My 2017 Year in Review

December 31, 2017

2017 was my first full calendar year working as a self-employed consultant. Self-employment has its challenges and it isn’t always easy or glamorous. I am proud of myself for quitting my full-time salaried job on a leap of faith and a commitment to continuing my values-based work while learning to prioritize my own self-care. Since it can be hard to pause and reflect on what I am doing when I’m in the weeds, I decided that I would do a personal year in review to celebrate some of the things I have accomplished and learned both personally and professionally. Because I am trying to write and share more about what I am up to, I decided that using my blog would be a good step in that direction.

When I left my job in May of 2016, I was burnt out and I was in bad shape mentally and physically. I was emaciated and malnourished and I had run my body into the ground. I had fallen into old patterns of neglecting my basic needs and was living in a constant state of anxiety, pressure, stress, exhaustion, hunger, shame and guilt. I’d lost touch with many people I loved, as I was either in full on work mode or I was shut down, non-functioning, and in need of solitude. My leadership coach, Dewey Schott, introduced me to the Trauma Exposure Response from the book Trauma Stewardship which I immediately read. This was the turning point for me when I realized that the only way I could get back to a healthy baseline was to find a dramatically different way to do my work and live my life. 

This year I am proud that I have stayed alive and am healthier than I have been in many years. I have learned that I am much better equipped to handle stress and keep my depression and anxiety at bay when I consistently get good sleep, eat regularly, stay on a routine and have permission to pace myself. For me this means avoiding staying in bed all day and sleeping too much, as well as not getting enough sleep. This year I was able to create new routines and stick to them (though trust me, I still totally do days in bed and nights without enough sleep on occasion!) I only recently realized just how sick I was as I have started to feel strong, healthy and connected again.

Even the stressful or high-pressure parts of what I do seem much more manageable because how I approach my work has changed, as has my ability to set and hold boundaries without guilt. I am able to be present, step back when needed and identify what my triggers are. I still have patterns that pop up, but I am able to notice and anticipate them in a way that gives me permission and space to imagine and then try new ways to navigate them.  

I have learned to continue to listen to and trust my instincts, my gut and my body. Throughout my life I have made many decisions that are outside of what people have expected me to do, and at times this has likely led me down a harder path to where I was going. Ultimately, living true to myself and trusting that I already know what I need has generally worked out for me in the long run. I have learned resilience, survival, discipline, frugality, and creating new ways to break into the places people say me and those I love can not go. What I call my “work” is not really work in the traditional sense, it is my life and how I live. But I have to stay alive and healthy to do it well and with integrity.

As usual, none of  this would have been possible without a strong community of friends, family, mentors, colleagues and co-conspirators. I am immensely privileged to be so connected, loved and supported by an incredible community of people. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my year and have given me strength, made me laugh, connected me to work opportunities, challenged me, taught me something, told me their story, fed me and/or helped to keep me afloat in the more difficult moments. I think you know who you are, but I will keep working to do a better job of telling you directly.

Here are some of the other things that happened for me personally and professionally in 2017:

  • I worked my first legislative session as a Lobbyist and Legislative Consultant in the Georgia General Assembly and SB185 was introduced to lower the standard of proof for intellectual disability in death penalty cases. Though the bill did not pass in 2017, we had a hearing on the on the bill by the Senate Judiciary Committee and I provided testimony in support. I will continue my work to pass this legislation during the upcoming 2018 legislative session.
2017 Lobbyist Badge

My 2017 Lobbyist Badge

  • I helped to organize a celebration of the life of my friend and mentor Dottie Adams, who died at the end of 2016.
  • My friend Gabby and I completed over 75 individual quilt squares designed by folks who attended Dottie’s workshop at the 2016 Georgia Gathering.
Quilts Squares 2017

A few of the quilt squares

  • I facilitated an introductory Asset-Based Community Development workshop for a the Beloved Community in Statesboro, GA.
  • I completed a 1-day graphic facilitation training and a 2-day MAPS/PATH training facilitated by Lynda Kahn and Jack Pearpoint.
  • I applied for and got an interview for a dream job.
  • I designed and facilitated 6 trainings on Intellectual Disability and the Death Penalty in Georgia.
  • I presented about community building for inclusion alongside my dear friend DeAmon Harges to a group of folks involved with Neigbours Inc. in New Jersey.
  • I co-designed and co-facilitated two workshops,”Equity and Community Engagement in Grantmaking” and “Leading by Stepping Back: Meaningful Resident Partnership in Service Provision and Community Development” with DeAmon Harges and Lisa Duran in Denver, sponsored by Grassroots Grantmakers, the Denver Foundation and The Learning Tree.
  • I organized a quilt photo shoot with photographer Robin Rayne Nelson (in space donated by Pride School Atlanta) of some of Dottie Adams’ quilts.
  • I celebrated 19 years of veganism in April.
  • I celebrated a year of self-employment in May.
  • I got to work with and support some of my favorite Community Builders in different ways.
  • I realized that many of the people I worked with over the years have become my close friends and I have enjoyed spending more social time with them.
  • I stayed connected with my with my mentors and colleagues and continually found ways to stretch, learn and challenge myself personally and professionally. 
  • I participated in the Hall County Relay for Life in honor of Dottie Adams.
  • I met with many legislators and got to explore new towns in rural Georgia that I had never been to before.
  • I served as a group leader for Power of Roles trainings in Morrow, Dublin, Tifton and Columbus.
  • I spoke at the launch of a Lush Cosmetics bath bomb at Perimeter Mall which gave proceeds to groups working to abolish the death penalty.
  • I went to San Francisco for a vacation with some of my closest friends and didn’t just do family stuff.
  • I celebrated my partner, Lis, getting a new job in June and we celebrated 2 years together in July.
Lis and Caitlin at Robins wedding

