went on her first business trip back to NYC on Saturday. She’s in leadership development consulting and packed up her sleeping bag coat to go back to the frigid temps for meetings.

I had a visitor for the weekend–my BFF from Girl Scout Camp, Spunky came down from Sacramento to help out at the house. When we planned the trip I told her, “This whole thing is probably going to be just house projects.” I had no idea the gusto with which Spunky would throw herself into the tasks before her.

spunkymopShe became very focused on giving us a bedroom that was cleared out and calm. Much appreciated!

Since I don’t have a guest sleeping situation yet (we’re still on the airbed), Spunky stayed with Rachel, her BFF from childhood. I actually feel like I’ve known Rachel for the entire 18 years I’ve known Spunky but we’ve never met in person. And now we have and she’s only 10 minutes away from me and is giving me her spare banjo! The top of my bucket list is to learn to play the banjo, and I had to sell my old one a long time ago. Life is really beautiful and opening up here in this new place.

I had three big tasks for me and Spunky on Sunday and we whipped through them in an hour. She kept looking at me and saying, “What’s next?!” I have never felt her intense glitterdone energy before, usually when we hang out we go out to eat or sit on the couch eating pie in loungewear and watching TV shows.

647924206_9e607c9da3_oAt my graduation from law school in 2003.

I had visioned for a house with lots of daylight. I lived on a second floor of a six floor apartment building surrounded by other four and six floor buildings for four years. I had no natural light and could barely keep houseplants alive. In the new house we are surrounded gloriously by windows and light. There’s a house behind ours on this lot so with that comes an intense lack of privacy. Dara and I have been discussing our $2400 furniture budget at length. We’re spending a huge chunk of it to move furniture down from my mom’s place, but getting blinds for privacy and insulation became really big priorities in the end.

My friends Lexi and Jamison have been huge inspirations to me in the moving process. They bought their dream home in September (I got to be their lawyer!) and I visited a couple of times before we moved away. They’re a couple hours North of NYC in the Hudson Valley. A STUNNING farmhouse with lots of gorgeous nooks and a tremendous garden. It was great to visit people who had just gone through the moving process because they gave me great advice and better expectations about how much work and money goes into setting up a house. Lexi said, “There’s just always something else you need.” And Jamison told me how good she got at going to IKEA.

15964179982_44222df845_zI met both of these babes separately, Jamison in 2004 at a conference for fat queer activists and Lexi through my then-roommate when she stayed on my couch. Now they are making a home together! It’s pretty magical when two of your favorite people get together like that!

Along with those inspirations, I loved their honeycomb blinds. They are simple and beautiful and insulating and filter in daylight. Hoppvals were the best and most economic choice for blinds, even as it is $300 to put them on all of our windows. Jamison said she got really good at installing them so that helped me feel not intimidated by the idea.

I’ve learned a lesson from my Mariah Carey closet installation process already, which is that my first idea might not work so it’s probably best to start small. (I returned $76 worth of supplies to Home Depot after that lesson, $40 in supplies I’m going to use for other parts of the closet.)

daraikeaThat’s Macy in her backpack.

Dara and I went to IKEA last Thursday for blinds, sundries and to explore ideas for future furniture upgrades. (We really want these desk chairs.) We set an intention to enjoy our time together, explore and have fun. This was to prevent IKEA Fighting which is apparently a Thing people do. (As seen in Season 6, Episode 6 of 30 Rock, here’s a cute snippet of IKEA Fighting on youtube.) I didn’t know IKEA Fighting was a Thing until Jacqueline sent me the episode after Dara and I got into That Huge IKEA Fight of 2014.

We spent 6 hours in IKEA Burbank and had a great time. Setting the intention and having clear boundaries and expectations was super key. So was making sure our human needs were met. We went to the restaurant twice, once for coffee and water, once for a meal. The vegetarian meatballs are really good–sweet potato, quinoa and black beans. And if you join the free IKEA Family thing you get a free coffee or tea every time you go to IKEA.

Because of my “start small” lesson about big projects, we only bought blinds for the front bedroom where we were planning to relocate. Spunky whipped through installing them and we discovered our measurements didn’t account for enough overlap so we needed different size blinds. Since she was so fast I had her measure out the kitchen and meditation nook for blinds, too, since that is the windiest room in the house because of the old windows.

spunkypowertoolSpunky was disappointed I didn’t relentlessly take more photos, as I had forgotten how much she enjoys Bevin Paparazzi. Next time I will be more diligent!

