Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Seven (7) Things I Learned From Hamilton

Lin-Miranda Miranda in Hamilton via Wikimedia Commons
I'm a stubborn bitch who prefers to see the show first, then listen to the music, later, when it comes to musicals.

But. So many of my friends have been buzzing about Hamilton I couldn't hold out until it is scheduled to come to my area, late next year. I downloaded it from Spotify and have been playing it on repeat for almost a week. Who needs Xmas carols?

1) The buzz is right, it's terrific. Beyond terrific. That said, for those who incline more to Rogers & Hammerstein or Elton John & Tim Rice style musicals, wrapping one's head around the rap and hip-hop can be an initial challenge. There's so much here (and there are some weepingly poignant ballads, too).

2) Listening to songs from a complicated and detail-rich Broadway musical out of sequence will leave you confused AF. All gratitude to my writer friend Samantha Joyce for providing me with the Idiots' Guide to turning OFF default shuffle.

3) It is a hella lot more comfortable reading or listening to history than living it in the moment. In the moment, it is terrifying and painful.

4) I am a sentimental wuss and bawled my eyes out over several of the songs. Which now happens every time I listen to it. I can't wait to actually see the show. (Anybody want to trade Los Angeles tickets for a slightly used kidney?)

5) There seem to be a couple of different ways politicians relate to their country. The "A dot Ham" way, putting aside personal gain for the sake of country, or the "A dot Burr" way, seeking government office as a convenient tool for personal gain or ego stroking.

Let us hope that just as Aaron Burr's style was only temporarily ascendant, that in the longer, bigger picture, the USA won't stand for it.

6) The music winds its way into your bones, and is full of clever hooks, but the lyrics are freakin' brilliant. And pointedly, they show how the Founding Fathers didn't exactly hold hands singing kumbaya, before, during, or after independence from England. Take these excerpts from Cabinet Battle #1 (handle with oven mitts, they are HOT!):

'Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'
We fought for these ideals, we shouldn't settle for less
These are wise words, enterprising men quote 'em
Don't act surprised you guys, cuz I wrote 'em
Oooh, if the shoe fits, wear it
If New York's in Debt -
Why should Virginia bear it? Uh! Our debts are paid, I'm afraid
Don't tax the South cuz we got it made in the shade
In Virginia, we plant seeds in the ground
We create. You just wanna move our money around

Thomas. That was a real nice declaration
Welcome to the present, we're running a real nation
Would you like to join us, or stay mellow
Doin' whatever the hell it is you do in Montecello
A civics lesson from a slaver. Hey neighbor
Your debts are paid cuz you don't pay for labor
"We plant seeds in the South. We create.
Yeah, keep ranting
We know who's really doing the planting
Madison, you're mad as a hatter, son, take your medicine
Damn, you're in worse shape than the national debt is in
Sitting there useless as two shits
Hey, turn around, bend over, I'll show you
Where my shoe fits

7) Everyone believes themselves to be the hero of their own story, from Alexander Hamilton to Aaron Burr to Mike Myers' character Dr. Evil, to more recent politicians.

I need to keep in mind that Hitler and his henchmen thought he was a good guy. And he did have his good points: teetotaller, vegetarian, pet lover. (Well, until the end when he poisoned his dog.) Alexander Hamilton was a passionate patriot, but he was also a very flawed human being, too.

Our nation has survived rough times, and crooked politicians. We've survived Grant's administration when the nation was being tooled by robber barons much like current Cabinet nominees. America has never lived up to its lofty ideals: our history with American tribes is horrific, and then there was the whole slavery thing, and Jim Crow?

I am going to work as hard as possible to look on the next phase as an opportunity to do better. To stand up for those who are marginalized and most in danger in the next administration: Muslims, both native born Americans and immigrants, our other immigrants, our LGBTQ people, our disabled people, our POC, for all our people. To speak truth to power, because that is the only way things change.

To not turn my back when I see people in danger. To practice kindness, as much as possible.

What are you going to do in the next phase of America?

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Art of the Steal? #election2016

Anyone else feeling of two (or more) minds about this thing?

I want to be calm and compassionate and understanding. To draft a plan of reaching out to current enemies and converting them to allies. To join hands with other activists and make the world a better place.

I am also furiously angry and disappointed and so fucking terrified of all the hate crimes going down, the DT cabinet and staff appointments that creature is making, that I can barely sit in my own skin.

Did he even WIN the Electoral College?

At the risk of sounding like a birther (hey, maybe it's contagious), I posit that there may have been tampering with the vote count in significant swing states that handed the apparent victory to DT.

  • We know that, according to US intelligence, Russia was trying to interfere with the Presidential election in the months prior to November 8.  Did they just fold up their hands and go have a nice cup of chai?
  • We know that US voting systems are vulnerable to hacking.
  • We know that Russia says it was been in contact with the DT campaign during the past few months, knows most of his entourage, and applauded the news of his apparent victory.
  • We know that DT proclaimed the election was rigged. Was he telling the truth disguised as an attack on the other side, so that if Hillary or others did call foul, it wouldn't be taken seriously? #markofagoodcon
  • We have not had any election officials in key swing states verify that their systems have been tested and showed no sign of hacking.

Perhaps, that is why all the polls were so wrong. Because they actually weren't.

I promise to abandon this theory, as soon as we are presented with verifiable evidence from reliable sources that this did not occur.

Or, perhaps, I'll keep circulating it for another say, five, five and a half years. Maybe I'll keep declaring the loser of the popular vote, the alleged winner of the Electoral College, to be illegitimate and a fraud, as well as a failed businessman, con artist, and proud pussy-grabber.

Like DT did with the birther nonsense about Barack Obama being born in Kenya. #followtheleader

Kumbaya Time?

