On the set of The Martyrdom of Old St. Nick

Dudes. Josh and I got together last week to bang out the final set for The Martyrdom of Old St. Nick, and it doesn’t even feel like bragging to say that we knocked this one out of the park, because seriously, I could not be more proud of this. And I made the Krumpett!

Josh was smart enough to capture the whole process in time lapse, and put it on the internet. Highlights include an amazing set, some TMNT pants, and if you pause it in the right places, there’s even some good shots of my shoulder tattoos. You can check it all out at Josh’s tumblr, linked in the image below.

Hey look, it’s my back!

I am so stoked with how this turned out, and can’t wait to see the progress as it comes to life with the characters. Robbie’s designs and Josh’s assembly (and eternal patience) turned out something really incredible. I feel so honored to be a part of it.

XOXO,
Bean

George Carlin and Birth Control

When I was in middle school, I was given access to all of my parents old records. One of my favorites was AM/FM by George Carlin. On it, he did a bit about birth control that went like this,

“Some day, birth control will go off-prescription. And when they do, they’ll need those cute little catchy names… Preg-Not! ‘Doctors prefer Embry-No!’ Here’s one for the ladies: Nary a Carry! Something lofty and poetic: Nay, Family Way! Something earthy and crude: Mom-Bomb. Something for the youngsters: Junior…Miss! Here’s a real man’s product: Inconceivable! Mommy Not, Fetus Fail, Kiddie Kill, Poppa Stopper, whatever you want. Womb Broom, Humpty Dumpty, y’know. They’re clever guys. I wouldn’t be surprised if they come up with a birth control pill that doesn’t work all the time and call it Baby-Maybe!”

As a 13 year old it made me giggle at all the silly names. As a 32 year old, it makes me realize that in 1972 George Carlin had the optimism to believe that one day we would reach a point where birth control would be accepted and accessible as an over-the-counter drug.

Over 40 years later, Facebook is swirling with controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood. And in my life, I have seen controversy swirl around Planned Parenthood so many times. Republicans want to see it defunded and banned, so much that they will build a whole platforms around it. They base their arguments around a procedure that is not publicly funded, and makes up approximately 3% of their services, never taking into account the variety of their patient’s experiences.

I hope, one day, that Mr. Carlin’s optimism will be justified. I double-hope that this change will come in my life time. In the meantime, it’s up to us to help make sure that Planned Parenthood can continue to help people in need… so that women and men can continue to have access to affordable reproductive health care, contraceptives and birth control.

I’d hate to imagine a world without it.

Anger, Howling and Death to Smoochy

Yesterday felt like a downward spiral. I looked out at the world through my computer monitor and saw black women dying in jail, Native Americans being killed by police in astounding numbers, a never-ending controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood, Donald Trump being an idiot*, Kelly Osbourne being just as much of an idiot, and people blaming minimum wage workers for getting the minimum wage raised to a livable wage like it’s a bad thing.

It makes me want to push my monitor off my desk, crawl into bed and never come out again.

Catherine Keener says it with a smile.
A week or two ago, I watched Death to Smoochy again (for like the zillionth time). In the decade-plus that it’s been out, it has taught me a surprising amount of anger management. This is where I first learned to H.A.L.T.** and evaluate my situation. H.A.L.T stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired and it has helped me to determine what is really behind my strong emotions – could they be modified by giving my body some care?

H.A.L.T has been less effective as I’ve started dealing with chronic pain. I mean, I hurt. A lot of the time. And there is NO DOUBT that this affects my mood. I burn out at an excelled rate and find myself frustrated trying to do simple tasks like opening jars, washing my hair, or other things I didn’t think much of even a year ago. I miss my friends, but can’t keep up with them. I am not supposed to drink on my medication. I don’t have it in me to stand at concerts. Besides, its hard to perform*** when it’s difficult to bathe and dress myself. And I won’t even get into how self-conscious I feel in this body swollen from inflammation and puffy with prednisone.

