My Favorite Resources for People with Uteruses

…or is it uteri? Like octopi? Do octopi have uteri? What about platypi? (I just checked: uteri is in fact the plural of uterus, octopi lay eggs, and platypi is not a real word.)

Discussions of plurals aside, I don’t think we talk about our uteri enough. After all, about half of us have them. And for a lot of us, they impact our lives in a very noticeable way…unlike appendixes, for example. (To clarify: this is really a post about periods, not just uteri. So if you’re past that stage in your life this may not be super helpful.)

Even though we’re very aware of our uteri (at least when they hurt), we mostly try to ignore them. We pretend we don’t menstruate, or wish we didn’t. We take painkillers to manage symptoms so we can function “normally.” How much do we really know about what’s going on with our hormones? And if we don’t really know what’s going on, how do we make informed choices about our bodies and our health? Ignorance is not going to get us anywhere.

My story, in a nutshell: Once upon a time, I got my period. After showing up somewhat irregularly for a couple of years, it suddenly disappeared. I kept waiting for it to show up again…but it didn’t. Which, for a while, seemed pretty cool. After all, a period was just an annoying thing that happens to your body that you can’t control, a nuisance that you just have to deal with, a reason to wish you didn’t have a female body. That’s pretty much what I’d learned and experienced, anyway. When that’s what we think of the functions of our uteri, who can blame us for trying to ignore them?

But you guys, there is SO much more than just bleeding and cramps and PMS. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a period for so long, and absence makes the heart grow fonder and all, but this thing that our bodies do is SO COOL. The other reason I’m so fascinated by my cycle is that I’ve learned about it. I know what part of my cycle I’m in and what to expect, physically and emotionally, which has been incredibly valuable. This has helped me to learn to work with my body, rather than trying to fight against it. Also, learning more about periods (mostly through podcasts) is what eventually helped me get mine back, which is a pretty big deal, so YAY for learning!

If you want to feel love and appreciation and awe towards your uterus and your hormones, my suggestion is to learn more about them. Here are some of my favorite places to do that:

This podcast episode
I learned SO much from this interview about how my hormones work. Definitely worth a listen. If you don’t want to listen to the unrelated chatting at the beginning, skip to the start of the interview at 5:15.

This book
This is what really got me interested in the cycle as a whole. Alisa Vitti talks about what’s going on hormone-wise during each phase of the cycle, and how that affects the way you feel and think, and what your body needs during each phase. Here’s an abbreviated podcast version of some of the information in the book, also worth a listen.

Nicole Jardim
A women’s health coach who has lots of online period-related resources.

Kindara
A free app where you can track your cycle (with or without a thermometer) so you know where in your cycle you are—which is actually pretty fun because you start to notice patterns and have a better idea of what to expect. Also, this is a useful record you can show your doctor in the case that you need to do some hormonal detective work. They also have lots of women’s health articles on their website and in the app’s “knowledge base” that are worth checking out.

Whether you check out these resources or find some other ones that resonate with you (there are so many more out there!), I hope that you’re inspired to learn a little more about your hormones. Because knowledge is power. Let’s not ignore our uteri any longer.

Hormonally (hehe, couldn’t help myself),
Maria

p.s. if you haven’t signed up for my email newsletter yet, you can do so here to get updates about my soon-to-be-officially-launched Etsy shop, among other things!

Everything is an Experiment

Action is crucial. You can dream about your future all you want, about the awesome person you’re going to become…you know, the one who does all the things you wish you would do…but how are you going to become that person if you don’t start…well, doing the things? What, really, are you waiting for?

Maybe you are waiting for Someday. Someday, yes, you will have more money, more time, more experience, more friends…and then you will write that book or volunteer for that organization or call up that person you’ve been meaning to get in touch with.

Question: When is this Someday you speak of? Is it actually any closer to you now than it was a month ago? A year ago? Two years ago?

If it is closer, that’s probably because you did something that helped you make some progress. If it’s not, then, well, it’s probably time to take action.

