IOU IUD

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 Image via  Trust Your Blood

Image via Trust Your Blood

After we shared Christina’s article on pregnancy, nutrition and fertility, many of you came forward to ask us about sexual health. We were honored by your curiosity, openness and trust in our opinion. Inspired by your candid comments, I’m gettin’ real honest about my approach to contraception. Disclaimer: I’m not an authority on anything, these are just my thoughts/experiences.

I have an IUD. I’ve had one for just over two years and I couldn’t love it any more than if it brought me chocolate chip cookies and tea every day. A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to get off the pill. I was stressed about all of the hormones going into my body and the lack of control I had over them. I didn’t use the pill to regulate my skin or my period so whenever I could, I would stop taking it. This didn’t do much to help my hormone regulation, but I always felt unsettled using it when I didn’t need it.  I was on the lowest dose of hormones possible but I saw a noticeable difference in my mood, attitude, and well being whenever I went off the pill. And every time I went back on, I felt slightly off-center. The whole relationship seemed very co-dependant, stressful (anyone who’s forgotten to take the pill for a day knows what I mean), and expensive.

Speaking of expensive, I was twenty-five and knew that I’d lose my dad’s fancy schmancy insurance plan soon enough. As a freelancer, I would have to pay for this medication out of pocket once I turned twenty-seven. It seemed downright crazy that I’d be shelling out my coffee/dinner/new shoes money on contraception every month for the foreseeable future. So, I did some digging. I knew I wanted a zero hormone situation and since I am WAY too type A for something like the rhythm method, it seemed like the copper IUD was my best/only option. I went down a research rabbit hole: I read articles, and message boards (this is pretty dangerous, set a timer), and took my friends out for coffee to pick their brains. The consensus was mainly positive. Some complained of heavier cycles and incredibly intense cramps, others said they saw no change whatsoever. The message boards swore blind that I’d be taking Ibuprofen everyday for the rest of my life. But the community of women I spoke with face-to-face, had much less dramatic experiences. My (former) gynecologist looked at me like I was a crazy person and warned me that I’d be writhing in pain for one week every month and that I probably could not handle it (hence former gynecologist). A more objective gynecologist explained that each body would have its own reaction, but in all likeliness, I would be fine. Especially since I hadn’t really suffered from cramps in the past.

I booked an appointment with my local Planned Parenthood. Even though I had an insurance plan that would have covered this procedure, I went with Planned Parenthood on the recommendation of many women. The overall consensus on this is that gynecologists and nurses at PP tend to be much more experienced in implementing the IUD (since it is the cheapest and most effective option). For me, it was the right choice. But if you have a good relationship with your gynecologist, I’m sure they would be an excellent option. The procedure was painful but short. The pain is brief and totally manageable. I usually describe it less like a pain and more like a feeling of deep discomfort in a part of your body you did not really know existed. My doctor was supportive and kind, explaining each step of the way. Half an hour after arriving, I took a cab home and settled in for an afternoon of chicken noodle soup, ice cream, and off-the-charts agony…

Not so much for me. I was uncomfortable and very attached to my heating pad for the day, but overall I was fine. In my experience, the actual procedure was the most painful part of the whole thing. I haven’t had any issues with my IUD. My period is heavier than before, but it’s also shorter. And since the first year, it’s gotten lighter and lighter. I definitely cramp more. But not every month and not every day during PMS. Just occasionally and more intensely. For me, it’s 100% worth it. I love knowing that my hormone level is not being tinkered with on a month to month basis. I love not worrying about whether or not I forgot to take my pill. I love that I don’t have to decide whether I should ‘stop’ taking my contraception when my boyfriend is out of town. I love not having to stress about accidents and emergency contraceptives. I love that I don’t really need to worry about my contraception until 2020 at the earliest. Yeah, I’m not going to lie, that part is awesome.

I have a friend who had an incredibly painful procedure. And one’s who’s after-effects had her in bed all weekend. I have friends who now have a lighter flow and no cramping. And some that say they didn’t see a change at all. Most, say the first year was the most extreme but everything gotten progressively easier since that. I would have to agree.

Many women I know have been on the pill since they were thirteen or fourteen and attribute improvements in their weight, skin and period to the drug. The pill may well have helped regulate your hormones when you were in the throes of adolescence, but chances are, your body is now stable enough to manage itself. Leaving the pill would throw your hormones into a state of shock, but it would not revert you back to your sixteen-year-old self. Our bodies are pretty magical and they are talking to us all the time. For me, it was important to connect to that and to remove the obstacle of synthetic hormones in order to do so. This might not be what you need, but I believe it’s important for women to be candid and clear with each other and to help each other out. I only wish I had understood all my options sooner (and that I hadn’t read some of those insane message board posts).

Here is what I know: each body is different and has different needs. This, above all else, must be respected.

