Sunday, April 25, 2010

uncomfortable yet?

Earth Day passed by last week, and alot of people spent the day acting as if they cared about the environment with FB posts and changing a light bulb. (as you might gather, I'm not one for Earth Day--the holiday. If you wanna be green, be green. You don't need a special day... But i'm the same way about Christmas and Valentine's day too) I know, I get it. Some people need a kick in the butt to change that light bulb or *try* local produce. And good for you if you tried something new this last week. One first step is important, and hopefully you stay on that path and keep expanding your "greenness".

So the passing of this day usually gets me thinkin as i watch people around me buy CF bulbs, or even organic bamboo material. (soooooooo soft!) There's always a missing suggestion on how to be greener. An important suggestion, but an uncomfortable one.

Yeah, ladies. We need to talk about Auntie Flo. Our monthly visitor. The Banks of the Nile running red. A little ketchup with your steak. (and five million other euphemisms you can see on this link--HILARIOUS! Yes. I am talking about menstruation.

Ok. If any boys were reading this, they've probably left now. That's good. They might not like what's coming.

I use cloth pads. There. I've said it. I no longer purchase Always or Tampax or any other "disposable" item to handle my monthly flow. There are still a few in the house--I still have a supply from when i did use them, but I only use them in emergencies right now.

I came to this lifestyle choice not because of a "green" decision, but a health one. I cannot use the disposable stuff--my vajayjay won't have it. I haven't been able to use tampons for a few years now--don't know why, but they are painful for me unless my flow is "ohmigod, how can i bleed that much and not die?" And yes, I've tried all the varieties, etc etc. I'm not a pansy. I used them for years having this problem because I thought, as many women do, that this is what women do. You mature, you start using tampons and you deal with it until you hit menopause. But the pain got so intense that i had to go back to the old high school standard, the pad.

God. It just evokes memories, right? Sitting in class, cramps from hell, hoping you're not leaking, or that the outline of the pad is showing because you're wearing tight-ass jeans, or the SOUND of them as you walk that you SWEAR everyone can hear. They aren't fun. period. (no pun intended, i think)

Well, it turns out my vajayjay don't like them either. I mean REALLY doesn't. one word: Rash. Yes, rash. So not only are they just no fun, they are extremely uncomfortable for me--and for days after once my period has ended.

Those were my arguments against--and fairly solid ones too. But for those of you without a sensitive vajayjay, here are a few others that make very good sense.

  • Although most women think pads and tampons have been sterilized, they have not. In fact, no feminine hygiene product has been sterilized.
  • FDA does not require that the ingredients in tampons and pads be listed anywhere in or on the package.
  • Over 12 BILLION pads and tampons are USED ONCE and disposed of annually, adding to environmental pollution.
  • In a woman's lifetime, she is likely to use 15,000 sanitary pads or tampons.
  • An average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of tampons, pads and applicators in her lifetime. The great majority of these end up in landfills, or as something the sewage treatment plants must deal with.
  • Plastic tampon applicators from sewage outfalls are one of the most common forms of trash on beaches.
  • According to a 1998 article in Vegetarian Times, studies conducted by the sanitary products industry have found that lurking within tampons are trace amounts of dioxin, a chemical deemed a probable carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney from New York points out that there has been far more testing on the possible health effects of chlorine-bleached coffee filters than on chlorine-bleached tampons and related products.
And let us not forget the beauty of Toxic Shock Syndrome. It can, and does kill. I had a run-in with it once, long ago. Nothing like almost passing out on toilet to make you feel like a woman...

So now we hit alternatives--which in this world usually fall into two categories--cup or cloth.

For many women the cup is a great alternative. There are many brands out on the market that are free of whatever it is that makes your vajayjay unhappy. Just google "menstrual cup" and all sorts of links will pop up. But let me be clear here--this isn't for someone who is not comfortable with knowing the inside of her vajayjay. If you can't get past using an OB tampon because there is no applicator, then you will not like the cup, and you can just skip down to my discussion of cloth pads. If you've ever used a diaphragm, then this will be second nature to you. I recommend the Lunacup--it has a couple different models for women in different stages of life. Yeah--those vaginal muscles are not the same after childbirth, and your body's ability to hold that cup in place is different. (ask me how i know) The makers of the Lunacup understand that, and compensate.