Lis and Caitlin

  • I paid my quarterly federal taxes and stayed super organized with my receipts, mileage logs, and book keeping.
  • I helped my best friend pack up several generations of stuff at his parents house and box up important family heirlooms.
  • I helped organize the Georgia Disability History Symposium at the University of Georgia and facilitated a panel as part of the event.
  • I traveled to Savannah for the annual birthday party we throw for my friend, Johnny.
  • I hosted my brilliant, young, cat-loving and aspiring attorney friend, DeJanae, for a week. I got to introduce her to some of my favorite ATLiens, take her to the Cat Cafe and bring her along to some of my work meetings that were law-related, including one at the State Bar of Georgia.
  • I applied for and didn’t get a fellowship I really wanted.
  • I talked to a group of local high school students about community building and why I love my neighborhood.
  • I successfully completed and assisted with a 4-day Introduction to Social Role Valorization training in Tifton, GA.
  • I threw a party for one of my best friends to celebrate 10 years since we almost lost him in a motorcycle accident.
  • I celebrated the marriage of a dear friend.
  • I applied for and got a grant.
  • I said “no” when I needed to and “yes” when I wanted to.
  • I was able to show up and support friends in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to a couple years ago.
  • I reconnected with many friends I’d lost touch with when I was working way too much.
  • I attended the Georgia Advocacy Office‘s 40th anniversary gala.
  • I co-designed and co-facilitated the workshop “Equity and Community Engagement in Grantmaking: How Grantmaking Benefits When Residents Are Involved In Philanthropy” with Lisa Duran and DeAmon Harges in Atlanta sponsored by Grassroots Grantmakers, The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.
  • I group led What is a Home and assistant group led Meaningful Day workshops in Savannah.
  • I took on a freelance writing project for a group that I love and I got to hire a talented friend to do the layout and design.
  • I was able to drop everything and make a last minute trip to visit my grandmother in San Francisco when she had been in the hospital.
  • I co-designed and co-facilitated a 4 hour “Community Building for Inclusion” workshop at TASH in Atlanta with Basmat Ahmed, Jenna Quigley, and Teri Schell and it was a huge success!
Jenna Teri Basmat Caitlin TASH

Jenna, Teri, Basmat and I after finishing our workshop at TASH

  • I secured 4 contracts for work in 2018 before the end of 2017.
  • I remembered how much I love designing and facilitating spaces for folks to come together to learn.
  • I finally made it down to Monroeville, AL and got to leave a camellia on Harper Lee’s grave.
Harper Lee Grave

Harper Lee’s grave in Monroeville, AL

  • I read more books.
  • I wrote (which is something I plan to do more of next year!)
  • I kept a beautiful and lush garden of flowers alive and thriving with only a few casualties. I also successfully grew vegetables in the container garden on my porch.
  • I kept a dog alive and helped her to learn how to trust again (and honestly, she could probably say the same about me!)
Sleepy Jessie

Jessie the dog

  • I drove 4,965.65 miles for work in my car (and way more if I count the miles I drove on other people’s cars!)

Here’s to these lessons learned and adventures had in 2017 and the ones yet to come in 2018!

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Femmethology Spotlight on Yours Truly!

April 29, 2009

Every week Homofactus Press features a interview with a contributor from Visible: A Femmethology. Below is a excerpt from my interview. Click the link at the bottom for the whole thing and check out the archives for past interviews. I am honored to be published alongside so many smart and thoughtful queers!

How do you define your femme identity?
I am a queer intersex woman who purposefully and thoughtfully creates and plays with a feminine gender that was consciously created by and for me. My femme gender is smart, sassy, tough, glamorous and fun. My shoe collection consists of tons of heels (4″+ please!), skate shoes and lots and lots of boots. My style varies between classic pin-up burlesque bombshell, punk rock riot grrrl and the always trusty jeans and t-shirts. My armpits are always hairy but I shave my legs most of the time. Bikini Kill’s self-titled EP changed my life, yet Britney Spears is one of my favorites. When I grow up I want to be a combination of Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls and Ruth from Fried Green Tomatoes. My femme identity did not come easily or quickly, and I had to work through a lot of my own internalized femme phobia and misogyny to get here. My identity as a femme changes and gets deeper and more complicated daily. I love contradictions. I love the surprises people hold and the way that opposites can co-exist in one person.

