Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sluts Take Back the Night

It's taken me a long time to be ok with my body as it is. Never wanted to be naked in front of anyone for any reason, never would have worn a bikini, certainly never would have wanted photos of it. I've never been "thin", somewhere along the line as a young teen girl I got the idea that I was "fat", I've even been told by doctors and gym trainers that I am obese...medically speaking. Some of my first intimate experiences were less than supportive, if not outright traumatizing regarding body image and control over what happened to it.

When I was in my late 20s I had the luck of discovering burlesque and that is when my journey of self acceptance of my body really started. It was when I really discovered and was empowered by my sexuality.

I am not ashamed of my curves, stretch marks, large and not so perky breasts. But always I was in control of what was seen. If there was a photo taken and circulated I knew that it was what I chose to present in public. The feeling that is portrayed in these images is what I cultivated as a persona and character that is Mae Western. I was in control of what I was sharing with an audience from a stage, or a scheduled photo shoot, or a selfie meant for social media.

I have been sleeping with a married man, judge as you like (I know you will, we have been conditioned to do so), I know all sides of this as I have been cheated on, cheated on someone, and been the other woman...humans are vastly flawed in our romantic relationships. And honestly think what you want, call me a slut, I've reclaimed that word long long ago. But am not here to talk about that or explain away the situation I've found myself in.

What I would like to talk about is the fact that a photo I shared, meant for a person I was sexually intimate with, has been discovered and downloaded by this person's spouse. This spouse then decided it was appropriate to share it with someone I work with. I am honestly curious as to what she thought would happen (nothing except I am required to wear a red A at work from now on). I am more curious to see what she plans to do with it next. Supposedly she is out to ruin the life of her spouse, and mine too. To that I will respond as such, good luck with your life, mine will not be dictated by your blackmailing sneaky ass ways.

No matter what you might think of a woman who has sex with a married man, the point is I had no desire to "ruin" any lives, and as a matter of fact probably did them a favor by providing them a perfect reason to get out of a miserable situation. But the desire for revenge is something that should not be directed at me, and the intention to slander should be considered a worse behavior than sleeping with a married person.

In the end I will continue my mantra of, "I love my body, and I will not be shamed by it". But anything non-consensual is violating, especially when it falls into the realm of sex and intimacy. And just because this is not a physical assault, and even if I am the dreaded other woman, I still have the right to dictate who gets to see what part of my body.

On that note, here are some photos that I choose to share now of my own volition...including the ones that are meant to scare me into feeling shame (with some slight edits as to not totally shock not scroll down if you don’t want to see naked me). 
I love my body, and I will not be shamed by it.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

A letter of farewell from the los Sueños family.

