Monday, June 22, 2015

(not a) Raging Bull

Jake la Motta was rescued from a favela in São Paulo, abandoned, unfed and bound by a rusty chain link that allowed him no mobility. With doleful brown eyes and protruding ribs, he showed only signs of gratitude as his rescuers slowly nursed him back to health. 

We first saw Jake as he was exiting the park with his rescuer. With short white fur, a big heart-shaped head and small (then undernourished) body, I surely thought he was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, aka "the nanny dog." After weighing many pros and cons, we adopted him one week later. We sat and brainstormed names, and inspiration came from the movie Raging Bull (laden with irony).

But as the weeks passed, we found that Jake was not quite a Staffy. He is larger than the breed's size and we learned that there are no red-nosed white Staffies. Most likely, he is a pit bull mix, yet his exact breed remains a mystery. Whatever the lineage, he is a big hunk of love, entirely grateful for his new home and becoming healthier every day. 

Up until the day I met Jake, I too held a bully breed stigma. Pit bulls undoubtedly have extremely strong and large jaws, and Jake had to be trained from the get go that biting was not an acceptable way to play. As far as dogs go, in no way is he vicious, violent or aggressive. A dog's temperament is dependent on the capabilities of its owner. Yet clearly, by reactions I get when I mention Jake is a pit bull mix, not everyone agrees.

A few months ago, a nationally prominent news anchor and radio show host in Brazil, Ricardo Boechat, spoke of an incident during his morning broadcast, wherein a camera man covering a news story in Curitiba was bitten rather gravely by a pit bull. Stating as fact that pit bulls are vicious animals and unsuitable as pets, Boechat denigrated the breed with great conviction, leaving no room journalistic objectivity (Boechat also advocates that the best vote is the null vote). Yet consider the circumstance: on the day of the incident, a protest reaching 10,000 people was held by schoolteachers on strike from the state of Paraná. The police eventually intervened using rubber bullets and stun bombs, and more than 200 people were injured, protesters and police alike. During this confusion, a camera man was bitten by a police dog. The footage can be found on google: "cinegrafista pitbull."

To Ricardo Boechat, opinion is not fact until proven as such, something I would expect those with public influence to respect and uphold. As a Korean who was born in Brazil and grew up in the States, I have dealt with stereotypes my entire life, and have become increasingly intolerant of them.

One of my favorite Listserve emails was from Vibeke, who asked Instagram users to post what they were doing at the moment. In that spirit, I too am curious to see what types of stereotypes Listserve users deal with on a daily basis. Tag them with #LSbreakingstereotypes

São Paulo, Brazil

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Meditative, fun, & healthy all in one package*

*Size may vary and this package may be discouraged by others. They're just jealous.

I guarantee a bicycle can get you much farther than you think. Whether you go 1 mile to the store, 10 to work, hundreds to another state, or thousands around the world - get on a bicycle! I will leave you all with a few quotes on the wonder of this man powered machine. Please reach out with any stories or experiences you might have had pedaling, or if you're interested in trying it out!

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them.... Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motorcar only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle." - Ernest Hemingway

"I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equale myself plus the world, upon whose spinning wheel we must all earn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair. That which made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life -- it was the hardihood of spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had failed. And so I found high moral uses in the bicycle and can commend it as a teacher without pulpit or creed. She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life." - Frances E. Willard

"Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. It makes her feel as if she were independent. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can't get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammelled womanhood." - Susan B. Anthony

"Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live." - Mark Twain

Steph V
Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Noah and the Whale

Would you trade the mountains and the deep sea for an abundance of fertile low land?

I have been yearning for heights ever since I was a kid. I climbed to the top of the beech tree in my parents’ back yard, I clambered on the roof of their barn and my preferred reading spot was the top of my bookcase, where I squeezed myself between the top shelve and the ceiling, until I grew too big and the bookcase collapsed.

When I was older, I tried to climb the highest peak of every new country I visited. Reaching a peak is always a euphoric experience.
I’m good at euphoric experiences. I never look for them, but I find them in spring days, in friends talking to friends, in traveling by train, in music, in the smell of a lawn mower and in the friendly greeting of a mentally retarded man at the supermarket. I find them in breathing the air and letting my feet take me wherever I want them to. I have a talent to marvel at little things, and I often feel happiness bubble up in my stomach, finding its way out through songs, dances and tears of pure bliss. It makes me feel like a loony, but I’m fine with being a happy loony.

It’s not always like this. High mountains lack oxygen, and one can only reside on their peaks for a short amount of time. As I descend from my peaks of euphoria, I nest myself in the valley, leading a normal life like most of us do. But while I’m there, an old fear of the deep sea starts to arise.

