Wednesday, June 1, 2016

T-Time with No Coast Paper Co. & K

By: Kaitlyn 

Let's talk about menstruation. Yes, periods. That time of the month. Women's issues. Shark Week. We hear these words whispered from one person to the next, usually followed by giggles or blushing, because how embarrassing! 

The lining of our uteruses shedding off? How dare we speak of such a shameful thing. *insert eye roll here*. 

In all seriousness, I'm really passionate about menstruation. Growing up, I was lucky to have a family that never shamed me or were embarrassed by talking about my period. My brothers would always know when I was cramping (mostly because I was balled up, crying in my room); my father would hold my hand and do meditations with me when my cramps were unbearable and offer to go to the grocery store to buy me more pads and tampons; and my mother just had to give me looks that showed that she knew exactly how I was feeling. 

Unfortunately, I realize that not all families are like this. Most people shudder away when periods are brought up; we hide tampons up our sleeves so no one knows we're about to use them, and some people will simply refuse to talk about the matter. 

This negative connotation towards a natural bodily function is not only absurd, but dangerous. 

So when I saw No Coast Paper's Co. "Code Red" series, a series of cards celebrating and recognizing periods, it immediately peaked my interest. And after talking to the founder of the company, Sara, I was beyond excited to sit down with her and have her share her story and her mission: 

Sara Thompto started her stationary business, No Coast Paper Co., at an apple festival in Michigan and soon opened up an Etsy shop with postcards, greeting cards, and other paper goods. 

The idea to start a Code Red greeting card series to celebrate menstruation arose after a conversation she had after an art show opening of her wife's work in New York. They went out with the director of the art gallery after the opening and in ten minutes, the conversation turned into one about puberty and periods. 

"It was the most random conversation ever but it was hilarious and natural and I felt at ease," Sara said. "It got me thinking about how relatable things are like puberty and periods."

During the conversation, the gallery director talked about how her aunt gave her a greeting card when she started her period. It was just a congrats card, but her aunt wrote "Welcome to Womanhood" inside of it. This inspired Sara to create her first card in the Code Red series, "Welcome to the Period Club." 

Sara made a key note that she made a card that said "Period Club" instead of "Womanhood" because the phrase didn't sit right with her. 

"I think saying 'Welcome to Womanhood' isn't the best thing you can say to a pre-teen or teenage girl who just starts her period. It's kind of like you're saying that having a period is what being a woman is all about, " Sara said. "I mean, yes, having a period is something that happens to the majority of women but it's not the one defining thing. That conversation really got me thinking about how you can go about showing support and open the conversation to women at that age...If girls learn that it's an open topic from the beginning, it lessens the taboo of the subject."

As mentioned earlier, the taboo surrounding periods is ridiculous and dangerous. The shame brought onto someone for talking about periods not only causes people to think a natural bodily function is abnormal, but it also silences a conversation that needs to be had to help people know how to take care of their body. 

"I think it's strange that when you bleed in any other way (like a paper cut or stubbing your toe) it's nothing to be embarrassed about and it's not seen as taboo," Sara said. "However, when there's blood coming out of a vagina, it's suddenly something to be embarrassed about. It's blood. It's more natural than blood coming out of any other area of the body. It's not something that should be an issue. There shouldn't be embarrassment about it or shame or made out to be disgusting. It is what it is: a completely natural cycle that happens to a major portion of the population." 

As a result of her Code Red series, Sara hopes to open up this dialogue surrounding periods in our culture and around the world to provide support to women and girls who are afraid to discuss their bodies. 

"Women need to look within themselves and realize just how badass they are and realize that just because they might have cramps or feel bloated, having a period doesn't take away from who they are," Sara said. "It's not something they need to be ashamed of or embarrassed about."

Later this year, Sara is quitting her day job to focus solely on No Coast Paper Co. and Code Red. Through open, healthy and (sometimes) humorous discussions, we can open up a new pathway for people to talk about their bodies that celebrate a natural occurrence in order to spread positivity and understanding. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Introducing: Abigail Mercaldo

By: Abbie 

Art school is a little weird. We are put into an unfamiliar environment that has almost no boundaries on our creativity. We are constantly being pushed to be as creative as we possibly can. The people are all very different and are always expressing themselves in whatever way they want to. Art school is a little weird, but in a good way. 

