Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Dear Delilah,

First Latch-in the Recovery Room
I've written before about my desire to allow you to wean in your own time. Lately, this is a decision I've been struggling with. While I still feel strongly about child-led weaning, I also feel strongly that a nursing relationship should last only as long as it is mutually desired by mother and child. That's the part I'm struggling with. I'm not sure how much longer I'll desire it. This brings up a lot of feelings in me, and most of them aren't good feelings.

I've been mostly following the "don't offer, don't refuse" rule, which some say is a form of mother-led weaning. Perhaps that's so, but I've been comfortable with it, as it means I'm not denying you my milk when you ask for it, and it's become very predictable when you'll ask for it. With the exception of times of illness or distress, you mostly nurse right when you wake up in the morning, before nap time if I'm home, and before bed. You usually nurse only for a minute or two. Still, even with the limited amount of nursing that you do, I'm starting to feel...done.

Delilah Nursing-3 Months Old
I've been looking forward to, even hoping and wishing for, the first time you didn't ask to nurse at one of your "regular" times. Sunday night, it happened. Your father and I tucked you in as usual and sat down on your bed to say goodnight and tell you that we love you. That's the point at which you usually start signing and asking for milk, and I nurse you for a few minutes before saying "Goodnight." Sunday night, there was no signing, no mention of milk. You blew me a kiss and said "nuh-night!" I kissed you and left the room before you could change your mind. When I left I heard you start crying softly over the baby monitor. I listened for your soft cries to escalate, or for you to ask for milk, but you didn't. You just settled down on your own and drifted to sleep.

When you woke up in the middle of the night, a rare occurrence these days, your father went in to change your diaper. No crying for mama, no asking for milk, you just rolled right over and went back to sleep.

Yesterday morning when you started to stir, I went into your room, expecting to be greeted with enthusiastic signing and requests for milk, as I usually am. No such greeting. You smiled and said "Hi!" then "Up! Eat!" I hugged and kissed you, changed your diaper, and still no requests for milk, so we made our way downstairs and ate breakfast together.
10 Months Old

As I thought to myself that this might be the beginning of the end, I once again found myself feeling conflicted. I do want to be done. I want you to be ready to be done. It's been nearly three years since you were conceived. That's nearly three years that my body has been dedicated to your growth and nourishment. There's a reasonable chance that by the end of this year, it will be dedicated to the growth and nourishment of your little brother or sister. Maybe it's selfish of me, but I want it back to myself for a little while first. For a long time, I thought I'd nurse through pregnancy and even tandem nurse, but as that possibility becomes more real, I don't think I'm cut out for it.

Even so, the idea that you might be done nursing soon is bittersweet. While I'm looking forward to moving on, I'll miss the special bond we've had through nursing. I'll miss the way you gently pat my chest. The way you look up at me with pure love in your eyes. The way you smile and say "Mmmmmm!" as if my milk is the most delicious thing you've ever tasted. The way I could magically make everything better with "boobah".

2 Years Old
Weaning is the beginning of an end (and an end of a beginning!) but it's also a new beginning. We will find new, special ways to bond. You will still look at me lovingly. I'll find new ways to magically make everything all better. Who knows how long this will take? Maybe you'll nurse for a few more days. Maybe it will be a few more weeks. Maybe months. Knowing that the end is probably near, I will be mindful to be present each time you nurse, and take snapshots in my mind of those special moments to tuck away in my memory and cherish forever.I will always treasure this time. I will always be proud that I nursed you into your third year of life. I will always be grateful to you for being my partner in our special nursing relationship, a relationship that healed me and helped me overcome feelings of inadequacy after your cesarean birth.

When we tucked you in last night, tears started to well up in my eyes as I wondered if you'd ask for milk. Throughout the day, I was thinking about Sunday morning, the last time you'd nursed. I decided that, if that was indeed the last time you would nurse, I was at peace with it. Sunday mornings are my favorite part of the week; me, you, and Daddy snuggling and sleeping in a bit together, warm and cozy in bed with nowhere to rush off to. You progress from nursing, to patting Daddy's back, to trying to rouse us by pulling back the curtain to let in the light and starting your "Hi! Up! Eat!" refrain.

Miss Independent

As it turned out, that wasn't the last time you'd nurse. Tucking you in last night, fighting back those tears, I let out a small sigh of relief when I noticed your hand opening and closing in that familiar sign: milk. This time, I lingered a bit longer, cuddling you and kissing your sweet head, knowing that before too long, mama's milk will be but a distant fond memory for you, one that some day, you'll likely forget altogether. That's alright though, I've got enough fond memories for both of us.



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Monday, January 30, 2012

Coming Soon: Meatless Mondays

Have you heard of the Meatless Monday movement? Families everywhere have committed to going meatless on Mondays to decrease their meat consumption and improve their health. While I'm meatless every day, starting next week, my Monday posts will be devoted to meatlessness! I'll share recipes, tips, staples for the vegetarian kitchen, and whatever else strikes my fancy. Or yours! Have an idea or request? Leave a comment and let me know!

