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

where my mind has gone during this COVID-19 pandemic

I’m learning a lot about myself as we start ramping up in intensity here in my area with precautions. I already tended to keep to myself long before the social distancing (such a vague and confusing term) and shutdowns were in place, and I am lucky that spending all day every day with my toddler is no change to my life (if you are at home with your toddler and need ideas, I am by no means any sort of expert but I’m happy to share the weird things we get up to day to day).

I realized early on that the end of the world probably won’t be some crazy catastrophe like in the Hollywood movies, but rather a culmination from misinformation where no one knows what’s going on and everything interprets things differently. So many people put out opinions all over the internet and media, which we state as universal truths, and everyone can read it and then decides who they believe. I’m not talking anything drastically polarizing issues either. For example, with social distancing (I really hate that term) should we literally stay inside all the time, or can people continue to go for walks around their neighborhoods, workout together outside, go on hikes and bike rides, etc so long as they eyeball keeping 6 feet between them? Because from what I’ve seen, people are out most of the time, and social distancing just means don’t get in anyone’s bubble. But is that enough to stop the rapid spread? (Also note, I don’t think COVID-19 will be the end of the world, but I think it is the biggest thing that has happened in my lifetime as nothing before has managed to shut down the entire world to such an extent).

Food allocations also presents a looming challenge in my mind, and not because I feel that I don’t have enough. I am blessed and don’t have to worry about scarcity, but in thinking about how a quarantine could go on for months, I realize that scarcities in food are more complex than we thought. It’s not just about how much food the average American wastes, or how many people are currently starving, though those were and are huge issues already before COVID-19. But should infectious diseases rampage our populations indefinitely, our way of getting food (grocery stores, shipped from online) would break down and most of us would be left without supplies quickly. Our general systems rely on others to provide food for us, and we don’t really have a backup plan (besides, it seems, aggressive hoarding) when suddenly those others can’t keep the supplies open. We have created large bodies of people that cannot maintain themselves, and I’m not just talking about in urban areas. We don’t know how to farm sustainably, we don’t know how to read the land and know where to find food, or what is edible versus toxic or what we can help grow, what we can preserve and store and how, etc. We are really removed from being able to handle food (well most of us… I know there are lots of small and large scale farmers and permaculturists and foragers who make their way just find without relying too much on external systems). We also don’t think sustainably… how are you going to keep growing your foods when you can’t go buy extra soil at the store? When there are no more instant fertilizing blends or pest killers, and when we don’t know how to plant things that will grow together and survive multiple years? Do we even know how to cook if you don’t have electricity, no stove to boil things, no oven to bake in, no microwave easily available, no manmade refrigeration? Do we have ways to store water for when our infrastructures fail?

And then that leads us to water. This one is even scarier of a thought because we rely completely on water treatment sites and facilities to provide us water (at least where I live). And without water you die much faster than without food. In Maryland, there are not many (if any) natural lakes; they are all manmade and human-maintained which means they aren’t able to keep themselves in an equilibrium that keeps water pollution in check. So can we drink that water? Probably not unless you are desperate (or maybe if you already keep camping filters handy?). So what to do? Most places don’t have well-water established for their homes, and even if they do, you have to worry about what else is getting in and not filtering through. We all know about the chemicals people are finding in water supplies and in fish- from Prozac to birth control, but we forget about other aspects like how close are you to a military base that had a history of dumping chemicals? Do you live near a cemetery that practices embalming (those body goos and embalming formulas have to go somewhere)? Near a highway and its runoff? We haven’t had to think about where we get our water or how contaminated it is if we don’t have a system that attempts to filter it very much in our modern lives and it’s times like this that make that lack of thought all the more concerning.

And let’s talk about reproductive health. Sure we can tell everyone who doesn’t already have a semi-permanent style of birth control (inserts, condoms or birth control pills before they run out, etc) to abstain, but seriously… the human species hasn’t survived because people abstained. If we should have an end of the world, chances are people will continue to have sex and then where does that leave us? Do we even know how to be pregnant and take care of ourselves when we can’t have any medical visits, no vitamins we can buy, no internet to research what’s normal, no community of mothers and wise women to draw from because we’ve all lost that independence and knowledge decades ago. It makes me realize again how important it is to be communal, and why people like birth and postpartum doulas are so important.

And speaking of doulas. What do we do if someone dies? Do we know how to handle a body if there is no infrastructure to take it in for us? When there is no crematory open, no embalmer waiting? Can we still physically dig a hole and know how deep (3 feet, not 6!) to put a body so that it does decompose but also so animals don’t get it? Do we even know how to take care of someone who is dying when we don’t have access to medical care? These may seem like dark thoughts, but most of my rumination was spawned from reading about different practices we followed within the last century. That is not that long ago yet we seem to have lost how to handle and survive anything at a more local level in that time period.

