Saturday, January 24, 2015

I have 34 bags and probably use two of them

I read mommy blogs now. No, I'm not a mom, but it comes with the job of being a doula. If you're not familiar, a mommy blog simply refers to a blog that is written by a mom and is dedicated to all things mothers enjoy (namely baby and childcare as well as cooking, organizing, books, self-care, etc.).

I came across one of these blog posts recently that made me laugh but also had great application to my own life. In the post the author, Katie, describes walking into her son's room and catching him as he peed on all of his toys. This is not a joke. So she did what any mother would do -- she took all of his toys away.

The result might be even more shocking than the crime the son committed, though. Instead of sitting in his room crying all day, Katie found her son playing with shoes, things he found out of the garbage, or with rocks in the front yard. Her son didn't need toys. In fact, he was fine and dandy without them.

Nearly two weeks after taking the toys away, Katie's son asked for only one item back: his football helmet.

After reading this post and wiping away tears of laughter (as my mother has also threatened to take away or even throw away toys on countless occasions), it made me think about how adults can often behave in the same way the 3-year-old son did.

Instead of using our "toys" and all the other things we have the way they are meant to be used, we complain about what we have. We might not physically do something to them (like Katie's son did), but we complain with our words or wish we had the latest and greatest. Even when we have excess, we want more. 

What would happen if all the things we did not appreciate were taken away? I seriously doubt we would come up with unconventional ways to cope like Katie's son did. We'd probably be asking for them back, or just going out to replace them ourselves even if we didn't have the funds. Alternatively, we might not miss them at all.

I lived away from home for 13 weeks last summer and took plenty of stuff with me. But, I left even more things at home. When I returned late August, I was on a mission to start cleaning out items in my room that I never use. I believe that the more we have, the less content we often are, so it was time to start cleaning house. It's been slow-going to get rid of the excess, but I'm getting there.

Earlier this month, I worked on cleaning out excess bags and scarves.My start count was 34 wallets, purses, totes, and backpacks. Yes, you read that correctly. 34 bags. I managed to give away or donate more than half and my new count is 16. In another few months, I plan to look through the remainder again and see if I can make myself part from a few more. The majority of my bags and purses go unused for months at a time... do I really need them? If they were gone for two weeks, would I miss them? Probably not. I also had 15 scarves in my closet and I narrowed it down to eight. Again, some pretty decent progress, but of the eight scarves I kept I probably only use about three on a regular basis.

Is there something cluttering up your life that you don't appreciate anymore? Maybe it's time to say good-bye and free yourself from those items. It's not easy, in fact some researchers claim that it causes pain receptors in your brain to go crazy, but a less cluttered space (and mind as a result) could be worth it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What are you doing? (part 2)

This post is far overdue. I wrote part 1 back in October about six weeks after starting the Praxis program. However, the online curriculum, group discussions, opening seminar, and oral exams are just part of the program. The other major component of the Praxis experience is the business partner that each participant is matched with for 10 months. Each participant has a different partner. My business partner is a doula service agency called Tranquil Seasons.

Working closely with the founder of the company, Anne Croudace, I advertise events and services, contact clients, and complete other projects. My major project this year is a fundraising event for the San Antonio Birth Collective which I am super excited about heading up.

Lately, I have been doing a lot of the actual doula work even more than I have been doing the administrative and social relations side of things. Since starting with Tranquil Seasons in September, I have worked over 400 hours in postpartum doula care. This time has been split almost evenly between twins and singletons and most of those hours were spent in overnight care. As a doula, I serve the entire family unit with emphasis on the mother and baby. Overnight care means I normally feed, change, and comfort the baby (or babies) while the mother and father catches up on rest. I also pick up the home, cook breakfast, do laundry, or take care of other tasks that will make life easier for the family the next day. My job also includes just being an encouragement to the parents and an encyclopedia to answer any of their questions about babycare. I have also received training in areas like postpartum care for mothers and lactation support. Just this week I spent time assisting a new mother as she learns to breastfeed her baby.

