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

2016-04-27

LA Transition Month 3: I Started Swimming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bevinatpoolMe at the Glassell Park Pool.

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

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

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

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

IMG_20160412_191109Unfucking the guest room.

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

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

sleepnumberbed

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

sleepnumberbed2Dara is physically in that mattress in this photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_20160416_182418Femme Tea party part one!

IMG_20160416_182219Femme Tea party part two!

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

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

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

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

2016-04-08

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.

2016-02-19

LA Week Four: We’re Getting There

Tomorrow marks four weeks since we took possession of our dream house / super quirky rental. I kind of can’t believe that it’s been so long because it has gone by so fast.
guacamolerentMy first batch of guacamole from my first round of gathered avocados from my tree. How much guacamole is included in my rent? I can’t wait to find out! I also am going to get GREAT at making it so if you have a recipe you love (especially if it’s been handed down) please send it to me!

We’ve been so focused on getting the house put together while trying to manage all those new things that affect how you settle in somewhere that it is hard to feel that we’re in LA for real. If you ignore the time of year and weather, which is very special and wonderful, I could be anywhere learning new stuff. Where is the bank? Where is the grocery store? Which grocery store do I supplement Trader Joe’s with? How many times can we go to Home Depot before we become a lesbian cliché, and do I get a pass for a certain period of time after moving? Where is the most ethical/farm to table butcher shop? (The last question still unanswered.)

Dara’s bestie Big T said we need to start doing LA things on purpose. I haven’t been to the beach yet. Or Griffith Park even though we live five minutes away from it. It’s a great idea to carve out time to do the awesome things only LA can offer in order to help us feel more grounded in our new location.

sunset

I feel in awe that we live here, though, every single time I drive down a palm tree lined street I catch my breath. I will even pull over to the side of the road and take a photo or a snapchat. The sunset show is just gorgeous almost every single night, God TV really delivers in a town that manufactures TV for the rest of the world. In Brooklyn, surrounded by six story buildings I couldn’t see the sunset colors at all unless I walked two blocks away to the above-ground LIRR tracks. Here in my neighborhood of ranch style one story homes, all I need to do is look up and around starting at 4:30.

I am also so mesmerized by the glittering hillsides at twilight. Northeast LA has all of these hills that are dotted with cute houses up twisty roads. As the sky turns dark blue they all light up and it is so beautiful.

Our Mercury Retrograde lease signing/landlord accidentally giving us the wrong address thing affected us yet again. Listen, if there’s one thing you should learn from my experience it’s that if you turn on all of your utilities to one address and find out it is incorrect by one digit, just cancel all of them and start fresh. Literally all of them will say “sure we can change the address” when you call them and literally all of them will be wrong.

This time the gas company surprised us by turning off our gas without warning, even though a technician from So Cal Gas had come to the house a week prior, we explained what was going on and he said it was fine we didn’t need to do anything to change the address because it was working in our house. He was wrong and I found out the hard way when I tried to cook cauliflower and the stove wouldn’t turn on.

barbdarabevinOur friend Barb came to visit LA and we had dinner. Also, it gets cold here at night, so we wear warm clothes. The temperature seems to change 30 degrees in a day. Within six months I’ll really understand how layering works in this climate.

A call to So Cal Gas yielded an appointment to turn it on two weeks out. Dara bringing it up the chain of command (“Can I speak to your supervisor”) got us a week earlier, but it still meant a week of no hot water, cooking gas or heat. So Cal Gas is responsible for this huge natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, every day NPR in LA is talking about it, and I don’t think customer service or their public image is their first priority. Their negligence is literally making people sick and displaced from their homes.

This experience was a great reminder to me about how self care really helps no matter what happens. I had just gotten back from going to a $20 Korean day spa, soaking in a hot tub and sitting in therapeutic saunas. It’s the easiest way for me to go from stressed to mellow. (Victoria Mucha and I would go monthly last Winter to the $55 Korean day spa and it really helped my seasonal depression.) So when the whole gas company thing happened, I said “It’s cool, Big T lives six minutes away we can shower there, we can go visit Grandmother, we’ll just keep eating from the microwave…” It was the opposite of how I would have reacted the day before, when I probably would have started sobbing and overreacting to yet another set-back in this move.

Going into a move, especially cross country, you know it’s a hassle and it’s one of the top five stressful life events. But I guess as a Capricorn I wanted to know HOW it was going to be stressful so that I could somehow game the system and outsmart the stressfulness and mitigate it. I would say I managed to make it 30% less stressful through that method but there was just so much I didn’t think about. (If I had thousands of bucks to throw at it I probably could have mitigated 70% of the stress.)

thinkharderGrandmother has had this in her garage for years, I keep thinking about it when things frustrate me with inefficiency. (I’m such a Capricorn.) I can think of ways it is harder. So at least, even if shit isn’t as easy as it can be it could be worse. This is way better than going down my efficiency/perfectionism thought spiral!

I didn’t realize how much extra time gets lost to the process of moving. I was watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills the other day and Kyle is getting a closet put into one of her spare rooms. The closet designer referenced her co-star Lisa Vanderpump’s closet (it’s very enviable for many reasons). “You know, she has everything at arm’s reach. She can get dressed very fast.” And that’s a good example for ideal home organization in general. Once you have everything put away in an orderly manner you can do everything else in your life swiftly, a stitch in time saves nine if you will. But when you’re constantly looking for that one thing you need it takes up a lot of time. Even though my upstairs attic closet rennovation is still underway and my clothing is still mostly boxed up, I spent 30 minutes sorting everything I’ve been traveling with into separate bags so I could find things easier. If all my dresses are in one place, my leggings in another, my pajamas in another, my these can get dusty and disgusting working on the house clothes, etc… I can at least get dressed quickly.

I had no idea how long it takes to establish a kitchen! I love to cook, but I’ve been slowly becoming better and better over time and gathering equipment. I find cooking really great self care on so many levels. Cooking is a spiritual act for me, I like to put on a spiritual thought leader or a sermon of some sort and listen while I cook. I meditate while cooking. Cooking nourishing food for me and my loved ones also is good for our bodies, and sometimes I’ll put reiki energy into food. It’s also great stress relief and grief management for me when I have feelings, especially baking. It is really hard for me being on the road and not being able to cook, it was the thing I was most looking forward to doing when moved in.

I’ve unpacked all of the kitchen boxes we can find (I am certain we are missing one–the inventory from our moving truck was complete, so it must be mislabeled and not unpacked yet) and there are still some items missing. Also, I didn’t move my whole spice cabinet because of my desire to “only have shit that sparks joy” and not “waste money moving” stuff that wasn’t good enough. This is theoretically great, however, to cook something that would normally be a no-brainer-I-have-all-that-stuff-on-hand, I have to do an inventory of the spice rack and, whatever at least Trader Joe’s is only 6 minutes away and has a parking lot. I had no idea how much I use bone broth on the regular and I cannot wait until we get that butcher situation figured out.

daratoiletJust trying to change the toilet seat took up a lot of time for Dara, trying to deal with the rusted out nuts holding on the old one. A still unresolved project.

Also when you move without shit that sparks joy, and none of your dishes spark joy you have to spend time thrifting for the right dishes. We now have three Pier One plates from Goodwill. Still no pyrex casserole dishes. We’re getting there.

That’s the overall theme of the move right now. We’re getting there.

We haven’t joined a gym yet, so last Friday we went to this park near our house along the LA River that has exercise equipment outside. We wondered why no one was there at 11:30AM and the answer is because it is really hot at noon in LA and not a great time to exercise. Learning these lessons is part of acclimating to a new place and environment I guess.

sparksjoytangerinesThis new bowl sparks joy! It matches our tile backsplash and holds tangerines from my aunt’s house for delicious snacks. Got it at a yard sale for fifty cents!!

