Moving On…..

I started my blog Curiodyssey several years ago, after returning from a trip to Turkey. It was on that trip that I discovered my love of writing, and while walking down a quiet Turkish alleyway that I imagined the name Curiodyssey. I wrote several articles, with one getting significant attention online. Unfortunately, the popularity of the article Pregnansucky brought my blog to the attention of a group in Southern California who also call themselves Curiodyssey, and who, most unfortunately, paid someone big bucks to create and trademark the name for them. I have been in writing-limbo for years now, waiting for a new blog name to come to me, in order to not step on their toes. In other words, they threatened me with lawyers if I continued to write under the name Curiodyssey, and a huge reason I have not written for so long has been the fear of retribution.

I now have a new inspiration and, finally, a new site. My inspiration/skill is making rugs. I make these beautiful rag rugs which I call Sage Rugs. My new idea is that I will use my new blogspace Sagerugs.com to showcase both my rugs and my writings. Please come and see me and my work now on display at Sage Rugs. IMG_3907Thanks for reading! kt

From Rage Rugs to Sage Rugs

I made some rugs. They are beautiful. They are comfortable. They are helping me heal. Here is a link to check them out: https://www.etsy.com/shop/SageRugs?ref=listing-shop2-all-items-count#items

And here is the story behind them:

My name is Kt. I was born and raised in Kentucky. Three years ago I married a Canadian and moved to B.C., to live on his family farm and to have my daughter. We lived there for several years, in the woods somewhere between Vancouver and Banff. We raised pigs and chickens and one beautiful daughter, and I tried to immigrate, but failed. Unable to work in Canada, I kept myself busy playing, hiking, art-ing, and reading with my daughter. It was a beautiful, quiet time, full of love but also loneliness. Fortunately, loneliness can be full of lessons and one thing I learned during my time there was that color and creation bring me joy. Learning to make rugs was a way for me to both play with my daughter and create something tangible that made my heart feel happy.

I was inspired to make rugs by Emily Carr (1871-1945), a Canadian artist who made her living by making rugs until her painting career finally took off in her mid-50’s. My true art-love is oil painting, like Ms. Carr, but that is definitely not recommended for children under the age of three, so painting was out of the question for me with my little one always at my side. My other inspiration was my Kentucky roots. Rag rugs, or twined rugs, are a traditional appalacian craft, and learning to make them helped me feel a little more connected to home. Once I had the idea to make functional floor art, I learned the technique of twining by watching YouTube videos (Thank you Shelia Honeycutt!). I made my first loom with the side of a baby crib and some curtain hooks. After some trial-and-error, I came up with one that was totally toddler-proof. As a bonus, my little lady loved helping me rip the sheets to shreds, because who doesn’t love a little destruction?

Speaking of destruction, I was quickly self-destructing in Canada. I truly felt helpless living there with my husband away at work or school all the time, and me mostly alone on the farm with the baby. I was unable to make immigration move more quickly, and thus was unable to help support my family financially. That was incredibly frustrating, but at the same time that I was so socially, financially, and physically uncomfortable, I also felt incredible amounts of joy and inspiration from my daughter and my gorgeous Canadian surroundings. It was a confusing time, to be sure, and I was compelled to make art. I found all forms of art comforting, but the simple, repetitive movement of rug-making was theraputic, even meditative, for me. Plus, while my hands were busy tying knots, I listened to all of Brene Brown’s books, and I am pretty sure that her kind words and deep insights may have saved my life. Another way my rugs helped (and are still helping) me heal was that I gifted them to people who had a positive influence on me and helped me through those dark times. And I still have many more to give, which reminds me- I need to send one to Brene!

Initially, I jokingly called my creations Rage Rugs because I made them to keep busy and to distract myself from my misplaced rage and discomfort. But it wasn’t really a joke. I had truly started to feel like a trapped animal in Canada, so far away from my people and civilization in general. I felt like I could do nothing right, and my self-worth was at an all-time low. Making rugs gave me a tangible way to say to myself: “You are still here, and you are okay.”

I am home in Kentucky now, and am thankfully in a much less rage-y place, but I continue to make rag rugs because I love making them, and because they are still helping me to process the pain and confusion of the past few years. Accordingly, I have renamed them Sage Rugs because I recognize that, as hard as the past three years felt, they were also full of important lessons that I needed to learn (and am still learning!). With every knot I make, I weave my profound thanks for the wisdom I have gained from Canada and motherhood and this crazy-wonderful life I get to live. Each rug is full of little errors and imperfections, and, just like my life, the imperfections are part of what make them- and me- so beautifully real. Thank you for visiting. -kt

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Brilliant Boobies: 8 Fun Facts about your Fun Sacks!

