Tuesday, February 19

Work overload

So I had a conversation with my supervisor about the work overload ... and what happens? Same overload, new week. The only difference has been her letting me know that I can say "no." Which I have. Which hasn't stopped the dam up one bit.

I'm exhausted.

Birthing classes start Thursday, hope to meet some new parents-to-be. Not sure how much we'll be able to converse. "So, when are you due?" isn't likely to be whispered while the teacher's telling us what's happening in a few months. Still, it would be great to make some friends; we don't have any friends who are expecting (and live near us).

Time to take the dogs out and then I'm hitting the hay. Too tired to do much else.

Saturday, February 16


"For many years public-spirited citizens throughout the country have been working for the conservation of natural resources, realizing their vital importance to the Nation. Apparently their hard-won progress is to be wiped out, as a politically-minded Administration returns us to the dark ages of unrestrained exploitation and destruction. It is one of the ironies of our time that, while concentrating on the defense of our country against enemies from without, we should be so heedless of those who would destroy it from within."
-Rachel Carson in an op-ed letter to the Washington Post, 1952

"Changing Sex" by Janisse Ray and the interference of hormonal messages by synthetic chemicals

I recently finished reading an interesting collection of tribute essays on Rachel Carson called Courage for the Earth. As a whole, the essays were a bit redundant in the biographical sections of Carson's life, but individually well-written. I learned more than I expected to, both about Carson and more about nature.

The most thought-provoking essay was "Changing Sex" by Janisse Ray. She brings up how chemicals are interacting with animals and nature in profound ways, pointing to the many studies of endocrine disruption on a wide variety of animals (alligators, fish, gulls, marine snails, beluga whales, black bears, etc.). Many of these reproductive changes (intersexed, low testerone, gender mutations, infertility, reduced anogenital distance) are attributed to chemicals including the well-known DDT, diethylstilbestrol (synthetic estrogen), polychlorinated biphenyls (widely known as PCBs; used in fluorescent lights fixtures, adhesives ... though widely banned, they remain in our environment and even in mothers' milk), many pesticides, dioxins (formed during industrial practices like bleaching: this is why brown rice, turbinado sugar and whole wheat are better for you!), phthalates (found in solvents, soft plastics like shower curtains and baby toys, and plastic packaging), bisphenol A (which is catching on in the baby bottle industry through biA alternatives like BornFree ... also readily found in dental sealants and water bottles), estradiol, phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogens), pp'DDE, dubutyl phthalate (very common in personal care products) ... we are literally slathering ourselves with endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Since this system regulates our hormones -- not just the reproductive ones -- it is of paramount importance that we stop industries from producing more in their profit-greedy mindset, inform consumers of the dangers, etc.

The interesting point of the essay, however, was how Ray suggests that these endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) could be causing some of the reproductive issues humans are facing. She includes infertility, early-onset puberty, distorted sex ratios, intersex infants, genital malformations, and lowered sperm quality and mobility on the list ... but she also mentions transgendered persons and issues of gender variance or ambiguity. I have never considered this before, so it really made me think. And wonder: how might transgendered people feel about this correlation?

Might prenatal and childhood exposure to EDCs be responsible for a variety of abnormalities of human sexuality, gender development and behaviors, and reproductive issues? The October 2005 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives took a stab at answering this.

"A developing fetus receives messages not only through its own hormone system but also its mother's. These signals guide its development, shaping characteristics as blatant as number of toes to those as intricate as details of the brain." -Janisse Ray

"Chemicals are disturbing normal hormone-controlled development," she writes, "affecting gender, sex, and reproduction. And, we are now seeing, low doses are disruption enough." Carson predicted this, and it is our generation that is beginning to notice its effects. Unfortunately, like this article, we're still not believing the science ("no evidence of actual harm"), perhaps due to the financial campaigns of institutions like the American Chemical Council (which produces "informational sites" like this one). Until we believe, we won't act. At least, I suppose, the word is getting out there and becoming more mainstream.