Before I kick it off, there are some things you should know about my cooking, and by extension, any recipes I might post. See, I don't actually use recipes very often, and when I do, I consider them to be guidelines or helpful suggestions rather than instructions to be followed to the letter. I'm more of a "wing it with what I've got on hand" kind of cook. On the one hand, that means my "recipes" will be easily adaptable and easy to make substitutions for. I'll even make suggestions for alternative as I think of them. On the other hand, if you're the type who prefers recipes with precise directions and exact measurements, mine will probably make you a little crazy. You're more likely to see "add a few shakes of salt and stir until it seems stirred" than "add half a teaspoon of salt and stir with a metal spoon for 46.5 seconds". :p

Also, in my ideal world, I would make everything from scratch with fresh, local, organic ingredients. In my real world, a pretty busy one, time and budget constraints mean I often include some prepared/processed and/or canned/frozen and/or non-organic ingredients. Don't take away all of my crunchy cred, 'kay? Of course, my "wing it" cooking style means you can easily substitute your from-scratch mushroom sauce made with fresh, local, organic ingredients for mine that has a can of cream of mushroom soup as the  base.

Just don't put meat in my recipes.


In fact, I'm going to have to ask you to promise.



I'll be sharing the first recipe next Monday. In the mean time, I invite your feedback, suggestions, questions, requests, etc. To see other posts I've made related to vegetarianism and raising a vegetarian, click here!

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

One Word 365: Health-Week 4

My One Word 365 for 2012 is Health. To help me stay focused on taking better care of body, mind, and spirit, I am completing a daily health-themed photo project. Please enjoy these photos from Week 4!


I know what you're thinking. What do cookies have to with health? Well, this photo is evidence of moderation. I limited myself to ONE bite of cookie dough while baking, and lo and behold, ended up only one cookie short of the four dozen the recipe is meant to yield, rather than the dozen short I usually do. Yikes!


New clothes! When I look nice, I feel nice, and feeling nice is healthy! :)


Ground Flax Seed provides a number of health benefits. We mix it into yogurt, smoothies, cottage cheese, and more!


We see Dr. Renata for regular chiropractic adjustments to support holistic health.


A simple and healthy lunch. The Falafel is broiled instead of fried to make it a healthier option.


We use Planet laundry detergent to reduce the toxins we're exposed to. It's healthier for us, and for our planet, too! (For my personal review of Planet detergent click here!)


Ushtrasana (Camel Pose). 
Opens the body and stretches the spine for mind-body-spirit health connection.

Have a happy and healthy week!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Girl's Best Friend

Do you have a Wordless Wednesday post?
Link it up over at Natural Parents Network!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Vegetarian No More?

Dear Delilah,

You have always had very sensitive skin. Practically since the day you were born, we've worked to try to figure out the cause for the angry red flare ups that appear on your delicate little body. Our doctor is confident that it's something you'll outgrow. When you were a baby, I tried eliminating various foods from my diet, in case my breast milk was the culprit. We use only the gentlest and most natural products to clean and moisturize you. We use gentle laundry detergent. We don't over-bathe you. Still, your angry red skin persists, becoming much worse in the harsh Wisconsin winters.

Our chiropractor recently suggested fish oil to help with your skin issues. I bristled, reminding her that you and I are vegetarian. I mentioned our liberal consumption of ground flax seed, hinting that there should be Omega-3s a-plenty coursing through you. She went on to explain that there are two kinds of Omega-3s, and that flax seed is missing one of them, and blah, blah, something, something...I wasn't really listening. I was nodding politely, but I resolved that no, fish oil was not an option.

Then, some combination of factors came together to cause the worst chapping and chafing you've ever experienced. I suspect that drooling from teething, a sudden change to bitterly cold and dry weather, and an inability to blow your runny nose when you were sick recently are the primary culprits. One day last week, your face looked like this:

Then it got worse. Nothing we tried topically seemed to make any difference; you were still waking up with cracked and sometimes even bleeding skin on your beautiful face. I couldn't take it anymore. I needed to do something more. I found myself in the natural foods section at the grocery store, staring at the various options. I tossed a bottle of Spectrum Cod Liver Oil into the cart. The bottle boasted sustainable fishing practices. I tried not to think too much about it.

We got home from the store and put all of the groceries away. I set the oil on the counter where it taunted me while I fixed lunch. Veggie burritos. I fought back tears. We ate lunch. I washed your face and hands. I looked at the bottle on the counter, picking it up and turning it over in my hands a few times. I reluctantly opened it and sniffed at it. Hmmm....doesn't smell fishy. I measured out half a teaspoon and drew it up into a medicine syringe. I set it down on the counter, fighting back tears once again. I picked you up and hugged you. I explained that I was going to give you some oil made from fish, and that I hoped it would make your skin feel better. You were oblivious; no clue what the fuss was all about. I offered you the dropper full of oil and you took it easily. I stopped trying to fight back the tears and let them flow.

My vegetarian since conception baby was no more.

It was a moment of very mixed emotions. I was hopeful that this would be the answer, that it would help your skin to heal. I was also sad. Very, very sad. I always held the ideal that you would be old enough to understand what it means to consume animals before making that choice for yourself. I felt as though I had taken that away from you. As though I had failed.

Right now, there are probably some people reading this and thinking "What's the big deal? It's just fish oil! It's not like she ate veal!" There are probably others shaking their heads and thinking "She should have done more research. There are other options that wouldn't have compromised her values." To the latter, I would say that I'm just a parent with a baby in pain who is doing the best I can, and I'd ask them to be gentle with me. To the former I would say that compromising my values and ideals has always been hard for me, and that vegetarianism is extremely important to me. It's not a path that I take lightly or chose on a whim. It is deeply rooted in my values of compassion toward all living things, ecological responsibility, and conservation.

