all posts, community, mental health, miscellaneous, nature/the environment

the night school (part 1)

cold dark eerie environment
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I like finding free things to do online (21 days of yoga, weekly journal prompts, etc). I don’t always carry through with many of them, but I enjoy the challenge and the game of setting up something to do, and usually am drawn towards things that involved a lot of self reflection.

This particular project is called The Night School by Maia Toll. I am doing the “part-time” option, which means I will be focusing on the weekly writing prompts (because I don’t have the time or attention span to watch the discussion and ritual videos… I’m still not super into watching videos that require intense focus). But even so, just doing the weekly prompts includes readings from her book (see below) and some general context and discussion points. I look forward to seeing what comes of doing it for the “semester”.

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This week’s assignment was: What in the world feels alive to you and what feels lifeless? Why? Examine your preconceptions.

What feels alive to me? I think I define aliveness too literally, but the email also goes into detail about the energies of things which I find easier to relate to. When I was growing up in Maryland we lived near a small woods. The woods were cool because you couldn’t really get lost in them (it was fairly easy to run out into some neighborhood), but if you knew your way, you could walk through the woods to get all the way to the C&O canal without having to pass really anyone’s homes. I often went into these woods when I was annoyed or upset, or just when I wanted to bike/run through, and if it was getting later in the day and darkness started creeping in (as it always did in the woods before the neighbors since there were so many trees) I remember at some point I started talking to the woods asking for safe passage. I specifically would say the same phrase every time, in French, because I thought the language was older and thus more likely that the trees would know it. Now it’s also interesting because I never had the feeling that the woods were hostile or required me to ask for safe passage, but I always felt it deserved the respect of the question anyway, and that more likely the woods would protect me from something else. In other way, I never had anything bad or shady happen to me in the woods and I continue to visit it when I visit my parents.

Now living in the city where I do I have become much more anxious than I used to be. Part of it was working through my own neuroses of being a stay-at-home mom in a culture where that is very unusual (I am also a young mom in this particular city culture). But even as I work through that hurdle, I realize the city itself makes me anxious. It has such haphazard energy all the time. It is alway noisy during the day (July and September seem to be when all the road construction happens), but it’s also a tiny city that has narrow streets and crazy road patterns, and yet the same 1/4 mile strip of street will be shared with 3 separate road construction projects, 50+ cyclists who have to weave into car traffic to pass one another or to turn, pedestrians that no one can see due to parked cars, standing aside cross walks that have varying degrees of visibility (from electronically lit up to make shift single cones denoting the spot on the sidewalk where they should start to cross). The energy is impatient. People are constantly walking around, no smiles to spare (I often try to say hello to humans on principle and get a range of results). Though the speed isn’t always fast, the tempo varies abruptly as though the very act of having to engage with one another is a burden. And the chug of cars is never-ending. We have driven at all times and find that 3am to 8am is a pleasant time to drive on a weekend in the city. On a weekday, it’s more like 3am to 7am. The weather can be obnoxious, from sun beating down at all angles (it’s literally always directly in our faces when we drive in any direction in the morning) and the winds pick up strong enough to blow away our baby on account of the various wind tunnels created by lots of buildings and few trees. It feels chaotic and it often makes me agitated to encounter it. It took me a long time to realize that this pulse of energy existed and how it impacted me but over time it has become more clear.

Now that is not to say there aren’t pockets that are more peaceful. I keep finding some but the problem is they are hard to get too or fleeting in nature. For example, I jogged through the tree-part of the city to get to an open house for a toddler music class, and minus the fear of being late, the whole adventure was quite relaxing. It had the iconic early fall feel and the class was very cute. That kind of energy emitted a peace that I crave often, and as such, I’ll definitely be taking Fi back, but always by foot if possible.

