12 June 2018

Rising From the Flames Yet Again

When I started The Year of the Phoenix in January 2012, I had just turned 30 and wanted to discuss life as a thirtysomething. It quickly became clear, however, that readers were most interested in my physical transformation, so about six months later I rebranded as a "healthy living blog."

Let's be real: it was a diet and weight loss blog, but whatever.

And, as long time readers know, I did lose weight. Lots of weight. 135 pounds or so, finally reaching my lowest in February 2013.

And then, as long time readers also know, I started to gain weight. Lots of weight. Truth is, almost as soon as I hit my lowest I started to gain it all back.

Turns out, losing weight and maintaining weight require two very different skill sets.

I've always maintained transparency about this, often blogging about my struggles with weight and body image. But the whole "weight loss" part of my blog lasted for only about a year and then I spent the next five years pretending.

I'm tired of pretending. It's exhausting, maintaining the status quo of where I am in my life and what my focus is. Even after I quit dieting two years ago, I still felt I needed to pretend. Because I had this blog which for years represented one thing and now I was changing the rules.

Because I don't want to talk about dieting or weight loss. I want to talk about body positivity and fat acceptance and body politics. I want to talk about diet culture and how I spent decades of my life attempting to fit someone else's very narrow view of what I should look like.

The phoenix represents rebirth and renewal, rising from the ashes. In the coming weeks, I'll be rebranding and relaunching The Year of the Phoenix as a body and fat positive blog. I know it's a big change for my long time readers and while I hope you all will continue with me on this new ride, I totally understand if you decide this will no longer be the blog for you.

My tagline has always been Be Your Own Hero, and at this point in my life, this is the best way for me to be my own. And that includes a new superhero mascot.


Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

31 May 2018

Chairs & Stairs: On Making Spaces Welcoming for Larger Bodies

Tuesday evening I had the great fortune of attending an author event and book signing for Jes Baker and her latest memoir, Landwhale. I fucking love Jes Baker, y'all. Her previous book, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls was just incredible and I cannot wait to read my (signed!) copy of Landwhale. Having followed her on social media for years, I can confirm that she's just as loud and bold in person as she is on Instagram.

As soon as her Landwhale tour was announced and I saw that she was coming to Cleveland, I immediately wrote down the date in my calendar. I was equally delighted to learn that the event was being moderated by Rachel, fashion designer and former owner of Re/Dress, this incredible store here in Cleveland (that is officially reopened omg. Buy some teggings from their online shop, y'all. You will thank me). Maria, one of Re/Dress's models was also there and it was going to be more of a conversation about body image and diet culture bullshit and I was here for it.

At the same time, however, I remember seeing the venue and thinking "Hmmmmm. That's an . . . interesting location for this."

Before I continue, let me be clear that it was a great event. The conversation was as thought provoking and self-affirming as I had hoped and Jes stayed and signed all of the books and was just as engaging with the people at the end as she was with the people in the beginning (I know: I was the second to last person). And the bookstore where it was held is one of my favorites in the city. I had my own author event there a few months ago.

I just don't think it was the right space for this event and, in particular, this audience.

Now, granted, I don't know how book tours and events get planned. I mean, I did all of my own bookings but I'm local and mine were all here in Ohio. Jes is touring nationally. She also has a huge following, which I think was the first challenge in all of this because I suspect the bookstore vastly underestimated just how many people were going to show up for this event.

Which, I mean. 134K Facebook followers. 11K Twitter followers. 92K Instagram followers.

And you put out, like, 20 chairs?

Hell, on my own book tour I did events where I had far more fucking chairs than that.

Then there were the actual chairs.

Actually, let me back up for a second.

So, at this particular bookstore, the author events are held in the lower level. The non-air conditioned lower level. This means there are stairs to climb down. Narrow, steep stairs.

Accessibility is a real issue just out in the wider world, not just the body positive community, that I don't think many people think about. As far as I know, there's no other way to get down there so if someone had accessibility issues and didn't know, in advance, that this was the situation, they may have gotten to the venue and realized they had no fucking way of getting downstairs. Not all disabilities are visible, either. You can't know who is and is not able-bodied just by looking at them (and if you think you can, you're wrong).

