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Epilogue: Gussy’s Gone

This is Gus getting to know his new spot.

Gus Seinberg knew how to do a million things. He was even good at dying. I’ve never seen anyone die before. I am deeply grateful that this first time was a true thing of beauty. Gus didn’t die in violence or in a state of resistance or duress. He died while being truly loved, reassured, his soft face in my palms, and Ginger petting his fluffy orange head.

The day before, I took him to where he would rest. We sat there together in the sun, his head in my lap while I told him about death. How I was sorry I’d missed his entry to the world, but I would not miss this journey out of it for anything. I sunk my nails into the ground and gave him a handful of soil to smell so he knew his home. I propped him up to look at the view. I talked to him a lot in a windfall of faith that even without his hearing, the words would arrive.

Look at that view.

Every time I carried him, his body tensed up, his paws in a stalwart point like a gymnast. Aside from whatever discomfort comes to a big dog being carried, it messed with his sense of dignity. He hated it, the carrying. So once we reached a patch of open grass, I let him walk around until he fell over. I knew he couldn’t get hurt and he loved being the beast of protection. I wanted him to have as much agency as was safe this day. I’d meet him where he landed and pet him until his breathing evened out.

I broke the ground open at dawn. On my knees, I put my face right into the divot of earth where the shovel had been. The smell pummeled me. I dug until my lower back whinnied. I took breaks and I took photographs. I spent time alone and with the people in the house. I visited Gussy and I let him sleep. He spent his last day agitated, and living looked difficult. We ate steak on the floor together. He played with his last stick. My friend Shoshana came to see us and he liked that. They met the first day I got him in my apartment on 14th Street in San Francisco. Something about having her there for his first and last day with me let me see all that time between so clearly. We went from the west coast the the east and then back. And then back again. He loved the car. Ginger always says the happiest she ever saw Gus was when we drove home from Palm Springs after my 40th birthday with Lucy. I sat in the back and Lucy drove and Gus got to be in a snug space with me all to himself. Ginger would turn around and look at us over and over and say, “He’s so happy”, like every time she turned around, she found herself shocked to be in the presence of a real unicorn. He was that beautiful when he was happy. And maybe I was, too.


The first of Gus’s Earth

It will be a beautiful place.

I want to tell you that digging Gus’s grave was one of the finest things I’ve ever done with this life. He came and watched me for a bit. I brought this hippie rug out and laid him on it facing me. He watched as I worked, then got to his feet and wandered over to smell the bed of soil. I began to sing him a little song while I dug. Something I made up. Something about his upcoming travels. There comes a time to leave.

He slept while I worked.

I laid on the floor with him when the doctor came, like I had for the last three nights. Ginger sat behind me while I told Gussy all the important things.  And as I cried, his labored breathing stopped and he licked at my tears, my loyal guardian until his last. He got the first shot for calming and we had about 15 more minutes together. Or a lifetime. And in that eternal swoon of my belly, his final calm, I told him

This is an important journey. It is an incredible thing to be able to die. We will all take this walk, including me. I don’t know what happens next, but if I can, I will come find you and we will walk together again. Paws and feet, Paws and feet. You have done the best job being my friend and my family and my protector. I am ok now and I have so much love in my life. People will care for me and I will be ok. I will thrive and you can go now. You have done better than I deserved and shown me how love and devotion work. I’ll be right here with you. Go ahead Gussy. I love you now and I’ll love you every day in this life. My gratitude is truly boundless. And you are the best dog I could have ever been with. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Shoshana took our last family portrait, with Gussy’s last stick.

A buzz of shaving, a cup of hair, an injection, and the doctor put on his stethoscope, moved it around, and with great care said, “He’s gone.” And a pain rose up in me and howled through like a storm wind, ripped right across my ribs and I let it come.  These sounds became the room and the walls and timber of the floorboards and the next in a line of sacred things that must have happened in this home since 1734. This first in the texture of my life alone without Gussy.

And I lived.

I sat with him and brushed his beautiful hair, his warm, limp body such a great comfort. I never could have known such a thing, the sweetness that came to his absence of struggle. I buried my face in his fur and took longs gulps of his scent, then gathered him up, all the way into my arms. This holding, the final walk of our bodies together, a path of exquisite tenderness I’ve never known. The most ever. So soft, still warm. He gave it all up and lay right over me, his whole body ripe with departure.

Ginger with Gus at rest.

We wrapped him in white, a cotton shroud folded around his form. I put his paws together like the mid-stride of a sprint for a ball or a wave, his head bowed in singular focus, forever in flight. He nestled gently in the ground and we covered his body in lemon and bee balm stalks. The three of us said our thanks to him, took turns shoveling the soil, packing it down, then more. Then the rocks, quartz and mica, then earth, and like that, until his plaque on top and then my body across his grave, round, spent, and triumphant. We did a good job. All four of us, Gussy leading our pack. Everything excruciating and beautiful as the day faded.

It’s the stillness at dawn that digs me up most. I sleep mostly through the night, and then around 4:30 I wake up in my bed upstairs with Ginger. And for the tiniest sliver of time, I don’t know yet that anything is wrong, that we have crossed a bridge from being a family to being a couple. I didn’t know that while I was sure I was ready to let him go, I was not ready yet for him to be gone. I miss his body so bad. Tufts of his hair kick up in a summer farm house breeze and I’ll spot them out of the corner of my eye and in the alchemy of death, what was a nuisance just three days ago has become a treasure.

So many people helped me raise that dog. Scores of people stayed with him and walked him and swam with him and threw the ball. You pet him and you brought him treats and you steadied him in his final days when the right side of his body began to give out. You took photographs of him and made me a painting of him. You visited him after surgery and you researched CBD pot tincture to help his seizures. You mentioned him in cards and letters and you brought him dog friends to play with, too. He was a dog of The Village and and I thank you. You are my close friends, and you are strangers who have reached out in tremendous acts of kindness. You are acquaintances from around Providence or San Francisco or New York or Boston or Greenfield.

People often say to walk bravely into the long night or some such thing when creatures die, but I know Gus is walking into the sun. That Gus is a frolicking daylight beast. I imagine him, finally, with a flock to tend. Maybe some goats or a couple of llamas named Omar and Stringer Bell.

Long Live Honor.
Long Live Love.

Long Live Gus Seinberg,
Gay, Jewish Dog.

I will keep you with me always.

Crone Apprentice Realness: Early Onset Mental Pause

Hospital Parking Lot. I spent a lot of time here.

Look, I hate to BRAG, but The Change came for me a little ahead of schedule. Certainly, it is not because I am some kind of over achiever, and I even thought it may have been brought on by extreme circumstances. At first, because I was only 41, I was misdiagnosed with adrenal fatigue. It’s understandable. Life around me was full of stress: The east coast saw my father fighting his malignant melanoma, while at home in San Francisco, my same-sex lover was suffering a bizarre and debilitating liver failure*. Her possible list of diseases and outcomes ranged from primary liver cancer and death to all manner of fantastically horrific ailments stoking fears associated with livers which had a place at the table as well. I would go from unloading pallets at Rainbow Grocery before dawn to the hospital and back while I studied nutrition and coaching at night and began seeing my very first clients. Ginger’s face laid yellow on a pillow in a hospital bed, my dad had surgery across the entire nation, and I bridged the waking hours vacillating between a kind of blown open fear and grief and a dumbstruck automaton mode with no ability to modulate the tones in my voice. It’s fair to say I felt stressed out. When I could feel anything at all. And my period, I finally noticed, had become unreliable.

As all this was going on, ironically, I got my period in Rome and saw this on a street sign almost immediately.

Now, to be clear: I didn’t give a shit if it was menopause. I truly didn’t. Kids had already been ruled out, Ginger prefers me fat, and I’ve always thought my crone years would be my most powerful and sexiest. I’d been busy growing out the grey in my hair anyhow, collecting tunics, scarves, and muumuus, daydreaming about Mrs. Roper, and concocting my own Jewish, dyke, suburban ex-punk, version of her look since I’d turned 40 in August of 2010. The thing is, I did want to make sure I was ok. I had to check that all the odd things coming for me like storm clouds fell into the normal category of aging. Because WOMEN ARE NOT ALLOWED TO AGE UP IN THIS HIZZY, it’s hard to know what the fuck normal is. No one talks about the real (cis)lady details of things because our culture has made our parts unsavory, unmentionable, and as such, ultimately at risk. If we don’t talk about what things are like, we never know if something might be off. We don’t see the doctor, and we water the Garden of Shame with our silent discomfort and confusion.

