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Resale Therapy: Taking the Anxiety out of Spring Cleaning

springclean10springclean9 As a former packrat, I never thought I would say this, but I have become addicted to cleaning out my closet.

It all started when I began working as a buyer for a women’s resale shop — sort of like a curated, upscale thrift shop or a Plato’s Closet for stylish, modern women. Upon being hired, I quickly learned the ins and outs of buying merchandise into our story — all of which comes from our customers and clients. I learned a lot about brands, current styles, which trends cross over into the resale market, and what styles and brands fit into our store’s demographic.

Aside from being able to style mannequins and our customers — I am so in love with styling, but that’s another post…or several posts…Anyway, what I love about my job is interacting with women who bring in their clothes. Most of these women (and a few husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends here and there) are terrified of parting with their clothing. Which I totally get. I used to be terrified, too. When it came to my closet, I was a total clothes hoarder. Since working at Clothes Mentor and becoming a buyer, I’ve learned that it’s OK to Spring Clean! In fact, I do it all year round!
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There’s something very satisfying about “recycling” or “trading in” my clothes. It all feels very sustainable and…well, thrifty…but without the whole bedbugs scare that’s been plaguing the thrift stores that will take anything lately…again, that’s another post.

Like I said, cleaning out my closet has gone from something overwhelming and anxiety-triggering into an act that is empowering and even relaxing! I’ve come to think of it as resale therapy.

My friend Sarah recently commented on the blog saying she too faces the common anxiety of cleaning out your closet. So many of the women I buy from do, too. It (almost) always turns into a stress reliever, though! Simplifying life takes even more weight off your shoulders than you realize (something I’ve learned from fellow blogger Gabrielle).

"I don’t know about you, but I get really sentimentally attached to clothes, and really anything else for that matter," Sarah said when I posted about Spring cleaning and motivation for organization. "Recently, when I was going through my stuff with the intention of getting rid of a lot, it helped me to have the fiancé nearby to confirm that I was probably only keeping something for sentimental reasons, rather than because it looked good, fit well, etc. I was much more successful when I had him nearby to bounce my decisions off of. My other suggestion is to work when your body is naturally most energetic. If you’re a morning person, start then. If you, like me, work better in the evening, do your organizing then. Also, good music always helps!" Sarah gave some great pointers that I totally agree with. It’s important to take your time when you’re giving your closet a deep cleaning. Another really important piece of advice I’ve taken away from my work in resale is that if you haven’t used something, worn it, or thought about it in a year, then it’s best to get rid of it (unless, of course, it has sentimental value).

This is also a great thing to keep in mind if you are considering making money off of your unused, unwanted apparel, shoes, or accessories! Most resale or consignment shops won’t buy in items that are more than two years old. Did you know a brand changes their label every two years? That’s how resale shops like Clothes Mentor, Once Upon a Child and Plato’s Closet know what’s current and what’s out of date!

I recommend going through your closet on a seasonal basis to ensure you are reselling, trading, consigning or giving away the most current items possible in order to get the most bang for your buck.

Another good point Sarah brought up was moral support! I’ve learned that we are often more sentimental than we realize when it comes to our clothes, shoes and accessories! As you clean out your closet and dresser, it’s important to have a loved one or friend close by to tell you whether or not you actually use that item — they’ll have a better memory about these things than you might expect! That way, it keeps you honest with yourself about whether or not you really need that dress or those shoes.

Keep in mind that lots of resale or consignment shops also take in barely used or new fragrances and lotions — some even take in home goods, art work and candles. These outlets gives you even more of an excuse to break into your closet and treat yourself to some resale therapy. Trust me, the hard work of giving your wardrobe a facelift pays off — sometimes, it even pays off literally!

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If you have any other questions or comments about Spring cleaning and my work as a certified buyer, sales associate and stylist, feel free to speak up in the comments section below! More posts about this topic are sure to follow! Keep an eye out for a post on the style makeover I gave my store (and it’s mannequins) coming up very soon!

The “F” Word: Fans of Femininity Define, Un-define and Redefine It

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The Question: How do you define “femininity”? What does “feminine” mean to you?

Maybe it’s all the “feministing” I’ve been participating in within the classroom lately as a Women’s, Gender and Sexuality minor and all, but I seem to always have gender, sexes, femininity and masculinity on the brain. Seriously. This is becoming increasingly evident to me as I continue my studies. I’m constantly asking myself, “What does feminine even mean? And why do I enjoy representing my own version of “feminine” on a day-to-day basis.

I know in my heart of hearts that gender is a learned experience; that we all participate in and “do” gender every day, but for me, femininity is always something that’s come as naturally as anything else in my personality. When I was a little girl, I insisted upon wearing dresses even to soccer practice while my mom tried and tried to get me into pants and shorts. I even had to have skirted bathing suits. It’s always been that way, for me. I recently read an essay in one of my Feminist Theory books that talked about how nothing about gender is black and white. It’s not something that’s as clearly defined as we often try to make it even in feminist settings.

With all of this (often subconscious) thought about femininity and my own “gender participation,” I wanted to find out more about other women-identifying females’ experiences in their efforts to “do” feminine. Since gender is such a grey area, I knew there would be a lot of differing opinions, especially among my feminist peers and classmates.

Thus, I took to Facebook and asked my burning question: “How do you define ‘femininity?’ What does ‘feminine’ mean to you?”

