Friday Five (+Giveaway Winner + Short Life Update)

Hello and happy Friday! Thanks to all who entered the BenBella Vegan giveaway for a chance to win Love Fed. The winner, I am happy to announce, ended up being a person I have had the pleasure of meeting in real life; congratulations, Angela (entry #2)! BenBella will send you a copy of the book soon. Enjoy!

In other news, the blog has been sparse this month. I know it. There’s been a lot going on the last thirty or so days. Things that have kept me busy and a little off. Some good things, some not-so-good things, some terrible things, and some great things. Life is complicated in that all of those things can be true at once.

I already wrote about how I lost a dear friend, and goodness can that throw things. The truest thing you’ll ever hear about grief is that it comes in waves. I will get hit—walking down the street, listening to music, in the middle of a dream—with gut-punching, heart-squeezing grief. It’s not a constant thing, it can’t be. We wouldn’t survive if our bodyminds didn’t let us pretend to forget, every once in a while, that we can no longer see the face of someone we love. So although I’m not a weepy mess 24/7, the grief-waves knock it out of me in ways that make me not quite able to perform at maximum capacity. (This includes getting blog posts up regularly.)

School started about two weeks ago as well. I love teaching so so much, and so I am always very happy to get back to the classroom. I love that being an academic means that I will always get to indulge the back-to-school feels that happen at the start of September. How it always feels like fall, even if the weather is still warm (hi, hey, you can peace out anytime 90-degree weather). And of course, I am always excited to get to teach young minds about things that I am so passionate about (like how we can better name and resist things like racism, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism, and other egregious isms in our world). And although academia is full of so many problems, I know I am a lucky one to get to say that I love what I do, every day.

And that other thing I do and occasionally get paid for—yoga and sculpt—is also taking up a lot of time. I’m co-leading the Yoga Sculpt Teacher Training and it’s involved a lot of prep. This weekend I’ll be at the studio at least eight hours every day. It’s feeling a bit overwhelming, but it’s another thing that I can’t really complain about too much. I get to teach about and practice yoga and exercise and get paid for it! What dream life am I living?!

Speaking of dream life, I also got to go whale watching with a friend this past week. It was a beautiful and humbling afternoon.

photo cred to Louie; we legit saw this wail tail IRL!

we legit saw this whale tail IRL!

And on that note, I’m going to get to the Friday Five. Four things from the internet plus a list of stuff that has made me happy this week!


Learn to Forgive Yourself Even When You’ve Hurt Someone

I don’t know how much personal detail I will ever feel compelled to share on the blog, so I’ll keep this relatively vague. The past two years have been very difficult, and in my own pain, I have, in various ways, hurt some people who I love very much. I have been carrying the weight of this guilt like a bag of boulders on my back. The guilt from hurting one person put me in a place of self-flagellation that created a perfect foundation with which to hurt another person. Not forgiving myself has only led to more pain for others, not less. Punishing myself forever, turns out, is not working. And so I appreciated the candor of this article on Tiny Buddha about self-forgiveness, as it is a reminder that we, as much as we want to, cannot help people heal by refusing to heal ourselves. Give it a read if you can relate to any of what I’m saying. <3

Flower Drying Rack

Love this DIY project from The Healthy Hipster! I know there are some ethical ish’s with buying flowers, but if you stick to found flowers and/or fair trade flowers, I think this is a project worth doing! I love having (found and/or otherwise ethical) flowers in my home, but hate the act of literally throwing them away. I try to dry them, but it never seems to work. I will definitely give this a go!


Kim Davis Didn’t Deserve to Go to Jail

Kim Davis is the homophobic Rowan County Clerk who was refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, and then went to jail for it. I appreciate Yasmin Nair’s response to the many memes and articles that were praising the punishment and making jokes about her time in jail. Nair writes: “That so many prison memes and rape jokes have appeared on queer sites like Queerty and on the social media walls of many LGBTQ people is a sign that we have forgotten that prison is no laughing matter, especially for queer people. How is it that a community so quick to lament the forcible imprisonment and/or police harassment of queer people—from Oscar Wilde to Alan Turing to the Stonewall Riots and Boise—is so quick to forget the horrors of the system and laugh at what might happen when someone is jailed?” We have to find better ways to hold people accountable for harm. Jail shouldn’t be one of them.

Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Blackened Figs

I don’t know why, but lately I have been daydreaming about oatmeal with figs! This recipe from the Blonde Chef is nice and simple, and you can sub maple syrup for agave if you are a no-honey vegan!


Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy 

whale watching!; delicious and nutritious home-cooked meals; yoga & sculpt; kitten snuggles; teaching students to confront their privilege, and think critically (and maybe angrily) about the systems and structures that enable that privilege to be real in the first place; winning at adult-ing (like finally getting to a doctor about my bad knee, and taking my car to a garage to get fixed); daydreaming about upcoming plans and visits; kale; dreams about J, (even if it made me sadder upon waking); watching J’s favorite show and laughing my butt off, partly because the show is funny and partly because I love thinking of him laughing at it; feeling the beginnings of fall, the best season ever!; good friends; big changes; acceptance; love; the smell of rain; & knowing i have the capacity to always be the best version of myself, everyday. <3


What made you happy this week? xoxoxo

Love Fed Cookbook Review & Giveaway!

I’m very excited about today’s post because not only do I get to rave about the delightfulness that is Love Fed: Purely Decadent, Simply Raw, Plant-Based Desserts, but also because the book publishers at BenBella Vegan have kindly offered to host a giveaway, so that one of you lucky readers can have a copy of your own!


For a few reasons, I was sucked into the book right away. The author, Christina Ross, describes her passion for food (desserts in particular) as something that is rooted in the ability to share it with others, a desire for ethical health and wellness, and also an insatiable sweet tooth. I am there on all counts! Christina writes, “Love Fed desserts are made with integrity, passion, and awareness. They’re designed to nourish the body and satisfy the sweet tooth, and most of all to spread joy.” 

Another key part of Christina’s approach to raw “baking” is that it allows for so much improvisation! No need to do exact measurements with raw desserts–a handful more of coconut flakes won’t make or break a recipe the same way traditional, heated baking can be thrown by being one 1/2 teaspoon off. I love that about raw desserts, so this book was definitely a good fit for me! (That said, if you do like to stick to recipes, Christina does have exact measurements that you are welcome to follow!)

The book is divided up into eight main sections: Love Fed Basics (which includes foundational recipes like cashew cream, caramel sauce, & date syrup); Cakes, Pies, Cobblers, & Tarts; Minis and More (lots of cookies and cupcakes in here!); Puddings and Parfaits; Ice Cream, Yogurt, and Frozen Treats; Candy and Other Sweet Bites; Shakes and Sips; Fruit–Beyond Basic (which includes things like rosemary pecan caramel apples and lavender & coconut cream-filled strawberries!). In addition, the book provides an introduction, a section on kitchen and pantry essentials, as well as a handy resources guide that provides the names of companies that are good for raw food basics.

The book is filled with beautiful photography and I was eager to try out many of the recipes. I had great success with Christina’s unique twist on Crunchy Peanut Butter Cups–there was no buying and melting of store-bought chocolate, instead, everything was done with cocoa powder, coconut butter, maple syrup, and peanut butter. They were rich, delicious, and a hit at a dinner party I hosted! I also loved her Summer Sunday Cobbler, the Cinnamon Raisin Sunflower Twists (just like a cinnamon roll!), and the Maca-Chia Protein Pudding. I can’t wait to make many more of the recipes, including: Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Cake, Red Velvet Cupcakes, Fig Bliss Energy Balls, Maple Butterscotch Pudding, Mango Basil Sorbet, Honey Matcha Lavender Latte, and so many more! Don’t those all sound incredible?! The book is full of stuff like that.

For me, the only downside of this book is that it relies on fairly expensive food items. Even if you make them yourself, the cost can add up. That’s sort of the hardest thing about raw food eating in my opinion. But it’s also my opinion that those more expensive ingredients (like nuts, coconut butter, cacao) are much better alternatives than other dessert recipe staples.

The last recipe I want to share with you is one I made and loved, and one that BenBella Vegan has kindly offered to provide for the blog. These mini doughnuts are tangy, rich, and delicious!

Raspberry and Coconut Glazed Doughnuts_WEB

Raspberry and Coconut Glazed Doughnuts

Yield: 20 mini doughnuts

Prep time: 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes for doughnuts to set

Doughnuts are the last treat you’d expect to find on a raw food roster, but these do the genre proud. Once you get the base down, you can run with it, creating variations from chocolate doughnuts with sprinkles to maple bars. This recipe calls for a doughnut pan; if you don’t have one, simply shape the dough into O’s with your hands.


