ENOUGH

As I was tucking my 3 year old in to bed tonight, he selected You’re Here for a Reason by Nancy Tillman as his bedtime story.

And as I read the opening lines to this tiny person snuggled in my lap, “You’re here for a reason, you certainly are. The world would be different without you, by far” I had to choke back tears as I imagine what 17 families in Florida are doing tonight. How many of them have memories exactly like the one I was creating with my son from not-so-many years ago that are hanging heavy in the air tonight over the precious lives lost this afternoon?

I was about to turn 14 in 1999 when 2 shooters terrorized Columbine High School and killed 13 people.

I remember vividly the fear that entered our school and student body. I remember the policy changes and the new drills. I remember the counseling and assemblies. And I remember how it changed the way I looked at the world and the people around me. I remember learning how to ration my trust in my peers, how to judge and stereotype people, how to use that fear to lock myself into a protective bubble. How trenchcoats became against student dress code…

I have a good friend with a cousin that attends Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She posted today that he was uninjured. And my relief for her family was immediately clouded by anger at this situation. Uninjured is not the same thing as unharmed. A part of him stays in that school, on this day, for the rest of his life. And that’s true of every student, teacher and parent from every single school shooting in history.

“You’re Here for a Reason. It’s totally true. You’re part of a world that is counting on you.”

There was a part of my 14 year old brain that just assumed that the policy changes in my school were synonymous with policy changes in every school, in state government… in federal government… I just thought that if something so terrible happened, surely those in charge would make certain it could never happen again.

But in fact, there have been TWENTY-FIVE! school shootings since this horrible event in 1999.

(This doesn’t even begin to include mass shootings in churches, movie theaters, concerts…)

I think if I asked the question, “How many school shootings is too many?” That the liberals, the snowflakes, the democrats, the republicans, the conservatives, the wing nuts, the tea party… would all unanimously agree:

A single school shooting is too many.

So why do those parties disagree so deeply about making policy changes that zero effective changes have been made?

Why can’t we bring ourselves to admit to a common gray area in our black and white partisanship?

Why am I kissing the forehead of my 5 month old baby and saying a silent prayer that I’ll never be forced to send him to public schools? Why don’t I feel safe in large groups of people at public events?

Why hasn’t legislation been passed yet to prevent this from happening?

It’s past the time for your thoughts and prayers. It’s time for action.

“You’re here for a reason. If you think you’re not, I would just say that perhaps you forgot–A piece of this world that is precious and dear would surely be missing if you weren’t here.”

This isn’t a discussion about 2nd Amendment rights anymore. This is a discussion of common sense, government responsibility, and cultural accountability. In no country in the world should high school kids (or un-vetted persons of any age) have any means to access automatic or semi-automatic weapons. Ever.

We have to demand changes. Your school, your town, your community is not immune.

May it never ever be someone you love.

May it never be a teacher that inspired you.

May it never be in your community.

May lock down drills in schools become a distant memory.

May it never happen again.

Join organizations like Moms Demand Action to get involved.

VOTE

Text RESIST to 50409 as often as you can to communicate directly with your representatives and demand a change in legislation.

“I just can’t imagine a world without you.”

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Birth, by Any Other Name…

After the birth of my first son went almost as wrong as things could have gone and ended in an emergency c-section, I very nearly gave up on my beliefs that a natural birth was possible or any kind of reasonable option and those that had them were just lucky (or unlucky, depending on your perspective).

When we were surprised with the upcoming arrival of our second baby fewer than 2 years later, I knew a had a lot of work to do to get my head right before I would be in any position to go through another birth.

I have long book lists of reads I loved and some I hated and I’d be more than happy to share those with anyone that asks… But the one I’ll mention here is “Birthing from Within.” If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, read it. Work it.

I could write an entire book series about the differences in my hospital birth with my first and my home birth with my second… And the horrific, all-too-common advice I received from all the best intentions during both.

The point I make today is this:

Birth is not a medical event.

Birth is not an illness.

Treating birth like a medical event or an illness is causing immense damage.

OBGYNs are very quick to list off all the risks, dangers, all the millions of things that could possibly go wrong with mom or baby during pregnancy and delivery. And while I think it’s important that a doctor knows these things, I think it’s irresponsible to flood mothers with all of this information without so much as a symptom to suggest they might need to worry about it.

Because of this, too many mothers spend their entire pregnancies in fear of all of these things that in all likelihood will never be an issue and are given next to zero education about physiological birth as it exists in nature. It’s not that I advocate a mother being ignorant to risks, quite the contrary. But this onslaught of tests, blood draws, cervical checks, monitors, drugs, ultrasounds… it’s all just a breeding ground for mother insecurity (not to mention a multitude of opportunities for infections that would otherwise not exist). Which incidentally hands all acting power of decision-making to the doctor who we have come to believe, knows all. The more times a mom can be convinced to take some totally obscure and often unnecessary prenatal test, the less hard the doctor will have to work to control her birth for her when she’s in labor.

