Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Twirl for a Cause: Out of the Darkness

Last year, my boss took his own life.  It completely turned my life upside down.  Sometimes at work, we still look around and wonder what happened and what could have been done to prevent such a tragedy.  This year, I decided to join the Out of the Darkness Walk.  I walk to honor the memory of my boss, Mark, and also to honor the memory of my Auntie Lori, who ended her life in 2009.

Club 1220 in Walnut Creek generously hosts two pole fundraising events each year.  In February, Robert has an event for AIDS/LifeCycle.  I was very honored when Robert recently offered to hold a fundraiser for the Out of the Darkness Walk in September.

The event will be held Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 6 PM at Club 1220 in Walnut Creek.  There is a $6 cover charge, which will be donated to the walk.  (You can donate directly to my walk HERE.)  Also, for this event, we will allow tipping of dancers and the dancers have the option of donating their tips to the cause as well.

We are currently looking for raffle and auction prizes.  If you have any items, from gift baskets to gift certificates, please let me know.  I will collect them and give you a shout out for your generous donation.  

It sounds like we already have 15 performers lined up for the event.  I have asked that, if they feel comfortable, they share why the song they chose inspires them.  And if you so feel inclined, I hope you will share what inspires you in the comments below.

I hope you can join us in September for this event.  And don't forget, if you or your company has any items you would like to donate, please let me know!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hip Check: This Viking is Healed!

For those of you following the adventures of my ol' lady hip, let it be known: she is cured.  Hallelujah!! 

A brief history to catch anyone up on this ridiculousness.  In probably late 2009 or early 2010, I started having a lot of hip pain.  Like, can't get out of bed and walk well because you're in so much pain that you're crying.  Being only 33 at the time, I was pretty scared.  I saw my future in a wheel chair by 40.  I thought maybe it was because I had started pole dancing and perhaps I was dragging my feet and hurting my hip.  I had doctors checking me, physical therapists, body workers, massage therapists.  Not bursitis.  Not arthritis.  Nothing was physically wrong with me.  Everyone had a theory and treatment, and I'd feel better for a time, but nothing cured me. 

In 2014, my hip started feeling better.  I couldn't really understand why but I wasn't going to question it.  Then I flipped in Vegas and destroyed myself againThen I met Tobe.  Tobe asked me a lot of hard questions.  No, not about my body or my hip or any of the physical things I was doing to heal myself.  He asked me about what was going on inside.  Did I often do things I didn't want to do?  Was I angry?  He pushed me to really think about what was going on with my life.  He brought my pain down to a manageable level but I was definitely still just tolerating it.  I wasn't cured. 

Then Tobe told me I needed to read the Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz (this is the same author who wrote The Four Agreements).  Suddenly, everything clicked and I realized I needed to get out of my relationship as soon as possible.  It wasn't a horrible relationship.  He wasn't abusive.  He just wasn't the right guy for me, just as I wasn't the right girl for him.  I ended that relationship in August of 2015.  Guess what?  For the first time in almost six years, my hip pain completely went away.  (P.S. That short reprieve in 2014?  My ex and I had been living together and he moved out to finish some schooling...so that was my first clue that my hip knew voodoo magic.)  (P.P.S. That relationship began in August of 2009, just a few months before the pain started.)  My doctor continued to treat me for it, always feeling like he could find something in there still holding on to tension (I realize now because he is an over-treater), however, I was pain free.  Even a recent broken toe barely got me down.  But Tobe told me he didn't need to see me again unless I had a flare up. 

That flare up happened.  Earlier this year, I got into a kind of a toxic pseudo relationship for a couple of months.  My hip started hurting again.  I got out of that situation and my hip pain disappeared almost immediately.  My hip is a freaking douchebag barometer! 

After almost seven years of weight gain, inactivity and unhappiness from severe pain, I am BACK!  I'm enjoying pole class once, twice, sometimes even three times per week.  I started kickboxing again recently -- legit kickboxing, hitting bags and getting out aggression.  I am even getting back into silks and feeling stronger each and every class.  I still enjoy yoga several times each week as well.  I am trying to be kind to my almost-40-year-old body, but I feel the best I have in years. 

I am grateful to Tobe for guiding me down the right path and I am learning to listen to my body.  I have spent years not listening -- and have used things like food to medicate and cover up my emotional pain.  I also feel incredibly lucky to know that if my body feels like I'm in a toxic situation that my mind is ignoring, it can send me a signal to let me know I need to make some changes.  Who knew bodies could be THIS amazing?! 