The catch? Taking action can be hard. Especially for recovering perfectionists, like myself. Witness the inner workings of my mind, when I am considering taking action: Maybe I will start an Etsy shop and sell greeting cards. But wait…what if nobody buys greeting cards? What if I don’t actually like selling greeting cards? EEK. Better research extensively and spend hours examining the pros and cons of every possible thing that I could sell. But maybe I don’t even like selling things. I’ll have to buy a lot of stamps, that might be annoying…also I don’t know how to do this! It seems hard!

Thoughts like this can go on and on until the thing I was considering doing eventually gets thrown into the Someday pile. If you started at the beginning of this post and are reading it in order, you already know this is not a very effective way to get things done. Once it’s in the Someday pile, it’s easy to dismiss, and sometimes it ends up sitting in there for years. Also, if you are reading this post in order, nicely done, that is probably a good choice in terms of reading comprehension.

So taking action. What to do, when you feel like you don’t know what to do? Recently, I’ve found a way of pretty effectively steering my brain away from all of its anxious thoughts about whether or not I’m taking the “right” action:

I remind myself that everything is an experiment.

Sure, things might not go the way I planned or expected, and maybe I will decide that selling greeting cards on Etsy is not the way to go. But hey, if it’s just an experiment, I can change my mind and do something else next month! Also, you do experiments so you can learn from them. I might learn that I like selling greeting cards, or I might learn that I really hate selling greeting cards—either way, I’ll have more information on the subject than I do right now—and how else would I have gotten that information?

Basically, this is about being willing to take risks. But to me, a person who is very risk-averse, “taking risks” sounds dangerous and irresponsible, and, well, risky. For whatever reason, framing it as an experiment makes it sound much more constructive. And that works for me.

I think the deal is this: actions and/or risks can be scary because they have lasting effects. Your decision today will absolutely shape the opportunities and decisions you have available to you in the future.

BUT. Having lasting effects is not the same as holding you hostage. You can always re-evaluate your current situation and change course if you decide it’s not working for you. Sure, those other options you were considering before may no longer be options…but that doesn’t mean there aren’t new opportunities in the present moment. And we can’t ever predict what those will be; maybe they’ll be better than the old ones anyway!

Let me know your thoughts on risks and experiments and actions—I’m curious whether the “everything is an experiment” mentality is helpful to anyone else, or if you have other ways of thinking that work for you!

Experimentally,
Maria

p.s. I am in fact starting that Etsy shop, hopefully quite soon! If you want to be the first to know when it launches, and hear exclusive details and updates on my journey, sign up for my mailing list here! Maybe I’ll even send you a coupon code 😉 You can also check out some of my art on Instagram.

p.p.s. If you liked this post, listen to this podcast episode. I’ve been using “everything is an experiment” as a sort of mantra for quite some time, but listening to this inspired me to include more of the taking action side of things in this post as well.

November Salad Toppings

Hello friends,
Happy November! Time to share some things I’ve been enjoying lately:

Japanese sweet potatoes
Particularly when they’re roasted in coconut oil.

Oprah and Deepak’s 21 Day Meditation Challenge
I love these! I get pretty excited every time they happen (about twice a year, I think). The first one I did was probably about four years now, and I’ve done every one of them since. Each day Oprah and Deepak start you off with some words of wisdom and inspiration, and then Deepak sends you off with a mantra and some nice new age-y music that is rather calming and also helps to remind you when you start thinking about breakfast and emails and elephants or whatever that your intention is to be meditating. Also, it’s free! This one started last week but you can always join late. Meditate with me??

Dar Williams
She’s so cool. I went to see her in concert a few weeks ago and it was really great–great music and great stage presence. She’s funny. Also, as I told my mom afterwards, it kind of seemed like a concert for old people–not too loud, not too long, and not too late at night. TOTALLY my cup of tea. If you want to know who and what I’m talking about, I really like this song and also this one.

Liberal Arts
A movie recommended by Katie Dalebout that I quite enjoyed. Katie also interviewed writer/director/star Josh Radnor on her podcast recently and it was a really fascinating conversation! Also during the interview, he recommended the album that led me to rediscover the following…

Fratres by Arvo Pärt
WHOA. That is all I have to say about this one right now.

I hope you’re having a beautiful day full of fall colors and cozy socks and pumpkin spice (if you’re into that…if not that’s cool too). What’s on your salad at the moment?