Examining my preconceptions… well in a nutshell it would seem to follow the standard assumption of city = bad energy, and woods = good energy. But it could be argued that the reason I enjoyed my parents’ woods was because it was near enough to civilization that I never had to feel lost or in real danger. And it could be argued that there are cities that can exude a good time of peaceful energy, particularly ones that are not so jammed with traffic, have more explicit community, and dedicate more time to their green spaces equally across their land. And I know I personally wouldn’t enjoy living in a large woods all alone. I like people- or well, I like community. I think both extremes: alone in a large wood and emotionally alone in a dense city have the same energy to me, fearful. There is something I find primally terrifying about being alone. And not in a “I’ll have to do things for myself kind of way” but in a “no one will have your back if something goes wrong” kind of way. So resonant energies that feel good to me have to leak some kind of energy that feels communal. A crowded Boston T train doesn’t feel communal because everyone is looking out for themselves, usually annoyed to be on the train, and avoiding eye contact with one another, pretending they are alone while sandwiched like sardines. The idyllic memoirs of people traveling in European trains not so long ago had more of the communal feel, with older adults looking out for young children traveling alone, with space on trains to sit and eat, with an impetus to reach out and connect to your neighbor if for no other reason that to pass the time (and that was not unique to Europe, I just happened to have read a French memoir more recently).

Anyway, I’ll stop there for now. My brain has travelled off on to other things.

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all posts, community, mortality

let’s talk about death

burial cemetery countryside cross
Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

I seem to be drawn to fields of study that general society deems taboo. From talking about vaginas and all things women’s health, to my desire to talk about death, I really seem to have no boundaries. And so, with that, let’s talk about death.

I recently came across the profession of death doulas, and if I have a calling, I think it’s to become a death doula one day. More on that in a bit.

A doula I believe traditionally is defined as a woman who serves, and is used to denote women who work with other women, specifically in a birth and postpartum context. Both birth and postpartum doulas work as support people for pregnant women/moms, helping them to navigate various systems and life changes. Historically, communities were stronger and so the need for doulas was not so defined (women generally were supported by other women of varying ages, from friends to skilled midwives, and this support could start during the pregnancy and continue through childrearing years). But as we’ve become more individualized and modernized, this communal support has seen rapid decline, and so the doula profession developed to help remedy the lapse of the support.

So then, death doulas? Well, another consequence of the rapid modernization and aggressive individualism has been a shift away from dealing with death. We don’t tend to our deceased personally, we often have family members in homes that we don’t visit, we see more and more people dying in hospitals alone, or dying after enduring unending painful medical attempts to save/prolong their lives. More and more people are starting to feel that the way we treat the dying, and the lack of support around the times of dying are wrong, and it was from this belief that the profession of a death doula was formed.

The first formalized death doula I believe was Henry Fersko-Weiss. Inspired by the birth doula model, and disappointed by his own experience with his father’s and many of his patients’ deaths, Ferkso-Weiss wanted to create a profession that would allow for people to die better.

I know this is a weird and uncomfortable thing to get around. How on earth does one die better? Dying is miserable! It’s the end of life, etc. It’s hard to wrap one’s head around it, but that doesn’t make it any less important. A consequence of our culture’s death aversion has been increased fear. I distinctly remember my own personal existential crisis around age 7 or so when I confessed to my best friend that I was terrified about dying and becoming nothing. She replied back that this is why many people turn to religion, because it gives us something to believe in (very wise words for a 7-year old). This led me to years of trying to decide whether I believed in something or not (jury’s still out) and if not, how did I make sure I had a meaningful life until my time was over. The culmination of years following show a web of confused choices as I tried (and continue to try) to figure out what is important to me. As a result, I personally come across as erratic and fickle because I seem to change my mind instantaneously when in actuality I am constantly weighing my choices via long term projections, and thus constantly tweaking my day to day behaviors.

Now many people think that thinking and talking about death will get you depressed and worried. I believe the results of the death doula profession are seeing the opposite. Many people find that understanding that we are mortal and working towards accepting that allow them to appreciate life more. And people draw to being death doulas seem to be extreme lovers of life. My personal role model is Alua Arthur. She has an amazing video called I Plan People’s Death For A Living, which so distinctly highlights why she does what she does, and how it’s not as morbid as you think.

