My body is a gift

In the midst of all the joy and exhaustion and discovery, I have been visited by some familiar unwelcome thoughts about my body. I guess it boils down to fear. I am afraid certain parts will never look the way they used to. Afraid of how much work it might take to even approach the old way. I’m even afraid I might not be willing to do that work! I resent the c-section stitches for limiting me, when I should really be marveling at how well I’m recovering. I even resent my son for depriving me of the time to exercise, when in my heart I know I have my whole life to worry about that s***, and just the briefest window of time to surround myself entirely in motherhood. I can more or less talk myself out of the illogic of these thoughts, but I have not managed to banish them.

Almost exactly nine years ago, I put my body through a very different sort of test. I solo-backpacked across northern Michigan, sometimes covering a marathon-distance in a single day. I was incredibly proud of my body at that time, and grateful for what it did for me. Armed with my pack, I felt a sense of purpose. Every stranger I encountered knew exactly what I was doing, I was “the backpacker.” Every day I stacked up more and more miles, so when I was finished, I had accomplished the most, yet being done with the trip meant I no longer had the external shield of a clear purpose or the internal validation of my worth. When I should have been most proud of what I’d done and most grateful for what my body did for me, I felt empty. It was as though I woke up each morning at zero. None of the credits transferred. In fact, they just set a new unreachable standard for what I thought I should accomplish every day. This is when I started to deeply understand the folly of setting my self worth on a numerical metric, or of defining my identity on my “job” or “what I do.” But knowing something is flawed didn’t afford me the ability to override those pesky thoughts. I still struggled with my identity until I found new adjectives to wrap myself up in.

Now, as then, I have just come out of a powerful physical test. In pregnancy, I wore my baby bump on my belly with the same pride and sense of purpose I once had with my pack. I’ve gone my entire post-adolescent life fearing excess pounds, but pregnancy gave me an opportunity to gain and gain without shame. After all, it was our body, our weight. And now, it is gone, and my body is back to being mine alone. Instead of taking pride all it has done, I am impatient with it. Apparently my world view doesn’t account for the denouement. I expect my stories to have a beginning, a middle, and a period. But my body still carries the memory of everything I’ve put it through, even if I forget. I am still blessed with a body that does a million incredible things for me every day: it feeds my baby, it allows me to navigate the world, it performs every essential function I ask of it despite recently undergoing major surgery. Certainly after all this, my body deserves a period of recovery for all it has so generously given to me. This I know, this I believe, but only rarely is this the thought that occupies my mind. I may be eager to flatten and tone, but today, the best exercise I can give myself is remember the truth that my body is a gift.

42 Weeks

These days, I am shucking time,

running my hands over every moment, 

I feel them as they pass

and I ask each one-

are you the Now where it begins?

 

So far, they are silent,

I let them fall beneath me.

And because I am made to wait,

I have made contact with more time than ever before.

I have lived a month of Christmas Eves. 

 

We are connected, about to separate.

We are separate, about to connect.

You are not late, dear,

I just do not know the time.

 

Eager, hopeful, excited- I settle into patience.

Because this is not Amazon and this is not Zoom,

this is a ship crossing an ocean toward a foggy shore.

Where I wait,

a bit blind,

ready when you are, for the moment you arrive.

Hamtramck Goodbye Letter: A Reflection on Leaving the Place I Got to Call Home

Originally published by the Hamtramck Review 7/1/22

I will be moving from Hamtramck soon. This is a move with a reason, this is a move on purpose, this is a move toward the life my husband Jeff and I are trying to build. But for all the reasons my head understands, the thought of it still hurts my heart. Moving is something I used to do like a knight in a game of chess- jerking across the board in a mixture of defense and offense without any obvious direction. It was casual and often easy. This move feels more like a transplant. I’m wincing already in anticipation of the roots I will have to rip and tear to leave this place. I am mourning both my memories of the past and my dreams of a future here that will never be. After years of wandering, I let myself make a home in this house, so no wonder it hurts to leave it. As one of my favorite authors, Thomas Lynch, says: “grief is the tax we pay on our attachments.”

