on ghosts and spirits

This morning the freeway was completely shut down, and we were shuttled off and then back on. In passing, there was a small, snub-nosed truck bashed in and a semi-trailer askew in the road. Glass was shattered, and there might’ve been blood. We craned and craned our necks to see.

The other day, I waited in the front room of someone’s house, in the eerie morning calm, a woman’s voice came from somewhere in the most lovely, high Om. “She’s singing,” I thought. Later, we heard it again together, and she had not heard it before, and she had not been singing.

Once, my dying refrigerator let out a sigh so endearing, so piteous, so surprised to find itself in that kind of pain, that I quickly fell into a kind of mother’s love. When the motor moaned it’s last, sick “Ohhhh,” I placed my hand on it’s freezer and said goodbye.

In a windowless room, my lips dry, I stand at the threshold between this world and whatever red, watery one slowly emerged before it. Each baby is barely a thing, and suddenly you start seeing spirits everywhere.

the business side of things

It feels like I’ve ran around in circles figuring out the business side of things for my doula work. It’s hard, it’s a new language, but it gets easier. So far, I’ve worked as a doula on a very limited basis. To an extent, that will continue to be the case for me. I have a “day job” that I love, and that’s priority number one. Fortunately, my day job also allows me to comfortably take clients during certain times of the year. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many opportunities I’ve had to work as a doula, during times that work for me personally, and how quickly and positively the referrals have been flowing in. It’s truly humbling!

It makes sense that I continue to maintain a modest doula business–even if it sometimes feels like more of a hobby than a job–because in my day job I’m beginning to do more scholarship on doula work. Also, I work as a volunteer doula for women who otherwise would not be able to afford a doula, and while that has allowed me to gain a lot of experience with really varied birth situations, the scope of working as a volunteer doula is also limiting in many ways.

Though I’ll admit I’ve had some doubts and fears, this work has come together for me in a way that makes me feel like it is meant to be. It’s similar to my work as a yoga instructor, and similar to my work in the writing classroom. Working as a doula is part of who I am. This is where I’m supposed to be.

Here are a few blog posts that are really helpful for setting up a shop and specific to doula work, all written by Andrea Lythgoe:

not because you’re lonely

I am far too sensitive for online dating. There’s an entire hookup culture that is far too brash for my delicate sensibilities. For every few hundred lame messages, there is one that looks pretty good and can actually string a few complete sentences together. So, that gives me hope that the exercise is not futile.

I read something today that advised entering a relationship because you’re ready and not because you’re lonely. I don’t think anyone ever knows if or when they’re ready, but I think there’s some wisdom in the sentiment about loneliness. In the last few weeks, I’ve had a strong urge to go out and date somebody new. That’s partly because I’m a bit disoriented by it all and partly because Z has already expressed interest in dating someone new. It makes me think I need to do the same. Perhaps I even feel a little bit of competitiveness. Because Z ended the relationship, I think it would be easier for both of us, emotionally, if I am the first to “move on.” However, given our personalities, I think the reverse is more likely.

In a lot of ways, I resist relationships. However, I actually think being in a relationship isbest for me. So, I’m trying to be open. The online dating thing feels like an exercise. Going through the motions. I’m in no hurry. When and if the time is right, it will happen. In the meantime, so many things about my life are absolutely spectacular, and that’s worth focusing on.


I feel so unbelievably vulnerable right now—like standing naked in front of a crowd, skin unzipped revealing my insides. That’s how vulnerable I feel. When I am with Z, I am a raw little rug burn, trying to navigate how to be around each other in this new relationship.

I am now also signed up for online dating. I posted pictures of myself. I wrote a blurb. I’m out there for the world to see. Creeps might jerk off to the pictures. Students might see me and laugh. I’m doing it because, for the sea of literally thousands of people online, there are a small handful who actually look \ human, like me, like people who are also out there being vulnerable. I am doing it to find and forge connections with those people.

And let me tell you that it all feels very, very uncomfortable. I feel vulnerable. I am growing and it is good, I know. But in the meantime, trust me, it’s making me squirm.

Odalisque in Grisaille by Ingres, photo by Mark Skrobola 


Lately, I’ve been plagued with fatigue. I am exercising and working, but I am not doing anything extra. Seasonal allergies and fighting off a sinus infection(?) haven’t helped. Besides the physiological, I am also tired by stress and by the breakup and the stress of being online. Scholarship that was exciting a month ago, now feels like an insurmountable task. I am not worried. I’m still within normal, but it is interesting to see how much by body is reacting physically to the noise and change that’s going on all around me.

