Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Giving Thanks and Giving Food: Supporting New Parents at Thanksgiving

Whew, three births in one week has left me feeling thankful that I'm not hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year! Instead I'm joining friends at a potluck, so all I have to manage is my delicious, local, (truly) free range turkey from the Farmers' Market! With my close-to-Thanksgiving due-dated clients all home with their new babies, I'm feeling pretty confident that my Thanksgiving plans won't get derailed last minute, though you never know!! (#doulalife)

We won't get to postnatal appointments till after Thanksgiving, but I'm still thinking about my new-parent clients gearing up for their holidays. They all have different plans to manage a new baby, a major holiday, and families eager to meet the newest member. There's no right or wrong here: having people over, going to someone else's event, or just laying low all have their pros and cons. It can be a very difficult decision, though: many new parents feel pressure from their families to host or show up when their world has shifted cataclysmically, and it feels best right now when kept very small. Is it easier to have people over and have to deal with clean up, or get everybody suited up for an all-day adventure somewhere else? And what if your family doesn't live nearby?? It can seem like rotten luck to have a baby arrive just before such an eventful time of year, but Thanksgiving babies come with one huge perk that makes Thanksgiving parents some of the luckiest if they know how to take advantage of it!

All us doulas give our clients the same advice for postpartum: stock up on food! Frozen meals you can pop in the oven easily as well as snacks you can eat quickly with minimal prep work are real life-savers as you adjust to life with an infant. The great thing about Thanksgiving is that it's a holiday that revolves around delicious, hearty, rich sure, but wholesome for the most part, food! What do all those people hosting huge dinners have in common? They're drowning in leftovers they'll never be able to eat!

So here's what you do: everyone who wants to come see the new baby has to come after Thanksgiving, and they have to come bearing turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, you name it! The greater the variety, the better. Put them to work dividing up your loot, making one to two serving plates you can pop in an oven or microwave to have ready to eat in minutes! Don't neglect fresh fruit, crudite, sliced cheeses, nuts, and other grab-and-eat snacks, too! These are often Thanksgiving leftovers as well.

It can feel awkward to enforce conditions on people's visits, but new parents are entitled, so really take the time to empower your clients, or new-parent family and friends, to do this! No one should walk in their door without contributing to their well-being in a meaningful way, and bringing a freezer bag of turkey, plunking it on the corner reaching out for that plump newborn and saying "GIMME!" is not going to cut it! Meal prep is a great chore visitors can help out with, but doing dishes, doing laundry, changing the sheets on the bed (don't be embarrassed!), sweeping the floor, organizing baby gifts, holding baby while you take a shower (this is the job everyone wants; make them pay their dues first) are all meaningful ways to contribute.

A quick note: got a pet? Don't outsource the walks or playtime! You are your pet's entire world. Your attention just got split in a huge way. Don't underestimate how difficult this transition is, even if your loving, well-adjusted pet isn't acting out in any way. Use your visitor's help to make time to give your pet undivided attention and reassurance that you love them, and they are an important member of your family. This goes equally for dogs, cats, guinea pigs, parrots, any pet intelligent enough to suffer from a lack of stimulation. Your tarantula will probably be ok. Your bearded dragon should remain a priority. This deserves a whole blogpost of its own, and believe me, one is coming.

Picturing new parents all over the country enjoying delicious, home-cooked meals in the days and weeks after Thanksgiving while friends and families fill their homes with the love of service makes me so happy. Creating a postpartum culture of service and support is perhaps easiest this time of year, though of course, it's always essential! Help your clients and/or family and friends make the connection between the big cookers, and their empty freezers, and you could be making a huge difference in their postpartum recovery, adjustment to baby, even breastfeeding success! 

And whether you're at a birth, cooking up a storm, or sitting around a table of family or friends, I'm wishing you a happy Thanksgiving!

~Emily

Monday, March 27, 2017

Eating Omily: If You are What You Eat, that Cow's Ass is Grass.