I have been leaning towards distraction. I can read when my hands don’t get tired from holding the book. When that fails I have Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu to keep me company. But sometimes this becomes insufferable, too. And there I am stuck in my own head.
Jon Stewart looking at his own brain.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with my grandma before she passed away. She said to me, “I didn’t expect all this sitting and waiting.” She was referring to how she spent pretty much her whole life on her feet, raising kids and grandkids, caring for her house and her land, and still making time to contribute to the community. And in her Nineties she was forced to sit the fuck down, because her body didn’t want to hold her up anymore. Her brain was bored, frustrated and angry, and her body was giving up. I understand this more now than ever, and honestly it makes me panic a little when I think about the impacts of aging getting thrown into my own personal mix.

Cheer up, Spinner! Your sister is Tommy Cotter!
There’s no denying that it gets me down. It makes me angry. And I feel powerless to fight, whether it’s my immune system or oppression. Its through this lens that I watched Smoochy again and it was like watching it for the first time. A new scene stood out more than ever before. A very powerful scene in which he is on stage in his rhino suit telling the children that sometimes he gets angry. Sometimes the pressures of the world build up. And when it gets to be too much he…

wait for it…

HOWLS.

That night I had a dream in which I went into an empty room and screamed and screamed and screamed. Until my partner woke me up. And it was intense and tense and cathartic and the first time I’d felt like I could do fucking anything. Well, not like I could do anything because I have super powers, more like there was anything I could do.

Since then, I have been giving myself some credit and allowing myself to be angry. When I step out of myself, I realize that I think a lot of people would feel similarly in my slip-on shoes. And it’s okay to be angry – as they say, if you’re not then you’re not paying attention. But I am also looking into ways to PROCESS it. It turns out feeling and processing might be more effective than, say, ignoring and bottling! Whodathunkit?

I have spent more than one session reading the reviews for boxing gloves on Amazon, trying to determine which pair will protect my ceramic-sausage-fingers from pain while I pummel the crap out of the giant deoder cedar in my yard. The tree doesn’t deserve it, but it can take it, and I like to imagine it understands. And I’m going to go ahead and say I DO deserve it.

I am also looking into things a little less violent. Things like RA support groups, the Alexander Technique, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and so on. Anything I can get my hands on that can improve my well-being, emotionally or physically, are on the table. When I see these options, I remember all of the potential I have, and the future doesn’t feel so dim.

Like the tree in my yard, if I can’t move, at least I can grow.

Yay!

*Too many links to pick one.
**This is also where I learned the song, “My Step-Dad’s Not Mean, He’s Just Adjusting” which might be one of the most apropos songs for my generation that I’ve ever heard in my life. Seriously. If you haven’t seen this movie, just go onto Amazon Prime and buy it. You can thank me later.
***perform = be a human

August Links

cyanideHere’s my second attempt at a link roundup from my Gunter and Bean Facebook Page, which I use to share the news, links and articles that captivate me. The benefit of checking here is that I’ll have them sorted by topic. The downside is that you might miss my commentary. Or maybe that’s a benefit too, I’m not sure.

I hope you enjoy! I look forward to hearing your comments, questions, and suggestions for other things to read!

Sincerely,

Bean

Continue reading “August Links”

Thoughts on “Wondering Why We’re Fat”

I just read this article, and it really got the ol’ brain going…

Wondering Why We’re Fat? by Dances with Fat

As someone who’s grown up fat for, like, ever, I can tell you that there are people out there who think they know us better than we know ourselves. They think they have the magic cure that will make us fit into the molds they have made for us. Through their eyes we are lazy slobs who lack discipline, which is funny because from where I’m standing they look like bigoted strangers with no filter between their brains and their mouths.

But the thing that gets me going… the thing that has always bothered me is, why do they even give a fuck? Why is it so important for people to police how others live. What makes a stranger so sure that they can correctly assess that another person is too fat/thin/white/brown/tall/short/queer/straight/confident to make their own decisions? I mean, sure, Mom being concerned for your health is one thing, but having some stranger judgmentally eye your cart at the grocery is a whole other deal. Why? Why are you even paying attention to me in the first place?