Click “Read More” to find out how real women (and men) responded!

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Interviews with (Super) Women

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Who: Elizabeth Dolma
What:  
Zen Buddhist Tarot Card Reader
Where: Cincinnati, Ohio

At the age of 70, Elizabeth Dolma believes her life’s journey – along with its very diverse paths – has led her to become a Zen Buddhist Tarot Card reader. After failing out of the philosophy program at Indiana University, Dolma’s professional life took an array of twists and turns. She worked as a Montessori schoolteacher, a counselor at the YMCA, a Reiki master and a waitress. She wasn’t introduced to the art of reading cards until she began waitressing. Dolma says she became a card reader on a whim after her boss no longer had time to read coffee grounds for customers – an act similar to reading tea leaves With her boss’s encouragement, Dolma learned to combine an energy healing school of thought called Reiki with card reading. Ever since, Dolma has devoted her life’s work to studying Buddhism and reading cards for a living. According to Dolma, the general public misinterprets card reading – something she works to correct by giving her clients compassionate, positive experiences with each of her card readings. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she continues to offer card readings out of her home. She feels each of her life experiences have made her a more intuitive and compassionate card reader. This article was originally submitted to The Verge Magazine.

My interview with Elizabeth marks the third of (what I hope to be) many interviews with women from whom I find inspiration — or women I think are just plain badass, admirable, or hilarious. Probably a mixture of all those things combined. These women can be anyone — artists, mothers, professors, bloggers, career women — who is awesome in some way, shape or form. I’ve interviewed a number of women in the name of journalism over the span of my time at UC. Each and every one of those interviews has inspired me and validated my own experiences, choices and passions. I hope to inspire readers in that same way with my series: “Interviews with (Super) Women.”

Q: How did you become a card reader? How have your life experiences led you here?

A: Well, I feel as though it took all the different steps I took in life to become a card reader. At first, my adult life consisted of studying in a convent thinking I was going to become a nun. Then I became a philosophy major. After that didn’t work out, and then I worked in Montessori school – I learned there that everybody had a different way of learning. I was taught to shut up and be quiet and really listen to other people and honor their way of learning – to pay attention and focus, and that’s the most important part of my life.

I lived in New York and opened my own Montessori school there. And then I moved to Cincinnati, went back to school and got a master’s in counseling and did all the doctoral work, but of course never finished my dissertation. I did counseling for seven years, then I went out to California and stayed in a Tibetan Buddhist healing center, went to DePaul and spent time there in a monetary learning about meditation.

Eventually, I wound up back here in Cincinnati where I taught meditation classes and did a lot of Reiki training and a lot of Reiki teaching. Since then, the readings that I do are about spiritual guidance and about trying to help people. Underneath it all, we are all enlightened and all fabulous, so when people come and they have struggles in their lives or things they want to achieve, I try to help them develop tools and techniques to work on those things.

The cards that I use are very evocative and that’s why I use them – it’s like they really can see what I see and what I’m talking about when I use them. It’s amazing to look back on life and see that things that I wanted but didn’t get wouldn’t have taken me here or taught me what I wanted to learn. It’s almost like something was pulling me down this track to get right to where I am – and that’s probably true for everybody. If we could all just find that thread that makes you think, “Oh, something in me knew what I wanted to know my whole life,” you know? I always wanted to learn how the mind works and how we become happy, so there’s always more to learn.

Q: How did you begin to use the type of cards you use instead of traditional tarot cards?

A: I really don’t remember exactly, but it must have been one of my mentors who used them. When my children were little, we always had different types of cards in the house – you know, fairytale cards or “inner child” cards…just fun kids’ stuff. I never thought I read them, but I guess I did. Somehow, just always looking around, I must have run into the Zen Buddhist deck in my travels or something. Every reader who I’ve ever read for – they usually stop whatever it is they use for their card readings and go out and get these cards instead. They just give you a clear sense of what’s going on with you.

They’re different from tarot cards because – well, with tarot cards, you have to read them intellectually. You have to know those cards on an intellectual level because they don’t actually give you a clear image. They’re very vague and often negative. That’s not who I am. My cards are very visceral. You look at them and they tell you something immediately. The whole thing is about actually helping people help themselves. I can tell them things that I think are true, but there’s no reason they should believe me unless it actually resonates with them. When they look at my cards, though, they get to see what they mean for themselves instead of just taking my word for it. It’s very different.

In regular card readings, the card reader shuffles the cards and lay them out. In these types of card readings, the people can pick which cards they want for themselves – without seeing the front of the card first, obviously. It’s much more of shared experience. I will say something about a card and they will be able to tell me what it reminds them of, too. It’s very different, I think – there’s more of a connection.

If people come to me and say, “Well, you’re a reader. Tell me what you see,” … Well, I’m not a psychic. I’m not in here to prove something to anyone. I’m here to help people if they want help.

Q: How a card reader different from being psychic, then?

A: Like I said, they have to tell me what they need guidance in or what they need help with. They have to send intention out to the universe requesting what they want help with. I want to help, not to prove myself. I’m not a fortuneteller. I don’t make predictions. I turn the cards back on them by saying, “You know, here’s the issue they brought up, and here’s what the universe is saying about that issue through the cards. Here are some options and ideas.”