I don’t suggest that doctors do this out of malice or even out of ignorance. It’s simply a matter of doctors being well trained in handling medical matters (and extremely over-loaded with patients)… And normal, physiological birth is only ever a medical event when something is wrong. Therefore they will dig for all the things that could be wrong. It’s just what they do. It’s the reason we hire them.

I want to add a disclaimer here that I am immensely grateful for medical professionals that save lives every day that we would otherwise have lost. And deeply understand why their procedures exist. It is not lost on me that some women need medical intervention during their pregnancy and labor. I am also a HUGE advocate for choice… if tests and checks are the things that make you feel comfortable and confident, you do You!

I am however, proclaiming that the methods used are used for convenience and control more often than for necessity. C-section rates in this country are at around 32%- which means doctors believe nearly 1/3rd of our population are unable to birth a baby without surgery. Let that sink in. We also rank 33rd in maternal mortality globally. That is dead last in the developed world. This isn’t due to needing MORE medical tests… it’s because we interfere with literally the oldest biological process of our species thinking we’re somehow smarter than it.

So after giving this a great deal of thought I have worked out a metaphor to help moms really understand my point here. And hopefully experience some confidence in themselves to explore options outside of tradition obstetric prenatal care.

You know that scene in Contact when NASA is building their space ship with alien blueprints and NASA insists on installing a seat and safety restraints? Jodie Foster argues that they should follow the blueprints as written rather than assuming their technology on an obviously superior craft. NASA gets a little belligerent and tells Jodie Foster that they won’t be trusting her to go up with no intervening safety protocol.

As a result, she experience a ton of turbulence, violently shaking her, causing intense fear, stress and unnecessary noise. She’s distracted and anxious, just trying to survive it.

It isn’t until her necklace shakes loose and floats away from her that she braves releasing herself from the seat to catch it.

When she lets go… suddenly the chair breaks free from the ship. She loses contact with NASA, she’s on her own. And all is calm. She floats silently, comfortably in the craft as it was intended. She’s able to see where she’s headed. She regroups. She centers.

Guys. If that doesn’t sum up the difference between my hospital birth and my home birth in one little Jodie shaped nutshell…

The fear and anxiety from my first birth were replaced with trust and knowledge during my second. The pain and loss of control were replaced with confidence and strength. The noise and distraction were replaced with focus and calm. The threats, monitoring, and invasive procedures were replaced with quiet words of encouragement, empowerment, and war cries.

I encourage you to question whether you may be strapped in to an unnecessary safety seat in a functional ship.

You are a fucking warrior. A birthing goddess. Insist to be treated as such.

For BF, SK and RA ❤

The Misconception of Food as Medicine

I’ve been smiling through sideways looks since the first time I said, “I’m a vegetarian” all the way to last weekend when someone saw me pull a weed out of my yard and start eating it. My entire lifetime has been a slow learning classroom in holistic health, organic living, food as medicine and herbal remedies.

Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t do these things to annoy people.

It’s a lifestyle I follow because it’s what has always made sense to me. It’s what has always worked for me. And it is what has always kept me healthy.
The lifted eyebrows, the sideways glances, the mumbling… It’s all par for the course. I’ve come to realize–after almost a decade and a half–that when I say things like, “I’m a vegetarian” people hear, “you shouldn’t eat meat” when in fact, that’s not at all what was said. When I say things like, “I prefer to buy organic” people hear, “you’re eating poison and I’m judging you for not being pretentious like me”.
So there is a level of defensiveness attached to any kind of lifestyle choice that is contrary to the norm that presumes my choices are a judgement on others.

Because of this… When I offer old holistic advice to illnesses or maladies, I get the same kind of reaction that just heard, “Don’t trust the evil modern medicines! Take this eye-of-newt instead!”

So let me be clear:
I am a huge supporter of the medical advances that are keeping people alive for an inordinate number of years. I am immensely grateful for the antibiotics that have eradicated the very simple and stupid ways people used to die off by the hundreds thousands.

I’m just not a huge fan of the lazy, over-prescribing of unnecessary chemical drugs for things that are far too often misdiagnosed and could be treated without side-effects for less than a fraction of the cost.
I’m also a little bit bitter about the medical response with prescriptions rather than the social adjustment to use their food as healthcare. If anyone should know this–doctors should know this.

Food is medicine!

Which brings me to my point…

If one more person chomps on a piece of celery in my face and says, “Yay! My meningitis is cured!” I might shove said celery stick up their nose.

Like the above misrepresentation of what I say vs what is heard, I’m finding people actually believe that I’m under some delusion that vegetables will cure diseases.

I am under no such delusion.

Veggies can’t cure cancer, processed foods don’t cause cancer. Organic, raw honey would not have fought off the bubonic plague.

What I do know, however… is that the body is predisposed to disease. We are all born with genetic blueprints that include specific weak links and can turn into life-threatening illnesses. 

For example… We all know dyes, artificial flavors, preservatives, artificial coloring aren’t good for us. But did you know simple common foods like microwaved popcorn has been linked to cancers and lung diseases? 

