Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Big changes for the lolorashel show

I know I've made reference to it but this is my official announcement: I NO LONGER COMMUTE TO SAN FRANCISCO TO A JOB I DISLIKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On February 10, I officially started a new job at a law firm only two blocks from my house.  Yes, I now get to walk to work.  No, not walk to BART, sit on a train for 40 minutes, then walk to work.  Just walk out my door, and ten minutes later, magically arrive at my destination.

No more BART.  No more anxiety medication.  No more pure mental exhaustion.  No more ulcer pain.  Much diminished foot pain.  Apparently stress does a lot to hurt your body. 

Expect many fewer Facebook rants from now on!  I have been trying to find a squirrel to start beef with but have been unsuccessful so far. 

So I am really excited.  This new job is insanely busy and my day passes quickly.  The people are amazingly helpful (and the real kind of helpful, not the kind where they tell you they don't know even though they've worked there 20 years or give you bad information because they are jerks).  The attorneys are all extremely nice as well.  No screamers or passive aggressiveness!  And my seat mate is going to be one of my new favorite people.  She's really sweet and she answers my questions with no hesitation.  No deep sigh before giving me bad information.  It's like a dream come true.

I'm over the moon. The medium had told me the "other side" was begging me to leave that job but I really am glad I waited for the right opportunity.  No job is perfect.  I get that.  But I just came out of the worst job I've had in the 19 years I've worked in the legal field.  That's saying something!

The next chapter of the lolorashel show begins now!!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

February Blog Hop 2: Why I'm Comfortable With Men In The Studio

My first post for this month's blog hop highlighted the Twirly Boys in my life.  This post is about to get a little more serious.  In various spots around Facebook (and earlier this month on Twitter), there was some debate about whether pole studios should have women-only classes.  You will find some who passionately argue that there should be at least some women-only classes.  Shoot, there are some entire studios who only allow women.  In the Pole Dancing Bloggers Association group, there was a comment made about straight men in class sexualizing women and that making some women uncomfortable.  

That's when it hit me.  Duh.  I don't worry about men sexualizing me because I haven't felt sexy in probably 25-30 pounds.  I wear a veil of fat.  I am invisible.  And, if I don't find myself sexy, how would anyone else see me that way?

It is no secret that way too much of my personal identity is tied up in my weight.  There is not a single day that goes by that I don't think about weight in some capacity.  Whether it is not liking how my clothes fit or counting calories or blaming body pain on the weight I've gained -- my weight is a daily reminder that I don't like myself.  

That being said, I don't shy away from throwing on my tiny shorts and dancing around on video or for photos and posting them on Facebook.  But I think that's more about thinking that if I force myself to share my large body with others, then it will become more common place and people will think nothing when they see someone with some extra fat on them.  But it also doesn't mean that I don't cringe when I see some videos and photos.  I was just watching class videos from AJ's class last Saturday.  My legs are chunky and I almost waddle when I walk.  No, it's not even a waddle.  I tip from side to side, much like I think Humpty Dumpty would walk.  My bra cuts into my back fat, leaving a crease that cuts around my entire back.  I reminded myself to start wearing black tank tops and stop wearing stripes.  My thighs jiggle and slap the ground in a grotesque way.  My thigh scars give the illusion that every wide-legged move is showing off my labia when it isn't (although if you can't handle a little labia shot, you shouldn't pole dance).  I sweat profusely, and am making myself wear a head scarf so I don't drip sweat all over the floor or have to wipe my face every 30 seconds.  My face has become soft and my chin now disappears into the rolls in my neck.  Nothing.  There's nothing I can come up with that I love about my body.  AJ has such beautiful choreography too, and I already figure he has probably dumbed it down so I can keep up in the first place.  For that, I love him.  But I don't love me.  

And that's why I know straight men in pole class wouldn't give me a second look.  I clearly don't love myself enough so why would they?  I'm comfortable saying, "hey dudes can come to my class -- no problem" because I have never felt like anyone is sexualizing me, which might make me uncomfortable or self-conscious (I would like to believe, though, that it would only happen if a guy I actually liked was watching -- dancing for strangers seems much easier to do).  I know Twirly Girls is a safe place for me and so almost anyone can come into that environment without ruining that experience. 

