Friday, February 20, 2009

If you know me . . .

. . . you know I worry. A lot. Sometimes it borders on anxiety.

I really wish it were summer. Warm outside. Lots of activities so that I could take my boys out and we could be out. Away from the internet and television. Just living life and taking it as it comes. But it's cold as heck outside and try as I might, I keep gravitating towards this darn computer and every time I do, I'm hit with one more warning.

"Get ready!"
"Stockpile 6 months of food"
"Learn how to butcher a cow"
"Learn how to make soap"
"You should have planted your garden eons ago"

I get almost paralyzed because I don't know what to do first or next. I don't think I'm doing enough. Don't know enough. And all this is back-dropped by the fact that no one around seems remotely concerned about any of it. As far as folks are concerned, it's just a bad spell.

I'd be lying if I didn't say I feel like a crazy person all alone on my own crazy island.

Anyway, come Monday I'm making a trip to Costco:
peanut butter
peanuts and other nuts
soy milk
canned tomato products
raisins and dates
vegetable and olive oils
alcohol and hydrogen peroxide as well as any other first aid stuff they have

To Trader Joe's
Rice milk
pastas
tofu
tempeh

I'm still making lists . . .

Purchased some more books too after having made a little money typing last week:
Encyclopedia of Natural Remedies and Readers Digest Back to Basics. Both used and with shipping and handling, less than $15. Can't wait till they come.

Yes, I'm paranoid and worried. Trying to follow through with sensible actions and trying to stay calm and focused. Still wondering how to effectively cope spiritually and mentally . . . I feel like I need some kind of blueprint and plan. It's too easy for me to get into these kind of tizzies.

Still, no one ever said, "Dang it, I wish I hadn't been prepared" so I know that whatever happens, it's not a waste.

Now I'm going to try to stay the heck off the computer.

Cinnamon is the Goodness

Cinnamon has got to be one of my most favorite spices. I use it in almost everything I bake and add it to chili and barbeque sauce. It has a depth of flavor that is unmatched especially when paired with nutmeg.

While Stumbling today, I ran across Cinnamon: A Wondrous Spice and was pleasantly surprised to find out some other benefits of cinnamon.
  1. Blood Sugar Level Control

    Cinnamon can actually have an enormous effect on your blood sugar levels. The reason for this is that it responds quickly to insulin and can help people who are diabetic. Research was done on groups of people in a clinic and almost all the people participating in the test had a reduction of their blood sugar level.
  2. Curing Colds

    When cinnamon is eaten along with honey it exhibits many health benefits. If a mixture of honey and cinnamon is administered to a person suffering from a cold they should be cured in three days. It can also cure stomach aches, toothaches, skin infections, cancer, bad breath, and hearing loss.
  3. Weight Loss

    Cinnamon and honey cleans your digestive system and removes some of the bad bacteria in your digestive system. This in turn lowers your ph level and helps you lose more weight.
  4. Prevents Blood from Clumping Together

    Cinnamon contains a substance called cinnaldehyde which prevents blood cells form clumping together.
Photo courtesy of www.cookingworld.com

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"On the Rag"

I've been using cloth menstrual pads for about three years now and I will never go back to paper/plastic pads. Post-partum after Z2, I tried to use disposable pads and after a day or two, I couldn't take it anymore and got out my cloth. I find cloth to be far more comfortable than disposable but also surprisingly as effective.
Photo Courtesy of www.moonpads.com
The minute I tell folks I use cloth menstrual pads, their expression noticeably changes into one of confusion and sometimes disgust. But as I glowingly tell them about the benefits of cloth both to myself and to the environment, they start to listen and realize it's not so weird or strange after all.

My switch to cloth pads was a natural progression since I was already cloth diapering my son. There are basically two natural (reusable) options for menstrual blood collection: a cup, which is emptied out periodically and then rinsed and re-inserted or cloth pads which are washed. Since I never really liked tampons I decided to go with pads.

Like with cloth diapers, I didn't know many people personally who used them and I just jumped right in to try to find what worked for me. Initially, I collected patterns in hopes of sewing my own but as with diapers, a serger, which I don't have, would produce a much better finished product. As such, I purchased an assortment of pads some of which I absolutely love and some of which I use as a last resort or just because I have them.

The first cloth pads I acquired were GladRags through a co-op on MDC for a significantly lower price than retail. Actually, a sistren of mine at the time did mention using these pads once and she seemed to like them so I was excited about getting them. I purchased three cotton day pads and one organic overnight cotton pad. How these pads work is that there's a pocket where you can slip in absorbent cotton inserts depending on how much protection you need. I find the day pads are a tad bit short for me and when I first started using them, I never felt quite comfortable. As my flow lightened though, they worked better. The overnight pad is nice and long although I wish the inserts were a bit longer (they are the same length as the day pad inserts). Over time, I've purchased two more overnight pads. GladRags are high quality pads that I don't mind recommending.