Even when clients find out that I am young and do not have any children of my own, they never question my abilities as a doula because I have already shown them by that point that I know what I am doing. In fact, only one person I know has alluded to the fact that I may not know what I am doing because I have no personal experience. As I wrote on Facebok one day:

Some people wonder how a 20 year old who has never had a baby could possibly be of assistance to new parents. Training to become a doula is just like training for any other job. You read and study, you get training, and the rest you learn on the job.
I have spent more time with infants and read more books about pregnancy, birth, infant and mother care, and breastfeeding since becoming a doula than many women do before becoming a mother.

The word doula means servant. She is there to assist with mother and baby care as needed. She is there to support new moms and dads as they journey into parenthood. She is there to pour out love and support to the family. She doesn't have to have all the answers, but her love for learning will help her find them. In America, where a woman's needs as a new mother are generally underestimated and under served, a doula can play an invaluable support role as the mother transitions into life with her baby (no matter the doula's own personal experience in child rearing).

I love being a doula.

I am also training to become a labor doula (supporting a woman and the partner through the labor process). I have attended one labor so far but did not get to stay until the baby was born. My first labor client is due in early February so I will soon have another chance to serve a mother and father through the experience of childbirth. I love this aspect of the doula work!

As I continue to do both the doula work and the administrative/social media/advertising work for Tranquil Seasons, I am learning about how a small business runs and what an entrepreneur looks like. My boss is extremely ambitious and has more projects on her mind than she will probably ever be able to complete in a lifetime. That's what makes her a great mentor. She's passionate about everything she does and never quits working. In four months, I have learned a multitude of things about entrepreneurship, business, and not to mention babycare. I know I will continue to learn from Anne as a Tranquil Seasons employee and Praxis participant.

All of this preparation will either allow me to continue with my business partner or strike out on my own as an entrepreneur and business owner.Whether I start a doula agency or another company is not important. The point of Praxis is to learn about running a business in general which I am getting a great taste of with Anne at Tranquil Seasons.

Interested in having a similar experience (except maybe with less babies? Unless you like babies, of course...)? Visit

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Stop Being a Miserable Cow

My mother has said it all of my life: "Attitude is everything, pick a good one".

Oh how I grew to loathe that phrase. I mean, how much effort does it take to have a lousy attitude? Almost none. How much effort do I have to put into having a "good" attitude? A lot. A lot of effort.

So what did my mother get me for Christmas this past December?

Let me give you some hints: it's made of metal, it's obnoxiously large, and it has one of her favorite quotes on it.

You guessed it. She bought a sign with her favorite quote on it and gave it to me for Christmas. And she expects me to hang it up in my room. In fact, she bought the same sign for my sisters as well. Now we can all remember her famous words.

The exact sign my mother gave me for Christmas.
Image found here

I loved making comments all of Christmas day about how "great" my present from mom was and how much I just "loved" it. The first time I cracked the joke it got a few giggles, but my jabs soon grew old. Finally, one of my sisters stepped in and said what only a sister can: "Mary Kate, stop being a miserable cow."

Ouch. Not only am I miserable, but I'm also a cow?

As the years pass, I have come to realize the wisdom in the words of my mother's favorite quote and the power behind choosing your attitude. Actually putting this principle into practice is a different story, though. It takes a lot less thought and effort to feel miserable. And let's face it -- who doesn't love being miserable every once in a while? I sure do.

But it's definitely not the attitude I should try to adopt frequently and certainly not daily. Negativity can act like a poison and squash our zeal for life.

We have a lot to live for. And if you don't believe that, maybe you should take 5 minutes and make a list. I'm sure you can think of something, even if it's small.

A good attitude might not be "everything" but it certainly helps keep us from becoming miserable cows. So if you are a depressed animal, chewing grass and spitting it up mindlessly and mooing occasionally but not really interacting with your other cow buddies and enjoying the sunshine and the green pasture, then consider getting yourself one of these signs and hanging it up where you (and others) can view it daily. Maybe even hang it up in your work place. Who knows? It could boost productivity.

