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

Monday, November 7, 2016

On the Importance of Shifting

I was on such a role sharing a vintage or writing a new blogpost every week! But last week, I knew on Sunday that a Monday blogpost was just not happening! Not with a full day of work, family visiting, a neighborhood block party, AND the Halloween parade to get to! I knew you wouldn't mind. I'll always be back!

Lately I've been hard at work updating my website. Just typing the phrase is frustrating! It seems like every time I turn around, I'm having to make major changes again. I update, fix, rewrite, swap in better photos, and then I breathe a sigh of relief. Done at last! And then the next thing I know, the whole thing is out of date again, not matching what I'm doing, what I'm offering, or even who I feel like I am anymore. Up to now, I've been thinking that it's because I'm no good at designing websites (and lets be real, I would definitely be better served by leaving this to a pro; I hope I can afford to soon!).

But today, I had an insight that's invited me to flip my perspective on this problem as well:

I was taking a bag of clothes with me to the Farmers Market to drop off at the textile recycling tent. I had my route all mapped out: clothing drop-off at 17th street, then up to 18th street to check for on-sale halloween candy, and pick up cash at the atm, then back down to the Farmer's market. I got to 17th and...no textile recycling tent! Where could they be? They were here last week! I stood there, awkwardly gripping my big bag of clothes, and desperately trying to keep my tote bag on my shoulder, feeling utterly lost. My whole plan was down the drain!  Thankfully, there was an alternative: I could carry the clothes down to 14th and 5th and drop them at the Goodwill there. But that was four blocks out of my way!

I set off in that direction, feeling very annoyed. I do not like my well-laid plans going awry. I took some deep breaths, and reminded myself that the discomfort I was feeling was just my brain not wanting to accept that things were different from how I had wanted them to be. Something about the way I phrased it reminded me of a definition of humor: the difference between what you expect, and what you get. It seemed like if I could shift my perspective just a hair, I could see the humor of the situation, and feel amused instead of frustrated.

Spoiler alert, I wasn't able to make that shift, though the attempt was interesting. But when I got back to thinking about my website, and what I still needed to complete the updates (birth ball photo shoot, anyone?), it occurred to me that maybe the problem wasn't that I had to keep updating it, but my expectation that I shouldn't have to. If my website stopped needing updating, didn't that just mean that I had stopped changing? Growing? Evolving? Allowing myself to constantly grow, change, and evolve is at the bedrock of who I am, and who I want to be. Why would I be frustrated by the fact that my career progress has never stagnated for any appreciable amount of  time??

Change is good! Not always easy, but good. Keep any eye out on Facebook, instagram, tumblr, twitter, and my e-mail list for the launch of, actually, TWO freshly updated websites. The hustle is too big for one, y'all.

Oh, it's only fair that I leave you with the end of the story: turns out the textile recycling tent WAS there, just a few spots down from its usual place. So, if I had literally shifted my perspective about ten feet over, I wouldn't have had to walk those four extra blocks at all! Don't get stuck in a place, or a mindset. It will not serve you!!

How are you making space for worthwhile shifts in your life? How could you be?

Live Omily,
~em

Monday, October 3, 2016

Eating Omily: The Lexicon of Sustainability: CSA! CSA! CSA!

Are you ready for some good old fashioned impassioned chanting? Here we go:

CSA! CSA! CSA!

Wasn't that fun?? If you aren't joining in yet, I hope you will be by the end of this blogpost! The topic is...you guessed it! CSAs! What are they? Why are they great for you? Why are they even better for farmers? Just watch this video from the Lexicon of Sustainability to get up to speed!

So, it's pretty clear how awesome this is for farmers: Farming is a risky business! So many things can wreak havoc on a harvest: the weather, a broken down tractor, a lack of workers, the shifting winds of food trends (kohlrabi is the new kale!), and about a million other influences. By committing at the start of the season to be the market for this food, and paying up front, you're giving the farmer needed funds to invest in this season, and future seasons, and to ride out some of those rough times.

But wait...what's in it for you??

A CSA can feel like a huge check to write for a bunch of fruits and veggies, and it IS a big chunk of change up front! You may not be in a position financially to make that outlay, but if you are, or you're already buying organic, or shopping at your farmers' market, you will likely find that you come out ahead, or at least break even. AND, no stressing over what to get, or when to go: your stuff is bagged or boxed up waiting for you. Go pick it up, and away you go!

Many CSA members enjoy being exposed to fruits and veggies they may have never had before (were you like, wtf is kohlrabi??)! If you enjoy cooking, and preserving, you'll love having lots of inspiration every week.

If you don't, you will want to be prepared to pick up these skills in order to get the most out of your CSA. You could team up with a buddy to help you figure out what to do with your bounty, in exchange for part of your share. I'm just going to say this right now, friends: I am SO up for being your preserving/cooking buddy! Take the plunge!! You could plan out soups, crockpot meals, days to prep and freeze extra veggies, and more all in advance, and along the way, you'll get to know the food you eat in a whole new, more intimate way!

Speaking of getting to know in a more intimate way, CSAs build communities around local food sources: you'll get to know the farmers and workers who feed your family, which inspires a whole new level of gratitude for your daily bread, and you'll meet neighbors at your pick ups who you already have something in common with: a passion for sustainable, healthy, delicious food! CSA stands for community supported agriculture, but you can also turn that phrase around: CSAs are when agriculture supports community!

If you're intrigued, now's a great time to do your research: ask around and see if any of your friends did a CSA this year. It will be winding down in the next couple months. Ask them what they thought of it. See what all options are available in your area. Once you find a good one, put the sign-up dates in your calendar, and be prepared to leap on it! The good ones are known to fill up!

Will you consider a CSA this year? Shall we try this one more time..?

CSA! CSA! CSA!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Eating Omily: Economies of Community

Welcome back to my continued exploration of the Lexicon of Sustainability! This video comes in under three minutes, but it gets right down the meat of the matter when it comes to sustainable food: our centralized food system was a bad decision, and has long since proven itself unsustainable. We need to swap it out for what we had before: a series of localized food systems. How do we do that?? Well, to start with, watch the video. As they say at the end of each one, "Your words can change the world".

http://www.pbs.org/food/features/lexicon-of-sustainability-economies-of-community/

Economies of Community...it has a beautiful ring to it, doesn't? Isn't that what economies should be? Shouldn't they serve us, and not the other way around? 

Thanks to a whole bushel of short-sighted decisions that took place around the post WWII boom, instead, we have economies of scale: get big, or get out!

Aside from being unsustainable in just about every way, this new system has cost us so much: local and regional recipes, flavors, and foods, a sense of local pride and belonging, job opportunities that pay a living wage, and more. Our centralized food system is a failed experiment. Thankfully, we're figuring that out, and we're figuring out how to fix it.