In the end, I am finding peace with my decision. I'm hopeful that this will be a temporary remedy, and that more research on my part will reveal accessible vegetarian options for both kinds of Omega-3s. It sounds like mircoalgae may be one such option. In the mean time, there was noticeable improvement in your skin within 24 hours. There's always a chance that's a coincidence, but it helped to settle my conscious. As you grow and learn, you will ultimately decide for yourself whether or not to maintain a vegetarian diet.

If you do choose it, I hope that you'll forgive me for this tiny foray into the non-vegetarian. In the land where most people think vegetarians eat chicken, and where waiters at local restaurants tell me with a straight face that "Yes mam, we do have vegetarian options. All of our fish selections are vegetarian!" I doubt that anyone will bat an eye if you choose to call yourself a life-long vegetarian, fish oil and all.



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Monday, January 23, 2012

Just Say Thank You

Dear Delilah,

I recently went through two days of training on "Nurturing Parenting" for my work as a Parent Coach. They were an incredible two days filled with bonding with my coworkers, learning how to better serve the families we work with, and a healthy helping of self-reflection for good measure. On the first day, we did an exercise on giving and receiving praise. Before we broke out into small groups to give and receive praise, we discussed the tendency of many people, particularly women, to downplay or refute the praise we receive.

I do that. All the time.

If someone compliments an article of clothing I'm wearing, I'm not likely to just say thank you. I'm more likely to say something like: "Oh, this? I got it for $1 at Goodwill!" If someone compliments my hair, I don't say thank you. I shake my head and look embarrassed and say: "Oh no, it looks horrible. I'm getting it cut next week!" When your father and I were first dating, it was a running joke that he would say something like "You're so awesome!" and I would reply with "No, I'm just okay." These days, when he tells me, and he often does, that I look beautiful, I usually roll my eyes and say something like: "Gross; I didn't even shower today. I look disgusting!" That last scenario in particular is a biggie, because when I take the time to look at your father's face after I discredit the compliments he gives me, he looks defeated. Crushed. He has told me more times than I can count: "You know, you could just say thank you."

He is right. I could just say thank you. I should just say thank you. That was one of the rules for the praise exercise. We were to tell our peers whether we wanted praise for "doing" or praise for "being". Then, when they gave us praise, we were just to say thank you. We weren't allowed to argue. Just say thank you. It was hard for me, but I did it. It felt strange. It felt wrong to accept praise without making some sort of self-deprecating comment. It felt boastful to accept a compliment without explaining why I'm not really that great, I'm just okay.

As part of that whole self-reflection thing, I started to think about what sort of message it might send you to constantly hear your mother arguing with any praise she receives. If I don't find myself worthy of praise, what sort of value would the praise I give you have? It troubles me to think that you might grow up thinking that praise is a burden, something that must be disputed and quibbled over, rather than a gift to be accepted with gratitude and grace.

So, I'm working on it. And I've got to tell you, it's hard! A number of things have happened this past week that have brought me some praise. I want to argue with it. All of it. I've done better at just saying thank you when your father shares his appreciation for me. Some things, though, are more difficult for me to resist the urge to argue about.

In the past week, I've received a number of compliments for my writing. These are the hardest for me to graciously accept, because I can't help but think "No, you're wrong" when someone praises my writing. Truth be told, technically speaking, I'm not a good writer. I use too many commas and use them where they don't belong. Microsoft word is always throwing angry green zig-zags under my many, many fragments. Any dialogue I attempt to write is awkward. And I start with sentences with 'and'. I use those single quotation marks improperly. And does the punctuation go inside or outside of the quotation marks?

So technically speaking, I'm not a good writer. I'm average, at best. But my friends and family probably aren't technically speaking. Maybe they're referring to my ability to express what I'm feeling with the written word, which I've always preferred to spoken word for those purposes. Maybe they're just happy to see that someone else has written something that relates to a way that they have been feeling but couldn't find words for. Either way, they probably don't care about my excess commas, punctuation mishaps, or fragments. Either way, I should just say thank you, and be grateful that I'm able to touch others through writing, because good or bad, I love to write. It heals me. It helps me to better understand myself and the world around me. If someone else appreciates what comes out of that, I should just say thank you.

I will do better. I will strive to model accepting praise with gratitude and grace, so that you will grow up to know how worthy you are of the praise you receive as you move throughout your life.



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Sunday, January 22, 2012

One Word 365: Health-Week 3

My One Word 365 for 2012 is Health. To help me stay focused on taking better care of body, mind, and spirit, I am completing a daily health-themed photo project. Please enjoy these photos from Week 3!


When the weather outside is frightful, Jillian is so delightful. :p


I'm working on reducing my caffeine intake. No coffee this week!


Another beautiful smoothie. This one had banana, frozen blueberries and strawberries, greek yogurt, milk, coconut oil, ground flax seed, and oats.


Delilah has been a bit under the weather, so there's been lots of extra rest and mama's milk. Healing for both of us!


Bitterly cold temperatures mean more video game fitness. Wii Fit Plus!


Since Winter time means less natural Vitamin D from sunshine, we supplement with these drops.


A hearty breakfast with a nice balance of protein, fat, and carbs gives us energy and helps us feel full for longer! 

Have a happy and healthy week!