We’re so happy to talk to you guys about these sticky issues. Please feel free to comment or email us with questions and thoughts!

 

Chelsey

 

In the air/On the ground

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Lately, I’ve been traveling a lot: for fun, for the holidays, for family, for work. And I’ve got more travel coming my way (I returned yesterday and I’m off again on Wednesday!). In fact, February will be my first month flight-free since October. I never thought I’d say this but, oh man am I excited to spend February in New York. Since I’ve been on the move so much, I’ve been working on small, simple ways that will help me stay grounded when I’m away from home.

For my most recent trip to Wales, I packed a travel candle and a quartz crystal. I knew I’d be staying in an unfamiliar place and that these two things would help me to feel at home. I’ve never done this before but I really liked waking up to comforting sights and scents from my own room.

No matter where I go, I always pack my notebook. It’s important to have a place to release my thoughts when I’m on the move. And, it’s nice to look back and see where I’ve been. 

Christina’s been recommending this grounding tincture to me ever since she moved to LA. I’m really excited to take it on my next journey. 

Meditating whilst I’m away from home is always more difficult for me. This app reminds me to stick to my ritual, even when I’m not in my comfort zone. 

And of course, a good book. Because, for me, a good book will fix just about anything. 

Chelsey

My Only Resoltion

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There’s a lot of talk out in the world right now about resolutions. Some of it is inspiring, some of it is motivating, and some of it is quite lovely. Whether you’re the type to whip up a fresh batch of intentions on January 1st, or you prefer to re-use last years leftovers, I offer you one tiny resolution to add to your list. It’s one of those daily practices that seems insignificant and impossible all at the same time. Like, saying thank you more often. Or improving your posture. But amidst the promises to go to the gym, take your vitamins, use social media less and hang out with your family more, please add:

I resolve to be kind to myself.

This will look different for each one of you. For some, it will be the act of hitting snooze tomorrow and breaking that first resolution of 2016. For others, it’s the choice to keep to that daily gym routine. Some days, it will be as grand as stealing a few hours for yourself to enjoy your favorite little luxuries. Other days, it will be as simple as walking outside to fill your lungs with some bright, fresh air. Just remember, you resolved to be kind to yourself. Whatever you were inspired to do, please do not follow it with guilt, or shame, or self-hate. Instead, try to take a moment to recognize that you are a human being. You are full of flaws and beauty. You will not be perfect. But you will still be loved. 

Happy 2016,

Chelsey

Roma

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What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Rome? It was just pure magic. Myself, Michael and our two good friends had just two days in the city and we walked the shoes right off our feet. A few suggestions in case you find yourself in Italy’s capital any time in the near future.

 A walking tour. We started our trip this way and it was a great choice. It meant we got a whistle-stop tour of most of the monuments (so we knew what we wanted to go back to later) and some incredible facts about the city and it’s history. I’ve also found that a walking tour at the beginning of a trip is an easy way to get familiar with the layout of a city. Plus, it’s free!

Cacio e Pepe. Because, when in Rome… This great spot is walking distance from the center of the city (so many places I found were a good 20 minute cab ride) and we were pretty much surrounded by locals when we were eating there. And yes, it was delicious! (Rome is a reservations city, call ahead).

The Pantheon. It’s in incredible condition, it’s a crazy amalgamation of Greek, Roman and Christian art and architecture, it’s stunning, it’s free, and a lot of people can go in at the same time so there are rarely lines. It was breathtaking. 

Monti. Is a hip, cool area of the city where many a young twenty-something can be found. We stayed in this area and it was great. Not too touristy and walking distance to everything. Plus, there are some great spots to eat and drink (La Casetta is a gorgeous little cafe covered in vines, Fatamorgana has some damn fine gelato, Mikiway is a concept store filled with stylish clothes, cool decor and charmng knick knacks). 

The Forum, The Coliseum, Piazza Navona, The Spanish Steps…there’s just too much and it’s all so good! I highly recommend downloading historical podcasts for when you’re strolling through the monuments. It’s a cool way to put your whole experience in context.

There’s about one million things I didn’t get to see that I wish I had seen, but that’s for another trip… 

xx

Chelsey

 

 

 

 

I wish what I wished you before, but harder.

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 Marfa, TX

Marfa, TX

The world is feeling like an incredibly heavy, fragile place these days. So many emotions, so much fear, and a hunger for simple solutions to overwhelming problems. In an effort to process our feelings, open our minds, and heal our hearts, a few sources of inspiration.

The History of the Universe in 18 Minutes. A little perspective, a little humility, and a little something that shines a light on the miracle of this planet and everything around it.

On humanity.

An interview with Mary Oliver that is sure to soothe the soul. 

Kittens!

And lastly, a poem:

The Writer – Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten.  I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

Chelsey

 

Why don’t we want to watch women be successful?