12 pitted deglet dates

1 c. almond flour

½ c. coconut flour

¼ c. coconut flakes

2 tsp. coconut sugar

1 tsp. vanilla bean powder or vanilla extract

¼ c. agave nectar


2/3 c. raspberries

½ tsp. vanilla bean powder or vanilla extract

1/3 c. coconut butter, softened

¼ c. coconut milk

3 tbsp. agave nectar

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Coconut flakes, for garnish

Lightly grease a doughnut pan with coconut oil. Line a tray with parchment paper.

To make the doughnut base: Place the dates, almond flour, coconut flour, coconut flakes, coconut sugar, and vanilla bean powder in a food processor. Process until well combined. While the machine is running, pour the agave nectar in through the top, processing until the dough sticks together, approximately 15 seconds.

Divide the dough into 20 small pieces and firmly press the pieces into the doughnut pan. If you don’t have a doughnut pan, shape the doughnuts and place them on the parchment-lined tray. Set in the refrigerator while you make the glaze.

To make the pink glaze: Place the raspberries, vanilla bean powder, coconut butter, coconut milk, agave nectar, and lemon juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a medium bowl.

To assemble: Remove the doughnuts from the pan by tracing the outside of the doughnuts with an offset spatula, gently lifting around the edges until they pop out. Working one at a time, place each doughnut in the glaze bowl so one side gets coated with glaze, then lift it from the bowl with a fork. Tap the fork against the rim of the bowl to allow excess glaze to drip off and place the doughnut, glaze side up, on the parchment-lined tray. Repeat until all the doughnuts are coated.

Sprinkle coconut flakes onto the wet doughnuts and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until the glaze hardens. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


They were easy to make, super cute, and totally delicious!

The wonderful folks at BenBella Vegan have offered to send a copy of the cookbook to one lucky reader! To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment telling me your favorite dessert. For an additional entry, leave a comment for when you:

*like BenBella on Twitter or FB

*like Rebel Grrrl Living on Twitter or FB

That means you can submit a total of three entries/comments. I will pick a random winner on Monday, September 7th!

Good luck! xoxox

Friday Five

Well, I’m back, as promised, working on a new normal. I appreciate the electronic and in-person support I’ve been receiving in response to my most recent loss. Thank you. <3

It’s the last week of summer before school starts, and thus this week has been largely filled with working to prepare for the upcoming fall semester classes that I’m teaching (Gender & Society, Gender & Communication, and Intro to Mass Communication, woo!). Also yoga, it was definitely a week filled with lots of yoga.

Here is a picture I took outside of the Institute of Contemporary Art last week when I got to see Mykki Blanco perform. The show was amazing and the views outside weren’t too shabby either. This pic definitely feels like “end of summer” to me, right?


And with that, four things from the internet + a list of stuff that made me happy this week. <3


Lifestyle Politics Won’t Bring the Revolution: Veganism Is Not Nearly Enough

I cannot say enough how much I LOVE this post from Ali at Chickpeas & Change. Her analysis of power and oppression is spot on, and she importantly points out the failures of individual (and thus deeply neoliberal) approaches to creating social change. Unfortunately, much of the vegan “movement” relies on these same approaches. Ali writes, “…lifestyle politics — instead of calling for exploited peoples to unite against systemic oppression — encourages individuals to opt out (or rather, attempt to opt out) of those systems rather than confronting them, to distance themselves from those around them who are still engaging in “problematic behaviors.” Far from fostering solidarity among oppressed peoples, lifestyle politics can easily animate a “holier than thou,” “me vs. the world” understanding of society in which we begin to demonize individuals as moral failures for acting in certain ways (mostly in ways related to consumption habits), instead of realizing and confronting the larger power structures and systems that condition people’s actions.” She righteously concludes, “Let’s understand that anti-speciesism and all other forms of oppression won’t be eradicated until we move beyond capitalism. Let’s do this all and more, and let’s do it collectively, united, together.” CHURCH.