We're working toward replacing economies of scale with that beautiful phrase: economies of community. How can you help? Like it says in the video, we need motivated consumers to make this shift. We need people who read labels, go out of their way to spend their money on sustainable foods, and use their voices and well as their dollars to make it clear what they want: local, sustainable food systems.

That's it. It's really that simple. Itching to read more? Just search the 'eating omily', and 'sustainability' tags on this blog, or search terms like 'local'. You'll be up to your ears in details! :-D

Monday, September 5, 2016

Eating Omily: White or Wheat, Hybrid or Landrace, and Other Bread Questions

This week's Lexicon of Sustainability video is all about breads, and the grains they come from. Yep, I'm afraid it won't offer much practical info to the gluten-intolerant...but since a whole lot of people eat a whole lot of bread, if you're committed to participating in building a sustainable future, this may still be useful info for you to have. That's entirely up to you...but if you know you shouldn't eat bread, but are sorely tempted to...consider this your temptation trigger warning! ;-)

Do you love bread? A good sandwich...a flaky croissant...golden buttered toast...mmmm...(I warned you!) If you also try to put nutritious foods in your body, you may feel guilty for your bread habits. And when trying to choose which breads to buy, you may feel confused! There are so many words thrown around: 'multi-grain', 'stone-ground', 'wheat', 'wholewheat', 'whole grain'...what do they mean??

Thankfully, the Lexicon of Sustainability is coming to our rescue to answer those questions, and delve even deeper into the world of grains: how has industrial farming changed the game, and how are we changing it back?

Watch the video here!

I love that this video talked a bit about landraces, but I don't think it covered this issue nearly enough. So, here's some info for your edification:

What are landraces? Wikipedia had this handy, simple definition: "landrace is a domesticated, regional ecotype;[1][2] a locally adapted,[3] traditional variety[4] of a domesticated species of animal or plant that has developed over time, through adaptation to its natural and cultural environment of agriculture and pastoralism, and due to isolation from other populations of the species."

As you can see, landraces differ a great deal from the breeds of foods we find in industrial farming: it's easy to point to GMOs as the antithesis of land races, and the monocultures they encourage are indeed very problematic from this standpoint, but the technology itself could theoretically be used to enhance or recreate lost land races. Hybridizing different breeds to create a plant that yields in very consistent ways is just as much a disruption of the magic of landraces as tearing them out and planting GMOs in their place. 

Basically, landraces have adaptive strategies that allow them to survive the conditions they have been grown in for hundreds or thousands of years: drought or mold resistance, quick-growing for a short season...these are just a few examples. It's easy to produce these tendencies through a strong breeding program, weeding out (no pun intended) traits that pop up in the genome that aren't helpful.

This seems like a win-win: the landrace seeds will inevitably produce some plants that won't produce well in the common growing conditions: those recessive genes in the genome will come up. With lots of hybridization, we can take that to a minimum, increasing production.

BUT. You knew there was a 'but' coming, didn't you? Sometimes a season, or a few seasons in a row, won't bring the expected challenges: an unexpected flood, a late hard frost, a new pest insect. These are challenges that can easily decimate a crop! But a landrace crop produces lots of slightly different plants every season. Some of those plants will likely have the traits needed to survive the onslaught. This saves some of the harvest, but production for that year will likely still be very low. Where landraces shine are in the next year, and the year after that! Saving those seeds that survived is its own form of breeding: putting traits that saved these plants back into future plants, so that if conditions continue in this way, MORE of the crop will survive next year! If not, those standard traits are still in the genome, and they'll come back out, too.

Because humans have been growing crops all over the world for thousands of years, we have incredibly diverse, and niche-adapted landraces of tons of important crops! It's a really beautiful gift from our ancestors! 

Land races are an insurance policy from Mother Nature that we just can't replicate through human intervention. The very complexity that we try to breed out to make controlling these plants easier is what makes them amazing!

But because we love our food, and our harvesting practices, to be consistent in an industrial settings, landraces are going extinct all the time. We are losing this precious inheritance at an alarming rate! How can you help? If you grow anything at all from seeds, take the time to ask around and get a hold of some seeds that have been saved, and passed down for generations, instead of the typically hybridized ones you'll find in your gardening center. If you get the opportunity to buy foods or products that come from landrace seeds, put your money there! You won't be sorry.

And yes, read labels! Look at ingredients! Bread should only have a few: flour, water, yeast, salt, maybe a little sugar or honey. There may be seeds or dried fruits, or herbs added in, but a short ingredient list that begins with wholegrain or wholewheat flour is the way to go.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Eating Omily: Trash Talk–The Power of Composting

Welcome to Part 3 of my expansion on the Lexicon of Sustainability short video series! These incredible little videos have so much to offer in terms of getting you up to speed on the Food Justice movement in easily digestible little bites! In fact, this 4 minute, 19 second video is one of the longer ones in the series! I'm super excited for you to give it a watch, and then read my additions and comments below, but before you do, I have a few quick notes for you:

This video shares and support my own ethic on meat-eating: that it can be done humanely, and respectfully. If you disagree, there are a few images in this video you probably won't enjoy seeing (raw meat, and a pig's head). Toward the end, the video also addresses the issues of food waste that happens on the plate, and suggests the ethic of, 'take what you want, but eat what you take'. If you have a history of an unhealthy relationship with food, or disordered eating, this portion could be triggering for you. Remember that eating what you don't want, even if you took it, is just as wasteful as throwing it away. Let it inform how much you choose to take next time. Don't be ashamed of a simple mistaken estimate of your appetite...and of course feel free to skip through these portions of the video if you aren't comfortable with them. That said, here's the link!

I love that this is the next topic in the Lexicon of Sustainability because I just had a conversation about it with the husband last night! Why do we compost? Is it really worth the extra effort, and freezer space? (ALL real estate is precious in NYC!) This video explains a lot of the great reasons to do so nicely, but it left out one: when our food waste rots in a landfill, it creates methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas, and in some cases even nitrous oxide (yes, the stuff your dentist gives you; don't go sniffing landfills, it's not worth it), which is 300 times as bad for our atmosphere as CO2! When our food waste rots in a properly-tended compost pile or bin, it DOESN'T release these harmful compounds. Composting DOES produce some carbon dioxide...there's just no getting around it. There's carbon in those food scraps, and as they are broken down by microbes, that carbon combines with oxygen and escapes as gas, but this short-term carbon cycle is a normal part of how the planet functions, and the compost produced helps plants to grow bigger and healthier, allowing them to sequester more carbon dioxide during their lifespan, so it all comes out in the wash. Worth the freezer space and a little time and space on your part? You bet!! 