Have you ever had a mind-body connection like this?  Please feel free to share your stories below!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Congratulations, I Now Pronounce You Dead of Fat

I had my annual appointment with my doctor yesterday.  As is now normal, 12 years post-gastric bypass, I had my blood work done.  For anyone who has been following me awhile, you may remember that my liver panels have been slightly off for years.  Earlier, this year, after working hard with Ellen, I brought those numbers down without significant weight loss.  What that tells me is that diet can heal my liver. 
Last night, however, I learned that one of my enzymes had increased slightly since January.  So, the minute my doctor walked through the door, he started telling me that I needed to lose weight and wanted me to try diet pills.  I told him I would not be taking diet pills for any reason.  He told me that nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is more dangerous than they realized and I could expect that my life would be shortened.  I told him we are all dying, so I was okay with it.  We fought, loudly, for approximately 30 minutes (I am actually surprised his assistant didn't come in to check on us).  He would only repeat over and over that I needed to lose weight.  I would counter with all the arguments that pure calorie restriction doesn't work.  If it did, I would be skinny.  He asked me how many calories I eat per day -- I told him about 2,500 calories.  He told me it was WAY too many.  Clearly, I've maintained approximately the same weight for the past few years, so it must not be an extreme number of calories if his precious theory works.  I told him I had my resting metabolic rate tested and it was 1,800.  That means that by merely opening my eyes in the morning, I need a minimum of 1,800 calories just to live.  If I get up and start moving, then I need more.  I can burn 800-1,000 calories in a kickboxing session.  (For those of you concerned that I'm slipping back into disordered behaviors...I'm not...I don't count calories or care how much I burn during a workout session...I just know from years of disordered thinking about how much I eat and burn so I can bust numbers out to fucktard doctors who think they know everything.) 
He told me I was a militant.  Fine with me.  He told me I was going to die.  Last I checked, we all are. 

By the way, a few minutes later, my doctor did admit that my ultrasound has never ACTUALLY revealed that I have fatty liver.  I was tested for hepatitis, and those tests were negative.  So, he doesn't REALLY know why my liver panels are elevated, and then he admitted that many thin people have fatty liver.  So he can go fuck right off. 

What is fatty liver and why is it scary?  For years, they thought that only alcoholics got cirrhosis.  Wrong.  Eating a lot of sugar (which is part of the Standard American Diet) causes fatty liver.  Fatty liver can cause cirrhosis or liver cancer, which can lead to liver failure.  The good news is that the liver is the most regenerative organ in our entire body.  It can be healed. 
What I didn't tell my doctor was that I've been drinking a lot of alcohol lately and that is most likely the reason for the increase.  I used to drink once every few months, but for the last four months or so, I've probably been drinking once or twice a week.  However, if you start a conversation by screaming at your patient, they are most likely going to shut down and not have a productive discussion with you.  I am in the market for a new doctor. 
So, here's the history of my numbers:

What are AST and ALT anyway? 
Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST)
An aspartate aminotransferase (AST) test measures the amount of this enzyme in the blood. AST is normally found in red blood cells, liver, heart, muscle tissue, pancreas, and kidneys. AST formerly was called serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT). Low levels of AST are normally found in the blood. When body tissue or an organ such as the heart or liver is diseased or damaged, additional AST is released into the bloodstream. The amount of AST in the blood is directly related to the extent of the tissue damage. After severe damage, AST levels rise in 6 to 10 hours and remain high for about 4 days.
Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT)
An alanine aminotransferase (ALT) test measures the amount of this enzyme in the blood. ALT is found mainly in the liver, but also in smaller amounts in the kidneys, heart, muscles, and pancreas. ALT was formerly called serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT). ALT is measured to see if the liver is damaged or diseased. Low levels of ALT are normally found in the blood. But when the liver is damaged or diseased, it releases ALT into the bloodstream, which makes ALT levels go up. Most increases in ALT levels are caused by liver damage.
I get it, it is my doctor's job to keep me healthy.  I just feel like he isn't fully up to date on facts about health and weight.  Preaching pure calories-in versus calories-out seems irresponsible.  If dieting were ever that easy, we would all be textbook "ideal" weights.  Also, trying to shame people into losing weight has never worked and never will.  Again, if that were the case, we would all be skinny.  I've shown that I can lower my numbers without significant weight loss, so why not continue to allow me to do that?  I feel like he must be getting a kick back from the drug company.  I don't think him very literally yelling at me was just about my health. 
I don't really know what to do.  This incident is triggering my disordered thinking pretty hard.  No, of course I don't want to die.  Yes, of course, my disordered brain still wants to lose 20 pounds.  However, I don't have the luxury of just waking up in the morning, restricting my calories and dropping weight.  When I lost the 20 pounds or so in 2008-2009, I was working out twice a day, watching my food intake, and still only lost one pound a month.  No, that wasn't a typo.  However, when I increased my fat intake, didn't count calories at all, and just ate healthy foods with Ellen about two years ago, I dropped 20 pounds fairly quickly.  My doctor doesn't believe in that witchcraft, however.  He acted like adding avocado to my protein shake was too many calories.  (All that fat!  The horror!!)
I will admit the sugar was slowly creeping back into my diet.  I am the keeper of the candy bowl in my office.  And I have decided to stop feeding anyone's addiction, including my own.  So, if I have seemed extra grumpy this week, that is why.  Sugar needs to come back out of my diet.  Not for weight loss reasons, but for health reasons.  If I accidentally lose 20 pounds again this year, I certainly won't complain though.