Regular vegetable oil creates a heavily oxidized body which is a very hospitable host for cancers. 

Processed, white sugar and absolutely anything that contains high doses of it. I’ve written a while whole separate blog about the dangers of sugar. It’s the most toxic poison we regularly consume. 

I’m the other side of this nutrition platform, we all know that a little ginger or peppermint can help ease an upset tummy. But did you know peppermint will also ease engorgement from breastfeeding? In fact, it’s so powerful that taken in high enough doses, will even completely stop milk production. 

I’m quite sure you know how calming and relaxing lavender and chamomile can be. But did you know that garlic is a powerful antibiotic capable of wiping out simple infections that would normally require a trip to a Dr? 

Yarrow can be made into a stop-bleed poultice buying enough time to seek emergency help. 

Feverfew can reduce a fever without the chemical consequences to the liver of things like acetaminophen. 

Sage can ease swelling and pain from a bruise or sprain. 

These aren’t Old Wive’s Tales or hippie nonsense. The properties found within hundreds of commonly found plants and weeds are often all the body needs if they’re used in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
So let’s talk about what I mean when I say “healthy diet”. 

The simplest explanation is this: The fewer ingredients, the better. The closer those ingredients are to something living naturally on the planet, the better. 

Grocery stores are wonderful places that house a huge variety of foods we can’t grow ourselves year-round and offer options that we might not be able to get otherwise (seafood in the Midwest especially). But they were designed to provide foods with a really long shelf life so that we could survive war time scarcities. By all means, stock a survival pantry; but understand that those foods were never intended for daily, long-term consumption. (Better yet, learn to dehydrate, can, store and preserve your own foods!)

It isn’t about never eating foods you like. It’s about remembering that food-like products don’t have the same ability as natural, whole, organic foods to allow the body to defend itself naturally from the diseases to which we are predisposed at birth. Which means, the more we sustain ourselves on said food-like products, the more vulnerable we become to our own built-in self-destruct sequence in our DNA, creating a thriving environment for illness and disease.

It isn’t about eating nothing but organic produce and meats… It’s about how those foods give your body the elements needed to prevent is pre-existing cell mutations from multiplying and leading to life-threatening diseases. And understanding that when you start to feel under the weather, running for a can of processed chicken noodle soup isn’t nearly as effective as making your own with fresh ingredients. 

It’s also not about being pretentious and perfect. Don’t judge me when you see me scarfing down a cinnamon roll the size of my face, or eating ramen for lunch 4 days in a row. We all have better days than others. It’s just about awareness and balance. 

So if we know these things to be true, the only question moving forward is in finding recipes that build meals from single ingredients rather than from a series of processed items. 

Luckily, Google and Pinterest have endless ideas for whole food recipes! So get pinning! 

Happy, healthy cooking! 

Challenge… Adjusted!

So 3 months ago, I wrote a fitness challenge blog outlining my intentions to get into a more active lifestyle. I got back in the pool and started swimming laps 2 to 3 times a week with increasing difficulty to get me back into a habit of working out. In the interest of accountability, here are the results of my efforts:

Since beginning a new routine, I have hit a lot of roadblocks in trying to be consistent. I really struggle with getting discouraged easily and giving up, or getting bored and losing motivation. And it’s been a back and forth with several weeks in a row of being really diligent, followed by a week or two of self-loathing since I haven’t instantly lost 30 lbs. On top of that, I teach swim lessons, I work weekends, I have a toddler and we manage a very small urban farm complete with 11 animals in our care. I’m busy! It’s hard for me to stay true to my promise to be in the pool 3 times a week.

But for the most part, I have kept at it, improving distances and times consistently week to week… And also trying to substitute in plank challenges during the weeks that I’m less than enthusiastic about swimming laps and adding a level of activity to my every day life.

Recently, I found a fitness challenge that came to me rather randomly at just the right moment and I decided on a total whim to give it a try. It’s a 90-day fitness challenge from the Bikini Body Mommy program.
-Normally, titles like this do not appeal to me even a little. There’s something pretentious, assuming and unattainable about it that just turns me off. Not to mention, my goal is not to be “bikini ready”…
But like I said, I was in a mood. So I gave it a shot.

The founder of this program, Briana Christine starts the free YouTube program in less-than-perfect physical shape, so as I’m struggling, sweating, huffing & puffing as I’m working through her program, she’s struggling and sweating right along with me.

It’s powerfully validating.

Every video is a different workout which keeps it fresh and entertaining so I never get bored and dread going back for another day. Every workout leaves me dripping in sweat, very worked and feeling super accomplished without that horrible feeling like I didn’t do enough, or couldn’t keep up.

I’m still new to the challenge, but I’m already seeing results in my energy, my moods and in my body. After the first week, I was impressed enough to go the extra step and purchase her meal plan. It is a sound system based on clean eating with zero fad diet tips, tricks or shortcuts. Not to mention dozens of ridiculous recipes that have so far rocked my socks.Collage

In the 12 days I’ve been working this program, I’ve dropped 4 lbs and had to start tying on my shorts during workouts so they don’t fall down.
I can do 78 more high knees in a minute than I could when I started… And that’s all tip of the iceberg.