The structure of humans has been that as we grow and make civilizations, we have specializations develop and people take over certain roles. But our communities have also expanded exponentially and now it seems that most communities outsource most of their needs and cannot rely on themselves to survive. Like I live in a census-designated place (apparently really common in Maryland), where we don’t have a common place/town square/mayor’s office, etc. If, in an apocalyptic future, we needed to go to a place to barter and trade we’d have to go to the next town over. There are no real sources of any business in our CDP, and everyone who doesn’t have the ability to work remote or at home (or at the one elementary school in our community) must commute somewhere else. So should infrastructures in our neighboring towns shut down, along with the mail and delivery systems of Amazon, google, etc… what do we have left?

I know this sounds dark, but in actuality I think these reflections help show where we have shifted our priorities as a civilization, and the limitations they present. It makes me wonder what the result of this pandemic will be… will people will retreat more into their own communities and try to bolster their innate skills and learn how to cooperate once more? I fear it will just make people try to switch to remote work more, and try to buy more supplies to stockpile in case of the next pandemic. :/

As someone who is studying death, these kinds of thoughts also make me think about our choices and if they matter on a large scale human spectrum (because obviously it matters for individuals, communities, societies, etc). We know we are all going to die…. do we as a whole make attempts to shift how- like work to address how progress comes with limitations and how we need to balance long term results together all as a team, or do we just let things continue in the direction they are going and hope the outcome won’t be any of the directions I worry about? And if the former, how do we do that?

And on a slightly lighter ending note… I apparently talk about green burials so often that my daughter decided to give her grandma’s garden gnome one:

community, mental health, miscellaneous, nature/the environment, parentings/things about baby and kids

how to have a hobby as an adult

I don’t know about you, but I feel like the culture I grew up in bred me to think of hobbies more as boxes on a checklist to get into college or for the utilitarian purpose of each hobby, rather than any inherent internal value. My mom tried to instill in me the light-hearted aspects, that sports we did were for fun first, and health second, but the cultural competition and need to use it for the resume always loomed in my mind.

As a result I am now a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t remember what it is like to have a genuine hobby for the sake of nothing more than enjoyment. I tend to think of what I do as some extension of a future career, a monetization plan, an improvement goal. I have always read a crazy amount in an obsessive manner, but for some reason reading has never felt like a hobby. I do love writing; mostly blogging which I began doing in my pre-teen years, and dabbling in poetry again lately, but the latter was bastardized for a while with this drive to BE a blogger. Blogger with a capital B. This made me think I needed to do the Amazon affiliate program, to constantly use tagging, track followers and cater to get more, and to obsess over a host of other SEO stuff. It really ruined the initial intend of blogging for me, which was just to get my thoughts out and if I was lucky find some like-minded people to chime in and have conversations with. You know, making that virtual (and hopefully later in-person) community. I’m slowly coming around to that original intent again.

Lately, I have had the desire to play video games again. I was pretty much a casual Nintendo gamer as a youth. I liked the community-esque multiplayer things like Mario Kart and Smash Bros, loved (love) the Zelda franchise, and was also always compelled to get the next Animal Crossing game. I recently wanted to get back into AC as the new one is coming out in a month (!!!) and it looks amazing (but they all do to me). I feel like a lot of the world in AC was inadvertently formulative for my early inclinations about what a community could look like. Yes, I know it’s a fantasy game about humanistic animals doing relatively little each day besides chatter endlessly, but oh my gosh does it feel cute and homey. It feels like it is the extreme opposite of how busy our days get. In the game you basically have nothing to do but walk around talking to neighbors to see how they are doing, figure out if they need errands done, or chat them up until they engage you to a challenge, give you a gift, or give you some interesting gossip. Depending on the game (they have gotten more involved in newer versions) you can have more influence over the town itself, changing its infrastructure, being mayor, etc, which opens up how involved you can get to a crazy level.

Anyway, video games have never been a hobby for me fully because it was always something that was distracting me from what I should be doing. It always felt like, if I was playing video games, especially alone, that the pressure came down to “you should be doing X instead”. It was likened to binging on Netflix before Netflix existed, and so over time I let it go bit by bit. I know a lot of people think that playing video games is avoiding real life, and I get that view, for sure, but there is something magical about investing in a virtual world and having the patience to finish a game (if it is finish-able) or commit to something and see the rich creation of the world developed in a game. On the extreme end, I found a gamer who consistently kept up 4 different Animal Crossing games for YEARS, which is an achievement in itself not to get bored after the new releases come out.