In my recent quest to inform myself about birthing and baby rearing before countless people start offering me random advice, I have read Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin. I never thought I would need a book about breastfeeding since it seems so simple to the uninitiated, but boy am I glad I read it. Not only do I now feel like I have a good handle on what appears to be a complex task with a big learning curve, but I have also learned some fascinating things about these tatas that I have been carting around for most of my life. Below is a list of my favorite factoids about breasts that I have learned so far. All but number one were taken from Ina May’s book

1. Fun new vocab word: galactagogue- any substance that promotes lactation in animals (that includes humans, of course). Alfalfa, blessed thistle, and red raspberry leaf are just a few of the commonly used herbal galactagogues. Alfalfa is so effective in increasing milk supply that mothers are often told to stop taking it for a few days following birth to prevent engorgement. Farmers raising milk cattle have known this for years. Mooo!

2. Breasts should be a suds-free zone. Nipples are naturally antimicrobial due to small glands on the areola which secrete oil and help to maintain the nipple’s acid balance, so rinse with water but avoid soap or you’ll wash off that good stuff. Also, avoiding soap on your boobies preserves your body’s natural smell which babies prefer. In a study on the subject, a group of mothers washed just one breast before nursing and the babies choose the unwashed breast more than 70% of the time. You can think of yourself as a fine, stinky slice of delicious, aged cheese. Your smell is gouda to your baby!

3. Breasts are made-to-order chefs. A woman’s breasts  will continually adjust the composition and amount of milk they produce according to her baby’s specific needs and gestational age. For example if her baby is premature then her boobies will make a special blend of milk with just the right nutrients to nourish a premie.

4. Babies are natural-born breast-hunters. If given enough uninterrupted skin-to-skin time with mom, newborn infants placed on mama’s tummy will scoot themselves up to the breast, find the nipple, and start to suckle automatically, usually within the first 30-60 minutes of life. I’m going to ask the doctor to leave my little one down by my knee to see just how hard it will work for the good stuff. Just kidding, but seriously- how cute is it to think about a newborn baby crawling across your abdomen looking for the food sacks?!?!

5. Breastfeeding benefits moms as well as babies. Not only do you burn an extra 500-600 calories a day when breastfeeding, research also shows that women who breastfeed have far lower instances of osteoporosis and breast cancer later in life. In a small fishing village near Hong Kong where the custom is to breastfeed only from the right breast, post-menopausal women had a fourfold increased risk of cancer in the left breast than in the suckled right breast!

6. Night time is the right time! You produce the most milk between the hours of 2 am and 6 am, and your most nutritious milk comes down after midnight. So apparently there is some reason for that up-all-night phenomenon, not that that makes it any easier to tolerate, of course. I wonder about the evolutionary reason behind the late night surge of goodness.

7. Babies can drink uphill! No need to sit straight up to feed your baby- you can feel free to adopt whatever feeding position feels comfortable to you, including being semi-reclined. Because of the way a breast works- it ejects milk when baby stimulates the nipple- reclining while feeding can actually help the baby have more control and less gagging while feeding. Feeding in a semi-reclined position is known as “biological-nuturing position,” which women have naturally used for millions of years, but for some reason is rarely taught to new mothers these days, and is sometimes even discouraged. Medicine has a long way to go to catch up with the wisdom of the body.

8. Breasts don’t retire and can relactate if stimulated. There are numerous examples from other cultures and from old medical textbooks (nineteenth century and earlier) of women in their 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s being able to produce enough nutritious milk to sustain a baby, even if they hadn’t produced milk in many years. One famous wet nurse Judith Waterford was documented in several books as being able to express milk at the age of 81! In fact, in some cultures mom, grandma and even great-grandma share the job of breastfeeding the baby. Even women who have never had children of their own but spend time in close proximity with babies that they feel affection for can also occasionally produce milk. What fascinating and fabulous creatures we are!

Let’s hear it for our amazing breasts!!

Here’s a picture of a kid who totally gets it:

Look at the sweet way he makes eye contact with the statue!

Look at the sweet way he makes eye contact with the statue. What a little gentleman!

 

 

Bonus Boobie Fun Fact (this one is not about women’s breasts): The men of the African Aka tribe have been called the best fathers in the world because they spend more time in close contact with their babies than fathers in any other part of the world- about 47% of the child rearing is done by the men. But Aka men don’t just sit the kid on the floor and glance at it occasionally- they carry their babies with them at all times, sometimes even allowing the infant to suckle on their own nipples if it needs pacifying! While the men do not produce milk, holding the infant close to their chest or even allowing it to suckle is an effective way to calm a crying baby and they do it in public, even while standing around at the local equivalent of a pub, without any loss of status. I learned this fascinating fact in the delightful book How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between) by Mei-Ling Hopgood. I’ve coined the term “nerple” to describe the male act of allowing the baby to suckle at their breast, and try as I might to get my husband on the nerpling bandwagon, he remains steadfastly resistant. Oh well- guess my boobies will have to do.

Ridiculous Me in B.C.