On Sunday evening after working on the house all afternoon, she left me with a list of blinds to purchase from IKEA. I was able to be in and out of the Burbank IKEA on a Sunday night in an hour, including returning stuff and having to get stuff on the Showroom and Marketplace floor. I set an intention to be fast and had taken the time to really acquaint myself with the store last week.

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Spunky came back the next morning ready to work in a tank top, we are having surprise summer temperatures during Winter here in LA. This is great for our really cold house with not great insulation. She knows a lot about windows and home improvement as a homeowner. Apparently there’s all this lingo and anatomy to windows, who knew? It reminds me of when Spunky lived in Minnesota for a few years and became an expert about farming.

Spunky surprised me with a bag full of cleaning supplies from Target. In addition to these amazing hand embroidered tea towels she made me, her generosity literally made me cry. Especially as she left town and gave me a chalkboard, something Dara and I have been wanting for the kitchen but haven’t found one on Craigslist in our budget. Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers are right, you can’t make old friends.

spunkyceilingShe got us this ceiling duster thing I never would have splurged on, but seriously you can dust ceiling fans, baseboards and ceilings in 95% less time. And then you can throw the microfiber dusters in the washing machine. It’s the future.

Spunky said she had fun doing work on the house. I’m having a really hard time finding it all fun, my feelings of overwhelm and frustration have kind of clouded stuff. I can’t wait to have her back in March to help me get our garden going. AND I can’t wait for it all to be done so I can throw a party, THAT is what I find fun!

Turns out moving furniture from the Bay Area to LA is really expensive! When I said yes to taking stuff from my mom I didn’t think it would cost much and I was again wrong wrong wrong about an element of this move. Hiring movers ended up costing roughly the same as renting a one way uhaul, gas, insurance and saved the time and effort of doing it ourselves. Not only the monetary cost–the logistics of going through the moving quotes and coordination process once more after having moved into this place and dealing with things on this end was not an efficient or practical use of my time or money and even moreso, threshold for frustration. In the end, we will end up with way nicer furniture than we would have gotten on craigslist, but I’m really at a deficit for mental and emotional health right now.

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Since Dara’s been gone, I’ve been able to really sit with my feelings and notice what’s going on. Everything is new and hard. I don’t have the day to day confidence someone has when they know where everything is. Even simple things like getting the dog’s eye medication prescription refilled is a long process. I’m literally creating new neural pathways every day mapping out my new life.

The closest I’ve ever felt to this in my life was when I moved to Camden, NJ from Davis, CA for law school. Everything was new, scary, exciting, full of possibility. But I was 1,000% less checked into my body, my mental, physical and emotional health. At least then I moved into a fully furnished dorm and didn’t have to deal with setting things up.

dishrackspraypaintSpray painted the best rated dishrack on Google under $25 to prevent rust, the biggest complaint in the Amazon reviews.

dishrackJust one of the amazing tea towels Spunky hand embroidered as a housewarming gift!

When Spunky was here it was a good distraction, but in her absence I’m breathing and realizing. I decided I need to take a break from working so hard on the house. Part of moving out here was to let myself have a break from seasonal depression and have easier access to good mental health. I don’t want to overwhelm myself. I don’t want to feel stressed out. Stress is supposed to support us when we are in danger and the rest of the time just floods you with toxins, spikes your blood sugar and wreaks havoc on your health!

Today I’m writing, did a great tapping meditation for turning overwhelm to calm, and putting myself in a better place. Once Dara gets back I will go spend some time doing what I know will reset me to a calm place and head to a $20 day spa and soak it out in a hot tub. (Macy has been having stress diarrhea and one of the best ways to keep her calm is not leaving her alone, so I couldn’t run off to the day spa yesterday like I otherwise would have.)

I’m also working on sitting in gratitude about everything. In one day I received a bag of citrus from my neighbor (a mix of lemons and grapefruit) and from my aunt (tangerines). I got to go have dinner with my aunt and learn all sorts of new things about my family. My friend Andy came over and helped with power tools and a saw! It is so hot I’m wearing summer dresses and it’s not below freezing like in Brooklyn.

andysawMy friend Andy was our very first houseguest and came over to support projects in the closet installation!

The gifts of LA are tremendous. It is my overwhelm that is making it hard to enjoy them! Gratitude practice, meditation, focusing on self care is not the exact antidote for being overwhelmed, but they are good helpers.

I’m also reminded of the power of six months! Spunky and I used to use this for heartbreak, but it’s true for all major life changes. In six months my house will be together, my Mariah Carey closet will be finished and all of the boxes will be unpacked.