Fat Shaming DOES Inspire Me

The always-fabulous Jes Baker nails it with this response to the grossawfulterrible website that takes pictures of fat women and alters them to make them thin. The goal of the site is to try to show these women how much they could be “improved,” but Jes explains that her life didn’t actually improve until she stopped trying to attain some “perfect body.” Instead, Jes writes, “I’m fat now. But you know what else? I’m happy. Succesful. Fulfilled. On a career path that makes me feel whole. In a relationship that feels like it’s a dream. Mentally balanced in a way I’ve never experienced before, and no one gets to take this away from me by demanding I change my body for their comfort. I’m no longer willing to sacrifice my happiness for someone else’s approval. I’ve moved beyond that. I’m smarter than that. I am soaring high above that. And after realizing that I could be happy just as I am, I decided to dedicate my time to taking anyone who’s interested along with me on this body acceptance journey.” The post goes on to provide a whole bunch more really excellent thoughts and resources on body-acceptance. Highly recommended read.

Emotional Labor: What It Is and How To Do It

Loove this article about emotional labor on the Free Thought Blog. The feminist author explains emotional labor as a task that is disproportionately placed upon women. She writes, “for the most part, women are expected to do a lot of [emotional labor] in relationships and friendships, and men are not. It may well be that men are on average objectively worse at them than women are, but that’s only because they’ve never been held responsible for these things and therefore haven’t developed the skill. Most men have gone their whole lives hearing that women are “naturally” suited for these things and men are “naturally” not, so why bother working on it? Gender essentialism doesn’t exactly foster a growth mindset, and many people don’t realize that things like communication skills and empathy can actually be improved to begin with.” She then proceeds to give a long list of examples of what emotional labor might look like, all of which involve the fundamental power dynamic between people socialized as female and people socialized as male. I think it’s also really important to extend this conversation outside of gender dynamics, and also to any relationships in which power imbalances exist: between white people and POC; neuronormative and neurononnormative people; teachers and students, etc. The author also provides several helpful ways people who often get out of doing emotional labor in relationships can try to step up and share the load. Another must read!

Grilled Chipotle Lime Cauliflower Steaks

I am loving the sound of these spicy, zesty cauliflower steaks from The Kitchn. I don’t have a grill, but I might try these on the stove. And for those of you who do have a grill (lucky ducks), I hope you’ll add this to your list of things to make before summer’s end.


Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy 

boycat snuggles; teaching Sculpt & Vinyasa yoga classes; fizzy water; al fresco white string lights; workdates with colleague-friends; Mykki Blanco (the show was a week ago, but that fierceness has carried over into this week, for sure); getting excited for upcoming classes whilst syllabus-planning; touching emails from a former student/mentee who is starting grad school and giving me all the feels!; songs that you want to play on repeat because they are so beautiful (currently this one and this one); Chani Nicholas (always inspiring my woo bb heart); sipping champagne during a conversation about the ways in which queer lives can be more affirmed; technology & how it enables me to stay connected to my loves spread all across the country; meditation; solitude; & feeling, for now, totally capable of coping with things exactly as they are.


What made you happy this week? xoxo

Absence & Grief

Dear friends, I’m sorry for my nearly month-long absence. I wrote to you not too long ago about a friend’s passing, and I’m deeply sad to report that I lost another friend, J, a few weeks after that.

In future days, when I think back on this summer of 2015, I will surely taste grief in the pit of my stomach.

I could write you a novel about the light that shone from my dear J’s heart and out his eyes and through his laugh. I could write you thousands of words describing how he stood and talked and danced. I could spend days telling you about the way his brilliant mind contributed to the fields of Queer and Chicana studies, and I could talk forever about the way his fiercely dedicated spirit fought like hell against social injustice. I could write poems about the way he embodied a trajectory of longing towards liberation.

I could say so many things, but instead I will say very few. Out of respect for his family and in courtesy of my own raw grief, I will keep this post vague and brief. I am grateful that I have been able to say more and feel more alongside a community of my friend-family who love him as much as I do.

I will, however, say this: I promise to spend my days working to honor J’s legacy through my activism and scholarship and relationships. I will devote energy to fighting against the systems of oppression that break down our most vulnerable. I will go on, remembering his laugh like a song my heart knows all the words to.

I couldn’t come back to blogging without saying something, but this particular story of grief does not translate legibly in blog-form. This particular story of grief lives in the borderlands of untamed tongues and wild tears. This particular story of grief is, for now, being held quiet on my lips and tight against my chest. This particular story of grief, I suspect, will be finding it’s way out in fits and starts.