It's time to talk about the Lexicon of Sustainability again!! :-D We've made it to one of my favorite topics: grass-fed beef, or as I call it, NOT RAISING ANIMALS IN THE STUPIDEST WAY POSSIBLE! And even better, this video uses Joel Salatin, genius, common-sense, guru, animal lover, (those are my titles; he's a chill humble guy, but trust me, they're all true), and owner of Polyface Farms. Ok, ok, I'm getting ahead of myself. Go watch the video, and then we'll talk. It's embedded below, or you can just follow this link.
See what I mean? This is something many Vegan-diet proponents get wrong, and it's also why I can't stand it when people say 'plant-based diet' to mean a vegan diet: EVERY DIET IS PLANT BASED! Yes, you get more pounds of food by growing grains on land than by raising cattle there, but cattle turn food we can't eat (grass) into food that we can, and they can do it on land that it is not sustainable to grow food crops on. If we raise animals the way nature evolved them to live, and we respect basic laws of sustainability (No, you can't eat beef five days a week. Get over yourself.), then eating meat becomes a crucial tool for reforestation, combatting global warming, saving water, and many other things that seem straight up backwards if all you hear is vegan propaganda. 

Land that has evolved along-side ruminant grazers is healthier with those animals on it than not. News flash: most of our country used to host MASSIVE herds of ruminants commonly called buffalo, but more appropriately called bison. Through conservation efforts, and breeding, we've saved these incredible animals from extinction, and hopefully they'll cover more and more of their original range in the coming years. In the meantime, cows are grazing ruminants! Putting them on that land fills a crucial gap in the ecosystem, keeping the whole system healthier! Now, is there going to eventually be some competition between the recovering bison population, and people making money off of grazing cows on that land? Certainly! By maintaining protections, and supporting farmers with small, and diverse farms who are able to pivot to other crops and animals if they can't maintain the land for cattle that they once did, we can manage that situation responsibly. Yes, I'm optimistic. I can't help it.

On these small-scale diverse farms, cows, chickens, pigs, and crops all fill important ecological niches, creating a beautifully functioning cyclical ecosystem that produces healthy and delicious food for people, and improves the natural ecosystems they're a part of year after year. Whereas CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations, or feed lots) create cesspools of cow shit, really sick animals, really unhealthy meat, and tons of greenhouse gases, all in the name of, you guessed it, everyone having access to beef five times a week (or more).

Sometimes, I can't blame the vegans for their hardline approach. The situation is bleak, and so many people are so happy to put their heads in the sand, and their $2.99/pound steaks on the grill. Advocating for delicious vegetarian and vegan alternatives to what so many still think of as the only thing that can constitute a meal (animal flesh, starch, veggie) is a crucial role in building a sustainable future. If that's the role you can best fill in this fight, do it! But, please, don't fall into the trap of thinking, or worse, telling other people, that all meat is the same. Even if you feel that killing any animal for their meat under any circumstances is wrong, you can't compare the life of a CAFO cow to a grass-fed (and grass-finished) cow. And if you compared the life of that grass-fed (and grass-finished) cow to a wild ruminant, guess what? The grass-fed cow probably had a happier, easier life, and a less painful death. So that's enough for me.

But wait, what does grass-finished mean?? Ah, here's where it gets tricky. Big surprise: companies know that people care about these issues, and want healthy, sustainably-raised meat. Fun fact: much of the cattle in America spend the early part of its life eating grass before it gets shipped off to those feed lots. That's why the distinction of 'grass-fed' doesn't always mean a whole lot. Look for 'grass-finished' meat, or independent certification programs like the step system you'll see at Whole Foods to know what you're buying, and make the choice that's right for you, the planet, and the cow. Or even better, buy your meat directly from a farmer, and talk to them about how they raise their animals and why! Nothing protects you, the consumer, like a relationship with the people who grow and raise your food.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I'm Not Dead! :-D

You may have noticed I'm a bit off my blogging schedule. There are a few reasons why, depending on how you want to look at it, but the one I've chosen to stick with is that the universe is pushing me out of the nest. I promise to get it sorted out and get back to blogging more regularly. Until then, my twitter (@OmilyNYC) is getting more action than it ever has, as I explore new hashtags like #doulathoughts, #doulalife, and #doulaproblems...