I've tried the cup at various times in my life, but never stuck with it. For me there were a few cons: leaking and discomfort. No matter what brand i used, it never created a tight enough seal for me to not have to wear a pantyliner with it, which defeated the purpose. I also had a discomfort issue upon removal of the cup--but i think it was me and my weird vajayjay and not the cup. So they just aren't for me personally, but i know LOTS of women use them without complaint. You buy 2--one to wear and one that is being washed/sanitized. that's 2 for the year. Think about how many pads and tampons worn in a year. it takes 6 years for a tampon to decompose, and pads? It aint just diapers fillin' those landfills.

You can wear the cup for 12 hours at a time before you need to remove it and wash it. 12 hours. You get up, get ready for work, put in your cup, and have no worries until you come home. nice. Oh, and it makes for not so messy sex at the time too--another plus.

Since the cup wasn't for me, that left me to the more granola stand-by: cloth pads. This was more up my alley anyway since i have all this material--alot of it scraps--and a crafty notion. There are plenty of free patterns out there to make your own, so some women just trace the pad model they currently use so that it is a size they are used to. If you're not crafty, you can buy them. I've seen them in health food stores, and a few Whole Foods, and there are LOTS of women who sell them online or out of their homes. (And before you think this is a plug for me--I still dont' sell them. I'm still working on a design that is more efficient to make for the price i wanna sell, so I only make them for me at present.) Anywho, hit esty, or even google "cloth menstrual pads" and, yup, you guessed it, there is more than one page with sellers. Lots of WAHMs make these--usually the same women who make all-in-one cloth diapers (put it together), and it seems a lucrative business. (thus my other than personal interest) I've seen them called Glad Rags, Mama Cloths, Moon cloths, etc.

Ok, that's all about supply. I know what you're thinkin' though--HOW? Well, it's not as hard as you might imagine. You can also google this (*it's how i learned).

First, cleaning. It's the biggest part of this job. Personally, I have a bucket set aside to soak used pads in soap or Oxiclean solution. Changed daily. I just put the used one in there, let it soak, and then change the water the next day, keeping the soakers in there (unless they are stain-free, then i remove them and dry them on a rack that is hidden away...) once my period is over, I take all the ones soaking and/or drying and throw them in the wash for a good hot wash with soap. Out of the dryer I fold them up and put them in the bathroom to await my next visit from Auntie. Yeah, there's a little work there. But i have a happy vajayjay and I'm not filling the landfill with more plastic. It's less work than cloth diapering a baby. Or just caring for a baby, period.

Second--what about going out in public? Its not much different from using other items. You usually have a "wet bag" which could be anything from a ziploc bag to an embroidered, plastic-lined number. Just something to hold a used one if you need to. Yeah. You have to carry it around with you. That may be the number-one turn off for lots of women. If so, try the cup.

Third: leaking. Some of you may be thinking--but jeez, I bleed like Niagara Falls here--Cotton ain't gonna cut it! Well, you aren't the only one. Cotton pads are made with different parts. There is an absorbent middle (i used flannel, polar fleece, terry or microfiber) and some people make their's with PUL--a plastic lined material. I don't because I don't want plastic anywhere near my vajayjay. It also makes a crinkly noise that i don't want to hear. There are also models that have a place where you can put in another soaker (like for overnight or super heavy flow) to compensate. I can say with great confidence that in all the time I've been doing this--one leak. ONE. And here's a little known fact that i discovered when i was doing my reasearch. It isn't scientifically proven or anything, but when you use cloth or the cup, you begin to bleed less. yes. You read that right. YOU BLEED LESS. Not right off the bat, mind you. But a few cycles in, you begin to notice a difference. (cramps are still there though. sorry) Personally, when i was worried in the beginning, i would just put a pantyliner that i still had under the cloth pad. But now that's not even a necessity.

I know it ain't for everyone. And if the thought of any of this grosses you out, then you have your answer. But if you've thought about it, or any of the facts struck a nerve with you, then it might be time to make a change. And think about this. If you are willing to cloth diaper your kid--what is the difference? It's not as "granola" as you think it might be. Lots of women make this choice. Could be the woman sitting next to you. If you passed Earth day and wondered, how can i make my life "greener", the answer might be in your own drawers.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Yeah, it's been awhile. Turns out work catches up with life sometimes. Had a LARGE burp order to fill for a friend with lots of pregnant friends, and then the coolest diaper bag ever.