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2014-07-16

Macy’s Surgery and the Power of Showing Up Imperfectly

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

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

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

IMG_20140708_161532Our first visit post-op.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013-04-08

Lean into the Discomfort and Breathe: 10 Strategies for Moving Through Grief and Loss in the Wake of a Break-Up

I love to match make for my friends, and occasionally this comes in the form of me logging into someone’s OK Cupid account while we’re hanging out and soliciting people for them. It’s often a lot easier to hit on someone if your friend is doing it for you.

One of my besties let me loose on her iPad and OKC profile last Fall and reported that she ended up getting a few dates from my efforts. Ironically, one of these dates ended up talking random shit about me to my friend. This date said she didn’t like “Bevin or Sarah Jenny,” another party promoter friend of mine, because we “seem happier than normal,” in a way that was about maybe we didn’t deserve to be happy all the time. (My friend, of course, stood up for me and isn’t going out with this girl again. When the date was informed that Bevin was the reason they were even on the date the girl about died.)

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Me and Sarah Jenny in November. I want to point out that SJ and I are both fat femmes who promote parties but we’re really different people and don’t look much alike. I want to believe this girl didn’t say we’re “happier than normal” because we’re both fat and maybe don’t deserve to be happy because of that. I think being happy in a society that tells you that you should hate yourself is a radical act.

I take this (and most) criticism from people who don’t know me with a giant grain of salt. This statement says more about the person than it does about me.

I’m sure a lot of people perceive me to be very happy, perhaps event “happier than normal.” Most people who are not my close friends or even my acquaintances only have a really limited view of my experience. On my blog and in public I tend to focus on the positive, joyful things about my life. That’s a choice I make to live in a positive framework. But, please do not mistake that I am living a happy 24/7 lifestyle because that is far from the case.

Right now, for example, I feel like dead flowers in a vase. My resting state is sort of wilted and sad. The person I had been keeping company* with for a few months in an intensely connected, spiritual, sexual, emotional, intellectual powerhouse kind of way broke up with me two weeks ago. I am heartbroken and focused on healing. My creativity has been sapped and I’m back in a familiar yet different place of heartbreak.** I contain a lot of conflicting emotions at once, which is a hard place to be in because it can feel like a war is going on. I love her and want her to be following her path which, right now, excludes a relationship. I also love us and want to fight for us.

In helping other heartbroken and healing folks out there, I made a list of strategies I am using right now to get through when the only way out is through. My friend Elisabeth told me last week, on a particularly bad day when I listened to too much Taylor Swift (she helps until she hurts), “Lean into the discomfort and breathe.” Much easier said than done, but I know it can be done because I am actually doing it right now.

I am also using things that have been helpful from the Heartbreak MFA post I wrote in 2010 and from Zoe’s Break-up Survival Guide that she wrote in 2007. At least all of this collective pain is turning into a break-up survival treasure trove.

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At Rebel Cupcake/Sweet Fox Mariah Carey tribute last week. Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

1. Remind yourself that Feelings are temporary and Feelings aren’t facts.
I know feelings are temporary. I know this from a strong belief but also I know this because I am living Feelings on about a six hour cycle. If I feel really shitty right now probably in about six hours I’ll feel less shitty or differently shitty.

2. Be in the present moment.
When I can get into the present moment fully, I can sometimes distract myself. And sometimes I just really let loose and have a lot of fun, dance with my whole body or engage in a full gut laugh, or a full experience of art. But those in between times are a killer and the sadness seeps in.

I never knew how to “be in the present moment” (which sort of sounds like new age hooey, but it really works) until I practiced it. Here’s a beginner trick. Look around where you are and do an inventory of noticing things. Like when I’m walking/traveling my Feelings are the most dominant so I try to check in with my surroundings. “Look, there’s a cute bird,” “Look there’s a place where the wires look like they spell a lyric to a Bruce Springsteen song,” “OMG that sunset is painting the sky full pink and orange how beautiful.”

3. Stick to the plan even when you don’t feel like it.
Making sure I have plans outside the house with at least one other human and at least once a day has been crucial. I work for myself by myself, my beloved roommate has been on tour this whole time, so I can get really lonely, especially because of that void left by the person you used to talk to multiple times a day. Even though sometimes these plans outside the house involve a lot of internalized kicking and screaming, faking it till I make it often means I end up having a great time and usually/almost forget about my heartbreak for several minutes at a time.

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During the entire performance at Rebel Cupcake last week I felt elated. I realized during the second act, “Good lord I haven’t felt bummed out in over a half hour!”