I heard more than one comment related to the stairs and while it might not seem like a big deal -- it's just stairs, right? -- it was one of those things where it seemed like this particular audience was not taken into account.

Right, so, back to the chairs. These were the two offerings:

I mean, you have a fat activist coming to speak. It's safe to assume that her readers and followers are going to be, y'know. Fat. (Don't @ me. I have another post coming out in the future about my use of that word.) Those of us squeezed into the room were of various sizes and shapes, but people only sat on those rickety wooden chairs out of sheer desperation.

There were people who had driven over four hours to come hear Jes speak. Just imagine, driving that distance and then getting here and maneuvering your body down narrow, steep steps and then you see one of those god awful wooden chairs and all you can do is sit on it and pray to whatever deity you want that it doesn't snap beneath you and you end up mortified and possibly injured on the concrete floor in front of everyone.

For this particular audience, it didn't feel like a very welcoming space. It went beyond just not being a space made for us, it wasn't a safe space for us. Well, aside from the company and people of course. And it's tiny and narrow and NO AIR CONDITIONING and we're in there, crowded like sardines and it's 80 degrees out and just.

That said, the one benefit that these chairs have is no fucking arms. For those of us with hips, chairs that lock us in with arms are another issue.

But, again, there were only about 20.

So then it become standing and sitting room only. Which can be tricky for able-bodied people to do for an extended period of time, let alone people with mobility issues.

Which made me wonder why the audience level was underestimated. Like, was there just this belief that Jes wouldn't draw a large crowd? But if so, why? Her follower numbers speak for themselves. They also almost ran out of books because they hadn't ordered enough. I had hoped to buy more than one copy, hell, I wanted to support a local, independent bookstore by giving them money, but we were allowed only one because there was a concern there weren't enough in stock.

So again . . . why?

And the thing of it is, I know there are other options available because I know that this bookstore hosts events at other locations, including the library and small concert venues, in the past. Spaces that are more accessible and more welcoming for this audience.

I don't think there was anything, like, malicious happening here. But I do think thin, able-bodied privilege may have gotten in the way of event planning. Oh, of course the stairs will be fine. Oh, of course the chairs will be fine.

When it comes to event planning, you have to take the audience into account and I don't think that was really done for this event. Don't get me wrong, I still had a wonderful (if slightly hot) time and got to meet fucking Jes Baker and spent a few hours with incredible body positive women in my community, but the venue itself just sort of reminded me of why we need body and fat advocacy, because there are still spaces in the world where I feel like my body is not welcome.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

23 May 2018

Blogger Meet Up at Borrow!

Disclaimer: I was given a discount on my ticket for blogging about this event and the venue space

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to hang out with some fellow local bloggers for a blogging meetup! The event was hosted at Borrow Vintage + Eclectic Rentals, which is this really incredible space here in Cleveland that allows you to rent fantastic decorative pieces for your event.

I'm not kidding when I tell you they literally had everything you could possibly think of, from dishes and glassware to small phonographs, antique frames, old suitcases, even a WALL O' COUCHES:

The purpose of the meetup was two fold: first, of course, just getting all of us Cleveland bloggers into one space to hang out and chat. Annie's Signature Sweets was there with some tasty snacks, as well.

But also, it was an opportunity for all of us to have new photos taken! The space was really perfect for it because it allowed all of us to create photos that represented our own brand. Along with the industrial warehouse space above with the couches and larger pieces of furniture, they had a front room set up like a living room with tons of natural light. It was the perfect spot for taking photos. I think between all of us bloggers, every inch of Borrow was used in a photo in some way.

There were two photographers on hand -- Larry Spencer of Spencer Photography and Katie Logsdon of Katie Logsdon Creative -- and we could sign up with both or either for photos. I chose both, knowing that even if it's the same space, every photographer brings their own creative eye. I've been in desperate need of new photos for awhile now, what with my hair darker and longer and I wear glasses now, so I was thrilled to have new pics taken with some local photographers. I can't wait to show you the final pictures!