This is my very first entry here at The Duck and the Owl. I chose to show these photos just to represent what I’ve been doing with my work. Being at an art school has changed my perspective for myself as an artist. I’ve just finished my freshman year at The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, and what I’ve learned about this school is that it has a very competitive environment. Everyone is good at what they do and want to do something with their work. So naturally, I’ve felt pushed more than I ever have to get my work out there. So I take as many photos as I can, so that I can constantly be improving my portfolio. What I’m hoping to do through my entries is to show my work and my progress as I grow as an artist. 

These are some photos I took with my friends just outside of Chicago at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Learning to Embrace my Emotions

By: Kaitlyn 
It wasn't until a few years ago that I cried in front of someone that wasn't my mom for the first time. Up until that point, I never let my emotions show. I never cried at school. I never cried at work. I never cried in front of my best friend. 
I always thought that it would make me weak, so I suppressed it. I never showed any emotions other than happiness because I wanted to be strong. It wasn't until very recently that I learned that hiding my emotions was actually making me weak. Showing my emotions (including crying in front of others) showed true strength. 
Art by Kayley Mills

I have depression. Whenever I tell people that (which isn't often), people's responses is usually something along the lines of, "People who have depression are always the people I least expect it to be." 
I've had depression since I was eleven years old. I never told anyone. I went through my days at school smiling and trying to be as positive as I could. That remains true today. I always see the good in people, I'm always handing out words of encouragement and I genuinely feel that life is absolutely beautiful. So people are confused when I tell them I've had depression nearly my entire life. How can someone be so happy and be depressed at the same time? 
I think there's a huge misconception of what depression truly is. Depression isn't feeling sad. Everyone feels sad. Depression is about feeling nothing and wanting so desperately to feel everything. And because of desperately wanting to feel something, growing up I would often self-harm and have suicidal thoughts, because at least I felt some hate (even if it was towards myself). 
This is why this whole blogging community and The Crybaby Club is so important to me. After struggling for so long of just wanting and allowing myself to feel emotions (whether good or bad), this group has given me the chance to let myself know that it's okay to embrace all emotions. I'm still working on it and some days are better than others, but I'm beginning to feel so many feelings again and it's such a beautiful thing. 
As a result of my feelings and knowing that I have surrounded myself with a group of wonderfully supportive and beautiful people, I've even taken another step towards strength and have started to seek out help. Last year, I went on medication for the first time, which completely changed my life and brought me back to who I know I am. I also started going to therapy for PTSD for the first time. It was a huge step for me to take and an even bigger step for me to continue doing, but I know that allowing myself to accept help is the biggest feat of strength. 
For far too long in my life, I've viewed my emotions as my weakness and as an obstacle that stands in my way. Now, I see that my emotions are my strength and they are my biggest weapon in fighting for the goodness of this world. 

Post originally on The Crybaby Club.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Fiction Fridays: A Word from the Sirens

By: Lisa
I always lamented those who escaped. We knew they would die afterward, slayed by Scylla. But I, and my sisters, always regretted having no hand in it, failing, failing to do it ourselves. He, especially, the one they call the glory of the Achaeans—he would have made a welcome addition to our garden.
Our meadows choke with asphodel, and beneath them are the bones. When they go, we bury them beneath the field of flowers. We return them to the dark earth. Men wage selfish wars, and we offer them what all proud warriors crave: death.

