Monday, March 26, 2012

Ending The Month Of March

Well, I'm scheduled today to wrap up my month dedicated to women by writing an expose' about domestic violence. I also thought about discussing issues for women in our society as a whole. But alas, it's allergy season & I'm now on benedryl. So I do not feel I am in a place that I can give those topics justice. And I'm not in the mood to get into political fights.

BUT I implore you to look into a few recent issues for yourself. Here are a couple of places you should visit on the web & make your own decisions.
- With the two year anniversary of "Obamacare," there's recent discussions over health insurance discrimination
- There's also a recent study on the best & worst states for women (Kentucky being in the worst 5)
- For the past month or so, there's on-going political banter about a "battle against women," including debates over legislation of insurance coverage for contraceptives and violence against women here & abroad
- Don't forget body image in our culture is only getting worse. Jean Kilbourne is an amazing source on that topic.

With all that being said, let's go on some positive, completely unrelated notes.

First & most exciting: WE ARE CLOSING ON OUR NEW HOME THIS FRIDAY. We are so excited & slightly overwhelmed at all the things we need to do now: packing, changing over utilities, not to mention actual moving. Then when all that is done, there will be even more things we need to do to gear up for summer time: installing a fence, gardening, composting, etc. With that being said, posts in the upcoming weeks might be a tad short & photo based. I also want to take our new home as an opportunity to attempt & share more green ideas.

That also brings us to a new point. We are using the new home as an opportunity to start a new phase in our life which will mean more gardening, more cooking, more exercise, more local produce, and even local meat. I already signed up for a good 25lb package of local, grass fed beef from a great farm in Western Kentucky. I hope to also get in on other local, co-op meat & produce. And dare I say, we are looking into raw milk. We are also beginning to replace man-made polyunsaturated fats (margarine, vegetable oil, etc.) with more natural & saturated fats.

Before you cringe at the last two options, I want to ensure you that I'm doing my homework. After a long time of research, I feel that we need to move toward a natural diet. And don't worry, one of these days I will share all that I have learned with you along with links from both sides when it's the right time.

By the way, did I ever mention that we went to Arizona last week? Cause we did.
Making goofy faces at the Saguaro National Park
It was a vacation with my mother to see a side of her family. It was a great trip with amazing sites including The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum where I got to meet the cutest thing on the face of the earth: a Western Screech Owl.
Isn't it AWESOME?! They wouldn't let me hold it
So needless to say, we've been pretty busy here & there's only more, great stuff ahead. Thank you for keeping up with me on this journey of insanity. I promise next week's blog will be more focused.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Mother's Battle Part Deux

We have another installment of a lovely guest blogger to describe what she, and other mothers face in modern times. In case you missed it, this is part of my monthly theme dedicated to women's experiences in various environments.

Today's entry is by the lovely Roxy. She's a co-worker that I'm also blessed to call a friend. She is hardcore,  but there is no question in how dedicated she is to her three beautiful children. I should say that if you personally know Roxy, you can take a good guess about what this entry is about. If not, prepare yourself for a long, intense stance about breastfeeding.

"I’m afraid I’m a rather passionate person. I have my pet causes. These have changed over the years. I still feel strongly about tattoo acceptance, marijuana legalization, and consumers buying products made in China. However, those topics were shoved to the very back burner when I became a mom.

I’ve learned a lot since those first nine months when my life was forever pointed down a completely different path from the one I was on. Trust me, that path was leading straight for jail, rehab, and a slew of similar issues…. I can say with all certainty that my baby girl saved my life.

My first pregnancy, I was uneducated and na├»ve. I thought that the doctors knew best (had no ulterior motives) and that if I ate a balanced diet and didn’t drink, I’d have a healthy baby. She would signal her imminent arrival and I’d go to a hospital, they would numb my entire body, she would pop out and all would be well. Fortunately for me, that’s exactly how it went. I know many mothers who expect that and experience far, far less. One thing I never faced was the question of whether Bear would be a breastfed baby or not. She certainly would! My mother is a La Leche League leader, I come from a family of breastfed children… it was the complete norm for me. I didn’t even know how to mix up formula.

It would be easy! Put the nipple in the kid’s mouth and happy milk magic would occur and I would never have any problems! Let’s all stop and have a great big belly laugh right now at my expense…

That first week was harder than my entire pregnancy, including the hip pain and insane carpal tunnel syndrome. I actually took Bear and moved in with my mother so I would have help available 24/7. I had sore nipples (don’t ever underestimate the pain of sore nipples. It’s like having hot clamps on them), engorgement, blocked ducts which ended in mastitis (oh dear Lord), thrush, and just the general difficulty of figuring out how to position her so we could both be comfortable. And still, I know that these problems are mild compared to what some people go through.