I am not an affiliated blogger for this program, I’m just a beginner and an emerging success story.

This is what my swimming regiment has evolved into over the course of the last 3 months and I hope to post another update at the end of this challenge with stats that will impress!

 

If you’re at all interested in checking out this program, I would LOVE to hear about your experience so we can battle through it together!

Wish me luck!!

 

 

Why I’m 30 and Unmarried

I know it’s early in my 30th year to be playing this card. But I got this question a lot after my first couple years with Life Mate, and after a while the inquiries faded…  then it made a sudden comeback immediately after I turned 30. So I feel it’s time to address it.
“So… Are you guys ever going to get married?”
It’s not a rude question. It’s not uncalled for. It’s not prying, and it’s not surprising.
The short answer is yes.
Eventually.
The long answer is…
It’s just awkward to talk about with other people. It’s hard for people to understand why it’s not a priority for us.
Not all of us dream our whole lives of being a bride. I didn’t ever grow up fantasizing about a perfect day of white surrounded by music and flowers.
My dreams included things like write a best selling novel, traveling the world, singing at Carnegie Hall… mastering an instrument.
I completely understand why some people invest so much into the day. Why it’s a landmark kind of occasion…
I am just not one of those people.
For starters: Nothing makes me feel more awkward, out of place, uncomfortable and manly faster than a giant, poofy dress. The fancier the dress, the more horrible I feel in it. And heels? Please. I can’t even walk without falling down when I’m wearing flip-flops or Uggs. Let’s please add unnatural inches off the ground, dancing and an audience to that recipe so we can watch the highlights reel of Stephanie’s Greatest Fails.
But here’s the real crux of the issue…
The average cost of a wedding in Kansas City is just shy of $20,000.
TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS.
Add that to the average cost of an engagement ring ($2300) and suddenly we’re talking about throwing away 31 round-trip tickets to Ireland for the sake of standing on tradition and ceremony.
UNCONSCIONABLE.
I can’t justify that!
A dozen round-trip tickets to the Greek Islands… Or a day of doing the chicken dance in a gigantic white poof ball I’ll never wear again?
Even “budget” weddings are something I can’t fathom… I had a few friends have stunning weddings for under $10k.
But that’s still a month long European tour for Life Mate, Small Child and myself. Or a new car… Or half of a year at a 4-year university.
We talked about it at one point… but then we decided to have a baby instead.
We talked about it again… but we wanted to buy a house.
We’re talking about it now… but we really want to travel.
It’s a constant topic of conversation… but we just cannot justify the expense for one day vs weeks of adventures and life experiences together.

At no point in our relationship has a ceremony declaring our love felt more important than a lifestyle of expressing it. And I’ve kind of reached a point that I’m done apologizing for that.

 

There is a part of me that can deeply appreciate the value of many of the wedding traditions. After the loss of a beloved uncle last year followed by his daughter’s wedding this year, it is all too close to home to imagine myself in her position and want to share those memories with my own dad.

I absolutely want to honor my parents and share this day with family. I absolutely want Life Mate’s family to really feel how much I love and appreciate them and want to celebrate the joining of our families. I just don’t know if a $20,000 day is the best way to honor them, myself, my love, or our relationship in the process. At least not at this point in our lives.

I’m 30 and unmarried because we don’t measure our success as a couple by the number of years our signature has shared a piece of paper, or by how long I’ve worn his last name.
I’m 30 and unmarried because we didn’t get together until the last half of my 20’s and by then we both had a little debt, a solid routine for filling out our taxes and independent lives outside of our relationship.
I’m 30 and unmarried because I never wanted to do so for the sake of standing on ceremony, for the convenience of health insurance or the comfort of other people that lifted an eyebrow at our child together.

I’m 30 and unmarried because we are both entirely comfortable in our life together and feel no need to prove anything to anyone by “making it official”.

It IS official.

We’ll eventually cross that line and sign the paperwork. But for now, I really want to express my gratitude to friends and family that are around to share in our love of life and our lust for adventure and those that understand why (as long as we have to choose one financially) being 3o and abroad together sounds so much more appealing than 30 and married…

 

 

I’m a Swimmer.

I’ve been back in the pool now for almost 3 months after a near 2-year hiatus. With every lap I complete, I’m reminded with increasing fondness why I always end up back in the water.

I have been a water baby my entire life, but these are the top 5 reasons I’ll be an old fish, too.

1. I hate to sweat in public

Let’s face it, if you’re not sweating profusely, you’re not working hard enough.
And if you’re not at a gym, it’s really hard to get the most efficient workout in the least amount of time and space at reasonable cost.
Therefore, working out requires sweating in public.
Guess where sweating isn’t a noticeable factor?
In the pool, of course! I may still get red-faced… But you won’t see any pits stains on this little fishy!