GIRL
 Image via  Agony-In-Eight-Colors

Image via Agony-In-Eight-Colors

We’re really all about the love here at GGG. But, today, inspired by a pretty annoying experience whilst reading The New York Times (a publication I usually love) I’ll be throwing a little shade. The reason I am sharing this on the blog and not just in a rant-email to Christina is a) I already did that and b) this article and what it represents is a huge reason why we started Girl Gift Gather.

Today the Fashion & Style section of nytimes.com released a post entitled ‘The Bedford Stop,’ Reality in Williamsburg Is the Perfect Parody’. It’s a short article on the new reality web-series, The Bedford Stop (“a reality show about Brooklyn girls avoiding reality”). This series attempts to show “an earnest (if slightly exaggerated) portrayal of the Williamsburg woman” according to the show’s creator, Mikey Ortiz. The show is unscripted and inspired by Mikey’s friend, Olena Yatsyuk. The trailer follows Olena and her girlfriends as they swipe left, take selfies, and figure out ways to get free drinks. And here’s the thing, Olena and her friends are totally entitled to cry about break-ups, wear risqué halloween costumes, and post to Instagram to annoy their ex-boyfriends. My problem is not in their actions because these women (and all people for that matter) have the right to behave in whichever crazy, wonderful ways they see fit. Especially when they’re in their early twenties.

My issue is that some guy from Florida with mediocre camera skills has taken it upon himself to depict the ‘Williamsburg woman’. My issue is that he has chosen to depict this woman in a tasteless manner that is painfully focused on spectacle and drama. My issue is that The New York Times is giving him a platform to share what, at best, can be called a tired concept for reality TV. My issue is that giving projects like this large scale attention is damaging to women.

I know plenty of ‘Williamsburg women’ who aren’t obsessed with Tinder and selfies. Many of them have their own companies, work hard at their jobs and have fulfilling lives. I know so many of these women that we’ve created an entire website and video series around them. I also know that many (if not all) of these women have happy, healthy relationships with their female friends. They speak honestly and openly with each other. And yes, sometimes their conversations are about texting an ex-boyfriend, or whether they can pull off culottes, or who they get their hair cut by. But, just as often, their conversations explore the current political landscape, the Syrian refugee crisis, the challenges of motherhood in today’s working environment, and how to manage employees when you own the business.

Can I blame twenty-six-year-old Mikey for his lack of imagination and hapless pursuit of fame? Why would he want to highlight all of those awesome women when all he has to do to be written up by The New York Times is convince some twenty-three-year-old girls who are likely struggling with self-esteem and self-worth that they’ll be internet-famous if they let him film them? And while I yearn to ask these girls why they are putting the representation of women into the hands of a man when it’s been proven time and time again that men will present us as shallow, bratty, bitchy, and ’emotional’ in order to get ratings, I know that going after them is not the answer either.

This article is obviously click-bait, and while I understand that the internet is full of junk designed to rile us up and annoy the masses, I also know that The New York Times is a respected publication. It is trusted by successful and powerful people and it claims to share important information. Perhaps that’s what’s so disappointing. This isn’t E! News. This is an article under a publication that has a huge readership who respects it’s opinions. As a result, this is an article that is contributing to how people see young women like myself. And when I walk into an office full of men (which statistically will happen to me more often than not) this article is one more thing that is working against me (never mind the pay gap).

Let’s stop trivializing women. Let’s stop scandalizing their mistakes. Let’s stop giving men opportunities to depict us in the media. Let’s stop watching shows that make women caricatures who are greedy, ditzy, bitchy and vain. Instead, let’s highlight the countless triumphs, incredible work and beautiful progress we see happening among women. We’re trying to do that here and we hope you’ll join us. 

P is for pARIS

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It all started in the nadir of winter when we were hosting the Girl Gift Gather Book Club. The book we were reading, The Artist’s Way, asked us to write a letter from our 80-year-old self to our current self. Among the suggestions that I relax, have more compassion, and use eye cream (my imaginary 80-year-old self is trés wise), there was a recommendation that I travel alone.

As you may know, I’m big into travel. But, travelling solo never seemed like an option. Like many young women, I was fed a myth that it was dangerous, risky and asking for trouble. When an opportunity came about for me to spend three days by myself in Paris, during my birthday no less, my 80-year-old self challenged this way of thinking. Of course I can travel alone. I live in New York City. I can handle anything! Certainly the charming streets of The City of Lights.

So, on the eve of July 29th I boarded a plane to Charles De Gaulle and the adventure began. I arrived in Paris the morning of my birthday bleary eyed and buzzing with excitement. I got to my charming studio apartment in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, showered and immediately took myself to lunch around the corner at Café de Flore. Over a glass of rosé and those delicious potato chips they serve, I basked in the Paris sunlight and watched the people go by (I even spotted Sofia Coppola).