Now, it's important to note that proper composting is NOT just tossing food scraps in a pile and leaving them. That's essentially just a mini landfill. If you have the space to compost, it's important that you learn how to do it properly, and tend this incredible, living ecosystem you're creating in order to maximize its benefits for Mother Earth. There are lots of resources for learning how to compost out there. Here's one that I found! If you DON'T have the space to compost, don't despair! You may be able to contribute your scraps to a composting program, or even just a green-thumbed neighbor! Ask around, and do some googling! Remember to follow the rules of what can and can't go in the compost contributions. Those rules do differ depending on the specific program. Things that impact those rules include the scope of the composting project, how the composting process is managed, and what happens to the finished compost. Which might just bring us to why I keep mentioning freezer space! No, you cannot compost in your freezer...but if you're collecting scraps to give to a composting program, the freezer is the best place for them, because they won't start to rot and stink! I use a gallon zip-top bag. As soon as its full, I bring it to the Farmers' Market, and drop it off. Easy!

I love the way this video focuses on composting as a way of closing the loop. Nature works in cycles: the water cycle, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the cycle of the seasons, the phases of the moon...on and on and on! Nature. Is. Cyclical. This simple fact is exactly why 'conventional' farming doesn't work: it's a linear system! Inputs in, crops out, over and over again: it's the definition of unsustainable! Composting is how we close the loop! It's a HUGE part of sustainable food production.

Are you able to participate in closing the loop and building a more sustainable future through composting? Think you'll give it a try?? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Eating Omily: The Lexicon of Sustainability on Organic vs. Local

When you hear talk of sustainable food, or food that's healthier for the planet, what one word springs to mind? Organic? Probably! This can be a deal-breaker for some people. Organic food can feel like a racket: lots of less-than-totally-sustainable things are legally permitted in certified organic foods. Animal husbandry practices are the most egregious offenders. And, of course, there you stand in the grocery store. Organic tomatoes...or conventional ones. There are the price tags. You only have so much money. Who can afford to throw it away when there's a cheaper option RIGHT THERE??

Then there are the organic warriors: organic breakfast cereal, organic bottled water (it's probably a thing), organic fruit snacks, organic pajama pants (they have them at Wal-Mart!). Don't get me wrong: this approach is certainly doing some good for our world, but sustainability is more complicated than a piece of paper.

And this is the topic of the second Lexicon of Sustainability video: "Local vs. Organic". Again, it's only three minutes and sixteen seconds. Take a timeout and watch it!

Believe it or not, a lot of farmers are just like you, organic-avoiders! They aren't keen to pay extra for that certification sticker, and don't have access to the systems and resources that would make doing so make sense for them. So, they don't. And you don't have to either!

And, Organic Warrior? From the bottom of my heart, thank you for what you do!! When you step into a Farmers' Market though, try rephrasing your question! Instead of, "Is this organic?" Try, "do you spray your blueberries? How often, with what, and what for?" Or, "How do you handle pests and weeds on your farm?" Or, "What do your chickens eat?" You'll get a lot more information, and easily find some wonderful foods that meet your standards without the extra cost of maintaining certification thrown in!

Of course, when you're in your grocery store, you don't have the luxury of gaining this info. Which is one reason why Farmers markets are such a better choice when they're available! In which case, buying organic DOES guarantee a base level of earth, and health-protecting practices. Take some time to understand exactly what 'organic' does and doesn't mean, though. And keep in mind that "Certified organic" is not the same as "contains organic ingredients", or "made with organic (one ingredient in a product". And remember, "All Natural" does not have a legal definition. Anyone can slap that on anything. Don't pay extra for it, and don't assume it means anything at all. Read ingredient labels and nutrition information whenever you buy a prepared product, unless doing so triggers disordered thoughts or behaviors for you.

Got questions after watching the video? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Birth of a Doula

Over the weekend, I had the honor of attending my first solo, professional birth as a doula. It was a tough birth for the birthing person, forcing them to confront their beliefs surrounding birth and the medical system, and their own self doubt. In those challenging moments, I was forced to confront those things, too. Was I helping? Was I doing any good at all? Could I really handle this?

Ultimately, nothing prepares you for your first birth, whether you're the birthing person, or a birth worker. You have to trust your instincts, and think on your feet. Inevitably those first few births teach you A LOT. Some of the things I learn include:

Eat whenever you get the chance.

A BIG part of your job will be doula-ing the birthing person's family members. Your extensive knowledge of birth will enable you to ensure them that all is well, even when it seems like things are not. Get all the phone numbers, do all the texting, and enjoy having someone genuinely interested in all you learned in doula training!

Don't. Make. Assumptions. You will pass them along to your client, and your client will think something is wrong if you are mistaken.

Don't let your client see your doubt. They need your calm, confident presence, no matter what.

You will astound yourself with your stamina...but you are a human. Don't wait till you're breaking down to ask for help. There's no shame in calling in your back-up. This is not about you. You need to make sure the person attending your client is alert enough to do the job.

A lot of routine medical interventions are not necessary for most births, and they have side effects, so they should not be used if they are not called for...but they are an absolute God-send when they are called for. Not needing or wanting them does not make your client a better person, or their birth a better birth.

Sometimes the thing your client will need from you is for you to disappear. You may very much want to be involved at this moment, you may feel useless, and want to start pacing, or fidgeting. Again, this is not about you. Sit the feck down and relax. Your client may want you in their line of sight, or they may not. You'll figure it out.

Don't stand in the light the doctor's using to see how things are going during second stage.

The medical care provider(s) may ask you for help: roll that table over here, hold the birthing person's leg, go get more ice chips...make yourself useful! But remember who hired you, and who you are there to serve. Their opinion of you means absolutely nothing as long as you know that what you are doing (perhaps being invisible, which looks pretty useless from the outside) is what your client needs.

You will be overwhelmingly touched by the moment when that brand new person enters the room, and the family through a rather unusual door. You will want to be aaaaalllll up in there! One more time: this is not about you. The client may want to show off baby to you, or express their gratitude, or they may have questions about the immediate newborn procedures, or if they should put the baby on their nipple right away. If they aren't asking for you, stay in the room, take pictures only if they've asked you to, and get out of the way.

You will experience the weirdest blowback after you leave the birth: after hours of attending single-mindedly to the needs of another person, the slightest concern for your needs will move you to tears. Just roll with it. Yay, excessive gratitude!!!

There's more, of course. Every time I reread my notes I consider what I might do differently if I could. But my client, her partner, her father, the midwife...they were all blown away at the level of support I was offering, and the difference my presence was making in their experience of this birth. So, I'm off to a good start. ;-)

 Live Omily,
~em


Monday, July 18, 2016

Levels Levels Everywhere...Finding Your Fit as Teacher and Student

Any teacher, of yoga, aerial arts, or algebra, will tell you that one of the toughest things about the job is when the people in the room span wildly different levels of proficiency in the skill being taught.

How, in a limited amount of time, do you lay a solid foundation greener students can benefit from for a lifetime, offer properly scaffolded skills to students who have been around the block, give suggestions and critiques that each student is at the proper level to absorb and use, AND not leave anybody either struggling out in the cold, bored stiff, or sitting around waiting for you to get to them?