Andd I lost my train of thought. Hobbies. Right. So in a nutshell, I have found it increasingly difficult to develop a hobby without trying to apply it somehow into being a future career. For example, lately I have been huge on getting my little bug outside every day, and teaching myself everything from naturalism, permaculture, herbalism, foraging, gardening, and more and trying to mix those all together to make a world in which my little one is sparked by her outdoor adventures, and as a result always feels happy and comfortable going back into nature, even if it’s just a smidgen of urban non-landscaped plots in a city, to feel a bit freer. This is also self-serving because I was given a similar framework in my childhood and as a result find immense happiness in just digging in dirt, walking in the woods, or being surrounded by plants. I’m getting a bit more radical in how I want to see plants around me (I sorely wish I could become a living version of the DC comics’ Poison Ivy), working my mind through how I feel about non-native invasives, landscaping and humans’ obsessive control of nature for no reason (I currently am hating grass when it’s planted in plants that literally get no foot traffic, but requires a huge amount of natural resources and energy and money to maintain). I’m also trying to start a chapter of the Free Forest School in my area… which is a cool organization that helps train parents and caregivers to get together and help get their little ones ages 0-6 outside in nature and playing more freely (with adult supervision but no adult-led focuses), to allow the children to develop their own relationship with nature with their peers.

I suppose all these things would be hobbies… the reading, the specific studying and enacting of nature related activities, the writing, the sporadic video game playing, etc… but none of them feel like hobbies. I don’t know how to put my finger on it, but it still feels like they are all just stand-ins for what could be a career if I was driven enough to follow any of them (though I do NOT have the attention span to become a youtube gamer. Love watching them, especially the horror gamer content from youtubers like John Wolfe), but that life is not for me). But overall, I don’t know how to do things as hobbies. Can daydreaming be a hobby? I’m great at that. Eternal idea formulating?

I suppose my obsession with certifications, courses, and what have you would be a hobby, if I didn’t regret most of them almost immediately. I just consistently yearn to collect more knowledge. I’m naturally curious, to a fault. I want to absorb all the information I can and spin in around and reshape it to come up with new ideas about life and how it all fits together. But all that just leads me back to thinking as a hobby. So there we have it. Catch me sitting there pondering things on my free time (or in the middle of the night when the insomnia sets in), looking like Rodin’s infamous statue, The Thinker.

all posts, mental health, miscellaneous

odd directions

I have a lot of weird stuff going on. It feels like ever since I fell off the beaten path, when my skin mutinied and declined to acquiesce to my request of behaving like normal dermal tissue, I fell down my own personal rabbit hole of weirdness and have just been grabbing hold of oddities on my way down.

If someone were to sit me down and be like, so what are you up to these days (and have time for a long-winded answer) this is probably what I would say:

Well -insert name of person inquiring here- , I spend a lot of time overthinking everything. But primarily I spend the majority of my time hanging with my delightful Figlet, witnessing her grow and become her own person, and trying to make sure I don’t fuck that up too much.

I spend a lot of time trying to learn things, lots of things, that I think add to my life in fun and important ways (more on that in a moment), and as a result I spend a lot of time trying to figure out when to read. I wile away the hours trying to figure out when and how to take care of my ever changing body, when to workout, when to drink water, what and when to eat, when to have other self-care items thrown in there. I’m not really good at that yet, but I’m working on it.

Now back to those things I am trying to learn. Well I am trying to learn about death, how it looks in our society, in the world, why we find it so scary, how it is monetized, how it is supported, how it is prevented, how it is avoided. I try to understand my own experiences with death and work to find my own way with it hopefully before it is my time.

In a related subset, trying to learn about being a mom and my own body/mortality has me studying postpartum care, breastfeeding, etc to understand what is happening to me, what dictates the decisions mothers make around their postpartum period. Does it give me all the answers? No, but I don’t think anything ever will. So basically it helps me learn to live with indecision.

I am trying to learn about herbs, partially for self-care, partially because we treat most herbs like weeds when they are abundantly available, healthy, and easy to eat. Like dandelion and plantains. Also one of my friends from childhood is jumping into the learning process with me so we will have a lot of external motivation getting one another to keep learning.

I am trying to learn about sustainability, and what that looks like as an individual, a culture, a society, and a species. I am trying to learn how to grow all my own common veggies, fruits, and herbs in limited space with less-than-ideal conditions, without pesticides or really anything that doesn’t come from the ground or a more traceable circle of life. I am learning how different houses can be made more efficient, through better insulation, maintenance, windows on certain sides of the house, water filtration and storage, available solar enhancements, how to decrease electric and gas usage, etc.

I’m learning about bodies broadly- different schools of thought on how to maintain them, but also keeping in mind goals for what one wants their body to do. What postures are natural for longevity versus important for crazy loads? What diets help what conditions or demands? What home adjustments create healthier lifestyles? You name it. One change we have done is that we now sleep on a bed that is 5 inches of the ground, on top of a fairly hard futon mattress. We decided to try this because we wanted to:

  • have more of a movement challenge waking up
  • have a mattress that didn’t sag and conform to our bodies but instead provided some resistance
  • see if it would help decrease our night sweating (it did!)
  • see if it would improve our sleep (maybe it did? or maybe Figlet sleeping through the night more consistently is the culprit)
  • see if it would decrease various joint pains we were having (it did!)