The furniture my mom sent us from her house finally arrived on Sunday, so we had the two steps forward, one step back experience that seems to be par for the course about moving. Finally we have a sofa, it makes such a difference to feel physically comfortable when you’re resting (my high heel shoe chairs are gorgeous and good for sitting at a party but not when you’re physically wiped and just need to kick it). However, now we have a huge pile of stuff we have to tetris to fit in the house (the boxes had to move to make room for furniture, so much is in a staging area waiting for my upstairs closet to be ready), and a couple pieces turned out way bigger than they looked on text photos so we need to sell them.

grandmotherdinnerOn our trip cross country we were supposed to spend a few days with Grandmother and it ended up only being a few hours because of how quickly we got our house, so going back to visit her was a priority.

We went to visit my Grandmother in Palm Springs this week, to experiment about whether we could go there to work during the day and hang out with her on our off times. Since both Dara and I are virtual workers, we can work wherever we can be uninterrupted, make tea and have strong wifi. Anyway, it turns out that it’s hard to work at Grandmother’s and we need to work more on setting up timing and boundaries around that but it’s all a learning process. By the way, Grandmother hates having wifi, she thinks it’s too vulnerable, but she has it because my mom rightfully insisted on her getting it. It’s a team effort introducing her to technology.

workingfromhomeHer backyard is gorgeous, so it is a delight to work out there.

I am getting to know her better and that feels pretty amazing. To get to know people better who you have known your entire life is surreal but awesome. She has been feeling sick so she is crabby, which is true for me, too, having been so stressed. Capricorn vs Capricorn can either be a really great collaboration of ideas or it can be deeply head butting, and Grandmother can be way more of a know it all than I ever realized. Usually she is very open minded but it’s a dance to figure out how to disagree with her in a way that opens her mind up about something new and when everyone is crabby it’s harder to have that dance. As I learn more about compassion and unconditional love I’m able to accept imperfect interactions with love, and take what I like and leave the rest.

developingmeditationchairPretty stoked about my favorite armchair for meditation being in a corner with a morning sunbeam.

During one of my cooking spiritual experiences this week (using my Ninja 3-in-1 system because of no cooking gas) I heard the following quote from a Course in Miracles:

“We should be grateful for all situations that make us most uncomfortable because without them we could not know there is something unhealed in us.”

I’m sitting with that this week. Knowing that things are uncomfortable because they are new. That I can reflect on my progress and that I can be proud of myself for putting myself in this uncomfortable, stressful, sometimes painful process of moving because I know I am opening myself up to new opportunities. I have no idea what LA has in store for me, but I’m really looking forward to easing into feeling comfortable here, exploring what makes it unique and wonderful and opening up room for the Goddess to surprise and delight me.

louisehaycalendarFrom my Louise Hay I Can Do It daily calendar.

2016-01-27

How We Found Our House in LA

As soon as we decided to move to LA I insisted I would only move into a house. They have all of these houses out here that are 2 bedroom, 1 bath bungalows, with little yards and washer/dryers and no walls sharing with anyone else. I’ve never lived in a stand alone house as an adult.

A huge part of why I was so ready for a departure from NYC was to live in an area that had less population density. Not that LA is a small place but it is more spread out. My apartment building was a huge pre-war beauty, with a Flintstones meets Camelot style grand lobby and truly the biggest two bedroom apartment of anyone I knew. But it was also a box in a building full of boxes, with people surrounding me at all times.

As I’ve developed my woo, I am realizing how much space I need, physical, emotional, spiritual. It’s helpful for me to get recharged in places where all I can see in one direction is what (in my belief) the Goddess made. Nature. The beach. The forest. The rolling Smokey Mountains. The desert. It’s also really exciting for me to get to live in a climate where my seasonal depression will be more low key.

When deciding to move to LA, here’s all of the factors that swayed me back to the left coast (I grew up in the Bay Area):

10% Seeing Grandmother more frequently
10% Seeing my Aunt/Godmother of choice more frequently
15% Developing a closer relationship with my family (who are all really funny and awesome)
25% Lessening/eliminating my seasonal depression
20% Living in a house
20% Further developing my spiritual and artistic gifts

Anyway, I knew having a house would be instrumental to all of that. (For more about our process, read this post.) When we visited LA last May, it was my intention to wander the city, get to know it and decide where we were going to live. Dara was just glad to be coming back to LA, she left it up to me to decide our neighborhood. (Obviously she still had veto power.)

grandmotheranddaracancersurvivorparkGrandmother and Dara at the Rancho Mirage Cancer Survivor’s park. (Dara survived cancer, Grandmother has thankfully not had cancer.)

I considered a pretty wide stretch of spaces. My Grandmother is in Rancho Mirage (two towns over from Palm Springs, I’d call it a low-key ritzy retirement area). The area has great developing professional industry. Which is good for me because I have to start my day job career over again. It’s two hours from LA proper, though, and it’s even farther from the beaches. But it’s 15 minutes to the mountains and the desert from Grandmother’s house.

My beloved Aunt/Godmother of choice is in Camarillo, so are two of my cousins and their kids. My family immigrated there from Canada when my mom and her siblings were pre-teens. It’s a magical place with a lot of energy for me. I know a bunch of awesome queers in the next town over, Ventura, which is a gorgeous sleepy beach town that I adore.

I have some awesome friends in Long Beach and considered that for cheaper rent and access to the beach. We stayed there for a couple of days during that May trip and got a feel for it.

We stayed a couple of nights on “the Westside” as I’m hearing folks call it, the area of LA by the airport and the beaches. We were in LA proper at a hotel (Dara had a work conference, I was “conference wife” in the fancy hotel room) and seconds from Marina Del Rey, a gorgeous beach town. Not far from Santa Monica and Venice, both totally captured my heart I loved them. I really thought I might want to live out there.

But then we visited my friends in the Northeast section of LA (Highland Park, specifically) and there were wild parrots flying overhead, it’s nestled into these amazing hills with huge regional parks with hikes and views of the sunset and an abundance of those 2 bed 1 bath bungalows with detached garage art studio spaces and yards. And then we went to a party at another one of those houses with a bunch of awesome queers and I realized it reminded me of the best parts of living in Brooklyn. It was going to ease my transition to start in a neighborhood where I knew folks who were easy to get to.

sunteaMy first pot of sun tea. The first thrift store we went to on Sunday had this beauty and two matching glasses for only $5! The first brew I’m doing is my reiki infused tea “calm” blend because me and Dara need to find our chill during these unsettling house taken care of times.

We visioned hard for the house we wanted. We wanted to be able to see the sunset every day while I drank iced tea. We wanted a porch, a yard for Macy, a garden for me, at least two bedrooms plus a sunroom/office. Abundant closet space, a nice bathtub, a great kitchen, on site laundry, and no shared walls. A driveway. I also loved my joke about having an avocado tree. My friend James Leander (in Ventura) had an avocado tree and said they got “bathtubs” of guacamole. My rent in Brooklyn included NO guacamole.

Every time we Craigslist researched the neighborhoods we were interested in living in, we always saw listings for bungalows for $1800 a month. One time we saw a place with a FRIGGIN’ COMMUNITY POOL for that much. I immediately imagined teaching a fatty and allies aqua jog classes in the pool.

night1intilehouseFirst night in our new house!