I’ll return with regularly scheduled posts this week or next. Because life goes on, whether we can make sense of it or not.


Today, please, hug someone you love and tell them how much they mean to you.


Mindfulness Monday: Meditation


Surprisingly, I have not yet devoted a Mindfulness Monday exclusively to the idea of meditation. In many ways, all mindfulness hinges on meditation, and it probably ought to have been the first in this semi-regular little blog series. Perhaps it’s telling, though, that I have only brought it up now… because meditation is hard.

I used to think that because I did yoga basically every day that I could get out of doing a separate regular meditation practice. After all, at the end of any yoga practice, students get to lie in savasana, which is at least two minutes of non-sleeping presence-of-mind rest.   The thing about savasana though, at least for the yoga I tend to practice, is that it also comes at a moment of total body exhaustion; after 60+ minutes of a rigorous yoga class, it is much easier to collapse into not-sleeping presence-of-mind-rest. Developing a sitting mediation practice that is longer than two minutes and not at the tale end of the near-ideal situation for easier access to a still-mind? Much harder.

There’s a great zen proverb that says something like, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day; unless you’re too busy—then you should sit for an hour.” I spent years avoiding the truth in that. I am absolutely one of those people who thinks I don’t have enough time for a sitting practice. This is laughable though, considering the amount of “sitting” I do to work at my computer, or veg in front of the TV, or pet my cat (etc). I have time, I just had never regularly devoted it to a meditation practice.

I’ve had decent success with meditation challenges, and mentioned on the blog before that I am currently in my third Deepak & Oprah 21 Day Meditation “experience” (‘challenge’ is too aggressive for their brand of New Age rhetoric). Of the three I done, I feel like this has been the most transformative so far, and it’s probably why I felt compelled to devote today’s post to the practice. Third time’s a charm!

Each day, for the past 21 days, I spent sitting (different places) listening first to Oprah introduce the theme, then to Deepak expand on it with a Centering Thought and a mantra, then sitting, for around 12-15 minutes in meditation. I believe a lot of things that have happened to me these past two very difficult years of my life have set me up to be more open to embracing the benefits of meditation. When we are hungry for tools to help us stay afloat, we shed ourselves of excuses that build walls between our egos and those aides. The past couple years of life (and this past winter and spring, most especially) has been a time period in my life that called for tools, and doing this meditation experience showed me that I was ready to find and use them.

an example from the 21 Day Experience.

an example from the 21 Day Experience.

Things have been getting better for me—some materially, but mostly mentally/emotionally—since about May, but I was still struggling with old habits and thought patterns and some lingering bouts of depression. My first week back from England felt like I had even backtracked a bit. But then I started meditating, everyday, and honest to goodness, readers, I felt a shift. A real, “Holy shit I’m sitting with my Self, dropping the story line that holds me back, connecting more dots and transcending old patters, and feeling so incredibly happy for just being a living vessel of Love and Oneness” kind of spiritual awakening shit. Now, part of this is probably the time and space I’ve had from some of the tougher stuff I was dealing with the months prior, but a big part of it, I honestly believe, is due to the meditation practice. Making it a habit, finding the ability to be sincerely present with the mantra, confronting the reality of my/our True Self, and really believing it. Accepting it. Accepting that, “I am the ocean, the rest is just waves.”

a ‘gram i posted after doing my meditation at my vacant yoga studio.

This past weekend I was at a wedding for a dear friend of mine from grad school. For a number of reasons, I was very anxious about this trip: I was going without a date (which felt heavy and sad); it was the only wedding out of four that I had been invited to this summer that I was actually able to attend (because of time and money); it was in the Midwest (a place I miss very much); and because I am just generally not great at handling the interrupted routines (food, exercise, sleep, alone time) that traveling throws at me. I arrived with about four hours before the wedding started and asked my friend if she would mind if I went for a run before getting ready. As I’ve written about many times, exercise is something that is both very grounding and healthy for me, and also a product of years of exercise-as-punishment mentality. I believe that today I mostly workout for the former, but I am not sure I will ever 100% shake the later. So I was delighted with what happened next: I ran for less than a mile, just enough to break a sweat, when I stumbled upon a beautiful park. The weather was perfect, sun hot on my shoulders, a slight breeze in the air. There was a hill overlooking a vacant baseball diamond. I stopped running. I hadn’t done remotely as much as I would have in a normal workout, but burning calories, nor even an endorphin rush, were what I wanted or needed in that moment. Instead, I listened to what my body/mind/heart/soul was requesting: Raechel, go sit on that hill, open your Deepak & Oprah email for the day, and meditate.