Nine and a half out of ten people who come to me over the years leave their reading feeling more empowered and like they can have a handle on their life. And that’s what I want – I want them to feel better. I want to make people feel more empowered and have some strategies to deal with their issues or worries. I’m not here to judge. I’m here to help. I feel like that’s different than a regular tarot card reader because I’m not here to scare you or be negative or make predictions. I’m here to use my cards to point you in a good direction or guide you with compassion.

Q: Where do you think that guidance comes from?

A: I think I can do it personally because of my training in meditation and Montessori training – I think it opened up other area of my mind and of my brain that allow me to be more intuitive and in touch with the universe and whatever higher power is out there – I can interpret the guidance. It comes from the universe, not from me. Not from being psychic or anything like that. I’m not psychic, just intuitive. I believe that everybody is connected and that I’m connected to each of my clients.

I feel more from my heart than my mind. I feel like being psychic comes from more of a mental thing instead of a heart thing. I have to connect with somebody on an emotional level before I can help him or her through a reading. It comes from connection rather than from just…you know, just from my head. 

Q:  What are the other things you do besides card readings?

A: I focus just on readings now, pretty much, but before, I did energy healings through Reiki, I taught people about energy and how to use their energy to heal or help. I do a lot of meditation, but I don’t really teach it anymore. I used to, but I’m old, you know? It’s all had phases. And then the counseling has played a part, too. So did the teaching.

Q: What is a misconception you run into about being a reader?

A: That this kind of gift comes from a dark place. Or that it’s of the devil or something. Which it isn’t at all. I was raised Catholic and wanted to become a nun for a long time, but none of my experiences have led me to ever believe that this line of work is from anything other than something positive. It comes from a positive place of compassion. And a lot of people really do think that it’s fortunetelling. I can’t read people’s minds like that. I can only go off of what they come to me with and what I see in them and what the cards bring about. I can’t make predictions about the future, I can only help you with the now. 

Q: How do you structure a typical card reading?

A: We start off just talking. I ask them what they came for and what is on their mind. It depends on the person, you know? Sometimes I’ll do a little bit of astrology if a person is hard to read. Something to get us started, but I don’t even need to do that much anymore. I just ask them to tell me whatever is on their mind and to just keep talking until I feel connected. Once we get started, I don’t want a person to talk too much, though, because it will break my connection with them. It takes me to a different mindset or space. That’s how I get the insight.

Then we do fifteen minutes of cards, usually. I talk for about a half an hour and they listen – well, they can talk some, but like I said, I don’t want to lose the connection. It should take 45 minutes, but it always ends up taking longer. It’s about getting to know them. I personally do my Reiki symbols in the beginning of a session and open with a prayer that we both are open to receive guidance from the universe and at the end, I always thank whatever has helped us throughout the session – the universe, our connection, the different energies at work.

To me it’s very sacred. The bookends of prayer are an important ritual to me. They pull ten cards and they always, always, always reflect the topics we were talking about before we even pulled them. People always say, “Oh, you rigged it so those cards would come up!” But I don’t. It’s a conversation between me and the person I’m reading for and the energy that guides me.

The readings aren’t ever negative – that’s another misconception about card readings. Every one of my readings – except for one single woman – have been positive. People come to me scared that a negative card will come up or that they’ll get the death card or something, but that doesn’t happen. For one thing, there is no death card in this deck. I don’t believe in negative readings, which is another reason I don’t use traditional tarot cards.  I feel like tarot card readings are often judgmental – that’s not what the purpose is. It’s why I don’t want to be associated with those types of cards.

Even if I were to see something negative, I would say, “Look, this could possibly happen, but if you solve it this way or do this thing, it won’t.” It’s about creating solutions, not causing problems. People are powerful, and my readings are about showing them that power from a place of compassion, not judgment or negativity.

 

Q: Do you think your ability to do readings or connect with people on that level comes from a higher power?

A: I do. Here’s my metaphor: the world is like a Christmas tree and the string of lights is all of the energy. We all have our own individual energy – each of us is an individual light on the string, but we all are connected through the string. If you go down to the string’s cord, you discover that we all are powered by the same electricity; the same energy. The trick is to be individual and connected at the same time. I don’t know how you do that, but I try, but when you tap into the part that’s all connected, you can use your heart to connect – and that’s where I think I get the power to do readings from – that cord; that connection.

Q: What do you do when you get skeptics who want you to read for them?

A: There have been just a few of real – you know, arrogant people. I just give them their money back and tell them I can’t connect with them on that level if they come to me with that kind of intention. But I can never actually get them to leave. They always want to be good enough to read for or something, after that. If they don’t let me in, I can’t help them. We always end up getting somewhere after I’m honest with them about that, though. It just takes longer to get to that kind of place. It’s very rewarding, though. 

Q: How is it rewarding?

A: Oh, just to see people come in feeling scared or depressed or angry and then to see them leave feeling happy and hopeful. And then to have people come back and just talk about how their life is different and how much better they feel – most of the time, that happens. If somebody doesn’t leave feeling more empowered and better, then I have not done my job. It’s just the best. It’s even way better than therapy. It just reminds me of when I was a teacher – helping people. To see people working on something and see that they’re having trouble and help them learn to help themselves. It’s a sacred experience. Just like teaching or counseling. I just love it.

Q: Is it ever exhausting – making that many connections to people on such a deep level?