My days were filled with wanderings and wonderings. During my strolls through Jardins des Tuileries and the Marais, I noticed how much easier it is to marvel at a city when you don’t have a companion to distract you with chatter and conversation. Free of anyone else’s agenda, I took my sweet time planning my days, changing my plans and pursuing each and every one of my whims. One day, I ate only a croissant, a chocolate eclair and a Berthillon ice cream before dinner. It was marvelous!

My blue journal became my companion as I sipped cappuccino at Boot Cafe and aperitif at Cafe Charlot. Even now, when I read through my rambling notes and descriptions of the beautiful Parisian couples surrounding me at Chez Julien, I am filled with a joy unknown to me before this trip.

I am an amenable person. I’m constantly trying to find a balance between what I want and what others want. But travelling alone freed me of my constant negotiations. Without anyone to consider or please, I could prioritize myself in a way that is particularly challenging for me during my day to day. In some ways this trip was a crash course in getting to know myself. And one of the most valuable things I learned is how much I enjoy my own company. The journey culminated in taking myself out to a nice dinner at Clamato (it was ridiculously amazing). I sat at the bar, left my phone, my book and even my journal in my bag and enjoyed an hour and half long meal–alone. No distractions. Just me. It was one of the best dinners I’ve ever had.

 

I’ll be sharing a Paris travel guide and some more thoughts on traveling alone on the blog in the coming weeks so stay tuned!

Chelsey 

Back to School

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  Wellesley College, MA (1969) © Bradford F. Herzog

Wellesley College, MA (1969) © Bradford F. Herzog

I always get a little nostalgic for school at this time of year: the crisp, untouched notebooks, the packs of sharpened pencils, the clean, new book-bags. This week, I got in touch with my inner student and created a Fall reading list for myself. I thought up a list of books (old and new) that would challenge and excite me and I bought all of them in one go. It felt weirdly indulgent and also wonderful. I love seeing them all sitting on my desk waiting to be read. And, knowing that I’ve got another good read ahead of me makes the sadness of finishing a truly great book a bit more bearable. 

The Secret History by Donna Tart: Pulitzer Prize winner, Donna Tart, explores an elite New England college, a charismatic professor and a few students faced with a moral dilemma. 

The Fran Lebowitz Reader: And so continues my love for female essayist who are all wit and good writing. 

The Corrections by Jonathon Franzen: Purity is Franzen’s latest novel (and all anyone seems to be talking about) but this is my first time reading his work and The Corrections just seemed so compelling (family drama around the dinner table) that it seemed like a good place to start.

Fate and Furies by Lauren Groff: This season’s hottest new read. One marriage. One book. Half of it told from his perspective. The other half told from hers. 

Happy fall and happy reading! 

Chelsey

The Open Road

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Tomorrow, I will be on a plane from NYC to Austin. I’m leaving for a long weekend to spend five days driving a friend’s 26 foot UHaul halfway across the country with Michael. Some people think this is a truly insane way to spend my time. But, I cannot wait. Michael and I drove across the country a couple of years back and it was an exhausting and exhilarating experience. We also road-tripped from Portland to LA one Summer, stopping in the Redwoods to camp and stare in awe at the mind blowing beauty. Driving in a car together is sort of a favorite past time for us. We listen to whole albums. I read him long-form articles from the The New York Times and New York Magazine. We play books on tape and podcasts. We visit strange and beautiful parts of the US. And we talk. We talk about anything and everything and we have nothing but time and the open road ahead of us. 

This time around, I’m joining Michael halfway through the journey (he left from DC on Monday). Together, the two of us will start in Austin, TX and make our way to Los Angeles, Ca. But first, we’ll visit my dad and swim in Lake Travis, sleep in a Safari Tent in Marfa, TX, stay with family friends in Phoeniz, AZ and eat In N Out on the West Coast. Here’s to the open road!

Chelsey

On the cape

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When Michael was a kid, he went camping on Cape Cod every summer. The long peninsula made up of fifteen towns is home to many of his childhood memories. He took me for a visit last August and I immediately fell in love with the ponds, bike trails and seafood shacks. So this summer, we knew we had to schedule a visit. We packed our car with tents and sleeping bags and headed out to Nickerson State Park.

Our weekend was made up of long bike rides along the rail trail, afternoons at the beach and evenings in the clear, cool ponds. We saw Jurassic World at the Drive-In movie theater and ate soft-serve with sprinkles every day. In the evenings, we threw corn on the camp fire and roasted marshmallows as we read aloud to one and other from Catcher In The Rye. This trip, we even managed to visit the Cape Cod Lavender Farm which is about the dreamiest place ever. We’re planning on making our camping trip a summer tradition! I’m still getting my bearings out there but hopefully next Summer I’ll have a guide for you. For now, just a few pictures of our weekend on the Cape…

Chelsey