Friday, October 2, 2015

Summer 2015: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

This was the best and worst summer of my life so far.

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Opening up to the impermanence of life has been enormously freeing. Without false hope and attachment and fear of change, life is a whole hell of a lot better. To the point where, for the first time in my life, I am experiencing zero mental illness. I didn't think that would ever be possible. Just a little over three years ago, I was standing on a bridge over 147, wondering how long my baby would survive if I jumped and left his stroller in the shade. I thought, maybe I'll wait until he's old enough to hold a sippy cup, so he won't get dehydrated. That's when I got help.

Since moving to Asheville, I've continued to be a warrior on a self help quest. I've started doing Ashtanga yoga at least three days per week. On Saturdays I go to Contact Improv and on Sundays I go to Ecstatic Dance Church. I dance and cuddle and breathe and sweat my crazy out.

I also get a lot of love from a lot of incredible new people in my life. My network of meaningful relationships has doubled. No, tripled! I went from feeling incredibly lonely and isolated to having multiple things on my calendar every day. The abundance of life is overwhelming. I almost forget I'm sad, sometimes.

Alyssa and Redford moved in with Luca and I. We have an incredible little family together. The boys love each other so much, it's almost too much for my heart to bear to witness. And having two sister wives (HA!) raising two kids feel balanced and nourishing. I love my job. I love the mountains.

I love myself. I love life.




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Alyssa + Redford

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Luca + Redford

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Me + Jared + Christine

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Jared + Tikva (photo by Mark Hyatt)

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Tay + Rick (photo by Mark Hyatt)

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Tikva + Me
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Jonah + Me


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Brian + Me



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Luca + Me

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Mother's Belly

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A mother’s belly is soft
from all the love it holds, 
almost to bursting.
And in the world, you try to suck her dry.
You clench the breast that fed you.

Be kind to her,
and she will ignite with your touch.
Enveloped in utter bliss
you will die and be grateful 
to have tasted light and love. 

A mother’s belly is hard;
it pulls the salt from your wounds. 
And if you come near enough,
it will engulf you 
and you will cry beneath her.

Be true with her
and she will let you near.
No matter how hard you try,
you cannot hold all of her. 
But she can hold all of you. 

A mother’s belly is a cave. 
A feathering of stone,
rippled by the hours of burden,
traveled only by the bravest
and the meekest. 

Be here with her
and she will guide you.
A vessel almost painless,
this water colored temptress
needs only your attention, undivided. 

A mother’s belly is a well;
you cannot see the bottom.
Look, if you dare.
She will look back,
and she will anchor you, in her gaze. 

Be strong with her
and she will lead you down
to a falling, healing place.
Trade in your arms for branches, 

and be welcomed home at last.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What's it like being a social sciences major?

So, a lot of people don't even know what the social sciences are or what people study in that field, and that's a real shame! Some people even go as far as thinking nobody does ANYTHING in those departments, just because nobody makes TV shows about those kinds of jobs. But I can assure you potential college majors in the social sciences (and the parents of these students) that there is some really fascinating and important work being done in these fields.

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On the first day of Anth 101, many students are told that we "make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange." But what the heck does that mean, exactly??

Just take a look at some of these paper titles of an undergrad at UNC Asheville, who majored in Sociology with a concentration in Anthropology. I'm sure it will be clear as day what kinds of insights are gained through this work, once you get a sense for the ground that is covered:



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So there you have it. I'm sure you now have a much better idea now of why we social science students spend hours and hours pouring over books that have titles that make absolutely no sense until you read the entire thing.... or why we are comparing notes on what our professors said last week in lecture and still scratching our heads, even though we don't have to do a lot of math or anything.

Every lecture we leave the building either feeling like:


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... or feeling like:

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And even sometimes like this:

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And forgive us if all of your conversations with us end like this:

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We ponder about the patrilineal patriarchy and its preposterousness!
We contemplate the acculturation of cultural relativism!
We think about the legitimacy of linguistic lineages!
We study animism and its assimilations through archeological accumulations!
We diagnose differential access and the discrimination that dictates its dispersal!

That's what we do, in the social sciences.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Is YOUR relationship healthy?

There is plenty of research out there on what is an ideal, healthy relationship. There is plenty of information available on what is an unhealthy relationship, as well. But, in the real world full of gray areas and ambiguity, what does an actual, happy relationship look like? I know hardly any people who fit neatly into either of those two extremes of "bad" or "good" partnerships.

I hear all kinds of things that seem contradictory:

"Couples who are happy rarely ever fight!"
"It's normal and healthy for couples to fight!"