So. There I am, trying to support stress management by giving yoga the 473rd try in life. I’m down the street at the gross gym in a class of like 230 people crammed into a soulless hall of mirrors when I am almost knocked over by a scent so strong, I forget I’m trying to touch my toes. Holy Mother of God. Is That …


Obviously in my life circumstances, my vag wasn’t getting the attention she usually did from me. Life gets like that sometimes. But I had spent my life with her and I knew the general scent profile. And this, my friends, THIS WAS NOT IT. I was like, Sweet Jesus, Everyone In This Room Can Smell My Dang Twat. I got up and left. I mean I bolted. Faster than a cat with a hot foot. Bitches were moving into that last Savasana pose (which basically means LYING DOWN) and I was hauling ass, and vagina, out of there. I sobbed openly, heaving and blubbering the whole walk home because my reserves of everything were in the hospital, at work, studying, and Goddess Knows, I had nothing left for this.

Turns out, it ain’t no thang. It’s just that no one says it. No one says, Look, Your Pussy Is Gonna Smell Different. You body odor changes when your hormones change. And your sense of smell can even get more sensitive. In fact, let me spit out a whole cornucopia of events that may, or may not, visit you as your hormones make their way to new resting points.

Dry gets such a BAD RAP. Come on. Deserts are dry and they are exquisite.

You got your hot flashes. Which as far as I can tell, are not what I would call “flashes”. These events can last longer than a flash. Long enough to drench an outfit and peel layers off on a chilly autumn stroll. I think these things are kind of weird and awesome. The first one was scary but after that, they struck me as kind of personal earthquakes. Like, if there’s no real damage done, the experience is incredibly odd and interesting. There are the night sweats, which are more annoying and less interesting. And then you’ll hear descriptions that make menopause sound like you’ll be having a blistering case of PMS for like 6 to 23 years. Irritability, loss of libido, depression, bloating, weight gain, feeling unfocused, forgetting things and then added in you’ll get a couple doozies: hair loss, migraines, incontinence, brand new allergies and even irregular heartbeats. And of course the dreaded dry vagina. Everyone talks about vaginal dryness like it’s the end of the fucking world. Comedy acts love to drag out the dried up old slit insults as often as the bold dare to insult women. But guess what? It most certainly is not the end of anyfuckingthing. Just get some lube, or some MORE lube, (without glycerin) and do your thing, people. Maybe be a tiny bit more careful with the friction, and maybe the girth of accommodations may constrict, but your vagina is perfectly fine for all of it’s regular activities. And if your vagina gets too sensitive for penetration, there are roughly 4,231,972 other sexual things you can try with yourself or a partner. AND, to get completely radical, it’s absolutely fine for you to boldly downgrade the importance of sex in your life and still have every right to be a fully powerful, functional, and incredible woman.

Now some of the things associated with menopause are just bullshit results of living in a place where women are held to different standards than men. Because are you HONESTLY trying to tell me that (cis) men don’t gain weight easier in their fifties, Mary?!?!? BECAUSE THEY DO. They forget shit and they have trouble focusing and they lose their hair. They lose libido and have a hard time getting, and keeping, the old plump in the snake. Is that menopause? No. No it is not.


It’s our job to get older. Actually, it’s a privilege to get older. I’ve seen the alternative a lot lately and it’s not my personal preference. You know what else happens? If we are lucky?

If we are lucky enough to be Crone Apprentices and eventually the blessed Crones:

We stop giving a shit what other people think of us. We feel good from the inside to the outside rather than waiting for the outside world to tell us our inside world is approved of. We don’t need approval. We fucking glow.

We develop a sense of gratitude each and every day. The Metrics of Mortality begin to do their work and as we age, we lose our beloveds. We lose our icons and our nemeses. We also lose our inhibitions, our hangups and our delusions. Colors feel brighter, the air smells sweeter and the days pass more swiftly than we remember. We have less time to kill. We really have no time to kill. We have time to spend like gold coins, each moment a singular thing. So don’t bring bullshit to my door. I spent most of that in my twenties.

We don’t have to spend money on tampons. CAN I GET AN AMEN, SYSTERS?!?! That particular breed of brutal resentment I’d get every month is blessedly over. I keep my approximately $82 a year and I will spend it on baguettes in Paris, Thank You Very Much. I will take my big, round, post-menopausal ass on a stroll through the streets in my cowboy boots with leggings and a caftan blowing in the breeze, pounds of my long gray hair twisted into a braid down my back with no care in the world of where in the month I am as I wear white whenever I feel like it.

We will read Susun S. Weed’s The New Menopausal Years: The Wise Woman Way and contemplate the whoa-ed out witchy shit we were much too cool for just a few short years ago, when we were first falling in love with Helen Mirren and Angela Basset and had no idea how much better that would get.

Richard Avedon’s Marian Anderson, 1955

We will look at old Richard Avedon portraits and let our faces wrinkle and sag because that is what faces do over time. And they look fabulous. We will honor the stories that time etches on us and tell them to our younger friends. We will talk about our bodies. We will let them change. We will try to hold as much excitement about our bodies changing as we did when we were teenagers sneaking cigarettes and waiting to learn how to use sex to our advantage. I mean, that’s what I did. And I want us to stay curious. I want us to do the punkest rock thing there is to do for women today: to age.

And we will, hopefully, honor whatever our fellow women decide to do with their bodies because the fact that we manage to make it through this culture in these things at all is a goddamned miracle. We will support women to make their choices. To nip, tuck, plump, alter, chisel, dye or even to end it on their own terms. We will age with our mystique.

These are my wishes for us as I continue to get to know this aging body. It will not get younger. But I can still keep it strong and valuable, functional, healthy and resilient. My hope for all of us is that we continue to talk to each other about our bodies, eradicating cultural secrecy and shame as we go.

Long live the vagina, in all its scents.

* Ginger is ok now, thanks for asking. The world of autoimmunity is a tricky little landscape.

I Designed a Diet For You. The Last One You’ll Ever Need.

Yesterday was International No Diet Day. Now, I don’t know who named it or if it’s a real thing or whatever or even what makes a Real Thing, but I don’t give a fuck. We’ve got Columbus on the National Holiday docket and if that conquering rapist gets a NATIONAL holiday, I’m all for celebrating a day of freedom from a diet practice and industry that preys on the misery of so many.

Bathing Suits for EVERYONE

Still. Let’s be honest, people want to feel free and gorgeous and sexy. And to hear our culture tell it, that obviously means being thin and young. Here’s some news: our lives are worth living in any body we’re in right this moment, because here we are. Not only are diets proven to fail, the false idol of thin prevents us from actually living our lives fully as we strive for a version of ourselves that is yet to exist, and frankly, may never exist.

So, because I care, I have designed a diet I totally believe in that can work for everyone. While in my coaching practice I work from a place of abundance, I know many of us have become believers in the Golden Handcuffs of Restriction, so first, here’s a list of things that are verboten on the Steady Diet of Seinberg. Give the mighty middle finger to the following items for the last diet you’ll ever need.

1. Friends/Lovers/Dates/Family Members who comment on your body in ways that imply value. Whether you have lost weight, gained weight, or been the same size for years, your size has nothing to do with who you are in life or why you are fucking awesome. If someone doesn’t want to date you because you weigh too much, thank the world for editing this asshole right the hell out for you. You are now free to date people who have values that last over what is sure to be a life full adventure and love. Don’t date people who don’t want to date you. Winning the Prize of the Ambivalent is like winning a Sweepstakes for Cholera. And if your friend is uncomfortable with your thin frame because your appearance makes them feel bad, refer them to a good therapist and spend your time with people who like you as you are and value your contributions to the relationships you sustain and the world we live in.

2. No more uncomfortable clothes. You know how you have an entire closet filled with clothes that are tight or don’t fit? And you keep not shopping for anything new because you’ll do it “when you lose that ten pounds”? Because you can’t bear to see what size you might have to buy today? Because somehow that number defines you?

Well, that ten, twenty, thirty pounds you have is part of your actual body. Today. Right now. And this is where you LIVE. Wearing clothes that are tight and painful remind us every time we move at all that our minds are in a place of forbidding us to be happy until we are somehow different than we are today. In addition, this physical reminder reinforces through the elemental experience of physical sensation that WE DO NOT DESERVE TO LIVE. We bind ourselves to a package of yesterday or tomorrow when the only place we live is today. So, for the love of all that is powerful and Amazonian, dress for today. Because this is your one shot at life. Right Now. And I swear, you deserve to be here no matter what. You don’t have to believe me yet, but someday you might. And I’m here rooting for that by asking you to start now.

3. Internal Self-Hating Diatribes Yup. You can cut this shit right the hell out, too. When you find your thoughts ambling through the treacherous neighborhoods of crucifying yourself, employ your inner herding dog to gently re-direct your internal conversation to a friendlier channel. Simply notice the mean voice, wish it well, and walk away. Don’t try to smother it or shame it or even silence it. Simply bid it hello, an old familiar companion, and be on your way with the dog to a mental street with better lighting and no annoying parking meters where a quarter only buys you six minutes. Some of our inner cruel bitches were born of survival mechanisms when we were tiny. They served us in some way, but that’s over now. We are no longer beholden to this avenue of dialogue and we can cultivate friendlier narrators for our lives. Cruelty breeds more cruelty. And on the Seinberg Diet, you’re done with this shit.