It's a tricky dance no matter what you're teaching, but I'll be zeroing in on teaching aerial arts since that's what I'm spending most of my teaching time doing these days. It's also why all, or open level classes are less than ideal. Of course, they are often necessary if there aren't enough clientele to fill two or three classes for every one open level offering, so don't panic if they're all that's available to you: a skilled teacher can manage the dance. ;-)

And offering leveled classes offers its own challenges, anyway: different teachers will have different opinions about whether a skill is a 'high' level one, or a 'low' level two, and so will different students. And plenty of students don't pay attention to what level a class is when signing up, or will fudge their experience to get into a class they, right or wrong, think is the right level for them.

Some studios get around this by being super rigid: holding back students from leveling up until they demonstrate competency in every singly skill offered in the current level. Students in these scenarios often get to the next level and find many skills there are much easier for them due to differing body types, and learning blind spots. Proponents of this style would point out that that's not the worst thing in the world...and they'd be right!

But what is correct scaffolding for one students is inevitably ass-backward for another, and I think that matters. The saying goes, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, they will spend their whole life thinking they're stupid. The same goes for the expert climber who's fearful of drops who gets judged by their ability to neatly land hipkey drop, and the beautiful mover in the air who gets confused by complex wraps who can't keep four different S-wrap entrances clear in their heads.

No matter how firmly we are disciplined to master every aspect of a skill set, we're going to emerge at the end with strengths and weaknesses that could probably have been recognized mere months into our practice. I'm a fearless dropper, and I build strength easily. I struggle with finding beautiful lines in every movement, keeping my feet pointed and winged out, and with gaining flexibility. There are plenty of moves that, at least for now, are just not for me.

I think it's ok to pick your battles, and stick with the things that make your heart sing, as long as you're operating safely in both a short term and a long term sense (think: not falling today; not developing a receptive motion injury five years from now). This is particularly true for the majority of aerial students who will never pursue a professional career.

So, that said, how do you properly learn, and how do you properly teach in the real world, where there's bound to be some leveling diversity in your classes?

Students: shop around! Do not stay with the first teacher who popped up on google! Find a teacher who recognizes your weaknesses and strengths, most likely because they share them. Make sure this teacher takes the time to teach those mutual weaknesses, instead of just ignoring them. If you can find leveled classes, take them. When you find that you're usually the most skillful student in the room, it's time to level up. This can be scary, and a tough adjustment, especially if you've been putting it off. Leave your ego at the door. Take your sense of humor instead. Also, read this blog post by the incredible Laura Witwer. Actually, read her entire blog. And take her classes. You're welcome.

Teachers: Talk to each student during warm-up to get an idea of where they are in their journey. Divide your students into smaller groups by level. Choose a skill or a sequence that easily breaks down into levels, and give everyone the piece thats right for them. Keep moving from group to group, and keep your eyes open: what aspect of the skill is a particular student struggling with? What spoken cue, or demo could help them with this sticky spot? Is this a strength or flexibility issue? If so, I try to offer a short-term fix to enable them to modify the skill and keep progressing, and a long term conditioning exercise to move them toward being able to do the full skill. Notice when students begin getting frustrated: that's your cue to switch to a new skill. Don't wait for every single person to conquer their piece. Let them chew on it for a while, then move on to something else. Repeated exposure over time will get them there without burning out, physically or mentally.

Also, be aware of your weaknesses as a teacher!! Do you excel at building confidence and breaking down simple skills in numerous different ways? Beginner students may be your bag! Do you get bored by repetition, love learning by doing, exploring new variations, and sharing ideas? You probably are much more comfortable working with experienced students!

I adore teaching brand new students. I love seeing that lightbulb go off when they realize that yes, they CAN do this! I have a wide vocabulary of moves suitable for brand new through level one students, and my years of experience teaching yoga have helped me develop the ability to break down skills in a variety of ways for different kinds of learners who aren't familiar with the basics of aerial movement. I'm not comfortable working with advanced students because I don't feel I have the experience, or the eye for professional-level technique, to help them continue to grow and develop their skills. Once you graduate from my sweet spot, there are a few teachers I'd recommend to you!

Take control of your journey! Challenge yourself! Have fun!! :-D

Live Omily,
~em

Monday, June 20, 2016

Eating Omily: The Definitive Julep Tutorial

Happy Summer Solstice and Strawberry Moon! (A strawberry moon is the first full moon of Summer) I'm celebrating by carting home my annual flat of strawberries for preserving purposes. I'll spend a sticky hour later getting as many as I can manage prepped and frozen or simmered down into a simple strawberry sauce that will keep a week or two in the fridge, or six months in the freezer. It's a great way to keep the summery strawberry flavor going since fresh strawberries will dissolved into a pile of moldy goop in a matter of days! I use it the way I use fresh chopped berries: by stirring it into yogurt, chia pudding, or, (segue alert!) mint juleps!

If you follow me on instagram, you may have already sense this blogpost on the horizon. The mint julep is my favorite cocktail in the warmer months: it's cool and refreshing, and I'm a big fan of the real star of the drink, which, contrary to who got top billing, isn't mint. It's bourbon of course! Simple mint juleps are lovely, but they only get better with the edition of seasonal fruit. Strawberry juleps are what celebrating the return of June tastes like, and later when humid, sticky days are getting me down, I can always chill out and find a smile when I'm sipping on a beautiful blackberry mint julep.

When the choir at my church held a potluck picnic, I signed up to bring strawberry mint juleps for all, and so I could spend some time enjoying the party, I googled around for ideas on how to batch juleps, rather than muddling them all individually. I wasn't very happy with what I found: a lot of people complaining about making even a single julep, first of all, and second of all, lots of recipes for mint simple syrup, resulting in a drink with no fresh mint in it at all. This. Is unacceptable.

I've provided a basic mint julep recipe before, but if there's a significant population out there intimidated at the thought of muddling, something more detailed is clearly needed. So here it is!

Omily's Mint Julep Tutorial!

You'll need: glasses. And the type of glass matters. Traditionally, mint juleps are served in sterling silver cups, but A.) I don't have one of those, and B.) I prefer using clear glass because it's a damn pretty drink. You also have to think about the bottom of your glass.  For example, I love serving cocktails in canning jars, but the bottom of the glass is convex, like an upside bowl, which means that it's easy for the mint to hide in the edges from your muddler. You want a concave, like a right-side-up bowl, shape to the bottom of your glass. You'll also want it to be wide enough for your hand to fit easily inside. You'll be more comfortable if you choke up on your muddler, and if you're hitting your knuckles on the glass with every stroke, you won't make many juleps.

You'll also need: a muddler. Mine is the pestle from a small, marble mortar and pestle I got as a wedding present. It's got some heft to it, which makes muddling easier, and the unpolished marble has enough texture to shred mint, but is smooth enough that the leaves don't get caught and stuck to it. I make lots of juleps all summer long, and I've never felt compelled to by an official 'Muddler'. If you do, consider the traits I've just outlined. A wooden spoon will work in a pinch, but it will take considerable longer to do the job with it.