A: Absolutely. And the older I get, the less readings I do – well, I just spread them out more, actually. I used to several a day, but now I do one a day and I’m tired. Especially since I’m going through lots of physical changes, anyway, and my energy isn’t what it used to be. It’s tiring. I have to give it my all, though, even if it puts me in bed for a week. I give it my all.

Q: Is it ever hard not to judge or to come from a place of judgment?

A: Sometimes. If people are defensive, it is, but I think one of the best parts of being a teacher and a counselor or a reader is learning patience. You just keep going, and everybody has a soft spot. Sometimes it just takes longer to build a connection. But, even if it’s challenging, I can always find a place to start. That’s where the patience comes in.

Q: What drives people to contact you and have their cards read?

A: It depends on the context, but most people come to me because they have some sort of problem or issue that they want help with. Underneath, there’s always a serious reason. I think most people want guidance and reassurance that they’re OK and that they can handle what’s going on in their lives, even if they feel lost and don’t know what to do. That everything’s going to be OK.

Q: What’s your highest hope with each reading?

A: I hope that when they leave they feel more hopeful and joyful about life. I can see such a weight lift after they leave. People have problems, but problems are life illness in a way – there’s always an antidote for it. There’s always medicine. If you’ve got a problem, you can solve a problem, and that’s what I work to do with each reading.

Q: What has doing the card readings taught you?

A: Gosh, so many things. Well, first of all, the joy of feeling connected to other people on that level. And there probably are exceptions, but in my experience, if you’re open enough and are willing to set your ego aside…everybody’s really wonderful underneath it all. Everybody’s working and doing their best, even if they’re bitter and angry. It’s shown me the beauty of life. I see life starting to flow more through other people, and one of the great things for me is that doing readings takes me out of my own ego and validates that there is more going on than just my little mind.

I can’t tell you what it is exactly, but when I make those connections with other people, it’s just like, “Oh, thank you, God! There is more to this world than just what’s going on. It’s the same energy in all of us. It really affirms life. And it’s taught me to be more accepting and compassionate.

Dolma continues to do card readings out of her home in Cincinnati, Ohio near the University of Cincinnati. She offers a special rate for local students. She can be contacted at (513) 861-0712.

 

 

Interviews with (Super) Women

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My interview with Lauren marks the second of (what I hope to be) many interviews with women from whom I find inspiration — or women I think are just plain badass, admirable, or hilarious. Probably a mixture of all those things combined. These women can be anyone — artists, mothers, professors, bloggers, career women — who is awesome in some way, shape or form. I’ve interviewed a number of women in the name of journalism over the span of my time at UC. Each and every one of those interviews has inspired me and validated my own experiences, choices and passions. I hope to inspire readers in that same way with my series: “Interviews with (Super) Women.”

 Who: Lauren Wales
What: Doula
Where: Cincinnati, Ohio

Lauren Wales first began studying to become a doula when she was 16 years old. Since then, birth and birth culture have been a part of her life in numerous ways. She has worked as both a licensed prenatal massage therapist and a childbirth and childcare educator. She is also the mother of a nearly-ten-year-old girl, whom she became pregnant with during her training to become a certified doula. Although Wales chose to become a certified doula in lieu of attending high school, she hopes to become a midwife someday, and is currently studying American birth culture at the University of Cincinnati. Wales identifies as a full spectrum doula, meaning she offers support for women during all stages of their reproductive cycles, with a focus on childbirth, prenatal and postpartum care. This article has been submitted to The Verge Magazine.

Q: Describe your job as a doula to someone who may not even know what it is.

A: So when a woman is pregnant and thinking about how and where she’s going to have her baby, then she may need support for that. She may have questions about places to give birth, about caring for a baby, or about all the possible options she has in regard to birth – options like positions, medications, how she is going to breastfeed her baby, what happens when you go home and have this newborn and you’ve never had one before.

That’s how the role or profession of the doula sprang up, and my job is really to mother the mother because in the US we don’t really have very interconnected extended families, so the kind of support that we might get from our mom or our grandma or sister or aunt, the professional doula provides that kind of support. Really I get to do all the fun stuff that comes with being a birthing coach or a birthing supporter without all the technical piece that the midwife or doctor would do. My role is really comfort measures, support and education, and really helping or coaching the mother through her pregnancy, birth and even postpartum.

Q: What made you decide to become a doula?

A: When I was 16. I met a woman who was going to school to become a nurse midwife. She lent me a book called “Spiritual Midwifery,” which is this really interesting 1970s hippie-style manifesto about giving birth. It got me really excited about this idea that women can empower one another in their birth experiences, so I thought,  ‘Well, that’s what I’m going to do with my life.’ So because I was 16 and didn’t have any kids, I was like, ‘Well, how can I get involved?’ One of the suggestions was to become a doula and learn how to support women like that before you went through all the technical process.

Q: What kind of training did that entail?

A: So this was like 11 or so years ago that I did my training. I was like 20. At that time, there were quite a few certifying organizations. Since then, that’s changed a little bit, but is still pretty much true. So what you would do was go to usually a weekend workshop – two to three days or so with a certain number of contact or fieldwork hours – and then you’d read a bunch of books, then you’d go to a bunch of books as a ‘doula-trainee’ of sorts. Back when I was becoming a doula, there weren’t a lot of doulas, so usually you’d go on your own to these births. Thank goodness, now there are a lot more experienced doulas out there so you can shadow someone, like an apprenticeship. But back then, I didn’t have that, so I’d go on my own even before I got certified. I just started going.