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sushi and Cookies

Dear Delilah,

You walk around this house demanding sushi on a regular basis. Sometimes it's the first thing out of your mouth when you wake up in the morning. "Shushi!" My insistence that we don't have any sushi and that I can't make it appear out of thin air does nothing to quell your demands or extinguish your enthusiasm. "Shushi!" is a daily chorus around here, and it gives us the giggles every time.

Image Source
When I got home from work yesterday, you had a cookie in your hand. I raised an eyebrow at your father, and he said "She kept asking for sushi and cookies!" I was a bit confused as to when you learned the word "cookie", since they don't make a regular appearance at our house, and you hadn't had one recently. We didn't have any sushi, but we did have some "break and bake" cookie dough in the fridge (minus 10 crunchy mama points!), so your father popped a few in the oven. He told me that when he handed you a warm cookie and said "What's this?!" you just gave him a baffled look as if to say "how should I know what that's called?" before snatching it from his hand and scarfing it down. When he explained that it was a cookie, you exclaimed "cookie!" and picked up your "Shushi! Cookie!" chorus once again.

So now you know what a cookie is. The questions is, what were you asking for in the first place? Perhaps we'll never know.



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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Normalizing Nursing: A step out of my comfort zone

Dear Delilah,

Last week, Lani Michelle of Boobie Time, the mama behind the movement to bring breastfeeding back to Sesame Street, requested images for her post on a Mommy's View of nursing. I immediately knew that I wanted to participate and started looking through photos for the perfect one to contribute. I've got plenty of blurry, hastily snapped photos of nursing from my perspective, but none of them were "it".

I recalled that when Nicole of Bella Photography took your 3 month photos, she also captured some beautiful shots while we took a break so that you could nurse. I have shared many of those images since then. In fact, they comprise the current header and buttons for this blog! As I was looking through those photos, I came across one that I had forgotten about. Taken over my shoulder while you paused to look lovingly up at my face, it had been one of my favorites, but very few people had seen it. Why? Because it contained *gasp* my entire nipple.

Photo by Nicole Aarstad

While I've had no qualms about sharing nursing photos far and wide, I hesitated to share this one. Not because I was embarrassed about it or thought that there was anything wrong with it, but because I feared what sort of reactions people might have to seeing my entire breast, even in a non-sexual context. That fear has kept me from sharing an image that speaks volumes about that magical but brief time in my life, when my body provided all of your nutrition and was a primary source of comfort and safety for you.

Looking at that photo, I can almost feel your soft baby skin and your silky hair. I can almost smell your sweet breath. I can almost hear your little coos and contented sighs. This photo reminds me of how healing our nursing relationship has been for me, and how in awe of my own body I was before, during, and after the process of bringing you into the world.

I was quick to send Lani the photo before I lost the courage to do so. I stepped out of my comfort zone to help demonstrate that nursing is normal and beautiful, and that it is not something obscene to be covered up or hidden away. Using breasts to feed babies is the biological norm, not an indecent act to be censored. If sharing this image can help to convince just one person that breasts are not inherently sexual, and that their sexual purpose is but an added benefit to their existence, it will be worth any sideways glances or criticism my sharing it might bring.

If I want to do my part (and I do) to normalize nursing and desexualize women's bodies, I've got to be brave. I've got to show, talk about, and support nursing anywhere, at anytime, and with anyone. I can't be afraid of what people might think, for it is that very fear that keeps so many women from following their heart's desire to nurse in the first place. I've got to it for them, and I've got to do it for you, so that if you become a nursing mother one day, you won't feel ashamed or embarrassed by the natural beauty and wonder of your body.



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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Privilege and Mindfulness: Part 2

After I realized the extent to which men work from a base of unacknowledged privilege, I understood that much of their oppressiveness was unconscious. Then I remembered the frequent charges from women of color that white women whom they encounter are oppressive. I began to understand why we are justly seen as oppressive, even when we don’t see ourselves that way. I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence.
I repeatedly forgot each of the realizations on this list until I wrote it down. For me white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; one’s life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own. -Peggy McIntosh* 
Yesterday, I wrote a bit about the importance of being mindful of privilege, and of listening to and believing accounts of the oppression of others. Today I'd like to share some more on being mindful of privilege and what that looks like for me.

I have found that the best way to understand the oppression others experience is to be mindful of my own privilege. In my undergraduate Women's Studies coursework, I had the opportunity to complete an assignment reflecting on the systems of privilege and oppression that I experience in my life. As part of that assignment, I was to choose three sources of privilege and oppression and make lists of specific ways in which I experience them.

The process of examining my privilege opened my eyes to the oppression of others more than anything else I've read, written, seen, or heard. In the interest of inspiring others to do the same, I'm sharing excerpts from my privilege lists here today. Please note that these lists are not intended to be complete, but to provide examples of privilege that are often overlooked. I apologize in advance if ignorance caused me to misstep in developing these lists, and invite you to bring any such missteps to my attention. The systems of privilege I chose to focus on were White Privilege, Able-Bodied Privilege, and Assumed Heterosexual Privilege (I use the qualifier "assumed" because while I do not identify as heterosexual, my monogamous heterosexual marital status affords me that privilege).