"Happy couples know each other because they talk all the time!"
"Couples who are happy know what the other is thinking without having to say it!"

"Opposites attract!"
"Happy couples are a lot alike!"

So, I was curious. I got curious enough to make a survey and ask my Facebook friends to tell me what their happy relationships are really, actually like. Most of my sample is therefore white and middle class, but as a fellow white-middle-class-er, I'm mostly interested in my own culture's perceptions of partnership satisfaction (at this point).

I asked participants to self select based on only two criteria: the relationship must have lasted at least 2 years, and they must consider it to be a "healthy" relationship. I asked for at least two years of time together, because I wanted to get only couples who were out of the honeymoon phase. I also hoped to end up with only couples who had lived together for some time, though I didn't ask that.

The questions were thought up by me. Most were based on what I personally think is an indicator for a healthy relationship, though some were thrown in because OTHER people told me they were supposed to be indicators, and I wanted to see if they were right.


 General Feelings About The Relationship:

1 how's it going

 Wow!! 75% of happy couples are thinking about how great their relationship is MULTIPLE times per week. That means their relationship is likely on their mind a lot in general. This makes sense, because you'd expect it to be a priority in their lives if it's doing well.

93% of happy couples only worry about the status of their relationship a couple of times per year, or less. That seems really high to me. But hey, I didn't say you'd get eaten by a dragon if you lied, so there's that.

We can conclude from this that it may be a red flag if you often think that things aren't going well in your relationship.

This may seem obvious, but think about it: if you're in an unhealthy relationship and are thinking to yourself several times per week that things aren't going as well as you'd like... and you ALSO think that this is NORMAL and EVERYONE feels this way, this frequently.... you might not accurately assess your own relationship, and you might fail to work on important things (or you might continue with a relationship that is clearly not working out).

Disagreements:

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Half of happy couples almost never have "bad" fights. The ones who do only have a couple every year... with a few spitfires seeming to marry other spitfires, over in the monthly category ;)

This is a big one. People often say that fighting is normal, and it is. But, just because something is normal... does that make it ok? And what exactly is "fighting" anyways? If most couples are NOT happy, then who cares how often the average couple is fighting? My happy couples seem to be pretty mild mannered.

And what about those disagreements that DON'T go nuclear, but DO get addressed? Well, my survey seems to say that disagreements are certainly frequent enough. But they're not every day, and usually not even every week, for most happy couples.

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The research says happy couples have five good interactions for every negative one (that seems low to me, but compared to couples headed for divorce who have one bad for every one good... sounds pretty good!).

Getting The Good Stuff:

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How often are happy couples affectionate with each other? ALL THE DAMN TIME.

There's already plenty of polling on sex, so I didn't include it in mine. Happy couples have sex on average 2-3 times per week, and all couples have sex on average of 1-2 times per week. But, those surveys don't ask if it's GOOD sex, so I'm wondering... if these couples REALLY enjoy each other's physical company, they'd be voluntarily doing stuff that is not The Sex, right? Right. So keep touching each other, you naughty monkeys. 

Communication:

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Conclusion? Happy couples talk about finances regularly.... and they rarely disagree about it. I think this gets filed under basic compatibility. If you don't have the same ideas about finances, your day-to-day life is going to be pretty rough as you try to come to compromises constantly, or if you're under stress because one spouse is bad with money, etc.

But what about raising kids? Arguably the most stressful job of all time?


7 child rearing

Happy couples talk about child-rearing regularly. 79% of them almost never disagree about it, or only fight about it a couple of times per year. That's funny, because 67% of couples say they are less happy together after having kids. (Which is a question I didn't ask- how did having kids affect your relationship?) But that's a poll of ALL couples, not just the ones that identify as happy. So, perhaps raising kids is a lot easier if you've got a strong partner by your side. Makes sense.

(Don't ask me why the options above are out of order, I'm not sure what happened...)

Ok, how about talking about your feelings? Love is a feeling. We are with people because we love them, so I assume people talk about those feelings, or they wouldn't have known the other person loved them and then they wouldn't be together. Right? Right.

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73% of happy couples talk about their emotions at least a few times per week. This is one of those things I hear about a lot, from friends in unhealthy relationships. They have NO idea what the other person is thinking and feeling.

One thing I forgot to ask with this question is.... who's sharing? Is just one person opening up, or are BOTH people equally open with their thoughts and feelings? I'm assuming that the next question addressed this, at least in part.