I was so busy chatting with all of the other bloggers, I feel like I need to go back to Borrow Vintage + Eclectic Rentals for another chance to dig into all of the amazing pieces they had available.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

27 April 2018

5 Reasons I'm So Excited to Have a YMCA Membership again

Last weekend, BC and I stopped by the Y in our city and reupped our lapsed memberships! I didn't realize how much I had missed it until I started going this week for the first time in a loooooong time.

Here are the five reasons I'm really glad to have a membership again:

1. Convenience
When BC and I first got our memberships to the local Y, I was still living downtown Cleveland and while the Y near his place wasn't far exactly, at 5:30 in the morning it certainly felt far. Now, though, I'm only a couple minutes away which means not only do I not have to wake up quite as early, but I should have time to come home and shower and get ready here at the house.

Bonus: Because BC and I now live together we were able to get the family membership and save some moola. 

2. Classes
I admit that I mostly use the YMCA for the classes that come with my membership, especially now that I own a treadmill.  For me, though, using the membership strictly for spinning classes is well worth it because paying class by class at a studio is expensive as fuck. Plus, I've missed spinning, y'all. Back in the day I was a hard core spinner. Like, multiple times a week at ridiculously early hours. And I've missed it more than I think I realized.

After we reupped our lapsed Y memberships, I was looking at their classes and realized they have a 30 minute "express" Y Cycle class Wednesday evenings. The timing was perfect -- I can leave right from work, still have time to change, and be on the bike and still be home by about 6pm.

3. Multiple services
Waaaaaay back in the day I had a membership at Planet Fitness. It was okay, it got the job done, but PF is mostly machines, both for cardio and strength training. All of that is good, of course, but I always felt like something was.... lacking when I would attend. Which is why, of course, I'd then spend extra money on top of that for studio classes. The YMCA has it all, PLUS THEY HAVE A POOL. (I always like to pretend I'll be a pool using person. Maybe this time I actually will.)

4. Friends
I have friends who are regular users at my same Y and it's always fun seeing them in the building before or after working out. One goes to one of the dance type classes that I've been meaning to try out for awhile and she told me she's been wanting to give spinning a whirl, so hopefully we can introduce each other to our respective classes.

5. Standing date
The first time around, BC and I would try to go to the YMCA together on the weekend. It was always a fun way to spend our morning together and then of course we'd have to go get brunch after LOL

So there you have it, the 5 reasons why I'm excited to have my YMCA membership again.

Are you a member at a gym? Any features or classes you really like?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

12 March 2018

Race Recap: St. Malachi Church Run

Saturday was the annual St. Malachi Church Run which, if you've been following this blog long enough and/or have read Running With a Police Escort, you know is one of my most favorite runs in all of Cleveland. This was my sixth time running it! (Recaps: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Last year, local racing organization Hermes got into a bit of hot water regarding the St. Malachi Church Run.

Okay, that's being kind. It was a fucking PR nightmare for them because the church told Hermes they were going with a different organizer because they felt Hermes was keeping too big of a cut. This is a charity run after all and St. Malachi was getting a really, really small percentage of each registration. So then Hermes basically sued the church, telling St. Malachi they couldn't call future races the St. Malachi Church Run. Yes, Hermes told the church that Hermes owned the rights to the church's name. Soooo yeah it went over real well with local runners. Luckily Hermes wised up and is having their own St. Patrick's themed race next weekend.

Anywho, this year it was with Greater Cleveland XC and I gotta say, it was really well done. There was a new course which did not involve running down the hill in the Flats. The start and finish was right on the Detroit Bridge and it was very festive.

Admittedly I was super worried about the weather: we got hit hard by snow Thursday and Friday and while the snow was still there on Saturday, the roads were clear and the temperature was in the low-to-mid-30s. That's like a sauna compared to previous years (I'm looking at you, 2013).

I opted for the 2 mile run again this year, mostly because, well, I haven't been running.

Believe me, it's so awkward to admit that when I have a book out about running.

That said, I actually ran part of the race today! I did my intervals and probably ran a little less than half, but it's more than I've run in awhile so I'm happy with it. It also almost got that running bug back. I had these moments of 'Oh, right, this is why I used to love this sport.' So hopefully I'll be able to keep up the momentum going forward.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus
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