But when we got to actually looking for our house, we weren’t finding much of anything. We cut our road trip short in New Orleans after I got sick and wasn’t getting better on the road, heading straight for Tuscon and then Dara’s mom’s place in Vegas. We had intended to spend a week with her mom getting our stuff sorted to head to LA to look for houses. We started looking and things were bleak. Here are the websites we looked at:

Craigslist
Westside Rentals (free to search, $60 for the contact info for each rental)
The Rental Girl (not a ton of inventory)
Padmapper (GREAT for apartments, not great for houses)
Lee’s List (you have to get invited by an industry person and it costs to be a member, but there are listings there in NYC and LA, really great for short term rentals, house swaps and furniture, too)

Here are the neighborhoods we looked at (for my friends who are in the process of moving to LA), these were all within about 10 minutes of someone we know:
Lincoln Heights
Cypress Park
Highland Park
Atwater
Silver Lake
Los Feliz (Dara used to live there)
West Hollywood
Echo Park
Eagle Rock

Among all of those we found five possible contenders for houses, and getting a response was really difficult. Among our first round of reach outs was this quirky looking place with blurry photos but great tile work. “The house with the great tile” wasn’t going to be ready to see until after the weekend, which was great timing for us.

housewithtileThe front walk is all fancy tile from the 1960s. Having never remodeled a home I had no idea how expensive nice tile is.

We kept looking every day at the rentals and found maybe five other places that could work. Several were snatched up before we even heard back from landlords. Dara’s persistent, so she reached out to folks to express continued interest when we didn’t hear back.

The house with the great tile scheduled a go-see with us on Tuesday for Wednesday, so we had to last minute pack up the car and find a place to stay in LA. Grandmother came through so we arrived at her place at midnight. We left extra extra early the next day to make sure we wouldn’t hit traffic and miss the showing of the house.

Once we got there I did a snapchat video saying, “Are you our new house?” because I love snapchat and thought this could be a funny ongoing series while we looked at houses. There was another couple visiting the house, too, and the landlady showed all of us. She didn’t realize we weren’t all looking at the house as one big group, even though Dara was actively trying to cock block the other couple because she already loved the house.

It’s a quirky place. The backyard area is shared with the rear house and is cobblestone. The house is basically original from 1920. Almost 100 years old. The rear area has a shared garage space that is full of storage. There’s a cellar with a washer/dryer hook-up. The landlady is an antique tile dealer and she took great pride telling us all about the fucking gorgeous tile backsplash throughout the kitchen. There is a breakfast nook that gets morning sun. AKA A SUNROOM. There’s a built-in BBQ from the 1920s that would be a great open flame grilling situation and/or a fire pit for parties.

There are two bedrooms and the bathroom is a “Jack and Jill” bathroom (with breathtaking antique tiles, natch). The Jack door to the bathroom is totally fatphobic, I have to turn sideways to get in. The master bedroom isn’t huge but it has a door to the side yard where our landlady built a fountain. When I read fountain in the Craigslist listing, I thought it was a like a standard fountain but it’s a five tiered cement trough left over from watering animals she thinks. Now it is a fountain that trickles below the master bedroom window. The side yard is a private yard that has great shade for plants that don’t need full sun and maybe room for a hammock. And oh, yeah, a really tall avocado tree. When I saw that, that’s when I started really thinking this house could be a contender.

I had really been visioning for a version of our friends Madeline and Kristen’s gorgeous house, so when this didn’t look like it right away I didn’t see it. But then when I was able to really take in the quirks of it, I could see this was so much of what we had visioned for. And sometimes when things don’t look right away like what you wanted you don’t notice it.

We hung out long past the other couple (they were gone in 10 minutes) and I noticed that the sun was starting to set–and we could watch it from the front porch. I could easily make sun tea on that porch with the afternoon sun.

But the best and quirkiest part of the house was the weird staircase ladder to the stand-up attic that runs the length of the house. As soon as I got up there I saw that it was a prime place for me to put in a Mariah Carey closet.

atticphase1I have already borrowed my uncle’s shop vac to start working on my closet build out.

Ever since I saw Mariah Carey on Cribs she’s been my closet idol. Like, her closet situation is on point. I love my clothes, they have taken up roughly half of the footprint of my bedroom in my past several apartments. I knew it would be a challenge to cohabitate with Dara and my clothing. When I’m a rich lesbian I will have an entire suite as my closet. With a circular shoe chair.

circularsofaI saw this at a furniture clearance sale in Mid-Wilshire today.

Anyway, the amazing tile house had a ton of applications, but the landlord didn’t like anyone who had seen it. I mentioned casually my FAVORITE piece of small talk, “I don’t know if you’re an astrology person, but, it’s Mercury Retrograde, it’s not a great time for contracts or communication.” That’s how you have to intro it–“I don’t know if you’re an astrology person, but…” and it will open up spiritual convo if the person is into it. Usually they are.

Turns out, in addition to dealing antique tiles she’s been a tarot reader for 35 years and does energy cleansings and house cleansings. The houses energy was clean (I could feel that) and you know how many energy clearings were included in my rent in Brooklyn? None.

We paid the $30 application fee for the credit check, went back to Rancho Mirage and spent forever on the application, emailing it that night. The next day, when our landlady emailed us to say we got the house, we were in the living room of my Grandmother’s jumping up and down all three of us hugging.

Grandmother was a real estate agent in Beverly Hills for years and said, “Remember this feeling,” before she gave us lots of rental advice of taking photos of everything so we get our deposit back.

We had to quickly drive back to LA to sign the lease and put down the deposit on Thursday (remember we saw the place Wednesday), moved in on Saturday even though the floors were still tacky from the refinishing. We had to do a lot of cleaning and I have a huge task of cleaning out the attic and building out my closet.

But you know what I have? The house I visioned for. I believe in thinking positive and dreaming big. As someone who struggles with depression, thinking positive is a big piece of my self care. I can easily slide into the vortex of thinking there’s no house available for me and I have to settle. But I kept on believing for it and I worked for it (we spent SO much time looking at places and A LOT of time on our emails to landlords and the rental app). I really believe in the “ask, believe, receive” idea of the universe (Notes from the Universe is my jam), and we really went for it.

Dara kept saying that we were cutting our road trip short because our dream house was waiting for us. And I kept praying to have the house hunt be easy on us. And even though there’s a ton of stress when you don’t know what’s waiting for you on the other end of the unknown, I find it worth it to lean into it and try to have fun along the way.

Also, the house happens to be in the exact middle of all the neighborhoods we were looking at. And we’re 9 minutes from Chase and Taylor, 9 minutes from Kristen and Madeline, 13 minutes from my awesome cousin Sooz and her GF Masa. Every time I look someone up it’s so fast to get to their place!

I’m super excited to blog about the process of fixing up the house. Right now it’s like we’re camping–the house is drafty as fuck and it’s 42 degrees at night, we’re sleeping on an air mattress, our landlady still hasn’t gotten us a fridge so we’re eating out of a cooler. (Perhaps most awesome is being just 6 minutes from Dara’s bestie TR, who lives in a legit log cabin on a hill in Echo Park with a gorgeous view–being so close has been pretty crucial for us in these times with no fridge because we’re keeping Macy’s homemade dog food in TR’s freezer.) But we’re also making a home and I look forward to our house being comfortable and even more the place of our dreams.

viewfromTRporchThe view from the legit log cabin where I am writing this blog post because our house doesn’t have electricity right now because of the former tenant’s delinquent bill and LADWP bureaucracy. I feel like Megan Draper up in this hill because her house on Mad Men was nestled in a hill like this.

2016-01-14

Remembering Bryn

Second update: I was approached about this piece and asked to do a rewrite that, among other things, altered some language I used, clarified some of my language and directly addressed my interactions with Bryn around Michfest. I’m truly sorry if my piece caused anyone additional pain. The rewrite was reviewed and commented on by two of my friends, Mira Bellwether, who is a trans woman and a Femme, and a genderqueer identified Femme. It is important to me that the work I put out in the world helps the world become more survivable for trans women. It’s very important to me to respect the voices of trans women and work towards the most respectful and loving way to communicate about this devastating loss.