This was my first time using this pattern--although i had read about it a million times, and seen many examples on one of my online sewing forums/groups. So i finally bought the pattern earlier this year, and found this absolutely awesome material downtown. It was a time consuming pattern--LOTS of pieces, many of them that had to be interfaced with iron-on Decor-Bond interfacing. It took me an hour just to cut it out! i should have taken a picture of all the pieces with their little labels pinned to them! (There was actually only one pattern piece--the rest were just squares or rectangles cut by dimension with my rotary cutter) I also had to make one change because i didn't have any cord for the side pockets, so i improvised and used elastic instead. .
For anyone attempting to use this pattern, a few pieces of advice: read each instruction carefully, use the heavy duty denim needle the pattern suggests, and take your time. There are only a few places where the pattern gets "tricky", but if you just look at it, it makes sense.

Now, I will admit-one of the reasons i post to my sewing forums is to get some oohs and ahs. I'm a praise whore--no question. But in a bored world, it's nice to have something you make, with your own hands, be praised and admired. i really enjoy creating, and i also enjoy the praise that follows. glutton. guilty.

I will also admit to a little trouble with taking criticism. Even in my writing classes it was the hardest thing to grin and say--"i never thought of that, thank you." egotistical? If you must. None of us want to think of ourselves in that kind of light--but i just BRISTLE upon receiving criticism. If it comes from a source i respect, and has a modicum of truth to it, i generally come around, but the time from when i first hear it to acceptance it an ulcer-inducing episode.

(irony? I was often a sought after critic of other's written work. But i always assumed people were feeling what i felt, and i hated doing it. --unless the other writer was a jerk, then it was kinda fun. Guess i should have been an editor.)

So, most of the these online forums are manna for the prostitutes of praise. No one wants to be the dick and post what they are really thinking (or what sometimes comes out of my mouth): "wow, that looks like ass". Because these women will turn on you in a heartbeat. and honestly, most of the projects i see in one or two of my groups is professional quality. GORGEOUS. envy inducing--inspiring me to sew straighter seams, match prettier fabrics and pretty much perfect my own skills. So not only do you get some praise, you get to see some beautiful work.

So, imagine my shock when i post this gorgeous bag--a bag i have no desire to give away--and the response is sparse and a few actually negative. And not negative in the way of--hmm, those patterns don't quite work together or your seams are all messed up sista. no. They have to comment that the fabric seems "inappropriate" for a diaper bag. In fact they go out of my way to tell me what a great job i did in constructing it, but then dis the material.


Most of us go out of our way to say something positive about the...ahem...beginner projects that could benefit from a solid seam ripping and reconstruction, and keep our criticisms to ourselves--when we are prolly doing the seamstress a disservice by not telling her to practice sewing in a straight line. And these beeotchnits bag the material--and not even in a truly critical way?


so, i've obviously been thinking about criticism and politeness. My mother raised me correctly--if you don't have anything nice to say, mutter it under your breath when they're out of earshot. (jk mom--i know to keep my mouth shut when i don't have anything nice to say--i just figured that one would make you laugh) And since many of these women pride themselves on being "brought up right" and have made more than one statement about "how rude people are today", i just can't help but wonder about the motives of this criticism.

To simplify, i call it a red state/blue state thing (but of course it isn't that simplistic) Many of the items posted by others on some of my forums are gorgeous, but old fashioned and conservative. You know--dress for their daughters because they HAVE to wear a dress to school due to the dress code? They don't like skulls because it represents something that makes them uncomfortable--and they don't like THESE skulls because of that and....(shhhh) *whispers* brown people. Lets just say that those who live in areas where Dia De Los Muertos is a visible part of October only had great things to say.

So yeah, I've been thinkin about this for a few days. I'd love to say I just ignored it and moved on--but people who say that never do--it still niggles into your everyday life and colors what you think. I plan to put it aside after this post, but it will definitely color how often i post in those sewing groups...

Lessons learned this week:

  • iron-on interfacing is convenient and tedious all at once
  • heavy-duty needles really do work
  • some people were NOT raised right, no matter their protestations
  • Yolie is gonna look like the hippest mom at playgroup with this awesome bag.