Teaism, Tunes, and a devastating book recommendation

It’s the end of August, the uniquely American Labor Day is almost upon us and we are sleepy. Moss procured an excellent bit of tea history and shares wisdom from the OGs. Ezra’s got some music reccs featuring a nifty tool that Anchor gave us. Also recommended in this episode, ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman.

The Book of Tea by Kakuso Okakura


Hobo Johnson & the Lovemakers

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‘Educated’ Plant Parents aka Moss n’ Ezra did their homework

[Listen Now @ AnchorFM]

We set ourselves up for success with homework last episode,,, which Moss actually did while Ezra pulled two books off the shelf fifteen minutes before recording. The Moss Mixtape begins to take shape with Janelle Monae and Moses Sumney as standout artists. Ezra highlights two non-binary educators/creators/leaders that share accessible content to educate on a variety of topics. Moss comes in with plant knowledge and at least one science fact and Ezra supplements with a poem and resources for the foraging-curious among us.


Discussed in this episode: Nature’s Garden: Edible Wild Plants by S. Thayer , Early grrrl by Marge Piercy , Janelle Monáe , Moses Sumney , Christine and the Queens , Black Forager (Alexis Nikole)

Coming soon, new friends

I turned 24 last month. It’s not a particularly important birthday, I guess. The next one, twenty-five seems a lot more significant in the same way that thirty, forty, and fifty do. Decades feel more important and worthy of celebration. I’m actually quite terrified of those decade birthdays. It’s hard to imagine ticking off the box on another ten years of all of this living. Things happen so much, so fast, all of the time.

Six years ago, I moved to Columbus for school. In the time that has elapsed since then, I: recovered from 1 suicide attempt, left school, completed two intensive outpatient psychiatric programs, adopted a cat, fought and continue to manage disordered eating, survived rape and abuse, advocated for myself in the legal realm after surviving harassment and stalking, returned to school full time, broke a few hearts, completed multiple internships in federal and state agencies, created a podcast, developed a passion for painting, quit smoking, lost weight, got rejected, gained weight, set boundaries, invested in friendships, got better at asking for help, came out to my family, met my husband, moved 9 times, failed calculus, graduated Cum Laude, buried Bika…

Things happen so much, so fast, all of the time. Birthdays are hard because I’m reminded that time continues on even when I am still carrying the weight of trauma and pain. Time does not heal pain – it makes me feel more awkward and selfish for needing so much time to heal. It’s just hard to explain to people that birthdays are sort of a bitter reminder of the years that were taken from me by abusers and bullies. I’m no longer sad about most of these things, but every year around this time I try to be gentle with myself and extend all of the empathy I can to my past self and the things they had to survive.

This summer and this birthday have felt tremendously heavy. As I talked about in my last post, I’ve been focusing a lot of energy and time on trauma work in both my personal life and the professional or platonic spaces I occupy. An unforeseen benefit of social distancing and isolation was the time and energy I was able to afford to see a therapist and start doing the work. The work has of course been challenging and I’ve drudged up and processed a lot of feelings, memories, and beliefs about myself and the world over the last few months. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I wish I had started sooner.

As I’ve spent this time working on myself and my future, I’ve put a lot of distance between myself and this podcast that I created. I’ve had a tremendously difficult time creating engaging and authentic content. Personally, I don’t feel a great benefit in churning out content for the hell of it, especially because I use this platform to engage with such a niche community and want to sincerely add to peoples lives. I am proud of what I’ve produced since 2019 for STEMS and Leaves. I’ve met wonderful people and spent hours researching, exploring, and talking about people’s experiences and how we’ve all navigated this silly little world. I’m not planning to retire that content any time soon, but I am planning on some new and exciting things.

I’ve invited a few of my friends to join me as regular, rotating co-hosts on the show. Each of us share the common thread of having been in Columbus, Ohio at some point and that’s about all we know. Most notably, these friends of mine have never met one another and likely never will, which is fun. They are all super cool folks with interesting stories and they’re all living across North America doing cool stuff. So, to both keep in touch with my friends and continue deriving value from this podcasting service I already pay for, I figure I’ll just make content with my friends and have fun. So yes, this is a positive update and I hope those previous paragraphs didn’t have y’all too worried. I’m looking cute, feeling cute, and doing cute things — and soon a few of my friends will be along for the ride.

Take care!