Lux ATL's Stripcraft at Khrome Kitten Pole Studio

Last night, I felt lucky to join an intimate group for Lux ATL's Stripcraft workshop at Khrome Kitten Pole Studio in Vacaville.  Don't know who Lux is?  It is best taken straight from her website:

Lux ATL is a pole dancer with a PhD, a former English professor and lifelong exotic dancer turned professional pole performer, instructor, writer, and speaker. 
She is activist for women’s empowerment through radical expression of the sensual self. You can find her pole dancing and spreading feminist wisdom internationally as she tours “Stripcraft,” her workshop for women seeking to reconnect with their confidence and sexiness.

The workshop started with an uplifting speech.  Lux sat us down and told us about being badasses.  She told us to be our unique selves.  She gave us her mantra: no shame ~ no fear ~ no apologies ~ just love.  She went over the principles of Stripcraft.  She basically told us to stop acting like idiots and start loving ourselves -- or that's what I took away from it because that's what I needed to hear.  I was crying within the first 30 minutes.  She told us we needed to be vulnerable.  She showed us how to connect with an audience (boy, did she!!!).  This is the kind of thing that could be life changing.  It is something I probably need to listen to every day.  

As someone who struggles with her self-esteem and confidence, signing up for a class like this is terrifying.  What if she asks me to put my ass in someone's face?  (Oh, I did.)  What if I can't do the moves?  What if I don't move fluidly enough?  What if...what if...what if.  I've lived my whole life on what if's.  I spend so much time in my head, that I sometimes miss out on things in life.  Everything Lux talked about mirrors exactly what I've been learning through other podcasts and it was exactly what I needed to hear to know I'm on the right track.  I am awesome just the way I am.  

I have actually been listening to Lux's podcast, Stripcast.  Part of what helped me feel comfortable in class was already knowing Lux's voice.  I have heard that adorable accent tell me the most horrifying, funny and touching stories.  She didn't know it, but we were already friends.  

I am excited to take Stripcraft again at Pole Expo in Las Vegas this September.  I'm bummed that we won't get two hours so I can get the entire uplifting speech before we learn our mini routine and do lap dances for each other.  If I have the opportunity to take this full workshop again locally, I will certainly do it, and I hope you do too! 

If you take one thing away from Lux's material, let me leave you with this:  She talked about women empowering and supporting each other.  My sparkle does not diminish your sparkle.  There is room for all of us to be badass because we are all different people.  So, find ways to uplift your sisters, not tear them down.  If you have any comments about Lux or Stripcraft, please leave them below!  

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Tribute to My Grandmother

My grandmother passed away recently.  She was 90 years old.  She suffered from Alzheimer's so she hasn't been "with us" for a few years.  It was horrible watching the downward spiral.  My grandma was extremely intelligent and when she realized her words were no longer making sense, she just stopped talking.  It was heart breaking.  I always worried that having Alzheimer's felt like waking up from surgery.  I have a hard time with anesthesia (and have about seven surgeries under my belt).  My brain seems to wake up faster than my mouth.  So people will ask me questions, and I can answer in my mind but I can't get my mouth to comply and say what I need it to say.  Please tell me that Alzheimer's is not like that.  It would be a living nightmare.

I always loved my grandma.  She was extremely religious and conservative.  (Nothing like me for those of you who know me.)  However, she taught me an appreciation for books, hard work and the outdoors.  My grandparents owned an apricot ranch in Brentwood.  We would cut apricots to lay out for drying and that's how we could make extra spending money.  My grandma loved to hike and camp.  I had the interesting grandma -- she always had stark white hair and would drive a convertible.

Part of my job to prepare for the funeral was creating a photo slideshow.  The family sent me over 2,000 photos to go through.  At first I was overwhelmed.  I worried I wouldn't have time to look through all of these photos in time for the funeral.  However, as I dove in, I realized I was so intrigued by all of the adventures my grandmother clearly went on that I didn't care if I had to stay up all night -- I wanted to see them all!