To fill the time between now and when I start actively studying to become a death doula (so after the baby (babies?) is (are?) in high school most likely), I have begun the process of reading all there is to read on dying, death, and how we as humans think about it, and how we process and deal with our/our loved ones’ mortality. It’s a fascinating field. And yes, it definitely can provoke the waterworks, but that’s just part of being human.

It’s also interesting because having the skin condition/autoimmune issues I do has made me much more aware of my mortality. If everyone is going on about how your 20s are your magic years, your skin is still great and you are super healthy, yatta yatta, than I already identify as someone who is past her prime. And I don’t feel negatively about this, but I do believe it influences the way I see the world and makes me think about the future in a more concrete fashion than many of my peers. Like when I said I wanted kids before 30, I realized I was 26, that it takes 10 months (ish) to create a baby, and so if I want to be done having kids by 30, it was time to start (and luckily my partner felt the same way).

I’ll end there for now, but this will probably be a running series of posts because it helps me get things out of my head if I write them down.

all posts, miscellaneous, community, nature/the environment

the man who tamed the birds

white birds perched in front of lamppost
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

I’m combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content.  🙂

There are moments when we see something amazing, something that is out of the ordinary or just generally impressive. In these moments, it’s often the case that what we are seeing is Time.

As a new mom, with the privilege of choice to stay at home (which in itself is a misnomer of a phrase because the babe and I often venture out of the home ), I have an unprecedented view of Time. That isn’t to say that I have more time than anyone else, but that I am in a unique position to view it.

Often I must wait it out with Time as my babe sleeps. Time waits for no man, or so they say, but it does cozy down with a parent waiting on a sleeping child. Time and I, we sit and drink tea, and read books, and very often daydream in the quiet stolen moments of when the baby slumbers.

When the baby is awake we sometimes accompany Time on his off moments, the pockets of space where others are ensconced in their own busyness, to head out as a mother-daughter dyad and explore the world. We meander along aimlessly, especially if the weather is fair.

On one such occasion, walking down what I consider a confused highway (Mass Ave), the baby and I encountered Time as he followed along beside an older Asian man. This man caught my eye as I walked by because he too, clearly had noticed Time and abruptly but unalarmingly, stopped not too long after passing me and the baby by.

But what really kept my attention were the birds. They, these pigeons of the city, noticed the man’s approach and quickly behaved like their feral-er cousins and flocked, in rolling bumbling waves, towards the man until they were crowded opposite to him, separated by the chains of an open air lot.

The man, clearly practiced, produced a black pouch from his person, opened it deftly, and began methodically tossing measured handfuls of some sort of seeds to the bird crowd. The pigeons continued their rolling bumble over one another as they entropically scattered to maximize their collection rates.

All through this, I had slowed down myself, intrigued by this fellow Time companion, and smiled as I thought about how after this gentleman must have routinely stopped with Time to have these birds now recognize his approach in earnest.

If you ask me, I can generically say where I was (though I never know what road it was save for off Mass Ave, but I have no recollection of the hour or day. I have seen him once again since that first encounter. This second sighting, in which I paused my husband to witness as well, all I can recall are he man and his black pouch full of seeds. Other than that, Time has rubbed away any other specifics from my mind, because indeed those specifics don’t matter.

all posts, community, eczema, women's health

why doesn’t the postpartum period include eczema care?

two man and two woman standing on green grass field
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I’m combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content. 🙂

As you may or may not know about me, my goal in life (career-wise at least) is to create a company that cultivates support for women with chronic illnesses as they embark on becoming mothers. One of my dreams is that services provided will help to make up for the loss of midwifery-type support that towns and cities used to have, and combat the decrease of share “wise woman” spaces, but specifically in the context of helping women who have varying autoimmune or other chronic disorders.

In my dream scenario, this company I create is inspired by community and healthy social growth, devoted to bringing together all people, not just those who can pay, or who are healthy.