You also need mint, of course. I like peppermint. Not spearmint, which is milder, or any of the other varietals like chocolate mint, or apple mint. I want a sharp, cool, minty flavor with an herbaceous, green background. Peppermint gives me that.

And Bourbon, of course. Don't go for the fancy stuff. My go-to for cocktails is Heaven Hill. I don't see it in stores a lot, and you may raise an eyebrow at the price. It seems too cheap to be any good, but it's perfect. Ask your liquor store if they can order it in for you. Most can, and will, for free.

The last ingredient is not the least important: Ice. You'll need a lot of ice. When I make two juleps, I use up more than one full ice cube tray. If you're the type to leave the empty tray languishing by the sink for weeks, plan ahead and make sure you have at least one tray full of ice per two drinks.

And optionally, some fresh summer fruit to jazz up the standard recipe. Strawberries and blackberries are my favorites, but don't hesitate to experiment!

Oh yeah, and sugar. You do need sugar. There's no getting around this. You do not need simple syrup. You need sugar. Coarser is better. I like sugar in the raw best, but any old sugar that's not powdered will do the job.

Ready, everyone? Here's the method.

Put your glass or glasses in front of you. I don't make more than two at a time. Have a julep station if you serve these at a party. Don't play bartender.

Put eleven small (or less large) mint leaves in the glass. It's an arbitrary number. I don't know where I got it. I've been counting eleven leaves out for a while now, and it works every time.

Sprinkle about a teaspoon of sugar over the leaves.

Muddle.

BE PATIENT. This is where my instagram post comes in. Check it out here. It's also a good opportunity to check out my julep glasses of choice! As Alton Brown says, "Lackluster muddling leads to lackluster juleps." Don't make a lackluster julep. :-) Push down hard on sugar over mint, rotating as you go. Lift up, shift the muddler, repeat. It should take about two minutes.

Once the mint is completely shredded into a dark paste, add your fruit if you're going to, and mash it up with the muddler. It will be much easier than muddling the mint. ;-) It's not a good idea to muddle the mint and the fruit together because the fruit juices will dissolve your sharp sugar crystals, which you need to shred the mint.

Now, add the bourbon. I do two shots of bourbon. I said it was refreshing; I didn't say it was weak. I like to take this opportunity to stir the drink, loosening the paste of mint and fruit, and distributing it evenly into the bourbon. Now, add ice. Fill the glass about two thirds or three quarters of the way, then stir again. This will start your cocktail cooling down, and it will melt some of the ice into the drink. You aren't adding any other liquid to this, so that ice melt is important for balancing the flavor. Dip the spoon down to the bottom and bring it back up, to distribute fruit and mint throughout. Top off with more ice, give it a last stir, and it's done!

Almost. If you sip it right now, you might think it's too strong and needs to be cut with seltzer or something. Wait five minutes. Try it again. It will be perfect.

Drink.

Repeat.

Aaaaahhh...

Happy Summer!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Eating Omily: (Reusable!) Bag-fulls of New Local Treats!

I've been finding such lovely treats at the Farmers' Market lately! Strawberries, of course: now is the time to eat pints a day and freeze the rest, or dump them in vodka for an ambrosial cocktail treat!

But there's so much more...reusable mesh produce bags, beach plum preserves, cherry bomb chili bitters, personal-sized vegan shepherd's pie, fruit-infused beer, garlic scapes, yogurt smoothies, flowering chives...no doubt about it: not only is another growing season upon us, farmers are getting more and more creative every year!! Let's break it down, shall we?

Reusable Mesh Produce Bags: Pick up 4/$10, and say good-bye to the nasty plastic habit! These breathable bags are gentler on your produce, and are machine-washable! You can see one of mine pictured above. Different vendors sell them at various green markets in the city. Ask at the Manager's Tent at the Union Square Farmers' Market, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday!

Beach Plum Preserves: beach plums are a tart, wild fruit that grows along the shores of Long Island. They're sustainably foraged, and cooked into a sweet and flavorful spread for all your brunching needs. Get a jar while you can! Once they're gone for the year, they're gone. You can find them at the Union Square Farmers' Market on Saturdays, along the top of the park, bordering 17th street.

Cherry Bomb Chili Bitters: if heat's not your thing, you can grab lavender, mint, or a variety of other flavors instead! These simple, and intensely flavored tinctures are just the thing to up your cocktail game! They're also a Saturday treat, and can be found at the Union Square Farmer's Market about midway up the park bordering University Place.

Personal-Sized Vegan Shepherd's Pie: With such a rich, savory flavor, you'll find yourself doubting the veracity of the vegan claim, but it's legit! You can find this perfect little lunch every day the Union Square Farmers' Market operates at Body and Soul: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday! They have lots of other excellent sweet and savory treats, too.

Fruit-infused beer: this tiny beer stand operates as part of a larger purveyor that offers lots of apples, greens, root crops, and tomato-based products, including bloody mary mix! They have more typical beers as well, including a beautiful balanced American pale ale. They can be found on Fridays for sure, and I believe Mondays as well at Union Square, close to 16th street, bordering the interior of the park.

Garlic Scapes: this is a gimme. You'll see these all over the market this time of year! But I buy mine from Central Valley Farms on Mondays. They're just shy of the north-west corner of Union Square, and they also offer wonderful yogurt, butter, eggs, cheese, other veggies, and strawberries!

Yogurt Smoothies: Ok listen carefully: this one's NOT at Union Square! You'll have to find your way over to Van Vorst Park in Jersey City, at the corner of Barrow Street and Montgomery Street on a Saturday before 3:00. Don't worry: it's just off the PATH train at Grove Street! And, the maple vanilla yogurt smoothie is well worth the trip (although blueberry, strawberry, and peach are all pretty special, too)! Why not fuel up with one before walking two blocks over to Newark Avenue for my Aerial yoga class at Jivamukti 2-3:15?? :-D

Flowering Chives: These are a perfect centerpiece with their pretty purple clover-like blooms, and an edible edition to a salad, or flavorful herb addition to your omelets and stir-fries with their subtle, clean onion flavor. And again, they're available at multiple vendors.

What special treats are you noticing at the Market these days? I can't believe the way the offerings have evolved since I started going ten years ago! It just goes to show you, at least every once in a while, you have to just take your time moseying around and see what you can see. You never know what you'll discover!!

Happy Spring!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Teachers All Around Me (And Around, And Around, And Around...)

My hoops are here my hoops are here my hoops are here!!!!

I've been taking them with me everywhere I go since they arrived on Thursday.

Getting my hooping game on feels like getting back in touch with an old friend: hooping was the thing that gave me joy when I struggled to fit in as a college freshhuman on her own in NYC.

But I'm approaching hooping so very differently these days: instead of buying kids hoops at wal-mart, or making them out of irrigation tubing, I bought properly sized and weighted circus hoops.