My conservative grandma was just like me.  Or I was just like her.  Her smiling eyes.  Her laughing mouth.  Her head often thrown back.  We are like twins.  Sure, she was still much more conservative and her causes were so different than my own.  But we are still the same.  We love having a cause and we will fight tooth and nail for it.

During the funeral, my mom read a quote about being the kind of woman that, when you wake up, the devil says, oh no, she's up!  Sure, in my grandma's sense, she was talking about how passionate my grandma was about turning people on to religion.  I, on the other hand, enjoy giving the devil a run for his money.  That being said, just because I don't go to church every Sunday doesn't mean I'm a terrible person.  In my mind, the end result is the same:  we are both wild women with strong opinions.  I couldn't imagine myself any other way.  My mom pulled me aside after the funeral to say how my personality, of all the grandkids, was most like my grandma's.  And I saw myself in all of those photos from the 1940's and 1950's.  Even my friend who helped me put the slideshow together said she could see me in those photos.  It was...nice, I guess is the right word?  I felt so much distance from my grandmother in her final years and this brought me close to her again.

Now I want to change the subject a bit...and it's dark.  I want to talk about why we have more compassion for our animals than we do for our people.  We would never allow a dog to suffer the way we allow ourselves to.  I understand that the answer comes down to the likelihood of abuse of power if we were allowed to essentially put our sick and elderly "to sleep."  I know some states have assisted suicide, and I imagine in some situations, it is absolutely the right answer for those people to choose.  But what happens with dementia and Alzheimer's?  When is the right time to make the choice and take those pills?  You have to make that decision and take them when your mind is still somewhat healthy and aware.  But having watched my grandma's descent...I think I would take those pills.  Or would I?  We all want to live.  Our bodies are designed to survive.  I imagine every day I may tell myself, today's a good day, maybe I'll take it tomorrow.  Then when tomorrow finally arrived, and my brain had advanced past the point of being able to make that decision, what happens?  I don't want to live as a shell inside a facility, eating up tens of thousands of dollars each month.  I don't want my family, or rest home staff, to have to change my diaper, force feed me or shower me.

Sorry for the aside, but it has been weighing on my mind.  I hope I never have to deal with making that decision, and I feel for everyone dealing with this right now.

For the most part, I just wanted to pay tribute to my grandmother.  She taught me to be strong and opinionated.  She may not approve of all of my choices, but she has to appreciate that she taught me to stand up for what I think is right.  From one wild woman to another, thank you for paving the way.  I look forward to seeing you again someday!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Review: RAWR with Rodney James

Right before I broke my toe (see that post HERE), Rodney James asked if I would review his new DVD: RAWR With Rodney James - Burlesque Edition.  I said, yes, of course!  But then broken toe dictated that I had to wait a bit.  The toe doesn't hurt on a daily basis anymore but I still have an issue with balancing poses in yoga and I still can't wear heels without pain.  That is probably due to the fact that I returned to yoga and pole within two weeks of the break.  I had a routine for which I had to prepare!  I no longer have a jabba the hut toe, but it is still slightly fatter than my other baby toe, and sometimes that foot in general will be swollen if I'm on my feet for too long.  Old lady problems.

Let's get back to RAWR though.  First and foremost, I love what Rodney stands for and I love his message to women.  He preaches confidence and sexiness and encourages you to unleash the tigress within.  As someone who has been trying to get my sexy back, this really spoke to me.  So many of us spend our lives feeling like we will be sexy when we hit some unknown goal.  When we lose five pounds.  After we have our kids.  When someone we like likes us back.  The truth is, sexiness and confidence have nothing to do with any of that.  You can find your sexy now.  No matter your age, your size, whether that boys loves you too, or whether you can actually afford those seven inch Pleasers you just bought.  Oh yeah, you should rock those!

The DVD starts with a warm-up, then slowly teaches you the moves for the routine.  This routine is very simple and appropriate for all levels.  You move so deliberately, so slowly and sensually.  You can't help but feel sexy while you are doing your final performance.  There is a lot of emphasis placed on doing your kegels during practice, which is beneficial for so many reasons.  Squeeze hard, ladies!

I feel very fortunate that Rodney is actually living in my area right now and offering workshops.  I hope to take a class in person very soon.  For those of you who can't take a class, would like to add this to your workout regimen or aren't ready to leave the house with your sexy self yet, this DVD is perfect.  Please check out the link HERE.

Check out the RAWR trailer and leave a comment below if you have ever taken a class with Rodney and want to shout out about how much fun you had!

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/V96gB_DqokA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>