I am terrified of the deep sea. Its endless emptiness, its lack of sunlight and its hideous demons of the deep make my hands sweat when I think of it. Those demons are hollow-eyed creeps, sharp teethed, dead silent and elusive. They show up in the back of my head, nagging that “no, of course your life’s not worth it, because you fail to choose between an epic and an ethical life, and so you’re forever caught in the valley of mediocrity. Of course it’ll never be better, because after all deep philosophical thought, the baseline will always be that life itself has no real meaning outside the meaning you give to it, and if you’re not capable of enjoying it, you could just as well quit.” They disguise themselves as Truth and the harder I try to look away, the bigger they grow, until they take up every square inch of my head, leaving only room for the agony of wishing it would end-end-end.

Luckily, deep seas lack oxygen as well. My demons of the deep may eat me alive, but they always spit me out on the shores of my valley, like Jonah was spit out by the Whale after three days and nights of darkness.

The question is this: if it was possible, would I be able to say farewell to my beloved mountains, in order to deep sea demons? Could I bear to live with the peaks of euphoria in sight, realizing I will never again enjoy their splendid views? Should I sacrifice my highlands to rid myself of the emptiness, becoming even-minded and well balanced?

I think not. If I try to be less afraid of emptiness, and not to struggle when they try to eat me, maybe these monsters will be tamed. Maybe not. But as long as I can end up like Noah on mount Ararat when the water level falls, I will endure.

Anne-margot Lambers
Groningen, Netherlands

Friday, June 19, 2015

Love isn't easy

Until the 27th of January of this year, I'd never REALLY been in love. I was 32 at the time.

I'm not necessarily happier now than I was before, but there's a whole new layer to my life. In a way things are more complicated.

A few years ago my uncle had shocked me when he told me that his wife was more important than his kids, that he loved her more than them. I don't have children, but I can imagine feeling the same way for Nathalie if/when we have wee copies of ourselves.

I work a lot (and love the job), so I don't have a lot of free time. And now a good deal of that spare time is spend with the love of my life. But that means that some of what I used to I can't anymore or it doesn't get done with any kind of priority.

But the upside is getting to spend time with someone who is frankly fantastic, more than I could've reasonnably asked for. And most importantly she challenges what I used to consider as priorities.


Thursday, June 18, 2015


I’m 23 years old.

I graduated from Westmont College with a degree in Liberal Studies (= non-committal/elementary education).

I’m married without children. (Full disclosure: sometimes I carry my dog around like a baby.)

I anticipate that when this is published my mother Gail will read it, possibly take a few moments to realize that this is, in fact, her daughter writing, and then she’ll call me and we’ll laugh about it because we are, as she says, “sympatico”. Love you mama!


I’m a doula. It’s Greek for “a woman who serves”. My job description is Professional Birth and Postpartum Support Person.

It means that I attend births. I massage and braid hair and remind everyone to take a sip of water. I sway and count and breath to match the laboring mother’s pace. I tell her to reach down and feel her baby’s head. I watch babies take their first breath. Sometimes I pace the halls waiting to be escorted to a post-op recovery room. I take pictures and see the room erupt in tears and smiles. I witness families expand and double their capacity for love. I see women transform into mothers, and I share her “birth high”- there is oxytocin and adrenaline coursing through every vein in the room.

It means that I’m a birth nerd. I watch documentaries about the infant microbiome, breastfeeding, and home birth. I search youtube for vaginal breech delivery videos. I read books about maternity care in the US and the midwifery model of care. I research holistic care for pregnancy. I am obsessed with learning more about how women can GROW NEW HUMANS in their bodies. It’s fascinating.

It means that I’m a friend. I hug, listen to, and cry with mamas when they share their birth story. I spend long nights rocking fussy babies so their parents can sleep. I watch babies “latch on” and remind mamas to relax their shoulders as they nurse. I wash bottles and fold tiny baby laundry. I tag along grocery shopping and to doctors appointments so a new mama doesn’t have to go alone. I’m present and available, and I understand that the 4th trimester is hard.

It means that I am a business owner. I create contracts and confidentiality releases. I hold liability insurance. I pay dues to networking organizations. I am self-employed, and file taxes as such (wah wah).

It means that I am participating in something as old as human existence, but that is new every day. I am part of the changing birth culture in San Diego, in California, and in the US. I work alongside other doulas, midwives, childbirth educators, lactation consultants, body workers, nurses, obstetricians, and mothers who are PASSIONATE about improving birth.

It’s demanding, beautiful, fulfilling work. I do it because birth matters.


If you want to chat about anything relating to birth (including but not limited to finding a doula or becoming a doula), please connect with me! I’ll even share my favorite birth videos with you. ;)

Tess Maynard
San Diego, CA

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

a feather from my wings

~Artfully cluttered

Imagine a grid of paint chips on a poster in color-coded order. Then small chips of corresponding colors slapped on top, creating an unorganized pile of cardstock with flowing vibrant color.