Joyfully,
Maria

p.s. I’m not an affiliate for any of these things, I just like them!

Adventures in Sleeping, Part II

Last time I told you about some of the strategies I’ve used to get better at sleeping, and I promised I’d share some of the strange inner workings of my sleepy mind. Are you excited??

After I got kind of tired of reading when I was trying to get to sleep, I moved on to writing. I’m a big fan of journaling, of getting my thoughts out of my head and onto paper. Afterwards I often feel a sense of relief, like I’ve acknowledged and let go of these thoughts and can relax, so it has at times helped me in the sleeping department. Sometimes, the words that come out when I journal at strange hours of the night turn into poems. I wrote the following at approximately 4 in the morning sometime last year:

What choice have I, when sleep evades,
when thoughts won’t rest and daylight fades,
but sit in bed and ponder life
within the stillness of the night?

These thoughts that nightly come to me
keep me caught in reality
instead of sailing in silver shoes
to that place on a star where the fairies snooze.

Like: “I am hungry! Feed me now!
Are there eggs in the fridge? Should I buy a cow?
Or should I be an actor? A farmer’s not right!”
These are the things that come up in the night.

Dear Brain,
Please relieve me. Send those thoughts somewhere else!
Pack them up in a suitcase! Stack them up on a shelf!
These are thoughts that right now, I simply DON’T NEED.
So PLEASE get them out of my way, please, please, PLEASE.

So now I am begging. ‘Twas not my intent
but these last few hours tonight I have spent
trying to ask you more civilized-like—
after all, you’re my pal…so, turn out the lights?!

…FOCUS, Brain, and tell me please:
What are you trying to do with these
uninvited moonlit musings?
I find the concept rather confusing.

Do you think we’ll become closer friends?
Are you trying to take control of my hands?
Is it just too dull to sit up there and wait
in silence until I awake?

I apologize for being a bore
and a bit of a health nut too…
but it’s not only me who needs the sleep
…that’s right, Brain, I mean YOU!

I’m actually pretty impressed that my 4 in the morning brain made this much sense.  I really really like sleeping…but I guess my inability to do so resulted in some rather interesting creations, at least. Lest you think I am an exceptional middle-of-the-night genius, this is definitely my best moonlit, sleep-deprived poem. I have some others that are really rather terrible that I think I will not release into the internet.

If you loved this poem and are hoping for more glimpses of groggily-written masterpieces, you may be disappointed to hear that there haven’t recently been any gems like this one. I have been sticking to daytime writing and creating for the most part. But, I hope you will be pleased for my sake because that means I have actually been much better at sleeping recently! Without having to get up and write weird poems.

But I’ll let you know more about that in Part III.

Poetically,
Maria

Adventures in Sleeping, Part I

I have never been very good at sleeping. I think nights were pretty rough for my parents for quite a while after I was born. (sorry, Mom and Dad…) I cannot sleep in cars. I cannot sleep in buses. I cannot sleep in airplanes. Sleeping on couches or floors is ok, sometimes, but usually not many hours of sleep happens. What about beds, you ask? I can sleep in a bed if it is very very dark and very very quiet (no fans, thank you very much) and just the right temperature and I am just the right amount of tired. In that situation, then sleeping in a bed is just fine. Probably. As long as you mean my bed, of course…

I’ve experimented with a whole bunch of things to improve my sleeping skills. As in, so many things it would make a really long blog post. So we’re going to cover this adventure in a few installments. Here’s part 1:

  1. Counting backwards from 100. At first, this worked pretty reliably. After a while though, it started to get too easy—the reason it worked in the first place was that it engaged my brain juuust enough to distract me from whatever other thoughts might be keeping me awake and was also boring enough to not keep me from sleeping. So I tried…
  2. Counting backwards from 100 in color. Numbers always have colors attached for me, but the colors aren’t really obvious unless I think about them. Adding the colors made things more interesting and kept me more focused. It worked for a while too. (In case you’re wondering, 100 is yellow and 99 is green. If the idea of numbers having colors sounds bizarre to you, look up “synesthesia.” It’s quite fascinating.) However, this also got too easy after I had been doing it for long enough. On to…
  3. Counting by 3s. This worked quite well, when I could discipline myself to actually do it…you guys, this is seriously the most boring way to fall asleep. I know boring can be good when you’re trying not to stay awake, but man…boring can also be so frustrating. Which kind of negates the effects of the boring.
  4. Reading. The downside to this strategy is that although I have read two and most of a third Jane Austen novel, I could tell you almost nothing of any of the stories or characters. The other tricky thing about this is that I can’t read anything too suspenseful or inspiring, because then I’m too excited to fall asleep. Kind of limits my options…I’ve decided that the best books for this kind of reading are childhood favorites. I like to get cozy in my bed with a picture book or one of my Moomintrolls and read myself a bedtime story. It’s like being the little kid who’s being read to and the adult who’s reading at the same time!
  5. Stretching while listening to nature sounds. This is exactly what it sounds like. And it’s quite relaxing. It’s also kind of fun because you can think about what kind of nature you’re in the mood for at the moment. Do you want to imagine yourself relaxing on the beach, or snuggled up in a forest? And then if you decide forest, do you want Woodland Rainstorm? Or Wind in the Trees? Or Leaves in the Wind? Or Quiet Forest? Or another of the myriad options that all sound equally peaceful and forest-y?

Enough for today! Next time we’re going to take a look into my peculiar brain, and what it’s actually thinking while I’m trying to get to sleep. (spoiler: sometimes thoughts come out in poem form…get excited!) In the meantime, do you have any favorite picture books you’d recommend? I would love to hear your suggestions and I will totally check them out of the library and read them to myself 🙂

Sleepily,
Maria

Read Part II here if you would like to experience a poem I wrote at 4 in the morning

Choosing to Be Happy

“I think it’s brave to try to be happy. You’ve gotten so comfortable being unhappy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up in the morning and choose to be happy?”

This is a quote from one of my all-time favorite TV shows, Pushing Daisies. (It’s a beautiful and inspiring and clever show and I highly recommend it; it’s also very weird and quirky, so be warned if you decide to check it out.)

I have a question for you all: How often do you think of happiness as a choice? Sure, you can let the circumstances of your life determine your feelings. And if your life turns out perfectly just how you planned it and everything’s just like you thought it would be, and it’s raining star fruits and unicorns all the time (and also if you like star fruits and unicorns), then congratulations—you’ll probably be feeling pretty good.

But that’s pretty risky to leave your emotional wellbeing up to circumstance. What if your life doesn’t turn out the way you wanted? What if nobody is hiring you for your dream job? What if someone says something hurtful to you? What if your body is a different shape or size than you want it to be and the clothes you wish you could wear don’t fit?

Sure, if things go “wrong” it’s a whole lot easier to complain, to be frustrated, to feel hopeless, than to take action to make things better. But is taking the easy route really worth sacrificing your happiness? That’s up to you to decide.

Keyword: decide.

I’m not going to pretend I have this all figured out. I still get upset when things don’t go the way I was hoping they would. But more and more I am realizing that although outside circumstances definitely have an effect on how I’m feeling, it’s really my thoughts about the circumstance that’s creating the feeling.

I’m realizing that a trying situation is not determining my feelings but is instead challenging me to be a more grounded, peaceful, joyful, loving person, even when it is much harder to be one. And the more I realize this, the happier I am.

I promise you, friends, you have a choice. That choice gives you the power to feel the way you want to feel. So be aware of what you’re choosing.

Happily,
Maria

September Salad Toppings

Hi friends!

I thought I’d share some more of the toppings that have been making my Life Salad so delectable lately. If that last sentence confused you, check out this post.

Here we go:

Brandi Carlile
Love her! Especially this song. I signed up for a free 3-month trial of Spotify Premium but I think I forgot to cancel it (which is probably exactly what they were hoping for…#oops.) Anway, now I can keep listening to Brandi in the car on the way home from work for another month, so things are all good.