White Privilege

  • I can be reasonably sure that I get hired for jobs based on my qualifications and ability, rather than the employers need to fill a quota based on my skin color for affirmative action.
  • My classmates do not assume that I am less worthy of my financial aid due to affirmative action.
  • I can walk into most places that I would desire to be and be reasonably sure that most of the people there will share my skin color.
  • If I so choose, I can have a variety of health care professionals to choose from who share my skin color.
  • It is not assumed that I will be good at certain sports because of my skin color.
  • I can easily find hair and skin care products that work for my hair and skin type (and color) in stores.
  • I could date members of other races without people assuming I’m trying to infiltrate the dominant group.
  • I do not have to worry that I will be targeted for violence based on my skin color.

Able-bodied Privilege

  • I can count on entering places of business and homes without difficulty.
  • I can ask for help without feeling embarrassed.
  • I can use any public restroom without assistance.
  • I don’t have to worry that others will question my intelligence or mental capacity based on my bodily ability.
  • I do not have to account for extra time each day for elevators, etc.
  • I can purchase any home or vehicle that I can afford without having to modify it for my needs.
  • People do not pity me or assume I am unable to do certain things based on my body presentation.
  • My able-bodied status is not used as an insult or joke (i.e. “that’s retarded” or “short-bus” or “special Olympics”).
  • I can go about my daily life without requiring assistance or special accommodations.

(Assumed) Heterosexual Privilege

  • I was able to legally marry my partner of choice.
  • I do not have to worry that I’ll be unable to visit my partner if he his hospitalized.
  • I am able to make healthcare decisions for my partner in the event that he is unable to.
  • It is not automatically assumed that I will raise my child(ren) with immoral values due to my sexual orientation.
  • I can express affection toward my partner in public without fear of being verbally or physically assaulted.
  • I do not have to worry that others will consider my relationship to be a bad example to their children.
  • If I express affection for another female, it is assumed to be out of friendship and therefore considered appropriate.
  • I have no problem accurately identifying my relationship on forms that require it for demographic purposes.
  • My daughter will not be discriminated against or chastised due to her parents’ relationship.
  • I can see my relationship type portrayed as “normal” in advertising and in the media.
  • I can easily find greeting cards to purchase for romantic holidays or purposes.

Will you join me in reflecting on your privilege? Spend a few days being mindful of the things you take for granted as you move throughout your daily life. Consider the reasons why you take things for granted. Did you immediately fear for your physical safety when you got pulled over for that traffic violation? No? White privilege.  Did you think twice before taking a sip of the drink you left unattended momentarily, for fear someone may have slipped something in it? No? Male privilege. Did you have to check for a ramp first before you walked into that building? No? Able-bodied privilege.

Start by focusing on or two sources of privilege. Consider things like white privilege, male privilege, class privilege, straight privilege, age privilege, religious privilege, and able-bodied privilege. What other sources of privilege might you experience? It will probably be hard at first. That's okay. This is complicated stuff, and you'll be trying to think in a way you've never had to think before. Just give it a try and do the best you can. I promise you'll learn something. By understanding the specific ways in which you experience privilege, you can increase your mindfulness concerning privilege, your compassion toward others, and your understanding of the specific ways in which others experience oppression. 

*Recommended Reading: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Privilege and Mindfulness: Part 1

Dear Delilah,

Image Source
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, on which we celebrate and remember Dr. King's life, work, and advocacy for civil rights and equality for all. It has been almost 50 years since Dr. King gave his famous "I have a dream" speech. As you grow, I hope to make it an annual tradition to recognize this day by reading or listening to Dr. King's speech in its entirety, and discussing what we can do to help make his dream come true.

For me, today, that discussion is focused on privilege and mindfulness. If just reading that word privilege makes you feel defensive, or if you're unfamiliar with the use of the term in the context of social activism, please take the time to read the most comprehensive and easy to understand explanation I've come across: Of Dogs and Lizards: A Parable of Privilege.

I'll wait.

Did you read it? Oh, you didn't? Well, I really wish you would, but if you won't, here are some highlights:
The fact that people are stupid isn’t news, however. And actually that’s kind of why the concept of privilege is important – because privilege isn’t about being stupid. It’s not a bad thing, or a good thing, or something with a moral or value judgement of any kind attached to it. Having privilege isn’t something you can usually change, but that’s okay, because it’s not something you should be ashamed of, or feel bad about. Being told you have privilege, or that you’re privileged, isn’t an insult. It’s a reminder! The key to privilege isn’t worrying about having it, or trying to deny it, or apologize for it, or get rid of it. It’s just paying attention to it, and knowing what it means for you and the people around you. Having privilege is like having big feet. No one hates you for having big feet! They just want you to remember to be careful where you walk. -Sindeloke

But just how do those of us with big feet go about being careful where we walk? 
So, quite simply: don’t be that dog. If you’re straight and a queer person says “do not title your book ‘Beautiful Cocksucker,’ that’s stupid and offensive,”listen and believe him. If you’re white and a black person says “really, now, we’re all getting a little tired of that What These People Need Is A Honky trope, please write a better movie,” listen and believe her. If you’re male and a woman says “this maquette is a perfect example of why women don’t read comics,” listen and believe her. Maybe you don’t see anything wrong with it, maybe you think it’s oh-so-perfect to your artistic vision, maybe it seems like an oversensitive big deal over nothing to you. WELL OF COURSE IT DOES, YOU HAVE FUR. Nevertheless, just because you personally can’t feel that hurt, doesn’t mean it’s not real. All it means is you have privilege. -Sindeloke
There are many, many sources of privilege. There is white privilege, male privilege, able-bodied privilege, heterosexual privilege, class privilege, religious privilege, and more. If you see yourself in that list and the hairs on your neck are standing up, and you're feeling compelled to defend that you did not choose any of these sources of privilege, take a deep breath. I'm not accusing you of anything. I know you did not choose to be privileged, anymore than the people who don't see themselves in that list chose to be oppressed. Most of us are some complex combination of privileged and oppressed. It's not good or bad, right or wrong, it just is.