Stay curious ~


Trauma Work

Several months ago, I shared an episode about a book, Trauma Stewardship, that I found on a community support reading list. It’s a straightforward and empathetic introduction to trauma-informed work, especially for professions that serve the most vulnerable in our communities. I spent a lot of time with that book, and it motivated me to do better with myself. I want to make cities safer, healthier, and more sustainable, and that work begins with understanding trauma and recognizing how my own trauma gets in the way of serving my community.

That is a big ask of course and certainly is not something that happens overnight, but this is where I am starting. If the topics of sexual abuse and assault are challenging for you, I recommend you scroll through.


It took me months to get to a point that I identified myself as a survivor and not a victim. Anyone who has survived abuse, assault, or trauma knows how difficult it is to wrestle with the vocabulary of pain. There is no easy way to talk about the trauma or the healing or all the messy crap that happens along the way. It took me months to change my vocabulary from ‘rape victim’ to ‘survivor’.

Three years ago, I was raped. My abuser, whom I will call Michael, was (at the time) my fiancé. I met him at a coffee shop when I was almost 19. He was a 25-year-old construction worker that wrote poetry and read Sartre. I thought he was charming. He thought I was clever. We were both going through chaotic life events and that was enough; he let me stay with him for a few weeks while I was between apartments and the attachment grew.

I wish I had seen all the red flags. I wish the first night he got drunk and yelled at me, that I had left and never come back. I wish I never tolerated his insults and baseless criticism. I wish I had trusted my gut but abusers are especially good at manipulation. Even when mutual friends warned me about his behavior, I stayed because I believed he was an honest man. He was rough around the edges, but I saw the best in him and thought a little time and a lot of love would reveal a heart of gold.

We were together for two years. He proposed to me after a year and a half on New Year’s Eve with his mother’s anniversary ring. It was outwardly perfect.

I don’t know the exact statistics for abusers and alcoholism, but I do know that Michael was both. It was hard for me to differentiate at first. I noticed his abusive behaviors the most when he drank. The first time he screamed at me he was drunk. When we would go out for the night, after a few beers his tone would loosen up and he would get more careless. One time when he was drunk, he told me he fantasized about killing homeless people for fun because ‘no one would miss them’. Another time, he threatened to show me his ex-girlfriend’s nudes because he suspected I had invited another man to the apartment. His overt abuses while drunk convinced me that he was an alcoholic and that removing the alcohol would help repair our relationship.

I asked him to quit drinking. There was always a reason that he should not, would not, or could not. I do not know if I can count the number of times that he drove us home after a night of drinking, insisting that 4 or 5 beers had not impaired his driving abilities.

I sometimes wonder, if alcohol had been removed from the equation would I have noticed his abusive behaviors sooner. The covert abuse, in many ways, was worse than being raped. As time goes on the flashbacks to that night have become less severe, but the cruel manipulation and emotional sabotage stand out more clearly. The ways he found to subliminally chip away at my self-worth could fill a book. There was never a time that I was good enough for him. There was always something wrong with me. Bad haircut. Lost too much weight. Bought the wrong brand of toilet paper. Too young. I was never going to be good enough for him. He made me feel so small.

Michael prided himself on being an honest man. He told me constantly that I was so lucky to have a fiancé that would never lie to me. It was important to him that I believed everything he said was truth. When he told me things, I trusted him.

A few months before Michael raped me, I had found irrefutable evidence that he had lied to me. That was the point that the façade began to fall away. Beneath the alcohol, the mental illness, the tragic backstory, he was a liar. He abused me in so many ways but catching him in a lie wasn’t enough to make me leave. I wish it had been enough. I wish I hadn’t given him another second chance. I didn’t give the ring back until after the physical abuse.

Michael was (and probably still is) an alcoholic. He got drunk that day. He was annoyed with me for something and retaliated with inebriation. He got drunk and mean. That night he raped me.

After it happened, it took weeks for me to build up the courage to confront him. When I was able to talk to him about it, the first thing he told me was that he was afraid that my allegation might ruin his chances of running for office one day. There might have been an apology tossed in between fears that his reputation might be ruined if people knew that he raped me. If he had said sorry, I know it wasn’t sincere.

I reflect on that conversation now and can see just how pathetic and spineless of a person he is. I cared so much for him and his opinion when at best Michael saw me as disposable. It was easy for him to not care about raping me because he didn’t care about me in the first place.