When I weighed 180 pounds, I found myself at odds with men in general.  Suddenly, they were opening doors and smiling at me.  I didn't really get that at 350 pounds.  And now, at 257 pounds, I feel as fat as 350 pounds and my self-esteem is worse than it was then too.  I definitely notice that men don't notice me or jump to open the door for me like they did 80 pounds ago.  Is that because I keep my own eyes averted and so they pick up on those cues and don't bother to help me?  Or has society told them my large body isn't beautiful and I'm not worth helping?  I certainly noticed my first head-turning experience was only shortly after gastric bypass surgery.  I couldn't have lost more than 25 pounds, and was easily still close to the 300 pound range.  But I was happy as a clam that the weight was dripping off of me.  I passed a man in a crosswalk and he almost got whiplash as he turned to take a second look.  I have always felt like that was a product of my clear happiness and self-assuredness, not of any weight loss.  

There was something I noticed years ago when I dated a very large man.  He was 6'5" and well over 350 pounds.  The bigger something is, the less people seem to notice it.  People would walk into him on the street on almost a daily basis.  As if he was so large, they couldn't even see him.  I feel that way about my weight sometimes.  The bigger I get, the more invisible I feel.  Whether that is self-imposed or not, I can't really say.  

So, I can't tell you whether I would be uncomfortable with men in the studio if I still weighed 180 pounds.  I want to say that I wouldn't have cared then because my self-esteem was high and I was just happy to be alive.  It sounds like, for myself, I need to get back to that place mentally.  I need to not care whether men, or women, adore me -- not because I'm so fat that I'm hiding in the corner -- but because I'm so confident that it truly doesn't matter.

There you go.  That was a whole lot of words to say I don't really know whether straight men in the studio would bother me if I was at a lower weight or in a different place mentally.  I know that gay women wouldn't bother me, so why should it matter if a straight man was in her place?  They both like chicks, right?  So much to ponder and I may never truly know the answer...  Food for thought, though...  How do YOU feel about men in the studio?  

Photo journal of my journey.  Note: despite my negative attitude here, I look back fondly on all of these photos and memories.  My life really doesn't suck.

2003: 347 pounds - highest weight

2005 (February): 179 pounds - lowest weight

Possibly 2006 - probably 215 pounds

2006 - post-plastic surgeries, weight 200-215

2008 (June) - Climbed Half Dome at 215 pounds

2009 (March) - pre-Twirly Girls at a bar - close to 200 pounds

2009 (August) - climbing back toward 215

2009 - around 225

2010 (March) - Twirling for four months, up to probably 230

2011 - 240 pounds

2012 - 250 pounds

2013 - highest post-surgery weight at 263

2014 - 257 pounds


Monday, February 17, 2014

February Blop Hop: The Pole Men in my Life

February's Blog Hop is about men and pole.  Who knew this topic would draw such controversy!?  I guess I should have seen it coming, and while I don't like to see hurt feelings, I do like spirited conversations on controversial topics.  I will probably do two posts this month.  My first post, however, will be on the pole men in my life.  Not just the pole stars, adored by the masses, but the lovely men in my day-to-day pole life.  

I touched on this subject for The Pole Dancing Shop before.  You can read that post HERE.   In two-plus years, I would say the sentiment appears to be about the same.  Some women are very uncomfortable with men in their classes.  But that doesn't mean there isn't room for men in the pole studio.

My first pole crush was Timber Brown.  I saw him judge the California Pole Dance Championships in 2011.  His performance was jaw-dropping....on freaking stage poles!!  Part of why he also stands out in my mind (and is the only non-Twirly Girl -- I mean Twirly Boy -- I'm highlighting today) is because we had a lovely telephone conversation prior to me posting his blog interview.  Most people, I just fire off an e-mail with some questions, they respond and we both go on our merry way.  Timber wanted to chat on the phone and his story was very moving.  So I will always remember that conversation.  I didn't get to meet him in person until Pole Expo 2013.  He was just as sweet in person as he was on the phone!  If you missed Timber on America's Got Talent last year, make sure you keep an eye on him.  He's going big places!

I believe the first man, other than Jimmy, to take classes at Twirly Girl may have been Maleko.  Maleko (not his real name as his day job has him doing some pretty interesting internet security stuff) is probably also the only straight guy there (well, Andrew is straight but he only took one class, so it doesn't count!).  I admit, at first I was wary.  Straight dudes in the studio, huh.  I bet he's there to pick up all the chicks!  But I met Maleko and he is so nice and, although he's happy to show off his nicely toned booty, he was instantly comfortable to be around.  I know he too has been battling some injuries but I hope to see him around the studio again soon.  