I had figured that I would probably skip the meditation exercise the day of the wedding, given the circumstances, but to my surprise, I made time for it. I cut exercise short and made time to sit on a hill and be still. And, friends, it made the rest of the weekend’s anxieties melt away. I didn’t feel sad to be alone at the wedding; I felt like I was bursting with love out of every pore. I wasn’t allowing my brain to take me from the joy of the event I was at by thinking of the weddings I wasn’t going to be at. And the next day when I didn’t get to workout before my flight, I was totally fine. My plane got delayed, and I didn’t freak out. I was present, I was happy, I was so grateful for the calm that my body has seemed to learn, more deeply, these past three weeks.

Meditation is not a panacea, and I’m not to saying that I am not going to have moments of really un-meditative responses (reactions) to things in the future. It’s not a cure; it’s a practice. (And it’s VERY important to note that if you are working through PTSD or trauma to practice meditation under guidance of a professional, as there are studies that say meditation can actually be harmful for those of us with that particular type of mental illness.) But, I am saying that it has proven powerful for me this time around and enough so that I am going to continue to try to do at least 15 minutes a day.

I will miss the guided practice I got from Deepak and Oprah, but hopefully I’ll find something else that works for me. (I was having good results with the 9 breaths of purification meditation for a bit as well, and might go back to that).

Here are some resources and tips that might be helpful for starting, maintaining, or taking deeper a practice: 

*One of my most treasured teachers, Tara Brach, on Basic Elements of a Meditation Practice

*A list of the Best Meditation Apps of 2014

*6 Simple Steps for Beginning a Meditation Practice 

*For those of us who struggle to get into a practice because we can’t separate meditation from the way it’s been co-opted into something exclusive to White Western Bougie people, I love this article on how meditation is relevant to racial justice movements. There’s a lot of other good stuff out there about spiritual healing and social justice, but that deserves it’s own post! 

*Get a pillow or block to sit on! I found sitting comfortably was the hardest part; using my yoga block made all the difference! 

*Finally, if you are like me, maybe really challenge yourself to do fifteen minutes or longer; when I did 2 minute meditations on my phone app, I didn’t feel the effects and thus didn’t feel motivated to stick to it. 


Do you meditate? Will you join me this week in trying to sit for 15 minutes a day? xoxo

Friday Five!

Hello friends and happy Friday! For a number of reasons, today is a very special Friday. First, by the time you read this, I will be in Milwaukee for a dear friend’s wedding, and I am very excited to be celebrating the love of her and her partner. Second, tonight is not only a full moon, but also a BLUE moon, and not only a full blue moon, but also a moon in (my sign!) Aquarius. (….Perhaps you’ve noticed that the “witchy-woo” stuff on this blog has increased, and I hope you’re okay with that, because the older I get the more I feel connected to the planets and the stars. I think it has something to do with their infiniteness and getting further along on a path that recognizes how  that limitlessness is also within me, within all of us…).

A full, blue, Aquarius moon (amidst Venus in retrograde) won’t happen again for another 18 years, and it provides an energy landscape for reflecting, but only insofar as it can move us forward. Aquarians are visionaries and don’t dwell much on the past (–which, side note, is very unlike me and explains why I have a Cancer rising sign—), but the blue moon alongside Venus in retrograde is asking us to take into consideration our relationships and where we want to be on our journey ahead. More importantly, this moon extends beyond our interpersonal relationships and is creating an opportunity to reflect on our collective past to move forward toward and alongside movements for social change. Astrologer Chani Nicholas explains the connection between the stars and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, noting: “Astrology, when it is working, can help us to see cycles, both personal and collective. These cycles can reveal the underlying meaning, however mysterious, of our lives. Cycles also remind us how short life is. Cycles can easily be perpetuated when we refuse to learn and grow from the past. Cycles remind us that we may be putting off what we most need to do. Astrological cycles can help us understand and feel connected to the larger patterns in our life and in society.” Yes; let us use this special moon and this special retrograde cycle to consider how to better take action for healing and transformative change in our personal lives in in our society.


And now, four things from the internet + a list of stuff that made me happy this week….