I’m one step closer to volunteering with hospice! I had my training this past weekend; next step is the mentoring. I’m excited but also have my reservations of working (for free) under healthcare (as all hospice volunteers are technically unpaid employees under Medicare. For a hospice organization to receive funding, they must employ volunteers). I’m hoping the people I visit are hyperlocal so I am able to walk to their residences, and thus visit for more time.

I am trying to write more (note the increased frequency of posts?!) for my own clarity of mind, and am still occasionally creating poems to capture the more intense feelings I have here and there. I am also reading more for pleasure and curiosity than pure intentional intellectual gain, which feels much more natural and enjoyable to me.

I think I keep circling back to this idea of my life going ferally because it feels like, though no parts of what I am doing are unique alone, the culmination of them is odd and uncommon. I find myself constantly trying to label myself (usually on instagram) to have some way of summing up all I am working on in my life in a concrete way. I usually fail miserably, and end up ranting like a loon, but the show must go on.

eczema, miscellaneous

american springs and french homeopathy

so I was reading Susan Herrmann Loomis‘ book…

While I was reading On Rue Tatin, I got to a part where Loomis mentioned how her son’s physician also practiced homeopathy, and instantly my interest was piqued. The U.S. is pretty bi-partisan when it comes to medicine. You usually see either someone follows a conventional/allopathic practitioner pathway OR they go into an alternative medicine profession (homeopath, naturopath, etc). However, in France it seems that many medical doctors are also taught a bit of the more alternative medicines and as a result will prescribe unconventional medications and generally tailor treatments towards individuals more strongly so than in the U.S.

unconventional medicine… like hot springs therapy?

Having had a dermatologist who prescribed me the U.S. version of the Avène line products, I remembered that France also has a hearty healing spring culture and how insurance can cover some of the expenses for treatment at one if one has a prescription. I had researched the Avène springs therapy previously I jogged my memory about how their water comes from the Sainte-Odile spring, after having been naturally filtered through the Cévennes Mountains. I’m still super intrigued by trying this one day, as one can pay to do 3-week stays and the results seem phenomenal. I better keep working on my French though…

but more on homeopathy

In going down the French doctors are homeopaths direction, I ended up stumbling across the recent controversy happening, where the French government is trying to remove government reimbursement for homeopathic medicine prescriptions. Multiple groups andd campaigns have formed fighting on both sides (including SafeMed, FakeMed, MonHomeoMonChoix) Apparently, according to articles I read (in English) from france24 and bloomberg, the debate centers around the following points:

  • the efficacy of homeopathy. On one side we hear that the homeopathic medicines are nothing more than fancy tictacs; they only function as placebos anyway, and studies prove that. On the other side we hear that the homeopathic meds are gentle alternatives to meds with lots of side effects, and they can be used for more acute but non-severe conditions like the common cold and allergies. The studies that deny the efficacy of homeopathy are contested by the argument that homeopathy works by tailoring to each individual patient, and so a large uniform study where are all subjects are prescribed the same medications would not accurately show its effectiveness
  • the French government needs to save money. The French public health sector is looking to save money and this is a viable way to cut back spending, is what Buzyn, which is challenged because it is believed that homeopathy only contributes to 1% of said spending
  • this is the first step towards decreasing prescriptions generally (said by the Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn). This idea is contested by studies like (this one) which show that the costs depend on the type of insurance used. For their social security (gov reimbursed program, though the consultations for homeopathy may be more expensive, the actual prescription costs are much lower than that of conventional medicines.
  • only 10% of patients seek reimbursement for the homeopathic medications anyway

my two cents

I personally think Buzyn is being short-sighted. If you take away reimbursement for just the homeopathy treatments, I doubt the result will slow ALL prescriptions being given out, but rather France will instead see a shift towards more issuing of medical prescriptions, which will cost the government more overall. I don’t know how the relationship works in France, but if it’s anything like the U.S., the pharmaceutical companies will fill the void of the homeopathic prescriptions by incentivizing doctors to give out more prescriptions. This would make the country by and large more dependent on meds, rather than less, and now these meds are stronger and as a result probably have a greater range of serious side effects, which rebounds into needing more medicine to treat the side effects. But again I’m not well versed in how the French medical system works, so this is all my conjecture.

if you believe it “in your heart of hearts”…

I also feel like people attack the placebo idea all the time but if you have something that is no more harmful than a tictac, as the articles argued, yet it makes the patients who take it feel better, why is that a bad thing? A lot of health is mental (as our brains are a part of our body) and so if feeling cared for, listened to, and treated (even if the treatment plan includes fancy “tictacs”) makes someone feel better, isn’t that in itself still a useful option? Most of the doctors interviewed who are in defense of homeopathy, seem to agree with me. They stated things like obviously you wouldn’t use homeopathy to treat cancer, but you might use it to treat an acute case of insomnia, etc, and that cutting off such an option might hurt lower income patients, as homeopathic medicines are usually cheaper than allopathic ones.