Instead of making up things to do, or challenging myself to learn something I saw on youtube in the courtyard of my building, I'm meeting my coach once a week to be led through a progressively more challenging set of skills with proper technique.

My self-taught background gives me somewhat of an advantage, but I've also had to relearn how to stand, how to hold my arms, and how to simply hoop around my waist. Apparently the pros don't look like surfing chickens.

There is something inherently meditative about hooping, even when you're wacking your knees, hands, and head in an attempt to get the timing down for moving the hoop up and down your body. The drive to keep the hoop moving feels strangely deep and instinctive. When it clatters to the floor, I feel like I've let it down figuratively as well as literally. I think that deceptively simple and rhythmic activities like hooping, or drumming, tap into something rooted deep down in our humanness.

This makes it easy to keep practice, especially on a nice day when I can be outside. But it also can bring out my disciplined-to-the-point-of-masochism side in a way that aerial work just doesn't, especially when I'm re-learning an old skill with a new, more challenging to work with hoop.
 After several attempts, the "WHY CAN'T I JUST DO IT?!?!" monster comes out, followed closely by the "*##&$^@^*#&@^*&#^@% I HATE EVERYTHING" monster.

There's definitely irony in an activity that feels so innate, so soothing, so joyful, and so peaceful also being a source of frustration, and self-flagellation...sometimes literally when I keep hooping over giant bruises in an effort to force myself to conquer a new skill for good. But I'm not surprised that my hoops have more to teach me than just kick-ups and splits.

I'm finding that when you pursue something with your whole heart, it demands that you rise to the occasion, not just in terms of your skills, but as a person. Finding your passion means finding your path, and one thing all paths have in common is that they lead to growth, and giving.

Learning to balance a burning desire to improve my skills with a sense of love and compassion for the journey will enhance my ability to balance the deeply giving work of being a birth doula with the necessary strong self-care practice to avoid burn out.

I'm grateful to my hoops for the lessons they have to share. What lessons have the things you love had for you? Your teachers are all around you. Take a listen! :-D

Live Omily,
~em

P.S. I'm hard at work preparing for my hooping debut at Big Sky Work's Prince Tribute Cabaret on June 9th! I'll show you no mercy, but I'll sho' 'nuff show you how to grind! ;-D

Monday, May 2, 2016

What's a Doula??

Tomorrow I'm going to my first "Meet the Doula" event at a family care practice in the city. I'm so excited to share information about what doulas offer to birthing people. I wrote up a handout that covers the most basic info about what a doula is...aptly titled, "What's a Doula??", so that during my ten minute presentation, I can focus on answering questions and getting more detailed about what a doula does and doesn't do. I wanted to share my "What's a Doula??" handout with you, too! :-D Here goes...

What’s a Doula??

‘Doula’ is a Greek word for ‘women’s servant.’ There are actually two types of doulas: birth doulas, and post-partum doulas. I’m a birth doula! A birth doula is a professional non-medical labor support person. Birth doulas are trained in the normal physiology of labor and childbirth, common complications, and medical interventions, as well as a variety of proven comfort and support techniques.

Doulas are great for everybody! Before the birth, the doula is a valuable resource for information, helping the birthing person to make informed decisions regarding their care. During the birth, whether it’s a ‘natural’ (pain med-free) childbirth, or one with an epidural, a spontaneous labor in which the birthing person spends most of their labor at home, or a planned cesarean, whether the partner has taken childbirth classes with the birthing person, or there’s no partner present at all: the doula is there to support and encourage the birthing person and any support persons present, and has the tools and knowledge to do so, no matter the circumstances of their birth. Immediately after birth, the doula helps the family to get settled, and begin breastfeeding if that is their choice.

Doulas in childbirth have been extensively studied in scientific trials, and they have been found to shorten the time people spend in labor, decrease the incidence of medical interventions, including cesareans, decrease the use of pain medications, and increase satisfaction with the birth experience.

As your birth doula, I will meet with you one to two times before your birth so we can discuss the kind of birth you want to have, plan accordingly, practicing relevant comfort techniques, etc. We’ll also be in touch via phone and e-mail. I’ll be on call anytime day or night for two weeks before your due date, until the baby is born. When you believe labor is starting, we’ll be in touch, and when you feel you need my support, I’ll be there. I’ll stay with you for your entire labor and childbirth, at home, in the hospital, or in a birthing center. I’ll stay for an additional hour or two, to assist with initial breastfeeding as desired, and to make sure your family is settled, and ready for some alone time. We’ll meet one more time to discuss your birth experience, and any additional resources you may need for your postpartum period.

What do you think? Are you left with questions for the doula?? I'd love to hear them! Maybe there are things I should be mentioning that I'm leaving out! :-D

Live Omily,
~em

Monday, April 11, 2016

(Don't) Mind the Gap, or Me Lying on this Crash Mat Wailing. It's Fine: A Love Letter to my Aerialist Buddies

Can we talk for a second about how hard aerial training is?

I'm not talking about straight up muscular fatigue and exhaustion. Yes, circus IS hard, but, again, I've been at this a while. It's what I signed up for.

I'm not talking about the pain, either. Sore muscles, twingey shoulders, achey knuckles, raw fabric burns, tender bruises, to say nothing of the space between my big toe and second toe, rubbed raw from toe climbs: all of that is old news. So much of it just doesn't bother me anymore. I feel more out of sorts when I take more than a few days off and don't feel any of those things.

I'm talking about the Ira Glass gap: I'm talking about watching another aerialist, and being able to pinpoint exactly what about their movement looks polished, professional, beautiful...and trying over and over again to replicate those things, and failing.
I'm talking about sprawling on the crash mat and wailing your lament to the world, and having this behavior not surprise or unnerve anyone else in the room, because they've all been there, too.

I'm talking about that feeling of hopelessness turned giddiness that makes you say things like,

"No, it's fine, everything is terrible and I hate my life and I will never have a consistent straight arm inversion. HAHAhaHAhAhahaHAHAHAhahahA!!!!"

We aerialists, at least the ones I know, we've elevated self-deprecation to an art form.

"I don't know anything on lyra!"

"No, OMG, that was so awkward-town, don't look at me!!!"

"I give up. I'm just going to chop off my feet. They won't stop sickling. It's fine, right? I don't need them."

I've had people tell us we need to think positive, to be kinder to ourself, and while in general I am a firm believer in the positive thinking train, in his case I can't agree. We aren't exaggerating, and we aren't beating ourselves up. We're accurately expressing what it feels like to want something really bad, and work our asses off for that thing, and have to keep doing what we know is subpar work for what feels like FOREVER because it's the only way to get to the skill level we want to be at. 

And this is where it gets beautiful: the only reason why we can vent our spleens, the only reason we can express these hyperbolic, and I assure you, completely genuine feelings, is because we are just as good at lifting each other up as we are at expressing our own angsty frustration.