Plus the bonus of the built-in cooling system… I mean, do I even need any more reasons?

2. I’m really, really good at swimming

Listen, I tried my hand at a lot of different sports. I always wanted to be an athlete. But white girl can’t jump… So volleyball was a bust for me.
…In a room full of fellow-JV-hopefuls all leaping a beautiful 16″ vertical, I hopped like I was tied to the ground with bungees and never managed to hit 11″. It also took me about 45 minutes to run a mile (okay so it was like 12, but it was always in last place by a tragically large margin).
I remember trying out soccer as a kid, and I didn’t even know how to play the game, so while all the other girls battled it out for possession of the ball, I just set up camp where I was, parked my butt on the field and watched the scuffle.
The coach yelled at me; I never went back.
For whatever reason, swimming just made sense to me. I was always able to understand the technique and do it well. It took me years to get fast, and I only JUST learned how to efficiently Butterfly in the last 5 years, but my body and the water have always gotten along.

3. The smell of chlorine

You either get this one or you don’t.

If you get it… You GET IT. That SMELL… It’s just… I mean…

If you don’t get it, there’s simply no way to explain it. For us, it’s a drug.

4. In competitive swimming, body-shaming does not exist

In my best shape, I was still never swim-suit skinny. At a public pool, I would be embarrassed by my thick arms and great big thighs… I always rocked love handles and a round face.
But at a swim competition, I never had any reservations about wandering around in my suit and flips, letting my big ol’ thighs catch some sunlight.
[Obviously there is a standard of body fitness that just accompanies a certain level of competitive swimming. In this instance, I’m speaking of high school level.]

At high school level, you just never know who the real threats are. We all obviously keep our eye on the girl whose shoulder dimples are crinkling at us from across the lanes. Or the girl in the FastSkin who’s been competing since she was in swim-diapers. But the secret weapons were always girls like me. The ones you don’t expect to be powerhouses.

Time after time, I would climb out of the pool after my 200M freestyle race and see all the thinner, fit-looking girls still finishing up a final lap. They’d grab the wall, choke out a few breaths and then smile up a nod of respect for destroying their lap time.

No one was ever looking at my thighs.

5. It’s the only place I’ve ever been graceful

I have a hereditary fally-downy gene. I often wear flip-flops in inappropriate weather conditions and slip on painted parking lot lines, or trip over speed-bumps, or stub toes and fall over… As recently as one week ago, I bruised my tale bone because I was trekking down a wooden ramp in the rain and forgot how to walk like a normal human.
I am constantly covered in bruises from running into, falling off of, or tripping over things.

But all of that goes away when I’m in the water. [Not that I haven’t tried to snap off my fingers on the occasional lane line. Wow. Ouch. I’d rather walk across a room of Legos].

Once I get in a pool, my inability to stand up in shoes turns into all the grace and coordination of a frikin mermaid and a total control over my faculties that is sorely missing from my dry-land existence.

In the water, I’m a ballerina. I’m an artist.
In the water, I move like I’m at the end of a ribbon dancer’s baton.

In a world where I’ve always felt like a bull in a china shop, there is a poetry in the feeling of total grace.

_________________________________________________________________

Did you know that when you swim laps, you work every muscle in your body except your inner ear?
Did you know that smell is the strongest sense tied to memory? Maybe it’s my young years in our family pool that inspire positive thoughts when I hit a pool deck.
Did you know that I hate wearing pants and this is the best sport for that particular clothing preference?

Whatever the reason, it’s a life-long love affair that I love to share with a new crop of students every year.

What’s your favorite thing to do to unwind, recharge and get healthy?

What a Male-Dominant Society Looks Like to a Twenty-Something Woman in 2016

Sexism in the form of a heroic gesture.

I used to drive a Subaru Forester that had a whole slew of health problems, not the least of which was a severe oil (among other fluids) leak that would spray all over my engine as I drove. Once the engine heated up, it would then produce a fun plume of smoke every time I stopped at a stop light and choke me with fumes, while freaking out all surrounding commuters.

At one such stop light, a man in an SUV pulled up next to me with his wife in tow, rolled down his window to get my attention and then informed me that I have an oil leak.

“I used to work on cars a little, so I recognize it. You’ll want to have your husband or boyfriend or someone check your oil level for you!”

In his world, he’s a concerned citizen. He’s taking the time to help a fellow human with his limited expertise. He’s rescuing some poor lady from a death-by-ignorance, of sorts, by her car.

Here’s the problem:
It’s not just presumptuous… How could I NOT realize I had a huge leak? I even had 2 quarts of emergency refill oil sitting in the seat right next to me. Huge plumes of smoke! 
But his assumption that I needed a “husband or boyfriend” to do something as simple as check my oil level was unforgivably misogynistic. Worse, it wasn’t as if I were some 16 year old girl that might just not have the benefit of experience. I was 28. And in professional work attire (so as not to be mistaken for a 16 year old).