When Bel offered me the opportunity to teach my own class, one of my very first students was Robert.  We are two years into the Boys, Girls & Twirls adventure and he has stuck by my side.  Like a good pole mama, I have encouraged him to spread his wings and fly with more advanced instructors (which he has) but he continues to come to class on Mondays (even though his skill level has far-surpassed my own).  I really enjoy his love for pole and his passion for life so, even though I keep trying to make him leave, I really would miss him if he did.  Recently dubbed the Original Cowboy Wild by Josiah "Bad Azz" Grant, Robert is really embracing the pole world and it has been fun to watch him grow as a pole ambassador.  

Before I started working in San Francisco, I would take classes on Wednesday nights at Twirly Girls.  One day, this kid shows up.  He's mere days into poling and he's showing me advanced Chinese pole tricks on YouTube and telling me, I WANT TO LEARN THAT!  Sure, kid, keep dreaming.  Almost two years later, Patrick really is another of my favorite pole boys.  He has been kicking ass and competed at Pole Expo in 2013.  We were all really, really proud of him.  His routine was strong and I was so impressed with how far he's come in such a short amount of time.  

A couple of years ago, while at a Nadia Sharif workshop at Poletential, I see this guy doing ridiculous tricks with David C. Owen.  He has this tiny muscular body and a tattoo blacking out his entire shoulder.  Who is this man?!  He was wearing a sweatshirt from Brass Ovaries so I assumed he was from Texas.  He came to the bar night with the rest of the crowd and he was in a bunch of my photos.  But I still was an asshole and never officially introduced myself.  Fast forward to November of 2012.  Nadia was back in town and I was helping to set up her schedule.  Someone contacted me to set up a private lesson.  It was Sean Michael -- the mystery man from the Poletential workshop!  After his lesson, he hung out at Twirly Girls and has been with us ever since.  Also one of my favorite people in the world, Sean Michael was my instructor for a short time (until my foot injury and his work obligations pulled us apart).  He is one of the sweetest people I have ever met and I appreciate that he puts up with my "vegetarian before noon" jokes.

I have been with Twirly Girls for over four years.  I help run the blog for the studio and feel like I generally have a finger on the pulse of what goes on in the studio.  Working in San Francisco for a year kind of took that away from me.  I was physically far from the studio and also mentally not connected as working in a job I disliked so much didn't leave much "extra" when I got home.  One day I started seeing things on Facebook about this AJ guy.  Who is AJ?!  I checked my friends list.  I know EVERYONE in the pole industry!  How do I not know this AJ from Polecats in Manila?!  Then I met him.  He is someone you instantly adore.  I now take his Dance Lab class on Saturdays at Twirly Girls.  It is less about pole and more about learning contemporary dance.  I have been watching my videos.  I know I have so far to go but I do appreciate AJ's patience with me and how encouraging he is when my body doesn't get the moves.  I also appreciate that he's always asking things like, how is your inverting coming along?  Uh, I don't know because I haven't tried.  I need that push to remind myself that at least half of what is holding me back is my own brain.  I am so happy AJ is part of the Twirly Girls family.

I feel very lucky to have so many amazing men in my life.  I could write another post about the famous pole men that I have met and also adore.  But I thought that the men of Twirly Girls should (mostly) be the highlight of this post.  They are part of my daily life and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Sean Michael and AJ

Sean Michael, Timber and Robert

Sean Michael's winning performance at Kinetic Arts

Sean Michael's amazingly supportive parents -- I love them!

The Fairytale of Bodybinds and the Plus-Sized Pole Princess

As some of you may remember, the PDBA recently struck a deal with Bodybinds to write some lifestyle blogs.  Lifestyle meaning, we don't have to just write about pole, we can write about everyday life.  Most of us have multi-faceted lives, so of course, we don't only read pole blogs.  My first blog for Bodybinds, in fact, will be about the benefits of yoga. 

Anyway, I had never worn Bodybinds.  I don't exactly have the body type you might typically find wearing something like Bodybinds.  As part of our deal, we had the opportunity to order loner items so that we could try out the product and feel like we connected more and understood the company for which we would be writing.  I had checked out the website and saw that the maximum stretch on the one size fits "all" (or most) items would still barely fit me.  I was worried about destroying the loaner.  I just resigned myself to the fact that I would probably blow the seams out and would just reimburse her for the product and be okay with that embarrassing little experience.  I also talked myself into not being able to wear the product properly as the elastic would just cut into my fat rolls, and no one really wants to outline fat rolls.  But this was business and I was going to give Bodybinds a fair review.  Jackie, the owner, had asked us for measurements.  I casually threw mine over to her, fully expecting her response to be, "sorry, we don't have anything for you."  I ordered the "safest" item I could possibly order -- and only the top because I figured the bottoms wouldn't work for me. 

How wrong I was.

