Monthly Archives: November 2013

the holidays

I never used to be the person who said this, but I am now: the holidays are hard. I want to be home with my immediate family, but I also want to be here, in my own home. I want to cook. I want to write. I want the warm fuzzies of the holidays. I have very high expectations because holidays past have almost always been really wonderful.

I wasn’t able to/chose not to go home to Oregon, and that was hard. But, I also got to have two Thanksgiving dinners–one with my boo’s family and one with my Utah family here. It was really nice to be with these wonderful people who I’ve come to know and love.

Christmas lights are up outside and this little tree is up for the second year in a row. I put a rebozo down for the tree skirt. I used to be completely against fake trees, but my mom convinced me otherwise. I can keep it up for longer, without it drying out and getting one in the city is a huge pain in the rear. Still, nothing beats the smell of fresh pine!

Last year was the first year that I had my own Christmas tree. Each year I do a little more to make my home festive for the holidays. Normally, I would just wait until I went to Oregon and then bake and decorate like crazy the entire time I was there. Now, things have changed. I’ve changed, my family dynamic has changed, and I have a stronger desire to develop my own rituals and traditions in my own home.

Part of this has to do with having someone to share the holidays with. But mostly, probably, it has to do with the fact that I am no longer a student (as I had been for my entire adult life) and can now afford to do a few simple things–like buy and string up Christmas lights, which I love!

Still, I miss my family in Oregon, and I can’t wait to see them at Christmas. Just a few more weeks of work and whole lot of grading, and I’ll be ready to go.

childbirth classes

I’m doing this very strange thing, which is attending seven-week long childbirth class. It’s strange because I am the only person in attendance who is not with a partner, and I am the only person there who is not pregnant. Most days, I try to bite my tongue and knit quietly in the back row (I’ve made good headway on this thing I’ve been knitting!). I was pretty quiet on the first day, but after that, I’ve shared my opinion once or twice during every class. I can’t help myself!

The teacher is really great, and providing a pretty neutral experience for the participants, which is no easy feat. It is very difficult to achieve neutrality when it comes to talking about childbirth. Everyone has an opinion, and there truly is no one right answer that applies to everyone. That said, the people in attendance are anxious, excited, funny, and thoughtful people. It makes me happy to know that these people who are having babies.

I’m attending the class as part of my training to become a certified doula through DONA International, and I’m really glad that I’m taking the class. This allows me to have a better idea of what patients already know about the hospital when I’m called in as a volunteer. It also gives me more information about what the childbirth classes are all about.

fat

I recently started counting calories. I’ve done this from time to time to get a better sense of what and how much I eat. In general, I am very lucky that I am not plagued by body image issues. For the most part, I like the way I look and am comfortable in my own skin. This is something I almost never hear other women say.

image by LexnGer

I am highly aware that many (most?) women are not comfortably with their bodies. I think this has very little to do with actual women’s bodies and more to do with cultural expectations about what women’s bodies should look like. So many of my friends and students talk about hating their bodies, feeling insecure, feeling worthless, and feeling like they have no personal identity or value.

This issue came up at the doula retreat last weekend. (I know I’ve been writing about that a lot, but I really gained a lot of insights there.) At the retreat, one woman admitted, “I almost didn’t come this morning because of weight issues.” I was stunned. Here was a normal-looking woman who was very nearly paralyzed by her body images issues. While I frequently want to back out of social events and obligations because I’m an introvert, I was shocked to think of women not attending a group event because of the way her body looks.

How many insights, interactions, and contributions do we miss because women choose to stay home? This question haunts me.

women, love, doulas

Last weekend I attended a doula retreat, and it was absolutely energizing and inspiring. People have been noticing my henna tattoo all week, and I tell them that I got it sitting around in a circle of women, while we painted each other’s hands. The only thing missing was hair braiding.

I love women.

We brought herbs, spices, and other goodies to add to the salt bowl.

The doula retreat, sponsored by the Utah Doula Association, created this lovely space (under a red tent, no less) for women to gather and talk about everything under the sun and all of it relating back to the female condition.