It makes me wonder what world we live in that wives, sisters, daughters are not taught what men consider to be basic skills… Or at least, not taught regularly enough that this man–and his WIFE–would think this encounter is an act of helpful kindness more than it was a display of alpha male condescension.

Here’s where that story gets really ugly… How many of you read that and thought, “Wow, he was just trying to help. Why are you being so sensitive?” Because THAT, my friends, is why men like him still do things like this.
Let me be clear:
I do not relish a world that people don’t look out for one another. Or one where this man would see my car, recognize the problem and drive on by to avoid some tirade from a crazy, angry hyper-feminist. But I also don’t consider it unreasonable to be approached at a respected peer level rather than spoken down to. It’s okay to recommend I check my own oil. I reserve the right to draw my own boundaries without being put back in my place and reminded to be grateful when a man offers me his shining, armored hand.
“Oh, but this is why chivalry is dying in our society!” Make no mistake, people. This is not chivalry. It is chauvinism. This same man, recognizing a serious problem and offering to personally help me for no reason other than a desire to help a fellow human… That is chivalry.

 

Sexism in the form of male privilege. 

I was sitting in my car outside of an office building with Life Mate. We were early for an appointment with our realtor and killing a few minutes before signing the final paperwork to purchase our house.
A man walked out of the building into the half-full parking lot and headed leisurely for his car, eyes down on his cell phone, laughing at what was on his screen. When he got to his car, he set a briefcase on the ground, put his coat up on top of his car, then began digging in his pocket for his keys, all the while, his eyes still glued to his phone. After fumbling to find the right one, he unlocked the car, picked up his briefcase, grabbed his jacket and finally opened the door to climb in.

The women reading this already know the point.

Men… Let me introduce you to male privilege.

A woman walking through a creepy, exposed parking lot with her eyes on her phone is a member of 1 of 3 groups:

  1. Pretending to be looking at the phone while secretly scanning surroundings, trying not to look suspicious and/or nervous so as not to draw attention.
  2. Texting or talking to a friend about your whereabouts, half-joking about a time limit to notify police of a missing person.
  3. Already dialed 911, finger poised over “Send”. Just in case.

I’m not joking. We really do this. ALL THE TIME

We will have our keys in hand. Frequently spread between our knuckles that are clenched in a fist. Because basic self-defense is a right of passage for young women and we know how to stop an assailant for long enough to run away. Not only that, but it’s considered risky and irresponsible for us to have keys buried in a hand bag while walking through a parking lot. We’re taught it’s an invitation for predators; all the time they’d need to strike.

Never, ever do we put things on the ground or car roof anywhere that isn’t our own home if there is any way to avoid it (ever wonder why we’re so good at juggling 100 things in our hands at once?). Because we know that it creates delays in getting into the car, and blind spots to our surroundings.

I watched this man casually climb into his car, leaving the door wide open for several seconds as he situated, moved his briefcase into the back, adjusted his coat and seatbelt… before finally closing the door and starting the car.
And I was moved by it.
I was moved by the drastic differences in composure and attitude. I was moved by how care-free the experience was for him.
And it struck me like a bolt of lightning how careLESS that same scenario would have seemed, if he had been a woman.

We are, at all times, responsible for our own safety and not making ourselves vulnerable to an attacker.
Sexism in the form of entitled judgment calls.
Cat-calling. Whistling. Hooting. Licking lips. Kissing at us. Clapping. Grunting.
Guys.
It is never okay.
Let me repeat that:
 IT IS NEVER OKAY. 
We’ve heard examples of the ramifications. We know what happens if we incur your wrath. And how it’s our fault that we didn’t just accept it as a compliment. We know you’re just as likely to call us a stuck-up bitch as you are to call us a sexy mama depending on our reaction to your whistles.
If we politely smile, it’s an invitation for more advances. And thus, our fault if we’re attacked.
If we ignore you, we’re just bitches, snobs or prudes. And thus, we antagonized you with our rudeness and it’s our fault if we’re attacked.
Then there’s the ugly underside… How women don’t feel like we can talk about it. If we express how distasteful we find unsolicited advances, we open ourselves up to the final word in cat-calling judgement: The Man.
As soon as we mention an incident of being hit on in a public setting, The Man gets to intervene and decide whether or not what we were experiencing was a true instance of harassment or whether we’re just being sensitive to harmless compliments. The Man gets to decide if we’re conceited. The Man gets to tell us the best tips and tricks for making them stop, because The Man knows what he’s after when he’s whistling at a woman. The Man even gets to decide if we brought it on ourselves by doing something unconscionable like walking outdoors without a bra on. In our own yard. Or a short skirt in a bar. Or a low-cut top in the office.
And worse: The Man gets to decide if we’re actually attractive enough to warrant cat calls at all, or if we just misunderstood… Maybe they were talking to another woman because clearly You couldn’t have elicited this response.
Harassed, embarrassed, self-conscious, doubting, and insecure. This is how we walk out the door; compounded by Every. Single. Time. it happens.
We can do better than this. We can stop laughing it off when movies make the same tired jokes about women. We can stop accepting it as ‘no big deal’ when our friends take a familiar condescending tone about a woman’s place. We can teach our sons that women are no more to be controlled than they are to be feared; that their contributions to society are supposed to be different but it in no way makes them less or more valuable. We can stop assuming that men don’t have the emotional capacity to control their feral urges and therefore women are doubly responsible for actions that might awaken the inner caveman. We can stop associating female characteristics with negative connotations. We can redefine what it means to walk/talk/throw/run/fight like a girl. And we can stop making The Man the official standard for excellence by which we must all be measured.