I have a fair number of friends and family members who voted for that person. Whose name in my mouth and on my fingers and makes me feel sexually assaulted. Therefore, I will not use disparaging nicknames, or even his original family name to discuss him. DT all the way, at least for now.

I believe one of two things happened. Either the election was rigged, and stolen... or America is much more intolerant and hateful and short-sighted than I realized. Either of which breaks my heart. I am experiencing serious grief, fear for my vulnerable friends, anger and sadness about the assaults and graffiti springing up by asswipes feeling emboldened by this alleged victory.

I posted this on my Facebook timeline:
Especially do not tell me how to feel or that I should "just get over it." I will get over it, IF I get over it, in my own sweet time. If my feelings right now, or those of any of your other friends make you feel uncomfortable, step away if you need to for self care. But don't try to shut me down because witnessing my pain makes YOU feel bad.
And yet, I have some of my DT supporting friends and acquaintances press the issue and tell me to "get over it." I give them one second chance, and if they kept on pushing the issue, on my page or Tweetstream, they clearly cannot respect my grief and my boundaries, and are not safe people for me to have in my life at this time. Maybe that will change someday, maybe not.

But they treated me in a way I would not treat them, if our positions were reversed. #boundaries

And yet, I don't think cutting off everyone who went in the opposite direction is productive or healthy. It is awful how polarized the USA is right now, and the blame for that can be spread liberally (haha) around. We all did it; liberals, conservatives, the media who kept playing the horse race and ratings angle, instead of actually being investigative reporters and holding candidates' feet to the fire.

One of two things is going to happen. Either things are going to be magically much better than we feared - which would be very cool. I would much rather our country thrived, than to be proven right. I find zero satisfaction in saying or thinking, "Told you so" when it comes to our country imploding.

Or things are going to get really, really bad. Like, hiding Anne Frank in the attic bad. And the third party voters and the Berniacs who blasted Hillary till the last possible moment and even the DT voters are going to need a face-saving way to come over to the Light Side of the Force. Because then we will need every possible ally to defeat the Dark Side.

Sleeping With the Enemy

I am actually not part of the "intellectual elite" who looks down their snobby college-educated snouts at the stupid working stiffs. I am currently a low level white collar worker; I had the choice between living several more years with my abusive, narcissistic father (oh, the constant triggering of C-PTSD with DT and this election cycle!) and going to college, or, getting the hell out of Dodge.

I got out. And I worked and got raped, then got pregnant a few months later, and then I was a dead broke single mom for a very long time. Never got a college degree, though if I won the lottery I would be in college so fast! All books and homework, all the time! #learningnerd

Some people without college degrees are brilliant. Some are idiots, and some people with college degrees are idiots.

There was a long piece I found about Joe Schmoe, that I found particularly insightful. I've shared it around, this is a clip of it:

You may believe, and understandably so, that some people are racist to their core - that prejudice is fundamental to their character and therefore why they make decisions, but that is almost never the case. The "racist" Joe Schmoe working class citizen of Michigan, who lost his manufacturing job as a result of NAFTA may scapegoat immigrant workers as the root of their woes but that does not mean he is fundamentally anti-immigrant, it means that he is fundamentally ashamed that he can no longer provide for his wife and three kids and secondarily willing to place the blame on someone other than himself - of which we are all capable.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of Joe Schmoe. You turn on your TV after a day of doing minimum wage odd-jobs here and there and see, for the first time in your life, a political candidate speaking not only in a language that you understand, but is also directly addressing what you care about most - restoring your dignity.

"Damn it, give me my job back."

You may or may not feel a little uneasy by the absolute terms he uses to describe certain populations of people (who may or may not be your friends) but for the first time in a long time, you have a champion. After all, he could be right about those immigrants - right?
Now, imagine that you, Joe Schmoe, are scrolling through your news feed or watching CNN or happen to stumble upon the late night show. And what do you see? You see a bunch of people talking about you. You see strangers, people you have never met in your life, making assumptions about who you are and why you would vote in a particular direction. They are claiming that Donald Trump is a racist, and by affiliation of the affinity you felt for his ideals, they are claiming that you are a racist. They are saying things like "never underestimate the power of misogynistic white males", "Donald Trump uses 5th grade vocabulary to speak to his supporters", while listing dozens of reasons for why you should not vote for Trump - none of which address your underlying and fundamental concern but all of which make denigrating assumptions about your character. You care about nothing more than providing a happy existence for your wife and three little girls but you're misogynistic? You speak at a 5th grade level? Fuck these intellectuals sitting atop their ivory towers. Why won't they actually try to understand how I actually feel?

Would you not feel enraged? Would the fact that most people are unwilling to even attempt to understand your point of view make you more or less likely to don your "Make American Great Again" hat and go to that Trump rally at Grand Rapids?

So, my DT favoring family members. I tried to employ Dr. Xavier Amador's LEAP (Listen, Empathize, Agree, and Partner) and become the Joe Schmoe Whisperer.

And I actually had some productive-feeling conversations this weekend.

Nephew Kr. 45 years old, and virtually disabled, in constant physical pain, but still working in the construction industry, because he has neither money nor education to do anything else. He's a kind person, and a real mixed bag. He is not racist (except toward Muslims, grrr!). He supports LGBTQ rights (if not T's using the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity, grrr #2). Pro-choice.

He's frustrated by the multiple environmental regulations that make it difficult for him to earn a living. He's not against a cleaner environment, he wants that, but he's been in the position of having a city inspector telling him, "Do it XYZ way," and having to fight the inspector because the thing is against state environmental regulations, and the inspector says he doesn't care. He is drowning in paperwork and regulations and has not gained any ground in the economic "recovery," but continued to lose it.

The promise that Hillary would be in effect a third Obama term was terrifying to Kr. He's barely survived the past eight years. He knows it's in large part because of a R Congress blocking everything Obama does, but doesn't see how that would magically change if Hillary was President. He agrees that the R's are dicks for not bringing forward a vote on Obama's Supreme Court nominee. But maybe shaking everything up would make a difference.