Hey, you know what? That's kind of important. I'm going to say it again.

Most of us are some complex combination of privileged and oppressed. It's not good or bad, right or wrong, it just is.

It's important because of the common reactions in discussing mindfulness and privilege. If you're a white woman, and we're talking about white privilege, you might be thinking (or saying): "Yeah, but I'm a woman! I'm oppressed too!" If you're a man and we're talking about male privilege, you might be thinking (or saying) "Yeah, but I'm gay! I'm oppressed too!" 

And you're right. You are. Still, if every discussion of these uncomfortable matters devolves into the oppression/privilege Olympics, how can we make progress? How can we help Dr. King's dream come true? I am not without guilt on this. In fact, the very inspiration for writing this today was my own reaction as I read Dr. King's speech. I read statements like: 
"This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the 'unalienable Rights' of 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'"
and little ol' feminist me thought: "Well yeah, but what about black women and white women

How dare I? I had the opportunity to listen to a black man tell me what it's like to be a black man. But I didn't listen. I wasn't mindful. I was momentarily offended that this black man didn't think to incorporate the oppression of women in his speech. And really? Why should he? He's not one. If he'd tried to address the additional and intersecting issue of women's oppression, I surely could have found fault with that, because as a man, he couldn't truly understand the oppression of women, just like as a white person, I cannot truly understand the oppression of people of color.

As a white person, listening to a black person talk about being black, it's not my place to respond by telling him what it's like to be a women. It's my job to listen to him and believe him. So I reminded myself to just shut up and listen. He wasn't telling me about me. He didn't need to, because I already know about me. He was telling me about him, and I needed to listen, without judgement, without interpretation, just listen. This is my challenge to myself, and to you, if you'll take it. Just listen. If you're able to truly empathize, feel free, but if you can't, just say thank you.

When you notice your privilege, or when someone else brings it to your attention, be mindful of it. Thank them. You don't have to apologize for it. You don't have to defend it. You don't have to rationalize it or explain it away. Just notice it. If someone tells you about their experience of oppression, just listen. Don't correct them. Don't counter with your own stories of oppression, making it a "Who's More Oppressed?" contest. Just listen, and thank them for the opportunity to have a glimpse into what people with other experiences feel. It's not about you. It's about having compassion for others, having respect for differences, and being at peace with the fact that systems of privilege and oppression exist. Until we can admit that they exist, we can't take any meaningful steps toward changing them.



Come back tomorrow for Privilege and Mindfulness: Part 2, where I'll share how I became more mindful of my own privilege, a big step in learning to listen to and believe others who are oppressed in various ways. 

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

One Word 365: Health-Week 2

My One Word 365 for 2012 is Health. To help me stay focused on taking better care of body, mind, and spirit, I am completing a daily health-themed photo project. Please enjoy these photos from Week 2!


Hard-boiling eggs for quick and easy protein throughout the week ahead.


Smoothies pack a powerful nutrient punch! This one included banana, clementines, milk, greek yogurt, oats, and ground flax seed. It was delicious and full of protein and fiber!


Out to lunch with family, choosing the salad bar offers loads of healthy options!


We took advantage of the unusually warm weather and stepped outside for fresh air and healthy motion!


My pretty water bottle kept me hydrated through a long 10 hour work day.


We try to kick off every day with a first course of fresh fruit.


Sprouted grain bread, organic ingredients, fruit, peanut butter, and just a touch of real maple syrup make for a healthy(ish) French Toast breakfast.

Have a happy and healthy week!

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Those Kind of People

Being referred to as one of "those kind of people" isn't anything new to me. You're still breastfeeding your 2 year old? Oh, you're one of those kind of people. You don't eat meat? Oh, you're one of those kind of people. You have compassion for addicts and the mentally ill? Oh, you're one of those kind of people. You voted for Obama? Oh, you're one of those kind of people. You don't clean with bleach? Oh, you're one of those kind of people.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. It usually doesn't even phase me to be one of "those kind of people," but when I heard this clip from a local radio station, I practically needed a forklift to get my jaw back up where it belongs.

For the link shy, or in case the link stops working, it is a clip of city council member Marilyn Wigdahl explaining one of the reasons she's opposed to a new Goodwill store opening up on our city's South side. She says:
With another Goodwill store here, and I...and I understand your...your concerns about helping the...the indigent and so on. But I also know that the more we do for people, the more people like that we bring into the city, and I don't think the city can handle too many more of those kind of people either. 
Those kind of people. Our city can't handle more of those kind of people? The kind of people who shop at thrift stores? The kind of people who support good causes by donating to or spending their money at such places?

I'm not sure what kind of person Marilyn is (though I could venture some guesses, based on that sound bite), but I have a pretty good idea of what kind of person I am, and to say that the notion that the city can't handle too many more of people like me is offensive is the understatement of forever.