Next I turned to Ebay and found the seller "Naomiomy". This seller sells basic, quality pads. They're made from flannel and so they are very soft and quite comfortable. Again, when I first started using cloth, I found these to be too narrow (although long enough). As time went on though, I found that they do the job. And the price is quite right especially compared to GladRags.

On Ebay, I also found Ama'z Padz (she doesn't sell on Ebay anymore because she has a store on Hyena Cart) which are my absolute FAVORITE pads in the world. In fact, I just ordered some more recently. Ama'z Padz are ingenious. Although she does sell all-in-ones and other types of pads, I am partial to her original padz (click link to see how they work). The regular pad is perfect for me lenghtwise and widthwise. They are so absorbent, deceptively so since they are quite thin in comparison to other cloth pads and even to regular disposable pads. They are also very convenient to use. These are the pads I use if I'm going out and the ones I used when I was working outside of the home. I love, love, love them.

I have one LunaPad that I bought when I couldn't get more Ama'z Padz (I was always missing her re-stocking). I can't stand that pad but I wear it because I have it. It's soft and comfortable but I don't get how the rick-rack stuff is supposed to hold the pad in place. I generally turn it upside down, ignore the rick-rack to wear it and it's not bad that way. Very absorbent and pretty too.

I have three panty liners that I bought on Ebay too. They are an all-in-one situation, are cute, absorbent and fit neatly in my bag when folded up. I carry these around in case my period comes unexpectedly (which it never does but old habits die hard). I looked on Ebay to see if I could find the seller but no luck.

There was one last Ebay purchase of flannel all-in-one pads. That purchase was a complete miss and I will only use those on the very, absolute last day of my period.

Most of my pads are cotton/flannel but many use hemp and fleece (which stays dry to the touch even when wet). I do not have any that have a waterproof backing (PUL) and I find I haven't needed that. I like the fact that all the pads I have are 100% breathable. That has eliminated the issues I had with disposable pads in terms of it being too hot in the summer, itchy, etc . . .

Now to the knitty-gritty of using cloth . . .

Most cloth pads are secured using snaps (most of mine do). Some use velcro. Some just lay in your underwear and friction keeps them in place (one overnight pad my sistren sewed for me works this way and it works well, suprisingly). I, like many other woman, have "period panties". My "period panties" are not dark-colored or anything. They are just slightly smaller than my regular panties. This helps to keep the pads in place and the pads keep the tighter panties from being too wedgie-fabulous.

I change my pads pretty regularly throughout the day and it seems to be about every time I go to the bathroom. That averages about 5-6 pads daily. I change not because the pad is full but mainly to feel fresh. When I take a pad off, I soak it in a pail with water and hydrogen peroxide or color-safe bleach. The pail (which is, by the way, not see-through) is covered for the kids' safety and also for the sake of the hubby and guests who I don't think need or want to run into a bucket full of bloody pads. But that's just me. I change the water daily until it's time for wash day.

I used to wash my pads by hand but I felt I was wasting water so I started to wash them in the machine. No special procedure: I simply washed with whatever detergent I had and hung them to dry or dried them in the dryer. Nowadays, I wash my pads along with the diapers. I was skeptical about doing this at first but I realized that the diapers get rinsed first, washed on the longest hot cycle then rinsed again. Everything comes out smelling and looking clean and fresh. No stains or anything. Plus, I don't use any extra water to wash my pads which is great.

To go out, I carry my pads in a plastic cosmetic bag that is divided in two sections. One section I stow my clean pads and the other section holds my used ones. Once I arrive home, I empty out the wet bag (that's holding used diapers) into the diaper pail and I put my used pads in to soak.

To store my pads, I use a jumbo-sized Rubbermaid clear plastic rectangular food storage container with a lid. While I'm on my period and using the pads, I rarely put the lid on. Once my flow is over, I organize my pads neatly and put the lid on ready for next month.