I was reminded of a story I read, several years ago, about a Haitian man with an orchard of grapefuit trees. In two years, his trees would begin producing fruit, providing a regular income for his family. But his family was hungry, NOW, and there were no other resources. So he allowed a company to chop down all his trees to convert them to charcoal, so he could feed his kids, right now. Yes, it was "short-sighted," but what was he to do?

I felt a lot of compassion for the Haitian man, and feel much toward Kr, though I also want to wring his neck sometimes. And it didn't help when we were having a fairly civil, if spirited conversation, when his mother, my sister, told him something he said was stupid. I understand her frustration, and at the same time, hearing from your mother that she thinks you're stupid - or that something you deeply believe is - does not make anyone feel good about themselves, or disposed to listen. I called her in on that, and I think she got it, but ouch!

His brother, Kv, also is battered and struggling from years in the construction industry. He's supportive of T's using the bathroom that fits their gender, but also has frustration with the regulations and paperwork in the construction industry. And we got into a discussion about off-road vehicles and California wilderness areas. In our family's favorite camping area, some of his motorcycles are banned, because they're registered with a red sticker, rather than a green one. (Of course, nobody wants to start a fire in our favorite place.)

But he has all the spark arresters, etc., on the vehicles. And if he took those exact same vehicles, with the same equipment on them, and registered them in Oregon, rather than California, he could legally drive them in that area, even though they're the exact same bikes. And he echoes the same complaints about regulations in the workplace.

So I can relate to the desire to get out from under so many stupid and frustrating regulations that are smothering them, in both business and recreationally - which is something DT has promised to do. It's a bummer about the polar bears and all that, global climate change is worrisome, but only if you think you'll still be around in a decade or two.

Another nephew, in Wisconsin, also works construction, has back issues, and is chronically underemployed. Pretty sure he voted for Clinton, but I got to witness the culture there, of working class people all struggling, working hard and getting nowhere economically. Trading favors and bartering to get vehicles fixed because nobody had the funds to simply get them fixed. I can see where "more of the same," stretching into eternity, was simply not appealing to many white working class people.

And I know, I know, POC have it even worse. Working part time is much better than being incarcerated or shot, no question. But all these men in my family have memories from their childhood where their families were much more economically secure. They are aging and in physical pain and are already working as hard as they can imagine doing, and people are telling them they've privileged? And racist, because they want to recapture that pride, that feeling like things are going in the right direction for them? Laughing at them for being stupid and uneducated? Telling them to suck it up and try harder?

The only way we can bridge the gap between the working class and the "elites" and find a way together is to stop insisting on ideological purity. The Berners who tantrummed over Hillary and never found a right wing hit piece they didn't love - and share, because they didn't think she was the prefect candidate - are part of why the alleged results weren't as strong for her. Their votes, and the voters they help make disaffected, may have handed the election to DT. I admit, I'm still more than a little bitter about that. We freaking begged people to recall what happened in 2000 with Ralph Nader. #Historylesson #enjoythe OrangeReich

If things go as badly as I fear, we're going to need every ally, not just those who were #WithHer from the beginning. Those who wrote in Bernie and sabotaged Hillary; those who went for Johnson/Weld or Stein, those who stayed home, and yes, some of those who supported DT. And the way to draw them in as allies is to try to understand what they were and are feeling, and to make them feel like we understand, and have compassion for them. Even if they aren't perfect.

And I for one, do.

Sorry this is so long.
Your thoughts?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Still Beautiful, Still Sexy, After Breast Cancer #breastcancer #surthriver

Photo by Nick Holmes Sept 2016
Ready to discuss cancer? And look at naked boobs? Can we make that a hell yes?

Estimates are that as many as 40% of Americans will be diagnosed with and survive cancer.

Sadly, not everyone will beat cancer, breast, or otherwise. I lost a dear friend, Sherwin Davis, to pancreatic cancer just last month. #fuckingcancer

But for those of us who get cancer, and don't die of it, what then? Should we pretend we died? Live a life of fear and rehash our hurts? Grovel around like beggars at the Table of Life, expressing pathetic gratefulness for any crumbs that fall to us?

Well, as discussed as CatalystCon, and in agreement with Clarissa Pinkola Estes, surviving as a goal ain't good enough.  The goal, always, should be to thrive.

This is why I call myself a surthriver. Because my life before cancer was awesome, my life during cancer treatment was awesome, and my life post-treatment (except for the Tamoxifen regimen, which sucks big fat hairy donkey balls), is awesome.

A big part of my journey has been learning to accept that my body has changed. A huge factor helping me do that has been the sexy surthrivers I've been learning from.

That Club Nobody Wants to Belong To

My friend Mina Harker might never have come into my life, except we both had cancer. Hers was cervical, and she is a BadAss, Stage 4, 5 year+ surthriver. She also had a double mastectomy because of the BRCA1 gene, and agreed to sit on my panel for CatalystCon to discuss the modifications required in her sex life because of her diagnosis and treatment.

She is awesome and über-sexy and I love her to pieces.

If you look super closely, you might notice the scars.
Mostly, you notice a gorgeous woman

And then there's my friend Jennifer Pratt, who can rock purple, silver, or turquoise hair, or a tiara. She is talented like that.

Jennifer has been battling leukemia and ovarian cancer. Because she'e an overachiever.

Jennifer hosted the best (technically, the only) pre-cancer surgery party I've ever attended. She is upbeat and funny and also writes a blog about her celiac disease, and I'm so happy we've met.

Augusta Fleming, Now treating her Stage 3B Hodgkins Lymphoma with cannabis in Colorado, after traditional chemotherapy last year offered a miserable time (months in the hospital at a time!) and no real progress. She's the mother of two little girls, a kick-ass photographer, and a true inspiration.