4. Name your feelings.
I’ve learned that Feelings just need attention sometimes in order to move through them. Being okay if I can’t name them at the moment and maybe just getting into the quality of the feelings. “Sucky” and “bummed” totally suffice in this category.

5. Take excellent care of yourself.
Going to the gym, doing all of the regular self-care work I usually do but treating it like my job is crucial right now. I actually have a really hard time eating when I’m emotionally distraught and I’ve been scheduling meals out with friends a bunch so that I can distract myself enough to eat. And at home I make sure I have V8 and smoothies and vitamins so I can just get something in there even when I don’t feel like eating.

Have you ever written out a list of what it means to take excellent care of yourself? Maybe now is a good time to start.

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The genius of Shane Shane. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

6. Doing whatever spiritual work makes sense to you.
I’m a really spiritual person, so much of these things fall into my regular self care, but some are special things that might fall into “treat yo self.”

Here’s a list of spiritual activities that help me:

Prayer
Meditation
Tarot reading
Astrological reading
Past life reading
Yoga
Meeting with a spiritual group
Doing rituals by myself or with a group***
Attending or listening to services (I don’t belong to a religion but appreciate spiritual wisdom in many forms and listen to services via TV or podcast by folks who preach positivity)
Going out to sit in nature and watch birds, the ocean, the trees or whatever
Gratitude lists (there is so much to be grateful for)

Tarot reading with Jacqueline. #babestagram #lesbianteabasket
Jacqueline reached out to me upon hearing about my break-up to offer her tarot services. We met up at Teany and now are blossoming a new friendship! Also it really helped me sort through my stuff.

7. Feel your feelings right now. Be a liberated hot mess.
There’s a lot of empowerment from feeling your feelings as they come. I’ve been crying a lot, wherever whenever, just to let it out, and thus have added to my old lady chic by stuffing tissues in my bra, every pocket and keeping my fancy hankies in all my handbags. I already did that hanky thing, it’s just more diligent.)

I’ve been very honest about my feelings to everyone. Obviously I’m a social butterfly, but the thing about me is that I cannot stand small talk. I also know how empowering it is to be honest about how you are and so I just let people know. Sometimes I soften the blow by making a joke out of it. (“This is my lot in life as a lesbian.”) But even though I soften it being real about my experiences helps me get through it. Authenticity is a very important value to me.

I’ve learned stuffing my feelings as a coping mechanism, hiding from them or doing that classic escapism, rebounding, just makes me have to feel them worse later. Feeling shitty comes with a late penalty. I’d rather just get the grief over with.

Sometimes I feel a little bashful about how sad and needy I am right now, but I know I have people who are safe spaces for it. Spunky has done a lot of watching me cry on google video chat when there’s nothing more to say. (Also, though I am wary about being an energy suck, I actually got a great compliment from someone about how positive I am being in my grief.)

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I was sitting like this eating with my friend Bridget before the party started and Hana walked in and said, “All I can see is tits and barbeque.” Tits deep in BBQ is one of my favorite things to be.

Reaching out for help has been great for me, and letting people who have capacity to lend an ear, text, dinner out come to me has been really successful. Using facebook filters has been a great way to all-call for this. Also, it’s nice to get sympathy from people (and I got a lot of sweet, supportive comments on the “I’m going through a break-up I can’t stop crying” post). That first day when I couldn’t go more than a few minutes without crying, my eyes were so puffy I could barely see, I was supposed to go to a dinner party. I debated going (especially since my ex had been invited so there would be all those weird “She was supposed to be here” realizations) but then I realized that this group of people is part of a spiritual work group I’m in, they support me, and if I had to keep running to the bathroom during Seder to cry they would get it. It turned out that it was a perfect distraction, and I didn’t have to worry about “sparkling” with these women, I could just bring my sad self.

It’s incredibly amazing how, if you learn how to receive, times of heartbreak can really show you how loved you are.

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Moment of woo before Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

8. Doing new things with your appearance.
I rarely wear my hair “flat” to my head because I like big hair. But I’m just trying a new thing because new things while I’m feeling intense discomfort help me feel better. And also there’s a lot of empowerment in reclaiming your body after a break-up. I am vaguely considering going all the way blonde.

9. Proceeding with unconditional love.
I used to play the victim role big time in my break-ups. Learning to acknowledge my loss without vilifying a person in it is a new experience for me. I am hurting, that is my truth. She can’t be in a relationship, that is her truth. I learned a lot from this relationship, including what it is like to really experience unconditional love and conflict from a loving place. I want that to be our experience in a transition place from sweethearts to whatever we’re going to end up being, whether that’s friends or Boston Friends**** or just people who were very connected once but don’t really interact anymore.