Our Journey to Self-Sustainability: Part 2

So once we got a grasp on our garden space and how to best grow in it as discussed in Part 1, we had to lay down a plan for which crops we wanted to try and where to put them. We also wanted to maximize the use of space that was already worked so we could use the least amount of time and effort with the biggest yield. (Make no mistake… It was still no small amount of effort).

When we bought the property, there was a gated garden with 4 parallel raised beds running down the center. Our first project was to rearrange the beds and clear out mulch to make room for rows. (Top of the photo). i-ZLDSsfZ

After doing some reading on making money off of limited land space, we started year 1 as a learning effort to see which plants will thrive with the most success for our situation: The garden is partially shaded by a large adjacent tree, the natural soil is thick and clay-ish, and the water runs down from the top of the garden to the bottom etc…
After this season, we’ll have a good idea which plants won’t thrive in our circumstances as well as which ones are the easiest to sell at our local Farmer’s Market. Then we’ll dedicate huge portions of our garden area to a small handful of cash crops.

Obviously we took into account the things we eat or use the most first, as well as crops that have the most versatile recipe options (like tomatoes).

We ran out of time in the season to get the area appropriately tilled and fertilized before we needed to get our seedlings in the ground.

So instead, Life Mate hand-tilled about 1/3rd of the area for us to test out some rudimentary rows, and in the remaining space, we built in 2 new raised beds.

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In the fenced area we have:

  • Lettuce (3 varieties)
  • Kale
  • Spinach (3 varieties)
  • Radish
  • Onion (2 varieties)
  • Garlic
  • Peppers (4 varieties)
  • Cabbage
  • Calendula
  • Carrot
  • Okra
  • Corn
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Tomato
  • Green bean
  • Raspberry
  • Blackberry
  • Stevia

Now, in order to keep this whole space alive and thriving obviously required a respectable level of attention–namely, copious amounts of water. Particularly during our unusually warm and early spring! So the next project was to make sure it didn’t cost us a bundle to keep water running constantly. This meant we needed to start collecting rain water.
We inherited 2 hand-me-down 55 gallon drums already equipped with the hardware for water barrels. Lucky us!
Though the basic construction is incredibly simple should we need to build more: Big hole in the top-attach to water source, small hole in the bottom-attach spigot, seal.

Since we were in the process of simultaneously re-constructing our chicken coop and run, it was a perfect opportunity to create a dual-use, rain-catching chicken run.

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Ultimately, we just created a slanted roof that angled down to a brand new gutter system and funneled directly into our raised barrel.
*Note: It’s important to make sure the barrel is at a higher level in the yard than the highest point of the plants if you want to run direct irrigation.
Since our barrel serves a dual purpose as a chicken-waterer also, we opted out of direct irrigation this year and will write up updated plans for that next year.

It took less than a month of Kansas City spring storms to fill (and overflow) our water barrel. So next year, we’ll need a minimum of 2. Since it has been installed, we haven’t used the hose once.

$$$

Last step in Stage Two was to try to maximize our garden space by utilizing scraps and expanding outside of our garden beds without building ungated beds. We had plenty of guttering leftover from the water barrel installation, so we decided to create mini hanging gardens on the outside posts of our gated area.

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After drilling a few drainage holes, capping off the ends, and filling with dirt, we were able to transplant some of our small root plants (radishes so far) and clear out garden bed space for some of our more space-demanding plants.

They look a little sad in the photo from some transplant shock, but they sprung to life overnight!

… Where many of them were eaten by birds. Now we know: Netting required. Though there are still several left and thriving. Next year, possibly lettuce in the gutters.

 

Our most pressing upcoming project is to create more efficient drainage in the beds to prevent another incident like this week’s flood.

Well that, and clearly we’re a bit behind in our weeding and mulching. Oops.

Stay tuned for Part Three! I’ll cover the basics for first-time chicken-keepers, critical spring harvesting of particular herbs, simple recipes, solutions to flooding and more!

Shorts

When you change a poopy diaper while you have a buzz, everyone loses.

  • Being a mom is basically like birthing your own arch nemesis-bred with evolved super powers specific to defeat you.

The light bulb moment of aging is when you realize you’re sympathetic to the plight of Ms. Hannigan.

  • A crucial milestone in any friendship is the first time you don’t care if they see your house in its natural state.

Admit it: You’ve considered how fucking sweet it would be to sneeze while you orgasm.
If you hadn’t thought of it before now… Welcome, fellow dreamer.