It is time to tell you my dear friends, guests, supporters of all kinds, that casa de los Sueños will be closing it's...gates (we don't have doors really) at the end of this month, April 2017.
It has been a wonderful and life changing experience running this beautiful, historical, and at times very challenging, jungle hotel.
We took over the business 5 years ago in March, not having one clue what we were really getting ourselves into. A real "fake it til you make it" journey. Now, as much as we feel we have "made it", we have been forced to make a change, and in that we have decided it is the right thing to do for us.
We have had the honor of hosting many retreats, family gatherings, friend reunions, engagements, weddings, honeymoons, babymoons, and every other kind of vacation or trip imaginable. Each of those have been a part in this crazy dream and we cannot thank all of you enough for your patronage. You are what makes all this hard work worth it; when a couple sits in the garden leaning in closely, talking, laughing and being able to just be in love without distraction, beside pausing while the the parrots swooping over head chatter loudly; when a family comes back from the beach, sunburnt and tired, parents a bit tipsy on margaritas, kids exhausted from playing in the waves, everyone relaxed and happy; when a year of planning culminates in a wedding day where everything falls into place, the guests arrive in awe of the beauty, the couple says their vows in the evening sun, then the lights blink on as the dusk comes, the party begins, and lifetime memories are made; when a widower comes with a group of yogis and tells you this experience changed his whole outlook, that being in the jungle for a week made him see life keeps going no matter how much we might try to make it stop or go backwards; when you tell a guest they won't be able to come back next year because we are closing and they hug you, wish you well and say "change is always good, but transition is hard"; these are the moments and human experiences that remind us why we battle back the jungle to make gardens, scrub the mold off the walls at the end of every rainy season, schlep the groceries in a cab, in a boat, in a wheel barrow, and up the hill, why we work so hard to make this place an oasis of calm and beauty in this crazy world.
All of those moments will be coming with us, all of our experience of success and of strife in this endeavor has been an education, all of the future possibilities we imagined happening at los Sueños will be transferred to new dreams and projects.
Yelapa will continue to be our home always, there are so many lovely places to stay here and so many wonderful hosts, we are always here to give you advice and insight on a trip to this wonderfully special, little cove south of Puerto Vallarta.
If you always planned to, but were never able to visit los Sueños, or made it a yearly tradition, please don't let this stop you from visiting Yelapa or dropping us a line, we'll be here scheming about our next plan and loving Yelapa as much as ever.
So thank you to all our friends, guests, employees, neighbors, and the community of Yelapa for being part of this wild ride we called Casa de los Sueños, may the dream continue to flourish.
Onward and upward!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My two abortions. #shoutyourabortion

