Category Archives: Health

Health Lifestyle

TMI Series: The Moon Cup Menstrual Cup

Alert! Alert! Turn away now if:

  • You want to read about food right this minute
  • You’re squeamish about blood and bodily functions
  • …and probably if you’re a man

I am about to venture deep into the nether regions of TMI land, and pretty far away from food, but I have experienced something so life-changing that I feel like I have to become an evangelist. Mostly so that I can stop blabbing about it to my husband to whom I believe I am giving nightmares.

***UPDATE: The good folks at (makers of the Moon Cup) have offered my readers 10% off their purchase! Use code TMI10. Thank you Gladrags!***

If you’re like me, getting your monthly period is no cause for celebration, and is, in fact, and exercise in planning and preparedness. In short, it’s a huge pain, literally and figuratively. So recently when a friend asked if I’d ever tried a menstrual cup, I thought I’d research. I’d heard of them before, most recently from reading the Zero Waste book, but the author was also doing things like looking into using moss as toilet paper and sewing her own maxi pads, and I just wasn’t ready to go there. Even though I compost.

First off, for those of who you are unfamiliar with the concept, a menstrual cup is a silicone cup inserted in largely the same way as a tampon, but instead of absorbing the flow, it catches it. At first glance this sounds very, very messy, but…it’s not. And if you have a sick fascination like I do with the output of your Biore strips, I think you’ll actually enjoy it.

I started investigating online and found thousands of reviews from women talking about how life-changing the cup has been for them. And after having gone through my first cycle with one, I can confirm that for me, the following claims held true:

  • I really appreciated the no-paper-trail, no-landfill-polluting nature of the cup. That is, no crinkly papers to deal with, no garbage created in your (or someone else’s) home, no worries about whether your tampon is going to clog up the plumbing. I’m usually mortified at the amount of waste I create each month, and this month — maybe just a few extra sheets of toilet paper. The cup is reusable for a number of years (the manufacturer of the Moon Cup mentioned that their customers use it for up to 10 years).
  • I found it more comfortable than a tampon, and it doesn’t “fall out” like some tampons do.
  • Because it doesn’t absorb like a tampon does, the risk of TSS goes way down, and you don’t have to worry about the uncomfortable removal of a tampon in the later days of your cycle…if you know what I mean.
  • I had less cramping with the cup. I have no idea why this is the case but other women mentioned the same thing — I’m not going to complain.
  • I had just about no leaking with the cup (and this is my first time ’round, so I was learning), and I am on the heavier side of the normal flow range, I always leak with a tampon, and I was using o.b., which I found to expand laterally better than the other brands. The cup forms a suction along the vaginal walls — so generally, no leaking.

If you’re about to embark on this adventure for the first time, there are a few things to know:

  • Cups come in different sizes and shapes. You’ll want to get an idea for how far up your cervix is before buying, because having a cup right up against your cervix can cause cramping. This tutorial shows you how.
  • This link and this one have pretty comprehensive comparisons of the measurements, shape and texture of the various cups on the market. If you’re going for bigger capacity, like what you would get with the Diva Cup, just be sure that the cup isn’t going to end up right against your cervix. I liked the idea of bigger capacity, but started with the Moon Cup (US — there is also a UK version) instead and I probably have to change it more on heavier flow days than I would with the Diva Cup, but it is completely comfortable. I also cut the stem on my Moon Cup about 3 mm and that made it perfect for me. The Diva Cup talks about a “twist” to pop it open, but my Moon Cup pretty much pops open on its own. It also comes with a cheerful yellow gingham carrying bag which seems to say “Yay period!”
  • There are also slightly different insertion and removal methods that work with each cup, but there are plenty of great videos that show you how to insert and remove a cup. Ladies, you must break the vacuum seal before pulling out the cup, or I imagine it could be quite painful.. With the Moon Cup in particular, I find that the best method is to grab the stem with toilet paper, for better grip, and then to break the seal by pressing one side of the base of the cup away from the wall, and wiggling it down side to side. When it’s low enough, I grasp the base of the cup with my thumb and forefinger, and this gives me a good handle on the cup so that there’s no messy spilling. You do have to be unafraid to get your fingers up in your business, but that wasn’t an issue for me since I was an o.b. user anyway. Just dump the flow into the toilet. I found that after a few runs I was able to do the removal with very minimal mess.
  • Ideally, you’d rinse the cup with soap and water before reinsertion, but in a public bathroom, you can wipe it down with toilet paper and reinsert until you can wash it. I’ve read about people bringing water bottles or peri-bottles with them in stalls for the rinsing, and that sounds like a good idea too. Other women said they just carried two cups, and would stick cups to be cleaned into a plastic baggie until they could get home.