I shop at Goodwill. I donate to Goodwill. I am those kind of people. Those kind of people who own property in this city and pay outrageous taxes on it. Those kind of people who work two jobs that serve this community. Those kind of people who value conservation, and the three "R's", Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Those kind of people who are on a tight budget and stretch their dollars by checking places like Goodwill first before they buy new. Those kind of people who work to teach their kids to be responsible with their money, to spend it wisely, to have compassion for others, and to give of themselves as they are able.

I'm not alone. I'm not an anomaly. I happen to know and love a lot of "those kind of people".

People like Kym, a military wife and mother, who says:

I shop at thift stores for various reasons. 1. I like a good bargain. 2. I like being able to give my money to an organization (like Goodwill) which provides job and various other services to people who need them. 3. I like buying 2nd hand because of the environmental benefits. 

We are a military family and while we aren't on a "tight" budget, I firmly believe in making every dollar stretch. We are on a journey towards being debt free (we should be debt free by summer!) and making wise decisions about how we spend our money is an important part of that. Why should I pay $50 dollars for a pair of GAP jeans when I can find them at Goodwill for $4 and put the rest of that $46 dollars towards savings, getting out of debt sooner or towards something better for my family? To me, that's just common sense.

People like Amy, a peace advocate and parent educator, who says:

We shop at thrift stores for many reasons... to find unique, soft, gently worn in close to new condition clothes at really reasonable prices, to reduce our impact on the environment through no need for new packaging and advertising as well as reusing items that are still in very usable condition. I like that used clothes are already washed and broken in so there's no chance of uncomfortable shrinkage. The kids like that they can get more for less. Sometimes we can find clothes and household items at a thrift store that have personality instead of just being part of the latest fad (not that some family members aren't lured to new purchases by fads). I also love filling bags of still usable items to take to the thrift store when we go. It feels good to give also.

People like Leah, a Masters level educated University Librarian, who says:

I love shopping at thrift stores for unique home decorations and craft project supplies. Goodwill always has a nice selection of vases, candle sticks, picture frames, holidy themed items, etc. I don't really think specifically about shopping at a "thrift store", Goodwill is just another stop on my regular route of places to browse and hunt for interesting things.Also, we donate our own gently used clothes and household items to Goodwill when we are ready to say goodbye to them. I like being on both sides of the "someone's trash is someone else's treasure" notion!

People like Ameya, a single mother and student, who says:

 I used to love retro thrift store clothes but now I mostly like it for interesting house decorations. It makes more sense to go clothes shopping at thirft stores for my toddler who outgrows his clothes too quickly to spend 18$ on an outfit.

People like Maija, a professor with a PhD in Health and Social Psychology, who says:

Why would i drop $65 on pants that i can get for $5 with the added bonus of knowing how they'll hold up in the laundry? I get great deals on well-made wool, silk, etc. clothes that other people buy but are afraid to wear because they have weird care instructions. And impulse kitchen gadgets are way more practical to thrift than buy off late night tv.

People like Maegen, a doula and expectant single mother, who says:

I shop at thrift stores right now because it's what I can afford. I shop at thrift stores when I can afford more because I hate to pay full price for anything. I hate consumerism. Why would I go to Target or Sears or Baby Gap to shop for my son and pay $10-$40 for something that I can find for $1.50 at Unique Thrift? He'll grow out of it in 2 weeks anyhow. I don't want to be a sucker. I want to participate in that game as little as possible. But then there's the excitement of thrifting. What little treasure will I find today? Some of my most beautiful pieces in my wardrobe are thrift finds. I bought a gorgeous Mission-style bedframe for $12.50 + $1.36 for bolts at a half-off day at the Brown Elephant. I'm sure it's a $400 bed. Also, when I'm pretty close to broke and I'm having the urge to shop (I would say that I have had an addiction to retail in the past. The urge for 'retail therapy' is still intense sometimes.) I can go to the thrift store and squash that need with $10 instead of $100.

People like Leah, a full-time working mother, who says:

I actually donate more often than I shop, but that is mainly because I do not have much money to shop with. I am married and work a professional full-time job, but we live on one income. My husband cannot work due to medical issues. He takes care of our toddler daily so we don't have to pay for daycare. We are not home owners; we rent. We get some state financial assistance, but it isn't much. We still struggle. And, we do not spend any money on cigarettes, drugs, or even alcohol.

What's wrong with those kind of people? What's wrong with people who are hard working, environmentally conscious, altruistic, creative, financially responsible, educated, and conscious about just how and where there dollars are spent?  I've lived in this city for 25 years, and I would welcome oodles more of those kind of people to my city. They're welcome to move into my quiet, modest neighborhood, with a Goodwill store in easy walking distance. What this city can't handle any more of are people with misguided, offensive, classist attitudes like the one Ms. Wigdahl espoused.

Ms. Wigdahl, I am one of those kind of people, and I do believe you owe us an apology.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Guest Post: A Few Interesting Natural Parenting Tidbits

Hybrid Rasta Mama: A Natural Parenting, Healthy Living BlogBy Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama.

I read several non-natural parenting blogs. GASP! I know, I know…shun me now! But in all seriousness, just because someone does not practice the same parenting principals that I do, does not at all mean that they are horrible parents. Yes, sometimes what I read gets my stomach turning because I know that there is a better way to handle situation X, Y, or Z but in the end, every parent is on their own journey and I simply cannot inspire or influence them all!