Update: The response to this post has been beautiful and overwhelming. I would love to keep adding links to more memories of Bryn, more of her writing and information about the memorial service on her birthday, February 7th (especially for folks not on Facebook). If you have links to more memories please comment or send me an email queerfatfemme at gmail.

From Sarah Schulman:
Dear Friends and Community:
We will be gathering on February 7 to remember our beloved friend Bryn Kelly, to recognize the beauty and depth of her life and to support each other in our love and grief. Details will be forthcoming from her family, her partner Gaines Parker, and from Kelli Dunham and other friends. Please share this information. Thank you.

Fundraiser for memorial costs.

This Friday Bryn’s birth family will be having services in Huntington WV.
Friday, Jan 22, 12p visiting, 1p service
Expression Church of Huntington
1539 18th St, Huntington, WV 25701
A group of WV/OH folks are attending, feel free to join, it will not be only birth family, you will not be alone.

I woke up this morning to two text messages from friends asking me to call them. I’m a Capricorn, I know a pattern. I know that means another queer friend of mine has passed. We love each other. We’re always in a race to beat Facebook to tell one another the important stuff. I never want someone to have the experience of finding out something devastating like this on Facebook, and I’m glad my friends think so, too.

I’m on West Coast time now, so I know I might always luck out and get a phone call before Facebook, because even though I’m gone from Brooklyn I still have patches on that quilt of Brooklyn queer community (as Quito so aptly said, today we have a Bryn sized hole).

brynhardfrenchnyc2010Bryn in 2011ish at Hard French in NYC.

I talked to Kelli, got the news, and had the awkward and necessary next step of figuring out who I am close to that I want to try to beat to Facebook. Bryn was in my dream a couple of nights ago. Fleeting. And since I had a dream about Glenn and Hana last night (we were on vacation) I took it as the Goddess’ sign that I should call. Glenn asked immediately if it was violence or did she take her own life. We ask these questions because it’s the lived experience of so many of us.

And also so is cancer. Ellie died two weeks ago. I have lost countless friends to cancer, heart attacks, stupid disease stuff and suicide. I am all about body autonomy and the choice whether to live or die is one that everyone should get to make. And at the same time, I’m not even through processing Taueret’s suicide less than a year ago.

bevinglenntaueret2009Found this photo of me, Glenn and Taueret in 2010 at Hey Queen while looking through my archives.

Anyway, I don’t usually eulogize right away but I wanted to make sense of this and also I wanted to let some friends and exes know about Bryn whose contact info I don’t have but who I suspect still read my blog. I use writing to make sense of things and, you know who you are and I hope you didn’t have to find out on Facebook.

brynatparty2010

I met Bryn almost ten years ago at a Mixer party (I think that’s what it was called) at Levi Braslow’s loft apartment. I was immediately captivated by her. She was hard to get to know.
Bryn was a trans woman. I identified with her as a fellow Femme and woman and someone who adored conventional masculinity delivered in a queer way, who loved parties and socializing but wasn’t actually comfortable at parties all the time.
She didn’t tell me she was HIV positive until years after we met (she got progressively more open with the world about it). She moved from rural Ohio to Michigan to New York City, if I’m remembering the whole trajectory. Even though she was from Ohio she was in rural Appalachia and definitely identified strongly with my West Virginia loves. She was queer country, through and through. She also told me moving to NYC when she did saved her life, because of the HIV services available there.

My friend Mamone shared a post Bryn wrote in January, 2015 to the facebook page for the Marshall University LGBTQ Office, in Huntington, West Virginia. Mamone knew her 20 years, from that time in 1996 through to present time Brooklyn. “Hi all. I just wanted to introduce myself. I visited the MU LGBTQ Office when I was a scared teen in 1996, and found tremendous community and support. Now I live in New York, where I am a writer and performing artist. So, if anyone is thinking about grad school or just moving here after graduation, feel free to friend me and ask me questions! Huntington still holds a very special place in my heart. ❤ http://www.brynkelly.com
Bryn emceed and performed at the queer country monthly night in Brooklyn the whole time it was running.

brynsummerspeakeasyoffemme2010At Speakeasy of Femme, a Femme Family event, in 2010?

Bryn was slow to get to know. I was in the phase of my life when we met (around 26/27) that I was quick to make friends. If I thought you were awesome I would trust you right away. She was more like a cat who comes into the room you’re hanging out in, scopes it out, but it takes a long time to hang out and chill. We talked about that, years later, when I realized that my overly trusting nature was getting me fucked over by people. She and I agreed there was probably a healthy middle between her inclination and mine. I wonder if that shifted for her?

She was an Aquarius, like Michelle Tea and Oprah (her words). Her birthday is coming up soon.

We were friends and we liked to party. I have a ton of summer drunk sweaty selfies with her. She was definitely a Winter hibernator. I rarely saw her then.

One of my favorite Femme moments with Bryn was when we were both flirting with the same out of town boy at a party who was hardcore flirty but being kind of vague with both of us. I found out later she eventually took him home. I high fived her when I found out, a win for one is a win for all. A lot of people default to Femme competition but I didn’t feel that way with Bryn.

brynatbuffe2012Me and Bryn at the August 2012 party Buffet.

A homebody who took such great joy hosting dinners and parties with amazing food. I am not a big football fan but anytime she invited me for the super bowl I said yes because of her food. She was the first Femme I knew our age who would cook a pork shoulder and helped me get over my fear of cooking large hunks of meat.

brynchrisokelly2008Bryn doing Chris’ hair for my 30th birthday party, Ascots and Bouffants. Miss you, Chris.

She cut great hair. She was a traveling hair stylist who could come to your house to give a cut. Like many of us who work in the queer community, she offered a sliding scale. She was extremely talented. Bryn eventually got a salon chair and started cutting in her house, which became a more intimate beauty parlor experience.

She was always a late arriver at parties. Going through my photos looking at memories of Bryn, I always know to look towards the end of the photos because Bryn was beyond fashionably late.

brynbunny2009

She was stylish, loved side boob and deep cleavage, had ever shifting hair, usually somewhere between reddish or blonde. For a brief period of time she went brunette and looked a lot like Snow White, she thought it was hilarious when I said that. One time I was late to Submit and saw her outside approaching. Her hair was mermaid blue because she had been experimenting with toner. She is one of the only people who I know who still had a consistent aesthetic even though her hair was always evolving.

brynheathernewyear2010ishThis was a super late night find of Bryn, something like 3AM on New Year’s Eve at Sweet Revenge which is now known as One Last Shag. We hung outside in the snow, drunk, celebrating. Yelling.

She was part of Femme Family–an important part. She trusted us enough to organize with us. She showed up.

Early at a Femme Family organizing meeting she said she had just gone to queer/trans yoga at Third Root and said she felt so free. I just remember the look in her eyes, we were in the lounge at Re/Dress. She was so relaxed and happy. She was usually kind of on edge, socially, as I think she loved being social and like many of us, had some social anxiety.

femmefamily2At the Femme Family coming out party in June 2009.

femmefamily1The other part of some of the organizers of Femme Family at that party.

She was a powerful witch, she was a great gossip and loved to throw shade. She was the kind of person you got dish from and dished to in a beauty parlor way and I knew she both loved me and talked shit about me and… whatever. We were honest with each other. Sometimes we were both Femme wolves who kept to our own and got over ourselves whenever we saw each other. Recently, when I ran into her, she had been up all night doing edibles and she had the sweet glow of someone who was high on socializing and on THC.

brynsweetbitch2008She was so delighted to give me this bottle of Sweet Bitch wine.

