Monday, May 28, 2012

Silencing the Past

I used to keep a journal. It was your basic composition book type journal (the old hard backed black and white notebook), which I felt was very Holden Caulfield-ny...someone I thought I'd rather be, especially when I was writing. Before the composition book when I was a young girl I remember having a real Diary, it even had a lock. Later, in high school, I kept a plain old college ruled spiral bound as a journal, until my father 'accidentally' mistook MY yellow spiral bound book of secrets as HIS yellow spiral bound book of work notes and read was not good. It was then when he learned, at work, that I was no longer virgin.
Me, age 17 on a day pass from the hospital in Anchorage where I was 'recovering' from anorexia. My dad came down from Fairbanks to visit me during Christmas.
But, even as an adult...primarily when I was struggling with some love sickness, loneliness, undefined life plan, or...loneliness (yes, I know I said that already) I felt drawn to write in my hard backed comp book. I had learned of it's importance while hospitalized in Charter North for anorexia at age 16 (not long after the above incident), some 350 miles from our 'home' in Fairbanks Alaska. I had also learned that I could make people laugh and get high praise from my English Lit and Written Composition professors at University by writing about what seemed to me the mundaneness of my life.

When Bridget Jones' Diary hit the shelves my journaling took on a new life. I would be sure to write in it daily lest it miss me too much. It was a friend and confidant. It was a place I knew, in the back of my mind...even while the shit was hitting the fan...where I would go to write down all of the awful things that were happening to me at that instant. Somehow that made it all tolerable, although I would find myself weeping onto the pages as I relived my days...the pain of horrible breakups, empty promises, loneliness, disappointment, financial struggles, etc., etc., etc...

I wrote about my horse, Maxx, and the devastating effect his death had on my life. I wrote about my old boyfriend, Adam, who would promise to come over and then never show up...for days or even weeks. I wrote about my disappointment over where my life was where. Wasted talent, wasted mind, wasted life. Always wrapped up in either a boyfriend or lack there of. Pages and pages of me reasoning with me. It's hard to be smart and logical yet always making the worst decisions possible.

Don't get me wrong, my journaling led to quite a bit of insight, especially when I would reread what I wrote. Often I would barely recognize the words as my own. Sometimes even the handwriting was but not. Or maybe me just telling me in a different 'voice' how to get out of whatever situation I was in. I had no family around me, opting to live in Northern California, 3000+ miles from my parents, even when I was in my mid-20's. There would have been no shame in 'going home' at that age after a divorce and having only a $13 an hour job for income.

The best wine for my limited income.
Instead, I journaled. And watched a shit-ton of Friends and Seinfeld. Oh, and then Bridget Jones' Diary came out on I watched that, over and over and over again. I developed my own break-up/pity-party basket...Gloria Gaynor's song I Will Survive, the movies "Singles", "Reality Bites" and later "Elizabeth", "Closer", and "Love Actually", microwave popcorn and 2 Buck Chuck for dinner. I worked a ridiculous amount (full time with as much OT as I could get at a car dealership and then part-time waitressing at night) just so I wouldn't have to be home...alone.

But my journal...that's what kept me sane (or somewhat sane because I literally thought my life was spiraling into oblivion and happiness would either never be mine or only found in a pill). In desperation I tried that pill which was called Paxil...only to find out it didn't bring happiness, it brought blase...a non-committal to any kind of emotion happy or sad. And as painful as my life seemed to be I knew that I would rather feel that pain to full extent if that was the only way to be able to recognize the joy that I knew I deserved. I got rid of the pills, focused on my journaling and started meditating.

Many years have passed and I find myself reading Joyce Maynard's At Home in the World: A Memoir right now (thanks to a post by Michele at Yoga Freedom Blog). Joyce, as well as her mother, kept all of their letters over the years...and even made carbon copies of the one's they sent. Writing on a topic which happened 26 earlier, Ms. Maynard has at her finger-tips, not only an exquisite memory but years and years of correspondence with her family as well as author J.D. Salinger (whom she ended up having a relationship with when she was 18 and he was 53). Being inspired yet again to journal I recall, with mixed emotion, that I have destroyed ALL of my old ones.

Gone...each and every one of them. Not long ago I came across one (which has since been destroyed) read a few pages and experienced a visceral response (something like embarassment) to the pain and struggle I went through. I felt I had changed so much that I couldn't (or maybe didn't want to) relate to that person who wrote those words...that they came from a moment (or year) of weakness. A weak person, unhappy and confused, whose words were not worth saving. What could I possibly learn from those words and why would I want to reread them anyway?? By destroying those journals I felt I was silencing the past...but the lessons have still been learned.