my personal disclaimer

I am openly biased. I’ve always been a fan of complementary systems of medicine, as I grew up drinking homemade ginger, lemon, and honey tea for sore throats and whatnot, and only turning to medication when things were bad. At the same time, having severe food allergies, I did (and do) consume Benadryl and own an Epipen, so it’s not like I was against conventional medicine. It was always just a gradient of severity. I’ve also become decidedly more pro-alternative medicine because years of conventional medicine/treatment has messed up my skin worse than it was in my youth, and as a result, I have fairly strong fear-avoidance (but really only for dermatologists, ha).

but back to alternative medicine and hot springs

Since I obviously won’t be making my way to France anytime soon, I also have been interested to see if there are any hot springs in the U.S. (there are) and in particular if there are any near me (there are much fewer). Apparently there is one in Virginia that multiple presidents have visited at the Omni Homestead Resort. If I make it over there anytime soon, you’ll hear about it in a whole separate post.

all posts, miscellaneous, parentings/things about baby and kids

napping success (procrastination elsewhere)

Cuz I am a champion

I got the little one to nap today (and finally in a normal leg-in-crib position) so I am celebrating by doing procrastinated chores! Yay adulthood! Since I have nothing more to talk about I will just share my to-do list so you can all revel in my adultness.

To-do list of today

  • check internet bills (pretty sure I paid it and the physical mailed copy is a redundancy, but I’m paranoid so I’ll check again)
  • print death reads (I’m trying to avoid being on my computer when the little one is awake, and instead read more physical things around her, so I’ve got to print out all my articles)
  • check mail for USPS shit (change of address stuff)
  • send friend a package (super behind on that…)
  • say hello to baby neighbors (need to make some mom friends!)
  • fix blue bookshelf (the trim is falling off)
  • fix Goodnight Moon (little one keeps aggressively turning the pages and ripping them. Such is her passion for this book)
  • set up pediatric appointment (cuz we moved)
  • dental filling (because apparently fillings don’t last long in my mouth)

I’m sure there’s more I’ve forgotten to put on my list, but those will do for now. The problem is, after the more pressing ones, I just want to slack off and read. Welp.

Things on the internet that amuse me

So I was looking into my local area to see if there were any writing opportunities, and I got led to a job listing site where I saw this:

I’m sorry, but you want a ghost writer to get your (their*) work into some of the top business magazines? Why would someone take that offer…? Unless you are offering BANK.

Also isn’t my tiny one cute?

My mom was watching the baby a few weeks ago and apparently the little one got all messy so my mom needed to change her shirt but only had this tight lady’s t-shirt:

I don’t know, it seems like, when you are that tiny cute you can wear anything and look adorable. I mean look at her decked out in the early fall in the northeast (before we moved):

She’s just a stunning tiny blob. Everything she does is cute to me, like her wearing her dad’s slippers (even though anytime an adult tries to wear them, she ferociously demands that none of us wear them so that they are hers and hers alone):

Okay I am done spamming you all with my little one’s photos. I just looking at them.

all posts, miscellaneous, parentings/things about baby and kids

the nap wrangler

December 4th

I’m optimistically waiting for my toddler to nap so I can too, guilt free (also I hate being woken up two seconds after I’ve fallen asleep when it took me 45 minutes to get to those 2 seconds). In the meantime I’m hiding in my room reading The Bloggess’ blog. Like all of it. From the beginning working to the more recent stuff. Still in 2007 at the moment. And so, responding to her statement to try this:

SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink)
The Green Kombucha

STRIPPER NAME: (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy)
Lavender Twix

SPY NAME/BOND GIRL: (your favorite season, holiday/ flower)
Spring Marshmallow

CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”)
Blackberry Sweatshirtie

HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree)
White Chocolate Chip Flax Seed Oatmeal Willow (which is literally the perfect name for me).

My takeaway from this is that my interests and habits haven’t changed in years. I’m not bummed by that. Also I want to grow most of those things in a few years (lavender, marshmallow, willows, blackberries… kombucha… white chocolate chips… you know, garden staples).

December 4th, a little bit later

The little one didn’t nap long at all. So no sleep for mama. UGH. In the words of Cristine of Simply Nailogical, “drink slave!” (the context being that her boyfriend always bring her Starbucks during her videos so they started calling him drink slave… so I am wishfully thinking that my husband who is currently 500 miles away will surprise me with a peppermint latte in two seconds).

Also I imagine most of my posts will be posted very much after the fact of when I started writing them. I get distracted by my mini me a lot as she is both cute and demanding of attention (both literally and through her general disregard for common sense safety).

December 5th

It’s a new day! Jake is home from his business trip (yay).

Again I am waiting for the little one to take a nap (surprise surprise). She just gets so self destructive when tired… like she yell more and be increasingly clumsy and when it gets to a point of no return she’ll start biting clothes in frustration of her impending siesta.