This is very difficult work, unconditional love. Especially when that’s not always modeled well, in families, in past relationships, even in the media. How often do you see exes who remain friends in popular culture? How often is it complicated? (Also, as an aside, I think we can all agree that Rayna and Deacon on Nashville are totally Boston Friends.)

My friend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha told me today, “I hope you are being sweet to yourself and opening your heart to transformation.” That’s what I’m intending to do with this break-up. Transforming myself through love. I think with love all things are possible, even hope from a really sad place.

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10. Throwing yourself into a big art project.
This was mentioned in a previous break-up post, but this time around I’m combining my love for traveling in the wake of a break-up (my last one had me heading out on a cross country road trip two weeks later) and my love for consumptive art projects to get through loss. My friends Sarah Jenny and Avory of Hey Queen asked me to produce the decor for the “Queens of the Road” themed party this weekend the day after my sweetheart broke up with me. I thought it was a very serendipitous call to action and I’m knee-deep in hot glue, maps and glitter getting ready for this upcoming weekend.

*Our actual relationship status. Our previous relationship status was “dating or whatever” after I said, less than a month into it, “If we’re still dating or whatever this summer I want to go…”

**It’s sort of crazy how much I can open myself up to loving even more after every heartbreak! And then I feel hurt again when it’s over in a new and different, yet somewhat familiar way. It is a comfort to remember I got over this before, in bigger and worse break-ups, therefore I know there will be gifts waiting for me on the other end.

***A ritual I did recently, after I pulled a tarot card that told me I needed to exfoliate, was to rub my skin with oil, soak during a long, meditative bath, then took great fist fulls of epsom salt and scrubbed my skin invoking newness into my life. I rinsed off and smoothed it all out with lotion.

****My new friend Jacqueline gave me that expression for “More than Friends.”

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This is my “Know Your Own Strength” tattoo. Photo by Kelsey Dickey. Tattoo by Jason June. New year’s intention by me.

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2013-03-27

Blue Bottle Ritual With Spunky: Letting Go of the Old and Womanifesting the New

Nearly fifteen years ago I was working as a camp counselor at a Girl Scout Camp and met this blonde girl who annoyed me. I perceived her to be totally cliquish, shallow and ridiculous. A couple of weeks into camp (and in camp time that’s a lifetime) something shifted and suddenly we bonded over a candy necklace and became close friends. It was years before we realized we were soul mates* but we were certainly BFF right away. Spunky is the closest thing to a sister I have and, these days, through the magic of google video chat, I spend more time with her than 90% of the people I know in New York City.

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This is what Spunky and I look like now.

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This is what we looked like at 19 on “twin day” where either we dressed like twins on purpose or it was a dress your counselor dinner and we let our girls dress us like twins.

Part of being camp counselors is participating in a lot of non-consensual woo. I totally didn’t identify it as woo at the time (and balked at all forms of religion and spirituality), but having been a lifelong Girl Scout, I really knew how to plan rituals and ceremonies chock full of meaning for our girls.

Spunky and I used our current spirituality and past Girl Scout training to design a ritual recently that I thought might help some of my blog readers who are interested in getting energy unstuck.

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This was the first place I ever felt at “home” on a stage. Now being on stage is part of how I pursue my mission in life. Camp really gives kids and young adults life long learnables.

One thing that counselors had done for me in the past that I loved was giving the gift of a blue bottle. There’s a song about it. It’s a little blue bottle that you keep to remind you of summer’s energy, it’s a great gift at a Scout’s Own or a CIT graduation ceremony. I was CIT Director the summer Spunky and I met, and I gave her a blue bottle of her own during one of the ceremonies advancing my girls. I still have the blue bottle I received and it lives on my altar. Whenever Spunky and I do tarot readings over video chat we each grab ours to help us connect.

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One of my friends killed a rattlesnake under that platform tent!

It’s kind of eerie how much energy we mirror back to one another. Often we’ll have the same kind of action going on in our love lives at the same time, though she’s straight and I’m queer and our relationships look different than one another they are still often similar lessons and emotional journeys.

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This is the spot where we shared that candy necklace and became friends!