A shift in my schedule leaving me free to devote more time to both training, and doula work isn't the only less than voluntary change of 2017. I look at our budget revealed we've been relying far too heavily on seamless...and now I'm back in the saddle, cooking about five nights a week. I had forgotten how much I love it! And you can see the tasty results on my instagram (@Emily.Hursh) because I'm a millennial! As a result of cooking more often, I've been able to pack delicious leftovers for lunch instead of buying it, which is saving us even more money! I'm also back on the making my own smoothies train, since it's the easiest thing to eat for a late lunch when I find myself at home on all these suddenly free late afternoons. As usual, typing it all up is showing me how its all connected, how my life is shifting to make more space for the things I want to be doing, rather than the things I felt stuck doing.

Did I mention it's also Lent? Lent being a time of sacrifice, I tend to think of it as a long, slow slog...but then Sister Cavanah at church asked us to think of us as a sprint: an intense spiritual workout...and it is, when you compare it to the rest of the year, when spiritual practices don't tend to take center stage so much. This year I want to take the time to get to know Jesus. You know, that radical middle-eastern refugee who challenged social norms, didn't think much of religious leaders of the day, and hung out with criminals? That guy. I'd like to get to know him better. To make more time for that goal, I'm taking a break from commenting on facebook posts that make me ragey. Might be good for my stress levels, too...

But what's new for you? Well, I'm putting together a new workshop that I'm hoping to offer in both Jersey City, and NYC in the coming months! And I'll be performing ambient with my incredible aerial partner March 19th at the Muse Cabaret! So check that stuff out! Woop woop!

And let's leave it at that for now. I have soooooo many e-mails to send! (#doulalife!)

Live Omily,
~Emily

Monday, January 9, 2017

Finding Our Way in 2017

It's the New Year! Lately I have the strangest feeling that I'm living in The Future. Usually it's only the first month or two of the new year that I get that vibe, but I never really got used to it being 2016, and now it's 2017! Is this just part of getting older?

That said, I have so many concrete things to be excited about this year. I've never been so clear on what I need to do to accomplish my goals, and grow into who I hope to be, and that feels fantastic!

In that spirit, I just launched my doulamatch.net profile! Check one important step off that list!

Of course, this year is off to a rough start, too. I'm deeply saddened by the massive mistake made in the presidential election, and the damage that mistake will cost us for the next four years. I also lost my paternal grandfather on the 4th day of the new year. He was suffering, and ready to check out of his nursing home for good though, so while I mourn the era his death definitively ended, I'm more relieved for his sake than anything else.

Usually I post my New Years resolutions here, publicly, on the blog...but this year, I think I'll make you wait till I announce their completion, one by one.

Are you settling into 2017? Does it still feel new and shiny? Are you thinking about resolutions, or do you have your list all set?

Why not set aside ten minutes for a meditation to help you focus your energies toward the highest good in the year ahead?

Recalibrating Meditation:

Choose a comfortable space where you won't be disturbed. Make sure your phone won't make any noises or vibrate! Change into comfortable clothes, and if it helps you to shift gears, light a candle, or some insense, or turn on your fancy-schmancy essential oil defuser. Either way, keep the lights low. Sit or lie down in a comfortable, supported position. You don't want to get a cramp and have to shift halfway through.

Give yourself at least a few breaths to just relax, and release tension from your body. As you let out your breath with a sigh, gently shake our your shoulders, arms, and hands. Let your breath flow in and out easily, and naturally, inviting your exhales to be longer than your inhales.

You might close your eyes, or you might just let your focus go soft. Either way, invite yourself into your body. Take an energetic look around. Are there sensations you notice? Sensations you already expected to find count, but don't forget about those subtler ones, the ones that you could dismiss as just your imagination. Don't. These sensations are your body talking to you.

What is your body saying? What does your body need? Listen and absorb these messages for as long as feels right, then thank your body for communicating its needs to you.