I became passionate about breastfeeding. There is this magic little book from La Leche League called The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. It became my breastfeeding Bible. Between that book and my mother, I struggled through those first trials and was able to become a na-na champ. So many mothers, though, just don’t have that support. And that breaks my heart.

"Breast is Best." We hear it all over. And few, if any, folks doubt the statement's validity. But is it "best"?

No.

Breastmilk is NORMAL. Breastfeeding is the biologically normal way for humans to feed human babies.... with HUMAN MILK. I'm sorry. I know people are offended when I say it.... But anything else is subpar. We are lucky enough to live in a world where we actually have back ups in case a mother isn't physically able to breastfeed. Too often, though, women stop for reasons much less than a physical inability. That, however, is a completely different post….

Breastmilk is antifungal, antibiotic, antiviral, contains stem cells, contains over 40 ingredients that CANNOT be duplicated, prevents breast, ovarian, and other cancers for mothers and babies, is environmentally friendly, is always the right temperature, is used so completely that the only reason breastfed babies poop is to keep their colons healthy, and can kill cancer cells. But women are still led to believe that formula is "just as good"? Surely you jest....

But every day, every minute, breastfeeding is undermined by society saying that breast is "best", but formula is adequate. And it is hurting our society, our mothers, and, most importantly, our children.

Every time you see a news report of a mother being asked to leave a public place because she is feeding her child, "the best" is undermined. Every time a mother is quietly told to feed her child in a bathroom where people defecate, public health takes a giant leap backward. Every time a celebrity tweets that he isn't hungry anymore because he saw a child eating the way he or she was biologically intended, women take a punch in the ideological stomach. And every time "politically correct" persons agree that women shouldn't be required to cover their faces, but should be required to cover their breasts as they are nourishing their children, civilization somersaults back down the hill. Every time an online community or social network removes pictures of a child feeding because there is a glimpse of areola, but leaves alone a picture of a scantily clad teenager in a bikini, "best" is cut down. Every time a medical professional tells a mother that she must "pump and dump" because she is on antibiotics for mastitis, a breastfeeding relationship is ruined.

I am a breastfeeding mother. I have been pregnant for two and a half years out of my 30 on this earth. I have nourished a child with nothing more than my own body for almost five years, Those years aren't consecutive. But between, I remain passionate about breastfeeding. Why? Because I truly believe that our society is being led down a dark path toward disease and ill health. Our children are being fed sugar from day one and we wonder why childhood (and adulthood, for that matter) obesity is reaching epidemic proportions. Because children are leading sheltered lives due to their asthma, allergies, and autism. Because we can do better, but we are led to believe that our bodies are incapable or inadequate.

Why? Are we broken? For millennia, women have been revered for their ability to make and sustain life with their own bodies. Only recently have we been made to feel that pregnancy is a disease that must be prevented (and if it occurs, should be rushed away to the care of a specialist who can take care of this dangerous situation), and that breastfeeding is something shameful or sexual that must be hidden away in a home or under a blanket. Again....WHY?

May I just go ahead and step on my feminism soapbox? Kaythanx.

WOMEN ARE MADE TO MAKE AND NOURISH LIFE. Don't undermine me as the lesser species. Until a man has held a life in his belly, nourished it until it was capable of making it outside of a womb, and then was able to sustain a human life with nothing more than his breasts, I refuse to believe that women are weak. Women have been revered as supernatural and spectacular.....until relatively recently. And I refuse to believe that there is any reason that should have changed. And, by God, I refuse to be ashamed of it.

Women are making leaps and bounds when it comes to business, politics, equality in general. But every time a woman is thought of as laughable because she is "nothing more" than a mother, feminism in its entirety sadly shuffles in reverse. Every human being on this earth has a mother. And money may make the world go 'round, but women make the world.

I’m afraid I’m a rather passionate person. I have my pet causes. These have changed over the years. I am a natural birth advocate, a lactivist, I believe that every baby has a right to life, I practice and promote a lifestyle full of natural remedies and whole and raw food choices. These are my on my front-burners. And I believe that babies should have the advantages of being fed in the way God intended them to… from their mother’s breasts. I'd rather my child thrive because of me than survive in spite of me."
 If you couldn't tell by this entry, Roxy is a bit outspoken. But frankly, she knows what she is talking about & is the first person I go to when it comes to nutritional questions. Her voice, strength & passion are so inspiring. She also has a blog that covers everything between rants & recipes. Be sure to check out her page: Two Jugs of Milk and a Shot of Whiskey.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Mother's Battle Part One

A monumental moment for women is the choice & follow through of becoming a mother. While no one needs a child to validate their existence, raising a family is one of (if not the) greatest accomplish for a woman. And while the husband & I plan on having kids one day, by no means am I in a position to talk about the struggles & joys of being a mother in the modern world.