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A Lifeline for Low Income Hamtramck Homeowners

Originally Published in the Hamtramck Review Feb 20, 2022

For the past two years, Hamtramck homeowners with delinquent taxes have had a reprieve from tax foreclosure. But, this year, tax foreclosure is back, and the March 31 deadline will soon be upon us. 166 Hamtramck properties are at risk of tax foreclosure this year, including 86 owner-occupied homes (by my best estimation). The stakes are high, but we have never had such good tools to protect the homes of the most vulnerable. A poverty exemption for low-income homeowners has the power to STOP foreclosure, and reduce tax debt with a new payment plan called “Pay As You Stay.” These tools are nothing if residents aren’t aware of them, so please read on and consider becoming an advocate for your neighbors to spread this information before it’s too late.

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In Memorium of dear Alto

Originally published in the Hamtramck Review

Beloved tabby, En Voz “Alto” Oberholtzer passed away this week in front of his home on Trowbridge street. He was approximately 5 years and 9 lives old. Alto met his demise fleeing from the neighbor’s uninhibited dog,  only to collide with a car that failed to slow before (or after) impact. So ended a lifetime of unabashed independence roaming the streets of Hamtramck with more freedom than a songbird, which he was quite fond of.


Alto is survived by his loving caretakers, Michele Oberholtzer and Jeff Zimmerman, who called him theirs, but knew he was actually everyone’s, and no one’s. 

Alto was likely born somewhere near the Highland Park-Detroit border. He joined Michele’s family by serenading her in the parking lot of Detroit Unity Temple Church in a convincing display of orphanhood. He has subsequently used that move on approximately 35% of the residents of Hamtramck, who have alternately pet him, fed him, and temporarily adopted him depending on their generosity and/or gullibility.

Alto did not experience boundaries. His turf ranged from Burger to Evaline, from Gallagher to Lumpkin, traveling solo or following Michele from his personal kitty sidewalk along the curb. He explored basements and scaled rooftops. He navigated city street and wooded forests. He frequented many local establishments including Whiskey in the Jar, Olomon Cafe, Planet Ant Theatre, Best Deals Furniture and once, surreptitiously, Al Haramein. He loved few but was affectionate toward all. He rarely deigned to wear a collar.

Alto may or may not be a casualty of the excessive speeds on Hamtramck streets, maybe it was just bad timing. But, we who love him hope that his passing will be a reminder for all pedestrians to be so so careful, and to all drivers to slow down as though life was fragile, because it is. 

The Role of A Witness

Modern creatures, we must remember that we are essentially the products of a long and slow evolution. That, in the course of that time, everything we saw was both Here and Now. It was necessary to react to what we saw to maintain social order, to protect ourselves, to simply live.

Now, much of what we see on a daily basis is the product of a unilateral consumer relationship, it seems we’ve forgotten our own agency. We witness but we rarely bear witness. We just let the screen make us laugh or cry, but rarely do we let it rouse us to action. Technological achievements require us to calibrate our brains to react appropriately to what we see, which is often neither here, nor now, nor even real. When we learn to stifle the action impulse, we lose the power to act and react when we are called to do so. The dampening of consciousness acting in the police who watched their colleague kill George Floyd is the same as the one acting in the young adults who awkwardly awaited their brunch while a march for justice marched by. And despite our adeptness at looking the other way, we are still responsible for what we see, and, despite the diluted effect of distance, there is an added power in that we are now collective witnesses to so many of the crimes of humanity in our world. Continue reading

Post Moratium

Wayne County’s moratorium on tax foreclosures causes collateral damage to some of Detroit’s most vulnerable

Originally published in MetroTimes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, the Wayne County Treasurer announced a total moratorium on tax foreclosures for the year 2020 due to the state of emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Suddenly, the pressure was off for over 12,000 properties, including 8,000 occupied homes in Detroit that were likely to be foreclosed this year.

Most people’s first reaction to this news was a huge sigh of relief; a success years in the making, and long overdue. My job title at the United Community Housing Coalition is literally to prevent tax foreclosure, yet my first reaction (after the shock) was to mourn the collateral damage that this blunt tool will cause. Few recognize that this sweeping moratorium, while very beneficial to homeowners, perpetuates housing insecurity for many residents who live in but do not own their would-be foreclosed home, as well as delaying necessary interventions for vacant homes.