My friend Mira pointed out that in reading the eulogies for Bryn, most people knew a lot of Bryn but not all of her and I found that to be the case. She and I were both kitchen witchy but we never practiced together. I knew there was a lot more possible in our friendship but it didn’t all gel.

And then there’s the Michfest stuff. Trans women are women. Period. Folks who read my blog know I’ve been involved in working for trans women’s inclusion at Michfest for over a decade. The organization of the Festival intended that the Festival not include trans women. I’ve been working from the inside, working within a community, trying to change that.

Bryn was working from the outside, participating in Strap on dot org for years and attending Camp Trans, the protest camp across the street from the Festival grounds. The summer of 2008 we were both in Michigan at the same time, and we joyfully reunited at a Camp Trans “love-in across the road from the gate” as she put it. It was an educational and artistic workshop working towards inclusion, where attendees of the Festival were invited to attend. She performed a duet on her recorder with her boyfriend at the time.

Later that week she was given a ticket to the Festival by an attendee who wanted to pay for some trans women to attend the Festival. She came in with her boyfriend and I showed her around, with the joy of getting to show someone I loved a place that I loved. That summer, with lots of trans women on the land, felt like trans women’s inclusion was really possible and so very likely. I truly believed in my heart of hearts the Festival could be inclusive of all women, and I worked hard at it.

Bryn wrote a piece about attending the Festival, read it for a couple of performances and read it for my then podcast FemmeCast. (My audio archives are packed in a box en route to California right now, but I will link to it when I have it.)

Over time, after that Summer, Bryn became less convinced that it was possible and we didn’t have that many more discussions about it. On that issue we ultimately disagreed.

She was an incredible writer and performer, filmmaker and actress. She performed at Gayety, the performance series I curated with Kelli Dunham, and at Rebel Cupcake.
brynheelsonwheels2013After performing together at Heels on Wheels in 2013.

Her breakup with her physically abusive ex Scott Loren Moore a few years back was really hard on her. She did some amazing art about it, including a film for Elizabeth Koke’s epic performance art tribute to Sarah McLachlan’s Fumbling Towards Ecstacy in 2012. She won a Lambda Literary fellowship. She was always up for some deep gay weird art.

brynsweatysummerdrunk2008One of my earliest photos with Bryn. Sweaty, summer drunk, 2008.

I have gathered some links to her writing below, because you should hear from Bryn in her own words if you didn’t know her. She was special and magical and I’m really sad to not be able to read more of her amazing art. Hers was an important voice. She made a difference.

Bryn’s Website
Bryn’s Tumblr
Bryn’s Twitter
Captive Genders on Original Plumbing
Other Balms, Other Gileads
Bryn in the Golden Age of Huslters Video (she also did Kate Bornstein’s hair for the video!)
Dapper Dan and the Rise of the AIDS Punchline
Bryn’s work on Pretty Queer
Bryn was The Hussy on Pretty Queer. I always suspected it was her and she confessed in one of our gossip sessions. It’s good stuff.

bryncelebrationofpersonhood2008In 2008 I had a “Celebration of Personhood (as Opposed to Couplehood)” party on the same date I was originally planning to get married. I made these chicken wings as a reclamation of the chicken wing recipe my fiance and I had used.

I hope that if any of you are ever considering suicide, you consider at least paging through this mini version of Kate Bornstein’s important book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and other Outlaws.

katebornstein2013ishAuntie Kate.

As someone who gets really internal when I get depressed to the point of suicidal, I need to remember that my self care is a daily choice and is a choice that helps me stay alive. Today, even though I’m still on the road, I went and worked out because it’s the best thing to do to keep my brain functioning away from depression. And it’s deep Winter, a friend just committed suicide and there’s all this change going on. Self care. All the texts with my thirty something Femme friends today are about self care.

bryntaueret2009I posted this photo of me and Taueret and Bryn after Taueret’s suicide last March. I never thought we would lose Bryn to suicide, too.

I’m sending out lots of woo and prayers to Bryn, that her passage to the other realm is smooth and easy. That she feels love and relief and peace. I pray for all of her friends and family, that they be held and know love in this shitty, unfathomable time. That all of her former friends and lovers know peace and light. That we can figure out ways to shift the world so that it is easier on people. That staying alive does not have to be a struggle. That we can destigmatize mental health care. That crisis centers that are financially accessible and queer and gender and fat and disabled friendly develop because we need them.

You are loved.

You are worthy.

You are important.

Please stay.

2015-10-21

How Dunkin Donuts Turned Me Into a Sports Fan

I love tea. Obviously. I also really love iced tea. About four years ago Dunkin Donuts really upped their iced tea game and I was hooked. They are everywhere in the North East. There are three between my house and my partner’s house and we only live a 12 minute drive apart. My favorite beverages are only $1.50 to $3 so I often stop for a beverage when out and about in the city or on road trips. They have decaf coffee and almond milk so that has really solidified their meeting my needs on a couple of levels.

I also love a coupon.

groupatdunkinA selfie taken at a Dunkin Donuts in Jersey City this very weekend with Ariel Speedwagon, Damien Luxe, Dara and me!

When Dunkin unveiled their DD Perks card, the first opportunity I could remember that you could get a frequent buyer discount, I thought it was cute. It took a long time for me to get around to buying in. Their frequent buyer card requires that you prepay in order to receive the benefits. (It’s a perpetual gift card you reload.)

You get 5 points for every dollar you spend. Every 200 points gets a free beverage coupon. It’s not the best or worst deal for frequent buyer rewards (at $2 or so per beverage that I buy, it takes about 10 beverages to get one free). I’ve got a few coupons for free beverages lingering in my purse at any one moment.

victoriapumpkinThe road trip was to this great apple orchard with so many Fall magical things.

When I tend to start racking up points out of nowhere, there is some kind of special Dunkin reward thing happening and I finally pay attention. This summer there was a thing where I got 30 extra points for getting food with my purchase (their hash browns are on point–made with onion). There have been extra points for going more than a few times in a month, and sometimes double points for certain periods of time.

But even better than the extra points are the exclusive member discounts. This summer during a brief and beautiful window all iced tea sizes were 99 cents. Then, for the month of September all Dark Roast coffees in any size were 99 cents. This was great for outings with Victoria, who drinks a giant iced coffee, black, any time of day. I love to buy her coffee when we drive around on our adventures.

victoriacoffeeThis was at Denny’s but she was definitely drinking it black.

But the best is happening this football season. Anytime the Jets or the Giants win a game, the next day medium coffees are 25 cents. That’s right. A normally nearly $3 iced coffee is suddenly $0.27 (including tax). It is a miracle.

I have found myself googling sports scores, finding out when games are and generally wishing a team I otherwise care nothing about, good luck. I think there’s a lot of spirituality in sports, “laypeople woo” if you will. Think about all of the superstitions by the players and fans, lucky tee shirts, rituals. It’s all woo. And for me, someone who never uses woo for sports, to throw my thoughts into the ring. Anyway, it’s a genius way to direct spiritual energy.

My Google Now app has hooked onto how much I care about it and now I get notifications about scores and impending games. Since apparently professional football is played more than just Sunday, it can happen on Mondays or Thursdays, too. The Jets and the Giants have had a really great season so far, based on the number of 25 cent medium coffees I’ve received. Thanks dudes!

quarterbackscore

With the exception of Monday night’s game, where the Eagles trounced the Jets. I would say if I cared about professional football in any way it is simply by osmosis from Christie and Becky and having lived in Philadelphia amongst many of my favorite people who love that team no matter where geography leads them. So I was okay not getting my bonus cheap beverage.