Back to the hubby issue. It took a little convincing to get the hubby to be okay with the cloth pads. He, like many others, thought it was gross and a bit too much work. But after I showed him what it was about and didn't act grossed out myself (because I wasn't) and drew lots of comparisons to cloth diapering, he accepted it as a normal part of life and now is all for cloth pads. Because, of course, in the long run using cloth pads saves money and the hubby is all about that. I would say the start up costs/the money I've spent to date on cloth pads is about $125-$130 dollars. I have 18 day pads, 3 liners and 3 overnight pads. I used to buy a pack of Always overnight pads (which I would just about finish during the first 4 days of my period) for about $5 or $6 and I'd use a pack of regular pads to finish out my period. That adds up and so now that I've been using cloth for so many years, it makes financial sense. Some frugal mamas, I've heard, even use newborn unbleached prefold diapers as pads and that would be a very inexpensive way to go.

I'm pretty sure by the time I need to buy more pads, i.e.when these ones are worn out, I will be ready to sew my own (which would be the most cost-effective route). But right now, I'm quite pleased with what I have.

Many women who use cloth use the soak water to water their houseplants. We buried Z2's placenta in the backward where the garden will be (we decided against relocating it) and I can see using the soak water to water the plants back there. After all, that menstrual blood is what would have sustained life. That would make the garden uniquely mine.

Saying a woman is "on the rag" is a slang term to express that she's menstruating. Back in the day, many women used cloth to catch their menstrual blood since disposable pads were not available yet or very expensive. I'm not sure if it's derogatory or not to use the term but I like the way it sounds. It's not bad being "on the rag," quite literally.

Recommended reading: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

FO: Yoga Mat Bag





I started this yoga mat bag a few weeks ago as an interim project while I figured out what to do about Emma's Sweater (I ran out of yarn for it). I really enjoyed working on it and I am so pleased with how it turned out. It fits the yoga mat perfectly. I really needed this project. The familiarity of crochet was comforting and the project was quick with nice results. In these days of my life where I'm constantly squeezing out minutes to do things, I'm pleased that it came out so well.

I crocheted it using a simple stitch pattern of 2 rows double crochet and one row single crochet with every third stitch a bobble. I used single crochet for the strap and edged it with crab stitch. I added a red cotton drawstring and wooden beads which in addition to the wool that the bag is primarily made out of, to me, make the bag more alive and organic which is quite symbolic as it's the bag that holds the mat that facilitates my yoga practice.

I still can't believe I actually have a yoga practice and I never imagined I would enjoy it so much. I'm looking forward to delving more deeply into the principles and the practice. In the mornings, I read some of The Ten Living Principles--Yamas and Vinyamas. Some other resources I'm glad to have found are Yoga Journal, a description of the eight kinds of yoga, and Yoga Today, a resource that I can hardly believe is free. I previewed Hemalaya Behl's Yoga for Urban Living and I liked it a great deal. I purchased it for less than $7 secondhand, shipping and handling included. I think it's a nice addition to my collection. Sometime in the future, I hope to take a real class. Yoga just feels . . . right.

Namaste.

"Sunset Yoga" by GrahamKing on Flickr

I Enjoy Being a Wombman

I thoroughly do. I embrace and love every aspect of my wombmanhood.

But that was not always the case.

Today is the first day of my new moon cycle. For years I cursed this day. This day meant that for the next 4 or 5 days, I would be in agonizing pain. I would be dealing with messy pads, stained clothing, strong smells. Nothing good.

I remember menarche, the day of my first menstrual blood. I had turned 12 about two weeks earlier. It was a Sunday and my mother and siblings had stayed home from church because my mother was sick. When I saw the blood, I went and told my mother who dug around in her trunk (which she had brought from Nigeria and stored all her traditional clothes and fabric in) and fished out a small pack of sanitary napkins. Her face became very serious as she said to me, "You're a woman now . . . you had better be careful what you do with your body." I was confused, of course, although I vaguely understood that I had better not get pregnant and I knew that you got pregnant by having sex although I wasn't quite sure how it worked. The day progressed and the cramps got worse. By that evening, I could hardly walk. I was keeled over in pain and I was ready for my period, which I had anxiously awaited, to be over.

Well, at the time a couple of newly arrived nurses who had come from Nigeria just a few months ago were living in our rental unit downstairs. They heard (now that I think of it, my mother must have told them) that I had seen my period. They called me down and there I was as little as I was (I was bout 5 feet even and at that time, about 105 pounds), surrounded by these big grown women and feeling abandoned by my mother who was conspicuously missing. They explained to me the physiology behind my period saying that the blood was the body's way of showing disappointment that I had not "taken in" or gotten pregnant. I was grateful for the explanation because before then, it had all been a mystery. I had questions but I knew I couldn't ask lest someone think I was "fast".

My period was something that I was made to feel I had to hide; to be discreet about. If my mother overheard me telling someone I got my period she'd say, "A woman knows how to keep some things to herself." She taught me how to carefully wrap pads so no one would know I had used one. I had a special discreet bag for carrying pads. Most especially, men were not supposed to know I was on my period.