When I was coming to California for Thanksgiving a few months ago, we decided to create a ritual to womanifest some new direction for us in our thirties. The blue bottles we had were about who we were in our late adolescence and foolish twenties. Now we wanted something to redirect our energy towards what we wanted in our adult post-Saturn Return lives. We also decided to go to the most magical spot we could think of, which happened to be the waterfall on a trail just past the buildings of the camp where we first met.

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Maybe we sweet talked a caretaker in letting us wander the trail through camp.

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My spirituality is pretty grab bag, based on the premise that there is good orderly direction in the universe, a feminine divine that is inclusive of all genders, and deep connection and appreciation for the natural world. Rituals are great and I use them a lot in small ways to help me connect to the Goddess.

Rituals are a way to bind the magic of a particular event. They are a way of ordering your thoughts and pointing you in a particular direction. There are prescribed spells and rituals out in books and on the internet, which can be a helpful framework to start. I much prefer to hear about them first hand from people who have used them before. I find I am pretty good at making meaning out of things and it works more intensely if I just put intention into what I’m doing, regardless if it is a prescribed ritual or I’m just making it up. When designing my ritual with Spunky, I just set about making meaning.

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I totally said a prayer of protection for all the fat and/or awkward kids that will have to participate in this ropes course! Adolescent nightmare!

It was Spunky’s idea to get blue bottles again. We looked all over the Haight (I was staying in the Castro) thinking there would be a head shop or something with tiny bottles but nothing in our price range. We ended up finding them at the exact same Cost Plus in Marin County I used to buy blue bottles for my CITs. We got these great jars intended for spices that actually had blue lids in them.

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We created an altar space with all of the elements of our ritual.

We also bought some things that were symbolic of what we wanted to womanifest to put into the bottle. I got us some purple fluorite, which helps enhance third eye vision, balance and seeing truth behind illusion. We bought these shark teeth for strength. We put in these flowers I found on the ground when we were wandering the Haight at a particularly magical moment “in the flow,” to remind us to keep seeking the natural flow of life. (We both struggle with patience.) When we got onto the camp grounds we each grabbed an acorn (symbolizing kids), a tiny rock from the waterfall and some lichen because I’ve always thought lichen was really rad and it’s a good symbol of light and dark and working together with opposing elements to find balance.

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In the flow on the Haight.

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We also went to a fabric store to buy ribbon to do a binding for the handle of the bottle. I had read about doing magic with braiding–just by braiding something together and meditating on it you are able to infuse that thing with energy. So we each bought three strands of ribbon that symbolized things that we wanted in a life partnership. Mine are a purple fuzzy ribbon (spiritual connection and warmth), a green piece of lace (growing together and openness), and a black studded patent leather ribbon (for hot sex and good style). We each bought a piece of black netting to put around the bottle.

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During our ritual, which was using our energy together in a space that had a lot of meaning to us. We opened it by burning some mugwort for dream/manifesting energy and playing music on Spunky’s iphone. If this were a Scout’s Own I would have had everyone singing some song but we had a lot of Indigo Girls on her iPhone so that’s what we used. We cleansed our stones, put them in the bottle, said some meaningful things, wrote out things we wanted to let go of from our twenties that no longer served us, burned those pieces of paper and let the ashes flow down the waterfall, wrote out womanifestation prayers about our lives and our future life partners, put everything in the bottles, braided our ribbons and tied everything up.

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Spunky wrote this prayer a couple of weeks before in a text message to me and transcribed it to her bathroom mirror and we bound it into our bottles.

It was really special to do this with Spunky at the place where we first met in this lifetime.** Katie, from Empowering Astrology, has suggested to use the power of the Uranus/Pluto square to co-create, and the time is especially auspicious now with this full moon to do use our energy to shift things and clear out emotional clutter.

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*I believe that soul mates come in all kinds, both romantic and non, and sometimes they start out romantic and become not romantic. One of my closest soul mates is more than a friend to me but there really isn’t a word in the English language to describe what we mean to each other.
**Spunky’s energy healer says we’ve been connected since Atlantis. A past life reader I had a session with told me Spunky and I exist to mirror unconditional love to one another on our journeys.

2013-01-17

Additions to the Queer Lexicography

It’s been awhile since I updated the Queer Lexicography here at QueerFatFemme.com and I have been employing some gems in my real life lately that might apply to yours.

Textversation. This is that tendency to use texting like IMing was back in the day. (Remember AOL Instant Messenger?) Some people are more prone to this than others, but I go back and forth. Sometimes I only want to use texting for pertinent information shares, sometimes I want a meaningful conversation to continue. Also, certain couples I know are basically always in textversation with one another when not in the same room.

