(my period) – she’s back.

I became a secret agent the winter of 2010. A secret agent to my health and my agency in deciding to go on the pill. Despite a household comprised of 4/5 women, periods, birth control, and sex were far from any topic ever discussed. The closest we got, years before I was ready to think about sex, was that my mother was supportive of abortions if I ever needed to go there. 

That winter I planned my first trip as an adult to India with my boyfriend and our friend. The three of planned to explore the wonders of my home country and the last thing I wanted to worry about was my period. All my life I have been cursed with the heaviest flow imaginable. Gym teachers refused to acknowledge the self-descried bowling ball in my stomach that I insisted was too painful to participate. I was accustomed to monthly night sweats, weak legs, fits of crying and craving sugar, stealing tampons from CVS shelves because I was too embarrassed to buy them in front of friends.

That winter I took matters into my own hands and drove over an hour to Planned Parenthood. This was the only place I knew dealt what I was looking for, a month’s worth of tiny blue pills. I sat waiting for over an hour in a room lined with scientific drawings of vaginas and pamphlets of STD testing. Finally, I was taken to a small office where a doctor asked me how many sexual partners I had. I paused and counted. “Try to keep that number low throughout life”, she advised. Suddenly this became about much more than me trying to avoid a period during a month of travel. It became about what birth control was really meant to do, control my getting pregnant. I have never considered it doing that since I always had protected sex, but I realized the extent of what I was doing, and possibly why I found the need act and secret, lie about where I was going, and keep this from my mother.

I packed my small container of three months worth of blue pills into my toiletry kit and headed to India with my monthly flow out of sight, and out of mind. Throughout the following six years, I had less than five periods. I popped those pills every day, skipped the week of placebos, and I lived my life as a pain-free woman. Free from PMS, from the worry of being pregnant, or missing class. I did much more traveling and I biked across the country, all without having to worry about tampons on hand or missing out because my body was shut down. I viewed my habits as liberating. I was a period free woman.

Every time I tried to go off the pill I paid the consequences severely. If I missed a few nights my body would burst with pain. Once I passed out in the hallway during the first day of class. I was convinced periods were not for me. With my doctor I discussed alternatives- the IUDs women can get, but she warned me that pain can be made far worse with these. Without great options, I deiced to stick with the pill.

As I got older, I was really interested in letting go of this daily dose of hormones. I was curious what would happen to my body if I stopped taking them. Would my acne go away? Would I lose weight more easily? And most importantly, would it help my constant battle with depression? Because I had been taking birth control for so long, specifically in the transformative years of 17-23, I had no idea what was naturally me, and what was the because of the pill.

Last December I prepared for a trip abroad with my cousin and then planned to spend a few weeks in the comfort of my parents home. I figured it was as good a time as any to test things out again and see how my body and mind reacted. I got into an exercise routine, I stocked up on Midol, and I waited. 

After two months, my period arrived as a complete surprise. No pain, no sore breasts, no sugar craving. She came and left in three days. In those two months, I lost ten pounds, My acne disappeared, and I shared with people anytime they asked how I was, that I was the happiest I had felt in a long time. Even in the dead of winter, I was light and energetic.

I can’t say for sure how much of this is to do with jumping off the pill, or why it worked this time and not the others, but I can say I feel significantly different than I did for the six plus years I took birth control. Today, my period has returned again after a month and a half. I had all the typical symptoms, and I was excited in a way to notice them. I am crampy today, and I know I will be tomorrow. But I am more ready to deal with what ever I need to and take things as they come. I feel proud knowing that I am experiencing what (almost) all other women do, and taking the time to care for myself and my body during this time. I did the pill, I got comfortable with how easy it was to not worry about my period, but now I am ready to learn and listen to my body, and feel the feels. She’s back, and I’m going to welcome her.