  • I feel like, in all that time they were wandering through the desert, that guy could have given his horse a name.

Sorry for getting that song stuck in your head.

  • Living with a Leftie can double the lifespan of your carrot peeler.

Graduation from hobby gardening into more intensive farming is when your shower runnoff is no longer sufficient to wash all the dirt from your shins and feet.

  • At any given moment, no less than 50% of the women you walk by on the street have a tiny mohawk of hair on their legs that they missed while shaving and shrugged off until the next shave.

I want to write a follow up book to the “Left Behind” series called, “Bye, Felicia”.

  • Why don’t the makers of sippy cups with straws just include a little pipe cleaner brush for the straw with purchase? Seriously?

I’m pretty sure kiwis are actually Ewok eggs.

  • I’d wager anyone that has lived in tornado alley for a good chunk of time is more qualified than any coastal meteorologist to talk about twister behavior.
    • The newbies to the local weather channels are easy to spot–just look for the one sweating bullets during 15 simultaneous tornado warnings.

I need to start hanging out with people more regularly because if I ever got accused of a crime, an 8-hour marathon of Frasier is a shitty alibi.

A Silly Memory of an Absurd Feline

I wrote this fun little bit about my cat around 5+ years ago.
My Jinxie met an untimely end a couple weeks back, so I dug this up to post in her honor.
Thanks for the adventures, kitty friend.
♥Jinx, 2000-2016♥

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It’s the morning of my first face-to-face interview with a company I was very excited to work for. (Especially since 9 months of unemployment makes Stephanie a cranky lady). It’s not scheduled until 1pm, but I still want to give myself as much prep time as possible. So I’m up early ready to shower, do makeup and hair and give myself enough time to go through a few different outfits in order to find the one which screams, ‘Hire me! I’m competent and capable!’.

8:30am.I take my time rolling out of bed, getting my positive face on and revving up for my interview. Head for the shower. Extra hot water today as I just had to crawl out of my warm covers and am now compensating for the lost heat. After a few minutes of scalding water, I decide I’m ready to turn down the heat a bit and just wash my hair like a normal person. When I turn towards the faucet, I get a surprise: The face of a creature previously predisposed to avoiding-at all costs-the location in which she currently finds herself. My cat has her nose stuck in the curtain and has her body half-raised onto the side of the tub. When we make eye contact, she lets out a yell of disapproval. As my cat is part Siamese and thus, bred to be a ‘talker’, her initial reaction doesn’t surprise me so much as alarm me. I have had this cat for over 10 years. Why today of all days has she decided that it’s problematic for me to be showering?

I try to talk her through it. But the more I tell her how ok it is, the more water comes running down my hair and face and the more upset she becomes. Eventually, she pushes away from the tub in disgust and begins walking circles in my bathroom. (For any of you that have not seen my bathroom, it’s painfully small. Toilet, shower and enough extra space for my door to swing in. That’s it. –I do make up for it with large counter space and sink in a sort of dressing room, but that’s a moot point). And here’s my cat… Walking circles about the size of a dinner plate in my bathroom howling protest at my shower. I must admit, I was moved by her concern, but deeply annoyed that she was distracting me from my pre-interview game-prep. After rinsed shampoo and conditioner with no break in the kitty alarm, I stuck my head out of the curtain to once again try to reassure the beast.

Again, the eye contact seemed to cause more harm than good. She was back up on the ledge and her alarm had increased in intensity and volume by about 7 notches. I saw her little brain working overtime as she worked out how she could get me to understand the seriousness of the situation. Her hind legs sank several times and stopped just prior to a full spring as she worked up the courage to do what she had to do. Finally, she pushed full-force off the ground, through the crack in the curtain and directly into the tub. The small leaks from my faucet, along with the ricocheted drops from wall, tub, me, whatever had her pretty well soaked in no time flat. The small amount of water in the tub still waiting its turn to drain made it nearly impossible for her traction-less paws to get a good enough grip to undo what had been done.

Frantic and screaming and receiving no help from me—busy both laughing hysterically and moving as far away from angry, wet kitty claws as possible—she managed to sink a claw into some calk on the side of the tub where it met the tiles and pull herself free in a graceless, slopping mass onto the floor outside of the tub. There’s an interesting galloping noise that moved at full speed back and forth down my hallway and around my dressing room for the next 5 minutes before I got out of the shower. When I finally stepped out. She was waiting at the door to my bedroom just opposite where I was standing. The hate in her eyes bordered on terrifying. Soggied, furious and so very disappointed in me for not having listened to her soon enough to avoid this tragedy.

Every time I have seen her since the incident, she has been cowering under something, sadly licking her still-wet paws (while making sure to pause ominously and stare at me long enough to remind me that this is my fault), or I just hear her somewhere hidden and close by-making pathetic whooting sounds instead of meows, generally followed by a sneeze as if to make sure I know there’s still water up her nose.

Brave soul.

I appreciate the rescue attempt, m’dear… But I think my interviewer appreciated the attention to hygiene even more.