If you want to be an ambassador of good health, that’s fine! Exercise, work out, develop healthy recipes, and put it up on your blog for others to seek out. But don’t then go onto other blogs and start telling people how they need to run their lives. It’s bad manners, and honestly I just don’t understand why one would spend so much time in their life cultivating negativity. You sound as smart as the person who, in 2015, still feels the need to inform smokers that smoking is unhealthy (you know who hears this fact more than anyone else? Smokers!) I guarantee that stranger you decide to judge isn’t living for you, anyway!

It just really gets my goat that people not only think it’s ok, but that it’s their goddamn duty to preach their opinion as fact. If we could spend half the time addressing bigotry as we do on policing fat bodies, I think the world would be a much better place.

I know this is just me preaching my opinion, but you came here to read it. So like, can we give it a try?

Book Report: Health at Every Size

This is not just a book report. Then again, Health at Every Size is not just a book.

A couple of months ago I owned up to an eating disorder and sought counselling. I was/am a closet eater. And I don’t mean that I was someone who ate a lot some times and was looking to lose weight. No, I’m the type of person who would keep stashes of high calorie foods in secret places so no one would know I was eating these foods. I would carry cash so that fast food stops didn’t hit the joint bank account and send up a red flag. And when my partner left the house, this meant I could and would binge freely until his return.

While I was definitely looking for a sugar rush, it wasn’t just about the food. It was about having something that was just mine, something I didn’t have to share. It gave me control through utter lack of control. It gave me something I could feel, even if that feeling was shame.

(I hold a particular painful memory of a friend stealing a french fry off my plate at a restaurant once, and FLIPPING MY SHIT. The “offender” didn’t think it would be a big deal, which it probably shouldn’t have been. However, they were met with my wrath and an unnecessary critique of their manners, instead of an explanation about how I had planned to eat every scrap on that plate because that’s all I was “allowed” to eat in front of people. I’m not sure the other person remembers this, because they recently cracked a joke about sharing food that made my blood boil, but I don’t think it was intentional.)

In my first session with my current therapist, she asked if I’d read Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, PhD. I said I was aware of the movement, but didn’t even know it was a book, so she suggested I find a copy and give it a try. Eager to show I’d do my homework, I ran to Powell’s to pick it up.

It didn’t take long to know this was a good book. It kicks off by saying that if you’re looking for a weight loss program you’re in the wrong place. Then it proceeds to debunk myth after myth in regards to diets, how bodies work, advertising, government and health, backing it up with cold, hard science. She discusses why health matters more than weight and how there isn’t much of a correlation. She also explains how studies can get skewed to show specific findings by adding or subtracting certain factors, and how these studies are often funded by the organizations that can benefit from these findings.

Once armed with the facts, Bacon then walks the reader through self care – why eating your vegetables and getting “movement” is more important that “diet and exercise,” how to identify fullness, and how to set up a regimen that works for the reader.

I have two complaints. The first is that the book really seems to focus on women. I realize that the typical demographic that will respond to this book is female, but it makes it an awkward recommendation for my male friends. The second complaint is that the book is really geared towards people who have dieted and dieted and weight cycled, and to that end I couldn’t relate. I mean, I have certainly dieted and had my stints with fitness trainers and gyms, but when it comes down to it, I’ve never been pushing for a certain number on a scale. Knowing that I look skeletal at 30 lbs over my recommended BMI busted that goal for me years ago… no, I’ve simply been striving for health all this time.

That said, get rid of all the anti-diet and female-centric stuff, and it’s still a great, informative read.

In fact, the book was so good that there was a noticeable shift in my habits while I was reading. Early on, it told me to trust and listen to myself. I practiced this as I read, getting better with each step. And by the end of the book…

Well, I don’t know if I’m any lighter or healthier. I do know that I have more energy, less gas, and seek out food based on the satisfaction I expect to receive. I have taken the time to know what it feels like to eat whole food versus processed food. I have learned that the foods I consume are a choice. And I know that if I choose to eat junk food, it’s my choice. Simple as that.

I would absolutely recommend this book for everyone, and find myself wanting to thrust it into the hands of people I love… not just as a read for people who could benefit from the tome, but also for the people who are relied on for support. I think it’s critical for the #bodylove movement that we get and stay informed, for ourselves and our allies. This book is a great start.