Equality:

My theory is that you need ALL PEOPLE INVOLVED in a relationship to be equally involved, otherwise it's just one person pulling a bolder uphill, while the other person is sitting on top of it saying "Pull harder! I'm pushing as hard as I can back here!"

And my numbers support my theory.

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Most happy couples are working equally hard to keep that relationship healthy. Good relationships are hard work! But, it's always worth it when the other person is equally committed. 

DRAMA:

Drama is when things get.... well, dramatic. You have a couple of real life movie moments, and you find yourself thinking, "who would watch this movie??"


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Unsurprisingly, most happy relationships are pretty drama-free. But every once in a while, they may need a good kick in the arse.

Thank you to the 55 happy couples who contributed (one was me)! And if you're reading this and thinking "Well, shit, I don't think we're quite there yet", then good luck to you on your journey... whether you decide to cut and run or buckle down and give it the ol' college try (just make sure your partner is trying, too!). And I hope these survey results can help point you in the right direction so you know where to concentrate your energy,  and so you know what is actually reasonable to expect of your partner and of yourself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Parenting: It Sucks! And You Can Too.

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He still wakes up at night- this time it's to talk in his sleep ("I don't want to go to school!" "Is that a helicopter?"), or to ask me to hold him, or to try and wiggle from his twin bed into our double bed, or to cough, or to get a drink of water...

Parenting is a 24/7 job, unless you can afford to pay a sitter. I think that's one thing I'm discovering about myself... that I really don’t like that about parenting, and that’s ok. Hard stuff is hard, and that’s ok. Sleep deprivation is hard in the long-term form, just as it was in the short-term form. But things are always getting better.

As a member of the "one and done" party (which I’m awfully surprised to be a member of), I am finally ready to admit that kid stuff (and especially little kid stuff) just isn't very fun for me. It was all I knew for a while, so I enjoyed it better than other things I wasn't suited for, but working full time (both outdoors and in an office setting) has really proven to myself that I have nothing to feel guilty about: my skills, personality, and personal challenges just all mesh better with an adult environment.

Kids games are boring. The songs drive me nuts. I can't wait until Luca is old enough that we can hang out together at film festivals or on camping trips... until then, I'm going to pretend I enjoy all this stuff because I enjoy spending time with him. I'm not going to try and convince myself that to be a good parent, I have to enjoy being a parent all the time more than anything else in my life.

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Actually, thanks to my part-time parent status due to my full-time job, this stage is the first one I’ve been able to really laugh-out-loud enjoy. Every word that comes out of his mouth is either hilarious, poetry, or screaming. It’s all black and white with him, but it’s oh-so-adorable as well (and a hell of a lot easier to handle in the short pieces I receive it, as a working parent).

He sings a lot. That’s really great.

He is 30 lbs now, but I still hike with him on my back in the carrier. He refuses to walk most places. He can’t pedal his tricycle, his legs are too weak. This kid seems to hate exercise as much as I do.

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Every day when he gets home from school, he gives me an emotional report card: who cried, who laughed, why they cried, who was told to stop by the teacher, who was mad because who took what from whom…. he’s incredibly sensitive and has obviously inherited my emotional empathic abilities (a blessing and a curse!).

It’s a challenge to be as present as he demands. All children demand mentally and emotionally present parents, but I work half my hours from home, and sometimes have to eat food instead, so he has a hard time understanding. And being aware of my unmet needs, I find it very hard to be patient when he needs me so much. Ash gives me all kinds of parenting advice all the time, which is hilarious because I’m the one that has read 800 parenting books. He can just FEEL the right thing to do. It’s very intuitive for him. He’s a great parent.

Luca’s class has a soccer lesson every Wednesday, but almost every time I come to pick him up, he’s sitting on the sidelines paying with pieces of grass and paper while his classmates are scoring goals (also gets that from us). He prefers to get his energy out by running as fast as he can from one side of the grocery store to the other *eye roll*.

He already plays with words. For example, Ash was signing “Velvet Goldmine” and Luca made up a parody called “Velvet Gold-Yours”. He notices little details like that.

He also corrects us if we aren’t completely literal. If he says “Meow meow!” and I say “Are you a kitty??” he says “No, I’m Luca. I’m just pretending to be a kitty.”

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He likes to talk through inanimate objects, like his stuffed animal Yoda or his halloween pumpkin, when he needs to work through more difficult feelings, like fear. He will tell Yoda all about the monsters he is scared of, and then assure Yoda that monsters are not real. This kid is way more emotionally mature and aware now than I was for all of my young adult life.