If I ever delved into having a physical space for the company (as opposed to being a traveling owner), the space would be free to visit (when not going to a scheduled appointment), and would have lots of nooks and tables and chairs for people to enjoy the space, and some days would have events that would have an entrance fee but it would be reasonable, and would include a free meal that my husband would make along with other perks like meet-the-community-support-team, free lectures/discussions, etc. We’d work with local hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other places that rent out rooms to make sure there were plenty of accommodations ready too, which would help bring money back into the town.

Anyway, I could go on for days, but as a result of my lofty goal, I constantly have my eyes peeled for events or opportunities that bring about that community feel, especially in women’s health. 4th Trimester Arizona is one of those awesome events I learned of after it occurred. It seemed like the perfect fusion of mixing the community members (moms, dads, grandparents, etc) with local businesses, and with health/health care professionals, allowing for support and engagement for new moms and their families. The event included workshops, panels, free wellness services, a dad track, bonding activities, and more, all with the intent of strengthening community.

Going through a few of the speakers of 4th Trimester Arizona led me to Matrescence 4th Trimester Planning and Support, an organization started by Caitlin Green Cheney and Elizabeth Wood. They hold workshops that include how to prepare for the 4th trimester, including how to make a support system. Here is a Q&A session they did that tells a little more about their company and their backgrounds/how they got to where there are. They also encouraged me, because although they are more of a service you pay for, their intent is still to help provide education in tandem with support. I am finding that one thing most humans seem to crave in this day is more support in their endeavors; the world has gotten so big and diverse that finding a space where you feel a part of is so important. Hence my whole reason for wanting to become a postpartum advisor for women that are usually the most isolated, those who are chronically ill.

all posts, community, nature/the environment, parentings/things about baby and kids

on parenting, environmentalism, and community

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Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

I’m combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content. 🙂

I read the book Achtung Baby by Sara Zaske, which was a great read all about the differences in parenting mentalities and practices of Germany (specifically Berlin) versus the U.S. It covered categories ranging from policies about children walking to and from school alone, to history courses offered at their respective schools and the differing practices when it comes to forming children’s senses of cultural and civic responsibility, to how to allow the children to establish confidence in themselves.

Zaske also addresses the importance of unstructured play on future development of children, and how to try to change/influences policies where you live.

I read this books, not to replace my own instincts in parenting my baby, but to understand how much of my parenting style is built from within a specific culture, and is not just “intuition”. The more I read, the more I see what culture I am blended within, and the more I can truly pick and choose what works best for me.

Of the “parenting” books, I have also read The Happiest Kids in the World by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchinson. It depicts two expats’ views on parenting, this time in the Netherlands. The expats were one British woman and one American woman talking about their insights into raising children (from infancy to eleven years of age) based on the fact that parenting in the Netherlands focuses on creating happy children. The whole society gets involved to make it a priority.

It’s a good read, and I recommend it for any parents who are worried that they are trying to push their children into checking off too many accomplishment boxes, without taking into account their children’s wants and preferences. Or it’s a fun read if you are just curious to understand how parenting is done in other places.

Previously, I also read Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, and French Twist by Catherine Crawford. So my distribution in countries has extended to Germany, France, and the Netherlands but I am working to expand that presently.

These books aren’t here to specifically instruct or convince readers on a certain way of how to parent per se. In fact, most of the authors are expats raising their kids in a new culture and then trying to blend that with their their own in attempt to find balance. However, they all do reflect on commonalities they see in whatever society they are part of at the time, the one that shapes their raising of children. They also do end up implanting little nuggets in the malleable pockets of my gray matter that make me question the status quo of my own culture. In particular, why does my culture (and many others) prioritize working above all?

How does removing playtime for young children and filling it with structured activities with parental supervision impact both the future generations of children as well as the parents currently doing the implementation? What can individuals do to try to mitigate the cascade of symptoms that lead to a cemented cultural practice enforced by litigation (the culture of suing everyone and everything for accidents)?

