An afternoon list

Because my brain is melting due to survey analysis, a too-large cold brew, and possibly too much sugar, an afternoon list about our new life in Hyde Park:
  1. This morning I left my house a little after 7, biked to the gym (5 minutes), ran to the other gym to meet my running group, ran around Washington Park, ran 1 km repeats on the track, then ran back to my gym to get cleaned up before work. By 8:30, I was at my desk, fighting off the warm sleepies of a hard workout.
  2. While I was doing all of that, my family walked to Jackson Park to take in the Japanese garden, more properly known as The Garden of the Phoenix, where they looked at the birds and the leaves, and where the toddler ran freely amongst SKYLANDING, Yoko Ono’s only installation in America.
  3. On Saturday, we took a walk to the 57th Street Art Fair,which was a much more pleasant experience than the art-on-sticks onslaught of Ann Arbor’s Art Fair, but perhaps that was because we could dip in and out, our toddler falling asleep in the stroller as we walked down the shaded streets.
  4. The toddler and I attended a “nature playdate” at the pocket park out our back door. The park used to have the typical playground apparatus, but has been converted into a nature playground, with lots of sticks and rocks and tree stumps and a big sandbox for digging and exploration. Basically, it’s toddler heaven.
  5. We’ve developed an (unhealthy?) obsession with Roti, a Chicago-based chain with a location a short walk from our new apartment. Many ways to configure a vegan meal plus delicious non-vegan options for me plus extra pita bread for the toddler makes for a happy family.
  6. In addition to a wonderful independent grocery store at the end of our alley, we’re within a 10 minute walk of two other grocery stores, with other options a short bike ride away. It’s great to not have to pile into the car every time we need something – it’s also much more convenient since a smaller kitchen with smaller (Euro-sized, not dorm-sized) appliances means we have to shop more often.
  7. When we walk up the stairs to our third floor apartment, the toddler says, with emphasis, “New house!”.
  8. My family has been walking me to work, and then heading over to the quad to visit the ducks. We won’t do this every morning, of course, but it’s been a nice change from the mornings where I had to extricate myself from a crying child to get in the car and sit in traffic on my commute (which, while not terrible by Chicago standards, was still a driving commute).
  9. My commute is now a 15 minute walk or a 5 minute bike ride.
  10. I hate commuting, so my new commute is life-changing.

“we don’t pay enough attention to those things that can be catastrophic for women.”

I cried at my desk this afternoon while reading NPR and Pro Publica’s absolutely heartbreaking piece about maternal mortality. In case you don’t have the time or the stomach to read the entire article, the key findings of their investigation are:

  • More American women are dying of pregnancy-related complications than any other developed country. Only in the U.S. has the rate of women who die been rising.
  • There’s a hodgepodge of hospital protocols for dealing with potentially fatal complications, allowing for treatable complications to become lethal.
  • Hospitals — including those with intensive care units for newborns — can be woefully unprepared for a maternal emergency.
  • Federal and state funding show only 6 percent of block grants for “maternal and child health” actually go to the health of mothers.
  • In the U.S, some doctors entering the growing specialty of maternal-fetal medicine were able to complete that training without ever spending time in a labor-delivery unit.

These findings are presented in the context of the death of a mother – herself a neonatal intensive care unit nurse – in childbirth as her horrified husband – a trauma doctor – tried to convince the attending doctors and nurses that something was very wrong and needed immediate attention.

I read this and cried as all of the scared, scary memories of late pregnancy and childbirth flooded back. How I was convinced that I was experiencing symptoms of preeclampsia which were dismissed by my doctor (but validated by test results). How I was pressured into scheduling a c-section that I didn’t want (and not given any information about alternatives). How there are things that I flat-out don’t remember – like the first time I held my son – because I was so sick after delivery, sick to the point that my partner wouldn’t leave my side, despite our plan being that the baby would always be with one of us. Begging for someone to look at an intense pain in my shoulder that made sleep impossible. Weird questions from the nurse who gave me my first post-surgery sponge bath. My swollen feet squishing like wet socks as I slowly made my way up and down the hall pushing the plastic bassinet where my son slept.