"Dude, no, everything you do is so beautiful in the air. Like, you just goobered out of that move and it was gorgeous."

"Dude, stop it, you are so strong!"

"AAAAHHHH!!!! Your split is killing me, it's soooo gooooood!!!"

"You're an elephant!"

Ok, so sometimes we're pretty weird people in general and that comes through.

When I tell people who aren't familiar with aerial work about what I do, they always want to know if it's safe, if I've ever fallen, if I'm worried (or if my husband's worried because...he owns my body?? But that's another post...) that I'll hurt myself.

And it's funny, because aerial studios are literally the safest spaces I've ever been in, in terms of being able to be real, and honest, weak, and flawed.

Now, disclaimer, as a straight, cis, white, slender woman, I am sitting on a heap of privilege. Circus spaces are absolutely not immune to the issues of oppression that plague the rest of society. In some ways, it can seem like we've got that all figured out: we're a bunch of freaks, right? We accept everyone! I sure wish it was like that, and from my heap of privilege, I used to think it was, but listening to other people has allowed me to read between the lines: we have a long way to go.

So when I say aerial studios are safe spaces for me, that unfortunately doesn't translate to them being safe spaces for everyone.

Also, they aren't safe spaces automatically. They are because we contribute to making it that way (which means that yes, we CAN work at it and make them safe for everyone! Yay!). We get it. You have to be insanely hard on yourself to get to the level you need to be at as an aerialist, so someone has got to pick up the self-love slack. You need your peers to do it for you. And when you see them suffering, writhing in a puddle of self-doubt, the empathy's automatic. And you've seen what they can do. You have the perspective they can't have. It's a symbiotic relationship I never get tired of observing, and being a part of.

It feels so weird to be talking about how hard aerial is outside of an aerial space. I feel compelled to downplay my self-doubt, and frustration with non-aerialists because it feels...selfish? Like, humble-bragging somehow? I don't know.

But I have a sneaking suspicion this phenomenon is not specific to aerialists. I have a feeling writers feel this way, and artists, and musicians, and yoga teachers, and, like, what are some normal jobs? Those, too! And if you don't have anyone to freak out to about how hard this is and how much you suck and how badly you want to stop sucking, I think you end up turning all that inward, until you actually are struggling to think positive, and love yourself.

So, find your team. Find someone, preferably several someones, who you can get real with. Because you need it. Because support is beautiful. Because honesty is essential. Because the gap is real. And it's a dream-killer if you can't acknowledge it. Because it's not self-deprecation if it's an accurate assessment of your feelings, expressed as a request for perspective, for hope, for help.

I'm telling you right now. No matter what it is, you're closer than you think. The seeds of what will make you a unique master of your particular passion are already present. Trust yourself. Don't give up.

Live Omily,
~em

Monday, March 21, 2016

Eating Omily: Eating Well

Maybe eating should be simple. I think there are times and circumstances in which it is. But for a busy twenty-something building a career in Brooklyn, it's not.

It's joyful, inspiring, comforting, grounding, surprising, and satisfying...but it's not simple.

In fact, sometimes it's frustrating, annoying, anxiety-provoking, drudgery.

Over the years, what I eat, and how and when I eat it, has shifted dramatically along with my circumstances.

In college, I made bacon and eggs for breakfast on the regular, sometimes enjoying it on a toasted whole wheat English muffin, or folded into an omelet, along with a glass of milk and a glass of fruit juice. I put a tiny tupperware full of tuna fish tossed with Italian salad dressing into a zip lock baggy, and filled up the leftover space with ice, and took that and another baggy of baby carrots across two boroughs to my classes on the Queens campus. I ordered take-out a grand total of three times during my entire college experience. I just couldn't afford it. Food was precious.

In my first year of marriage, I packed lunch religiously, piling left-overs into a larger tupperware, and creating surprisingly yummy dishes along the way. It wasn't uncommon for a co-worker to poke their head into the minuscule break room after I opened the microwave, demanding to know what twist on the casserole formula I was enjoying that day. There were a couple months when bean stew was on the menu almost daily because it was so cheap, and so nutritious. Food was precious.

These days I talk about things like chia pudding, and green smoothies with a straight face. They're absolutely the corner stone of my diet and my saving grace amongst a whirlwind of activities, and a dire need for potent, complete-protein-rich nutrition.

But it's so important for me to point out that I eat these things because I truly find them delicious, and satisfying. Not because they are 'fat-burning', 'detoxifying', or somehow morally superior to other foods. They just WORK for me.

Let me just say this right now, if you're eating anything because you think it's any of those things, stop. Put down the fork, spoon, straw, or chopsticks, and take a hard look at your relationship with food. Food is precious.

Food is there to FEED you! Not to make you feel better about yourself, not to help you conform to insane expectations surrounding female beauty, not to take anything away from you at all, but only to ADD.

The day that clicked in my head the way I ate changed forever, and if my blood test results from my doctor are any indication, for the better.

Eat foods that are good for you, that have good things to offer you. Don't get obsessed with super foods. You don't need to eat goji berries, or acai (although you can of course). Berries that grow closer to home will do just fine. You don't need to treat cacao like a nutritional supplement. Just eat really dark chocolate, maybe even raw chocolate, because it is delicious, and has good nutrients for you. AND. You don't need to be afraid of anything as long as its food (If it had to be made in a factory, like trans fats, or added flavors, be wary)!

Not animal fats,
not flakey croissants,
not red meat,
not alcohol...

which isn't to say that you have to eat all those things. I steer clear of processed grain products generally because my body doesn't seem to like them much, but I dare you to try to get in between me and a pastry if I'm in the mood for one.

When I focus on putting good things in my body, I don't have to try to limit the not-nutritionally sound things that I eat. They naturally take a backseat. I indulge in stuff that is so delicious, it pays off in mental health dividends, because its a form of self-care.

I think this is a solid guiding principle for eating. From it, I've developed a food lifestyle that includes a green smoothie most days. My body just freaking loves smoothies. I feel full, energized, and ready to WERK when I have one!
Also they're just so damn delicious! This was some strawberry-banana-ginger love with mustard greens!
That may not be the case for you. Maybe you feel hungry right after having one, or maybe you find you need to step straight from the blender to the bathroom when you have one, or maybe thick, frosty beverages just do not excite you. If not, then screw it. NEVER have a green smoothie!

Take your time to find a way to eat that is MORE satisfying, joyful, and easy than it is frustrating, anxiety-provoking, and exhausting.

Don't let anyone tell you how or what you should be eating, unless you recognize that your relationship with food is so distorted that you need professional outside help to find your way again, and if that's the case, make sure it's real, professional help. Not magazine articles. Not people on tumblr. Definitely not me!