Because she had to be hospitalized so much, there are evil medical bills.
Her friends have set up a GoFundMe to help.

And then there's this radiant woman, Sex Educator Ericka Hart, whose proud, joyous photo from Afropunk3 went viral on social media. (Photos shared with her permission.)

You can follow Ericka on Instagram.
"Where were the dykes who had double mastectomies? I wanted to talk to a lesbian, to sit down and start from a common language, no matter how diverse. I wanted to share dyke insight, so to speak." - Audre Lorde 
#qtpoc#queers #audrelorde #breastcancer#awareness #hereandqueer #dyke#cancerwarrior #survivor#effyourbeautystandards #melanin#blacklivesmatter 

Ericka at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Body design by artist Laolu

Read this interview with her at Posture Magazine. Ericka continually blows me away and I am following her career with intense interest.

Showing Our Bodies When We Want To

One of the things Ericka and I and other breast cancer surthrivers have discussed, is that because we have to show our breasts (and often, other body parts) to so many different medical professionals: doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and more, it can be empowering to show our bodies when we want to. Even if that's to the whole world!

You get to see my tits! And you get to see my tits! Everybody gets to see my tits!
"Before" lumpectomy picture by Nick Holmes, June 2015

My arrangement with my favorite actor - slash - pretend cowboy - slash - poet (you should totally buy his book and get a lover to read you his deliciously sensuous poems, they're yummy!)  - slash photographer, Nick Holmes, was to have him take a set of before-and-after photos. Nick made the "before" pictures easy and fun.

Getting to the "after" pictures was much more emotionally challenging for me. Even though I was so lucky, and I knew it, not having to have a mastectomy, or chemotherapy.

About two weeks post surgery. I did not expect Laverne to swell up like that.
Possibly the vigorous sex I had with three of my lovers was a contributing factor. #toomuchofagoodthing

As I got deeper into radiation treatment, Laverne and Shirley looked like they were staging an interpretative production of Snow White and Rose Red.

Radiation reddened my breast, thickened the nipple,
and caused the skin in my armpit to break down.
Fun times!

Nothing like having one of your lovers help you bandage up your 'pit as foreplay.

Eventually, the breast skin became (more) normal, though Laverne remains pinker than Shirley despite lymphatic massage. The nipple and areola are still thicker, and ridged. I've heard it may go back to normal in five years or so.

Or, never.

That was not what I wanted to hear. But that is part of this journey - learning and accepting that our bodies have changed. We have to find ways to love the skin we're currently in. Instead of waiting until we are: thin enough, muscular enough, some other "enough." We deserve to give ourselves love and compassion now. Whether we are breast cancer surthrivers, other cancer surthrivers, or just "regular" women and men, growing a little older every day.

So I decided to stop procrastinating, and booked my "after" session with Nick. These are some of my favorites.

The one good thing about having cancer, is, it helped me lose weight.
Oh, wait.

That's another thing I am struggling to accept, that chances are I can't lose weight (95% of people who deliberately lose weight, see it all come back, with dividends). That what I have to focus on is health: eating nutritious foods, getting regular exercise, drinking water, getting enough sleep. I'm not perfect at those things, but am working on 'em. Blogged about the weight quandary here.

I'm working on accepting that, at least for now, maybe forever, I have a big belly and thick thighs. Flabby batwing arms.

And to love my body anyway.

Because life is glorious!

I love my eyes and my hair in this shot!

I am very, very happy to be alive, to have this healthy, sensuous body that gives me so much pleasure. And sometimes I think the girls look pretty damn good!

This photo is NOT by Nick Holmes, lol.

If you haven't already, please consider signing up for my newsletter (right side of page, toward the top) so I can let you know about my progress with my Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n Roll, and a Tiara: How I Celebrated Kicking Cancer's Ass memoir, to be released in 2017.

Do you have stories about body image struggles? 
Or taking back your power through boudoir or other photographs?
Your thoughts?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Got Wenches?

My kittehs:
Creativity on the left,
Motivation (Mojo) on the right
So I've been part of an online group of writers, mostly women, with a couple of (male) barkeeps thrown in, because somebody needs to bring us the booze.

The Wenches are scattered across the US, Canada (I think), Sweden, the UK, and Australia, so, sadly, our wine parties are mostly virtual.

Our genres are also scattered: Young Adult, Horror, Women's Contemporary Fiction, Romance, General Lit'rature, and more. Also, Dinosaur Porn.

Even though I’ve been writing longer than some of the other wenches have been alive, I have fewer published works. I don’t have any dino porn.

Actually, I’m a little wistful about my lack of dino porn cred, but maybe next year.

 I’ve had a number of life interruptions in my writing career (which is squeezed in between day job duties anyway). And every time my creative juices seemed to dry up, I thought – I feared – that I would have to give up my writing dreams. That I just didn’t have it in me anymore.

 Maybe you’ve experienced life interruptions, too. A marriage or love affair that ended painfully. A move, a job layoff. The death of a beloved in your inner circle. I’ve had those. Most recently, it was a breast cancer diagnosis that sidelined me, leaving me without time, energy, or creative mojo to keep putting words in a row. It was super early, super treatable, and I’m in full remission now, but it consumed quite a bit of bandwidth.

 Your creative thing might not be writing. It might be basket weaving, or ceramics, or interpretive dance. And then life interrupts, and you wonder if you’ll ever be able to do the thing again.

I’ve gone through this cycle a couple of times now. And every time, I thought, “This is it, stick a fork in me, I’m done.”

Yet despite my thoughts and fears, it’s like riding a bike, or sex. The creative power does all come back. So be patient with yourself, lovely one, and don’t despair if you too are experiencing Creatus Interruptus.