“We were in textversation for a solid week and then, BAM, nothing for like four days. What happened?”

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Victoria setting up Apples to Apples at my birthday party. I want to start using the Queer Lexicography words in Apples to Apples.

Sending the Representative. This is a gem my friend Mackenzi introduced to me about that thing that happens when folks don’t show you who they really are when you date them. A particularly hilarious story accompanies this term that involves a suitor who engaged her intern to burn some cds she could keep in her car that would make Mackenzi think the suitor had good taste in music. It’s such a gift when your beau is being authentic!

“We were really vibing but it turns out they were totally sending the representative and I don’t actually know them at all.”

Sex Vortex. See also Kissing Vortex. This occurs when you’re in the kind of chemical magic with another human that time either stands still or ceases to exist when you’re having sex or kissing. I’ve had this happen to me, where I lose track of time and space, and also where my frien was watching me make out with someone at a dance party and said, “Bev, it was like time was slowing down watching you two.”

“We were supposed to have dinner at 7:30 but we accidentally fell into a sex vortex at 6 and didn’t realize it until 8:30. Oops.”

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Me and Sexpert Diana Cage at my birthday party.

DTR conversation. My BFF Spunky and I have been using this for years. DTR stands for Define The Relationship and the DTR CONVO is totally important but not something to be rushed. Being okay with ambiguity is something I’ve acquired over the years (see, why I love a date not a date), after a couple of years of really intense emotional work. But, dang, before I turned 31 I would go crazy without a DTR.

“I’m not trying to have a DTR with you but I need you to not euphemize this as ‘hanging out.'”

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Speaking of, let’s talk about the euphemism “hanging out.” I “hang out” with lots of folks. Let’s say I would actually hang out with pretty much all of my facebook friends. But I only sleep with/have slept with a small number of those people. I bristle at that common euphemism because if someone says they’re hanging out with someone I don’t know if they mean just like, chilling, with a friend or if they mean they are going to be doing it.

A friend of mine recently said that about someone she was sleeping with and I said, No, be more specific and she said, “Well, this is a girl I don’t spend money on and I’m not trying to woo. What do we call that? Is that just friends with benefits?” Dear readers who know more slang than I do, is there a term out there that I’m missing? Does everyone use the term “hanging out?” What if you’re not really friends but you just do it sometimes? What if it’s like somewhere before dating? Relationships are so complicated!

2012-12-12

New Episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket–High Tea at the Palace Hotel

When I was out in San Francisco my mom thought it would be awesome to take me, my Grandmother, her BFF and my BFF out to High Tea at the Palace Hotel. It was really fun and I did my best to record it with the video feature of my camera so maybe the sound quality isn’t great but my hair is awesome.

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You should know I call her Spunky and she calls me Groovy and that’s because we met as Girl Scout camp counselors when we were 19.

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Me, my mom and Grandmother.

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Mom and Linda.

In sum, the Palace Hotel High Tea relies heavily on ambience and bells and whistles and their tea is good but it isn’t all that. Their teas could be better served and blended, but the whole menu and concept is pretty great. They should hire a tea snob like me to come in and shape them up. It’s not cheap at $45 a pop, but it was a really great experience and I say if you’re visiting from out of town or you have a crowd of family in from out of town it would be really worth it.

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The menu. I agonized over what to choose and ultimately went with things I knew I wouldn’t be able to get other places, because the blends seemed vague enough to be proprietary or at least specific to the Palace Hotel. I had the Palace Blend (a black tea blend]* and the Equilibrium tea (a chamomile and “magical herbs” blend]. Both were okay but could have been better.

The video includes lots of great shots of the Palace Hotel atrium. It also inspired me to invest in a good vintage tea pot and start collecting vintage tea cups and saucers. I’d love to have a set that’s very hodge podge and beautiful. My roommate has a bunch but it makes me nervous to use her tea stuff because it’s all vintage and I don’t want to break it.

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It was really special to get to do this with my mom and that she was able to do this for us. Growing up poor and working class you don’t really think you’re going to get to be fancy or affluent enough to do something like high tea at the Palace Hotel. And it’s not something I take for granted now, getting to get dressed up and do high tea. I also had to do a lot of work on myself to feel worthy of opportunities like this, but that’s like a whole book topic and not for a tiny post introducing tiny sandwiches.

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Tiny sandwiches!

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THANKS MOM!

*Please excuse the weird close parenthesis. My Macbook key board is starting to fail and the shift key is being wonky and some keys just don’t work. Getting a new usb keyboard soon.