On my heaviest days (for context, I would soak through an o.b. Super Plus tampon in 2 hours, and any other brand within 1.5 hours), I found that emptying the cup every 3 hours was sufficient and resulted in no leaking (if I used a Diva Cup, which has larger capacity, I might be able to go for longer — but I’m a little worried that it will hit my cervix). For the first time ever, I went without a backup pantiliner or a pad…though I would advise on heavy days using a pantiliner just in case. Now that I’ve gone all eco I think I’m going to try these reusables from Gladrags, the distributors of the Moon Cup US. On lighter days, I only needed to empty it once or twice a day, and I had no problem swimming with it on a heavy day. And overnight it was a DREAM. None of the gross issues I’ve had with overnight pads, and ZERO leaking (I emptied right away when I got up).

Now you know this has to be good if I’m as excited about this as I am about food. Feel free to ask questions below in the comments and I’ll try to get you the answer. Thanks for not fainting!


Surprise! Eye Surgery!

It’s a good thing I was born in this day and age because if I hadn’t I would have been weeded out by now because of my poor vision, consumed by hungry and possibly even slow hyenas while others in my pack fled and I sat around going, “So, as I was saying…”

Cross Section of Human Eye
This would be my eye if it weren’t all gray


Anyway, last week I went to the optometrist and for my annual eye exam. I really like my optometrist because he has a special glaucoma machine that doesn’t do the air puff, a machine that takes photos of the inside of your eye without having to do dilation, and a special wrist motion he uses when he covers your eye with a black plastic spoon (kind of like jazz hands, but optometry-style). Amidst the non-air-puffing and the special wrist flips, he found what he suspected was a hole in my eye. Holes in your eye are bad, because they can lead to retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is bad because it causes blindness. I always knew that because I have such poor vision I had a higher risk of this, and I’m the kind of person where if something bad could happen, it usually does, so this wasn’t totally unexpected, but I was mostly grossed out by the idea of having my eye propped open. Years ago I took a friend to her LASIK surgery and, not being squeamish, asked if I could watch. The doctors happily allowed me to and broadcast a ginormous close-up of her eye while it was being operated upon. Let me just say that it was MUCH grosser than I ever thought. I learned that watching an eye being taped and propped open makes me kind of sick. And her eye also bled.

So today I went to see a retinal specialist. He also had a special machine that takes pictures of the inside of your eye, and the technician was especially excited about this machines. The technician, who without my contacts I can only describe as being flesh-colored with what appeared to be a beard, an uneven bob and a headband, started excitedly pointing at diagrams of what this picture could look like and what conditions those could indicate (this is a surprising departure from most technicians I’ve experienced, who refuse to share their interpretations of results with you probably because of some legal reason, even if you say oh, come on, please, I won’t tell anyone.) Anyway, I pretended for a while to follow and then finally said, “I’m sorry. I’m blind as a bat without my contacts so I’m just using my imagination right now.”