When my beautiful little red Bodybinds bag showed up, I was hesitant but excited.  I pulled out the hot pink Michelle Bondage Bikini Top and immediately put it on over my shirt.  I was confused for a second, then I got really excited.  This was clearly custom made to fit my larger than average sized body!  I e-mailed Jackie and asked her if she had custom-made the top for me.  She confirmed she had.  I was over the moon, and I excitedly set up my photoshoot for the following Saturday.

I truly do believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I would rather post photos than explain my dance session.  First off, these are not professionally taken or edited photos (as evidenced by my cellulite and the off-balance coloring).  This is a girl and her camera alone in a studio.  I just wanted to dance around and see how the top fared.  I danced for almost an hour and let the camera roll.  I got tired and sweaty, but the top stayed in place.  Since it was made in a larger size, it didn't cut into my fat rolls, and it was extremely comfortable to wear.  My only regret was that I didn't order the bottoms or go crazy and order one of the other items my sad little mind told me I was too big to wear.  So enjoy my photo journal and if you are considering Bodybinds, please do contact Jackie and talk to her about your body concerns so she can put your mind at ease and help you choose the perfect Bodybinds outfit for you!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Gastric Bypass, Vitamin B and Alcohol

A new doctor was forced on me last year.  My normal primary care physician stopped accepting my insurance's medical group and the medical group randomly assigned me someone new.  I had to go to him for a first meeting appointment and we sat and talked for quite awhile about my extensive medical history.  At first, I was leery of a tiny, older Asian man being my doctor.  We have nothing in common, I told myself, and I will dislike him greatly (because I had SO much in common with my tiny Asian female doctor, although at least we were closer in age).  However, at my appointment, he sat with me for close to an hour, we laughed and joked and I really liked him!

One of the things we discussed was gastric bypass and my vitamin absorption issues.  Until last year, I was deficient in some vitamin or another every single year.  I told him that I took a separate B-complex vitamin (although I was truly only deficient once in B1).  He looked at me and said, oh you drink a lot?  

Uh.  No.  How dare you, sir?!  

Then I thought about it.  You know, the year I ended up deficient in B vitamins was the year I was hanging out with some former "friends" who drank A LOT.  We probably went out three or four nights a week and I was definitely drinking a lot more than usual (my "usual" drinking schedule is probably one drink every other month or so...I'm really not a huge alcohol consumer).  Wow.  Does alcohol suck B vitamins from your body??

According to THIS article:

B vitamins play a key role in converting the foods you eat into energy, but unhealthy diet choices, too much stress and certain drugs can rob you of their vital benefits. Although they are available in wide array of animal- and plant-based foods, B vitamins are water soluble and cannot be stored in body tissue. As a consequence, you must renew your supply each day and avoid the forces that can rapidly deplete them from your body.


Alcohol, like refined sugars, presents your body with large amounts of carbohydrates but no built-in B vitamins to help metabolize them. Consuming large quantities of alcohol quickly depletes your body’s stores of B vitamins. John D. Kirschmann, author of “Nutrition Almanac,” points out that alcohol also interferes with your body’s normal absorption and utilization of B vitamins and other nutrients. He notes that chronic alcoholics tend to be deficient in certain B vitamins, including B-1, also known as thiamine; B-2, or riboflavin; and folic acid.

Luckily, I'm back on track with my "regular" drinking schedule and my B vitamins are in normal range again.  I had no clue that alcohol could tattle on me like that!  I can't believe I am coming up on my tenth anniversary since I had gastric bypass.  I have learned so much and feel like I am finally learning how to be happy AND healthy when it comes to my body and weight.

Have you had any whacky health issues that you didn't realize were connected?  Tell me about it below!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What I will miss about San Francisco

Today was my last day commuting to San Francisco. While I will not miss commuting on BART, there are some things I will miss. 

Lunches with Yolanda

My friend Yolanda has worked in the city for years. I will miss our weekly lunches!

Yoga on the Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral 

You would think yoga in a cold stone building with 500 of your closest friends wouldn't be that awesome but it is. If you're ever in the city on a Tuesday night, check it out!

The View

A picture is worth a thousand words. 

Cupkates Truck

I have a cupcake obsession - yes. And Cupkates comes to Walnut Creek once a month!

Homeless Robert

He claims he "occurred" about 16 years ago with the ballpark (assume AT&T Park). He also believes he looks like Hugh Heffner. He makes me smile when I'm leaving work so I will miss him. Shout out to Manny, who would say hello to me every morning as well. 

The city was fun for awhile but I am very excited to start the next chapter of the lolorashel show!