And then I remembered the article about the moral imperative behind my colleague Isabel’s work as a doula to families of color that I’d read earlier in the week and felt proud and angry all over again. Proud of my colleague and friend’s work advocating for the needs of mothers, babies, and families through pregnancy, childbirth, and new parenting. Proud that groups like hers exist to provide support for communities that are underserved by or that slip through the cracks of our healthcare system.

But then angry that it is necessary for doulas and birth worker groups and crowdfunding campaigns to do this kind of work, to pick up the slack, to compensate (and make amends) for our broken social safety net in our broken country. Angry that our system stands to actually get much worse if the AHCA actually happens.

Angry that even with my excessive privilege as a white, middle-class, able-bodied, educated, outspoken, financially secure, and fully insured woman living in a city where I have access to excellent health care, adequate public transportation, and a social safety net, the difficulties that I experienced during my (relatively very easy) pregnancy and my son’s birth clearly still affect me – so how much worse must it be for mothers and families that lack the resources to obtain adequate (primary or supplementary) care, or who experience complications or trauma or loss, or who get one of those doctors who received more training on fetal care than on maternal care, or – as in the example that opens the interview with Isabel – have internalized that the way they are being treated is just the way it is.

This Week’s Reads (Friday, May 5, 2017)

Let’s All Stop Apologizing for the Delayed Response in Our Emails – Science of Us
This is so relatable. I’ve read a few articles in the last few months that have highlighted ways that women’s use of language unconsciously or subconsciously expresses deference. There’s even a browser extension for it. This article takes a different, but still relevant, tack, encouraging us to reframe that ‘delayed’ response as being sent within a reasonable time frame – it also suggests several tools that will help you prioritize your email to (hopefully) minimize the number of apologies. I’ve been using Inbox for this reason for a few months. Of course, it doesn’t help with (or excuse) the long personal emails that have lingered in my inbox for literally years – but it does help me knock out, prioritize, and snooze the ones that require action, especially when that action doesn’t have to be right now.

7 Tips for Donating Old Books Without Being a Jerk – Lit Reactor
I get rid of books every time I move. I used to have hundreds and hundreds, which meant that I used to move hundreds and hundreds nearly every year. I’m tired of moving paper around, and besides, I work in a library that holds millions of books, with access to many millions more. This article is helping me think about ways of getting rid of my unwanted books without burdening someone else. Also, this app is super duper.

How to Build New Habits by Taking Advantage of Old Ones – James Clear
I started hacking my morning routine (after, ahem, establishing a morning routine) when I was 21 and working the first in a series of mediocre desk jobs. I was super proud of the fact that I’d gotten my morning down to approximately 35 minutes from bed to door, including a shower, breakfast, and tea. Actually, now that I think about it, I started doing this earlier – maybe in high school – though then it was less about how much I could cram in, and more about how late I could stay in bed.

Having a small child obviously disrupted the perfect flow of my long-hacked morning routines; however, it turns out that small children thrive on routine, so this blog post has me thinking about ways to scaffold new things into the flow of our mornings, particularly once we move.

The Invisibility of Middle-Aged Women – Lit Hub
This was simultaneously wonderful and sad, and made me think of the women in my life as we approach (or are well past) the markers of middle age: “In a world where women are almost always defined by their relationships (daughter, sister, lover, wife, mother, grandmother) it strikes me as important to shed a light on the woman herself. What is she without all these shoes she has to fill? Well, she’s an existence and she’s an existence that either disturbs her surroundings—or is in the danger of retreating from them: like mist.”

This Week’s Reads (March 17, 2017)

A few engrossing things unrelated to politics this week.

‘London Bridge is down’: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death – The Guardian
A long and interesting read about the arrangements for the eventual death of Queen Elizabeth II in an era of British decline.