How to get a city talking

If you want to get a city to talk, point to something everyone is already looking at.
A bit of closure- I have received a final Ford Field update from the office of Council Member Castañeda-López:
“… has been in contact with David Bell, the Director of BSEED, and the Director has stated that Ford will be turning off the lights from 2-6 and that they will be decreasing the intensity from 100% to 25%. He will also be sending out inspectors within the next couple of days.”
Four days after I started a petition to turn off the Ford Field Lights, the sky was absent of their purple glow. What began as a small peeve of my neighbors and mine turned into my first time stating my opinion publicly about anything. As an aspiring urban planner and organizer, I constantly think about  issues in my city, and found these lights to be relatively low hanging fruit. I googled the building inspector of Detroit and I called him. He laughed at me, and told me “what you need to do is get the attention of the Mayor”. I spilled over municipal ordinances in Detroit for weeks when a friend pointed out the illumination ordinance. Jackpot- here was the specific ordinance that the lights were violating.
I can barely post to Facebook about current events without feeling severely anxious, yet I was encouraged to write an op-ed by a friend, who coached me and taught me how to research and write in a tone that would be listened to by city officials. After the op-ed was published, I just posted it to Facebook along with a petition, thinking it would get the support of my networks.
The original Op-ed, published in the Detroit News, was shared over 1,200 times on Facebook, and the petition on Change.org received a total of  1,259 signatures, and 40 pages of comments. As promised, I delivered three petitions, one to the City Attorney, one to Council Member Sheffield’s office, and one to David Bell, Director of BSEED.
In the past two weeks, I have experienced first hand the challenges and inspiration that  come with speaking up about something. My naive nature failed to consider the pushback of such a statement. I cannot say I read every debate that was hosted online, but the ones I did read pointed to a number of  critical issues. First, that there are so many important issues that are happening in Detroit that deserve the amount of, pardon the pun, light shed on them as this issue did. Where was this coverage for school closures? Where was the petition for tax foreclosure? If the ford field lights can be shut down in a matter of days for violating a single ordinance, why does the incinerator continue to burn? Although I tried to explain this to the press, they chose not to publish this critique of themselves.
I also learned about the dangerous power of a single story, and was reminded of the Ted Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called “The Danger of the Single Story” . Word of the petition, from news outlets and individual people failed to consider various points of view, and failed to demonstrate that we are complex beings, capable of working on multiple issues simultaneously. In speaking to media, I also learned that just because you tell them something does not mean they will print it. I felt mis-represented and at a loss with how to fully represent my thoughts. I learned about the power of the press in spreading a single story- that might not always be the full story.
I also, unsurprisingly, enjoy a fair share of sexism. In a single message, I was berated for not just buying blackout curtains, and then asked out for a drink. I had male-identified people say I was crazy, that I should get a boyfriend, and give me unsolicited advice as to how I should proceed.
I do not need to justify what I did or did not do, what was left from the conversation and what I wish I had said earlier. All I can say now is that we got what we asked for- a darker sky and less light pollution. I only hope that this encouraged others of the power we have to make change in our community. I was impressed with commentary of both sides of the issue and was glad to see the public unpacking the representation of the light.
Thank you to everyone who helped me directly, who reached out, who thought about what these lights mean, good and bad, and who passed the word along. Over and out.

 

 

 

 

 

Impounded reality check

Last night my car was impounded. I had to pay $495 to get it back. When I realized what happened, I walked into the Restaurant where my car was parked- my friend’s sister owns the restaurant and it’s never been a problem in the entire year I have parked there. The woman working goes next door to ask them if they had towed the car.  No one claims to have called the tow, and they all even tried to help me call the company to get the car back. Then the police show up. We’re convinced that the car was impounded illegally because no one authorized it. They urged me to file police report. I take an eight dollar Uber to go to the tow yard. While I’m there the two guys working the counter explain to me the entire situation that had just happened. They said the owner of the lot towed, and the restaurant owners were mad that they did not get any financial gain. Suddenly everyone is blaming everyone, no one can give me a straight story, and I’m out $500.

I get into the tow truck to go to yet another place.I crack and turn on the self-pity act. I tell him that I work so hard for the city. That I work so hard for this city and here I am out half a months wages just because of this ridiculous incident. In short, I complain.

He tells me he knows how it feels. He works 80 hours a week, goes to school for engineering, and supports his mom and sister. A wave of humiliation moves over me, I cover it with praise- telling him he’s going a great job and he’s got his head in the right direction. At the end, he tells me he is going to do what he can to speak with his boss and help get me some money back.

My appreciation for his sentiments run far deeper than I could show in that dark muddy tow lot. At 11:30 at night, he had to be back to work at 7am. He took a moment out of his incredibly busy and demanding life to offer me support- even when I had just been yelling at him moments before.

It is that pure and simple kindness that keeps me going. It is at this moment I remember my faith in humanity. Here I remember that so much is out of our control, yet if we chose to, we have control over our thoughts and actions.

With some research I learned that towing companies are not regulated by the city, so they can charge what ever they want. What I can’t figure out is what happens if the towing company takes your car, even if no one authorized it. Is this allowed? I was told to speak with the police commissioner.

I will try to get to the bottom of why my car got towed. It is a money making scheme that is unfair and should be illegal in my opinion. Everyone profits: the city, the state, the businesses. But I will also follow up with that young man for being so kind to me, and figure out a way to help him while he’s kicking ass at being a decent hardworking human.

And this week I’ll work a little harder and spend a little less and luckily for me, and I am fortunate to know that things will be alright.