I did learn a catch, though. When I tried to buy two medium coffees I only got one for cheap (outing with Victoria). Also, if you run out of money on your card, make sure they refill your card before they charge you for your beverages because otherwise you don’t get your perks points for it.

receiptThe first time I paid 27 cents for coffee I thought it was a mistake.

And, for people who love coupons AND eat gluten, you get a free donut for going online and filling out their 5 minute survey about customer service and taste on a website. You put the code on your receipt and return it to the Dunkin for the free donut. I go to so many Dunkins that it’s rare that I align a code with the place, but if you hit it while it’s busy they’ll just hand it to you. This is another treat I like to give Victoria, since I don’t eat gluten and I also don’t even like their donuts. I find them kind of filmy with grease and prefer a mom and pop donut shop donut.

But, for this season at least, Dunkin is using their delicious beverages and points system to get me, an avid avoider of sporting matches, to care about football and root for teams. Who would have thought?

2015-10-02

How I’m Leaning into Decluttering

A couple of years ago I had my first full reading with my astrologer, Katie Sweetman of Empowering Astrology. She told me that I should be decluttering. It was a big spiritual thing I needed/wanted to do but because of elements of my chart I don’t remember, it was also something that was hard for me. Both a struggle and something that I needed to happen for my spiritual growth.

imagine

In the Earthly realm I can tell you straight up why decluttering is hard for me–I moved 13 times by the time I was 13 years old. I had a working class single mom, so between financial uncertainty, divorce stuff, and moving towards the best public school district she could, we were on the run a lot. As a kid, coming home from summer camp to a new place is jarring. I have a thing with wanting to feel settled in a space and I think having stuff is part of that. It’s also from a place of having been really poor/broke in my life and wanting to make sure I can be safe and have the things I need. I’m a pantry always full just in case kind of person. State of emergency and stores are closed? My house is where you want to be.

In the past couple of years I’ve been leaning towards late in life minimalism. Well, my version of it, which, compared to how I used to be, will appear way more simplified. (I love glitter, accessories and flamboyance too much to truly ever do minimalism.)

As someone who has come to faith in my thirties, part of paring down is actually trusting the universe. If I get rid of these crayons, can I trust the universe enough that when I need crayons again I will have the means to buy them or borrow them? If I get rid of these clothes can I trust the universe that I will be able to get clothes that fit me when I need them? It’s hard to do that when you’ve had the experience of a weight change and not been able to afford work clothes that fit. (This is why a lot of work wardrobe pieces for me accommodate size changes.)

notesDecluttering old files meant I found a weird stash of personal archives from earlier this decade. I found a postcard from a friend, a note from an old lover, the card I got from the first time I met World Famous *BOB* in person before we became friends, a coupon for Bed Bath and Beyond I still intend to redeem.

The universe works in mysterious ways and somehow, just after I lost my day job in 2008 and set out as an artist/freelancer, I met someone who now invites me over every time she does a closet purge and it’s almost as good as having a personal shopper–her taste is impeccable, we’re about the same size and she loves shopping but is a picky outfit wearer and rarely returns things. Her generosity has kept me in cute clothes through a LOT of financial tough times. Her Tumblr is also amazing, lots of rad fat stuff, sex positivity and feminism.

Katie’s astrology reading was right, I can feel the internal need to simplify and to open up energy. In some ways I’m very excited about moving across the country because it forces the question “Do I love this? Can this be replaced?” for literally everything I own. I appreciate the nudge to do this thing I’ve been doing slowly for the past couple of years.

mailingstackI’m getting really intimate with the post office down the street. My next task is to figure out when the line is the shortest.

When Dara lived with me for a couple of months during chemo she hired my friend Miss Mary Wanna to come be my personal organizer and organize my bedroom. She was really helpful, both knowing my aesthetic and needs as a showgirl (no one can help a performer declutter like another performer), but also being a firm nudge to get rid of the things I really needed to get rid of. It was right after I had lost a bunch of weight and it was helpful going through my clothing. I have a small rubbermaid tub of vintage that fits at a different size because those are items I love and will come back to, and I let go anything that wasn’t something I loved.

(Miss Mary Wanna is a great personal organizer and if you need someone to help you do a project like that, you should get in touch with her.)

meandjoeyI actually really hate the process of sorting through things and decluttering, but I really love putting love out there. It was sooo fun to make a care package of craft supplies, toys and costume pieces my nieces Joey and Etta will love. It definitely helped me forget how much I hate going through stuff.

That experience was great training and I employed the idea that I wanted to really be able to see and use my home better and in order to do that I needed to continue to pare down what I had. I am a longtime follower of Fly Lady (FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself) and her free systems of organization and philosophies that help folks who are not born organized get some control over their spaces. She’s the person I heard “Do you love it?” from long before everyone was talking about the Tidying Up book.

ettaI love what a weirdo Etta has become, and how princess oriented she is. I made sure that in my costume pieces for her that I put in some balance–a bridal veil I had kicking around as well as a pink suede tool belt. And plenty of really weird toys and crafts. And a lot of glitter.

I began the plans for my impending move in earnest a couple of weeks ago, getting moving quotes (why it takes as long as shopping for insurance to get a simple moving quote is beyond me), and realized that Mercury is in Retrograde and I should just plan to finalize the HOW of moving once October 9th rolls around. I thought it might be helpful to know how much space we have to move before I started packing, but it’s this weird dance of how much I can get rid of versus how much I want to take.

Since Mars is in Virgo I’m using that glitterdone energy towards the organization of the move and it feels great to be taking huge steps forward.

I’m actually learning a lot about myself in this process of decluttering. It’s helping me really think about how I use my time and how it relates to my values. Going through my stationary reminded me how important the written word is in general–I think handwriting is an amazing tool for harnessing energy. Sending random love notes to my loved ones used to be something I spent a good amount of time doing. Doing the decluttering showed me that I want to get back to that.

But I don’t need all of my Girl Scout camp counselor stationary to do that, I can get by getting rid of 70% of my stash and just stick to my card file box. (It’s a great organizational tool for being thoughtful, having cards sorted by occasion and ready to go ahead of time, so all you have to do is remember to go into the card file and pull one out to mail.)

victoriachristmascardIt’s never a bad time to tell a friend that you love them, even if it’s through your 2014 holiday card you didn’t even get printed until February 2015.

I had a friend, Tammy Cannons, tell me she was interested in getting all of my leftover stationary and office supplies and would pay me the shipping. So I had a great time curating an amazing box of old stationary (I said, “I hope you like Winnie the Pooh and Babysitter’s Club”) and threw in a ton of accessories, too. Decluttering + care package is such an amazing feeling.

I’m putting a lot of time and energy into ensuring my stuff goes to great homes. In the past, when I’ve dropped stuff off at Goodwill and Salvation Army I have been told by them that my things would be all sent to the trash. When someone tells you that, you start not trusting the NYC donation monster. Also Housing Works has told me before that they get so much great stuff in NYC they don’t want pedestrian donations. So I’m working on being mindful about how stuff goes away. Since I am intentionally doing my move with a lot of lead time, we’re moving on faith instead of for a job or in a panic, and I’m actually working on how to do this the least stressful way possible.

bevinandtammyI had so much fun putting together Tammy’s care package, too!

I can sort things and do it differently, so I’m going to. It’s helpful to have folks willing to come pick up stuff (also great way to have tea with friends who I don’t see enough) and it’s helpful that my apartment building has a magical “free bench” with a pretty successful turn around. I dropped off my huge stash of craft paint the other day when I went outside to walk Macy and it was gone before I came back into the building. And the stuff that gets donated for real is going to go outside of the city someplace where they have more space and less population density and hopefully things will go to good use.