There are lost moments, realizations, and insights to be sure. But I won't be dwelling on them. Instead, I have my not-so-good memory and those of my closest and oldest friends and sister. It's not that I want to relive my past or dwell there for some sentimental reason. I'm happy right here in the present, while occasionally venturing out to plan some amazing adventures in the near future. Perhaps destroying those journals was the right thing to do...I will never know because there is no other option. Perhaps, for me, that act of writing down my feelings and battling them out on paper was all I needed.

But now, with computers and internet and 'free' blogging sites I find myself enjoying the process even though I know it can be a more permanent record...perhaps not so easily destroyed as those old composition books. As I grow older (and hopefully wiser) I understand that all of those moments...even my weakest ones, are what helped to form who am I right now. And for that, there is no shame or embarassment.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Puttin' the Cotton Pony out to pasture...

This was like my Bible as a young girl.
Sometimes I look back on my pre-teen days...that innocent time when life was so carefree and it never really crossed my mind that boys and girls were really any different until Judy Bloom was introduced to me in the form of "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret" and I started to hope and wish for, of all things, my period...and then I wonder what the hell I was thinking. Honestly, I thought it would be magical...some kind of passage into womanhood in which I would instantly transform from a goofy, bi-focal wearing tomboy into a glamorous, long haired, long legged undiscovered supermodel.

This isn't me but, being a gymnast back in the day, it might as well be. Not knowing how to handle my periods without pads (which seems to be this girl's problem as well) was the main reason I quit.
Boy was I in for a surprise. At age 12 I got my wish and, being terrified of tampons, I suffered pure and utter embarrassment in Junior High as I had 'accidents' so frequently that part of my 'fashion style' was walking around with my Member's Only jacket tied around my waist. In a short span of time I felt I had gone from diapers to...well, 'woman' diapers, since back in the early 80's maxi pads were just that...MAXI. We didn't have the luxury of space-aged absorbent material and 'wings' that are available today, making even the most absorbent pads as thin as a panty-liner. No, ours were only slightly smaller then Pampers, unless you used 'overnights' which I believe had to be delivered by a semi-truck.

At age 41, I have spent the last 29 years....348 monthly trips to the Cotton Festival...or roughly 2436 days with a wad of cotton (and synthetic materials) shoved in to or on my crotch. I managed to graduate to tampons but never felt confident enough to wear them sans pads most of the time. So, the old budget suffered as much as my bottom, which I admit, was prone to the occasional  'diaper' rash. If you don't know let me tell you, the whole tampon/maxi pad/panty liner business is a HUGE pain in

So, when Tina P of For the Love of the Run was looking for blogger volunteers to participate in the Instead Softcup Challenge I applied for a spot just as quickly as my fat fingers would type.

The Instead Softcup is an alternative to tampons with no know risk of TSS (toxic shock syndrome<--that's some bad stuff there). For someone like me...a lazy athlete with a heavy flow, this was the most appealing part of trying the Softcup. It never a big race (preferably and half or full marathon) I will inevitably start my period just in time for said event (see San Diego Marathon, Tough Mudder Norcal and Rock N Reno Half far).

As I have gotten older, my flow has gotten heavier and I've even experienced a few 'accidents' in the past year. Now, like pre-adolescent me...40+ year old me is hoping and wishing for menopause!! I generally have 2 days where I pretty much feel like I can't go anywhere because I need to have access to a bathroom immediately, just in case.

This past cycle, which made it's surprise appearance on the morning of my last half marathon, was the testing grounds for my new Instead Softcups. Now, these may look a little intimidating because you will think 'wow, these are kinda in earth will the fit inside of me?'...well, do not fear, you just squeeze the ring together and wa-la, they are no bigger then a tampon.

Getting them into the right position takes some practice (it took me 4 tries, which actually became quite comical, especially since I was so excited to try these that I told my husband all about how they work and he was waiting for the verdict). I confess, I DID wear a pad the first 2 days I used the Softcup because #1 I didn't trust myself to have placed it correctly and #2 as I've stated, my flow can be very heavy and I was afraid that NOTHING could hold it back. Let me tell you, once placed correctly, not only do they keep fluids in the right place (i.e. NOT in your pants) but you can't even feel them! I don't know about you but I've had tampons dry my innards up so much that removing them was more painful then having a tooth drilled on without Novocaine!