Move your body. All the bodies.

4. Talking Shit About Other People’s Bodies. You are banned from this unhealthy and ineffective method of “feeling better”. Engaging in cruel commentary about a fellow human being’s body is a reflection of the core of our own desperate desire to feel better about ourselves and there are much more direct and honest ways to tend to that need. The Seinberg Diet forbids any and all verbal machete jobs on the bodies of any humans (including our own). Even those of people we loathe. When we disrespect the sacred keeper of our lives, The Body, of anyone, we disrespect ourselves. And that, my friends, is over. Which leads me to…

5. Comparing Ourselves and our Bodies to Others When the hell has this ever worked? When was the last time you compared yourself to Gina or Jenna, for better or for worse, and come out the other side feeling just wonderful? “Well, Katie eats everything and look at her cute figure.” Now first of all, we have no idea what Katie’s private hell might be. Comparing how you feel on your inside (scared, lonely, angry) to how someone else looks on the outside doesn’t even make any sense. Katie might be going through  divorce or struggling with an eating disorder. But you know what: THAT’S HER BUSINESS. Focus on yourself and your own cute figure. Feed yourself nutrient dense foods and dance about it. Move your body, any size. Chew. Drink water. Let Katie do Katie.

6. And you know what else you are fucking done with on this diet? YOU ARE DONE WITH DIETS*. They are stupid and mean and they don’t work. They are the fist in your throat, the monster lodged in the base of your neck, the rage in your belly. Diets are the agent of doom. They convince us to stay in an adversarial relationship with our bodies and underwrite our lives with the promise of a tomorrow that never comes physically, emotionally, or spiritually. And they are also no fun.

Go out and have some fucking fun. Take your bikini body out and swim in the river you’ve always wondered about. Any body is a bikini body if you put a bikini on it. Go to the spa and get naked with everyone else. Go on dates and do zumba and take swing dancing and go to Europe. Do these things in your body because you can.

Don’t be afraid that people might be judging you because guess what: THEY ARE. Every second all the time, silent judgements are being hurled in your general direction and there is not a goddamned thing you can do about it. People think your hair is too big, your lipstick looks like shit and they can’t believe you are wearing those shoes. People think you’re a dirty hippie that  should shave your armpits and that your face would look prettier with some make-up. Still other people think you’re too fat to be in love or happy and they think you’re too Jewish to be broke. They think you are too gay and too mannish and too loud. They think your art sucks and your salary isn’t justified and they can’t understand how you’ve had so many lovers. They think you’re a slut and they think you’re frigid. They are judging you right now. People think all kinds of crazy mean stupid terrible shit and here’s some news. It’s none of your business what they think about you, and you don’t need to make it your problem. So. Don’t be afraid that people are judging you because they are and you’re still here. And you are just fine.

Unless you are not fine.

There’s a million people who would give anything to have the body you have right now.

Unless you are like my many beloveds who are ravaged by cancer treatments and dead from drug overdoses. Unless you are recovering from a car accident, in excruciating pain all the time. Or unless you have late stage Lyme and your body has become a parade of unexplained ailments turning your life into a circus of misery. And if you are living in a body that is not fine, that is fighting and enduring, I send you my deepest and most heartfelt wishes for healing and for peace. For moments of freedom from suffering.

But if you are, for all intents and purposes, in a body that is healthy. Think about the people living in the paragraph above this and go out and live. Take your thighs and your back fat and your butts and your chins out and get to living.

May the diet culture begin its decline by those of us here cutting off its windpipe and its funding through treating ourselves with respect, friendliness, and dignity.

Keep loving. Keep Fighting. And for fuck’s sake, keep eating.


* This excludes when a medical practitioner suggests a protocol of nutrition that supports your health.

My Good Friend, The Humble Lentil

Each season I take 21 days to eat an entirely plant based diet and remove common allergens and inflammatories from my food routine. Some foods I decide to take longer breaks from, and others I can’t wait to get back to, and these choices change every season. Why is this important for the context of this post? For a couple reasons.

So simple. So delicious.

The most important reason is that each time I do a Restoration, my test kitchen goes into overdrive to keep a constant sense of discovery within the practice and to bring a vital experience of creativity to my kitchen. Or just to wake me out of a rut I can tend to fall into. It’s been my experience that people assume since I am a health coach and I do this kind of work daily, that my relationships to food, cooking and creative practice are all locked down. Like I am a born-again kind of health nut after my years of questionable choices and that I arrive here beyond all the challenges that go with this body. The belief is that I kind of levitate through the kitchen, a blissful fountain of delicious ideas pouring forth out of a traditionally gorgeous figure, equipped with the kitchen skills of a chef. And I’m probably over here dispensing advice and silently judging those of you who don’t give a shit what a hemp heart is. Some assumptions sashay along the path that I’m sporting a healthy glow after an easy nine mile run through the countryside and I’m looking forward to my fresh pressed green juice as I sit and solve all the digestive problems of every client I meet and pluck magical solutions to each conundrum of every soul and hand them out benevolently each hour. I wrap each day on the foam roller applying a soothing self-massage to my shoulder, so sore from patting myself on the back for a wonderful day of saving people from themselves and their terrible habits.

The truth is, my struggles happen alongside everyone else’s. Seasonal restorations have become a deeply important practice for me to re-set not just my body, but my routine in the kitchen. To keep learning, and to stay fresh as a facilitator and a human being. I usually adopt a new cookbook, or a new-to-me cookbook to study each season (or several) and bring new flavor profiles and skills to the experience for myself and my fellow Restorers.

Green, red, and French lentils. The French tend to hold together the strongest, as do the unpictured black, or Beluga lentils. Green and Red are perfect for soups. Pottery by the talented Charlene Swift.

The other reason it’s important for me to tell you that I’m at the tail end of the Spring Restoration is that before I began this season, I had been on a serious coffee bender. I had to begin weaning myself off The Bean because I was not only having my morning cup, but indulging every mild yen along the way as well. I’ve noticed that as The Keurig rises to World Domination leaving a brand new trail of plastic for our oceans in its wake, local businesses have set them up all over the place as welcoming committees for all of us as we wait. There is one at the vet, the tax people’s office and the local farm supply place. There’s samples at the grocery store and a station at the farmer’s market. Even the 9th ring of hell at the state car inspection place has set up a friendly interlude with Maxwell House K cups and artificial creamer. The original impulse for me wasn’t even about the coffee, it’s that I am such a SUCKER for FRIENDLINESS in a world that may be heating up on the weather front, but is growing decidedly colder in the human interaction arena that I want to be a part of each and every act of public kindness I can find. Couple this with my love of coffee and WHOOP, there it is.

As you might be able to guess by the heroic and rambling length of the preamble to the lentil


It’s a little fucking slice of heaven, frankly. Half the reason I love quitting coffee four times a year is the total euphoria of the return of the first cup. I mean, I fucking LOVE IT. I’m sure after reading about my former enthusiasm for crystal meth, this comes as no surprise in the neighborhood of my proclivities, but OH, how the rock and roll lifestyle moves along. I could not be luckier or more deeply grateful that my big rush is now a stovetop espresso while wandering through the garden to see how much the parsley grew in one day of sun.  Ahem. Feel free to update your files about how health coaches only make perfect “healthy” choices. Or at least me. I will work on dismantling my suburban punk perfectionism one glorious cup of coffee at a time.

So. What about lentils?
Yes, the wonderful little lentil.

Many years ago, I think it was 1993 in Portland, OR at a vegan lesbian potluck, someone gave me a slice of lentil loaf. The offering arrived on my plate dense and brown and sad, dotted with specks of hopeful carrots and weighing about a full metric ton. SO depressing. Obviously, this not only put me off lentils for a solid decade, it filled me with an expansive dread that perhaps my love of butches might be doomed to arrive with a community hot girls but abysmal, flavorless, vegan food experiences. Now, I can’t stand by while both vegans and lesbians have to shoulder the atrocity of what transpired at so many similar potlucks from the 70s through the 90s. Not to mention the punishment the good name of the lentil has taken.


I got this recipe from my favorite cookbook of the season which I can’t shut the hell up about, Amy Chaplain’s At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen. The only thing I’ve changed is that she uses 3 cloves of garlic and I use 5 because when it comes to garlic, in our house, MORE IS BETTER.

Such satisfaction. And such a taste sensation.