This blog is connected to my business website. Everything I do in my personal life, I do proudly and do not hide, everything I do in my business, is colored by my own ethics and who I am. I cannot, and will not, separate them.
I realize that this forum is mine to use as I wish, but I also have held back in the past. I didn't wish to offend, to alienate, and lose clients.
But that has to change. If I do not speak out then I will be doing a disservice to myself, my community, and womankind in general.
In light of the current political state of the United States of America, I have realized the importance of not sitting idle, or staying silent, the importance of sharing our stories.
I have written and erased this blog many times. It is a deeply personal experience. It is an experience that so many share. So here is my experience.
When I was 24 I moved to Yelapa Mexico, from San Francisco California with my best friend. I was thinking I'd get a job, fix up a little casa, maybe meet a guy. It was a care-free time of my life, but also a very wild and uncertain time.
It all began well, I got a job, fixed up a little casa, and met a guy. We were having a great time.
A couple months in I realized I was pregnant. I had used protection, it did not work. The relationship also did not work, things had gotten bad and I was extremely upset. For just a moment I recklessly thought, what would happen if I just had this kid? Maybe things would work out with me and the guy. Maybe my measly pay would get me through if it didn't. would absolutely fucking ruin my life!
I knew very quickly that I had to return to the states and terminate the pregnancy. I was broke, and I had no return ticket. I called my mom and told her I needed her to help me get back. She didn't ask why, she put it on her credit card, and she got me back to California.
I had arranged for an appointment at Planned Parenthood (where I had been getting my paps and birth control since I was 17).  I arranged for my good friend to take me. The day before my mom asked me if I was pregnant, moms know these things. I felt ashamed that I didn't successfully avoid it, that I had to ask for her help, that I was slinking back home with my tail between my legs. But I felt no shame or remorse about the procedure scheduled for the next morning. I only felt relief. And no person in my life, including my mother, made me feel anything but supported. I was extremely lucky and privileged in this.
The worst part about the whole day, was having to wait in the office, the procedure was easy and smooth (later classified "like butter") and I was treated with nothing but the utmost kindness and respect. Thanks to the doctors and staff that risk their actual lives to provide that safety for us.
A couple months later, I moved back to San Francisco, I ended up working as a photographer, doing burlesque, learning to swing dance, making amazing art, curating and producing shows, and gaining a whole group of awesome friends, I had a full and wonderful life of freedom, living in one of the most amazing cities in the world. That all, because of my rights, that someone fought for.
Almost a decade later I, once again, moved back to Yelapa. Now a very different person and for very different reasons. I began to run a large property with rentals, it was a huge undertaking. After 2 years of running the business and just getting the hang of it, getting out of an abusive relationship, and reconnecting with my old flame from 2004, I found myself pregnant again. I was on birth control, I had not gotten pregnant once in my decade in San Francisco, go figure. I was, once again, very sure that I was not ready to become a parent. This time I was able to buy my own ticket, and had wonderful girl friends to stay with in SF, to come with me to my appointment, I planned to visit family after and then return to Mexico and work in a week. It was to be an "abortion vacation", all was set!
3 days before my departure I started heavy bleeding and debilitating cramps, I was still in Yelapa, I was scared, and not sure what I should do. I called Planned Parenthood and they talked me down, gave me really good info of what to watch out for, and told me just to keep my appointment. I was having a "spontaneous abortion" which is the technical term for a miscarriage, which apparently happens all the time without women even knowing they are pregnant.
So still in a lot of pain and feeling very weak I got on a boat, got on a plane, took the train to my friends house, and relieved went my appointment the next day.
When we arrived, we saw protesters out front. It actually didn't dawn on me until I saw their large photos of mutilated bloody fetuses, that they were pro-life protesters. I could not believe it. This is the Mission district, in San Francisco California, in 2014!
Do these people have no lives? Do they really think they are going to deter people? Do they realize that their photos are totally inaccurate? Do they have a reason to be playing Bing Crosby christmas music? These were my immediate thoughts.
As I walked by, ignoring them, a woman approached me, close enough to touch me, and told me "You have other choices", I responded "You don't know what the fuck is going on with me! I happen to currently be miscarrying!" she then advised me that Planned Parenthood wasn't a real doctors office. Instead of further engaging, I just turned around and walked in.
The poor receptionist apologized and I told her it's fine, they don't phase me, it's like a crazy drugged-out person yelling at you on the bus.
But as I saw each girl come in, many young, alone, looking very distraught, I remembered my privilege, my luck of amazing support, my absolute surety that I did not want to become a parent at that time. These girls might not have that surety, they may be being pressured by family to continue with a pregnancy, they may want to be parents but know it isn't the best thing for them or a potential child at that time.
I wanted so badly to tell them it was ok, it was nothing to be ashamed of, they could be parents in the future if they wanted to. But I stayed quiet, had my uterus cleaned out, went back to my friends house, ate ice cream, had some visitors, and felt just fine the next day. Happy, ready to move on and get back to my routine. Which I did, and have, and not with one tiny bit of regret or shame. Until I saw the campaign #shoutyourabortion by "Lady Parts Justice League", people were telling their stories. I felt it was too personal, too controversial, that I would be judged. So even though I personally have no shame around it, I still felt shamed.
Why should I feel shamed by people who do not know me? And if I am judged by those who know me, do I want them in my life? Should I feel more shame because it wasn't that big of a deal for me? Would it be better if I had been wrought with guilt and if it had been a hard decision?
The truth is, I should not, I will not, I do not feel shame. If one wishes to shame me that is their burden to bare, not mine.
I do not disrespect women who wish to be mothers. I think it is something amazing, scientific and magical. To grow a person inside you. To love and nurture that person into adulthood. It is wonderful thing. I crave it at times myself. I am lucky to be an aunt/tia to some incredible offspring. I adore children and they adore me.
But unless a person is ready and wants this, it should not be forced, that in itself is a start to a hard and painful life.
I will not force women to have abortions, no one will force me to have children. It is our right, as women, to decide when we become mothers. You will not take that from us.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Exploring the many layers of Mexico