And to anyone who might judge future Bean’s eating habits, may you be met with the same wrath the fry-stealer received. I only share my fries with allies.

So Did the Fat Lady

Recently I’ve been getting caught up on one of my favorite TV shows, Louie. I love this show because it has lasting power… I’m thinking of it long after I’m done with the episode. One such episode was called So Did the Fat Lady, and is summarized on Netflix as so,

“Louie is reluctant to go out with a likeable waitress at the Comedy Cellar because of her weight”

It sat in my head, rolling around like a katamari, collecting thoughts. Then I read this article entitled, How to Come to Terms with Your Attraction to Fat Girls, which had been posted to my Facebook timeline by both The Militant Baker and Fat Fancy. Underneath it, Facebook suggested I might like clip of the last scene of So Did the Fat Lady, which was totes accurate.

One of the things that really struck me watching it the first time, is that this whole scene is written by Louie CK who, it turns out, is not a fat chick. As a result I was both irritated to have the words shoved in my mouth while simultaneously feeling like he got it. Sarah Baker‘s delivery is what ultimately won me over. I believed that she was that strong, frustrated, beautiful woman who was pushed to the brink to say that the fat isn’t her problem, because she doesn’t see it as a problem… it’s other people who see it as a problem.

Well, she blames men, with Louie as their representative, for the fear of a fat women. I would consider them a definite contributor, I’m not so sure it’s gender specific. Personally, I feel much more pressure to keep up my appearance when I know there will be other women around. However, it wasn’t until I was typing that sentence that I realized it’s because in our culture women are born into an inescapable competition with other women. Unconsciously there’s always the need to at least be in the running as the hottest babe in the room. And fuck if that isn’t exhausting.

In any case, I have to admit that I’m really fond of seeing this kind of piece from a white, cisgendered male. As I have been learning, lately, it’s important for the privileged to speak up for the disenfranchised, and this is a step in the right direction. I would have been happier, however, if he continued to date her throughout another episode or two… politics aside, I just really like the actress. Here’s hoping to seeing a lot more of her like freakin’ everywhere.

What do you think of the clip?

The Impacts of RA

I spent the last two days home “sick” with an RA flare-up. Any evening plans I had with friends were cancelled. I have so many projects I want to work on, and it’s frustrating when my time is free, my ideas are on fire, and my hands don’t work. So mostly, I read comic books and thought about the impact that having RA has had on my life.

Flare-ups are different for everybody and sometimes different from each other. For me, it is most commonly found in my fingers and hands, but it touches so much more. It affects my relationships, my ability to care for myself, and has taught me a lot about “spoon management.” I certainly can’t speak for anyone else, but the following is, currently, the best I can explain how it has affected me.

The Pain

I generally experience the pain in my hands. RA is commonly exhibited in both sides of the body, in some sort of mirror effect – I’m not sure how or why (honestly, I’m not sure doctors do, either). On good days, I wake up to stiffness that lasts through lunch time (insert joke about morning stiffness). On bad days its a fiery, shooting pain in my knuckles, palms and outer sides of my hands, accompanied by swelling. Prior to my diagnosis, I was feeling it into my elbows, but it luckily hasn’t been that bad since I went on the meds.

I also frequently experience soreness and stiffness in my shoulders, lower back and hips.

The Meds

I keep all of my pills in one of those cases labeled by day, so I will remember to take them and know if I missed them. I take an immunosuppresant to slow the progression of the arthritis. I take Folic Acid, to help me absorb the immunosuppresant. I take a corticosteroid to deal with flare-ups. I take naproxen to counter the swelling. Everything else I take has to be approved by my Rheumatologist, just to make sure it won’t react with my other drugs, vitamins included. The immunosuppresant has been tapered up and the corticosteroid gets adjusted along with my flare-ups. One day not so long ago, I had to take seventeen pills in the morning. SEVENTEEN. Which, in my opinion is too many. And nothing helps the pain quite like cannabinoids do.

The Diagnosis

I wrote about it before, but the quick story is: I started going to the doctor for hand pain in October. It was originally diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome. I went to physical therapy. I didn’t get better. I went to the doctor. I did some tests. I did some more tests. I finally got diagnosed with RA, and then spent the three longest weeks of my life waiting to get in with the Rheumatologist.