I’m instagramming a lot of my process at the hashtag #bevinanddaragowest and it’s also a great way to find stuff I’m offering out there for the cost of shipping. This creepy joyful monkey lamp (I bought when thrifting with Mackenzi) was snatched up right away by my friend Lo Lo from DC who will now add it to their a full of monkey ephemera!

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2015-09-28

Macy Monday: We Hired an Animal Telepath

Welcome back to Macy Monday, where I talk about parenting my beloved 11 years young Shih Tzu, Macy!

applepicking4All photos in this post from our little family trip to pick apples in September 2014. This orchard (Pennings Farm Market in Warwick, NY–about 90 minutes outside of NYC) had so much fun stuff, including a huge outdoor scrabble game but sadly no tiles!

When Macy was going through the recovery process from her ruptured disc surgery in July 2014, we had no idea that getting her back to normal was going to take as long as it did. We were told she would make either a full or nearly full recovery but not how long her road back to wellness was going to take. (To be fair, we were in such shock about everything I don’t think we asked.) I also think that her reaction to one of several factors made her recovery much more dramatic and difficult for her emotionally than it is for many dogs.

I haven’t isolated exactly what happened to trigger her deeply anxious response for certain. Animal professionals, psychics and friends have postulated either the surgery itself, the seven days in the hospital (I visited her every day, sometimes twice a day, while she was in there), or the anesthesia had a lingering affect. It was also mentioned by a friend of mine who is psychic that it is very likely that because I’m an empath, Macy is probably an empath, and her being in the crates at the hospital with all of those scared dogs really affected her emotionally. I have noticed that she prefers in home grooming so much more than going to the groomer, in part to avoid those walls of crates with the other stressed out dogs.

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Regardless of why, post surgery Macy was a basket case for about two and a half months. She was on crate rest her first week home and I couldn’t leave the room without my normally really well-behaved dog howling for me. I had to go to the bathroom with her in my arms. I contemplated getting one of those baby bjorn things for attachment parenting but was worried it would hurt her back somehow. I stayed home with her for a full week, then I started taking her with me everywhere I went because I couldn’t stay home literally all the time it was affecting my mental health.

Meanwhile, Dara was getting her radiation treatment for breast cancer on the Upper East Side, and it was bumming me out big time that I couldn’t be there for Dara because I had to be there for Macy. Eventually Dara’s therapist got her a letter to have Macy as her emotional support animal for cancer, which helped with having Macy with us all the time.

Because we didn’t know what was causing Macy’s anxiety, we decided to have a consultation with a Pet Empath, Dawn’s Animal Connection, that many of our friends had used. I figured, why not? I had heard good reports, from a friend whose cat was having accidents communicating that she wanted to use a piddle pad rather than a litter box, from another friend who had a posthumous reading with her dauchsunds. (Ever since I heard from her that the dogs complained about their food during the reading I seriously have been conscientious about what we feed Macy, and it inspired our changes to her diet as much as nutrition.)

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The reading with Dawn was via phone (way easier to schedule than in person) and we put her on speaker phone while we were with Macy. We prepaid via credit card and it was less expensive than I would have paid someone in person or in NYC, which made me even more inclined to try. At $60 for 40 minutes that’s pretty accessible.

We asked lots of questions. Mostly about how Macy was feeling, did she understand what had happened to her, why can’t she be alone in a room, what could we do to help her feel better.

We didn’t get an answer about why she was feeling the way she was, but we got interesting information about how she was feeling physical “zaps” in her body and brain, that reminded Dara of “zaps” she felt while she was going through chemo. Macy was very clear that she needed us to be with her all the time.

So even though the telepath didn’t really give us an answer of how we could be released from 24/7 dog care, we did understand a bit better what was going on for Macy.

Applepicking1We bought this backpack for her and she absolutely loves it. She tolerated being in dog purses for me for many years, but since I wanted something more gender neutral for Dara to carry her around in, I thought a backpack was a good choice. I think she digs the mellow motion of walking and the mesh so she can see everything and doesn’t get too hot. I got this one from Amazon–it was $44 when we bought it, now it is up to $60. It lasted a good year and then a zipper broke, but we use it a lot as New York City folks who take our dog lots of places.

The end of the Macy anxiety story is that about 3 months after her surgery and literally taking Macy with us everywhere all the time or hiring a dog nanny (seriously, we hired someone to come sit with her when both of us had to go to work meetings), we were finally able to start leaving her at home for short periods of time, and then longer periods of time until it was back to normal.

Honestly, I wasn’t super blown away by the first reading with the telepath. Usually I have a moment of evidentiary based “There’s no way you could know this and not just be guessing well” whenever I have a good psychic reading/tarot reading/astrology reading. But, that happened the second time we had a meeting with Dawn.

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This summer Dara and I were wondering if we should take Macy with us on this long road trip to the World’s Longest Yard Sale, her niece’s Bat Mitzfah, and other Midwestern stops. Well, mostly Dara was wondering and I was saying we should leave her with a sitter. For $40 if you’re a returning client you can get a 20 minute reading with Dawn, and split two ways $40 to resolve an argument about dog care is a pretty good deal.

I actually really loved this second reading with Dawn. She knew lots of stuff she wouldn’t be able to know. She knew how Macy felt about her dog sitter (she feels like it’s a second home–which it really is, she’s been staying there for probably 8 years most of the times when I go out of town), how Macy felt about the cat that lives there and sometimes bullies her, but the best was the last thing the telepath told us.

We had a bit of time at the end so we just started asking the questions you’d ask your dog if you had the option. I asked what kinds of things does she like that we do with her. The answer surprised Dawn. She said, “I don’t know why she’s saying this but she likes to be scratched on her face and her belly but doesn’t like when you touch her eyeball. I don’t know why you would be touching your dog’s eyeball and why she is saying that.”

Well, in fact, I touch Macy’s eyeballs four times a day! I have to put in Optimune, this eye cream she has to have twice a day forever, in each eyeball, because she has a chronic dry eye condition common for Shih Tzus. Sometimes my application is really good and I can kind of hover in there and get the cream on without touching, but sometimes I miss a bit and touch her eyeball (gently, of course). This is a dog care activity exclusively on my side of the fence because Dara has a thing about eyeballs.

applepicking3There was a little farmyard at the Penning’s apple orchard we went to. I love sitting and watching chickens in a barnyard, I find it really soothing.

I would recommend seeing an animal telepath if you have mysterious things you’re interested in asking your animal companion. Especially with regards to resolving animal behavior stuff, it’s really nice to know what’s behind it.

If you reach out to Dawn’s Animal Connection, tell her I sent you! I’d love to hear what your experience is (come back and comment on this post!) because I adore woo modalities and love animals! I’m also super interested in learning to become an animal telepath, and I know Dawn does workshops.

2015-05-20

On Activism, Capacity and Seeing Yourself as “Enough”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015-04-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working class folks.

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

Spiritually curious people.

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

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

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

12 Step People.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then consider picking up Valencia because it rules.

2015-03-16

Florida Keys: Curating the Sunset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16135808124_de577ca163_zUnder the train track bridge.

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

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

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

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

16572055289_1319b04a29_zMoney shot.

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

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

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2015-03-10

Florida Keys: Paddleboard Yoga as a Paddleboard Novice Fatty

To escape the brutalities of New York City Winter and Seasonal Depression, I asked my mom to give me cash instead of a present for Christmas and my birthday this year. I parlayed that into a pretty cheap vacation to the Florida Keys (her gift was enough to cover my $180 round trip flight, share of our $130 car rental and 3 nights at our cabin). Part of the way this gift helped me combat seasonal depression was putting a lot of time into researching our vacation. I went down the internet and you tube rabbit holes about things to do in the Florida Keys many Winter nights. (The FloridaKeysTV you tube channel is a treasure trove, btw.)