Pigma Micron pens
I’ve been spending more time drawing lately, which has been a really good decision in terms of my happiness and mental health. In the quest for following curiosity and trying to figure out what I really like to do, this has definitely been a step in the right direction. Not surprising, I guess, since the majority of my childhood was spent doing arts and crafts. Ask my parents—our house was a sea of finished and unfinished projects for years. Now at least it is confined to specific areas of the house. Anyway, I’ve been using these Micron pens a lot lately—I like to draw in pencil, ink it with the pens, and then add some colored pencil. In case you missed it, I shared one of my recent drawings in this post. I’ve also been sharing more artwork over on Instagram.

Jane the Virgin
Two friends with excellent taste recommended this show, so I figured I should give it a try. As my dear friend Rebecca said, after I inspired her to start watching it, “it’s a great combination of comedy and drama. It’s not too serious but also has enough of a plot to keep me motivated to watch the next episode.” I would say even more than a plot it has some SERIOUS cliffhangers—meaning I am very ready for the third season. My mom likes this one too—when we were working our way through season 1 together, she would often plop herself in front of the TV in the evening and look at me expectantly, which obviously meant it was time for an episode of Jane. It was very cute.

Super cute crochet patterns
I’m so proud of my lovely cousin Anna who just opened up this Etsy shop! Years ago, when we spent a weekend at the family cabin, I helped her freehand crochet a little bear (without using a pattern) and I remember her telling me that someday she would like to write a book of crochet patterns. Etsy is pretty much the 2016 online version of that, and it’s so inspiring that she’s actually doing it! Also, just look at those princesses. Adorable!

There are just so many cool things out in the world. And such easy access to so many of them with the interwebs! But I will stop here so this post doesn’t take you a month to read.

With inspiration,
Maria

 

Making Decisions

I have always struggled with decisions. I think I always waffle because I’m afraid of making the “wrong” choice. I worry about the other possibilities, the other things I might miss out on when I decide to go down a certain path. I tend to overthink all of the pros and cons of all of the possibilities, which usually just fuels my anxiety and sometimes prevents me from taking any action at all.

Case in point: When I was in middle school, I had to decide whether I wanted to take French or Spanish. Apparently my parents had to call the school several times because I kept changing my mind—and then I got an extension so I could have even longer to decide.

Recently, I’ve been trying to listen to my intuition, my gut instinct, and trust that it will lead me where I need to go. For somebody who feels the need to thoroughly check out every single option in the store before buying the “best” lip balm, this is pretty challenging. But, I’m making progress! The other day, my mom told me that my decisions have seemed “less traumatic” lately. Hooray! (p.s. In case you’re wondering, I’ve determined that the best lip balm is Dr. Bronner’s peppermint.)

In a talk about making decisions, Alan Watts says that letting go is one of the scariest things we can do. I totally agree with this. Being out of control is terrifying. I guess one reason that decisions are so stressful is that we think going through all the possibilities thoroughly and making an “informed” decision, we are more in control of the outcome. But as much as we like to think we can control outcomes, we really can’t. Going with your gut instinct makes it more obvious that you’re entrusting the outcome to a force that we don’t really understand. Intuition is not something that can be measured or explained.

One of the scary things about this is that people still hold you accountable for things that resulted because of your decisions. And it’s easier to blame someone (including yourself) for a bad decision if you think they at least made their best effort to make a good one.

The thing is, I think entrusting your decision to our intuition, even though we don’t really understand it, is probably our best effort. At least it saves us a whole lot of time and tears during the deciding process.

One of the reasons I love making art is that artistic pursuits are probably the area of my life in which I feel most comfortable trusting my intuition. I don’t mean that I don’t make any “bad” decisions when I’m making art—I have definitely created some really bizarre drawings and poems—but I feel confident in most of my choices in the process. And often things do turn out well.

Mr. Watts also makes the point that even seemingly disastrous decisions turn out to be okay in the end. You never really know what’s going to happen in the future anyway, as he points out, because even if you try to make a really well-informed decision, you can’t take into account all of the infinite possible things that could happen. And who knows, maybe things will end up turning out even better than you could have imagined.

Now you may be wondering what became of my tortured Spanish vs. French decision; Spanish won out in the end. And it turned out to be my favorite academic subject in middle and high school. Was that what my gut was telling me to do? Who knows. I was so caught up in my thoughts that I don’t even think I could hear my gut. But I survived. Plus, I can sort of speak Spanish now. ¡Que éxito!