However today, I might have been able to get the little one to nap earlier (maybe…). In a past life, she used to have a nap that started between 9am and 10am and lasted ’til like 1230pm but since we moved she’s been an anarchist to that schedule. Alas.

December 5th, even later

Update: So she eventually did nap! But… she fell asleep like this:

photo_2019-12-05 11.22.33.jpeg

Which led me to worry about her leg circulation so after attempting to cover her for a bit in this fashion:

photo_2019-12-05 11.22.37.jpeg

I snuck back into her room to push her leg back into the bed. Naturally she cracked open an eye to see what the fuck I was doing and then promptly became full scale alert, so I tried to breastfeed her to get her to sleep (successfully) but then as I slowly put her back into her crib, the degree of downwards sloping in my movement triggered her no-nap-this-is-bullshit-o-meter. So now I am listening to the sounds of a groggy, grumpy toddler-ite and hoping she will slip back into sleep in a minute (but am not optimistic).

all posts, mental health, miscellaneous, parentings/things about baby and kids

late night tangential rants of insomnia

Middle of the night

I tried my hand at cooking.  I won’t say proper cooking because I winged most of it and have no culinary finesse, but I had some successes. Not the intended ones but whatever.

The spur to cook came from starting Susan Herrmann Loomis’ book last night called On Rue Tatin and it reminded me why I keep falling in love with the French language. The provençal love affair with the harvests of their lands feels so wholesome,  so hobbit-y, which is my constantly reoccurring aspiration. So I tried to dabble. I won’t say it was fun but if nothing else, I got a better diversity of vegetables in me than I have in months.

My goal is to learn how the south-of-France French prepare dishes, and then twist the dishes to be inclusive of native seasonal plants growing in my home state. Step two is to prepare to grow some lovelies for ourselves this coming year. And step three is to work towards sustainable harvests and/or local buying. These steps can be simultaneous.

I feel as though every action and thought I take these days is all just a step towards becoming a hobbit because as Tolkien’s (or Peter Jackson’s) character of Bilbo says, “it is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.” As I get older, I feel it more and more in my bones, that all I want to so is live a simple life. But defining what that means in a modern era proves to be endlessly frustrating.

I also feel like I have to keep discovering mentally myself because I don’t know myself at all. Pretty clear that I do in fact have some form of OCD given the increase in intensity of certain habits (getting bursts of dopamine from picking my skin of “impurities” when I have severe eczema and doing so instead of sleeping, scrolling back through years of content to start at the beginning of blogs, my aggressive aversion to sticky things touching my hands, my tendency to ruminate on my future “path” ad nauseam to the point that I have notebook after notebook of unfinished plans of what I will do with my life starting since before college.

I definitely also suffer from anxiety, but at a more manageable level, given how often I freak out that my little one will die from my negligence (the newest edition today being that she somehow manages to break her own neck in her carseat while we are driving home). I lose sleep over trying to figure out how to make a successful career and balance being a stay-at-home mom, and also how to not become part of any pyramid schemes.

And given how much happier I am since the move, I fear I did in fact have postpartum depression. It got to the point where trying to muster energy to leave the apartment at all felt like a chore, and really the only time I did it was to take baby to her toddler music class or to drive Jake to work. I didn’t want to cook for myself, I didn’t want to  make plans with others, I didn’t want to do anything really. Which naturally triggered my anxiety for Fi because I knew I was doing her wrong by being a recluse.

Thankfully it seems that era of my life is over. Maybe I needed to be back in a familiar territory. Maybe I needed to be near my parents who know when I need to be dragged out of the house, and/or when I just need help. Who knows. Either way, I’m glad that mental hurdle is lessening, and wish I had caught it earlier.

I think my other issues are that I undervalue any impact my mental health may be having on my actions because I blame everything on my skin, which probably is part of the problem, but at the same time addressing my anxiety and compulsive picking would definitely help the skin heal as well.

Also my other constant struggle is that I still love blogging but I don’t like how it became so trendy. Now I can’t disentangle myself from thinking about my standing in the interwebs, how to get more likes, comments, followers, etc. I don’t want to follow a theme, but man it would be sweet to make a career out of just spewing my thoughts. Dream job? “Yes, yes” (said in the voice of Eric Foreman from That 70s show).

Also I feel like at some point I have to accept that nighttime and sleep don’t work for me. I think I oscillate between 2-5 hours most nights and the causes of disruptions vary. Lately, I stay up because it’s the quiet time when I have the world to myself, so I usually stay up reading. Other times I wake up (or stay up) from anxiety (or recently fear of my new home), and sometimes it’s due to itching or sweating that I wake up/can’t sleep.