My mind is teeming with perceived implications for my own little one, and I’m wrought with fervor to carve out a way to achieve the most balanced route for her to grow as her own person. Now I wouldn’t say I worry about her future yet in the anxious melodramatic ways that bubbles into most of my thoughts, but I would say I’m genuinely curious about what happens next. How do I find like minded, community-based people who want to preserve the innocence of youth, but also encourage the growth of young independence in a society that looks to constant busyness as a sign of success? Is it possible within our societal framework? Also, what is happiness and how do we create a space for our children to discover it, and have it be lasting? More to come on this subject in later posts!

One last tie-in I have for today. I read a book called There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather by Linda Åkeson McGurk, and it compared different aspects of parenting in Scandinavian countries versus the United States (and other English-speaking countries). Much of it compares how the way we raise our children in regards to their relationships with nature. According to McGurk, in Scandinavia they have more focus on outdoor education for young children so that when those children grow up, they continue to appreciate nature and are naturally (ha, pun) more inclined towards environmental protection.

But another large takeaway from the book was that your society has to support these kinds of initiatives. In some Scandinavian countries, people can cross over (or children can play on) other people’s private land/property (think huge backyards and fields) legally, so long as they don’t cause any damage.

The countries also work to instill independence and responsibility in their children by letting them take more age-appropriate risks (like 8 year olds walking to and from parks alone, or playing outside for hours after they’ve gradually learned the areas with their families). I also recently rewatched Lord of the Rings with my husband, and it always instills in me how important nature is to humans, and how much of humanity just sees it as something to conquer rather than a large part of our health and happiness. We forget that we need the good bacteria from the soil and plants, that the fresh air helps decrease infection and disease risks, that our food either comes from or is fed from nature, that we derive a sense of peace from greenery, and that we can find comfort with change by appreciating seasonal life cycles.

It feels like letting our children learn from and develop stronger appreciations from nature sets them up with a good baseline to be happier and healthier than we are. I’m excited to hear and see about all the different initiatives small communities in America enact to figure out the balance that works for each child and family.

all posts, community, women's health

on matrescence

selective focus photo of woman carrying baby
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

I’m combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content. 🙂 This is a quick blurb from the women’s health field (a field I find endlessly fascinating).

If you follow news in the field of maternal health, you may have heard the term matrescence thrown around in the last year or so.

Often defined as the transition of a woman into motherhood, it has also been likened to going through adolescence again, mom-style, due to:

  • the fluctuation in hormones,
  • the rapid changes in the body,
  • the newly forming identity of oneself and one’s place in society, as well as
  • changes in one’s day to day life.

Alexandra Sacks, a psychiatrist, wrote a piece in the NY Times called The Birth of A Mother that proposes an idea for why this transition is so powerful, but often overlooked. She explains how a lot of this transition is overshadowed because society focuses on the baby and ignores how momentous of a change it is for the mother.

This lack of conversation around the realities of becoming a mother has been suspect in being one of the many factors that contributes to postpartum depression, as a mother may feel she is supposed to be ecstatic about her newborn baby, without expressing any negative emotions despite the magnitude of change her life has just undergone.

In effort to mitigate that mental divide, allowing mothers to express all their emotions, and to create recognition in society about the magnitude of change motherhood is, many companies, academic institutes, and individual professionals are researching and producing more information about this time, working to get the message across. Another huge player in the field is the clinical psychologist Aurélie Athan, whose focus is on reproductive psychology. She looks at both striving and struggling moms in order to normalize the transition to motherhood and continues to work to revive the term and meaning of matrescence. She has even worked on getting some of the first academic concentrations and graduate-level certificate programs created that focus on reproductive and maternal wellbeing because she recognizes the importance of getting health providers, activists, and others involved in the spread of awareness about matrescence.

So if you are a new mom wondering why you feel so off, so different, and how to deal with these feelings of ambivalence towards your new life, know that you are not alone and that you should definitely speak up about how you feel. It will help cultivate a culture of acceptance around our motherhood adolescence.

all posts, community, miscellaneous

featured on social media…

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I forgot to mention that Dove’s Derma Series featured one of my Instagram posts this past December.

I love sharing my story and trying to help others understand what it’s like to live in my body and also be a mom, so I was thrilled this happened.

Here’s the link to it if you’re curious.