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

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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

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