Having recently returned from an adventure of visiting the interior of Mexico; Puebla, Cuernavaca, and Mexico city, all I can think about is what a truly beautifully layered country Mexico is.
From it's cities, to it's food, to it's people, amazing me that the layers never cease. There is a feeling of something hidden, secret, achingly painful and elaborately beautiful. Cities built upon other cities, cathedrals built upon pyramid temples, plain building facades hiding exquisite gardens and homes filled with foods of pre-hispanic roots, spiced with flavors of the orient, augmented with meats of animals introduced from far away lands across oceans.
There is a kinetic energy of creativity and movement that never stops in these ancient cities, as if it would fall right apart under your feet, or explode in a rain of volcanic ash, if you don't keep moving. People work so intently, sweeping, selling, story telling through murals, weaving, food, dance, everything they do. People stroll and chat, hawk their wares, sing and dance, and generally bustle in a strangely contradictory relaxed way.
I had the chance to spend a few days in Cholula, Puebla with some of the most lovely artists I've ever had the pleasure of spending time with. Welcomed into their shared living space with all the beautiful traditional hospitality of any good Mexican home. As I arrived late on a rainy night, I was delighted to find they had prepared both pipian and mole sauces, with fresh bolillos (rolls), we drank home made lavender infused Pox, moonshine made with corn and sugar cane (I had arrived with a gift of our own moonshine from the Yelapa area, Raicilla), and was given a cozy room to call my own. The next morning well rested and ready to search out breakfast, I find in the kitchen there is pan dulce, coffee, juice, and eggs being made.
I realized the thing that I thought was special treatment the night before, is just the way it is. It's the way it is in almost every house in Mexico I've been in throughout my whole life. Of what little there may be, offer half, always have something to offer, always have tortillas, bread, beans, coffee, juice, something...and most importantly, always graciously accept what is offered.
These artists work constantly on new projects doing murals in the streets, around every corner is a surprising colorful piece of art. Cholula's walls are covered in murals, many new and vibrant, some peeling off the wall, all unique and equally enticing to the eye. Beautifying their city and at the same time protesting the oppression that is felt by the people of Mexico. Fighting the same fight that ancestors fought, over land, over exploitation, over religious repression, always working to conserve and celebrate indigenous culture.
There are so many levels of different creative pursuits that I had the luck to experience on this trip. After leaving Puebla I arrived Sunday evening in Cuernavaca, Morelos and knowing that Sunday in any plaza in Mexico will be full of life, I went directly there. I happened upon a group of young dancers doing traditional dances of Mexico. These dancers didn't miss a step, even when the heel on the shoe of a girl broke, she continued dancing perfectly, smiling and putting her full heart into it. I saw dances from at least four regions of Mexico, each one with it's own ceremony and significance. Each one danced with the expertise and heart that clearly showed the love and passion they felt for their heritage.
It was a lovely few days of wandering the terraced, verdant, and hilly streets of Cuernavaca, the city of eternal spring, with it's many gardens, amazing food, museums and a people that are clearly proud of their beautiful city, and very happy to share it with visitors.
With the true luck of a journey meant to be, I happened to be staying my last night in Mexico city on the same night the Cracovia 32 swing club has their weekly social dance.
Welcomed into their space where they hold events from swing dancing, to circus school, I stayed the night, met new friends, joined in on their dance class, and finally tired from travel, I went to bed and was lulled to sleep by the big band music drifting upstairs from the dance floor.
My last day before flying home I spent wandering the streets in the area of Coyoacan, drinking coffee, eating pan de muertos, buying mole in the market, soaking up the feeling of being in the blue house of Frida and Diego, somehow feeling as if just being there connected me to the culture and creativity that they cultivated and thrived on in that space.
I felt overwhelming emotion a few times while roaming through the restored rooms of this historic home. I wasn't sure why I felt my chest tighten and my eyes sting with tears when I walked into the kitchen, or when I saw the bed where Frida painted her self portraits, laying there using a mirror she installed in the canopy. It struck me as odd that I would have such emotion for a place, for people, for a time that really had nothing to do with me and my life.
As I sat in the lush and lovely garden where so many people of interest, famous, not so famous, artists, politicians, philosophers and various vagabonds had surely drank morning coffee, shared mescal while lamenting lost loves, strummed guitars, argued opinions, generally celebrated and mourned the complicated human existence, I realized the emotion I felt was not just nostalgia for things past, it was for the experience I had over the last week, it was for the longing I have to continue traveling, creating, loving, and the knowledge that right in that moment, I was one of those people in the lush and lovely garden, and that knowledge reminded me that I have my own garden, my own art, my own companions to argue opinions with, my own complicated and layered history, just as every person in this world does. That feeling is equally wonderful and overwhelming, to know that we are all complicated, connected, perfectly imperfect, layered and many faceted beings.
Mexico is a country that does not let you forget that. On every corner, in every house, in every city, there are unique and distinct traditions, and at the same time, there are traditions that are the same in every place here, one being the hospitality that is a proud part of this place, the hospitality that brought down the great empire of Aztecs who welcomed the conquistadors into their cities, hospitality that eventually integrated all the colonizing cultures into one fascinating, vastly varying, and completely lovely layered country that is Mexico.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Prepa school Artist at Los Sueños