The Invention of ‘Heterosexuality’ – BBC
An interesting discussion of the construction of heterosexuality as a “normal”.

The Young Pope
A TV diversion! We finished The Young Pope this week. I picked up about halfway through the show, mostly as background noise while knitting, but found myself engrossed. After reading The Onion’s recaps, I want to go back and rewatch for all of the details I missed (and that whole business with the kangaroo).

Sarah & Duck
Another TV diversion, this one for littles and their parents. Sarah and her duck friend, Duck, have gentle and imaginative adventures, like setting up a shallot circus, or visiting a hotel for ducks. It’s hard to say who in our household is most excited to watch more.

This Week’s Reads (March 10, 2017)

When Your Greatest Romance is a Friendship – NYTimes
Cheating a bit with this one as it really should’ve been included in last week’s round-up. A touching, beautiful story of friendship which, like its flashier cousin, love, can be wildly chemical and, like love, can happen in an instant.

How to Undermine Trump – Jacobin Magazine
While the entire (brief) article is worth reading, I found the concluding paragraph particularly powerful as I continue to mull over this week’s Day Without Women:
[T]he nation’s cultural gestalt has shifted over the past century such that people identify more as consumers than as producers, more by what they own and buy than by what they do and make. This is unfortunate, because workers’ power is greater at the point of production than almost anywhere else. That power can and should be used to take on Trump’s agenda.

“The Best Revenge is Your Paper: Notes on Women’s Work – Los Angeles Review of Books
If you’re at all interested in emotional labor, gendered expectations and values around work, or the patriarchy, get thee to this article RIGHT NOW.

What Do We Do With the Clothing of Grief – Racked
This was devastating: We hold pain in our bodies and then cover those bodies with clothes, and in some strange osmosis the pain is drawn into the fabric and woven together with scent, time, and loss.

Republicans are now paying the price for a years-long campaign of Obamacare lies – Vox
Everything about repeal/replace hurts my head. The most recent version hurts my heart. This article does a great job of breaking down the statements, policies, and intentions behind the Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act, detailing how they’ve essentially painted themselves into a corner by making promises that can’t be fulfilled if they adhere to their party’s values. It’s all maddening and impossible.

You May Want to Marry My Husband – NYTimes
If you haven’t already read this love letter from a dying author about her remarkable husband, you probably should get your box of tissues ready.

This Week’s Reads (March 3, 2017)

This Mom Got Real About The Struggles Of Modern Motherhood – Refinery29
I read this on a morning when we were up at 5:07am with a massive diaper leak that required 6am laundry, which required planting the toddler in front of Lost and Found for ten minutes so that I could also clean up the kitchen enough to make desperately needed coffee as soon as it was reasonable to run the coffee grinder. I hate, hate, hate planting him in front of the TV, even highly vetted super sweet content, because I have this expectation that I should be able to manage him and all of the other balls that are up in the air. This article was a gentle reminder that it isn’t actually necessary to do all of those things simultaneously all the time – but sometimes it IS necessary, and ten minutes of TV isn’t the end of the world it means that IN ten minutes, I’m able to be more sane and present with my child.

#68 Vampire Rules – Reply All
Reply All is a podcast about the internet, and things related to the internet, and things only tangentially related to the internet. I started listening a couple of weeks ago and am currently working my way backward through the archive. This episode had me laughing on my commute, and then laughing at previous laughs, and then laughing some more. In it, the hosts try to figure out the backstory behind a creepy photo discovered on Tinder, which leads to a conversation about what’s acceptable in other people’s spaces, which leads to yes/yes/no, a feature in which the hosts challenge each others’ understanding of internet culture.

If you want to dip your toe into this podcast, may I also recommend #79 Boy in the Photo, which features the most amazing trolling that isn’t even remotely hateful, unlike most of the other trolling these days.

“We cannot find the bill”: inside the frantic hunt for the GOP Obamacare replacement – Vox
In case you needed another reminder that the leadership of our country is 100% cuckoo bananas.