            I would contact people, who were teaching childbirth classes, and my mom does lactation support, so she knew a lot of people – I would just explain that this is what I want to do, and ask if they had anybody who would want me to come to their birth for free or for gas money. I worked for a while for Planned Parenthood in Hamilton because my midwife friend was there. And that was really amazing because I got to deal with a population of women who wouldn’t otherwise be able to hire a doula.

Q: How did your client base grown since you first became a doula? How has it continued to grow?

A: It’s been really cyclical for me – because I’ve always also been running this track to become a midwife. The doula work has been there kind of on a case-by-case basis. There are times when it’s really active in my life, and time when it kind of is on the backburner a bit. I did a lot of doula from when I was in my early twenties, but I got pregnant when I was 21.

            All this doula work was so inspiring, and I was engaged, and I was like, ‘Let’s have a baby!’ So that didn’t take a lot of work and we did. And then I took a break for a couple of years and went to school to become a massage therapist, then at the end of that, I started going to births again.

            It depends on the doula, though. Often times, we do have kids, and it’s a career people choose after they have children, and they’re usually fitting it around the rest of their life. Or maybe it’s the other way around – you know, life fits in around their doula work. For me, it kind of came organically. The more people I knew, and as the idea of doulas got to be something that more people knew about within mainstream culture, the number of births I attended grew.

            Also, through my massage therapy work, people would come to me for prenatal massage, who will then ask me to come to their births and be their doula. The idea of having someone there who knows what they’re doing and how to support then is appealing to them. So as I’ve made more choices and grown myself as a person over the years, the more births I’ve attended.

Q: So your main goal is to become a midwife?

A: Yes. So I guess I’m kind of a blend of analytical and interpersonal. I love the problem solving and kind of healthcare aspects of being a midwife, but I’m glad I’ve had all this work as a doula because what it does is give you a lot more time to develop intimacy with women and really understand what’s important about the birthing process with each individual woman. So much of what happens in birth is not about the physical. It’s about the emotional and relational, so if those things are in a good place, then the woman can be undefended and can be present and can rock out in her birth.

            If those things aren’t in place in a very good way – either because she’s got a something very psychological or relational going on in her life that she needs to let go of or work through, then that’s going to impact her physical birth experience as well. So I’m glad that I am able to learn about all aspects of birth – being a doula as I become a midwife has allowed me to do all those things.

            As I learn to become a midwife here in a university setting, still practicing as a doula keeps me in touch with why I wanted to become involved in births in the first place.

Q: If you could think back, what was your first experience as a doula like, how have your methods changed, and how have you grown as a doula?

A: I was so young and so enthusiastic. I don’t think I can give you one first experience because what ended up happening was that I ended up doing a lot more childbirth and prenatal education classes in the very beginning rather than attending a lot of births. And that was really amazing because it confirmed my feeling that this was definitely what I wanted to be doing and the career path that I wanted to go down in terms of working with women and having deep connections with them and helping them to feel empowered in what their choices were.

            So I was working with Planned Parenthood and I was also working with a childbirth education friend of mine at a pregnancy care center here in Cincinnati. So those are these diametric philosophies, but it was all about people having babies.

            The first birth that I was at was a young woman’s through the pregnancy care center and she was actually married, which was kind of unusual. She wasn’t a teen mom. She was actually 21 or 22. She and her husband lived with her family. They were very supportive of her and she wanted a natural birth. She had been to childbirth classes and she was very awesome.

She did great, and she did have a natural birth in the hospital, but she was on Medicaid and she gave birth at University Hospital. I remember how great she did when it was her husband and I in the room, and how disempowering it was when she had medical students – the two medical students did her birth, actually – and their attitude toward her was just so demeaning and awful.

            She knew exactly what she wanted and could feel everything, but they treated her as if she had no idea what was going on and like she just needed to lay back and let them do whatever they wanted.

            So it was glorious in the fact that I actually got to see this baby being born and this woman that was completely in her power, but at the same time there were active efforts to take that power away from her. After the birth, they took the baby to the warmer right away, which she didn’t want, and she had torn a little because they had forced her to push before she was ready.

            The next birth I attended was that of a 15-year-old girl. Her story was both beautiful and sad at the same time. She got pregnant through a date rape when she was 15, didn’t tell her family, and eventually, they realized she was pregnant. Well, her mom happened to be pregnant at the same time, and they gave birth about a week apart. They were both using the Planned Parenthood clinic because they were undocumented, and she came from a culture in Mexico where her mom had her siblings and her at home with a midwife in the mountains.

            So when they moved here, she had all this personal family support to have a natural birth and to breastfeed her baby. She was completely ready for this, and because I was younger, there was this connection between us where she was more comfortable with me, and I was with her through her whole labor, which was a long time, and it was really cool, but I also had another job at the time, and couldn’t get anybody to take my shift, so I had to leave her.

            When I left her, she was still in early labor, but after I left, the doctor came in, did a vaginal exam on her, and she freaked out because she had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the rape. When she became upset, the doctor said, ‘That’ll teach you never to get pregnant again.”