Amy Chaplain’s Lemony Marinated French Lentils

1c French Lentils, sorted and washed
3c filtered water
3 bay leaves
5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 in piece kombu (cooked with legumes, this can help with gas later. You’re welcome.)
Zest of 1 lemon
2T lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)
3T olive oil
1/2t salt, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Soak your lentils. Amy says 12-24 hours but 4 will do. And if you forgot, just rinse and add 5 minutes to your cooking time. Drain the lentils and put them in your heavy pot with your kombu, bay leaves and garlic cloves. Bring everything to a boil, then turn your flame down to a simmer, cover and let cook for about 25 minutes (30 if you didn’t soak). You want your little lentils to be soft, but not coming apart into a mush.

While everything is cooking, combine the rest of your ingredients (except parsley) in a bowl and whisk together. Drain your lentils when they are ready and stir in your wet oil mixture.

Part of why I love this recipe so much has to do with what happens after. You can serve these on their own as a main if you like. They are bright tasting and zingy and filling and taste divine. You can also chill them and have them next day as a plant protein in a salad, or transform them into a salad of their own, adding diced tomatoes, red quinoa, radishes, cucumbers and carrots OR you can put them back on the stove with a cup of vegetable broth, bring to a boil and turn down to simmer once again and VOILA, you’ve got a killer lentil soup in 15 dang minutes.



The Fine Art of “Fuck It”

Go to the batting cages

I went to art school. And even though I studied photography, it was the kind of school, that after asking for all the money in the world, encouraged a gal to try her hand at everything. One of the best things I did was take a performance class. I brought in a stack of all the cheap dishes I could get at the Sal’s, handed out safety goggles to everyone present and placed a pair over my own eyes as well. We dimmed the lights, turned on Waiting Room by Fugazi as loud as possible, and one by one, I tossed each porcelain opportunity into the air gently with enough time to get the tossing hand back onto the shaft of the Louisville Slugger, and I swung the bat into plate after plate after plate. Once such a thing is discovered, it is difficult to not want to do it each and every day for the rest of time. The old bat was left studded with shards of white ceramic, a weapon and a relic of rage. I loved that thing.

I think about that a lot. I especially recall it when I feel overwhelmed with life, underwhelmed with life, tapped out, over tapped and furious. I think of it when ferocious electric sparks zip along my veins and I feel like even my teeth will burst into flame. I think about that kind of release. I picture one of my heroes, Muhammad Ali, and I picture Willy Mays and I think about that movie Road House with Patrick Swayze. Dang, I miss Patrick Swayze.

But often, I can’t seem to think of an outlet for this kind of thing and instead, I swallow. I will swallow anything from pride to rage to donuts and pizza. Of course, none of these options do much to really address the actual feelings. And in a world where people are never encouraged to express anger, most especially people who are not holding cultural power, swallowing anything that burns firmer than moonshine eventually blisters and scars.

There are two worlds of FUCK IT in this life. The first one, turns outward, and the other, blisters, burns, and scars. There is the EMPOWERED FUCK IT, in which the beholder is like:

“Fuck It. I am walking out of this shitty job that is killing my soul and I may not have a plan, but I can find a way.”

“Fuck It. I’ve always wanted to ask that guy out. The worst that can happen is that he’ll say no and we won’t date and we’re ALREADY not dating, and I’m living through that anyhow. But if I ask, then I’ll know.”

“Fuck it. I’m going to Paris.”

Then there is the FUCK IT, I’ll burn it all down brand of choice. That’s the one where we stumble over asking the guy at the coffee shop out and we decide FUCK IT, I’M NEVER GOING TO THAT COFFEE SHOP AGAIN. In fact, I am swearing off coffee and guys.

Or FUCK IT, I’m already in pain, I’m just going to stay where it’s awful because it might get more awful if I move at all.

Or FUCK IT, I already got a parking ticket, got in a fight with my daughter and missed the deadline for taxes, I’m going to the bar to drink bourbon and watch Days of Our Lives and wait until the day ends. Nothing matters.”

Now, instead of telling everyone all of my clever plans and tips for recovering from a bad moment or a bad day through turning around the Fine Art of Fuck It, I turned the Louisville Slugger studded with thrift shop shards over to readers for advice. I give you these fantastic artists of getting your groove back who answered the call here:

1. “Although it took me a long time to incorporate it into my life, I learned that I have to get my body moving to reverse a shitty day. If I have a bad enough day I generally lack the motivation to exercise even if I know it will make me feel better, so this year I paired exercise with something that is immediately rewarding: I bought a spin bike (used, great condition from Craigslist) so I can exercise at home while watching the X-Files. I’ve made a deal with myself that I can only watch the show while I’m biking, and I made it a goal to watch the entire series this year. I love a good challenge, so if the endorphins aren’t enough of a motivating factor, getting through all 202 episodes in 1 year certainly is for me.” -BC

2. “I try to get my body moving doing something constructive like pruning the trees gardening or shoveling snow, the more strenuous the task the better. Mowing the lawn is also a cure all.” -GR

Sunbath on Hammock.

3. “Walk in sun followed by sunbath on hammock, with music…preferably Stevie Wonder.” -EW

4. “Someone said to me once, “If you are feeling depressed, clean your oven. Later on you will feel better and your oven will be clean.” Also, I find that my recovery time is less if I’m not at war with myself… i.e. not resisting how I feel, or judging it, but accepting it and letting it move through me. Also EFT tapping, which makes room for shit to move through. Lastly, yelling something completely silly that makes me laugh.” -NF

5. “I personally screamed out loud at the top of lungs this week in my car by myself, then went and worked out and later let the tears fall. I have laryngitis now but I feel emotionally better. Also, I try to cross off the “hydration, food, sleep, give yourself a break” checklist, and move from a pattern of self criticism that I’m in the vortex to checking it out and realizing it’s ok to hang out in there for a while and be present in the shit. And then…remembering all the people that love me in my life energetically standing around me, allowing that support and love to gently sink in.” -SLP

6. “Sex, Masturbation, yoga, marijuana, ee cummings, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson., Edna St. Vincent Millay, a long walk in nature. No order intended by that list.” -JL

7.”DO anything productive… My rules to avoid sliding into the dark place I have been and know too well:

1. Get up. 
2. Make your bed. 
3. Eat porridge. 
4. Do yourself beautiful – be it a bath, a chore, a chat, a dress.
5. On the direst of days, avoid Facebook til first 4 are completed.” -SH
8. “Today I had the experience of checking in with how tired I was. I came home and took a nap. despite the pretty weather. had to allow myself rest. And not judge it.” -DB
9. “Having a mindfulness practice. Years of anchoring my ass to the cushion so that I have an understanding that suffering is shared and universal and inevitable, and impermanent. Learning about the salatha aka “second arrow” sutta has been transformational, just this year: Pain and suffering happen for everyone. Pain = the first arrow. Everyone gets shot with that at some point. The second arrow is the thought we have about the pain. I’ve learned mostly through meditation to recognize that most pain I experience (both emotional and physical) is second-arrow stuff. For me, letting go of the expectation of 24/7 happiness has left me more happy. Also, hula-hooping, boiling myself in an epsom salt bath, writing out my resentments and fears, finding someone — anyone — to help, and crying on my cat.” -JP
10. “Menu planning, reading in bed, invite the dog on the couch with you, or just take a melt down and wallow. Getting to sleep as soon as possible because it is always better in the morning.” -SS (not me)
11. “Kitten paws, yoga, mint tea, outside air, program call. Visit the hospital, you feel better immediately because you can leave under your own power” -DM

Make someone a Present


Me? I try these things: Be in service to others and get out of my own problems for a second. Make someone a present. Go out into the world and look around. Then Listen. The birds just knock me out with gratitude. Cook. Read a good book. Call a friend. Turn my phone off. Run. Walk. Stretch. Look at Gus’s face. Keep looking. Turn on YoYo Ma and lie in the dark with headphones and let that wash right over me. Take a super hot shower. Wasabi.

But I think soon I’m going to head to some batting cages.

Thank you to everyone who answered my call. There were tons of wonderful suggestions and you can read the whole post on my FB business page if you like. It’s from April 13th.

Watching an Elegy: My Love of Gus Seinberg, Gay, Jewish Dog

First day home. 1998.

Perhaps the cutest puppy in the history of all puppies ever, I scooped Gus Seinberg and his ears into my life in the summer of 1998. He and his brothers and sisters were found in a box in Albany, California and brought to Berkeley where they became eligible for adoption on July 3rd. I was 27 at the time, my heart smashed along the streets of San Francisco, as 27 year old lesbian hearts lend themselves to a kind of reckless romantic smashability, iconic in scope. I had a few things going for me in the healing department, though. Two musical Elliotts accompanied my rise and fall, Mr. Smith for the wallowing, and then Ms. Missy for the phoenix from the flames kind of jam. And also a kind and gorgeous Sagittarian butch who liked to fix things found me to work on. Marina would run baths for me late at night and pour me good bourbon while I soaked. She read out loud to me from Raymond Chandler novels, left flirty personal ads for me in the Missed Connections print ads in the 90s SF Weekly, and picked me up to bomb around town in her matte black Plymouth Belvedere, green hotrod flames stretched over the side like a tattooed lady’s curvy hip.