Okay, so that leads me to the removal. It's easy. There is nothing to be afraid of...your body won't 'eat' your Softcup, nor will it require a trip to the E.R. to have the jaws of life help remove it. Just bear down a little so you can feel the little rim. Pull gently and there you have it...a little cupful of you own blood. Right, so, that part is a little odd because you might be sitting there on the pot thinking...' what'?!? Dump it out, wrap it in toilet paper, put it in the wrapper of your next Softcup and then go wash your hands.

Here's my honest opinion on the Instead Softcup based on my experience:


1- Easier to use then tampons. Once you learn how to insert them it's a piece of cake.
2- Ability to wear for extended periods of time. Instead Softcups can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time (for heavier flow you may need to change them more frequently but I seemed to do fine at 10-12 hours). This is great for someone like me, who often has to change tampons every 2 hours...which is not so convenient when running or hiking for 4 or more hours at a time. Also, there appears to be no danger of wearing them longer should you forget to change it.
3- Cleaner feeling, which probably comes from the blood being 'sealed' in the body and not sitting on a pad exposed to air. Also, there is no string hanging out of your body letting things go up or come down all willy-nilly.

4- Comfortable. In all areas the Softcup wins hands-down. From insertion to removal to walking around or sleeping...running, biking,'s like you aren't wearing anything. I've had experiences with tampons where they have managed to work their way down (or perhaps expanded) to the point that sitting on a bicycle seat made me feel violated.
5- Economical. You can get the Instead Softcup for about $5 per 14 count box. On the surface that may seem like a lot but remember, you can wear these for 12 hours. So depending on your own body you may only need 8 of them per cycle. Compare that to what I was doing prior-pads and tampons at the same time, especially if you are using the 'healthier' all cotton, unbleached tampons which are even more expensive then the average brand-and I'm practically making money!!


1- Can be inconvenient if you need to change while you are out. No lie, these can be a bit messy. There are ways to eliminate the mess (like changing prior to leaving your house for an event or stashing latex gloves in your purse and just turning them inside out once you pull the Softcup out) but you ARE going to be inserting your fingers into your hoohah which may then leave them covered in blood. You need to have access to a sink to clean up and you need to be careful when tossing the used cup as a little accidental drip on your friend's white rug under the toilet will be noticeable.

There is still plastic waste. Trying to live green is a constant battle. It's hard enough sometimes to find tampons with cardboard applicators or to opt for non-applicator ones if you want to avoid the mess but you know that every month you are adding more waste to the landfills. Between the boxes or bags, the outer wrapper, the applicator or peel off panels on pads, and then disposing of all the above, there is a lot of waste. There are some hard core greenies out there that have reusable pads (which are washable) but I am not ready to take that big of a step, after all I live in an RV with no washer or dryer so no,  I won't be hanging my reusable cotton maxi-pads on the awning to dry. On the plus use less of the Softcups then you would tampons and/or pads, therefore you can at least make your footprint smaller.
Note: Instead Softcup does offer a reusable cup which can be used for one entire cycle. That might be an option for those greenies looking for the least wasteful way to tame the flow. The company claims up to a 95% reduction in menstrual waste when using the Instead Softcup reusable cup, and that is pretty awesome.

I am a convert and I encourage all women who still menstruate to give these a try, especially those who are active or feel they need extra protection due to heavy flows. The website (and other reviewers) have mentioned being comfortable while swimming, gymnastics (if only these were around when I was little!!), and even during sex.  I wore mine with no problems for running, core exercises (including about a gazillion crunches), strength training and during my heaviest flow days.

I believe that over time, these will become easier for me to use and any inconveniences can be overcome...after all, even tampons and pads can be inconvenient (ever been at some one's house and had to change your pad only to discover that their French Bulldog LOVES to rummage through the garbage and eat maxi pads like a they haven't been fed in a week while you're trying to look like you have no idea how THAT got into the garbage?...No? Um, me neither).

So when the Cotton Festival comes to your town, check out the Instead Softcup and see how it measures up for yourself. I'm sure you will be pleasantly surprised!!

 I received one or more of the products mentioned in this blog for free to review. Regardless, these opinions are 100% mine.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ever have a run that makes you want to quit???

It's funny how freeing up my schedule by working mostly from home has left me feeling I have no time for blogging. While I admit I have been busy with the logistics of functioning out of an RV "office" and amping up my training for this years racing events, I also found myself falling into the procrastination trap yet again. I want to write but allow my fears to stop me...I also want to catch up with fellow bloggers which begins to compound my problem with "where to start"? I am overwhelmed into inaction.