Decisively,
Maria

Alan Watts on Making Decisions

Pineapples, Portraits, and Laughing at Myself

Let’s talk about fruit. I did name this blog Starfruit Salad, did I not? [my first blog was called Starfruit Salad...you may notice I've changed the name!]

…although I’m actually going to talk about pineapples today, not star fruit. If you were expecting that post about a salad with star fruit in it, I’m sorry to have dashed your hopes. Maybe next time. No promises, though.

I actually don’t really like pineapples. I used to LOVE pineapple on my pizza, back in my gluten-eating days, but other than that I am not crazy about it. I’m weird, I know. Oh well. I hope you will keep reading my blog anyway.

It turns out that even though I don’t like eating pineapples, I do quite like drawing pineapples. This became very clear a few days ago when I was drawing a self-portrait of myself as a pineapple.

I usually don’t look very much like a pineapple. (I don’t think I do, anyway. Feel free to chime in if you disagree.) There was this one time, though, a few weeks ago, after I had gone swimming…I had wrapped my towel around my head in such a way that I had a little tuft of hair sticking straight up, and I had my big polka dotted sunglasses on, and I looked kind of like this:

It was really hilarious. I kept looking at my reflection in my mom’s sunglasses and it CRACKED me up, every time. I think if I were looking in somebody else’s sunglasses rather than my mom’s, they would have quickly come to the conclusion that I was out of my mind.

But maybe being out of our minds can be a good thing. We get stuck in there a lot—I know I do, anyway—tangled up in thoughts about how we’re expected to behave and what other people might think, worries about the past, plans for the future…

Have you ever noticed how all of those thoughts disappear when you’re laughing really hard? When you’re not taking everything so seriously and you’re just thoroughly enjoying the moment?

There’s no room for anxiety and second-guessing when you’re filled with joy. And if that joy comes from realizing your own ridiculousness, well, I think that may be the best kind. Self-sufficiency!

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin

Wise words, Charlie.

May your day be full of laughter and juicy pineapples. Or star fruit. Or whatever your favorite fruit is. Obviously, mine is neither of those. My titles are very misleading.

Playfully,
Maria

p.s. you can now buy this drawing as a card here!

What to Put on a Life Salad

Really good salads have good dressings and good toppings. Balsamic vinaigrette. Lemon tahini dressing. Sliced strawberries. Pecans. Goat cheese. At least, that’s my opinion on the matter. There are some people, like my brother, who prefer to just eat plain lettuce. Weird.

Remember how I’ve decided that my life is a metaphorical salad? I like to think of my thoughts, beliefs, and relationships as the bulk of the salad (like the lettuce…or the potatoes, if it’s a potato salad…) and all of the other things I choose to surround myself with as the delightful toppings. The current iteration of my Life Salad is garnished with the following:

30 Rock
So good. So weird. Makes me laugh every time.
This clip I have seen probably dozens of times and it’s still hilarious.
p.s. I think this one gets better as you get into it. So if you watched the beginning and were weirded out, maybe try again, if you feel so inspired.

A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
I’ve never really been one to read books on religion and spirituality, but I loved this. She talks a lot about choosing love over fear—that’s what the title is referring to. She uses the concept in a more spiritual context than I have thought about previously, which was fascinating.
some good quotes from the book

Let It Out with Katie Dalebout
My favorite podcast! Katie interviews super cool people and the conversations they have are fascinating and so fun to listen to. She also just started her 5th season with a new name (used to be the Wellness Wonderland Radio) and I’m excited to see how the show evolves.
Some good episodes I listened to recently: the first episode of her new season and this one from the archives.

Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend
SO. GOOD. I also love their first two albums but I have been particularly obsessed with this one as of late. I dance to it, drive to it, lie on the floor and think about life to it… I can’t stop. Love this song. And all of the others.

Strawberries!
Freshly picked, when they’re still warm from the sun.

…And star fruit! Hehe. Although I still haven’t tried it on an actual salad yet. I just like thinking about them, and sometimes looking at pictures.

My Life Salad is pretty scrumptious right now. I hope yours is too.

Deliciously,
Maria