Also sometimes I make typos that crack me up. Like robin –> ribib3. I’d blame the autocorrect (because it doesn’t work… or I may have turned it off on my phone) but honestly it’s usually that I don’t care to correct myself anymore if I think my point still got across. This usually applies only to texting. For blog posts I care a lot and will randomly go back and read posts from months ago and find mistakes to fix. But not systematically in a way that actually gets anything done. Oh no. Just randomly here and there.

I feel like Maury the hormone monster is yelling at me, saying “Rage, rage, fucking rage!” But instead replace rage with rant. I bet I’m feeling so ranty because I didn’t get to chat with Jake as much as usual since he’s out of town for tonight for work and apparently I dump most of these thoughts in him or else they spill over into the blog. Oops. So you should all be happy for the dam that is Jake to the diverted water flow that is my mind.

Maybe I should have stuck to google’s blogspot. They didn’t charge for changes like wordpress does. And  I want to change my url all the time. But wordpress looks so clean and pretty and now I’ve got years of posts on it, and I love chronicles. Ugh.

I should drink more water.  That’s not a tangent but just a stand alone thought I have multiple times a day. And yet, I never quite achieve a moderate amount of consumption. Hmm.

The next two paragraphs I had to delete because in my infinite sleep wisdom, I copied and pasted a previous two.

Another OCD tendency: I start a notebook with one thing… say it’s things I need to do. Then after a little while I realize I want to write about something else say books I want to read, but I don’t want to use the same notebook for this new topic. So now I either have to start a new notebook, which seems wasteful and excessive, or rip out the original pages which seems needlessly destructive. Or I share the notebook with both ideas and over time the book becomes a crazy incoherent ranting pile of all kinds of ideas and lists and notes to self.

This is a complete tangent but I just wanted everyone to know that it is possible to breastfeed on demand and still have a baby that sleeps through the night.  Pediatricians I encountered all told me I’d have to at least night wean to get my little one to sleep through the night but they were wrong. Haha!

Andddd I’ve got less than 2 hours before the little one wakes up. Fuck.

Later

Posted much later. I breastfed the baby in bed and put baby shark on repeat to gain me another hour and a half of being horizontal. Life hacks.

all posts, community, eczema, mental health, miscellaneous, mortality, parentings/things about baby and kids, women's health

old plans meet new horizons (aka what I do when the little one sleeps)

In the past, I may have mentioned how I am obsessed with the fourth trimester and all things postpartum, or how when I was in my physical therapy doctorate program, I was interested in going into a women’s health specialty.

After I left the program, I searched for ways to slowly transition into the women’s health field from a different angle. And so from April through October 2018, I worked as a women’s health information specialist for Dr. Brianne Grogan, a women’s health PT and health and wellness coach and the creator of FemFusion Fitness. It was one of those random connections that seems fortuitous- in fact I had contacted her years ago after reading her book (way before I even had applied to PT schools) because I was interested in learning more about women’s health.

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My job for her entailed handling email inquiries from women trying to understand

  • what was going on with their bodies
  • what content Bri had out, and
  • who they should see (doctors, PTs, etc).

I also worked on various projects like helping make distributable content for bone building exercises, and I collected research for her new topics. On occasion I did some help with audience outreach to get her free content out into the world.

In time though we amicably went our separate ways. She moved on to focus more on holistic health practices and less on women’s health physical therapy and rehabilitation specifically, and so I continued on in my own direction, which at the time mostly included prepping for my baby’s arrival into the world. Working for Bri was an awesome opportunity because not only is she the nicest, but I got to brush the cobwebs out of my brain about women’s health rehabilitation and really delve into the subject (if you haven’t checked it out already, her youtube is full of free videos of explanations and exercises that cover a gambit of topics like prolapse, diastasis recti, pelvic pain, etc. Check it out here).

Afterward having my baby, I had not lost the love for the fascinating field of women’s health, I merely needed time to rethink how I could enter the world as a professional, no longer coming from the physical therapy realm.

I had been contemplating the idea of becoming a postpartum doula for a long time, and I finally realized what I was missing in that thought process. My objective couldn’t be simply to become a traditional postpartum doula because I would always have to explain about my skin condition, that I’m not contagious, what that means for my services, and work around my own flares and down time. But in reality when I was thinking about my own limitations, I should have been thinking about who could relate to having them. This led me to thinking about those expecting, new, or seasoned moms that have to live with eczema or other chronic conditions (shoutout to all the spoonies out there!) while growing/raising a babe or two (or three or more), and what their needs might be.

It’s not uncommon for people with chronic illnesses to have higher rates of depression, and it’s not uncommon for moms to suffer from postpartum depression, so what about those unlucky ladies that get hit with both? How do they find a support system that bridges both gaps, knowing that some of their depression comes from living with an incurable condition, and the other from being steamrolled with new hormones and emotions as a new life blends into theirs? That is a demographic I feel has not been studied or served enough. And so, I have begun to slowly pull my own experiences (both personal and professional) to better understand and then serve this group. I have been working on merging three of my interests to accomplish this:

  1. postpartum education (e.g my postpartum doula course and my position researching and writing postpartum mental health pieces),
  2. community engagement projects (two in the works: one to help educate mamas of color who may face discrimination from the medical/healthcare world or not have access to it at all, and one about how to train churches to better serve new moms in their area), and
  3. volunteering more with the National Eczema Association. This helps me to be in the know about what policies are being created (or challenged), as well as what new treatments or practices are out.