Few have passed us unharmed, and even fewer have been allowed to sail past our island unassailed by our voices. We’ve lived here for eons, the four of us, tending to our garden of wildflowers, sunbathing, watching the seas. Once, centuries ago, the waters were constantly speckled with ships, ships with skinny, billowing masts, ships full of men. We watched these ships. Watched the men. And sang.
Yes, very few passed unharmed. Only one, if we are being boastful.
We’d known him before the wind brought him to us, we’d known of him since Chaos, and so we waited, eager to see if he would succumb. That is the only variable hidden from us.
In the waters we waited, our slim legs slowly sprouting shiny scales so we could swish in the shallows, hold hands, and hum. We hummed, and the waves answered us with soft undulations, carrying toward us our prey. We didn’t lift a finger, or a wing—yet. We simply waited, entwined, the four of us: Molpe, Peisonoe, Thelxiope, and I. Aglaopheme. The sirens.

The wind and the waves are both our allies, and both ours to manipulate. Men think they control the seas with their monstrous wooden boats, but they are undone by a soft-skinned creature with flowers in her hair.

On that day so many years ago, the wind and the water both did their parts before ceasing, and my sisters and I dropped hands, prompted by the familiar tangled structure of wood and cloth riding the now-calm seas. Odysseus and his men on board were furling their sails. Stopping by our isle. Our smiles grew.

We know men’s worst fear: that it is not the women who are weak. Susceptible. Temptable. That it is actually they—the ones who put on shining metal and destroy each other for worlds—who are frail at heart. Men are all afraid that they are the weaker sex. So on that day, prompted by the gods and by our duties and by Odysseus’s keening wails and lustful heart, we sang.
Come hither, Odysseus, glory of the Achaeans, we sang. Stop your ship and listen to our voices. For we know all the toils and pains endured in Troy, and all else that passes on this fertile earth. We know it all.
Yes—that part of the songs is true. We know everything, all that has happened since the first light grew from the darkness, and all that will happen until the sun consumes the earth. We know all. But we tell him what he wants to hear. 
Never has any man sailed past our isle in his black ship until he has drunk his fill of our voices. That man leaves us wiser. Come to us, Odysseus, glory of the Achaeans…
The song lifted us as we sang, in eerie unison, into the air. On our arms sprouted feathers the way our submerged legs grew scales. Every fiber of our bodies is engineered to ensnare.
Drink your fill of our voices…
I felt the air swirl around my strong wings as we descended onto the ship, surrounding it like a maelstrom, singing all the while. And there—Odysseus—chained to the mast like a rabid beast, struggling against his bonds, shrieking like a spoiled child to be let free.
Let him free, let him free, we amended. Come to me. But the dull-faced men rowed on, fighting the calm waters and the nonexistent wind. And we knew then we had lost. The six men heard us not, and Odysseus could not free himself alone.
I realized then how much I truly loved it, that feeling of utter coercion, the ripples of power that raced through my morphing body when I witnessed the utter degradation of a man who wanted nothing more than to control a woman. I reveled in that sublime expression most men experienced when they spied us, heard our song, and believed our words.
But Odysseus frustrated us all, too clever to be punished.
And then he was gone, sailing into the resisting waters, and then we knew: he would make it back home to his wife. Eventually.
Later, Molpe, sulking in our one defeat, expressed sympathy for Penelope, for now we saw her in her luxurious home, ripping out threads and undoing rows of weaving, clever in her loyalty. “At least she’ll have her husband back,” the kind Molpe said.
Peisonoe, picking feathers out of her hair in the meadow and carefully replacing them with asphodel, scoffed in derision. “We see how well a reunion worked for Helen.”
“Clytemnestra,” Thelxiope added vaguely. “And countless others.”
I remember adding nothing to the discussion. Sirens know nothing of marriage. We are not women, and can never be wives. We are not loved. But we are free.
On this day, the seas are relatively calm. Rarely, if ever, must our foursome raise our voices to tempt boatsful of weak-minded men to our shore, and so we spend the days weaving white lilies into our hair, swimming in the shallows, and soaring over the heavens when we take to the air. We live a simple life, but our eyes are always trained on the horizon, ready to be summoned to action.

Men have sung that none pass the sirens unharmed, but that’s false. There is a way past us, a way without cheating, a way without soft wax and lashing oneself to a mast. But that way won’t be revealed by us. We have our goals, and we have our duty. The rest is up to the men.