I have done the most impossible, unimaginable, and ridiculous thing ever. I’ve done the thing that all pregnancy books, advice columns and mothers everywhere warn you to NEVER do when you are as pregnant as I am. I did not take up chain smoking, though my family would probably be happier with me if I had. I did something far worse: I moved. To a different country. While seven months pregnant. To beautiful and far, far away British Columbia, thousands of miles from my dear family and friends; thousands of miles from the gorgeous hills of Kentucky where I was born and raised. It’s crazy but it’s true. My new home is Canada.

My old Kentucky home.

My old Kentucky home.

A move like this probably does not seem ridiculous to most people but my family is definitely not like most people. For starters, there are a blue million of us. Both of my parents come from large Catholic families, and both are the youngest of their clans, so I have cousins who are my parent’s age, second cousins who are my own age, and third cousins popping up right and left. But size isn’t all that makes us unique. There’s also the fact that almost every single last one of us lives within a 45 mile radius of where they were born. So not only do I have that many cousins, but I know them all well, having grown up celebrating every holiday and special occasion with a few hundred of my kin. I remember Easter Sunday mass being moved from the church in town to my aunt and uncle’s dairy farm because the family made up so much of the congregation that church would have been virtually empty without us. With 100 relatives to entertain and feed there was no time to make the trip into town for church, so church came to us.  Plus, after partaking in grandpa’s famous bourbon slush it was probably inadvisable for us to drive anyway.

So moving was traumatic for my family and me because we just don’t DO this. We live in Kentucky and we die in Kentucky. Several of my grandparents are even buried on the property where I grew up, which also happens to be the property where my dad grew up. The fact that I left mid-pregnancy with the grand-fetus made this move just that much more traumatic for everyone. Does the term “heartless wench” come to mind? Because it sure did to me, especially when my dad cried. You know you’re a bad daughter when you make your dad cry. But he and my mom both love the quiet country life too, so they understood and were very supportive about our choice, though that didn’t make it any less sad when it came time to say goodbye. Not that it’s goodbye forever, of course, it’s just that now I’m a plane ride away rather than a short car trip. On the bright side, when they come to visit and get to enjoy the majesty of the Rockies for the first time, they will understand even more my need to be here.

Beautiful landscape is not the only thing that brought us to British Columbia. We moved because we both grew up in the country and wanted to give our child the same sort of quiet, clean upbringing that we had, far away from the noise and the hustle of the city. We moved because my husband’s parents offered to let us live in a small cabin that my husband helped build, on the property where he grew up. They live on the same property too so they get to be close to the baby and we get to have lots of help when he or she arrives- everyone wins! We moved here because it is so pristine that our drinking water comes from a natural spring on the property and my allergies (and my dog’s allergies!) are almost non-existent with all this clean mountain air. Plus we have enough time and space to raise almost all of our own food- it’s just good, healthy living all around. Being here is like living in a postcard and I marvel everyday at our good fortune.

Two less pleasant reasons that we moved here were finances and healthcare. We had the best health insurance we could get in Kentucky and yet it was still going to cost several thousand dollars more to deliver the baby in America than to deliver it here in Canada, despite the fact that I am not yet on the Canadian national health plan and am paying out-of-pocket here. It’s ridiculous but true. Not only is birth cheaper here but it is also far safer for women and babies. America has one of the highest maternal death rates of any industrialized country and some of the worst outcomes for babies as well. Higher prices do not ensure better care apparently, and if I am going to go into debt anyway to have this child then I might as well do it in the safest place possible.

Change was another major motivating factor for our move. With this baby on the way our lives were about to change in extraordinary ways anyway, so we just beat it to the punch. We left our full time jobs, sold most of our stuff, said a lot of tearful goodbyes, and moved far away from any semblance of city life. It seemed really crazy at the time and of course I miss my family and friends and especially my sweet little niece terribly, but now that we are here it seems like it was exactly the right thing to do. We now have no city noise, no social obligations, and almost no stress. We have far less money but much more time to do the important things in life like gardening, reading good books, and cooking good food. I feel happier and healthier and more relaxed than I have in ages and I love having time to enjoy this bumpy little baby in my belly, since I know it will be over far too soon. I enjoy seeing my husband so happy too. He loves being home and is truly in his element- his element being a place with lots of chainsaw work and enough privacy to pee outside anytime he wants. Most importantly, I believe that this slower-paced lifestyle will make it easier for us to adjust to baby entering our lives after it exits me, whenever that may be. Doesn’t really matter much because we don’t hurry now that we’re in B.C.

One thing that will never change is my love for Kentucky and its people and the land where I grew up. Kentucky will always be my home because my people are there and so I will always have a place there to return to. Now I can call B.C. home too because my man is here and his people are here and we are building a new life together in these mountains. It’s not that I left Kentucky, I just gained B.C., and now I can call two of the loveliest places on Earth home. Lucky me in B.C.

My beautiful B.C.

Beautiful British Columbia