Let me tell you a secret. There is a large group of women out there, who love other women, who support them during their labor and delivery, who encourage women to find strength they didn’t know they had, women who facilitate and demystify breastfeeding—women who have knowledge about how to maneuver the physical and spiritual realm of being a woman, knowledge that women have a hard time finding anywhere else. They are doulas.

Parvati in candle form.

At the retreat, I gained a clearer idea of who I could be as a grown, adult woman. The group is incredibly diverse. I do not relate to everyone, but doulas need to be diverse because they serve a diverse population: all women.

5 Ways to Love Your Breasts

Why love your breasts? Some people believe that positive feelings correlate to good health. Beyond that, we live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with negative, false, or impossible messages about breasts. This post is intended to help women (and men) love breasts (and the rest of their bodies too). My hope is that the increased self love and acceptance will lead to happier people, less violence, more successful breastfeeding, and, eventually, world peace.

image by kidicarus222

1)  Stop wearing a bra. I realize this is not applicable for everyone (you ladies with huge breasts who suffer back pain etc., my hat goes off to you), but everyone can still try this and see how it feels. For some women, an unconventional, loose and loving “bra” might work too. Basically, it is tight and restrictive, you don’t have to wear it! I think most women would be surprised by how realistic (and pleasant) the switch to bralessness can be.

Sagging is the first counterargument to bralessness. Few studies have been done on whether or not bras are good for sagging boobs. Some schools of thought say that bras are better because they hold up breasts and keep them from sagging. Others say that bras weaken breast tissue and cause them to sag even more than they otherwise would. I think that genetics are such a factor here that it is difficult to say for sure how boob saggage is impacted by a bra. But, vanity aside, are bras good for breasts?

There are very few things written about women going braless. What is written is from sort of an über hippy perspective. Mostly, this is also a women’s rights issue. As I mentioned earlier, stigma around the breast has a lot to do with horrifying cultural expectations about women’s breasts. We have such a strange relationship with breasts. Going without a bra is incredibly controversial. Nipples are considered pornographic. Breastfeeding in public is sometimes illegal. This puts women in a very difficult situation because most of us are walking around with breasts hanging off the front of our bodies. Whether we boost them up in a padded underwire bra or strap them down under three sports bras, there they are. In so many ways, it feels like there is no right way to have breasts.

Note: I still wear bras sometimes. First, I have not yet fully converted my wardrobe to clothes that are bra-free-friendly. Second, sometimes, for short periods of time, I still like to wear a bra. I also always wear them when I run. Because of the culture and situation we live in, women can still be discriminated against if they choose not to wear a bra in some circumstances. Yes, discriminated against. Personally, I try to avoid wearing a bra whenever possible and work toward buying clothes and underwear that allow for more freedom of movement in my breasts, and I feel much better.

2)  Avoid antiperspirants and deodorants. I stopped wearing antiperspirants years ago–right before I began my Masters program, I think. It was a new and empowering time for me when I took more control over my body than ever before. Society was sending me a strong message that I shouldn’t sweat and I shouldn’t smell, but new research was coming out that the aluminum in antiperspirant was not good for the body. I thought really critically about it for the first time ever. I threw out my antiperspirant and never looked back. They never really worked for me anyway. I have a healthy, functioning body, and so I sweat. Toward the end of my relationship with antiperspirants, Dove had just come out with the “clinical” strength antiperspirant, and that stuff really worked if applied correctly. I didn’t sweat when I used it, but I felt weird and sort of pent up all day.

I still wear deodorant, Tom’s of Maine, but I’m thinking about avoiding that all together based on a conversation that I had with a pro-breast health woman last weekend. I am realizing that I am clean. I shower. It’s fine.

3)  Practice yoga. Yoga stretches the body, releases toxins, massages fascia, and helps pump the lymphatic system. Breasts produce hormones. It makes sense that they need to circulate so the body can effectively use, process, and eliminate. One can imagine how disease could manifest in a situation where this system is disrupted–by a bra or inactivity.