Fast forward: I meet the doctor. It’s his first day on the job. I’m a little worried. I hear him in the hallway being introduced to people and am glad to know that it’s not his first day as a doctor, and that he went to and worked at Stanford before coming here. He puts lots of eye drops in my eyes. He shines lots of bright lights at me while I look in a bunch of different directions. He finds the hole and commends my optometrist, who I want to tell him has this special wrist motion. He says that there is a hole. It is small, but if something happened then I could get a retinal detachment. Again, retinal detachment: bad. He says that I could take the risk that nothing would happen, or, get the surgery and decrease that risk to 0.5%. He says there will be 5-10 minutes of pain, and then I can go on with my day. And maybe I’d want to take a Tylenol.

ME: How bad is the pain?

DOCTOR: Not too bad. I just did it on a 12 year old and he put up with it.

ME: So you can do this, like, now?


ME: And then I just go home and go on living?


ME: [thinking through pain management exercises, and that if I go blind I will be dependent on my husband to do my hair and makeup] OK.

Fast forward again. Cold eye laser beam room. He pushes lot of buttons. I can tell by the way he’s pushing that what he wants to happen isn’t happening. He pushes more buttons. He tries to figure out how to adjust my chair. He says, “I’ll be right back, I’m just going to get some help with this.” I am again thinking through the scenario where my husband will need to do my makeup and hair. He comes back with another doctor. They push a bunch of buttons and check the plugs. I am hoping they have a backup generator and that there isn’t an earthquake in the 10 minutes it will take to do my surgery.

DOCTOR: OK, we’re ready!

ME: Uh, you feel confident with this procedure, right?

DOCTOR: Oh yeah, I’ve done it a million times, it’s just my first day here.

ME: [hoping this machine works the same way as the one at Stanford] OK.

He put this thing on my eye (remember, no contacts, so I couldn’t tell you more about it) and then I saw lots of really bright flashes of light. I didn’t actually think it hurt at all; it was most bothersome to the eye that wasn’t being lasered. But I do think I have a fairly high pain tolerance because I was once in labor and didn’t know it. Though another time I was in labor and it hurt a lot.

Then, he was done and I was free to go. I still couldn’t see anything, being dilated and having just been temporarily blinded by laser, but he said that I could drive. I don’t get that — eye doctors are always telling me I can drive after dilation but to me the world looks like I’m playing an ’80s video game with someone else’s glasses that my kids have licked. Anyway, I used The Force and my imagination and got home, and a few hours later, have mostly recovered my vision.

But the best part is that when I got home I got a surprise that was even better than surprise eye surgery:

Sprinkles Cupcakes
Sprinkles cupcakes! I can't help but see some of these as corneas and irises.

This was totally unrelated to the surprise surgery, but thanks Jenny!


Health Uncategorized

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

This morning, a few days before my 40th birthday, I put two contact lenses into one eye.  Who says 40 is the new 30?

Photo to the right was taken on a recent whale watching trip.  This was about 10 minutes before I got too seasick to care about whales.  And actually I think these are dolphins.

So recently, I’ve started going to an acupuncturist.  Combination of not wanting to be heavily medicated and hearing the tales of others, including some friends in the medical profession, talk about the merits of acupuncture (one friend, a 43-year-old physician, has had numerous surgeries and procedures in an effort to get pregnant; enter acupuncture — she’s 4 months along now).  Of this I am convinced:  it certainly does something.  The first time I had it done, about 10 minutes in, alone in the room, I started laughing uncontrollably.  Nothing was funny.  Although I wouldn’t rule out mental illness, it seemed to be a strange response to the acupuncture.  Apparently this isn’t uncommon.  And after my first session, I felt the best I’ve felt since I was probably two.  It’s what I imagine nirvana is meant to be like.  And best of all, I slept that night, which hasn’t happened much lately.

Last time I went, the acupuncturist checked my pulse and said that my lungs sounded weaker than normal.  I had felt that day that I was coming down with something, and had just started feeling slightly headachy, with some sinus pressure, and that overall run-down feeling.  She prescribed me some herbs to take — apparently these are very effective if you can catch something at its onset — and within a few hours, I felt a lot better.  By the next day, I felt fine.