More links for action and information
Women's Voices for the Earth
Pesticide Action Network
Campaign Whale
Chemical Injury Information Network, Our Toxic Times
Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers

Tuesday, February 12


"Why are so many Americans so unhappy ... ? All manner of plausible causes present themselves, but the master cause may be the most elemental: Homo sapiens, a familial animal like the wolf or hyena rather than the solitary like the bear, is genetically unequipped to live without the emotional support of uncles, aunts, first cousins, and second cousins, in addition to siblings, parents, and children ... Periodic gatherings for the ceremonies of birth, marriage, and death; the much more frequent celebration of birthdays, name days, anniversaries, and seasonal feasts; as well as webs of less-formal socializing, all serve to keep the machinery of human families in working order. That is how people live all over the world in village, town, or city -- but not in contemporary America."
-Edward N. Luttwak

Flat on your back

Does anyone else find it strange that the medical profession advises pregnant women to not sleep on their backs for the second half of their pregnancy ... and yet you labor on your back for hours on end, at least in America? It is a strange country when the easier angle for the doctor takes precedent over the mother's comfort and gravity's advantage.

"If you roll onto your back while sleeping, don't panic!" If you are freaking out, you take advice books way too seriously. They used to tell women to smoke and drink diet colas so they would only gain 15 pounds. Come on! Old and outdated information by the pass of each generation.

Nowadays, they also prefer you sleep on your left side toujours, not the right. This wasn't the practice for the past generation, and I wonder if it will still be true in the next generation. I can just imagine my kids saying, "yeah? Well my mom thought she could only sleep on her left side!" Better safe than sorry, so I do, but I certainly don't "panic" when I walk up in the wrong position. Besides, with this bladder, I've been waking up every 2 or 3 hours anyway.

I'm tired of professionals perpetuating and often profiting off of the fear factor. I've read pregnancy advice books where the section on things that happen to one-in-a-million is thicker than the actual description of what's going on with you and your baby. They play into your deepest fears so their pockets get heavier. What if, what if, what if is probably just as bad as if "if" actually was.

I'm checking out waterbirthing for the first stages of labor. The birthing center has a large tub specifically for that purpose, and I've heard it helps with back pain.

I had a two-hour meeting today on what our department was planning to accomplish this week ... immediately followed by a 45-minute meeting on what the whole staff was planning for the week. I told them my plans were to plan what I'm going to do this week. At this rate, it might take me all week to accomplish something.

Hubby just got home. I'm working my way through the Harry Potter series, now on book 5 ... although tonight I think we'll veg out and watch Biggest Loser. That show just sucks me in for some reason.

Monday, February 11

Me meme

BerryBird tagged me for my first meme, so here goes ...

Four Jobs I've Had

Staff writer
Ice cream scooper
Art gallery assistant

Four Places I Have Lived

East Lansing, MI
New Orleans
Palm Harbor, FL
Lexington, KY

Four Places I Have Vacationed

Pike's Peak, Saskatchewan, Canada
Rotterdam, Holland
Boundary Waters, MN
Seattle, WA

Four of My Favorite Foods

Vegan pasta fagioli
Chocolate soymilk

Four Things I Like to Do

Walk in a natural setting
Be kind to others
Lately? Eat!

I'm tagging Momma Val back, since she's a newbie like me and probably hasn't done a meme before, and MOPS also.

There. Did I do that right, BerryBird? :)

Furniture, home makes me feel fortunate tonight

The chairs are sitting in our living room now. Orange-y brown, cushy, and made ever the more beautiful by the fact they were free.

The couch, on the other hand, is now sitting in our landlord's garage. It wouldn't fit up the fire escape. The movers suggested hoisting it up, but that would be another 45 minutes and three people ... cha-ching. We're debating whether or not to bring it up here, since our lease ends in October and we're not sure if we'll renew (although how many landlords would allow two adults, a baby, and three pets in a one-bedroom?!).

I need to stop using that word, landlord. It has awful origins.

Let me tell you, it is so nice to have an armchair to sink into after work. I'm delighted, even if the couch is useless at the moment.

Today's our two-year anniversary ... never did I think we'd be expecting a baby for this anniversary!