2012-09-21

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

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


Castro Valley, CA and Berkeley, CA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me and Spunky.

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

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

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

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Spunky with Bella.

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

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

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

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Self-care tips from the wall of Jonah.

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

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San Francisco view from my Prius.

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

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

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

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LLPS is such a hardcore babe!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012-04-11

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My view of the lake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Macy, DJ and snack distributor.

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

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

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Earlier in the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2009-09-15

The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Surviving Getting Stood Up

I got stood up on Sunday night. Since one of my Queer Fat Femme values is to turn rage into productivity, I decided to share with you my Stand Up Survival Guide.

First, we need to define what Standing Someone Up really means. I feel like a date canceled on the same day, either by previous communication or a no show is a stand up. Of course, if a date is canceled with proper notice AND explanation (they have a health issue, unanticipated legitimate conflict) AND apology AND offer to reschedule, that’s not being stood up. Disappointing for sure, but life sometimes happens. I also want to point out that communication issues run rampant in dating and sometimes scheduling snafus come up. This is why I like to text a few hours before a date to make sure we’re still on*.

Mercury is in retrograde right now, which puts an additional cramp on communication, so I like to indulge that with extra benefit of the doubt.** However, even when loosely planned, if a time and day are blocked off to see one another in a romantic context, I consider it a date. When rejection is coupled with the additional disrespect of my time and energy, the offense is quadrupled.

So what do you do when you realize your date isn’t showing up? First, I always text and then call.*** This is where the pre-emptive text is helpful, because when you’re not hearing from them it gives you more time to create a back-up plan.

The best back-up plan is to corral a big group of people to go out and have a really killer night, whatever that means to you. My favorite night of being stood up was when I was 23 and in grad school and dating this girl who lived about 45 minutes away. We had a scheduled date planned for weeks and she called three hours ahead of time to cancel because she had to “study”. She didn’t need to study, but it was a flimsy excuse and I saw right through it. So I made some calls and had the kind of night out she would kill for and took lots of pictures. This was before myspace, but I’m sure if we had been socially networked I would have posted them. The best revenge is living fabulously.

I also like to take steps to move forward in my dating life. Often being spurned by one person helps me get past my completely irrational fears of rejection and is an impetus for bravery. So whether it’s asking someone for a date (on that fateful day in 2002 I totally asked out this 19 year old fledgling drag king at a workshop I was doing and she said yes) or just sending a flirtatious Facebook message to a friend of a friend, it’s important to take steps to keep your dating life moving past the disrespectful douche who stood you up.

Occasionally, you can’t come up with a killer night out back-up plan, or maybe you’re not up for it, so thus I propose a Personal Pity Party. This is especially good for those of us who identify as Pollyanna Optimists. We have to occasionally indulge in self-care and boo hoos and maybe that’s soaking in a bath, reading a sad book, watching a ridiculous movie that will absolutely make you cry*****, talking on the phone to a long distance bestie and whining about the “why me” of it all and dating disappointment in general. It’s really important if you have a Personal Pity Party that you commit to snapping out of it the next morning.

Since my weekend had already been quite whirlwind and fabulous and I was a bit under the weather with an irritating cough, I came home from an incredibly productive Femme Family meeting, ordered soup, talked to my BFF Spunky (who sadly predicted the truth of “She’s just not that into you”) and watched the Patrick Dempsey hit “Made of Honor”. Since I had already asked someone out (who said yes, btw) this weekend, I figured that was enough moving forward and I committed myself to doing things to enhance my wallowing for Sunday night only.

I woke up Monday feeling much better emotionally, though with a lingering cough, and still went to yoga to make sure my body was going to be feeling good this week, too.

I have a lot to say about rejection, which I will save for another post. However I am a big believer in “the sooner the better” in terms of ending something you know isn’t working and not wasting time. Time is a precious resource–my dates should show me respect first and foremost and always respect my time. Salvaging the time wasted by an irresponsible date is definitely turning rage into productivity.

*In fact, my Wednesday date texted me tonight to ask if we were still on, as she had written down the wrong day.
**Mercury’s Retrograde is like the Michelle Trachtenburg character Georgina Sparks on the hit show Gossip Girl. Comes to town and leaves everything all effed up for her own amusement.
***Sunday’s standing up was so out of left field I actually believed the girl might be in the hospital. That’s how benefit of the doubt/Mercury retrogade I was going with.
*****A few titles come up with at the Re/Dress counter last week were Steel Magnolias, It’s My Party, Hope Floats, Beaches.

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