            She asked for an epidural at that point, which was probably the best thing given the circumstances since she was so upset and her mother didn’t speak any English, plus they didn’t have any interpreters in the hospital.

            She ended up having the epidural, and things went really fast. By the time I got back there that night, she had had the baby, but it was just not the kind of birth that she knew she could have, but she also felt powerless to change it. She didn’t want to file any complaints against her doctor because she was undocumented.

            All of those experiences together helped me realize how important this work was, how difficult it was, how much your position in life and your support system impacts your ability to have a great birth – and that’s how it all started for me.

Q: How have birthing laws affected your ability to practice as a doula?

A: There were a few instances where I nearly got into trouble since Ohio laws are so strict and anti-natural or home births, so for a while I made a decision to step back from attending births and focus on massage therapy and raising my daughter. It’s only been recently that I have felt comfortable enough to start going to births again. However, those instances taught me what I can do and not do legally in Ohio and how to protect myself while still enriching the birth experiences of other women and supporting them.

For instance, I love going to home births and am friends with a lot of homebirth midwives and know them pretty well, but if I’m at a birth, I’ll only go as a doula since I am not a licensed midwife right now. And I’ll only go with the agreement that I am not doing anything there that could possibly be perceived by anyone as clinical. Even though I know all the stuff, I won’t and can’t without putting myself in danger legally. That’s how strict the laws have become.

            I experienced a situation recently with a midwife who is a massage therapist and is my age and everything, and she was like, ‘So, we’re going to leave, do you mind doing this and that while I’m gone – I think it was like listening to the heart tones or something like that – and I had to say no. I could do that very easily, but I can’t and I won’t.

Q: How do you describe your job to your clients when they first approach you?

A: Well, a lot of people who are pregnant know what a doula is already, so it’s not as big of a question as it used to be. Where it comes up the most would be from someone who knows me in another capacity other than from my work as a doula. So then we talk a lot about comfort measures. The way I like to approach it is by saying, ‘It’s not my birth, it’s your birth, and so what’s important to me about birth culture might not be important to you.’

 I like to hear about someone’s vision and what kinds of qualities or experiences are important to someone, because no two births or birthing experiences are the same. It’s a lot about the qualitative for me. That’s kind of how I explain it to people. It’s about what they’ like their birth to look like, what they’d like for it to feel like, or where they would like to be.

Q: What are some misconceptions about your job?

A: OK this is a huge one: that I do something clinical, like a midwife or a doctor or a nurse, and somehow can do things for you and your labor to actually facilitate the birth. The other major one is that I’m an advocate in that I can speak for you, and that’s absolutely not true. That’s a really good thing to educate people about. Doulas are an amazing support, but at no point can your doula be a cheerleader in the sense that they are going to speak up for you against your care provider.

            It’s important for me to let a woman know what is going on throughout her birth, however, I can’t physically tell a physician what to do or karate chop a scalpel out of his hand. I can’t say to the doctor, ‘She does not consent.’ All I can do is process the birth afterward with the client to see how she’s feeling about it. There’s a lot of supporting and acknowledging what’s not OK within the system, but at the same time you recognize that you directly cannot change the system and aren’t responsible for changing it – women are.

That’s why it’s so important to empower women maybe before they even get pregnant – maybe we need preconception doulas; I think we do. There’s a movement going on right now that’s going toward something like that. It’s happening sort of jointly between the feminist community and the birth community. It’s this idea of a full-spectrum doula, which are doulas that support a woman through any reproductive choice that she makes, whether her choice is to terminate a pregnancy or to use artificial insemination to conceive, or whether or choice is to carry a pregnancy to term and make her own birth choices.

I’ve even done a bit of work with women who are planning on having hysterectomies or who are going through menopause. It’s the movement to support a women’s whole reproductive cycle throughout her lifespan and all the choices that involves. It’s all about empowerment and putting the power back into the hands of women.

Q: What do you personally take away from your work as a doula?

A: There’s this sense of wonderment and joy about being alive that comes from my work. There are very few jobs where you know that this is a pivotal moment in life. I think that there are three really pivotal moments in life that are quintessentially human and transcendent at the same time I would say the first one of those is being born, the second is like sexual experience or intimacy, and then the last one of those would be death. Those three things, throughout human experience everywhere in the world and throughout time, have been vital to who we are as beings but also have been this experience of something more than just daily like – they’re like out of time and space experiences.

            So I get to be in the room with someone who is giving birth, who is fully standing in her power and harnessing every little tiny bit of herself to focus in on this experience, and knowing at the same time that there is a human being coming in to the world that’s also actively choosing to be here in this moment, at this time, in this way, and who is working in this beautiful dance with their mother to come here.

And I watch this happen and I see two people fall in love in this way that will last their entire lifetimes.  It’s not one of those things where it’s like, ‘You’re my boyfriend today, and then I don’t love you tomorrow.’ It’s like a mother and her child and a father and his child have this bond that will never end. So to be present for an experience like that – it’s like, how could you ever not want that to be part of your life, and how could you not be grateful to have that.

I think that’s what it is – it’s that opportunity to be part of something that is, as a midwife that I used to work with says, ‘ It’s an experience that allows you to tremble at the foot of God.’ I’m not a Christian, but this idea of being present of being present for the sacred and special and divine of life…that’s what being a doula is about for me.