But still, the kind of ache I nursed was nothing I’d ever encountered, endless and self-obssessed, irritating to all around me and no fun at all. Marina was a damn saint, her patience as legendary as her flawless style. So when I woke up one day wanting a puppy, she took me to get Gus.

Turns out, Gus has been the love of my life, really. No one else since my parents has been with me day in and day out for almost 17 years. And we were both such pains in the ass. He spent his teenage years shredding down comforters I couldn’t afford, getting me evicted from a few apartments with his howling separation anxiety the neighbors could not abide, and snarling at every baby who came within a block from him. And I toted him around from city to city, a HERDING dog with no one to herd but me, no land, no place to run. Gus has always had high anxiety, he hates change and still, I just did my thing, introducing him constantly to one of each of the 11 different tiny places we’ve lived. He’s had a whole host of women parade through his spot on the bed next to me (not to brag) and never once complained about moving over. By the time I got him here into the country and a stable family life, where he can run for acres and acres, well, he can barely run at all.

When he was small, Marina taught him all the useful things in life, how to sit and stay. How to get in the back seat. A little bit of recall. How to take a treat gently without fingertips involved. The only thing I ever taught Gus was how to spoon. I started the day we got home. I mushed his back into my chest over and over, sometimes against his will, forming him into a tiny fur comma against me, his puppy head right under my nose. Does anything smell as good as the crown of a puppy’s head? No. No it does not. As he got older, I could lie down on my side and pat the bed next to me and Gus would wag wag wag, then leap onto the bed and nestle himself perfectly into the crook on my body, his handsome head sharing the pillow. If I was sad, he’d come unfurl the fist of my sobbing body with his snout, put all his needs aside and lie down facing me, surely on the verge of saying the perfect thing to say, but never needing to.

Gus at the office. Portrait by Shay Alderman, little pink tongue hanging out by God. 2015.

I can hear him right now, as I type this, dragging the nails of his back paws over the old farmhouse planks. I’d call him in here to find me, but he can’t really hear anything anymore besides sirens and gunshots, so I just wait until he lumbers in and pulls himself onto the geriattric space foam bed he has over there in the corner. He circles around and around, considering the lying down option, sometimes thinking better of it before he does the slow laps through the house, clicking and dragging on the floorboards as I click and drag on the keyboard. I think it hurts him, the lying down, and once he’s down, it’s an investment. He’s not going to go anywhere for hours. I look over from time to time to see if his body is rising and falling, or if Forever Slumber has come for him, and I’ve been slowly, and then suddenly, sentenced to a new life without him. And also rescued, mercifully, from having to give the order myself, his best friend hanging the finish line of his wonderful life with my own trembling fingers. I can’t imagine it, really, but then I do. I imagine it over and over and over. Holding his face in my hands while he dies.

Gus Seinberg has done every impossibly horrible thing a dog is not supposed to do. He ate a whole raw chicken off the counter. Twice. He’s gorged himself on two pounds of stolen grapes, and ate an entire one pound block of bittersweet chocolate out of my brand new messenger bag. And, being thorough, he also tore the bag apart. He blew his knee out like a point guard in a bad pivot and then got attacked in the dog park right at his beautiful regal neck. He’s ODed on pain meds flavored like treats and gotten his stomach pumped on New Year’s Eve like an idiot at a frat party. Plus embarrassing things like when he peed on these nice shoes a crush of mine wore over to the house (although he was right about her) or when he pooped in his dog sitter’s purse just last year.

Here he is.

After knee surgery, with his turtle. 2010.

I think Gussy is going to make it to his 17th birthday, and maybe he’ll make it to my 45th. But I don’t know. He is slowing down at a rate that I find both shocking and reasonable, heart shattering, and gorgeous. I think it makes sense for us to do this thing together. He has been by me every step of the way and through every nasty and beautiful transition life has tossed at me. It will be an honor to go through this transition with him.

He seems light as a feather now when I lift him up into the car to lug him around with me everywhere. I don’t leave him with anyone else anymore, so I only go where Gussy can go. I cook for him, chicken and white rice. It’s gift for both of us really, because when I am too busy or depressed, lit up with the grief attending some of the things life has been offering me lately, I can just add some spinach for myself and eat the damn dog food with him. Even as he declines, he finds ways to care for me. It’s incredible.

I’m saying all of this here because I’ve come to understand it’s important to say All Of It while the Beloved is still here. And Gussy, as much as I’ve imagined him talking, and often talk for him, he doesn’t really do it. But he listens to me endlessly. He doesn’t mind the horror that is my singing voice or the shortsightedness of my ego when it digs in. He likes all my outfits, thinks I’m  the most beautiful sight in the world besides steak and he is happy to see me no matter how much I snapped at him when he didn’t deserve it. Gus Seinberg taught me everything I know about loyalty. He shows me every day that most things I think are urgent, aren’t truly important, and the deeply imperative things in life are rarely urgent after all. He has been my greatest constant teacher and companion. I still sniff the crown of his head every day. It remains a perfect pleasure.

I don’t know how to say goodbye to him, but I imagine he will teach me that as well when it is time. He is the most perfect thing that has ever happened to me. Later I will take him out and we will walk a short way together,

Paws and feet,
Paws and feet.

When you are gone, I will never stop missing you.


*For Laura, who loved Gus and took care of him too.


Making Procrastination WERQ: Links for March

I’ve always been a hardcore procrastinator. No matter how much time I give myself, I will find a proportionate amount of things to fuck around doing in order to make any deadline right under the wire. No amount of planning, good intentions, or attitude changes have changed this core pattern. So finally, here in what seems to be my most accepting time of life so far, I have come to a place where I believe something about the adrenaline of a close call must be an ingredient in my mysterious Productivity Stew. I have surrendered any kind of attempt to change this quirk after years of honest and deep exploration. Instead I’ve decided that if I am going to procrastinate about a particular assignment: laundry, running, writing, billing, grieving, bathing suit shopping, cooking, email or any manner of perfectly acceptable details in life, EVEN THE ONES I LOVE, I’d at least make my avoidance materials dynamic and engaging. I didn’t want this to be mere throw away aging. That’s what the DMV is for. I thought I’d start keeping track and sharing some of my favorite scenic routes with you each month. Because avoidance need not be a vapid waste of life. It can rule.


I’ll always share 8 things because 8 is my lucky number. I tattooed it on my index finger. Numerological speaking, 8 it the moment of calm and clarity that settles before great upheaval. I like that part in a song, too. A beat of rest and then mayhem. Do not think I am functioning under the delusion that 8 things are enough to fill procrastination time, as of course there are many more. Nevertheless, here’s 8.

1. EmpireLook, I fucking hate Fox as much as the next feminist lesbian but it has a few things going for it. Kevin Bacon, one of my lifetime favorites (although I don’t watch his show because it’s too creepy) and it has EMPIRE. Cookie Lyon is one of the best ladies that has ever graced the television screen. Timbaland produces the music and right now the soundtrack anchors my running playlist. This is what you get when you one part take Ilene Chaiken’s dyke drama (the L-Word) add a side of Shakespeare, and watch Taraji KILL IT as Cookie dwarfing all other things that are already awesome about the show and finally cap it off with a shot of Courtney Love.

2. Amy Chaplin. I know I already told you about this book, but I’m still obsessed. Sometimes the great thing about upping your procrastination game is that even the sidelines become generative and inspiring. So while I’ve been toiling with this book proposal myself, I’ve used some of my fear to practice a self-forgiveness and also cook my ass off studying the wonderful food this woman shares. The thing I love about this book is it works from the pantry through the everyday, through process steps that can make healthy eating so much EASIER and tastier for all of us. Then it still has time to get fancy at the end. Its such a great book. My copy is sitting in the kitchen studded with those colored tape flags like a summer party favor. 

3. Watercolor. I started making photographs in 1997 because I had a combination of writer’s block and painter envy. I was 27. Now 18 years later I finally went to CVS one day, got some shitty paints with questionable “pigment” and bad paper and just started playing with them. Since then, nice pals have sent me some good paint and really beautiful paper. With the materials already so lovely, it’s easy to make something beautiful without being an expert. It’s fun.

This is me meeting Jon Miller. My heart is flopping all over and I am in full nerd mode. It felt so incredible. LOOK AT HIS FACE!