The men who make war among themselves not for righteousness but for trade routes and gold and power and then blame a woman, these men know nothing of true justice. But a word—a note—from the sirens, and they will. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

T-Time with K & Hilary Neesam

By: Kaitlyn 

When my dear friend and Duck & Owl contributor, Gus, told me about this awesome children's book author he knew that I should interview for T-Time, I was all aboard. I was even more aboard the interview train when I found out that her and I actually had a lot of classes together in college. 

Hilary Neesam is the kind of person that is so warm when you first meet her that you just want to give her a hug. Her passion is infective (in the best way possible) and I had the pleasure of experiencing that passion in our courses together as well as when we sat down this past weekend to talk about how she's thrown her passion into writing children's books.

Hilary has always loved creative writing and always loved working with kids, so the idea to write a children's book was a fitting creative pursuit for her. 

"I had the idea for a long time. In college I did  not know what I wanted to do which was frustrating. We're trying to figure out what we want to do, but we're told that we have to fit a certain mold," Hilary said. 

Once she graduated college, Hilary took up a full-time 9-5 job working in front of computers all day and she found that she wasn't happy or fulfilled. 

"It wasn't what I wanted to do and I realized I didn't have to do what I was supposed to be doing," Hilary said. 

So she took a leap of faith and wrote her first children's book, "Just Be You". "Just Be You" is a message told through a variety of scenarios, allowing the reader to place themselves into the book. 

The books spreads the message of authenticity and is meant for readers of all ages: children, high schoolers, people leaving college, people in the workforce, etc. 

"Knowing who you are, that's something that'll take your whole life," Hilary admitted. However, she stressed the importance of embracing your hobbies and your interest and promoting that from an early age. 

In order to follow her own authentic self, Hilary started a Kickstarter to publish her book and raised $6,000 in a matter of 30 days. All of the money raised was put towards books being published and more books in the future. 

After publication, Hilary has had the opportunity to go to over 15 schools to directly work with students on spreading the message of the importance of embracing who they are. 

In every chat that she has with students, Hilary always introduces her book by saying, "It's not about princes or princesses fighting fire-breathing butterflies or about flying into space. It's a book about being you."

Hilary admitted to me that her only goal is to keep spreading this message into schools, "I don't want to be a bestseller. I most importantly want the message to be spread."

Hilary is currently working on her next children's book about Dreaming Big. She wants to work on a few more books the revolve around spreading positive messages to people of all ages. 

"There are going to be people telling you to go to certain places in life, but you can do whatever you want to do," Hilary said. "Just be you."

You can order "Just Be You" and contact Hilary to schedule school visits on her website. 
You can also participate in a giveaway for the book on our Instagram page!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

this week's flowers (5)

Flowers are a sure-fire way of making your day brighter, and they're even better when they're surprise gifts from friends. 

This week, we are finally enjoying some spring weather, listening to Caroline Smith's lyrics of female strength and celebrating record store day. 

We hope that everyone is having a weekend filled with beauty. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Fiction Fridays: I Would Dance