Your love for the thing, your energy, your creative mojo (not to be confused with my adolescent kittens, Mojo and Creativity) will all come back, and more powerfully and juicily than you can ever imagine. My writing – and my sex life – have never been richer or more pleasurable.

My memoir Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n Roll and a Tiara: How I Celebrated Life While Kicking Cancer’s Ass will be released in 2017. I live in Los Angeles with my two cats, Motivation and Creativity.  Want to be on my mailing list, so you know when this work comes out? Sign up at the top right of this page.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Unpacking the Lessons of CatalystCon

Just when you think you have no more virginities left to lose gleefully shatter...

Sept 16-18, I attended - and presented panels at - my first CatalystCon.

What is CatalystCon?
CatalystCon is a conference created to inspire exceptional conversations about sexuality. It is about reaching out and stimulating those who attend to create those important conversations in their own communities, changing how we as a society talk about and treat sexuality.  It is about stimulating the activist that is within all of us and sparking transformation in the way our friends, neighbors, children and even politicians discuss one of the most important aspects of humanity.

So, okay we can (most of us) accept that this is a conversation that needs to be stimulated. What does that look like, feel like? Who's at such a conference? And what can we learn?

Lesson One: The Hurrieder You Go, 
The Behinder You Get

For starters, it felt like me rushing to my car Friday morning, painfully aware that my friends from SPLA were waiting for me to arrive with our swag, the banner for our table, and other printed materials, which were all in my vehicle.

Our table did look nice. Partly because of volunteers like Patrick, Jules, and Mina.

I next became even more painfully aware of dropping my full, 24 oz. water bottle, directly on my big toe, while rushing to get into the car. This did not benefit my fresh pedicure or my water bottle.

Also, owie owie owie!

Lesson Two: In Any Situation, You Will Find People and Situations You Did Not Expect

Arriving at the area set aside in the hotel for us, it was highly amusing to find that our convention, including hundreds of sex workers, sex toy salespeople, and sex educators, had been placed next to a yo-yo competition, mostly young men in their teens and twenties. At least one of our conference goers, who appears in adult video entertainment, was recognized by some of her yo-yo'ing fans.

Lesson Three: If It Involves Technology, 
There Will Be Difficulties

When I created my PowerPoint slideshows on my desktop computer, everything looked great, but when I transferred them to my laptop, all my hot pink accents turned... purple. This was a problem as it totally clashed with the hot pink logo on most of the slides. Was able to fix that..

But despite locating the A-V tech, discussing cords and hook-ups and stuff the day before, (mine was one of the first panels on Saturday morning), and arriving that morning fifteen minutes early to get everything hooked up, we still had technical difficulties.

My awesome panelists: Dr. Victoria Reuveni, Dr. Jennifer Lang, Mina Harker,
plus me and Tony the Technician

Lesson Four: When You're Up On The Dais, 
No One Can See The Screen

Although I had discussed the subject matter with my panelists, and sent some of them the materials to review, add suggestions, etc., I did not realize I would have to guide them through it. Because the slides were projected on the screen behind us, and nobody else had a good view of my laptop.

So I felt like my presentations were too much my voice, though others said they went fine.

When I do future panels, I will make sure to print out hardcopy of each slide and share with the panelists, so they can chime in more spontaneously.

Lesson Five: You'll Want To Hang Out With Everybody, But There Won't Be Enough Time

One of the best things about a national conference was getting to see long distance friends again, and to meet those I hadn't yet met in person. Also, getting to fangirl over some of the rockstar educators in the sexuality field was awesome.

Caroline Ryan, who came all the way from  Ireland

Antoinette and Kevin A. Patterson of PolyRoleModels

Walker J. Thornton, Author of Inviting Desire

However, the dinner or lunch I'd hoped to have with some long distance friends didn't happen, and during chats over dinner before the keynote presentation, it was impossible to converse with everyone at the table; too much noise. Besides my immediate seatmates, it was mostly a matter of "Just smile and wave."

Lesson Six: Pervy Pin Collecting Is A Thing

I collected some I really liked,

If not as many as my friend Dana.

We've all heard of sapiosexual and pansexual.
Now introducing: PINsexual.

Lesson Seven: It'll All Be Over Too Soon

I really had a blast, and so did my tiara. I had been warned about, and luckily, did not experience much ConDrop (a term for the psychological letdown experienced by many following an exciting conference). I did my best to stay hydrated, eat healthily, and checked in with myself and rested rather than staying up half the night partying (though I heard there were some amazing parties).

Dee Dennis and the other organizers did an incredible job. I am so grateful for the experience and looking forward to doing this again.

Have you ever been to CatalystCon, or other conventions?
What were your take-away lessons?
Your thoughts? 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

First Drafts - Goldilocks & the Three Diets

Trying something here. Since I'm busy plugging away on my Kicking Cancer's Ass memoir, I thought I'd post some of the first draft versions of some of my chapters. This one is about my medical oncology visit in July 2015.

Despite having to start with my favorite thing, a Needle Encounter and blood draw, my first meeting with my medical oncologist went well. Dr. Julie Dunhill, who would serve as the head honcho, in charge of the medical branch of Team Tiara, is beautiful. She’s a trim, petite woman with gorgeous Goldilocks hair. I like her tremendously.

While she felt that there wasn’t too much to be concerned with re: my still very pink boob, she prescribed antibiotics anyway, just in case there was an underlying infection. She wrote me a prescription for Tamixofen, to start after I finished radiation, whenever I felt recovered from that and ready to start Adventures in Medication.

Also, she wanted me to lose weight.

In a very gentle, non-judgmental, I-just-want-to-help way.

Shit, I want to lose weight, just for the aesthetics of it.

And I know how to lose weight. Haven’t I done it three or four times previously?

That’s the problem. I’ve been studying the HAES® (Health At Every Size) model, which offers rather convincing evidence that 95% of people who set out to lose weight, may take it off short-term, but even with the most strenuous efforts, over time they gain it all back, and usually more.