But I have some awesome friends who are! And as my own mother says it best, there's no one thing that makes you a mother. So I've dragged three amazing mothers into guest blogging for me to share their experiences of being a mom. And they were so ready to share their experiences that it became extremely long so I decided to separate this out into three different entries. This week's guest blogger is a beloved friend & co-worker, Heather...

" I'd read the research and heard the warnings about natural birth vs hospital birth. All the skepticism about epidurals and pitocin and how that alters a mother's ability to biologically bond with their child or the risk of the child being born "drugged" was thrown at me before I went in to labor and delivery. All the risks of all the procedures as well as all the kazillion things that could go wrong during pregnancy and labor and delivery were thrown my way by my doctors, my nurses and other mothers in my life. I was overwhelmed. In fact, I was scared to death. Most women are afraid of the pain. Most new mothers are afraid of the weight gain. Not I. I was afraid of not bonding with my baby or maybe not even liking my baby like I'd been warned by other mothers. I was afraid I'd have a baby all drugged up and ready for rehab. After 20 hours of labor and 45 minutes of straight PUSHING I had my first-ever baby. My baby. My Madison. I was weak. I was tired. I was in pain. I was overwhelmed. I had the baby shakes (if you don't know what they are, they are what they sound like. Convulsions you can't control that hurt). I had pitocin for 19 hours. I had an epidural for probably 10 hours. When Justin handed me my little bundle of joy swaddled up in a blanket with a pink and blue stripped hat on I looked at her and kissed her and immediately started to cry but I was too weak to hold her. I made him take her. Then after hours of recovery from the epidural and a long series of exams, inspections, nurse interrogations and a million other things I received my baby again. I looked at her and never felt so attached to anything in my life and I was convinced I'd never love anyone the way I love this little baby. And I was right.
When my second baby came along I was worried if I'd love her as much as my first. I worried if I'd be as good a mother to Lilly as I was to Madison. I was afraid we wouldn't bond. But, I was wrong again. My perfect little Lilly is everything I ever wanted as well and there's no epidural or amount of pitocin that could change that. So my biggest triumphs are my babies...plain and simple. The babies that were blessings I didn't even know I needed.
My struggle these days is feeling adequate enough. My struggle between my life as a mother, my life as a wife, my career, my friendships....every time I turn around there are expectations, there are questions, and there are pressures. By the time I get to bed and my husband wants attention, I feel inadequate because I'm just too tired. When I leave my screaming kids in the care of others every single day so I can keep my career and provide a life for them, I feel inadequate as a mother. When motherhood keeps me distracted from work or keeps me home from work when I have too much to do, I feel inadequate as an employee. When my friends need a phone conversation or need a favor or want to hang out with me, I have to either leave my home-related responsibilities at bay to make time for a friend or neglect my friend. It's a daily struggle that gets exhausting each and every day. I don't feel like I carry THE WORLD on my shoulders but I feel like I carry about 20 people's lives on my shoulders. When it's not motherhood, wifery, career or friendship, it's family. Do I see my nieces and nephews enough? Do I talk to my parents enough? Make enough trips home? Do my kids see their aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins enough? When it's not motherhood, wifery, career, friends or family, it's finances. You get my drift, right?
I'm told to worry less and enjoy it. Let me assure you, I enjoy every single part of having so many facets to my life. I am blessed to have so many people who both need and want me in their lives. I wouldn't trade it...however I would make a clone or two just so I can be better at it all!"
As previously mentioned, Heather is an amazing mother, friend & co-worker. Every day I'm inspired by the sheer amount of love in her heart. Seriously. It's insane how self-less she is. That's kind of why I have to say something about how awesome she is. Heather does have her own Facebook blog that she occasionally write in & I highly suggest that you like the page. Very inspiring.


Who will be the next guest blogger? Who knows! But she's a Mom... Stay tuned.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Women In Full Force

As we continue on into the month of March, I will further write about women's fight for equal rights. Thankfully, there's a lot to cover. But one of the most hideous stories of our (especially American) history is women's battle to get into the work place.

For centuries, jobs & careers were very gender-based. If a woman actually got to leave the home & work, she most likely had a job as a teacher, nurse, or seamstress. Before the Industrial Revolution, most women did carry their weight on family farms. But as more people began to move from farms into cities, the ball began to roll. In fact, being a seamstress was highly desirable job for young women, especially those who lived in the city & needed to help support their families.

WWII Promotion found on The History Channel
But it wasn't until WWI & WWII that American women got a taste for a man's work. Whether it was working as a secretary or a riveter for the United States Army, we were finally able to show the country we can do it.


Photo found here of women working at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, 1940s.
But after spending the time, energy, and risking their health to manufacture supplies for our troops over seas, most women were forced to go back home after the war was won. And during that time, most girls grew up to become stay at home moms. Those who did leave home normally went back to a gender-based job. As for the small amount of women who were able to enter a man's working world, a future of lower pay, discrimination, even worse laid ahead.