On Wednesday night we had the honor of hosting the art class from the Prepa school here at Casa de los Sueños. Nadia, the teacher, and her students came with beautiful pieces they had painted to show and sell to our group of Yogis.
These are some really talented and inspired artists, you can see that they were so proud to show their work and excited when they sold something.
Nadia is extremely motivated and hardworking, not to mention an absolute sweetheart. I have had the privilege to get to know some of the teachers from the school and they are all hard working, fun and motivated people.
The teachers in this country are up against very difficult odds, coming from government regulations that are un-helpful and un-realistic, circumstances of teaching and living conditions, down to daily issues of all teachers that can be frustrating and demoralizing.
We are so happy to help in any small way that we can and look forward to a continuing relationship of collaboration (we are talking murals, workshops, and much more here at Sueños).
Some people ask me, "why are you interested in the Prepa?" reason is simple. I remember being high school aged, I had the luck of going to a school where the teachers made an impact on my life in the best ways, I was allowed to be myself, to be creative, to grow into an adult that feels confident and supported.
I helped start a teen center when I was fresh out of high school, I did this because I knew I was lucky and not everyone had the same support I did in school and at home. I wanted to be there for youth that was lost and in need of someone just to talk to, to see them as a person.
Being a teenager is, I think, the most difficult, delicate, and important passage in life. It is a time to learn who you are, who you wish to be, who your friends are, and what path you would like to take into adulthood. For that reason, I hope to support the people that are supporting these kids, these kids that, with any luck, will go out into the world to learn and grow and come back to their little town with inspiration and hope for the next generations. And most certainly that would be a much less likely possibility if we don't have a high school here in Yelapa. For that, I will continue to support as much as possible. Stay tuned for ways you can help to.

Here are a few more photos.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What a difference a day makes.

This morning I was here. In the lovely cafe at the Posada del Cafeto. Where, for the last week, I have shared morning chatter, coffee and bread breaking (amazing pan dulce!) with so many wonderful bambuseros (maybe my favorite term learned this week). This group of scientists, cultivators, conservationists, enthusiasts, innovators, legends, and lovers of this crazy pre-historic, resource rich, enchanting plant. (Of which I will wax poetic about in future blogs) who are so warm, welcoming and really just a good time.
I was one if the last guests of the group. It felt a bit rushed and lonely this morning, after such a savoured time with so many great companions.
Then began a long travel day, 4 hour bus, insane rigamaroll around the Mexico City airport (made worse by too heavy and bad luggage choices), and an easy but full 1 hour flight to Puerto Vallarta.
Arriving I felt tired, hungry, and a bit lonely. As post travel blues are wont to do.
But I knew where I was going, what exactly I would do upon arrival, and that felt nice.
I taxi'd to my apartment in PV, dropped my too heavy/bad choice luggage off, and walked over to Joe Jack's Fish Shack for my favorite Niçoise salad and a ginger mojito, greeted and served by friends and familiar faces. 
Satiated and ready for rest I walked home in the balmy breeze of this cobbled seaside town. I remembered that the best thing is traveling and having an amazing experience, and then feeling absolutely wonderful about coming home. 
Tomorrow I return to Yelapa, to the real start of the busy season, to even more friends and familiar faces, armed with a motivation and inspiration that, at this moment, makes me feel like I will achieve my highest dreams for myself and my community. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Movies, hurricanes and bamboo.