That’s certainly been my pattern. Dieting, even slow dieting like I’ve done, does shitty things to people’s metabolism all by itself. And, surprise! There’s increasing evidence that being overweight or obese (according to BMI standards, which are pretty much ridiculous horseshit), is actually healthier than being “average” or thin.

The diet industry makes not merely a boatload, but an entire armada of money convincing the American public that fat = unhealthy, and to buy their products. Unlike the tobacco industry, whose customers die off, people who have weight-cycled keep plunking their money down to try the latest diet food or plan or support or tracking system, hoping that this time, it’s going to stick, unlike the last time. Or the time before that.

There is a correlation between obesity and breast cancer, according to my research. But correlation is not causation, and blaming cancer on fat is the quick and easy answer. The culprit might be weight cycling itself – losing weight, gaining it back, over and over. Or perhaps the damage is done by the extreme things desperate people do to lose weight, from crazy medicinal aids and supplements, to fasts and cleanses, to enemas, to bariatric surgery. Very few fat people haven’t tried at least one of the above methods to lose weight.

I did the math, based on my research into breast cancer growth rates, and the lab results on my personal tumor. By all indications, my cancer was “born” at a time when I was not overweight, but was in a toxic, emotionally stressful relationship. Somehow, even though I kept piling on the pounds, before and after that relationship ended, my fat didn’t seem to have speeded up the cancer growth.

Medical science has its biases, its mistakes, and wrong turns. All new moms around the time I had my son were advised by medical professionals to always lay our newborns on their tummies, not their backs, because Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. And now we know the exact opposite is true, babies should be laid on their backs. Fat people are often advised “just lose the weight,” as if that will make everything better. Like coconut oil, being thin is magical! Thin people don’t die of heart disease or get cancer.

Except they do.

Medical professionals too often stop at, “Welp, they’re fat,” and don’t dig deeper for the actual problem. I encourage everyone to read my friend Rebecca Hiles’ blog post on how medical fat-shaming almost killed her. They say being fat increases the risk of diabetes, but I’ve known plenty of thin people with diabetes. Why do they get it? Why don’t all fat people get diabetes? If being fat causes high blood pressure, why has mine always been low to normal?

When my mother was dealing with her breast cancer, originally they told her to stay on birth control pills, because “You certainly don’t want to get pregnant now.” Later, they took her off them, with a dim inkling that her cancer was related to female hormones. So they gave her testosterone, because that’s the opposite of female hormones, right? They were trying to do something, because something was better than nothing. I’m not blaming them, they didn’t know any better. But in retrospect, my mother went through a lot of needless torture, beginning with the savagely radical mastectomy that was never going to save her life.

One theory about why obese cancer patients risk recurrence or lower survival rates is that as many as 40% may have received too little chemotherapy for their weight. Many chemo doctors often practiced something called dose-capping, afraid of going too toxic, although there’s no evidence that dosing patients by weight creates any worse side effects. Maybe some thought they were doing the right thing, maybe some were trying to cut corners and save on the expense of the extra chemo drugs. But it makes sense that somebody who weighs 250 pounds needs more drugs than someone who weighs 150 pounds; chemo, pain meds, or anything else.

Chemotherapy isn’t a factor in my personal cancer journey, because I didn’t need any.

So much of what is going on with cancer treatment today is a thousand times better than it was fifty years ago, or even ten.

But there is still so much we don’t know.

I’m doing my best to help the process along, and my blood draw was also coordinated to give the RISE study people the samples they needed. I also turned in my saliva samples to Carly, one of the RISE volunteers, who is an absolute doll.

I do wonder how many of the health problems of fat people can be linked to social shaming and ostracization, to self-loathing. I remember all too well the thrill during my dieting days, when the scale gave me “good news.” The widespread social approval and praise I earned by being a more “acceptable” size. And the horror and shame I felt when the numbers on the fucking scale slowly, inexorably crept upward.

Cancer – abnormal cells, that don’t perform their intended function – happen in our bodies all the time. Normally the body’s immune system recognizes and destroys the baddies. When they don’t, that’s when cancer establishes a foothold.

Or a boobhold, as the case may be.

We’re coming to recognize that not only genetics and environmental toxins make us more vulnerable to disease, but stress and emotional pressure impacts our immune systems. Could it be that the lifelong societal stress of being treated as “other” is why POC (People of Color) in America almost always have worse medical outcomes than white people with the same conditions, even when economic class, quality of care, and other variables are factored out?

Estrogen feeds an estrogen-receptor positive cancer, like my breast cancer. Hence, the Tamoxifen I would be starting in a few months, which helps block estrogen released from the ovaries. When my ever-loving ovaries stop plugging along, Dr. Dunhill will put me on an AI, aromatase inhibitor. Because when the ovaries quit, that’s when the adrenal glands step up, and start converting the body’s fat reserves into estrogen. An AI helps interfere with that process. That’s the logic in the “get rid of the fat” pressure, because if they don’t have fat to convert into estrogen, any cancer cells that depend upon estrogen will be starved to death.

But. Even Olympic gymnasts have some fat reserves. Does it really make a difference, if a person has X amount of fat, or XXX amount of fat, if all the adrenal glands need to make estrogen is X amount? I’m pretty sure that having a body fat percentage of zero and still being alive are incompatible goals.

According to Cancer Today Magazine, “evidence currently doesn’t exist to say unequivocally that weight loss itself helps survivors live longer or free from recurrence.”

It’s a very weird position to be in, to like and trust my doctors, and at the same time, feel so skeptical about this part of their treatment and advice. After all, I’m not a doctor. Am I trying to cherry-pick facts, like an anti-vaxxer? Or is my skepticism something that makes sense?