But we got through. As Working Girl writes "In 1970, only about 43 percent of women 16 and older were working; by 1999, that figure jumped to 60 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says."

However, I am sad to say that there are still issues. On average, women are still making less than men. The National Committee on Pay Equality (NCPE) reports "Women's earnings were 77.4 percent of men's in 2010." While it's .4 percent higher than in 2009, it remains a ridiculous statistic. If you are not familiar with it, April 17th this year is National Equal Pay Day. Years ago, the NCPE actually chose to hold the day on a Tuesday in April since Tuesday is how far into the work week women must work to make what men earned the previous week. I hope you all will join in in wearing red that day.

While a lower wage is really awful, there are worse things women face in at work. While you see it less often, sexism can still take place. A previous male boss of mine was notorious for making jokes that focused on women's bodies. And after posting about International Women's Day last week, I was given my fair share of jokes from our facebook fans.

There's also a concerning study Time reported last month that women who are pregnant are still facing discrimination. Actually, it's worse. According to the report, the number of pregnancy-related discrimination charges have jumped by 35 percent in the past decade. While that increase may include better work conditions to report such discrimination, it's still concerning. Expecting mothers in America can face everything from firing, demotions, decreased hours, forced unpaid leave, and gender stereotyping. And after having their bundle of joy, many are also being denied a place to pump breast milk.

With all my complaining aside, I cannot deny that we as a society are coming a long way. Compared to a century ago, more women today are going to college, moving up the corporate ladder & live as strong, independent individuals. In fact, many companies not only offer breastfeeding rooms for new mothers, but some allow moms to bring their infants to work.

Speaking of mothers, I have a special treat for you coming up soon. Next week, we will be focusing on the overwhelming standards today's modern mother deals with. And we'll even have some lovely guest posts to cite the struggles mothers in America are up against every day.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Femminine March

It's no secret that I am a very proud woman and feminist. My gender has fought a strong fight for centuries against religions, cultures, politics & business. And I feel that it's important that everyone of both genders learns the history of women. Our world needs strive further for proper education to lead to true equal rights.
Found this on this website.
There are as many different aspects to women's history as there are different roles for women. And when you include different parts of the world, different ethnicities, different times, it can get overwhelming. So I'm hoping for the rest of this month to shed some light on women's experiences. That will include my own along with other amazing women I know. But I implore you to do some of your own research of women's history & share it with others. It's only through knowing where we came from that we can move forward. And one good place to start is the U.S. Library of Congress's women's history site.

One thing that amazes me is how much can change over time, when pushed. My mother has told me stories of when she was a girl. Back in the 1950's, it wasn't socially acceptable for her to wear slacks outside of home for quite some time. And in when it came to physical education, they only used half a court to play basketball (back then they didn't think women were strong enough). While just those two experiences amaze me, she was still one of the lucky ones. My mother was raised in a strong environment & went on to get her teaching degree in a university. She didn't jump into being a housewife. She got married at the age of 30, had me a few years later & was never a stay at home mom. I always remember her holding her head high & never let difficult times (plus dealing with me) ever get her down. Mom is truly the strongest woman I know.

At the same time, I can't help but wonder what my grandmother had to face during the Great Depression. She was four when the 19th amendment for women's suffrage was ratified by the necessary amount of states. After the family farm was sold, she went on to get her teaching degree. She was able to pay her tuition with  help from her brother & working at a dime store. That experience lead to her pledging to pay for her children's college costs. In fact, she didn't let my Mom work while attending college. I can't imagine the cultural barriers she took on, much less other amazing women in my family that I unfortunately was not able to meet.
My grandmother holding my Mother.
With that being said, it's amazing how we as mothers, daughters, friends, employees, sisters have dealt with for centuries much less the past 400 some years. Everything from acceptable rape & violence, to deadly witch trials, to the horrors in maternity rooms like twilight sleep.

Now, don't get me wrong. Being an woman is walking a very fine line. On one side you have conservatives judging you for wearing pants and being outside the home. On the other, modern women who think it's a shame that you want to be a stay at home mom. Frankly, other women can be our worst enemy. Over time I've learned to let fellow women do as they feel is right & hope others will give me the same courtesy.

And while we've made leaps and bounds, it's sad to see that sexism is still an issue. And yes, it is still an issue. Today's modern woman still faces discrimination at work, abuse at home, and is forced into submission by business, media, politics & culture over all. Not to mention the focus on body image. Back in October, I mentioned that most of us don't want to see & recognize that these are still issues, especially in today's western society. But unless we take off the veil & really look at what is going on in our own backyard, how do we expect it to change? The rest of this month is dedicated to women's history & where we really stand in modern times. I would love to hear your own experiences & stance on some of the issues women face.