For years, there have been calls for a moratorium on tax foreclosure of owner-occupied homes. More than 1 in 4 Detroit properties have been foreclosed since 2010, causing many to lose their homes and spreading blight across neighborhoods. Past calls for moratoriums have been met with the same response: “We have to foreclose, it’s the law.” Yet Wayne County has decided to unilaterally defer foreclosures with no higher direction from the legislature.

Governor Whitmer has issued an extension for tax foreclosures across Michigan, and other counties will be using discretion to determine which properties will need additional leniency. In Ingham County, for example, it is likely that no occupied home will be foreclosed this year, while foreclosures continue for vacant structures or vacant land so that they can hopefully be restored to productive use. Other counties may suspend foreclosures for property owners directly affected by the coronavirus while proceeding for others.
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Until You Love Yourself

written February 17, 2016. Recovered March 1, 2020. Happy Eating Disorder Awareness week.

I used to hate the phrase “you can’t love somebody else until you love yourself.” Probably, because I was in a self-destructive relationship with myself and an “in love” relationship with someone else. So what did that mean? Maybe I loved myself, but I just treated myself terribly? Or maybe I didn’t love myself, and I didn’t really love him. Or maybe that phrase was bullshit. I hated it in the way that a child hates most about her parents the things that remind her of herself. I hated it in the way we all hate unflattering reflections of ourselves, especially when they imply the need for change, most especially when that change feels damn near impossible.

When bulimia came into my life, I immediately recognized it as a threat. I never liked it, never willingly made room for it. I confessed to friends and family and physicians. I tried to bleach it out of existence in the harsh light of truth. But there was some sort of cavity deep down inside of me that let the poison linger, and grow. Perhaps its because those other people could not fix me, they could only help. Perhaps it really was because I didn’t love myself, didn’t know myself enough to fully love myself, that I stayed sick.

For five years I was “getting worse.” Hardly a single day went by that I didn’t vomit. I accommodated my disease like an enabling parent to a spoiled child: “if I’m going to have to live with you, I’d rather you weren’t screaming all the time, so I’ll give you what you want.” It wanted food. All of it. All the time. At any cost.

Ah, but the memory does strange things to emotions. It’s easy to know for a fact that I was engaging in acts of self-hatred all those years, and to know that I didn’t love myself. But it’s harder to know if I was “really” in love with the man I got engaged to, and then married.

I really don’t believe in redacting past emotions. If I said I was in love and I meant what I said, than that’s good enough for me. I will not hold my memories up through the fuzzy prism of retrospection and say “but was I really in love? I mean really?” I was in love because I said so, and I have to trust my former self. But I do believe that I did not love myself and so, to reconcile the two, I’ll concede that I just didn’t love with my whole heart. I was an occupied nation, and the independent region still waved its flag, but whole swaths of the map were enemy territory. I imagine a report card of myself at the time might read “Michele loves at an 8th grade level.”

So many year later, when my husband and I split, I clung to the idea that really I couldn’t solve my bulimia if I was still married. It defied the order of operations. I thought I had to remove all the trappings of my grown-up life, relationship included, to isolate the problem and face off with it directly. Do you have to stop loving another in order to love yourself? I cannot say. But I remember the tragedy of realizing that the longest relationship of my life was with an illness rather than a person.

Isolating the problem helps, in a way, but it can also serve to remove the support structures that kept it at bay. As I wrestled alone with my eating disorder, it seemed to sense its mortality and gain a supercharged burst of energy. Before I knew it, I was pinned as ever, and alone. Every move, break-up, drastic thought or action that I’ve undertaken to CURE myself has a flip side, which is that it makes more room for the illness in the shuffle. It’s hard to discern whether my strong urges for change are based on what I want for myself, or it they are just my illness’ way of stealing more room.

I would like to build a home. I would like to have stability. I would like to distance myself from the days when I binged and purged and get used to the feeling of feeling my feelings. I would like to free my heart I would like to be alone enough to fall in love with myself. And then, I would like to fall stupidly, wholeheartedly, irrevocably in love with someone else too.