I am 100% convinced that all my doctors are well-educated, highly competent professionals who want me to be happy, healthy, and disease-free. I am also convinced that being an American in today’s culture influences everyone, including medical professionals, to subconsciously be biased and to believe that thin = healthy/attractive, fat = unhealthy/unattractive. I know I am biased.

If I have to base my self-love and self-compassion on learning to love my rolls of fat, that’s gonna be a fail. If the Body Size Fairy boinked me on the head with her magic wand, and I could be healthily thin for the rest of my life, I would be ecstatic.

Even if being fat does put me at higher risk, I am not at all confident that this time I have a real chance at being among the five percent who take off the weight and keep it off, long-term. I am terrified, frankly, of “doing well” at weight loss again for a few years, but in the long run, ending up even fatter than I am now.

My compromise is to strive for what the nutritionist advised: 6-7 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Yoga and meditation and comedy to deal with stress. Seek to swim ride my bike as often as possible.

Because Dr. Dunhill advised, better not to task my skin with chlorine and harsh chemicals until I was fully recovered from the radiation treatments.

No pool for me!

Your thoughts?
P.S. I CAN get in the pool now, yay!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Team Gilda or Team Karen?

A black-and-white photo of Wilder smiling
Gene Wilder via Wikimendia Commons
In the wake of Gene Wilder's death this week, an interesting thing is happening on the Interwebs.

Most of us were aware of Mr. Wilder's marriage to brilliant, beautiful comedian Gilda Radner, cut short by her death of ovarian cancer. Less aware of his two previous marriages, to Mary Mercier and Mary Joan Schutz. Or of the love he left upon his death, Karen Webb Boyer, to whom he'd been married for 25 years.

People wrote and talked of how he and Gilda could "be together again" now. Others talked about how hurtful  and disrespectful such an expression could be to his widow, Karen. As if we all had to choose teams, Team Gilda, or Team Karen, because in the afterlife, There Can Be Only One (Love).

Why? Why isn't it entirely possible, that even as Gene found new love with Karen, he continued to love and mourn Gilda? And perhaps even his previous two wives? Why do we assume the heart - or the afterlife equivalent thereof - is only big enough for one romantic love at a time?

We don't assume this about any other relationship. Beloved pets, grandparents, siblings, parents, children, dear friends... When we imagine Heaven, don't we imagine all our loved ones will be there? Would it even be Heaven if we had to choose: one child, one pet, one parent, one romantic love? One musician or rock band? And only one?

I know many who still love Elvis, even though he left the building a long time ago. And they went on to love other musical acts.

As someone who practices polyamory, the idea of Only One - even in this life - seems silly. There have been times in my life when I've had no current loves. Other times, several simultaneously. Yes, it's more complicated. Of course, time and financial resources are a finite commodity, whether we are talking about children or romantic interests or cats.

But love? Does anyone truly believe that Gene's love for Gilda cut off like a spigot when he met Karen? Or did she accommodate and make room for it (as perhaps he did for her past loves), secure in the knowledge he loved her just as much, if differently?  They moved into the house he shared with Gilda, she must have come to some peace with that very public relationship.

I've found my love doesn't shut off like a spigot, even when I was trying and failing at monogamy. I could make myself conform to society's norms - only one penis granted access to my genitals for a set period of time. But my heart loves who it loves, when it chooses to love them, regardless of sexual activity. I've continued to have feels for men with whom I am no longer sexually involved, sometimes for decades.

I think, I hope, that this sad event [full disclosure, I had a huge ladyboner for Gene Wilder before I even knew what a ladyboner was] will spur people to contemplating more about the limitless nature of love. Perhaps to understand those of us who identify as polyamorous a little better.

We're not so different from Gene & Gilda, or Gene & Karen. We simply don't require our loves to be divorced from us or dead, before acknowledging that a new love has entered our loves. Without taking anything away from the love that already existed. We have learned, are still learning, to share heart space.

Living a polyamorous life can be challenging. There can be jealousy to be worked through (please note, there's plenty of evidence that monogamy does not magically cure jealousy), conflicting desires, and complicated schedules.

But life is short. Let's all acknowledge the love we have in our lives.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I'm Not a Racist, BUT... #BlackLivesMatter

If you're in the mood to read happy fluffy stuff about the care, feeding, and birth of an anthology, that post is over on Susan J. Berger's blog. In it I discuss what reasons are good for a group to put out an anthology, what benefits it brings to already established, best-selling authors, and what I learned during the process, please check it out.


7 Ways to Support #BlackLivesMatter and Be a Good Ally (for my white friends)

1) It's not about you, and it's not about your husband/brother/other loved one who is a conscientious and careful police officer. #BlackLivesMatter doesn't mean ONLYBlackLivesMatter, or that it's #BLM vs. the police. You can support the police, not want them to be killed, AND want there to be police accountability, better training, and that those who mistreat POC, the mentally ill, and others get kicked off the force rather than be protected by the thin blue wall of silence.

#Black LivesMatter is about drawing attention to and trying to change the ongoing, systemic racial bias that impacts policing, the judicial system, employment, housing, and and and.  Here's an excellent post with statistics by J.B.W. Tucker.

Borrowed from onsizzle

2) Self-educate on the issues and how you can help. Our exhausted friends who are POC don't have the time and energy to spoonfeed us anti-racism 101 (though they are trying gallantly, anyway).

3) Don't cry, excessively apologize, or in any other way seek attention or a gold star on your mental "good person" chart from a POC. They are suffering grief, pain, worry, and PTSD. They don't deserve to be saddled with comforting white people because we have uncomfortable feels right now.

4) If you are white, you might be sick of hearing about white privilege and being asked to check it. Trust me, POC are even more sick of living without it. Too often sick or injured, literally to death.

If you have ever been the lone white person in a group of black, Hispanic, Asian, or other not-white group, how unsettling did it feel? Now imagine that is your life, every single day, and you have a little glimpse at what it's like to be a minority person in America. Except that instead of mere discomfort, your life and those of people you love are at higher risk.