A few years ago, I finally embraced that I am a “delicate flower,” which means that I am super sensitive to emotions and change, and I take on other people’s energy when I am around them so much that I can literally feel myself buzzing with it for hours after I am alone again. It takes time to recover. Since tuning in to my body and making that realization, I’ve been even more careful and guarded about how I spend time and who I spend it with. Though I have been much more withdrawn because of it, I am happier for listening to and taking care of myself.


The “stepping back” is in full swing. The good parts are sleeping with new sheets and a froofy duvet cover. Eating less and more healthily. The bad is feelings of loneliness. Longing and uncertainty.

I’m entering a new phase in my relationship and in my life. It’s a bit disorienting, but I can’t honestly say that it feels bad or wrong in terms of my life’s path. I’m not sure exactly what to say about it because it’s still unraveling. In about a year, I’m sure I’ll have much more clarity over the situation.

When I got back into this relationship, someone suggested that they would be very hesitant to be in a relationship with someone who ever had depression. Okay, I agree(d), but most people I know suffer from mental issues in one form or another and that includes me. The line between the normal blues and depression is a fine one. Also, I’ve always been drawn to emotionally complex people, especially in the people I date. So, it feels like a catch-22.

Now, a year and a half later, I can’t help but feel like my relationship is coming to an end, not because of incompatibility, but just because of some bipolar cycling. Last fall I wrote about feeling manic myself. I am not bipolar. I think all people are prone to swings in moods and behavior and using the bipolar language can be really useful.

Here’s what happened that makes me think this separation is about being manic: Originally, Z was going to take a long trip for several months throughout the summer. That works for me personally because I like to have time alone and the summer is a great time to try to meet certain writing goals. This might seem like a red flag, but it’s really how we both want to live our lives, with some space, time apart, etc.

Then, things escalated. We discussed dating other people during that summer break. Next, we (and by “we” I mean “he”) decided to take a step back from our relationship altogether. Then that evolved very quickly into totally breaking up, with no plans to get back together. So, to recap, within about a month’s time, our great relationship very quickly unraveled, the stakes growing more intense each week until we were not together anymore. We quickly went from happily planning a future together to seeing other people, and basically homelessness on his part.

I still love him and believe in him, but it doesn’t feel real. It’s such a fast and shocking departure from the relative steadiness we’ve had in our relationship. I’ve cried hard a few times. As I mentioned earlier, this actually feels okay. Everything is going to be okay. But, on some level, I feel like I’ve been a victim of some unchecked bipolarism that’s just shit all over what was (is?) a really, really lovely thing.

round 2: knitting a baby blanket (with pattern!)

These baby blankets have been really fun to make! They provide a good opportunity to practice knitting. It’s a good way to get really comfortable knitting, purling, casting on, casting off, and joining in a new skein of yarn. They’re not very challenging, but they’re fun and satisfying. Also, as a doula, there are a lot of babies. So, baby blankets it is!

My most recent endeavor is making a baby blanket for a woman I work with who is having a baby within the month. I really loved the yarn I used. It’s Loops & Threads Morocco in the color “Spiced Chai.” I originally bought four lovely skeins on sale, all from the same lot. As I neared the end of my fourth skein, I realized I would need another one. Unfortunately, two nearby stores had discontinued the yarn, which is weird, because I love the color(s). Thankfully, I found a skein out in West Valley, which was, of course, from a different lot. Oh well.

The thread was Loops & Threads Morocco in "Spiced Chai."

The thread was Loops & Threads Morocco in “Spiced Chai.”

For some reason, this blanket turned out a lot more uneven than the last two. The end that was cast off was really pinched and tighter than the other end where it was cast on. I also dropped two stitches (oops!), and cobbled it back together, but I ended up with two holes, the largest being a little less than a centimeter in diameter. Not very noticeable, given the loose stitches I was using, but definitely something you can see if you’re looking.

The Materials:
I used five skeins of Loops & Threads Morocco in the color “Spiced Chai.” I used size US 13 knitting needles on the round. The needles were too big for this yarn, which might be why the blanket turned out lopsided. I liked the loose look of the knit, but in hindsight, it probably would’ve been better to knit it on US 11 needles. I can’t remember what size of needles the yarn called for.

The Pattern:
Cast on about 75 stitches. Stitch for 9 rows. Last time, I only stitched 7 rows and the border on the ends was thinner than the border on the sides, so I tried to make the ends a little bigger by adding two more rows. In hindsight, I probably should have add even more rows because the borders on the ends, were still a bit thinner than the sides.

Row 10: I knit seven stitches, marked it (with a twisty tie!), then purl stitched 61 stitches, marked it, then knit stitched the last seven stitches.

Row 11: I knit stitched seven stitches, marked it, then knit stitched 61 stitches, marked it again, and then knit stitched seven stitches.