I use these three directions to help understand my own struggles, as well as figure out how I might work to help mothers out there like me (or other parents/caregivers!). It also gives me more reasons to continually I brush up on healthcare policies, systemic support options, familial/community building techniques, measurable outcome scales, all manner of recent research and studies, etc, which I tend to like to peruse anyway.

I have also been exploring the other side of my interests- traditions and cultures around death. Soon I will be taking Alua Arthur’s End of Life training and learn how to best serve individuals and their families around their time of dying. I think it’s such a taboo thing that we really need to talk about more. The amount of people with traumatizing stories and feelings of regret around their loved ones times of dying is astounding, and historically many cultures prevented this by being present and accepting death as nature, not some scary thing never to be spoken about. As Alua says “talking about sex won’t make you pregnant. Talking about death won’t make you dead.”

I think talking about mortality brings up some important conversations (even just with oneself) about the relative value of our day to day decisions. Interestingly enough, many of my postpartum books now overlap with my study of death. I recently read Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Briget Schulte and it had multiple mentions of how mortality was regarded over the years, and how that was reflected in how we approach our day to day lives, including our aggressive work-above-all work culture today. The logic is, if you think about your mortality to a normal moderate amount, you make choices that are more centered around your mortality. We aren’t talking about the “YOLO” ideology, but rather decisions such as ‘maybe you don’t need to take that extra late business call that’s not really mission critical in lieu of spending time with your loved ones’, and that kind of logic.

Oh that reminds me- I did recently finish a class through Mothering Arts about how to create a community supported postpartum space that I really enjoyed. It offered lots of insight in how to welcome in new mamas as well as community “grannies” and draw-in local professional women to offer their expertise to the moms. My only rub is that I want to create a larger scale space than that demographic (though not necessarily a large number of people at one time). I want to create a space (maybe a physical community shop) that welcomes everyone is to have discussions, seek community, find aid… almost something that mixes time banks, death cafes, postpartum meet-ups, with a part-time bartering system, all wrapped into a welcoming looking shop. I get inspired by places like HausWitch though my target audience is slightly different.

Obviously my long term goals are still being constructed, but I think one day I would like to own this type of shop with my sister (who is paving her career in graphic design/UX and my best friend (who is a social worker), offering classes and discussions, innovative tech, and community services centered around the biggest times of change (birth/postpartum, and death). We also want to raise families together so working together would give us the time and space to figure out how to make it all work. ❤

On the book front, I’m currently reading Witches of America by Alex Mar which I’m finding so inspiring. It’s not that I want to be a witch per se, but I love learning about different routes of beliefs and what draws people to them, and Mar explores this topic so well.

Anyway, as the colder months approach, I’m in the hibernation phase of life again. Lots of reading, snuggles with the little one, obsessions with soups, teas, and decaf lattes. My family and I are moving soon, which is a new adventure on its own because we are finally leaving Massachusetts, but is a lot of mental overload on how to move across multiple states (any advice is welcome). The move might be hugely impactful on my skin too because I think my condition gets worse in the fall due to a mold allergy (and fall here is pretty moldy!). I’m actually friggin’ psyched to be moving- but more on that another day.

 

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

the night school (part 1)

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.

all posts, miscellaneous

blue light filter

A poem

I am a romantic of old:

I dream with eyes open,

I remember life by specific scents and vivacious colors.

But straddling the line of before and after,

of life pre and post infinite connection,

I find myself falling more towards the latter side,

the untethered,

and further away from the screen-lite kind of life.

I have forgotten how to thrive in the recesses of my own mind,

with no eye to the audience,

pure expression,

without the likes and follows.

And yet,

I am not and have never been,

by any means a purist.

Though I long for past eras,

of strong communities,

non-virtual,

I love (or am addicted to) the appeal of the always available.

There is always more to learn,

experiences to witness that I didn’t know of

and life to try.

Though, do I want to?

Is it that I now desire the domestic,

or that I long for stable roots from which to grow?

Is the constant creeping cloud of worry due to not knowing how to say “my experiences are enough”?

From wanting, when sharing occurs,

for it to be from others via their own lips,

or some other slower, less show-y manner?

Can I not just miss out on what I don’t know,

the fear of regret assuaged by the realization that what makes for a good life,

is still yet the most subjective of all?

So perhaps if I just follow my ephemeral heart and gut,

they won’t lead me astray.


Hey, if what you read seemed dated or familiar, I’ve been combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content.  🙂 This poem was written May 5, 2019.