4. March Madness/Spring Training. You don’t have to be crazy like me and take time off to go to Arizona to watch your favorite team lose a few games and have the best time ever. You don’t have to sneak into seats behind the home dugout to get close enough to see the pores on your favorite pitcher, Tim Lincecum. You don’t have to wait in line at the press box to go meet your Hall of Fame announcer and oddly blurt out, “Jon Miller, you are cute as a bug!!” BUT march is a great time for sports procrastination. Even though the NCAA is basically an evil pimp getting rich off the sweat of it’s athletes, bringing in a billion dollars (A BILLION) in revenue on the high tops of it’s basketball players during March Madness  my god, it’s incredible to watch these men and women play. I am actually lucky enough to go see part of the women’s tournament live in 2 weeks with my Pop. He even got us matching UCONN hoodies.

5. Jigsaw Puzzles: I love the way it feels to find the right piece and slide the grooves together perfectly. I especially love 1000 piece puzzles so I can do that 999 times.

6. Claudia Rankine: I read Citizen and am still both recovering AND in a state of utter gratitude. Just a breathtaking journey of feelings came for me as I read. This book really had me take stock of the very notion of citizenship for me as an American. Specifically as a white American. There is no way to experience this lyric and exit the same person who began reading it. The prose is a transformative spell of honesty, a mirror, a knife, the fiercest act of pure love I’ve seen by pen.  INCREDIBLE.

7. gluttonforlife: I can’t even count the ways this website by writer Laura Silverman is inspiring. The photographs are gorgeous, I love the writing, the themes compel me and forget about it with the creativity around foraging and food. I’ve been following this site consistently for a few years now and it just gets better. It never fails that if I feel stuck or I need a break from my own writing or words, Ms. Silverman’s voice comes on like a daydream, a soothing and beautiful place to go where every cycle of perception works together. Then I often want one of her cocktails.

8. The ReadI love this podcast. Two friends, Kid Fury and Crissle, get on the mic and just shoot the shit. They talk about popular culture, clothes, music, stars and anything that annoys the shit out of them. These two really get into it and it feels a lot like hanging out on a couch with them. Maybe with snacks. When they disagree is my favorite.

So there are some nice things to do to pass the time instead of having time pass you. May all your toils be interesting and your mind at peace when it hits the pillow. ALSO: Please comment with your favorite links, sites, and procrastination WINS!

A Little Bit On Dating.

Living in New York was a rough stretch for me. Which is to say, that town chewed me right up and spit me out. I found myself underemployed as a sex educator in an optically unnerving dildo emporium, doing the work of the goddess for about $13/hr. I wore a path into the linoleum escorting nervous cis women to the bookshelf, plucking Betty Dodson’s genius Sex For One off of it over and over, turning to the double page spread featuring beautiful line drawings of like a hundred different vaginas.  I’d watch women blush, cry, and chew their nails as they looked at the pictures, labia twisting and rolling and even unfurling like manta rays right their under their fingertips. I’d point to the clitoris, that bundle of 8000 nerve endings crammed into the famous pink pearl, a hoodie stylishly draped over its head letting women of the world focus from time to time on life rather than intense sensation that lies beneath. I’d say, “That’s where you look, girl. Get yourself a compact and that Missy Elliot Supa Dupa Fly record and block out some time on a Tuesday evening. Just you. Because it’s always good to know where the pot of gold is buried.”

Those were my days. Clits and butt plugs and floggers and vibrators. Playing some part in women’s sexual empowerment felt amazing, but to be so broke and desperate from doing so in the most expensive town in the country was exhausting physically and disenchanting politically and spiritually. Add to that being turned down for a slew of editing jobs cited for being both over AND under-qualified plus not one, but two breakups BAM and then BAM, and I gotta tell you, I felt low like a bass drum. Imagine ushering sexually adventurous couples around all day in the wake of TWO break-ups possibly to never get laid again.

But look. Just because a lady loves a city, doesn’t mean the city is ready to love her back. Obviously, the same can be said of some of the women I’ve dated. And come to think of it, if I stretch way the hell back, the men as well.

The office was rife with break-ups, bad dating stories and shockingly bad dating behavior this week. Because my clients ARE THE GREATEST, it inspired me to make a tiny list of things we all talked about. Let’s make this short and sweet.

A little dating REAL TALK:

1. Don’t date people that don’t want to date you or they torture you endlessly with their ambivalence. I used to think it was such a challenge and a test to change someone’s mind and really show them how I was the best love they’d ever find and how I was laid back and so whipsmart and… ahem… WHATEVER, MAN. Let them work through their shit over there and when they know they are honored that you are willing to spend your precious time with them, either you’ll decide to or not. Because the time you spend with this person is keeping you from your friends, your art, your self, and the plethora of people who are completely stoked about you, just like you are.

2. The most loathsome song lyric in history: If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. That lyric gets the mighty middle finger from me. It can really fuck right off. If you can’t be with the one you love, BE ALONE for Pete’s sake. Do not drag people who truly want to be with you through your pining away for someone else. It’s irritating, harmful, disrespectful and beneath you. And if this is happening to you, see #1.

3. Try and have enough communication to know that you are both on the same page. Are you pals who do it sometimes? Are you taking on a second lover but staying with your partner? Are you in it for a monogamous long haul? Whatever it is, let the date know. And if your page turns, don’t play it off like you’re not changing. Things change. It’s cool. Honesty is hot.

4. Rejection is protection. We live in an interesting world packed with so many kinds of experiences to be had. There are different kinds of people, there’s travel and painting and cooking and baseball season and car engines and science and vintage ceramics and SO MANY BOOKS TO READ and dogs and 5ks to run and swimming and salads and laundry and work and fresh flowers. So even though it hurts bad when someone you feel for chooses to break things off, they have given you freedom of time and inclination to follow paths that will bear fruit. Between going to work and sleeping, our free time is valuable and we get to treat it as such. Having someone take themselves off our agenda saves us from spending intimate time with a person who doesn’t ultimately want what we want. We can take all the great things we got from that time and roll that shit over into an account with BETTER INTEREST.

5. And finally I just want to say to you, if someone doesn’t respect you, leave them. Just leave. Break up with them. Make it quick and final. “Don’t call me. Don’t text me. Don’t email me. I don’t even want to hear rumors about you. It’s over.” You deserve someone who feels honored to have your company and shows you that.

These last few years for me have been peppered with some truly terrifying moments. People got sick. People died. Long relationships came apart and my dog is staggering around the house like a rickety drunk canine Burroughs. There is the 24 hour news cycle to contend with as well, showcasing an array of societal ills like festering pustules. The things we have here in the world that are TRULY our own are few. We have our stories, and we have a little bit of time here. It’s a beautiful life, even when brutal, and maybe especially so. But because the world’s job is to inherently rise and fall, we do not need to help it along in the heartbreak department.

Pick someone who picks you back.

This is Gramma Eva and Grampa Sasha in Kiev in 1917.


Willpower: The Big Bullshit Hoagie

This is Wally. He’s my dog nephew. The idea of walking on the beach with Wally can create more of a sense of friendliness in a habit than just logging steps.

I know we haven’t met, but I can tell you already,
There’s nothing wrong with you.

I mean it.

How do I know that? Because you’re here. Not here at the blog, I mean here on the planet. And if you’re already here, you’ve got the right to be here, in exactly the body you have today. I know that’s pretty disappointing to people. They want the keys to someplace else. People wrote me a lot of letters last week confiding that they had clicked on the title of my weight loss article hoping that I had unlocked some kind of feminist, or not, solution to the problem of the body they were using to read the post. They’d been putting off exercising in public until they privately slimmed down just a little bit or they’d been waiting to get married until they could look better in the photographs, and they were even waiting to go to rehab until they lost 10 more pounds. Because we all know, it is a far more important thing to have the right photographs of life than it is to just live it.

If all of you incredible people are thinking you don’t have a right to be happy living the lives offered to you by the world in the bodies you have right now, the problem isn’t your body. The problem is the world.

It’s such a set-up, right? We’re supposed to police ourselves so hardcore that the policing becomes the fabric of life. Food gets shoved onto teams of good and bad like a high school gym class nightmare. But weirdly, and horrifically, the food talk fades and people begin to use phrases that are even more telling. They don’t say, “I ate some unhealthy things that made me feel sick to my stomach.” They simply say, “I was so bad.”

PEOPLE: You were not bad. You ate some fucking pasta. You didn’t mislead the country into a war where thousands of young people killed and died over an illusion. What happened was a decadent dessert. You didn’t lie to your best friend about siphoning off her kids’ college funds so you could go to Bora Bora with Ellen and Portia. Your nutritional escapades have nothing to do with your moral compass, your ability to accomplish meaningful things in this place, and they certainly have nothing to do with your deep and abiding worth here in this wide community of humans.

I hear it all the time.
I was so bad. I have no willpower.

You know what?