I used to come home from school nearly every month in excruciating pain. Even though my father would be home at times (as a professor, his schedule was never set in stone), I would never call him to come get me. I would rather tough it out on the bus to get home. When I got there, he'd see my face contorted in pain. I'd mumble about what was wrong, boil some water for a heating pad, pop some many Advils, change into a nice, large overnight winged pad, and crawl upstairs to my bed where I'd generally pass out from exhaustion and pain. The awkwardness of my period and my father just highlighted the overall unpleasantness of the situation.

I never had a good relationship with my period.

I wished that I had been born a boy. As a boy, I would never have to worry about my period, about being raped (someone taking my virginity), about losing my virginity/chastity, about getting pregnant (the biggest shame ever), about my problematic unruly hair (I'd cut it off), about being perceived as a slut, fast, easy, about all these heavy burdens girls carry while boys live carefree lives and are loved deeply by their parents. The love girls got seemed to be predicated and based on so much and was so easily lost if you couldn't live up to the standard.

I watched as the daughter of the pastor of the church I went to, who played the piano and was a sweet and good girl was humiliated and shamed over and over, cast out from the church because she had the nerve to have sex and was "stupid enough" to get pregnant. I listened as my parents used her over and over as the primary examples of why I had to "keep myself". I didn't want to turn out "like that". She was ridiculed, scorned, talked about. No one hugged her after that. Or even looked her in the eye. I knew I couldn't even though I liked her a lot. I couldn't let my parents see anything resembling friendliness and empathy toward such a lost and wayward girl lest she taint me. I understood implicitly that for girls, parents love and acceptance was tenuous at best. And I wanted their love.

I never had a good relationship with my period.

When I hit college, I got introduced to the concept that diet played a role in the severity of my period and that was one major reason why I decided to switch to a strict vegetarian diet. Nothing changed. The relationship with my period remained antagonistic

What did change things in every way was giving birth and making the switch from disposable menstrual pads to cloth menstrual pads.

Giving birth naturally made the way I looked at my body change in unexpected ways. I felt redemption in a way. All that pain and suffering over the years, the pain to bring him forth, was worth it as I held my newborn son. Being a woman was worth it just for that moment. It was just an added bonus that when my menses returned at 4 months postpartum, it was PAIN-FREE, although my flow was still heavy. I didn't need to take any painkillers or use a heating pad. I barely had to slow down. Although I had heard it, I couldn't quite believe that childbirth could bring about such a drastic change in how I experienced my period. My period became a welcome period of the month because it symbolized that I was getting ready to once again hold life in my womb. Because the pain was no longer there every month, I was able to focus on what was actually going on. And it was and is beautiful.

In college I had written an article for my college newspaper about the dangers of dioxin in disposable menstrual pads. Yet the natural options in the health food store were lacking. I was used to wearing overnight pads as my regular, daytime pads. Sometime after Z1 was born, I started learning about cloth pads and decided to give them a try. (I'll talk in more depth about cloth menstrual pads later.) I couldn't believe how they changed the flow of my period. I went from using six to seven disposable pads daily to my flow being so light that I could theoretically wear a liner for every day of my period. It was just unbelievable. At this point in my life, I would never use disposable pads again and when I've tried, it has been so uncomfortable as to make me run back to my cloth.

Giving birth and getting with cloth have completely changed this day, this first day of my moon cycle, for me. I am feeling open spiritually today. Light. Joyful.

Yes, I still feel some pain but it's experienced totally differently. I know if I had a girl, I would do so much differently. I like the ideas that Sis. Raet gives about Honoring the First Blood. I agree with her in so many ways. Girls should never feel ashamed or confused about their first blood. It should be a time of celebration and joy. It should remain a time of celebration and joy.

My sons see me soaking my pads, they are usually with me as I'm using the bathroom. Z1 asks questions and I answer them honestly and lovingly. I'd do the same if I had a girl. It's not mysterious or secret. It's not gross. It's part of what makes me who I am and the very reason why they exist. I want them to know the ins and outs of a woman's menstrual cycle, understand the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of it. I enjoyed this short article (and graphic) on the topic and encourage folks to read it: BooYaa, It's Period Time by Renee of Womanist Musings.

I'm fascinated by my body's connection to the earth and the moon. It is profound to me that as rivers flow with life giving water, I too flow with life giving blood. I'm reminded that my womb is the symbolic source of all life and creativity, healing and unity. I am not turned off by what my menstrual blood looks like and what it smells like any longer. It pleases me now. My relationship with my period is warm. I accept and welcome and embrace the beginning of every new cycle.