IMG957561All photos in this post are by Tara McCabe, who lets the class send themselves the photos she takes during the class from her phone when you return to the marina!

It was a you tube video that brought me to Paddleboard Yoga! As soon as we saw it, Dara and I decided this was a top priority vacation activity.

I’ve been doing yoga off and on for six years but I’ve never been on a paddleboard. If I want to scoot around on water I prefer a kayak, where I can sit and enjoy the water while paddling. The idea of doing yoga on a paddleboard seemed scary in a fun way–I have a hard enough time with balance in the studio! Dara had never been paddleboarding, either, and she is not a huge fan of yoga but was totally sold on the adventure.

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We made a reservation with Lazy Dog Paddle Yoga (the studio? paddleboard rental place? featured in the video) and drove down to Key West from our cabin on Big Pine Key. The marina is not in the main tourist part of Key West and is right off the only highway through the Keys, the Overseas Highway, a 2 lane affair with breathtaking views.

We arrived 10 minutes before the class just in time for our instructor Tara McCabe, who founded the Paddleboard Yoga classes with Lazy Dog owner Sue Cooper, to give a paddleboarding basics class to those of us who are new to paddleboarding. A lot of the paddle mechanics were similar to kayaking but the positioning of the arms was different and I felt like I needed to have a lot more control over the paddle given that I was going to be standing up for travel. Tara mentioned we could kneel on the paddleboard while we were first getting used to how the paddle worked to navigate, which was really helpful.

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Since we were traveling from the marina to a little inlet off the canal nearby, where the yoga class would be held, we launched in groups of 3 or so from the boat ramp. As the rest of the class was getting outfitted with their boards and paddles Dara and I signed extensive waivers and paid the $30 each for the 9:30-11AM class. We could bring a towel and a water bottle with us strapped by a bungee to our board. I did some last-minute additional sunscreen application and left the rest of our bags inside the Lazy Dog shack.

We were handed one paddle each, sized to our height, and got on our knees to be shoved off into the marina. Dara went much faster than I did and I slogged along, getting used to the way the board moved. I followed Tara’s advice and waited until we were out in the canal and had made our hard right turn before I stood up on the paddleboard and began using the paddle in the correct holding from the top form.

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Being among last to arrive in the group, and the slowest paddleboarder, I felt okay about it. One of the lessons I learned early on in my yoga practice is that there is no way to “suck” at yoga, you just got at your own pace, paying attention to your own body and where your limit is. Running my own race instead of worrying about where my skills, physical ability and flexibility fits into the rubric of the class helps me just enjoy and settle in. I am often the least bendy yogi in a class but it doesn’t make me any less capable of getting all the benefits of the class and the practice. So when I was solidly holding up the rear of the paddleboard group coming into the alcove I was already fine with it.

Once in the alcove everyone dropped their anchors (these little heavy circles of some kind of metal that were clipped to the bungees on our boards) where Tara told us. She had a good sense of where the boards would drift and where folks would be best placed so as not to bump into one another. A couple of people chose to hug the mangroves for more access to shade. Mangroves are trees that line virtually every shore in the keys, with spindly roots that poke out of the water like stilts holding up the trees–mangroves are essential to the Florida Keys as they help secure land and prevent erosion. Dara was next to them during the class and said that sometimes the mangroves tickled her as she drifted into them on her board but it felt really nice.

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I intentionally wore a fatkini to the class. I sometimes am fat in public in a political way and sometimes I think showing skin is important to be like, I’m fat, I love my body and this is how I feel comfortable. But lots of people in the class, including some guys, were wearing clothes over their suits or wearing water clothing or something that you would buy in a surf shop.

Tara (pronounced with a long A) was an incredible instructor from start to finish. I loved learning paddleboarding from her, as she delivered the lesson with the patience and sweetness of a good yoga instructor. She made sure at the beginning of the class, when we all settled into our spots, that folks were reminded that yoga is not a competition and to run their own race. I know this already, but it is always nice to have a new-to-me instructor reinforce it as a class culture.

She provided great modifications to all of the poses and reminded everyone it was an all levels class. I tried to put myself into harder poses and would sense my limit and settle into wherever that was. Being in the middle of the board by the handle was the most helpful spot for balance. When preparing for this class Dara and I anticipated that one of us would fall into the water, and it turned out to be me while getting into modified Warrior 2. I don’t even know what happened or how but suddenly I was in the water. I was the first in the class to fall. (The only other person who fell toppled during a handstand and I think that was pretty badass.) Since where we were was very shallow it was really easy for me to hop back onto my board. And it did cool me off!

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I loved the sway of being on the board during poses. I loved the moments where she had us do a pose and stick a foot or a hand or arm into the water. I actually really enjoyed doing it on the board versus a mat, because I felt like there was more cushion on my board than a traditional mat (I think this was because of the type of board I happened to be on). I also found downward facing dog much easier on the board for that reason–I was most worried about falling

Tara’s meditations were great, too! At the beginning of the class she called out the full moon we were experiencing, letting go of the junk from the Winter and opening up to the coming Spring. What she was saying was definitely right-on for me. During our shavasana/end of class corpse pose, she suggested we put a towel over our head if we wanted to (which I did, it helped with shade) and put our hands out into the water. While floating there she said, “Bevin, I need you to pull your hand up,” so I did, very used to surrender during yoga to an instructor. I kind of thought she was paddling by me as she floated among the class a bit while teaching.

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It turned out there was a tiny snake that was slithering by and heading for my hand. The raise gave him enough startle that he headed in a different direction, into the mangroves. Tara said she was glad I didn’t ask why so that she didn’t startle the class with news of the snake during the shavasana.

And then before we opened our eyes she serenaded us with a ukelele version of “I Can See Clearly Now,” which was so profound, being in that beautiful, warm place with no clouds in the sky and melting away the agita of a long, cold Winter.

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My sunscreen game was NOT on point for this adventure. Next time I am going to load up on sport sunblock SPF 80+ and reapply right before shavasana. (I was using Neutrogena dry touch waterproof SPF 55.) I got a really odd burn in parts of my body (especially my knees, which from being on the board rubbed off the sunblock and then got burnt during shavasana).

After we all grabbed our anchors and delivered them to Tara’s board before we headed back to the marina, we stood up and paddled back. I was in the back of the pack, again this time on purpose to visit with Tara. She would warn us when boats passed about what kind of wake we were in for. Unfortunately, in a deep part of the channel one of the wake waves really got me and I kind of toppled to the side and fell from my standing position. It took a lot of work for me to get back on my board. Being a fatty, it can be hard to pull yourself back up onto a board or into a floating vessel, depending on your upper body strength. (I have some but not a lot.) Tara was ready with another modification for me, this time having me try to get back on the board not from the side but from the back. That part worked, with some patience and some wiggling like a seal on a surfboard. I made it back to the marina by staying mostly sitting on my board. It was faster when I was standing but I wasn’t ready to chance it again. Also, standing required a lot of tension in my thighs to hold myself balanced and they were kind of exhausted by the end of all of that paddleboarding and yoga.

Paddleboard yoga was a total trip highlight! Dara and I had so much fun and felt so peaceful afterwards. I was super achy later, mostly my arms because I hadn’t done any serious paddling like that in a long time. I would highly recommend Lazy Dog for all of your paddleboard and paddleboard yoga needs, and Tara for yoga! She teaches at Shakti in Key West, leads guided paddleboard meditations through Lazy Dog, runs Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga training and founded the Paddleboard Yoga at Lazy Dog!

Next time we go to the Florida Keys, Dara and I intend to try doing it twice during our trip as well as a meditation!

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