Willpower is an abusive tyrant dressed up as a hero with great abs and no emotional capacity to sustain a meaningful relationship. Willpower looks great at the dinner but throws up all over the back seat of the limo on the way home and never tips the driver. Willpower gives at the office but never marches in the street and willpower always dies bitter and pandering to the sky about having just one more chance. Willpower pulls a muscle rolling it’s eyes at you when it sees your hand reach out for just your ninth tortilla chip, then tears its rotator cuff patting itself on the back as it verbally shreds its lover because it’s HANGRY.

What do you like about your friends? Move toward that.

I don’t believe in willpower anymore when it comes to eating,
and I don’t believe in white knuckles.

I believe in habit.

Now a habit you can build in a way that suits your strengths. A habit you can stack up each day, a whole universe of everything that works. And when it doesn’t work, no big deal, just start again from a new angle. Or what about a habit that used to work and then stopped because life changed. Because you had a kid or got a new job or lost your license or you got Lyme or your funding got pulled or some jerk was careless with your heart and the pain came for you so hard and fast you lost your ding dang breath. Well then. Time for a new habit. But there’s STILL not a damn thing wrong with you.

What is this habit building I’m talking about? People, coaches in particular,  have different ideas about how to do this. Now, obviously, I’m not the coach for everyone. I’m very focused supporting people to experience the life they are having WHILE they do the work toward making change. The idea that we should put off living until we get to celebrate that change cuts us all off at the emotional knees. And, it also prevents us from having support and joy while we get there. I’m not into that. We never know how long we get to have this life and so I say, now’s it.

Every client I have is different, each with remarkable personality, talents, and creative acumen. So each person I work with has a different path in building their particular habits moving toward their particular goals. But some things, I think, can be helpful to most people looking to replace the iron fist of willpower with the new model of a habit. So, here’s my jam:

1. Be Reasonable: Let’s say you want a seated meditation practice in your life in a lasting way. Presently, you are not sitting at all. So if the goal is to have meditation in your life for a long time, and ultimately from where you are now you envision a seated daily meditation for 30 minutes with various retreats over time and a regular sangha (or group), beginning with a task of 30 minutes just isn’t a reasonable path. There’s a ton of real estate for you to explore between the nothing of now and your eventual vision. For instance, have a list of tasks that build toward that goal and hook it onto a reliable habit you already have. Like, say, brushing your teeth. So your first task can be to make yourself a comfortable and inviting place to sit. Second you can hitch that sit to your tooth brushing. You know that no matter where you are, you always manage to brush your teeth every morning. That established habit can lend a reliable spine to this new one. Third, begin with 1 minute. Or with a recording of a teacher to lead you through 5 minutes. Build up. These suggestions can be applied to anything from trying to eat breakfast to yoga to writing to walking the dog.

2. Friendliness: What do you like about your friends? What qualities make you want to stay in a certain relationship or at a particular dinner party? Take those qualities and move them into your habit building. Like dressing up? Maybe your exercise can be tennis, which can often showcase a really killer outfit. Maybe you like to yell. How about deadlifting or kickboxing? Hate cooking but really want to gain some skills to have a little more say over how your nutrition at home is happening? Add friendliness to the task at hand. Find a pal you have who actually LOVES to cook. You have one. I swear. Tell them you’d like some help and do some cooking together. They can help demystify the kitchen as well as provide company while you learn. Or maybe you want a habit of cleaning your apartment weekly. Make a playlist that is SO GOOD, it feels like a friend, and you can cut a deal with yourself to clean for, say, 15 minutes of that playlist. I often find Back in Blackis a good song for this list. And by the time you get to 15 minutes one of two things will ave happened. You will either be 15 minutes further down the road to a clean apartment OR you will be enjoying your genius playlist so much you continue spiffing up the joint happily.

Willpower is fickle. A habit, you can grow.

3. Willingness: If you can feel it in the very core of your being that you don’t actually want to do the thing you’ve set yourself up to do, trust yourself. You know that feeling better than anyone. Change the shape of the task until you feel willing. Get support in finding a version of your task you are willing to do. Like for me: at some point I wanted to run a marathon. Looking back, it’s clear to me that the ONLY thing that made that possible was the fact that I wanted to do it. My body is in better shape now but I’d never be able to finish another marathon because I DON’T FUCKING WANT TO. I’m not willing to put in the time or the pain or even the entry fee. I do want to continue my running practice, though. And having a distance kind of task to support that goal really helps me with structure. So I need to find a task I am willing to do. Because 26.2, for this gal, not gonna’ happen.

There’s more, but just begin here.
Get Reasonable.
Be as Friendly with yourself as possible.
And just be Willing.
See how this goes and let me know.

You don’t have to white knuckle your way through life. The universe is going to hand us so many challenges, so much pain and struggle already, that it really doesn’t need us to help it along.

I am not saying we shouldn’t strive or toil, or that everything should be, or will be easy. And some days even the most established habits are a total drag to show up for. But as the habit is built and the result of that habit is that we feel better in our lives day in and day out, we begin to believe in it. In ourselves. In our humanity and also in our bodies, where that humanity exists. We begin to approach ourselves with a shot glass of kindness not just in these habits, but in our most brutal and punishing days, when we need it the most.

Don’t feel like running? Put on a gay bandana. WORKS EVERY TIME.

So. You Wanna Lose Weight.

I have avoided writing a post about weight loss since I started this job. Yet one of the most common things clients come to me wanting is, well, weight loss. They come with numbers or they come with a pair of pants they want to get back in. They come with diet plans, supplements, meal replacements and they come with Zumba dreams. People come with fat positive roots and a sense of feminist betrayal, they come with a desire to overthrow the patriarchy and a tug between the weight and the expectations of a misogynist culture. They come with diabetes and doctors orders and they come with menopause. People come from Europe, from Canada, from the Deep South. People arrive armed with fears and defense tools and shame and more shame. I say welcome to all of you as I am as much a member of this parade as I am a loving host to your desires.

I cannot speak to anyone’s experience but my own. I try not to talk about how I eat so much here because my work is not about me. I do find, sometimes, that a sharing of my experience has brought clients some ease and so after almost four years of this weight loss inquiry, and after dodging the direct questions from people all the time, I thought instead I’d just tell you a little bit of my story.

As you might know, I’m pudgy. Sometimes I’m more pudgy than others and over time, my weight has spent a bunch of time fluctuating. When I am at what I feel are my HEALTHIEST times: eating for my body’s needs, not obsessing, not logging or counting or berating myself over a donut. When I am happy, exercising regularly, relatively low in self-judgey bullshit and laughing easily. When I am cooking and my choices for food are in line with my body’s needs and not my emotional havoc or terror, I still look thick by conventional standards. And when I feel great and healthy, this shape looks great to me. I look at myself and feel powerful and competent and sexy and solid. The truth is, I go through 99% of my life not looking at myself. Maybe more. I BARELY KNOW WHAT I LOOK LIKE. So to place a value on the 1% of the time I look at myself over the 99% of the time when I discover how I feel in the world just doesn’t make good sense. Obviously, as we’ve learned through Republican fund raising dinners, the 1% is often given all the power in our country. But I say our bodies deserve a coup. Let the 99% win.

Move no matter what

Because people ask me the most effective ways to lose weight all the time, I am going to tell you about the 3 times I have lost a SIGNIFICANT (20+ lbs) amount of weight  in my life.

FAR AND AWAY, I have to say, the most effective way I have found to lose weight so far in my life was doing a ton of crystal meth. The pounds just fell right off me. I snorted it mostly but free based it as well. I can still remember the exact smell of the blue smoke that swirled in the bulb of the pipe. Sometimes during hot summers when people have their air conditioners cranked up so high you can smell the freon, the scent is so powerful, I get flashbacks to being tweeked out on meth. I kind of lucked out because when I first moved to San Francisco, there was a dealer that got a crush on me so I never paid for it either. I didn’t start doing it to lose weight. I did it because it felt incredible. I felt invincible and gorgeous and sexy and brilliant and charming and hilarious and productive and genius. Until I didn’t. Until my feet started going numb and my skin looked like I had mold inside me just under the surface snaking through my body and my brain fell into chaos and despair. That year I was consistently svelte and people loved to tell me how great I looked. WOW, they’d exclaim, YOU LOOK AMAZING! At first I’d smile and feel lit up like a pinball machine. The weight loss was some kind of side bonus I hadn’t even considered. I didn’t even think about food. I was too busy thinking about solving the crisis of the prison industrial complex and unhinging the oppression of queers dying from, essentially, hatred. Self or otherwise. I didn’t have time to fucking eat, and the thought of it freaked me out anyhow. Being free of food obsession for the first time ever was incredible. Better than being thin. BETTER THAN BEING THIN. As time went on and I found myself with hollowed out yellowish dead eyes and wearing blotches on my skin like embarrassing hickeys from ill advised dates, getting a size 4 pair of pants didn’t bring the thrill of victory I’d always imagined it might. One more person told me how “Great” I looked and I just said, “Well, I’m pretty strung out on speed so I’m glad I have that going for me.”