So how about you? If you are a mother, what was your birth experience like? If not, would you ever consider a natural childbirth? Why or why not? How does birth and birth choice relate to feminism? Would you ever use a doula if you were to give birth? How does birth choice relate to femininity? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Interviews with (Super) Women

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My interview with Jac marks the first of (what I hope to be) many interviews with women from whom I find inspiration — or women I think are just plain badass, admirable, or hilarious. Probably a mixture of all those things combined. These women can be anyone — artists, mothers, professors, bloggers, career women — who is awesome in some way, shape or form. I’ve interviewed a number of women in the name of journalism over the span of my time at UC. Each and every one of those interviews has inspired me and validated my own experiences, choices and passions. I hope to inspire readers in that same way with my series: “Interviews with (Super) Women.”

Who: Jac Kern, Arts & Culture Editor
What: Journalist, Editor & Former University of Cincinnati Student
Where: CityBeat (Cincinnati)

OK, so I chose to interview Jac Kern for a few reasons: a) I have had a bit of a girl crush on her since I met her at one of the SPJ events a few years back, b) She’s 25 and so damn talented and accomplished and has come so far in her career in such a short amount of time, c) she had pink highlights at the time of the interview and d) I just plain admire the heck out of her and have wanted to pick her brain for a while now.

Being the former Arts & Life editor for The News Record, I related to Jac (just look at her title at CityBeat – Arts & Culture…overlap, anyone?) right off the bat. Her wit and gumption are evident as soon as you meet her – which is how she helped hatch UC’s TheVerge Magazine and just plain rock during her time at the University of Cincinnati. Drive, wit and personality – not to mention talent – landed Jac where she is now as she continues to move on up the journalism ladder. The great thing about her is that she knows who she is as a writer – funny, fierce and unapologetically intelligent. Our candid Q+A session is proof.

Q: When/why did you decide you wanted to be a journalist? Did you have any other majors first while you were in college?
A: I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I always loved English and writing stories, but journalism never crossed my mind until I was a sophomore in college. Maybe that’s because I never went to a school where there was a strong newspaper. I transferred from a small, private college in north Chicago (where I majored in creative writing) to UC and after some consideration, I thought journalism might be a better direction for me. I remember thinking something like, “I need to major in something with an actual job field…” - HA.


Q:
What was your minor and has it applied to your work in journalism so far?
A: I minored in English at UC because a) like I said, it’s always been my favorite subject and b) full disclosure, its requirements overlapped with journalism courses and I really wanted to graduate in four years. Don’t hate the player! Since I am allowed a lot of creative freedom at an alternative weekly, I’d say English courses are certainly more relevant to what I do here than at a standard daily paper.


Q:
How did you end up with a job as an editor so early in your career? What is your advice for other journalism students who hope to be successful?
A: First thing’s first: There’s not doubt in my mind that I am extremely lucky. Had I graduated six months earlier or later than I did, the timing alone could have prevented me from this opportunity. I could never let it go to my head — there are plenty of excellent, hard-working journalism grads out there who deserve jobs like mine. But I also believe in the old saying that luck is opportunity meeting preparation. I interned at CityBeat the summer after my junior year. It had always been my favorite local publication; its style matched my own. I was stoked to work here, even though I was entering mindless calendar listings for hours on end. That’s my first tip: Try to intern somewhere you really want to work and be enthusiastic about it. Also, while it’s good to know a little of everything, it’s really helpful to have a specialized focus or a beat you’re particularly knowledgeable about. I can’t tell you how many times interns have told me “Oh, I’ll write about anything,” which usually means nothing.
      Once my summer was up, I asked my editors “Can I please keep working here for free?” and they said yes, of course! I hadn’t written a lot of real features during my actual internship, so I just made myself available, got friendly with my editors (not in that way), and eventually went out on a trip around the city with them for the I-275 issue. They asked me to write a narrative on the experience and there was my first feature. Tip 2: Really get to know your editors. Become friends with them. Talk to them casually about story ideas and what they’re looking for. Get involved any way you can until they eventually give in and let you write something.
      At that point I became a freelance writer for about 6 months. A month before graduation, one of my internship editors asked what my plans were — she and my other editor were both leaving the Beat. Again, I made it know secret that I wanted to work here. Too often I feel people think they need to act cool or nonchalant — not me. I was hungry for it. They ended up selecting me for an associate editor position. In December (and through this year), we had a lot of lay-offs. In January, I was promoted to Arts & Culture editor, my ideal position. 


Q:
What is your favorite part of being a journalist?
A: I love telling interesting stories. For me, it’s not about how many news articles I can accumulate over my career, I prefer quality over quantity, and I’m so thankful I get to do that here. I’ve met a lot of really interesting people and I always know about the best things to go out and do (though I do often prefer my apartment and a margarita). I think most people want a job that ultimately helps people in some way, whether it’s healing a broken limb or helping someone select an awesome dish for dinner. I think I get to help people explore, critique and love this city.