Black lives matter, lion lives matter, and they’re both in jeopardy for the same brutal reason

I really appreciated this response to the recent public outcry over Cecil the Lion and the death of that lion is not disconnected to the deaths of Black people in America. Berlatsky writes: “In every case, the point is that (disproportionately white) rich people are seen as having the right to do whatever they want with their wealth. And more, they feel justified in punishing anyone who, for a paranoid instant, they fear might want to take that wealth from them. Inequality enables, and is built on, violence….Lion lives and black lives aren’t really in competition with each other. Rather, both are denigrated in favor of the lives, or even the whims, of wealthy, (often) white people. The powerful can use the world as their hunting grounds, metaphorically and literally. Everyone else is prey.”


(…also appreciated the critique that people are outraged over lion deaths and not the billions of cows and pigs and chickens (etc.) who die everyday in factory farms.)

7 Ways to Turn Your Anger Over Sandra Bland into Support for Incarcerated Black Women

If you are angry, please read this. If you are not angry, I don’t know why you read this blog and I hope you find a way to practice compassion in a way that makes you angry about the unjust killings of Black people in America. This list provides some good ideas on how to channel that anger into things that can support incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Black women, including becoming more educated about the PIC, helping change the narrative surrounding incarcerated people, donating money, becoming a pen pal, and more.

Ask Bear: On Making Decisions

Guys, have you figured out that I LOVE ADVICE COLUMNS?! Dear Sugar, Ask Polly, Autostraddle’s You Need Help, etc. Gimme all of them! #MOARADVICECOLUMNSPLZ! I just love the vulnerability and poetry of the letters, and how it is matched in the responses. I love the empathy and compassion it nurtures. I love knowing other people get stuck and the ways in which advice columns like these provide us heartstopping/tearjerking/soulnourishing tools with which to get ourselves unstuck. Here is a new one I recently discovered: the Butter’s Ask Bear. The first letter I read on the column is about making hard decisions (or even easy decisions….because even the easy ones seem hard sometimes, don’t they?). Bear’s response is lovely; here is a piece of it: “Change is hard. New things are scary. Even if you have something or someone standing by, waiting in the wings in case or until you need them, making decisions and acting on them is a challenging and uncertain business. So, be gentle with yourself. You get all the points for doing the hard work. Because you’re right – there’s no way to know what will happen, or what the faults of the new situation might be. Maybe that single gay curator loses his job or gets a rash from the elastic of his new $35 underpants; maybe his condo floods with raw sewage or his new hot date turns out to have warrants in three states. That guy, though – that guy gets to move forward…That guy, he will try and fail and discover where he is flexible and where brittle, where he’s resilient and where defeated. He can work toward his best self. He can strive. He can fly, even if his wings are yet a little damp. The best news of all here, Brave Correspondent, is that you — your very own precious self — are the guy in question. You, too, can fly.” 


Summer is passing quickly and I haven’t made one veggie burger yet! I think this recipe from Faring Well will change that. It’s a completely gluten-free, soy-free, mushroom-based veggie patty, with the most delicious sounding sauce and slaw to accompany it! I wish I still had a grill, but I think these will be great baked too.


Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy 

attending a Black & Pink training to get more involved with court and prison support for LGBTQ prisoners (and just being so happy to be in an activist space again, and to find and share space with “my people”); kitten snuggles to the max; sculpt; moments of no-particular-reason-happiness; friend phone calls; excitement for August plans; sequencing & theming (&teaching) yoga classes; syllabus progress; study dates with feminist colleagues; green iced tea; meditating; la croix; happy hours with yoga teacher friends; walking with friends downtown by the water at night;  re-watching “the L word” (#sorrynotsorry); public transit; & rediscovering (& playing on repeat) this song, in honor of the planetary-goodness that is this week. <3


What made you happy this week? Have a great weekend! xoxo

Mindfulness Monday: Five Breaths (& a Tribute)

Today’s Mindfulness Monday post is also a tribute post to my friend Mikhail, who passed away a week ago in a men’s federal prison in Virginia.  I was connected to Mikhail through a transformative justice organization called Write to Win, which connects LGBTQ prisoners with LGBTQ and allied activist correspondents on the outside. Mikhail, who was a two-spirit-identified (he&she pronouns) bisexual prisoner, and I had been writing for just under a year. Mikhail wrote to me a lot about politics (he was an anarchist), cats (he loved cats and we drew pictures of cats to each others in most of our exchanges!), relationships (she had been in love five times), and mental health (he struggled with depression). I looked forward to Mikhail’s letters in my mailbox very much.


some of Mikhail’s letters. we signed off with “solidarity + rage + love”

About three months ago, Mikhail’s letters got shorter. He explained that he had become very ill and didn’t have as much energy to write. The doctors, he told me, didn’t know what was wrong. He was hoping they would be moving him to a medical facility, and asked me to always double check the government Inmate Locator website to see if I should send the letters to a different address. Each month I checked, and each month he was still in the federal prison in Virginia.