A guide to spending NYE alone

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Spending New Years alone, or really any evening alone, is a wonderful time if it is intentional. Tonight is a great way to check in with yourself and take time for some much needed self care to welcome in a new year. I’m a bit of a home body. For the most part I’ve stopped drinking and my parents asked me nicely to stay home with the dogs so they can go out all night. These are my three excuses for staying in tonight and nesting a bit. Here are some recommendations if you are choosing to go it alone:

 

  1. Stock the fridge- Tonight is the best excuse to go meander down the isles of a fancy grocery store discovering new nut butters and limited edition ice cream. I chose dried mangos and I will definitely be making a homemade pizza.
  2. Make a playlist-  all the songs that make you feel great.  Give yourself a daylong soundtrack. If you want to be sentimental you can tear up to the greats we lost this year. 
  3. Tidy up Scrub the sink. Poof the pillows, sweep, listen to that playlist.
  4. Make some resolutions– Don’t take it too seriously. But it is fun to have a nice plan for attaining your 2017 goals.
  5. Donate- Go find some local causes to donate to. It’s a great use of that money saved from ridiculous entrance fees and booze. There is nothing like some selflessness to bring in the New Year.
  6. Take a walk- Early morning walks on the last day of the year are magical. Just get outside, enjoy a view, and spend some time just wandering around your favorite spots.
  7. Nourish yourself- Make a smoothie. Take a bath. Wear a robe. Drink bubbly water. Lather on some lotion. Do a facial with random ingredients in the fridge. Stretch.
  8. Stock up on your favorites- Get all your favorite shows, books, movies, music, snacks, and just do them all at once.
  9. Try a new craft- Get out your never used candle-making supplies, or that weaving kit. Try coding. Bake something.
  10. Stay up- or not. Maybe you fall asleep before midnight, maybe you stay up all night. but just listen to your body and your mind, and don’t feel pressured to do anything.

 

 

 

 

 

Love and uncertainty on the eve of election day.

My mother called me today only to make sure I was volunteering. After I confirmed I was going to, she hung up.

Okay, I admit it. I regret not volunteering more this election season. Friends knocked on doors and spent their Sundays phone banking, I went to the DIA and enjoyed brunch. It did not even occur to me until late Sunday evening.

I am not an activist. I was not a real Hillary supporter until about four days ago. But I know I should have done more to participate in this election, and will regret it until the day I die if you know who wins.

This evening I did as much research as I could concerning the local elections (Detroit is crazy with judges and school board officials this year) and I send it out to my students and friends demanding they vote YES on A, and NO on B.

Today I stayed off social media and felt uneasy as the day drew to a close. I am too anxious to Netflix or chill, I just spontaneously applied to a scholarship because I figured this energy to make change should be put to good use.

Earlier this evening we had a fantastic meeting about foreclosure in Detroit, and our year long plan to kick as and make shit happen. On my mind was how next year was really going to feel; we will all know tomorrow. I felt motivated to seek out grants, to develop projects and deliverables, but also sad that we sat around this table as if we knew a storm was coming, and we each left to go prepare.

After tomorrow nothing changes. At least not instantly. Sure, it will feel shitty. But foreclosure will still be an issue, I will still be an organizer, and my friends will still be bad asses.

I flip between love and anxiety over and over tonight.

Hello, my name is Margo, and I am calling to tell you that we successfully won your house today.

“Some people have nothing- no clothes, no house. But you helped me keep my home.” – Kevin

This afternoon I went to the office of The United Community Housing Coalition to assist the foreclosure prevention team during the first day of the closing round of the Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction. As foreclosure organizers in Detroit, this was the day we have been preparing for all along- the final moments to possibly save homes for residents in Detroit by bidding on them in the auction.

I walked into a room of three people on computers, each with their own list of houses they were watching on the Treasurer’s website. Marked on there screens were green and red icons, the outcomes of the auction. Somewhere else in the world were other bidders, fighting against the very people who occpuied these houses. Every fifteen minutes a batch of houses closed.

I was given the rewarding job of calling residents to inform them of our successful win. I was given a thick stack of manilla folders, filled with photo copied IDs, property and household information, payment receipts for their savings with UCHC, and a phone number to call.

I began my flimsy introduction,”Is this Janet? Yes my name is Margo, I am calling from the Housing Coalition to tell you that we have successfully bought your house today.. Yes! We won your house.”

I paused to hear yelps of joy. Whispers of relief. One Man said over and over, “oh no. oh no.” I asked him if this was a bad thing. He proceeded to break down in tears. I listened to this man tell me that this morning he walked his dog around his block, and he wondered if he was ever going to be able to do that again.

I shared news with a woman, who was in the hospital after a double by-pass, and told her that she would get to return to her home, that she now owned, once she gets better.