You know how I roll: I hope your eating lifestyle involves lots of local foods! I hope it involves lots of wonderful nutrients to power your body and brain! I hope it involves foods so delicious you can't taste them without needing to sit down and SWOON! I hope it involves bliss in the kitchen watching flavors evolve under the magical effects of heat, and time. I hope what you eat clues you into when, and where you are in the universe.

I hope you eat well. :-)

Monday, March 7, 2016

We're Going Around in Circles!

Today I went from shivering in my leather jacket over a flannel shirt dress, with scarf, hat, and gloves, to feeling free and breezy with my jacket unzipped, no hat or gloves! It's that time of year...too early to trust the weather, but when we get those early tastes of spring...it's glorious. It feels like a miracle! That's why I love living where there are four distinct seasons, including a cold, snowy winter (sometimes; not enough snow this year for me). Experiencing the renewal of the earth, and measuring time by watching the world change around me as we roll around the sun, keeps me grounded, connected, and so, so grateful.

This spirit of observation, coupled with a sense of awe, is something that yoga and meditation have helped me cultivate, and maintain. Of course, it's a constant work in progress to maintain that practice, and that spirit. Before I did any meditation, and when I was very new to yoga, I stumbled into hula hooping, and discovered another present-moment-based practice that enhanced my joy, and sense of connection to my body. It was powerful juju at a time when I was struggling to adjust to living in a new place, being in a new stage of life, being separated from my boyfriend (who later became the husband), and having to start all over building a social circle.
I spent many a happy hour in the Spring of 2007 (and acquired quite the reputation) hooping in the sun, blasting a playlist of jams from my university laptop, learning how to leave enough clearance for my cat ears (of course I was wearing cat ears, every damn day) when doing body-to-hand transitions. Fun times!

I have pictures of me hooping on front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, in the middle of second avenue by 9th street in NYC, and on stage at way too many local concerts. I took hoops with me everywhere, including into Madison Square Garden for a Killers concert, on the Staten Island Ferry, on every subway, so many airplanes...hooping was a way of life, a philosophy about trusting the rhythm of the universe, and the wisdom that everything is connected.

And then a few years later I discovered aerial arts, and my hoops started gathering dust.

It felt like a natural enough transition, but the few times I dragged my old collapsable hoop out to the park with me, I remembered why I loved hooping so much in the first place. When my silks coach reminded me that to work consistently, I needed a ground act up my sleeve, I wondered allowed if hooping counted. It did.

So now I have a hoop coach! Life is good. Except that having been self-taught for years, my hooping technique is, as my silks coach like to say, le poo.

Free-style hooping to dope tunes in the sun has been replaced with frowning at myself in the mirror as I will my body to move less and less while still maintaining a flat, fast rotation in the hoop, and counting off the beat when switching arms in an out while chest hooping.

It would be easy to get frustrated...but I LOVE learning new skills! Training in old-school cirque-style hooping feels like meeting the hoop for the first time all over again!

Just like the Spring feels brand new, yet so very familiar year after year...

There's a Buddhist expression I love: "In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind, there are few."

Letting hooping feel new to me will open up so many possibilities as I re-conquer the basics and start building choreography.

And embracing my status as a newla doula is keeping me from feeling too nervous as I prepare to attend my first few births. Without a short list of techniques I've used again and again, I'm free to consult a whole list, and go with what feels right in the moment, and appeals to the birthing person. It's a powerful place to be!

What are you new at this spring? Anything you're rediscovering? If the learning curve is driving you up the wall, try legs up the wall! Or another yoga pose ;-).

Live Omily,
~em

Monday, February 29, 2016

Birth Isn't for Everyone

Birth workers love birth, and we are passionate about advocating for people who give birth.

When you're advocating for people to be respected and given choices backed up by evidence when giving birth, you're not thinking much about all the people out there who don't want to give birth.

I've seen plenty of blogposts about being sensitive to people who may want to have children, but are struggling with illness, infertility, or financial issues that make pregnancy impossible, or not a good choice.

I see lovely, thoughtful articles about doulas who haven't had children, pointing out that the doula without children is not lacking in warmth, empathy, and presence, and in fact has a few advantages: if you don't have your own birth story, you can't project your birth story onto someone else's. You enter that space baggage-free. On a purely practical level, you also don't have to worry about finding last-minute childcare.

But what I'm not seeing is...an acknowledgement of all the people, both birth workers and not, who don't have children by choice. Who...(better whisper it)...don't want children

It's kind of a scary thing to admit. It's one thing to hire a doula who hasn't had children YET...but a doula who doesn't want children? Isn't that weird?? Why is she even a doula???

Well, lots of nannies, day care workers, preschool teachers, therapists, etc. etc. etc. who have a passion for working with children are really happy about going home at the end of the day and having a break from that intense energy, and they want to keep it that way.

And lets be real, if we're talking birth doulas, we don't spend a ton of time with babies. Our client is the birthing person, and once the baby has arrived, our time with them is nearing its end. That's just the nature of our role in birth work. I think its safe to say that all doulas are moved by the miracle of bringing a new baby into the world, the honor of being a part of welcoming the youngest human on the planet into life on earth. I certainly am...but that's a very different thing from wanting to raise a baby of your own.

Many doulas came into doula work because of their own birth experience, but personal experience is not the only reason to care deeply about an issue. For me, doula work is an integral part of my feminism: birthing people are disrespected and not provided with the resources and care they need because of systemic misogyny. Because not only women give birth, that systemic misogyny affects more people than just women, but the roots are still a distinctly feminist issue.

The way that people who aren't women who give birth are routinely erased from the conversation is an LGBTQ issue, and one I also care deeply about. And the fact that women who don't choose to give birth are also routinely erased from the conversation is another issue I care deeply about. I don't think the two are really comparable, though. After all, if the conversation is about people who give birth, then people who don't want to give birth aren't going to be a large part of that conversation.

The solution is simple: if you're talking about people who give birth, refer to them that way. Referring to them with the simultaneously too generic (lots of women never give birth), and too specific (lots of people who aren't women do give birth) term 'women' is just universally unhelpful. You can read my last blogpost to clear all that up, though.

Any birthing person is free to choose their birth team according to their own needs, and proclivities. There are certainly people out there who wouldn't hire a doula without children, and there are bound to be others who would hire a doula who didn't have children, but not one who doesn't want children...but if you feel like you fall into that category, it's worth considering if you've been influenced by a society that tells cis-women that their worth stems solely from their role as mothers. Things are more complicated for trans-women since their identity as women in is so often questioned, but that only makes matters more difficult for them.

There's nothing wrong with a woman not wanting children. There's nothing wrong with any person not wanting children. And, supporting people in this decision, instead of trying to talk them out of it, or treating them like there's something wrong with them could potentially lower the rate of child abuse and neglect. Pressuring people into parenthood serves nobody. The more we can all love and support each other, even, or especially when, we make very different choices, the closer we'll move to a just, and peaceful world. And using our words to reflect that understanding matters.

Live, and Birth Omily,
~Emily