On Friday night, I sat down to respond to Mikhail’s last letter, which was dated July 4th. After writing a few pages, I folded the letter, sealed it in an envelope, and went online to double-check the address. But this time, under Mikhail’s name was not an address, but the following: “Deceased: 7/11/2015.”

My heart stopped; and then it beat rapidly. I re-read the screen over and over to try to make sense of it. Deceased. Mikhail had died. She had asked to be relocated for more effective medical attention, the prison did not provide her that medical attention (they eventually approved the transfer, but just never actually transferred him), and he died. At 40 years old. In a federal prison in Virginia. Two years before he was going to be released.

I have experienced a number of deaths in the past few years, but this one felt heavy in a distinct and challenging way. Unlike the other people in my life who have passed away, I didn’t have any other friends or family who knew Mikhail. I had no one to call. No one to cry with. No one who would know what it would be like to miss the idiosyncrasies of this truly lovely human. I felt very alone in my grief. And sick with the thought of how alone Mikhail must’ve felt in his last days.

I curled up on my floor and held my kitty close to me and cried. I told Diesel how much Mikhail loved cats and how she always asked about him in her letters. Realizing how long it had been since Mikhail had been able to pet a cat, I told Diesel, through tears, “I am so so lucky I get to snuggle you right now.” At that point, my tears turned to sobs.

In an effort to calm my crying, I started taking deep breaths. Inhale…..Exhale….Inhale….Exhale… I remembered that I had written to Mikhail about breathing exercises too. She had asked if I had any advice for yoga or meditation techniques that could help combat his depression and anxiety. Breath work was the first thing that came to mind. I told him a few basic breathing exercises and practices that might be useful: the so hum mantra exercise, the 2-4 count breath, and the Five Breaths practice.


I don’t remember where I first learned about the Five Breaths practice, but it’s something I have found to be pretty powerful when I remember to do it. All it entails is this: pause after noticing something that you’re grateful for and take five deep breaths. That’s it.

The thing about feeling grateful is that, like all feelings, it can be really fleeting; the five breaths practices cements that gratitude feeling deep in your body. It forces you to sit with the sensation of appreciation. Ideally, you can find a way to incorporate this into your life on a daily basis, which will usually result in breathing after pretty simple occurrences. For example, once coming home from work I saw a traffic jam going the other direction. I felt really grateful not to be stuck in that traffic jam (which does not mean I was glad the other people were stuck in it, of course!), and I took five deep breaths as I drove to the yoga class that I would, because of my non-traffic jam route, arrive at on time. Another time, I took five deep breaths after a particularly good day of teaching at the college where I work, reminding me to sit with how lucky I am for the job I have. And then, on Friday, I took five deep breaths, sitting simultaneously both in the pain of loss and also in the simple gratitude of being able to have a kitty to hold with my sorrow.

I knew, when recommending this exercise to Mikhail, that she would have far fewer things to be grateful for than I did. But, in spite of her depression and her circumstances, she did find some reasons to breathe: she found moments of joy with some of his fellow inmates, in reading, and in working on the prison newsletter.

I want to live in a world where everyone has plentiful reasons to perform breaths of gratitude. I want to live in a world where everyone has access to quality healthcare. I want to live in a world where gender non-conforming people are treated with dignity. I want to live in a world where human beings aren’t subjected to going through activist pen pal services in order to have human connections. And, I want to live in a world without prisons.

This week, I invite you to practice the Five Breaths exercise. Take a moment to pause when you feel grateful. Sit with it. Breathe into it. Let it sink into your skin and your blood and bones. Let it vibrate through your veins. Be the gratitude.

And maybe, if you’re open to it, send some of those breaths up and out in memory of my friend, Mikhail…..a person who deserved many more breaths than she got to take.