So I’m a convert.  I was always skeptical of Chinese medicine, but I’ve realized that having a Chinese mother who randomly instructs you to ingest herbs is not the same as having someone who has actually studied Chinese medicine prescribe you herbs.  And I can’t explain the acupuncture, except to say that it works.

In case you’re wondering, and you’re probably not, if there’s an earthquake you’re allowed to pull all the needles out.  And then run outside in your glamorous paper robe.


Food Health

Liquid Breakfasts

I love breakfast.  I love eating, and breakfast is the first thing you get to eat every day.  I love bacon. Eggs.  Butter.  During the week, though, breakfast is a lot less fun.  For me, it’s a rushed time, and with my new job I am usually on a call with an international group of people at an ungodly hour.  I need to be able to prepare something that can be done in increments as I hit the mute button periodically, and it needs to be quickly consumed.  But it also needs not to be disgusting.  I’m a snob like that.

So here’s a little meal that my friend Patricia suggested.  It’s actually surprisingly good.  You’ll need (the stuff I took an ugly photo of with my cell phone):

  • Almond milk (about a cup or so…though I don’t usually measure so you might have to experiment here); I’ve tried unflavored as well as vanilla and they both work fine
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Avocado
  • Whey (I don’t really know what this is except that Little Miss Muffet ate them with curds in a nursery rhyme) — but at Patricia’s suggestion I got MRM brand 100% all natural whey in Rich Vanilla
  • (optional) Flax oil

All you do is slice up the banana and avocado, add in about a cup of the almond milk, a squirt of flax oil and a scoop of whey, and blend (I have a handy little Braun hand blender that makes this easy).  You can add in ice if you want it to be more smoothie-like, but I’m happy with it so long as everything else is cold.  The whey protein makes it filling — unlike with smoothies, this one tides me over til lunch. There you have it — healthy liquid breakfast!

Health Home Uncategorized

Melaleuca and My New Non-Toxic Life

After a couple of months of dry-heaving from stress, I’ve started to re-examine my life and have decided that I should really focus on the living part.  One thing that’s helped me feel a little more sane is de-cluttering and streamlining.

Enter Melaleuca, The Wellness Company.  A co-worker of mine recently introduced me to the products.  They’re non-toxic, concentrated (and thus space-saving: I took back four ginormous bottles of toxic cleaners like Cascade and Jet Dry that I could barely carry — and a single normal-sized bottle of Melaleuca’s Diamond Brite did the job far better), effective (who knew natural products could be even better than harsh chemicals?) and economical (much, much less expensive than buying non-toxic products through regular retail channels).  A lot of the products serve multiple purposes, like the Tough & Tender all-purpose cleaner, which is also a fruit and veggie spray, or their toothpaste, which can also be used to polish silver.  Their vitamins are far superior to grocery store brands — I started getting up early to do yoga in the mornings — and my husband asked that I buy him some of these vitamins because he’s never seen me with this much energy!  No more headache-inducing fumes after the cleaners come, no more giant Costco containers that don’t fit on my shelves, and no more paying extra for companies’ advertising and distribution costs (Melaleuca is customer-referral-only, so you get better value).

I’ve still got a long way to go before I’m as streamlined as Jay Shafer, who is apparently making it all work in a 89 square foot home — and I’m pretty sure I’ll never get there (where would I put all my handbags?).   But this is a pretty good start. 

Health Home Uncategorized

Method Dish Liquid and

My least favorite kind of stress is the kind that makes you randomly gag and wretch during the day, struggle to retain composure, and makes people wonder if you’re trying to hide a pregnancy. I’ll save the details for the novel that will render my financial success a foregone conclusion (please, magic book deal people, I’m sure I can think of something you’d want to publish!), but I found myself craving something very comforting…and yet very cheap.