Shift your focus back out of your body. Start to zoom out. Way out. You can imagine the view as you float up,  through roof of your building, up through the sky, out, out, out, until you can see the earth spinning below you. Send love to the earth. Let her know you are listening. What is the earth saying? What does the earth, and all the beings living on her, need from you? You will not be burdened with all the needs of the entire world! Only what is in line with what you can give will be asked. Listen and absorb these messages. Thank the earth for being your beautiful home. Enjoy the view for as long as you'd like! You can turn around to take a gander at the rest of the universe, or fly wherever you'd like to go.

When you're ready, see yourself making the journey all the way back to your body. Take a few deep breaths, and make small movements with your fingers and toes, making your way back to the moment you're in.

Take some time to journal about what you've received. What concrete steps can you take to better care for yourself, and the world? What larger goals can you set for yourself for 2017 along those lines? If you're feeling overwhelmed instead of expired, focus only on those small steps, and consider what resources you would need to make larger goals feel doable.

Come back to this meditation any time you feel a need to recalibrate your inner compass: toward your own greatest good, and toward the universe's greatest good...

Enjoy!

Live Omily,
~em


Monday, December 12, 2016

Eating Omily: The Lexicon of Sustainability–F*ck Convention


Perhaps the most obnoxious "Is this backwards land??" feature of any discussion on sustainable, and just food are what we mean when we talk about 'conventional' farming. Because what we mean by that word is a process that is LESS THAN 100 YEARS OLD compared to what we mean by 'unconventional' farming, which is tens of thousands of years old! There is nothing conventional about using natural gas as a raw product to produce 'fertilizer' in a factory. Growing food with artificial fertilizer is like growing humans on nothing but processed, fortified junk: a terrible idea that yields terrible results. It's actually not rocket science.

Nature is not a linear system. Nature is a cyclical ecosystem. If we don't treat our farms like cyclical ecosystems, they are not sustainable. If they are not sustainable, it doesn't matter how high our production rates are because it's only a matter of time until we hit a wall.

It's like suggesting we solve the problem of coal miners losing jobs as we close coal mines by insisting we keep mining coal: like, cool, they've got jobs, but their kids won't have an inhabitable planet, soooo...

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Watch this video from the Lexicon of Sustainability to get clued in:
http://www.pbs.org/food/features/lexicon-of-sustainability-unconventional-agriculture/

We've talked about a lot of these issues before, but I love seeing them explored from new perspectives, and having the history thrown in.

Where do you find unconventional growers? At your Farmers' Market of course!! But that's not the only place. More research is needed, but I've heard at least some lip service toward sustainability from Blue Apron, and Carnivore Club, a subscription service for rare, premium charcuterie (get in my mouth!!!), specializes in small, local artisans purchasing humanely raised meat. Whole Foods and similar markets, while expensive, do reliably stock unconventional foods, and even your standard big box market is likely to have BOTH an organic, and a local section these days! Thankfully, putting your wallet where your ethics are, and putting your ethics where your mouth is, is getting easier and easier, and the more we push for it, the easier it will be.

Now, speaking of the Carnivore Club (please tell me they sell jackets...), this whole, sustainable ecosystem deal is a bit of bad news for vegans. It may be possible, thanks to fungi and bugs, to have a sustainable ecosystem farm that doesn't feature food animals...but it's much simpler to keep chickens, cows, pigs, rabbits, etc. along side those diverse crops. Fortunately for all the vegans who don't believe that eating animals is simply wrong on its face, a sustainable ecosystem farm is one where the animals live out their lives as their instincts demand: i.e. quite happily! And if you feel in your heart that no matter how animals lived their lives, killing them for food is wrong, then trust me, your choice to be vegan benefits the planet simply by cutting down on the number of animals demanded for human consumption. Raising animals right requires A LOT of space and resources. Meat is absolutely a gourmet treat in the sustainable future we're hoping to build. We are ALL going to need your vegan recipe blogs, so keep them coming! Love and respect to you!