Its been a long week, one of those weeks that feels like a month.
A week ago I went to pick up my dear friends Jessica and Dave of Wooden Lens productions. They arrived to film a promotional video for Los Sueños. 
We got right to work, filming, cleaning, sweating. It was hotter than I ever remember it being at this time of year. Still and sweltering.
Weds night the power went out, no fan, no sleep.
Thurs morning we learned about a hurricane named Patricia. At that point it was strong and headed our way, but they always head our way then pass us by. Everything was pretty much business as usual.
That evening a small group of people who practice karate arrived from Guadalajara. I spoke with the boat captain and he said all the ports were closed, we'd get big winds and a lot of rain, pretty normal for us.
All the boats were being put into the lagoon, also not totally abnormal...although a sure sign of a doozy of a storm.
Since there had been no power, phones were short on charge and there was no wifi. So no news or warnings reached us that night.
In the morning I took down the mirrors and breakable things at the more open casa arboles and we went over to Los Sueños, which is lower on the mountain and more protected.
At that point we got the message that they were evacuating. However, it was too late, at that moment I heard the whistle from the Sarape (the large tourist ferry they had sent to evacuate people) indicating it was leaving...a sound I have always equated with happy time as a child, it indicated it was time to go home from wherever we were out playing. That day however, it indicated doom, bad choices meaning I had put my friends and guests in potential peril by not making sure they were evacuated.
Time for plan B, the secondary school was the designated place of safety, we turned on the generator, charged phones, packed go-bags, and filled water jugs. My wonderful employees helped until I told them to go home to their families. They deserve a hurricane bonus!
At that point one of the karate group came down from their casa and asked for rope...curious I went to see what they were up to, rope in tow. They were in the process of turning casa Buena Vista into a hurricane shelter. Tying mattresses to the windows, setting up the back bodega area with food, water, candles and of course wine!
So everyone began to carry all the mattresses (luckily we have plenty!), heavy furniture and supplies up there. It felt good to be busy, schlepping things through the rain, finding all the rope we could, setting up house. The karate crew was diligent, very well organized, and in good humor, we followed suit. Soon there was a safe spot, we all felt good about it, if not exhausted.
Then we waited. Watched the rain. Watched the trajectory of the eye of the storm. And waited some more.
Late in the evening we got the news that Patricia had hit land south of us and was moving into the mountains. We were out of serious danger, but knew we could still get a lot of wind and rain depending on where it went.
In the end we went to bed around 2am, to the sound of a light cooling rain and a few gusts of wind.
Woke up to a sunny day, with not a fallen branch or a flooded patio. Employees filed in, and exhausted but relieved we got back to filming, cleaning, sweating.
It is a truly strange thing, to know that destruction is hurtling toward you, to imagine this destruction, to hope it will only be material things destroyed, and to wake up to nothing changed, to return all the mattresses, supplies, and people to their usual place. Strange and wonderful.
The towns to the south and in the sierras were not spared destruction, and we must help them to rebuild...but by some miracle of nature (or whatever you want to name it) no lives were reported lost due to the storm. Incredible.
We finished filming (the video is going to be amazing!), headed into PV, Jess and Dave back to San Francisco. 
And I to Xalapa, Veracruz. Now I am sitting in a beautiful mountain city on the other side of the country. Falling in love with it's misty multi-leveled streets, it's sweet friendly people, and it's artsy university style.
Ready to learn all about the amazing bamboo plant and connect with people who love and study it.
As my godmother Peggy (who I believe shooed away Patricia, saying "not my house!") always said onward and upward! 
I am left with an overwhelming feeling of relief, love for my community, appreciation for what I have, and the knowledge that I live a charmed life.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!