Two weeks ago I was up in San Francisco visiting my brother and sister-in-law, who live the lifestyle of the people you’d imagine live in the spaces shown in the CB2 catalog. They had this Method Dish Liquid in the kitchen and I strangely found myself finding excuses to do the dishes. The pink grapefruit scent is perfect — calming, soothing, not quite as sharply citrus and energizing as lemon but somehow spirit-lifting and happiness-inducing all the same. I also bought the all-purpose cleaner and have been cleaning a lot more…for fun! Equally non-toxic as my home-made cleaning agents, they smell a million times better than my vinegar-y concoctions. And they made me feel…better! Like, a lot less stressed…and just by washing dishes!

You can buy it pretty much anywhere nowadays, but one easy way is via Alice’s prices are very competitive, and best of all, shipping is free AND you don’t have to leave your home. Alice, your online domestic helper, will send you reminders to refill certain things at intervals that you specify. It’s a great idea — and once Alice gets a critical mass of inventory so that I can take care of all my household shopping online — I will gladly fully outsource all of that to Alice. Worth trying out — the more people that try it, the more leverage they’ll have to get products.


Celebration of Life

Lady with Cigar.
Originally uploaded by **Poof!**

On her birthday, my brother’s girlfriend asked everyone to take a picture that day that they believed represented a celebration life. This was my favorite pic from the set. I bet this lady doesn’t spend her days working on large spreadsheets.


Early to sleep, early to rise…

Ok, I can’t take credit for this idea primarily because Ben Franklin already said it a little while before I did: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” (By the way, I don’t think Ben Franklin was 100% wise. For instance, he also said, “Eat to live, and not live to eat.” I don’t think that’s right (said the woman who eats mayonnaise out of the jar).). Anyway, I’ve heard this quote since I was little, but I’m just not and have never been a morning person (but I do happen to be a very good night person). As luck would have it, I took a trip to Europe, and when I returned, operating on UK time, I awoke at roughly 4 AM. And you know what? It was great! I felt so productive. In fact, the idea that I had so much time ahead of me motivated me to be much more industrious than I usually am. I did a yoga workout on video, I made a real breakfast, I went to the grocery store (where I was the only shopper and had to pluck produce out of cartons because they hadn’t finished laying them out yet — and if there’s one downside, it’s that I couldn’t buy lettuce because it was still somewhere in the nether regions of the grocery store) where I was congratulated at being the first shopper in store history to buy a fish from the fish department at 6 AM, and best of all, I wasn’t screaming at the kids all morning.

I don’t know about you, but mornings at my house are generally crazy. They’re probably the worst part of the day, tied with the 5 PM – 7 PM witching hour when the kids start to melt down and I start to look for a cocktail. And one of the reasons I dread weekdays is that they all start off so crazy, trying to make sure everyone gets dressed, brushes their teeth, eats their breakfast, has a lunch packed — in addition with trying to appear human myself for my appearance at the office. Add to this the fact that there is a punishment for the parent from the school for being late (I won’t get into it, but trust me, it is bad), and the whole thing is just plain stressful.

So since I got back from my trip, I’ve been making myself get up early. And you know what? My whole day is better! I’m relaxed in the morning, I eat a real breakfast, I talk to the kids, and I just have this general feeling that everything is really ok.

The downside is that I’m avoiding social activity, fearing it will interfere with my bedtime…the good sleep habits rule, as suggested by my college professor Dr. James Maas, is that even if you have a late night, you should make yourself get up at the same time every morning. I fear this. I have a known love for sleeping in, and I’m afraid that this will bring me back over to the Dark Side.

Well, sleep tight. I’m sure some of you do this already. I’m a little slow — it took me about 10 years to notice that Brad Pitt was “kind of cute”. You know, by the time everyone else had moved on.

Food Gardening Health

My cup of tea

Maybe I’m a little slow on the uptake, but though I always knew that tea was made of dried leaves, it really didn’t hit me til recently that they’re really just dried leaves. I guess I had always assumed that something special had to be done to them…why else would you pay money for a bunch of dried leaves? A co-worker of mine who is a bit of a tea freak went to a tea tasting in San Francisco Chinatown, walking out with several $30 bags of tea. What was so special about these teas was that they were whole leaves — so when you pour boiling water over them, the leaves reconstitute and open up (unlike the shredded bits of leaves you get in standard tea bags). He said that leaves that do that actually haven’t been dried for very long, and thus are lower in caffeine. I haven’t verified that claim — just putting it out there.