Get a friend to move with you!

ANYHOW: I definitely lost a lot of weight and so I can attest to that method. However. I don’t recommend it. Side effects include loss of money, teeth, friends, lovers, jobs, housing, and life. I was lucky, but my dead friends were not, and every last one of them would rather be here than skinny.

A little less dire for effective weight loss is some really down home Emotional Devastation.  Now for me, a general malaise, a protracted sadness, or a vague depression won’t work. Those have traditionally driven me to comfort eating and obsessively thinking about what to eat instead of feeling whatever feelings I may be avoiding. But true annihilation has brought me so low at times that I just don’t feel like eating at all or I can’t. Again, here, the pounds melted away as the Magical Misery Fairy tapped on my throat to make it feel like it was choking almost constantly. Anxiety, pain, and near constant crying jags banished those pesky pounds away like a dream. Again people, even ones knowing how much pain I was suffering, took great pleasure in telling me how wonderful I looked. What a compliment! Unlike my Game Show Hostess on Meth alter ego, this version of me wanted to kill people. In this state, I truly wanted to feel good and how I looked meant nothing, Just like Ranier Maria Rilke says. It really made me think a lot about beauty and what it could mean to be a beautiful person, like in a Prince song.

Then a few years ago during a pretty happy time of life, I decided to try Weight Watchers. I did it for 10 months and I lost a bunch of weight and felt pretty goddamned happy about it. I felt proud and so excited to go to a wedding and look a certain way. This method did not involve me filling my body with toxic drugs that would make my teeth rot out of my head, nor did I feel, at any time, devastated or bereft. I kept track of what I ate daily and meticulously and frankly, this process offered me some things I found helpful. I liked the structure of it and I liked having an understanding that if I changed the portions of some things, I still felt satisfied. (Note: The DubDubs has rules that lets a person be well within their program and still survive on Skittles, a bagel, and 2 light beers every day. You can get in with your points and still lose weight and have a victory on your hands. Hell, on weekends you can even add in a Skinny Fudgesicle and tequila shots. Again, weight loss over health.)

Over time, however, the constant tracking and monitoring felt increasingly creepy and horrible.  I became my own vicious food prison warden, and this is on the kindest diet I have ever undertaken. Diets are inherently broken. They are the work of the devil, or misogyny. I know this because when I wanted a little freedom from any of it, when I decided to abandon the plan and stop babysitting my own food intake and carrying around weird scraps of paper to enter into the computer later, I went insane. Or sane. I mean first, insane, then sane.

The microculture of restriction and denial serve to starve our inner ideas of thriving. They sent me from feeling like I was a little bit in the weeds directly into the damn wilderness. My newly found self-esteem turned out to be a thin reflective mirror easily shattered by the truth of my real depth of self-loathing. Underneath all the desire to be thin or perfect or pretty or NORMAL was the monstrous truth that I was just not enough. Not successful enough or desirable enough or talented enough or … I’m sorry. Am I boring you to DEATH?! On top of that, to discover my utter edgeless lack of original despair, the desperately boring female trope lodged in me like a vestige of postmodernist Snoresville, the wholly disappointing discovery that at my core I was a delicate fucking flower that wanted to be a wisp…. Jesus. It was a true terror. Even my most private failures turned flaccid.

I not only had the original pain but the judgments of that pain as well. My inner 3rd wave feminist critic spit on my thrifted Doc Martens and my Body Positive crusader packed up the vintage slips and Sharpie body tattoos and deserted me. I had no politics to bring me comfort with a truth like this. That at my true core, I was, well, alone.

And turns out, that was the perfect place for me to start rebuilding. Because I live here in this body: ALONE. This is the place I think, dance, run, eat, snore, read, kiss, swim and ski. I experience everything in here. And finally having that agency to shut out the pressures of outside expectation let me slowly build some kind of new relationship to my own home here. I own this body and it’s my responsibility not to be a shitty landlord. Because no matter what I choose, that choice lives here.

This is when things really started to make a shift for from getting thin to getting comfortable. I don’t even want to say “healthy” exactly. Because to me, part of being healthy is being free and having agency for the first time in my life to say yes or no to things. To be able to have food and know when it’s a dessert and when it’s a coping mechanism disguised as a flourless chocolate tart.

So instead of weight loss, I found that developing a relationship to my body and to food that works to support my happiness and my actual physical needs will let my body exist in a space that’s comfortable for it. And now that this particular body is officially in menopause, and pretty early I might add, NOT TO BRAG, it’s got some new things it’d like to tell me. I need to really be a grown ass woman and decide what the cross section is of what do I want to do, what am I willing to do, and how do I want to feel when I do it. Eating and moving are the general crux to all of my experience here in this body, and therefor, the way I practice the sacred in this life. It is a work in progress and with any luck at all, it will last the rest of my days.

Just like The World Champion Giants: it’s a State of Mind as well as body. Mostly I just wanted to rep myself as a Giants Fan.

1. How I Eat is Just as Important as What I Eat: I don’t eat standing up anymore as a general rule. I don’t eat while driving. I try to take a few breaths before I begin to eat. Say a quiet thank you to the workers, the planet, the resources, the privilege and the sheer luck that brought me to this food. These breaths and that thanks usually lead me to a place where I am reminded to chew, promoting good digestion and more help for my digestive organs and gut health, and more sheer pleasure to enjoy the sensory fiesta of eating. Eating compulsively is always a sign that something emotional is up and it also robs me of the experience of enjoying the food. Which then often leads to eating AGAIN and therefor overeating when a body doesn’t need any more fuel.

2. Staying Hydrated is Key: I am so shitty at drinking water. TERRIBLE. Here’s the thing. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things we can do for our sense of well-being. It’s detoxifying, it helps with systemic inflammation and it keeps our conversations with our bodies honest. When we are dehydrated, our body will do anything it can to get water, including telling us we are hungry because obviously we are not giving it water. It’ll be like, “Okay then, girl. Get get yourself some food I can syphon the water out of it because if you keep trying to turn me into a damn raisin, I will die, and I’m not having any of that.” When we are hydrated (drinking someplace between 75-100 oz of water or herbal tea a day) our brains are much more clear in contact with what the body wants. The more water you drink, the more you want to drink it. Now there are tons of easy little apps on your phone that can remind you to have water that don’t require tons of obsessy logging and stuff.

3. DIGESTION!!! The Ayurvedic tradition suggests eating our largest meal closer to the middle of the day and letting dinner be lighter so that our bodies don’t have to work so hard as they are sleeping is the kindest to our digestive tracts. Ideally, the body has deeper cleaning to do while we sleep and if we let it do that work, our bodies are more efficient with our fuel. I try to keep 12 hours between when I finish dinner and start breakfast. I don’t always accomplish this, but I notice that when I do, my body feels, like, more ready to rumble. The lethargy quotient is so much lower.

4. Move. Start where you are. If you move a lot, bring in some variation and mix it up. If you don’t move at all, just start. Walk more. Take the stairs. Do a squat. Pick something you like. If you hate the gym, don’t go to the fucking gym. There is no such thing as a Gym Person. People tell me, “I’m not a Gym Person.” No one is a gym person. Going to the gym is a behavior. You go or you don’t. Who were people before gyms? Certainly still people. So. Maybe you find a gym you like. Maybe you start to hike. Or you dance at home between work breaks. Or maybe you go for walks or try running. Maybe you play tennis or you do the 7 minute workout a few times on your lunch break. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Don’t worry about what Bethany does because Bethany doesn’t have to live your life in your body. Do what you do. Bring a pal. Or if you’re very social, use movement to be alone. Leave your phone at home. Climb rocks and sightsee. Snowshoe. Ski. Swim. Lift weights. Shovel. Garden. Ice Skate. ANYTHING. Get a gang together. Just Keep on Moving.

5. Eat when You’re Hungry. Period.

6. Enjoy Eating. Really. It can be difficult, or impossible, to truly enjoy eating if you are also working or watching The Vampire Diaries or having an argument. So put pleasure first. How about that?

These are some things that have NOT helped me to lose weight. They have helped me to feel good about my life in this body, and over time, my weight has shifted. I cannot tell you that doing these things will help you to lose weight but I can tell you that if you do them, your relationship to your body will be so much happier. You might lose weight or change shape. You will learn what foods your body likes and which ones make it feel not so hot. You will sleep better. You’ll have more energy and zest for life. You will cook more and get better at it and you’ll be more attracted to vegetables. They’re pretty. And here’s a weird one: you’ll save money. First because you will get better at food shopping and you’ll cook more and second because you won’t spend so much money looking for happiness in ways that have nothing to do with happiness. All because of food and exercise, you ask?


And because you give a shit about where you live.

Cook More!