We currently live in a rented 800 square foot town house built in 1968. We miss our little natural house, but feel like this amount of space is just perfect for us. I’m currently trying to work out how we can afford to build something of similar size. We also really like living with people all around us. Everyone here is pretty quiet, there are kids for Luca to play with occasionally, and it feels somehow more safe to know there are hundreds of quiet people everywhere. Maybe that’s just my anxiety talking. I feel like you wouldn’t set a horror movie here, that’s all I’m saying.

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My new job is really great still. I like providing support to college students, because I remember how hard it was, and the ways in which I did not get help that would have been useful to me. My coworkers are great, my supervisor is great, and I’m proud of the product we make and how it is a piece of the puzzle in education reform, and the reform of the textbook industry. I like learning about technology as I continually embark on my never-ending quest to figure out how EVERYTHING works on the entire planet.

Ash is absolutely in love with massage school. He says it’s like summer camp and therapy and hippy school, and he is sad because it’s Wednesday and that means he won’t see his friends until Monday. I have never seen him light up and shine this much. He is so happy! And I get at least one free massage every week, so there’s that too. He is learning so much about anatomy, which means Luca sometimes says random latin words that mean nothing to me, and that’s awesome too.

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Being an Aunt is the ABSOLUTE BEST! I get a whole other baby, and I don't have to carry it or feed it or anything. And he's cute. And he SMILES! And he's my Redford. He and Luca get along very well already. Luca likes making him laugh. I feel like, since my depression made me not really "around" when Luca was a baby, I get to actually experience what a baby is really like now. This one cries a lot less. This one needs me a lot less. And it's very healing to be in the presence of a baby and not cringe, panic, or even run away. I often left public places when hearing a baby cry, after Luca was born. My nerves just couldn't take it. It was like a touch of PTSD or something. But Redford's love has been very soothing and has allowed that reflex to back off quite a bit.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Seeded Sandals

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 People have been buying shoes in pre-made sizes for many centuries, and even "mass production" of sorts has been around for a few hundred years (at the rate of one pair of shoes every couple of hours). Back in the 1800's, a pair of shoes cost a day's pay or more ($1, or about $27 in today's money). They were always made of high quality materials like leather. Even if worn to work they would last a couple of years. Sunday shoes would last a decade.

Nowadays, we have a lot of choice when it comes to our shoes. You can buy a pair of flip-flops from Wal-Mart for $5, which will last you one season if you're lucky. You can buy a pair of sandals for $20 at Pay-Less, which were probably made in the same factory but will maybe last you two seasons due to slightly different materials. Or, you can buy a $400 pair of Prada sandals which will probably last forever... but will likely only last until the Next Big Thing. All of these shoes are likely produced in factories where workers are subject to conditions and paid low wages unimaginable to the majority of the US workforce.

Price is not always an indicator of quality, and it certainly is not an indicator of the ethics behind the brand.

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Our economy is one where wages are kept low enough and prices are kept high enough that most people can't afford anything but the bottom-shelf crap from Wal-mart. I realize that. This post is not for you.

But if you're one of the many people lucky enough to be reading this on your very own computer, you can probably afford yourself a little 19th century luxury: shoes made by fairly-paid people out of high quality materials.

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Likely, you have been convinced that "Low low prices!!" are all you can afford, but that's a kind of false scarcity designed to force you buy many pairs of shoes more frequently.

I am not immune to this. I can't tell you how many times I've been suckered into buying two pair of shoes because it was "Buy one get one free", and neither of them were bearable on my feet for more than an hour or so. Or, if they were, I would eventually come across a documentary or a petition to sign and LO AND BEHOLD there were my shoes causing misery for thousands of real human beings and providing a third Mercedes for another one somewhere else.

And that's where Seeded comes in.

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They're made in Tanzania, a place my friends (and founders of this company) have lived in, and whose occupants they have gotten to know intimately. The company is run by locals and is filled with local artisans who hand-sculpt and bead these sandals. The leather comes from nomadic herders, and the beads come from a fair-trade factory in eastern Europe.

This is actually the first time I have ever worn leather shoes. It feels so amazing. I'm never going back to cheap crap ever again!!

So do yourself and the rest of the world a favor: invest in a high-quality pair of shoes you can be proud to wear.

Here is an end-of-summer coupon code for you, readers, good until the end of the month: "august"! This will give you 30% off. They've got many different styles and colors; have fun shopping!

P.S. I normally wear an 8, and I wear a 9 in these!

Thanks to Caroline and Tony for being amazing and starting this company.

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