By: Lisa 

It all started with a green tutu. My mother and I were strolling down a New York street in the fall, and it was a day of hidden sunshine. The buildings of this city block out the sun on even the most brilliant days, making it so that rays of light have to fight a path through the labyrinthine rooftops and spires. Sometimes you can find the sun’s reflections glinting on the very tops of mirrored buildings, like a sudden spotlight. But then there are the days that the sun perfectly aligns with the avenues during long summer dusks, an urban Stonehenge, and the sun arrives with fanfare and applause, as if a god had just descended from heaven.
We were quiet, my mother and me, a year out of Ukraine and still finding our way through the city. I was three years old, full of bounding energy, tugging my mother along. We used to take walks during the early afternoon, when she made it her mission to map her new land. We were used to quiet in our apartment, so when we hit the streets and let the concrete guide us, the noises were deafening. My mother had never known such noise before, this constant caustic symphony of harsh tones and bleats and long, protracted wails. Everything was violently alive in New York.
I was holding my mother’s hand, soft, lined, unyielding, when I saw it: an absurd Kelly green tutu on a mannequin in a dirty shop’s window. It jutted out from the model’s shapeless plastic waist with precision, a precision that was at odds with the flamboyant color. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
Dropping my mother’s hand, I skittered up to it, pressing my fingers against the glass to get as good a look as I could. I remember signing to my mother, exclaiming in Ukrainian, and in proto-English toddler noises that I wanted it, using every single linguistic tool at my disposal to express my obsession with the ugliest thing known to man: neon green tulle wrapped in tufts around a plastic doll’s shining body.
My mother, always calm and solid, ushered me away from the window, calming my baby wails. I didn’t go quietly. That tutu was the first thing I saw in New York that I thought was a complete mystery, totally unexplainable, and thus endlessly interesting to me. My mother reclaimed my hand and we continued our journey through the labyrinth, but this time, the silence didn’t persist. I badgered her all the way home about the tutu, what it was, why the fabric was so fluffy like that. I wanted to know who wore it and if I could, too.
She told me that was a tutu, a pachka, something a baleryna wore.
“What’s a ballerina?” I can’t remember which language I used. In any case, my mother understood me.
“A ballerina is a dancer. She wears a pink tutu, not a green one, and she dances onstage.”
“She dances?”
“Yes, she dances. In circles, very carefully.” She put her hands over her head. “She twirls. It’s beautiful.” And then she gave me one of her rare, melting smiles.
I had high hopes for that green tutu. Even though my mother had yanked me away from it, I secretly wished it would appear one evening, laid out on my bed as if it had traveled there just for me. And then I’d toddle up to my mother and take her hand, and she’d look down at me with her warm brown eyes and give me a genuine, but very hesitant smile. She’d cup my chin in her hand and pat the top of my head, saying a lot of things with no words. That was just her way: she spoke with her gestures and her silences, and she saved her smiles for when they truly counted.
Oksana smiled, and the whole room took notice. Oksana smiled, and everyone felt like there was nothing wrong with the world. My father told me that once, about my mother when she was young.
My mother didn’t buy it for me the way I knew she wouldn’t, but I didn’t hold it against her, a displaced immigrant in this concrete labyrinth. Even at three, I knew we had more important things to spend our money on.
A few nights later, my mother came into my room with a board book tucked under her arm. She brandished it, and the first thing I saw was a little cartoon bear wearing a pink tutu, dancing with her furry arms over her head. She sat down at the edge of my tiny bed, gave me a square of her precious dark chocolate, and began to read in broken English. I sucked the corners of the chocolate square diligently as she read to me about this pink bear-ballerina.
For two years, while both my parents looked on with a mixture of amusement and exasperation, I scavenged material from around our apartment, pulling apart my mother’s old dresses, curtains, and tablecloths to drape around my body and twirl around every single room I entered. The color didn’t matter; I hopped and leaped around our apartment in blue, a dingy white, and even sometimes green that I would fashion into some semblance of a tutu.
It was a full two years later before my mother scraped together the money to put me in a children’s ballet class on the Lower East Side. She told me she was annoyed at my constant dancing around the house in mock-ballet poses and wanted to see me do it right for once, but even at five years old, I could tell that she just wanted to give me what I wanted. Whatever her motive was, she fully expected me to hate it within a month.
But I was in love. Or as close as I think I’ll ever get to it.

The perfect feet for ballet have high arches, curved like a crescent moon. The toes should all be the same length, providing a strong base for the rest of the body—a body that ideally is a combination of several key characteristics. A short torso. Long legs. Big-ish feet. A long, swan-like neck. And thin--very thin.

At five years old, I already looked something like that. Every limb of my body looked like it had been stretched, and I was slightly underweight, with long, light-brown hair that hung in wispy sheets around my face. I was pale, freckled on my nose and cheeks, and I could never sit still. But one day a week, I would make myself channel the energy. I would let my mother twist my hair up into a ball on top of my head, I would sheathe my tiny body in pink, and I would dance.