5) If you like to think of yourself as a "good person," but "don't want to get involved or be RUDE," by calling out the openly racist people you know on their shit, you might want to rethink that. If you believe in "Keep America Beautiful," but don't speak up when you see your friends litter, you're tacitly approving and endorsing that behavior.

6) If People of Color are speaking, STFU and LISTEN. Do not talk over, interrupt, or otherwise marginalize POC, especially right now. Put your hand over your mouth, or step away from your phone or keyboard, if you have to.

7) Limit as much as possible your whitesplaining to forums where you are a white person talking to other white people. Instead, as much as possible, support and amplify the voices of POC by sharing their experiences via social media and in conversation to other white people.

Closing with something from Sex Positive World:

We are living through painful and challenging times.

Forces for positive change are clashing with older, repressive cultures who refuse to accept change. People are dying as a result of hate-filled actions. Muslim people in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Saudi Arabia; LGBTQ people in Orlando; cafe-goers in Paris, police officers in Dallas, American People of Color... everywhere. Our hearts ache with the weight of every death, every one of these ridiculous, needless acts of violence.

Sex Positive World believes, as Maya Angelou said, that Hate has caused a lot of problems in the world, but it has not solved one yet. We believe in human connection, in love, in juicy sexual connection, in active consent and consideration of all human beings for one another.

We encourage all our members to check in with one another and offer love, consideration and support to anyone who is personally touched or triggered by these traumatizing events. We encourage our members to take a social media hiatus, if necessary - and good for you for taking care of yourselves! Or, please, ask for support from your SPW tribe, if you need it.

People may say things at this time, without fully considering the impact of their words. Please try to give the benefit of the doubt, and assume positive intent. Ask for clarification (did you actually mean XYZ?) when unsure. Allow for the fact that some might blurt out words of frustration and anger. Maybe respond with a hug?

We encourage all our members and friends to be kind, sensitive, and loving to everyone we can, during these challenging and painful times.

Please count this post as me checking in on you.
How are you feeling in these emotionally rough times?
Your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

It's Here! It's Here!

Summer Sizzle is available for sale, now!

Of course, I hope you'll read it, love it, review it.

If you haven't preordered it, you can get it at the outlet of your choosing, below:


Here's ten log lines (there are twenty great stories), to entice you:

Get swept away in this summer, love-at-first-sight fantasy every single girl dreams of in Roz Lee's Summer League!

In Shelby Ellis' Under the Light of a Thousand Stars, when Keeley was sixteen she vowed to spend every summer of her life on the island, but that was #BeforeTannerBuchanan broke her heart. How will she find her way back?

Can a blindfolded Ravannah learn to follow her sexy ballroom dance instructor in Tonya Plank's Lead Me?

In Karen Ehrenberg's Snooze You Lose, love and sparks fly when kismet is given a push for two headstrong journalists and surf junkies.

Evie Marigold is protecting her heart and her livelihood, but sexy surfer/entrepreneur Ian Sterling threatens to steal them both on the Pacific sands in The Shore Thing by Charlene Sands.

In Lynne Marshall's Something Borrowed, Something New, it's the wedding catering staff who are star-crossed lovers. Can these hard-working immigrants find a happily ever after despite coming from families who are traditional enemies?

Take one stranded actress with a secret, a small town veterinarian, and add a hideously ugly dog with worse manners. In Beverly Diehl's The Dog Days of Summer, can the sexy vet – and the dog – win Panick's heart before Hollywood calls her home? (Yes, this is my story.)

One pretty witch trapped between Heaven and Hell, one ruthless demon after a soul, and one smitten angel willing to risk it all for love, in Ophelia Bell's Falling for Her.

In Samanthe Beck's Keeping Her Handyman, he’s giving his runaway bride a night so hot she'll beg for forever.

Spring's Summer by Kara Winters: As the summer nears its end, the goddess of Spring knows she will soon see her beloved husband Hades once more. But Hades has a few tricks up his sleeve for their reunion. 

So, enough sales pitching.  I already flogged the online workshop I'm giving, and the panels I'm presenting at CatalystCon West, in my last blog post.

Let's Talk About the Helpers

There's a lot of crappy things going on in the world right now. Terrorist attacks, the UK not knowing whether to shit or wind Big Ben, US politics being especially nasty...

And my widowed sister's community in the Lake Isabella area just experienced a major wildfire, the Erskine. Over 48,000 acres burned, 285 homes destroyed. An elderly couple lost their lives. I had long planned a visit to her over the holiday weekend, as it coincides with her wedding anniversary. It was both sobering, traumatic, and inspiring to be there.

Yet, their community really came together. People helped in restaurants, gave each other places to stay, clothing. My sister fostered two puppies belonging to evacuees, although they went home before I arrived. 

We were able to visit her favorite camping spot, and because we wanted to toast the anniversary, I MacGyvered off the cap of a mini champagne bottle using a dog tag and key ring, Because we didn't bring a bottle opener or Swiss Army knife.

Except that, to our vast amusement, upon packing up to leave the campsite my sister discovered she did have a Swiss army knife, after all. We are still giggling about that.

I also got a tragic phone call, while I was with my sister, informing me of the death of a young woman I loved very much, who had been one of my family day care "babies," back in the day. Heather was only in her thirties, and it breaks my heart to know she has passed. But at least I was in a place where I could get a comforting hug.

Sometimes people call me Pollyanna, claim that I don't understand how terrible everything is. And yes, sometimes it is terrible. But it is also wonderful, and there are people out there making things better for their neighbors, as Mr. Rogers always encouraged us to do. I'm trying to both be a helper, when I can, and notice and thank those I see.

Have you noticed helpers in your life, or neighborhood?
Or around the world?
Your thoughts?