I even started teaching and practicing yoga without a bra! I usually wear an undershirt with a larger t-shirt over the top, and this has worked perfectly. I’ve had the urge to practice yoga without a bra for years. This urge is especially strong in Bikram (hot) yoga, where I, like most women, wear only a sports bra and short shorts. The heat in hot yoga is so purifying and detoxifying that the bra feels incredibly stifling. Bras feel so terrible in yoga because the lymphatic system is restricted. So, while a yoga practice stretches and cleanses, the bra is simultaneously impeding that process.

image by TipsTimes

4)  Massage your breasts. I’ll admit, this is a hard habit to start. I’ve practiced it on an off for a few weeks at a time, but it is a ritual that I would like to implement daily. It’s about lovingly massaging the breasts (which is easiest to do when not wearing a bra, by the way). This too helps move and release hormones and other stuff that is in the (mostly stationary) breasts. In pornography and in popular culture, we are often exposed to a “grabby” approach to breasts. Breastfeeding children grab at the breasts. Men (and women) grab at the breasts in sex. Breast massage is different–it’s an open palm circular rubdown. This is less about fingers and more about the palms of the hands.

Women are taught to do monthly self-exams of the breasts, but it is incredibly difficult to get in the habit of doing something if you’re only doing it once a month.  As an aside, nearly all similar posts about loving breasts are about cancer and not about loving breasts for the sake of love and acceptance. The whole process is fear based. It’s about looking for something that’s wrong. Instead, massage is about feeling good and loving the breasts, which, let’s be honest, loving breasts is innate for nearly all mammals—male or female.

5)  Love your breasts by changing the story (and the rest of your body too). Ok, I understand that women opt for surgeries to alter their breasts for lots of reasons. That’s okay. Once you’re done with all that, start loving what you have. Foster feelings of gratitude toward your breasts. For the vast majority of women, their breasts are absolutely perfect and wonderful and should be celebrated for the life-giving, sustenance-giving, lovely goodness that they are. Some breasts are enormous. Some are very small. Some are soft and some are hard. Some have plastic shoved inside them. Some have been cut off. Nipples can all look very different. Most breasts produce milk, but some do not.

As a culture, we idolize the breast, but women are also taught that their breasts are never really okay. They’re either too small or too large, or too sexy (inappropriate), or not sexy enough, or strange in some way. You’ve got to change the story because your society will never tell you that your breasts are okay as they are. After all, if you loved your breasts, you wouldn’t spend lots of money hiding, lifting, padding, or otherwise changing them. Love and self-acceptance is never going to be a part of the capitalist society we live in because there is more money to be made in insecurity and uncertainty. Society won’t do it for you, so it’s your job to think critically about what serves you. Find a way to love your breasts (and/or the breasts in your life), and your body, and go from there.

esquiar, o no?

I just like the way that sounds. A few years ago, I received a Mountain Hardware coat as a gift, and it was a generous gift! That coat is so, so warm. I never knew coats could actually be that warm. Today I bought a new pair of gloves to go with that coat. To go skiing, to be exact. I hope I don’t regret not getting the ones that cost a millions dollars, but the ones I did get were lined in feather down, of which I am a huge fan. I have high hopes that they’ll keep me warm.

image by nonanet

Today, two local ski resorts opened, and I purchased my skiing for the winter. I’m excited! I’m not much of a daredevil, but I do enjoy getting out of the city, especially during the winter inversions. I also live in Utah, so skiing is pretty much ubiquitous. That’s all. Just checking in to say this: ¡voy a esquiar este invierno!

dreams and romance

For the past few nights, I’ve had romance-centered dreams. Not sexy stuff per se, but stuff about new boyfriends, and ex-boyfriends, and dynamics, and what not. Personally, I hate hearing about dreams. My own can be so random and pointless that I often hesitate to assign meaning to them. (Generally, I don’t want to hear about other people’s dreams unless they’re able to add some critical analysis, mythology, or narrative to the dream.) However, sometimes I do find my dreams to be meaningful. Sometimes my dreams are very clearly working through a problem or idea that’s been plaguing me.

image by wjserson

The night before last, I dreamt about an old boyfriend who is now married with children (aren’t they all?) We were at his house, the children were playing quietly (which seems unlikely), and we reconnected easily throughout the day. His wife came home in the evening and did my horoscope charts, and I awoke feeling emotional, perplexed, but I enjoyed the dream.