However, I was floored by a comment I read on a blog the other day. It got my hackles up in a big way! The blog’s author said that “natural parenting is just a bunch of hippie hype which attempts to make real parents, struggling in the real world, feel like a bunch of Neanderthals incapable of making decisions about what is really best for their children.” She then went on to outline how perfect her non-breast fed, fully vaccinated, crib sleeping, cry-it-out sleep trained, non-organic fed, pack and play confined, Johnson and Johnson baby wash scrubbed children are. Ok – maybe her children are doing just fine (from her perspective) and that is  terrific. I hope that they really are as perfect as she made them out to be. However, I take great offense to A) Natural Parenting being referred to as “hippie hype” and B) her assuming that ALL parents raising their children from a natural parenting framework pass harsh judgment on those parents who employ a different method of parenting. I for one have never once made anyone feel like a Neanderthal. I swear.

The blog author continued on and although I should have just stopped reading, I had to persevere and see if I could make sense of this mother’s thought process. Well, all I succeeded in doing was getting more agitated. You see, this mother had the nerve to go on a three loooong paragraph rant about how natural parenting is a fad, something popular, that every “green living wanna-be” parent out there is “pretending” to wholeheartedly do. She then proclaimed that within the next decade we will all go back to the norm – formula feeding and beating our children senseless. Wow! Double wow! Words escaped me.

On the same day that I read that atrocity, I was perusing various internet sites and stumbled across some rather interesting facts. I thought that the information presented a pretty good argument as to why natural parenting practices are NOT a phase or a fad. Just because advocates of natural parenting are making their voices heard in a big way does not mean that natural parenting is far outside the norm or some sort of “popular, newfangled” approach. When it comes down to it, natural parenting has worked since the creation of human beings.

Here are the few tidbits that I thought might interest a few of you. I believe that they completely destroy that misinformed blogger’s argument.

Breastmilk has nourished mankind since the beginning of time. If you couldn't nurse your baby, or find someone else to do it, there was no driving to the corner store for a can of formula: your baby was doomed. Formula was created in 1867 by Justus von Liebig as a means of feeding orphaned infants, but it wasn't until the mid-twentieth century that formula really came into vogue. Breastfeeding was deemed archaic, and breasts themselves lost their purpose as sustenance and became viewed as nothing more than sexual devices.

Which is more natural: 250,000 years of breastfeeding or 140 years of formula?

Babywearing was not just a fashion statement when humans were still new to this planet. It served a dual purpose: it kept the mother's hands free while she worked and gathered food, and it held the baby close to keep it safe from predators. It wasn't until 1733 that an alternative arrived: an English architect named William Kent invented the first baby carriage for the Duke of Devonshire's children. Even though strollers are now widely available in developed parts of the world, the majority of mothers in less industrial areas still choose to wear their babies, for the same reasons the first cavewomen did with their own infants.

Which is more natural: 250,000 years of babywearing or 274 years of strollers?

Cloth diapers, or diapers made out of any organic material, have been the norm since babies have been pooping in them. Some ancient diapers consisted of animal skins stuffed with moss or leaves, while infants in tropical areas usually just went naked and pottied wherever they sat. In 1950, Marion Donovan invented the first disposable diaper, which continues to be innovated to this day as they accumulate in landfills.

Which is more natural: 250,000 years of cloth diapers or 57 years of disposables?

Cosleeping was a necessity to early man. Piling all the family together in one bed to sleep at night not only helped keep everyone warm, but it gave the children and infants protection against predators, who would surely have wasted no time snatching them up if they'd been laid to sleep in a separate bed in a different part of the cave. As man evolved to the point where warmth and predators were no longer an issue, cosleeping still remained, mostly as a matter of practicality. Only royalty lived in houses big enough to put their youngsters in separate bedrooms, so the average family continued to sleep together. Even now, the majority of the world's population lives in one-room homes, and the ones that don't still might cosleep for comfort and security. America is an anomaly in the fact that most of us have enough money to live in houses with separate bedrooms for each family member. It wasn't until the 18th century, when American culture began to boom and most of its citizens became quite wealthy as a result, did the multiple-room house become the standard.

Which is more natural: 250,000 years of cosleeping or roughly 200 years of separate beds?

Homebirth was the standard up until the 1940s, when America was obsessed with everything that modern science could offer. It didn't take long for women to object to the model of hospital birth, however, and in the 1960s homebirth celebrated a revival. But by the 1970s, it was back to the hospital, where C-section rates over the next 30 years climbed from 5% to over 30%. 1 in 3 pregnant women today will deliver their baby by surgical procedure. Does this mean that our reproductive organs have suddenly stopped functioning? No. It simply shows that the medical field still has a very long way to go when it comes to understanding the mystical complexity that is birth, and in a day and age where we are blessed to have proper hygiene, clean water, and access to life-saving technology if necessary, the optimal environment for birth still remains to be the home.

Which is more natural: 250,000 years of homebirth or roughly 60 years of hospital birth?

Interesting stuff is it not?

Peace and Love,


Jennifer blogs at Hybrid Rasta Mama and sees herself as a hybrid parent. She takes a little of this, throws in a little of that, and blends it all together to create a parenting style that is centered on what her daughter needs in order to flourish as a human being. Jennifer blogs about all things related to mindful, conscious parenting, natural living, holistic healing, real foods, and Waldorf education/Waldorf inspired parenting. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle +, and Pinterest.

Photo Credit:
Cloth Diapers: My photo

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