Q:
Where do you find inspiration?
A: Remember when I mentioned margaritas? Just kidding. Kinda. Sometimes the job can be intimidating, especially my new position I am in charge of all content that falls under visual arts, theater/dance/classical music, television, film, food and anything “culture.” I constantly worry that I’m missing some major event or pissing off some gallery owner. But my editor is really great and offers tons of advice. He’s given me a lot of confidence, which inspires me to come up with interesting stories. I’m always on social media, seeing what people are doing and talking about and making sure we’re aware of that editorially. I also read a lot of other alt-weeklies to see what kinda of stuff their covering (especially “cool” cities like Seattle and Portland. Wow. If you think CB covers some scandalous stuff…)


Q:
What are your hopes for the future?
A: I’m a realist. I hope I don’t get laid off, that CityBeat doesn’t go under, and that’s a hope for my personal future. I have lots of faith that we’re a viable product and I’ve made myself an indispensable member of the team (at the very least, I have the passwords for our social media — don’t mess with me!), but it’s such an unpredictable field that you have to constantly be on your game and know anything is possible.
      For CityBeat, I hope that all of our recent changes will make for a better product that reaches more people. Whether our audience picks up the paper or follows our blogs or comes to our events, we aren’t just a publication and I hope that more people can embrace what we offer. 
       For journalism as a whole, it’s scary, sure. But I feel like if you offer trustworthy, entertaining, unique content, you’re gonna be OK. Much like what I said about journalists — know your stuff and be ready to take on various tasks, but have a specialized, unique point of view or area of knowledge. Papers might diminish, be information and entertainment will always be sought after.

 

Q: What’s your dream job?
A: I really couldn’t ask for much more than my current position. But, if we’re talking dreams, I think it would be fun to be an editor for GOOD, or a pop culture blogger. I’d love to see what it’s like to head A&C for an alt-weekly in an even bigger city like New York (Village Voice), Chicago (Chicago Reader), LA (LA Weekly), Seattle (Stranger), etc. Also, Vice is absolutely insane. It would be fun to drop acid and go to an amusement park and call that work.


Q:
What’s your favorite part of your current job at CityBeat?
A: The editorial staff is really small, so everyone is really involved in everything. Our brainstorming sessions are really fun because everyone I work with is really creative and funny. If I ever have an idea that doesn’t totally suck, I can just run with it and see what happens. I have a lot of freedom from blogging to the stories I assign, to bringing in my dog to work. I could never go from here to work at a stuffy newsroom with dress codes and faux “fair and balanced” reporting.


Q:
What’s your least favorite part?
A: The job security, or lack there of. It isn’t easy to see people who have been in the business for years get canned. You can’t help but wonder if you’re next. It’s scary but it keeps everyone sharp. Also, commenters. I don’t know what I’d do if I worked at the Enquirer and managed their reader comments. The horror! Ideally, it would be awesome for users to interact with a product, but insightful comments are so few and far-between. Most people think that their opinion, thoughtful and educated or not, trumps all. It’s like journalistic litter. Also, going from being a student/waitress to sitting on your butt at a computer for 9-11 hours a day can really cause the pounds to pack on. Wish someone would have told me!


Q:
What are the next steps in your career?
A: In the last six months, we’re completely redesigned our print edition and site, visually and editorially. I plan on continuing that growth and making a better source for locals. I’m sure at some point I will move on from here, but I’m really happy with my position at CityBeat right now. 


Q:
What’s the best advice you’ve received when it comes to journalism?
A: Have a niche. And everything Jenny Wohlfarth ever told me!


Q:
What is your favorite story you’ve written so far? Why?
A: Tough. I really loved the feature I wrote about Bad Girls Ventures for A-Line’s first issue. I attended a class of women with start-up businesses as part of my interviewing and was just exposed to awesome women. And the CEO, Candace, had such an inspirational story. She was also very moved by the final piece, which I know shouldn’t be of my concern (in a news writing sense) but I honestly do want my subjects to feel I did them justice. I also had fun writing about the local Steampunk scene for CityBeat’s cover in April. I love covering quirky topics in interviewing strange people. I also wrote a really personal column once where I divulged about the terror of strangers asking if I was pregnant (never have been!). It was cool to write an personal narrative piece that didn’t seem like a diary entry, and I think it was pretty funny.


Q:
In your opinion, what makes a good journalist?
A: You have to be a good mix of reporter and writer. I’ve never understood journalists who don’t like words. In my opinion, you have to be reliable and technical and know your facts and all the basics, but you also have to express it in an interesting way, from the words you choose to the angle you approach a story. Be in tune with your audience. Don’t be cocky! Learn your strengths/interests and accentuate them.

 

images c/o jac kern & facebook.

Coming Soon: A Fresh Take on Feminine

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I created this space for a woman in-between stages in her life: maybe she is about to graduate college (like me), just moved into a new apartment or is just spending a lot of time dreaming about her future. This is a blog where indecision and taking your time is encouraged and any dreamer is welcome. My hope is to showcase real women who are living their dreams, flaunt unique style rather than high fashion, and embrace the little things in life like a fun craft or a good read as I navigate my own personal “in-between.”

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This blog will include interviews with women who are living their dreams — whether that means building their dream careers, making a home for their families and everything in between. It will also explore different forms and definitions of feminism and femininity and what being a female looks like for the modern woman.

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Oh Golly, Holly is for the crafty, chic, positive young woman who relishes in unique finds and strives to gain inspiration from other women while doing some soul-searching for herself. It will be a balance of sugar and spice when it comes to handling the challenges and triumphs life brings while navigating life as a young women. Oh Golly, Holly will embrace natural beauty and treasures the little things in life. We showcase real women with real stories. It is is a fresh take on feminine.

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