Row 12-?: I continued to knit a regular stitch for the first and last seven stitches of each row, and then I alternated knitting and purling each row until I had almost finished five skeins of yarn. The end result was about 32 inches wide and 45 inches long.

Last 7 rows: I did a regular knit stitch for the last seven rows and then cast off.

The Final Product:

The baby blanket with border with Loops & Threads Morocco in Spiced Chai.

The baby blanket with border with Loops & Threads Morocco in Spiced Chai.

And another one, just because I love this wrapping paper! Here it is. All wrapped up.

gift wrapped

gift wrapped baby blanket

Fyi, a previous baby blanket knitting entry can be found here.


Despite my last “unravel” post, and the fact that things are still unraveling, I have been feeling very lovey, very *in the now*, and fairly optimistic about my future. And, despite the upheaval, Valentine’s Day was a delight. It involved a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, a pretty card, covered in a long love poem, followed by bacon, then skiing, and mermaid hair, red lips, and a no holds barred, oyster shooter and all, sushi dinner. So yeah, a pretty good day, all in all.


one of the many pretty spoils from Valentine’s Day


I’ve had the fortune of falling in love with a man who is a wanderer. He dreams of far away places and languages and new ways of living and looking at the world. My own wandering spirit is drawn to daydreams of places, and so I do not fault him for that. In fact, I love him for it. We frequently talk about the human experiences that one must have while on this earth–travel is one of them. However, this dynamic means that we are together, apart, together, apart, and together again. A less romantic view, may interpret this as two very frightened people, who are pushing each other away as hard as we possibly can.

It’s the kind of relationship built on heady reunions, longing, and then space and silence to write, and look very closely at my surroundings, followed by more longing, and more heady reunions. This has been going on for seven years and counting. I doubt this is the end. In between the longing and reuniting, I sometimes date, and probably will again, and maybe even fall in love, and have some entirely new experience. I think that’s the point.

Recently, it has become clear to us than an unraveling is imminent. I have my doubts about what that means and what we’re doing. For sure we’re just two idiots fumbling in the dark, twisted in the sheets, and searching for a light switch. What is less clear is whether or not two people can ever really be anything besides that. The key is to enjoy the searching and the fumbling, which I do, especially when it is with him, who is so beautiful that it hurts. I am in love, and I am heartbroken to be sure. 

Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula by Amy Wright Glenn

Since I began the doula certification process through DONA International, I have had to read myriad required books on labor and the work of being a labor companion. My favorite book by far has been Ina May Gaskin’s Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I pretty much love everything she does, but that book was has been the best so far.

image from Amazon

image from Amazon

As I’ve completed the required reading for the doula certification, I’ve been able to branch out and read some related works that are not on the list. While I’ve browsed through a few other titles, Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula by Amy Wright Glenn has been the standout. It’s a really interesting book that (perhaps controversially) makes the connection between doula work and chaplaincy.

Let me get my criticisms out of the way first (because that’s always the worst part). Organization. This book has an organization problem. It appears to be a mash up of personal reflection (that is wonderful!) and what reads like long excerpts from a recycled academic paper on spirituality, love, philosophy (which is fine, but less wonderful). I sometimes found myself wanting her to get back to her stories, lovely insights, and self-reflection.

Glenn’s experience and her perspective is absolutely rich. It felt like an indulgence, and I wanted more. Since I began this work, I have often thought of the close connection between doula work and chaplaincy—although I haven’t thought chaplaincy was the right word—it makes me think of religion. Like yoga, doula work is more than spirituality. It also deals with the emotional and very much the physical. In fact, I imagine that chaplaincy work would do well to take a lead from the female-centric way that doulas have of guiding new life on to Earth (no big deal).

At a recent doula gathering, a new friend, still very emotional, shared that her father had recently passed away. As doulas, we discussed the way that doulas might facilitate a more peaceful, less medicalized passing, just like we are often asking questions and making plans in advance to help facilitating a more peaceful, empowered, and oftentimes a less medicalized birth.

It appears that Glenn has made that connection between birth and death in her own life’s work. A highlight of her book is her birth story. It’s one of the best I’ve ever read (though I have read [and witnessed!] many beautiful birth stories). Like all births, Glenn’s labor is unpredictable, and she is skilled at reflecting and sharing insights from the experience. More generally, I loved her insights on motherhood. I wanted to know even more about her thoughts on her own mother. I loved reading about the way she loves her son and the hesitations she had at becoming a mother in the first place.

If you find deep complexity in doula work, motherhood, childhood, life, and death, you’ll like this book. You might have to forgive it for lacking some of the polish (and organization) of other books, but if you’re like me, that forgiveness will be easy for the insight she offers.