Speaking of which, got a rad veg or vegan holiday recipe? It's a great time to share. ;-)


Monday, November 28, 2016

Eating Omily: Lexicon of Sustainability-Seeds of Hope

It's been a while since we've discussed the Lexicon of Sustainability, but I haven't forgotten about it! This issue is a really important one: we're in the midst of a mass extinction that no one is talking about! By creating an economy in which small, diverse, family farms struggle to survive, let alone survive, we've also majorly shrunk the gene pool of what we eat...but before I get into that, you should watch the video! It's right here: http://www.pbs.org/food/features/lexicon-of-sustainability-seeds/

You may recall the discussion of landraces from an earlier video and blogpost (Hint: it's right here!): when food crops are allowed to evolve over time in specific regions, when seeds are shared between farmers, and traits that we like, such as the ability to be stored for months in a root cellar and stay nutritious and delicious, are bred back into the gene pool, we end of up with a thriving, diverse ecosystem of food crops that can withstand harsh conditions.

When selling seeds becomes about making as much money as possible, only a few easily producible, high-yield varieties get sold, and GMOs become more and more popular because they are patentable: non-GMOs can be saved and shared by farmers, reducing the number of seeds a company can sell.

Now, to be clear, I don't believe GMOs cause autism or cancer or allergies, or whatever. I think GMOs represent a grave misuse of an important and useful technology. Did you know the same technology that produces GMO corn also produces insulin for diabetics?

Aside from hurting farmers by taking their right to breed, share, and save seeds, GMOs also are a huge cause for the extinction of so many valuable food crops, a situation that puts us at direct risk of famine, food shortage, and hunger. This 2016. We know better. Learn how you can fight for GMO labeling, so we can make choices about where our money is going, and support seed sovereignty. Of course, at the core of this is supporting the very small, diverse, family farms that create sustainable ecosystems. Buy your food from them! Farmers Markets are one way, but CSAs are another, and farm stands, and even shopping online, are other ways.

I've said it before, and I've said it again. The old guard is fighting like hell to take us all down, and the planet with us. We need to be fighting just as hard. This isn't the time for half measures. If you can do it, do it. If you can't, do what you can, and encourage others.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Can You Hear My Voice This Time?

Well, it happened. It seemed like it couldn't possibly happen simply because of how deeply horrific it was, but it did. And if you're anything like me, you've spent the last week vacillating between rage, heartbreak, confusion, physical illness, and deep down, hope. The fight doesn't end with Trump's election. In fact, it has just begun. Everything we've worked so long for is going to be challenged, and we have to do everything in our power to defend it. We always knew this was a long game.

This is what's getting me through these dark days as I seek out the best ways to make a difference.
(And in case the imbed feature doesn't work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YttscNOoAjA)

I loved this video when it premiered at the DNC...but it's take on so much more meaning now. I won't be quiet to avoid starting a fight with my family. I won't pretend like an opinion that someone else doesn't deserve human rights is valid. But I'm doing more than that, and you should, too.

Donate to Planned Parenthood. Send cards of support to LGBTQ support centers. Send money and supplies to Standing Rock. Write members of the electoral college, and remind them of their responsibility not to elect an unqualified candidate to office, and who won the popular vote. Ask President Obama to appoint his choice of Supreme Court Justice: Congress has waived their right to comment by refusing to do their job. Send reiki healing to the current Supreme Court Justices!

Don't just do one thing. Don't just do the easy thing. If ever there was a time to step out of complacency, to make sacrifices to build the world you want to live in, this is it. Take a long, hard look at your life, at how you talk about oppressed groups. Don't just stand around in your safety pin: do more.

Don't block your Trump supporter family members on Facebook! TALK BACK! Kindly, compassionately if you can stand it, but at the very minimum, don't let them forget that they are not the majority. We are all humans: women, LGBTQ people, Muslims, immigrants, Jewish people, people of color, poor people. Fight for human rights for every. Single. Person.

I don't know about you, but I've still got a lot of fight left in me.
Live Omily,
~Emily