Today, I can honestly and without reservation say, I enjoy, no LOVE, being a Woman.


Photo Credits: Red Rose by ccmerino on Flickr
West River Reflections by slack12 on Flickr

Monday, February 16, 2009

Judge Not . . .

. . . Before you judge yourself.

There seems to be this pesky sentiment floating around that it is wrong to judge. People seem to vaguely remember the words of Christ and then interpret them to mean that we are not to judge at all. Christ didn't charge us to never judge. He asked us to judge only after we have held ourselves in judgment. On many occasions, Christ judged rightly and with confidence and if we consider Christ a worthy example, we'd do well to follow.

Now, you can go on just about anybody's blog and read about the woman who gave birth to octuplets even though she already has 6 children. No matter what anyone says, we are right to judge this situation. But before we do we must sit down and look at ourselves. We've all done things in our lives trying to heal ourselves. These things were not always healthy. Most of us, though, are mentally okay enough to say to ourselves, "That was not healthy and I shouldn't do it again." Many of us have the discipline and the agency to follow through with that promise.

But not all of us do. I call into question Ms. Suleman's mental health and after viewing an interview she did, I'm almost completely sure she is not well. As such, I am not judging Ms. Suleman as harshly. Who I do want held accountable is the doctor who implanted those embryos. That is who I am holding in judgment today. There is simply no ethical reason for this doctor to have done what he/she did. Now there are eight brand new innocent children in the world who have no guarantee of clothes, health care, food, shelter. And most importantly, no guarantee of love and attention. Because no matter how great a person is, how devoted . . . I know what the hell it takes for the hubby and I to give undivided love and attention to two children. There is no way in HELL she can do it by herself for 14. Sorry, won't happen. Oh, and grandma's love or some other family member's love is not an on-par replacement for mama's love. It's only after having my first son and seeing just what it takes to raise children that I fully appreciated and admired single mothers (or married single mothers for that matter--you know, where the dad isn't worth the paper the marriage license is printed on).

The ball was seriously dropped and judgment is being rightfully passed. I wouldn't worry too much about the judgment other humans are passing out though. In comparison to the bigger judgment, well, you really ought to think before you act. Like I said, I'm treading lightly because there might be mental illness going on here but there is a whole lot of wicked enabling going on too--from family, supposed friends and the health care community. And last I heard, artificial insemination, prenatal care, c-sections, neonatal intensive care--all that cost lots and lots of money. Where did it come from? I mean, I'm good at making a dollar out of 15 cents, but if this chick didn't have help from somewhere, she's a frugal guru or has some seriously serious side-hustle.

The other big story floating around is Rhianna and Chris Brown. On that, I reserve judgment because those are grown folks. I don't know the whole story and (I really don't think I want to know the story--keep your business to yourselves folks!!). I hope Rhianna has enough sense, strength and support to leave an abusive relationship if that's what it is. I hope if Chris Brown has abuse issues, he has enough sense, strength and support to get real help (not free passes to keep on being abusive). You see? That right there is a type of judgment although admittedly quite mild.

It is not wrong to judge. In fact it is necessary. We have all been endowed with physical and spiritual senses. We should all be able to think critically. A failure to judge could lead to death, quite literally. As human beings, we judge. We are supposed to. There's nothing wrong with that. But we must judge ourselves first and most harshly so that the judgment we mete out to others is just. I think when folks say, "Don't judge" it's not only disingenuous, it's impossible.

We should also know (and it shouldn't bother us too much) that just as we judge others, they are judging us. But then again, you can only be judged if you let yourself be judged, if somewhere in there, there's a little doubt about your decision. That's why when anyone comes out to do an interview to "clear their name", the get the side-mouth, squinty eye from me. (Perhaps you heard of "stripper pole mom". I wasn't too mad at homegirl until she did her "clear my name" video.)

The truth speaks. Loudly. Of course, we should know try to know the whole story before we judge too completely and too harshly. We should try to understand where people are coming from and where they are. We can accept differences without automatically thinking different = bad or immoral. Our judgment should, first and foremost, be tempered with love.

I lovingly enjoin Ms. Suleman to be quiet, take down that website, handle your business like you say you will. It will take complete focus and singleness of mind to raise those children to be productive parts of society. To give them the love and attention they need and deserve. If you could do this successfully, there would be no need to defend yourself. Because actions still do speak louder than words.

After all, when Christ was judged, he uttered not a word. He was the truth.


"Judge Not" by the Wailing Wailers



Photo Credit: "Gavel" by kromatic on Flickr
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