Oh, and a note to my mother... This is my public proclamation. You are right. I can control my attitude and I might as well pick a good one. 

Okay. I said it. Now please don't use this post against me.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Own Your Real Estate

Recently I explored possible places to invest my savings. I'm tired of it sitting there, losing value with each passing day as inflation continues to devalue money. But where should it go?
Image found here.

Real estate has interested me for quite some time. I blame TV shows like "Flip This House" or "House Hunters", but the thought of investing in real estate excites me. So, I began looking around. My savings isn't that much, but it might be enough for a down payment on my first rental property.

The more I explored this possibility, the more I realized that it is not the right time for me to make this investment. But that doesn't mean I can't own something and call it mine.

In fact, I already own a piece of real estate -- right here on this blog.

As much as I love to hate the internet, it does give each of us a unique chance to make something our own. It allows us to put ourselves out there with minimal cost or effort. Setting up a blog or website and updating it regularly takes almost no cash and can be accomplished in minutes. Even without a computer or internet access at home, most people know someone with these tools or have access to a library.

Many people use the internet to post photos they took of themselves or what they cooked for dinner.

Why not use it to make your voice heard?

Sure, maybe your mother will be the only one visiting your cozy little blog for a while. But that could change. And you won't know until you reach out and own your internet real estate. So grab it, use it, own it. You can't lose out on this investment.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

January Challenge: Fast Food Free

In a month with 31 days, I worked 20 overnight shifts. That's about twice as many as I normally work. I'm thankful for the hours, experience, and paycheck, but it has pushed me further into a nasty habit I have been forming -- buying fast food.

Image found here
I have not tracked my spending on fast food in the past month but I know I have gone far too often on my way to a shift to get a coffee or a meal and I have even stopped on my way home from nightshifts and grabbed a breakfast taco once or twice this past month. Not to mention running into the corner store to grab a snack. It adds up, and not just in money but in inches around my waist. 

We all know that fast food is one of the worst choices in terms of nutrition. Sure, it's getting "better" with revised food items and posting calories for all to see, etc. But, the food is usually still greasy, packed with sodium, and fatty. Not to mention the use of frozen (rather than fresh) ingredients and plenty of fillers. Fast food is not providing me with the same nutrients as food I could prepare myself which means I'm not going to be as healthy and could also contribute to weight gain. 

The quality of the food and its affects on my health is not my only complaint. Fast food is also expensive. Whether its feeding a family of four or if it's just for a single person (like me), fast food can actually cost twice as much as making the meal at home. For someone who needs to penny pinch, preparing food from the grocery store is actually the cheaper option! 

So in order to try to break myself from this lazy, unhealthy, money-wasting habit, I'm going fast food free for one month (and this includes my corner store stops as that is food on the go that I purchase due to poor planning/convenience).

That includes everything from McDonald's to Starbucks. I can still go sit down at a restaurant with family or friends, but I can't stop when I am alone and on the run. Nope. I will have to wait until I get home or pack my own food before leaving the house. I'll even have to brew my own coffee (gasp). 

In order to achieve this goal, I will have to take extra steps of planning and preparation:

1. Grocery shopping. I detest grocery shopping and I think part of the reason is when I'm checking out because it feels like I am spending a lot of money on food. But, knowing that I can actually save money in the long-run by planning meals ahead makes me feel better about the grocery bill. 

2. Cooking. I don't cook much, not because I don't like it but because of time. Well, looks like I'm going to have to make time (at least this month). I can't let the nightshifts and crazy schedule keep me from providing the best meals for my body. 

3. Packing. I can't wait until I need to leave for work to think about food. I need to prepare and pack food ahead of time and have it ready to grab and go. 

I don't expect this challenge to be an easy one for me because fast food is so convenient (and often delicious). But, perhaps by taking a one month break from drive thrus and corner stores, I will develop new food preparation and eating habits while craving the junk less. 

Do you love your fast food? Or do you prefer to cook at home?