My 'office' aboard the Mutiny (our 32 foot Winnebago RV).
So, here I am, attempting to break the cycle. And what better way then to tell you about my last race, the Rock n' River Reno Half-Marathon that I {kinda} ran with fellow blogger and Tweet-buddy, Kirsten of Living In a Girl's World and new friend, Beci from Wild Child Gone Good.

There's something to be said for away where you can drive up a day early, spend quality time with girlfriends, actually make it to a packet pickup that isn't the same day as the race, and enjoy the evening unwinding and carb-loading with like minded individuals.

Packing the 'essentials'.
 I made it to Kirsten's house outside of Reno at about noon. Let me tell you, a 3 hour road trip through the best part of Highway 50 seems to go by pretty fast even when you're driving alone. It's such a beautiful area and a great time of year to head up to the Sierras. I stopped for gas once and then at the Pacific Crest Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail(and yes, I actually walked on them so it counts).

Pacific Crest Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail...oh how I would love to really hike these!
After arriving at Kirsten's we headed to Scheel's in Sparks/Reno for the race expo, which really kinda turned into a scavenger hunt to find our bibs and t-shirts. The expo was pretty much non-existent but I was pretty happy that Whole Foods was there giving away trail mix {yum}.
Goonie Gugu's do exist, at least at Scheel's!

Rock n River Reno Half-Marathon
Fast forward to race morning...32 degrees and all I packed to run in were my shorts and new tank top. Uh, how could I forget that it gets cold at 4500 feet in the mountains?!?! I ended up wearing an old cotton Old Navy long sleeved t-shirt that I could toss if need be but I was still freezing!

Yep, this is really from race morning.
I planned to run the Half even though my longest run (since last year's marathon training) was 7 miles...and even that was 'hard'. I had considered dropping down to the 10K because of the lack of training and also since I wasn't sure if the altitude would have any effect on me. But, being my stubborn self, I opted to stay in the half, justifying the decision because I had run a full after all...never mind that it was 11 months ago!!

The race gun went off at 7am and Kirsten and I ran together for the first 3 or so miles setting a pretty quick pace (for me) of 9:30 (if I remember correctly). Now, I knew I probably couldn't keep that pace up without a few walk breaks so I told Kirsten to go ahead without me. That was probably the smartest thing I did the entire race.

By mile 5 I seriously thought I needed to quit. I had made a BIG mistake and was sure I was going to die. There was no way I could finish...not even by walking. I was holding back tears of anger and humiliation. I am not a quitter, I am very competitive with myself and all I could think was "I am not a runner", "This isn't the hobby for me", "I am never going to run again...I'm just going to give up and get fat".

I was looking for an aid station and wondering if the volunteer blocking traffic would call an ambulance for me. Since there was no where to catch a ride back I suddenly found myself at mile 6 and running got a little bit easier. I was able to catch my breath and even caught myself smiling and waving at the volunteers and police officers I passed along the course.

I paced myself with a few other runners to force myself to slow down a bit. Part of my problem is that I am so programmed to run a 9:40-10:00 minute mile that I have trouble forcing myself to run's either run at 6mph or walk. Thank goodness for those other runners who didn't mind me 'dafting' off of them!!

Mile 10...still going strong when a calf cramp hit me. Now, I haven't had a calf cramp in over a year and that was during a 20 mile run so it was devastating to get hit with this at mile 10. The water station I came across was out of Gatorade...eeek! But I still had a few sips of coconut water in my hydration pack (but I hadn't added I was able to stretch a little and started running again. Mile 11-12 I had a few more cramps but was able to find some Gatorade and I downed a few Sports Beans.

With that in my system I was able to run the last 1.1 miles...and even add a little kick down the strip to the finish. To my surprise and delight I was able to cross the finish line at just under 2:30 (2:29:38 to be exact)! For the lack of training, altitude and cramping I think I did alright. Best of all...Beki and Kirsten were at the finish line cheering me on!

Kirsten, me and Beki with our medals!!

After we got our finisher's medals we headed off for some Starbucks and a ginormous breakfast at one of Kirsten's favorite spots, The Cracker Box. Yummy deliciousness! All this followed by a 3 hour drive home made for a tired girl.

I stopped in Pollock Pines to get a second Starbucks (did I mention I was tired) and this is what was outside the grocery store.
That was some good food, good times, great company but a HARD race. It really made me think about what I was doing with my training and what goals I had for myself. I love the thrill of the race (especially when it's over) and I love registering for races so I can use them as motivation...but I hate when I have such a bad run that I want to hang up my running shoes forever.

So, what did I do? I registered for the Davis Moo-nlight Half Marathon in June and hired a running coach...Much more of that to come later.
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