How do other identities you have not only intersect with femme but also contradict it?
As an intersex person, I have often felt different from other femmes. So much about femme identity and femininity is linked to being penetrated vaginally (I was born without a vagina) and often to having children (I was born without a uterus too.) Being a femme woman in a body that was initially assigned female but finding out when I was a teenager that my body didn’t quite fit that narrow category definitely informed my views on my own gender identity. Many assumptions are made about me and my body because of how I present my gender, because of my time as a sex worker, etc.

Read the whole thing on the Homofactus Press website by clicking here


Why are queers shopping at Amazon.com anyway?

April 15, 2009

My butch dearest and I just returned from a relaxing (and much needed) weekend away in the North Georgia Mountains. Upon checking my email, I was bombarded with multiple messages about Amazon.com removing LGBT books from being ranked on their website.

Now, I get the general reasons people are upset: labeling anything with queer content as “adult” while letting hetero books that clearly contain “adult” content stay is not cute. I was lucky to come from a book worshiping home where I was allowed to read anything and everything I could get my hands on. As a high school drop out with little formal education, I credit this access to books and information with giving me a great, although non-traditional, education. Queer folks (especially youth) need these books – a way to figure out the answers to the questions we sometimes can’t say out loud. To find out what the options are. To know we aren’t alone. Many isolated folks are not aware of alternative sources for books and information and Amazon.com is a likely a place someone struggling with or figuring out their queerness would go.

I also understand that it conjures up all kinds of images of crazed PTAs storming the school library and confiscating copies of Judy Blume books.

All that said, I’m still a little baffled by all the hoopla.

I am fortunate to live in one of the cities that is home to an independent, queer owned and run, feminist bookstore, Charis Books and More.

Charis opened in 1974 and has managed to survive in spite of Borders and Barnes Noble/Amazon.com. As of today there are only 10 feminist bookstores in the U.S. and Canada (compared to 120 in 1994.) I first found Charis as a kid when my mom would take me to its original storefront location on Moreland Ave. in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta. When I was 15, a hot angsty mess, and starting to figure out my queer identity, I rediscovered Charis, on my own this time. They had moved to a house caddy-corner to their original location. Inside I found hundreds of books to help me sort my shit out, as well as a community. I began volunteering at the bookstore and continued to do so off and on. I learned about Charis Circle, the non profit sister organization to the bookstore which puts on free author readings, books groups, writing groups, and social justice programming in the store. When I was 20 I volunteered as a mentor in the fabulous but now defunct ‘Sistergirls’ program and a year or so later joined the board of directors and served for 2 years. I also completed a 7 month fellowship with the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities by spending 20 hours a week as part of the Charis Circle staff organizing disability specific programming and outreach via Charis Circle. This fellowship allowed me to create an ongoing disability series at Charis, which continues today, more than a year after my fellowship came to an end.

Charis (both the Circle and Store) have changed my life multiple times in the 10 years I’ve been going sans mom. They have offered me a never ending world of books, the opportunity to meet my favorite authors and even share a meal with one of them (Michelle Tea!!), a space to further my social justice and community organizing work, and above all else, a community. I’ve grown up at Charis. Gone from an awkward and angry punk rock baby dyke to a confident (and still angry) femme 20-something.

My question to folks outraged by Amazon’s shennanigans: Why aren’t we buying our books from the Charis or any of the feminist bookstores or LGBT bookstores (do a google search if you want to see if there is one in your area) or even your local indie bookstore which you can find listed here? Why is anyone surprised that a mega corporation, who is currently controlling the books that most people in the U.S. buy and have access to, is censoring queer, feminist and sex positive voices? Why are we allowing Amazon.com to be our source for progressive and radical information in the first place?

Bookstores like Charis exist to support OUR voices, to fight damage done to our communities by corporations like Amazon.com and Co. Even if you are somewhere with no indie bookstore, you can order online from most indies these days and most are more than happy to special order any book your heart can dream of (or recommend a damn good one if you don’t know what you’re looking for.)

Charis offers 10% off all online orders, so what are you waiting for? Click here and start shopping today! Let’s stop trying to force corporations to accommodate our community’s needs or think that buying corporate support will liberate us. Let’s instead support those who truly support us, in part because they are part of our community. Borders and Barnes and Noble/Amazon.com may be on every corner and always offer free shipping, but they can’t come remotely close to provide the never ending list of things a good independent bookstore does. If these aren’t enough reasons to shop independent, here are some more from the Indie Bound website:

Why shop Indie?

When you shop at an independently owned business, your entire community benefits:

The Economy

  • Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
  • Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
  • More of your taxes are reinvested in your community–where they belong.

The Environment

  • Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money to beautify your community.

The Community

  • Local retailers are your friends and neighbors—support them and they’ll support you.
  • Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
  • More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.