A place for everything, everything in its place. But addresses change and glue can go from "in the second drawer next to the scissors", to "the right of the ceramic bird on the shelf". Everything becomes an intricate system for only your eyes to make sense of.


Peppermint cocoa, apple-scented candles, fuzzy blankets, sunsets, small cafes, flower crowns, peonies, Renaissance architecture, Snoopy, skylines, gauzy curtains, quotes, ocean air, autumn leaves, warm rain, blueberry scones, palm trees, acoustic guitars, farmers markets, little figurines, quality writing instruments, bulb-shaped lights, modern art, parasols, feather pens, sundresses, pocket watches, photo booth strips.


Is a community of people who's primary goal is to build on fundamental speech skills that will shape you to be whomever you wish to be. It is a great way to build friendships, gain connections and recognition, and improve on a skill set which will take you a long way in life. For me, to feel confident speaking in front of others is a weight which I never knew I was carrying now lifted off my shoulders. Words on a page are powerful, but words spoken are felt.

~Playlist(a variety really)

Octahate/ :Ryn Weaver
Wings/ Change Your Life/ :Little Mix
Cinema/ :Skrillex
Shatter Me/ :Lindsey Stirling
Shut Up and Dance/ :Walk the Moon
Daft Punk/ :Pentatonix
All This and Heaven too/ :Florence and the Machines
Riptide/ :Vance Joy
Airplanes/ :BoB
The Ballad of Mona Lisa/ :Panic! At The Disco
Heroes (we could be)/ :Alesso
Bulletproof/ :La Roux
Thank You/ American Dream/ :MKTO
Try/ :Colbie Caillat
Warrior/ :Demi Lovato
See You Again/ :Wiz Khalifa
Skinny Love/ People Help The People/ :Birdy
Elastic Heart/ :Sia
Things We Lost in the Fire/ :Bastille
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams/ :Green Day
Rat A Tat/ Death Valley/ Save Rock and Roll/ This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race/ :Fall Out Boy
The Wolf/ :Phidel
The Reckless And The Brave/ Somewhere In Neverland/ :All Time Low
Na Na Na/ :My Chemical Romance


Dance hurts but the rewards you reap are sweet. When you first start for the day, it's stiff and doesn't flow, and you need to get into the rhythm of it. Once you do, you focus hard, striving to perfect every minor flaw in your performance. You dance with vigor, intensity, but soon some flaws escape your notice and you grow ignorant of technicalities. Now is the stage where you dance with heart, not perfection. Your body is a summer breeze, movements flowing like water, all connected and balanced on the scale of the universe. Flaws and flawlessness meld, creating a form which is pure and true and utterly human. The spotlight shines on you as you dance for your own pleasure; you stand strong and firm as you flow to the rhythm while your legs feel like they could collapse any moment. But you don't care, for you are numb to anything but the beat.


"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" asked Alice.

"You must be," said the cat, "or you wouldn't have come."


Experiences and memories will shape your future. Never stop collecting them.

My inbox will always be open for your stories.


ps. search up my tumblr "dark-connations" if you feel like we're flying on the same updraft. It hasn't quite found its calling yet but it's coming together.

California, US

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How to Avoid a Midlife Crisis

I recently turned 40. I'm a midlevel career type of person, no kids, unmarried. I help take care of my sister's children. I have normal hobbies (reading, visiting museums, seeing concerts, etc.). I'd like to meet someone but dating is the pits. 
I'm also suffering a midlife crisis.
Midlife crises are seen as jokes. Balding men who drive sports cars or take up motorcycling. The reality is that 40 hits you like a ton of bricks. Even if you don't look or emotionally feel what 40 is "supposed" to look and feel like, your aching bones, persistent gray hairs, and looming fear of getting old tell you otherwise. My life, for all intents and purposes, is half over. And the other half of this life gets tired and gains weight really easily. It worries about a mostly pointless career and would often rather stay home in bed, reading a book.

I'm guessing most on this list are younger than 40. Here's what I wish I had done before this point:
1. Not wasted time in relationships I knew were doomed. 
2. Not gotten complacent at jobs for years, letting my skills atrophy.
3. Worked harder to improve and push myself in my career and personal life.
4. Taken so many more chances – moved around, switched jobs, dated more.
5. Travel, travel, travel.
This time next year, I hope I'll be teaching English in Mexico or South Korea or Thailand. I've wasted too much time and money on things that aren't fulfilling. 
When I die, I'll be happier that I quit my job and traveled than if I had worked more hours to buy more stuff. 
All we are is the sum of our experiences and our kind acts toward others.

P.S. Write if you want a penpal or postcard-exchange friend.
P. P.S. Inspirational texts for my midlife crisis: The 4-Hour Workweek, Walden in a Van, Vagabonding, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Nomadic Matt (website)

Southern California