As you may have noticed I’m a little obsessive about efficiency (this drives my apparent zeal for things like recycling, composting and energy conservation, but refer to my previous post for the real story). I get a lot of dried lavender blooms and fallen-off rose petals in my garden. Mostly I throw them into my makeshift compost pile, or chuck them around the garden for slow decomposition, but I’m always looking for new things to do with garden refuse. So I decided to try making my own tea.

My criteria:

  • It shouldn’t kill me. Before gathering dried leaves for tea-making, I looked online to make sure there were like things on the market (e.g., other people had tried them, hadn’t died, and thought well enough of it to market it to a broader audience).
  • It shouldn’t taste disgusting. I also looked online for combos of leaves that, as in the first bullet point, people tried and liked enough to keep making.

I have a little teapot with a strainer for tea leaves, so I didn’t have to bother with sewing tea bags or anything of the sort. So far I’ve made a couple of teas:

  • Lemon verbena. This one gave off a really lemony smell, and was very light. It was a little lemony for my liking, but hey, it was free and didn’t kill me.
  • French lavender and rose petals. This one tasted like it smelled. I added honey a little bit of cream to it, but I think I went a little too heavy on the lavender.
  • Ginger. This didn’t come from my garden, but I plopped a chunk of raw ginger root into boiling water and added a bit of sugar — this was delicious. It was a little spicy, and really soothing.

I put in approximately 1 teaspoon dried leaves for every cup that I brewed. My conclusion: you can definitely make your own tea. Do a little research before dropping the leaves into your pot (hemlock, for instance, might be a bad choice), but for the most part, there’s nothing to it. Of course there are always leaves not readily available to you that are worth buying from tea manufacturers, but it is another way to use up the stuff in your garden.

Beauty Health

You know you’re fat when…

  • You go to talk to a gay guy at work, and instead of making eye contact with you he makes waist contact with you — he stares at the muffin-top above your pants the entire time.
  • Someone sets up a meeting using Outlook and lists you as the location.

Both these things actually happened to me this week.

I hate exercise. This was moderately ok when I wasn’t middle-aged and when I lived in a city and was forced to walk everywhere, but now on occasion I even have debates with myself on the merits of getting up from my seat to go to the bathroom versus…just not. If I were an animal I’d be a sea anemone. I’d have a symbiotic relationship with organisms that groomed me and would wait for food to come to me.

There was a time when I ran. I only run when I’m depressed. Anyway, I kept waiting for this “runner’s high” I kept hearing about. Maybe it’s just me, but unless runner’s high consists of severe cramping and the flab on your face actually detaching from your bones due to all the turbulence, I never got runner’s high.

I live in Southern California, so I have to spend a good part of the year in a swimsuit — and often times, sadly, in front of people I know. So instead of addressing the root of my problem, I ordered 6 tankinis to try on, figuring, the more coverage, the better. I ordered them from Victoria’s Secret, which I knew right off the bat was a really bad idea. It is impossible for me to tell what those swimsuits actually look like because, unlike the models, I do not have breasts that resemble a grown person’s buttocks. In fact, I could have stopped the last phrase five words in. But I’d venture to say that outside of Southern California, most people don’t look like that. So, it is not possible to tell what the swimsuit actually looks like on any normal person based on the photo. As such, it was shocking when I actually put them on. The most fitting phrase would be “female wrestler”. I didn’t think this was possible, but I looked even worse in those tankinis than in a bikini with my midsection exposed.

My new strategy is to appear in locations where I am comparatively in shape. For instance, our next vacation is going to be in Palm Desert. Next to most octagenarians, I look young, firm, and in shape. I appear lively and full of energy.

Anyway, I eat well and I try to be healthy minus that moving-around part. You can’t win ’em all.