Wind gusts hit a record 70 mph in the Boston area today, blistery cold like most of the nation. I heated up some soup for dinner and that was delicious. I hope the homeless folk have been able to find shelter tonight.

Sunday, February 10


"I don't want a throwaway legacy. If someone someday combs across the beaches of my spent life, I want him or her to find, washed up there, whole and story-laden artifacts, not toxic but indicative, along with shards of courage and truth."
-Janisse Ray, "Changing Sex"


Good news on the pregnancy front: we were awarded a scholarship to attend a five-week session of HypnoBirthing classes, so now we can afford to go. I'm so grateful that our community even offers that, let alone that they gave it to us. The closer I get to full-term, the more financial worries seem to be rearing their ugly head. I'm trying to not worry, though, and spend time dancing, singing, and laughing instead. But as you can imagine, I'm so relieved that we got it. And I've heard great things about the technique.

Friday, February 8


"It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate."
-Rachel Carson, "Help Your Child to Wonder," 1956

Stop taking advantage of the office admin ... please? Now!

Work has been overwhelming the past two weeks.

Following the typical office pattern, employees in various departments have gradually realized they can dump their work on the admin and s/he can't really do anything about it. I can't exactly give these tasks to anyone else, being at the bottom of the totem pole, unless there happens to be an intern or temp around. I don't want to complain too much to my supervisors about the issue, because I need to demonstrate I'm capable and efficient and can take on the world in order to move past the admin portion of my job.

You have to play the game. That's what they tell us. But do I really need to keep my mouth shut and work overtime while pregnant just to satisfy people who aren't my supervisors? I definitely believe in teamwork, but not when I'm the only one doing the work and they are getting credit for it. The decision they make to dump their work on me isn't very smart: most admins move up in my company, and rather quickly at that. Pretty soon, for all those Boomers obsessed with hierarchy, I will be "equal" to you. Might want to think again before handing me your crap on a stick.

I work behind-the-scenes to some extent, which makes it harder for higher-ups to detect when their staff is taking advantage of me. But I'm pushing forward in the communications aspect of my job to gain visibility as a true asset. I'm putting my stamp on the areas where I want to be working in a year.

Ultimately, I need to say no. These people are not authorized to give me their work, and it's presumptious and arrogant to believe they can give work to some who is not under their umbrella. It's the beginning of the wave, and I need to establish how large I will let it get before it just crashs down over me.

You don't really have to play the game. You have to figure out how to reinvent it. When this wave of overwhelming work is over, I'm going to write up a description for departmental interns -- something we don't actively recruit -- and propose that I find, select, and supervise said interns.

I will cultivate the work-life balance I want. I'm just now figuring out what I want and how to get it ... it's just taking a little longer than I expected.

Friday, February 1


I've had a lifelong interest in quotes that make you think. Not necessarily ones you agree with, but ones that cause you to pause and turn them over slowly in your head.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -Howard Aiken

What I want and what I do

The dream: a small, well-designed home in the woods with large window-views of green trees, wild animals, and water. Child runs around exploring the wonders of nature while we tend the organic garden and smile. Neighbors pop over during weekly pot-lucks and our conversations are long, intelligent, and open.

The reality: a cramped attic in an inner suburb where I try to figure out which plastic baby bottle is worse. Kitty tries to sit in my lap but my belly takes up too much room. Hubby listens to my dream and gently reminds me how he needs to be near a cultural power-city as he applies again for federal financial aid.

The dream: I work for myself, when I want, writing and making art, and I make enough money working that we don't have welfare worries and Hubby can focus on his music.

The reality: I made labels today after writing snappy copy about social networking and emerging professionals.

The dream: I have time to think. To breathe deeply. To ponder a book. To enjoy my free time rather than exploit it with jam-packed errands and to-do lists. To hold Hubby without glancing at the clock. To take the dogs on a long rambling walk through the park without having to schedule it. To enjoy life.

The reality: To-do list keeps getting longer and want-to-do list keeps getting put back.

The mission: Make small steps into figuring out how to make the dream more real.