Last night I dreamt that I had two new boyfriends. I did not know them from real life. They were similar in build–only slightly bigger and taller than me. Neither relationships were very serious, but both were very exciting. I was with my dad’s side of the family, getting dressing up with my girl cousins for a Halloween party. Both of my new boyfriends were at the party. I was drinking some kind of whiskey and Sprite concoction and was quite pleased with myself.

Here’s the critical analysis part: When I started dating in a more serious way, in my late teens/early twenties, I tended to spend all of my romantic energy on one person at a time. It wasn’t a conscious choice, but a naturalized/socialized practice. Now, I think I would have benefited tremendously from dating more widely and with more people simultaneously–a model that was completely unknown to me at the time. I should have taken even more risks (though I did take plenty). This is absolutely the wisdom of looking back with the experience gained in the passing of a decade.

The important thing is applying that wisdom now: take more risks. Perhaps I would do well to date more widely. As some of you know, I am in a “serious, committed” relationship, and that suits me just fine in so many ways. But, I think these dreams are about working through relationships that might be good/better for me than the typical scenarios that I’ve been socialized for. Personally, I’m very excited about some of the new, socially acceptable models for relationships that are beyond the monogamous, hetero-normative, marriage model. That’s not to say that any of those scenarios are right for me, but I like that other possibilities exist.

I’m also thinking about this article that’s been circulating on Facebook, “Marriage Isn’t For You.” At first, my religious right-wing friends posted it. Then, my more academic friends started posting it too, and I had to stop, take notice, and take pause. I’ve never been married, but the premise seems off. Or, as my mother would say, it “insults my soul.” The article is about serving a spouse, serving children, and, I suspect, serving some kind of higher power under the assumption that the higher power wants everyone to be married and reproduce. But, something tells me that a higher power might not think that marrying and reproducing is the end all be all. In a world where women too often deplete themselves giving to everyone but themselves, I think there is meaning and value in nurturing your own soul, growing, gaining, and taking from those around you. Yes, oftentimes personal growth involves loving and serving others, but, for me, relationships are also about the individual.

killing frost and the hosta

In the next day or two, we’re supposed to get our first killing frost. I spent some time this weekend winterizing–cleaning and putting away the patio furniture, bringing plants indoors, and refilling the bird feeder with fresh sunflower seeds. I also swept leaves and worried over my new flower beds and new hosta.

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least flattering photo of the hosta

This summer, I planted Shasta Daisies, which may very well take over the entire flowerbed, Delphinium, Black-eyed Susans, and Coreopsis. They are all fairly hardy, and should do well in the flowerbed, even though the soil is poor and the light is not optimal. I also planted a hosta, which I documented here. As you can see from the photo above, the hosta looks really bad. I’m afraid the conditions are just too harsh. So, I covered it with leaves and hoped for the best. We’ll see what happens in the spring.

arms, wrists, and writing

Awhile back I was super hyper/happy/do-all-of-the-things/climb-every-mountain/re-connect-with-all-my-friends, and I was hoping that it would last for months. Sadly, I think it only lasted a little over a month.

I feel back to normal (which is still pretty good). I have been putting a lot of energy toward writing, for work, for students, for myself. Maybe that’s where the energy is going. The frantic sound of fingers on the keyboard is the soundtrack to my life right now. Last week, students worked in peer review groups, and I gave them feedback online. Students looked up, startled, at the sounds of my fingers flying over the keyboard. I am a very fast typist.

When I was much younger, I broke both of my arms between the wrist and the elbow at the same time. I was already a writer, then. I wrote stories. I read. I wrote some more. Sometimes my arms ache when I grip the steering wheel or my fingers get tingly, and I shutter to imagine a world where I can’t type, can’t work, can’t create, can’t be so much of who I am now.