I also listened to people who simply did not know how they were going to come up with the remaining money they owed the Housing Coalition. “Miss, I have ten dollars to my name.” I urged her to come to the office and get on a payment plan. One man told me he was so scared in his neighborhood because of all of the drugs. I listened as people told me they would make calls or wait until the disability checks arrived, and they would get the money in as soon as they could. I told them that time was of the essence, and that the sooner they brought something in the more families we could potentially bid for.

Although we had enough funds to give eight Tricycle Collective families whose houses were closing in the auction today, but only two successfully won their homes. It is perhaps the hardest to call a family with children and inform them that they might have to pay higher rent to a new landlord, or quite possibly relocate. Deeds get sent out just before or after Thanksgiving. Evictions could just in time for the holidays.

I listened as a call was made to a man whose home we did not successfully win. He was upset that we did not win it for him, or bid higher, although we did all that we could.

The final round of closings ended at 5pm, and shortly after we packed up and headed out. I walked down the office stairs with a deep yearning to return to my own very stable home, complete with heat and running water.

Today I was called an angel. I was told “I love you”. I did nothing to help these families keep their homes, but I got to be the bearer of good news, and I got to feel how immensely good it sounds to know you are safe.

On my way home, I called my bank to inform them that believed my wallet had been stolen. I shut down all four of my cards, and swallowed hard as I accepted I was never going to see the $140 in cash I had just earned this weekend. Losing my wallet today sucked. It casted a shadow over my entire day. I knew I was going to have to make some sacrifices this week and dreaded to tell my bosses that I was irresponsible with their business credit cards. But it gives me just the tiniest insight into how it must feel to lose your home. To lose shelter, security, warmth, stability, memories, and personal space, all at once.

 

Ford Field: Glow Somewhere Else

I left a friends house an August night in Southwest Detroit and noticed that the sky behind their house had a fantastic purple glow. There had been thunderstorms all evening and aftskyphotoer a quick Google search for “purple glow in sky after storm” Reddit confirmed that in fact this was a rare event. Camera in hand, I set out to find the best view of this rare glow that I could. I stopped just before Downtown and snapped a photo that was Instagram worthy. I figured this occurrence was a combination of city light pollution and some after-storm magic that caused the sky to glow deep purple. It was beautiful, natural, and I chose to simply enjoy it and not ask too many questions.

The glow stayed. Over the course of the next month I pulled into my driveway each night and have been greeted with a looming purple glow that settles over my house and garden and seeps into my kitchen windows. I realized, sadly, that this was definitely not an environmental phenomenon, but instead something much more intentional. A quick trip down I-75 confirmed that the source of the strange purple glow was the Lion’s Stadium roof. Beads of LED lights line each section of the roof, creating a stunning glow that admittedly looks quite impressive from up close, but is not welcome over my house miles away.

Just two days before my purple light discovery, The Detroit Free Press announced that indeed the Ford Field roof and interior would be brighter this season. Lights inside and outside the stadium were changed to LED and LED lights were added to the roof. Compared to their older lighting methods, these new LED lights save a considerable amount of energy. This is great, but actually, adding more lights where there were previously none does not save energy, it just takes a bit less energy than could have.

Playing or not, the Lions now remind every single one of us who lives within a three mile radius of Downtown that they exist. Ford Field is just like those people who love to constantly drive with their high beams on, causing you a moment of blindness while you hold your breathe as you pass them. It is annoying and unnecessary, and even though I always seem to live through it, it is certainly not enjoyable or comfortable.

I turn every light off in my house when I go to sleep. I do this because it was how I was raised, but also because it is silly and a complete waste of energy to leave them on all night. And when a light is left on, it bugs me so much that I get up and turn it off. The Ford Field giant purple light that begs to be turned off.

Light during darkness has not always been a given in Detroit. Only last fall did the city of Detroit commit to begin fixing over 56,000 streetlights. In Highland Park, an entire community organization called Soulardarity formed to brighten dark streets after DTE removed 1,000 streetlights. Now we have light glowing all night long, a reminder of the increase in infrastructure and private wealth downtown that does not add to neighborhood safety or community well being, in fact this is not what we meant by asking for more lights at night. Let us consider what nighttime might turn into if all sports arenas in the city chose to light up the night. Many of us might never sleep again. Plants would be forever confused.

My concerns do not even begin to consider potential environmental or biological effects the lights may have on the city. For now I will remain a concerned and annoyed resident, who just wants to return to a little more darkness.

So, in summary, I would like to say this to Ford Field to Fred Reddig, the Detroit Lions director of facilities. Please lower your lights or even turn them off when games are not in session. We promise we will not forget you are there. As winter darkness increases, I would rather not see your lights from my tiny abode in Southwest radiating for twelve or more hours a day.