It’s been hard for me to swallow that pill. To know that you can love someone that much and they can still hurt you in the worst ways. To know that sometimes bad people do bad things to you and there are no consequences for them. To know that people like him are out there in the world and sometimes there is no justice for the survivors or the victims.

Healing from trauma is a process that in some ways never really ends. I’ll never forget what Michael did to me, but I have let go of the pain and the bitterness and the shame that burdened my heart for so long. He may never change. He may never feel regret. He may continue being a horrible, abusive alcoholic. The one thing that he will never have is power over me.

I am a survivor of rape. I am a survivor of abuse. These things do not diminish me. I live boldly and beautifully because I am not afraid.


To fellow survivors, thank you for your strength, I’m proud of you.


Take care and stay curious!


ep 19 spring clean: nicotine

Substance use disorders and addictions are one of the lingering taboos and unfortunate misunderstanding in society at large. Misuse of things like tobacco are alcohol share an incredible level of social tolerance, although tobacco had fallen out of popularity until vaping and e-cigs hooked the younger generation.
In this episode, I share a bit of science about substance use disorders and what I learned about the brain and what happens when you develop a nicotine addiction. I also share some personal reflection -> quit smoking three weeks ago as of posting this episode (*cheers*).

Thanks to:
Donnie ‘Rosy’ Ross for theme ‘Feeling Fool’
Aaron Thomas Art for our album cover

ep 19 spring clean: nicotine

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Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/stemsandleaves)

Ep. 18 / 2020 Wrap up with Lila Asher

What’s there to say? It was a year and we share, to the best of our memory’s ability, to recall important events globally and locally that were personally impactful. Couldn’t bring all this baggage into 2021 with us.
Also fair warning, Asher and I recorded nearly 2 hours of audio and I was able to trim it down to a tight 40… Unfortunately, that means you won’t get to hear us ponder luxury fruits, cat hygiene, or bean varieties.

Thanks to:
Donnie ‘Rosy’ Ross for theme ‘Feeling Fool’
Aaron Thomas Art for our album cover

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Ep 17: Trauma Stewardship and healing changes

episode 17

In this episode, I wanted to share a great book by Laura VanDernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk, ‘Trauma Stewardship: A guide to caring for self while caring for others’. The founders of the Trauma Stewardship Institute walk the reader through identifying trauma responses and offer helpful, introspective prompts to get you thinking about the work you do and how it affects you throughout the process. For folks involved in trauma work or just people that want to bolster their emotional resilience, this is a great read that I cannot recommend highly enough!
Other mentions in this episode: Thrivance Group, Back to School chat with Michelle Storms
Thanks to:
Donnie ‘Rosy’ Ross for theme ‘Feeling Fool’
Aaron Thomas Art for our album cover

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Episode 16: Columbus Ohio’s legacy of racism in urban planning

Episode 16

Columbus Ohio is all too typical of the physical imprint of racism on urban spaces. Redlining, urban highways, white flite, prohibitive zoning… All of these things and more have manifested in the economic and racial segregation that plagues Columbus. This episode shares some insight on Columbus’ “urban problems” and offers several resources for planners and non-planners alike to learn more and do better.

Discussed in this episode: Strong Women Strong Places, Tamika Butler, Dr. Destiny Thomas, The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, Columbus Ohio Redlining Maps,Kirwan Institute Study on Infant Mortality,  500 Cities Health Data for Columbus, University of Toronto Study, Communication So White Reading List

Thanks to:
Donnie ‘Rosy’ Ross for theme ‘Feeling Fool’
Aaron Thomas Art for our album cover

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Episode 15: What happened to public transit (feat. Andrew N.)

Episode 15: What happened to public transit

This episode was recorded Mid-May 2020.

Public transit across the US and the world has been entirely disrupted by the COVID19 pandemic. Transit agencies have been forced to cancel service, adjust fare collections, and take aggressive measures to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers.
The Central Ohio Transit Authority took early steps to curb the impact on regional transit. They eliminated fares, mandated new protocol for how many passengers can ride at one time, and altered how those riders may enter and exit buses. The impact on the agency has been significant and in this episode, Andrew, a service planner at COTA, joins me to discuss some of these disruptions and what we can expect of public transit post-pandemic.
More episodes and content @ STEMS and leaves
Credits: Album Art and Show Theme Music

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