Recently I found an old journal from last May in which I was complaining about hand pain then, too…

The good news is the x-rays say I haven’t horrifically disfigured my joints yet!

The Limitations

So just imagine that everything you touch feels like sticking your hand in a fire. That your knuckles are made of ceramic ball joints with no lube in between – like if the nails-on-a-chalkboard sound could be converted into a feeling. Now you’re getting it.

The limitations were and are the hardest part of the RA. Those strappy summer sandles? A mere fantasy, now. I have days where I can’t tie or buckle my shoes, so I exist solely (ha punny!) in slip-ons now. It also means “managing my spoons.” Today is a good-enough-to-work day, and I’m wearing a sports bra, because fiddling with the bra clasp was just too much to handle, because I washed my hair. My hair needed washing more than my boobs needed to be up high.

I also got a new bike – a shiny recumbent that sits like a chopper and rides like a big wheel. This means that I can still get around when my hands are too sore to lean on. This has been the awesomest part of RA.

Asking for Help

My partner is amazing. He has been with me through all of it, and it doesn’t go unappreciated. But there are days when he gets stuck with all the dishes or chores or necessary yard work, and I feel bad. I feel bad because I want to contribute… being independent is a big part of who I am.

It’s not easy to ask for help, but it’s equally difficult to get the help you don’t ask for. And it’s downright humiliating when the help you need is with really simple things. He’s helped me get dressed, cooked for me, and opened what feels like every beverage I’ve had in the last 8 months.

I remember one day, at the grocery store, getting SO FRUSTRATED because I wanted to put a tomato in a produce bag, but only one of my hands was capable of holding the weight of the tomato. If I got it into the bag, it would be held with the other hand. Coming up with the words to express this, in the moment, in the produce aisle was no easy task for me… the tears welled up and I snapped out a “can you help?” I realized then that some mole-hills will be mountains to me, and the best I can do is ask for help with grace.

I will never have enough thank-yous to cover the gratitude I feel that he has been there to help every damn time. I can’t even imagine how taxing that must be on him.

I still haven’t been able to ask others for help.

In Friendships

One thing I worry about a lot is how I fear being perceived as a flake, when really I’m an introverted person with chronic pain and a very real depression. When I’m on, I’m SO ON, and can be social and funny and fun. But most days I just don’t have it in me. Most days I come home from my slacker job exhausted, and spend what energy I have left on house chores. Dishes pile up. Laundry piles up. Emails pile up.

About six month ago, I lost a friendship because the other person felt I wasn’t doing my part. I had cancelled plans more than once. I wasn’t showing up for her and no amount of trying to explain what I was going through (especially pre-diagnosis) was going to change her feeling that I couldn’t be the friend she needed me to be.

While I can’t go back and change the course of that friendship, I find myself thinking about it a lot. Truth is, I’m still not sure how to balance friendships with the reality of my day to day, nor am I sure how to balance my energy so I don’t burn out one day and suffer the next few. I try to let friends know I’m thinking of them and I love them. But sometimes I have to cancel plans. Sometimes I have to stay home. Sometimes I go out only to find that I have less energy than I thought, and have to go home.

I’ve come to realize that this means I am not the best friend to everyone, and I just have to accept it. And the truth of the matter is, any friend worth keeping is at least willing to hear me out. Or come over and keep me company. At least this is what I keep telling myself.

But the hardest part hit me a few days ago, when my hands were so sharp that I was proud I managed to post a picture to Instagram and Facebook of Baby Skipper laying on my chest like Gunter used to (see above). People sent me THE SWEETEST NOTES, full of love and good wishes. I had to wait to reply because my fingers were made of inflexible ceramic sausages, and I wanted to let people know I heard them and cared. That waiting is the worst.

The Conclusion

Well, I can’t change any of it, so I’m learning to accept it. I guess, learning that skill is ultimately what I get out of the RA. If nothing else, it’s another opportunity to grow. I’m glad for the people who have stuck with me, and grateful for all of the help, encouragement, love and good wishes I’ve received. I may experience pain, but all in all life is pretty good.