The ‘I’ word.

[Disclaimer:  This blog discusses real life stuff in real life detail. Reader beware.  Also, it is long.  So, sorry about that.]

Author’s note:  This post has taken me almost a year to write, with multiple edits and additions throughout.  Please forgive any issues with tense, as I have had to go back through and rewrite what was previously in present or future tense and correct it to past tense as time went on.  

For the last two years, I’ve been dealing with a very private issue.  An issue that, until recently, I was not ready to discuss publicly.  While a handful of very close friends knew about my issue, the overwhelming majority of people – including most of my family, until just a few months ago – did not know that this issue was a very present part of my life.  But today that ends, because I know (although I do not always feel) that the issue is not mine, alone.  And for that reason, and my own sanity, I am going to tell people about it.

That issue is what I think of only as the ‘I’ word, for a very simple reason.  Because it is still very hard for me to say ‘infertility.’

In April of 2014, JEM and I started trying to have a baby.  ‘Trying’ consisted of me not taking birth control anymore and consummating like bunnies.  I figured it would take a few months – Rome wasn’t built in a day, amiright? – and, sure enough, in July, I was late.  I happened to be out of town when Aunt Flo didn’t show, so I waited until I got home to take a pregnancy test.  At that point, I was five days late.  Pregnancy test was negative.  I was surprised, but I guess still hopeful that I might just get a positive later.  The only positive I got later was my period the next day.

In August (that was going on 5 months of trying), a dear friend (one of very few who knew we were trying) suggested I try using ovulation predictor tests so we could time the deed better each month.  I bought a box of “pee sticks” and promptly started peeing at the suggested times.  Sure enough, like clockwork, the little happy face signaling ovulation-hormones showed up month after month, and, just as often, JEM and I did our thing.  And, just as often, I got my period right on time on Day 27.  Month after month.

Last November (that was going on 8 months of trying), my sister-in-law (who was, at the time, about 3 months pregnant) suggested I start charting my basal body temperature.  She said it helped her confirm when and that she was ovulating so that, in the future, it was easier to predict when ovulation would occur, and thus, when to knock boots.  I dove in head first. I bought a thermometer, religiously took my temperature at the same time every morning before I did so much as sit up in bed, recorded it all in an app that charts your temperatures, and confirmed what I had believed all along – the temperature rise on Day 15 signaled that I was ovulating on Day 14.  Month after month, the temperature rise occurred.  Month after month, the happy face appeared just a day or two before the temperature rise occurred.  And month after month, I got my period right on time on Day 27.  Month after month after month.

In January of 2015 (going on 10 months of trying), I started to worry.  I knew that the overwhelming majority of couples conceive within a year of trying, and that it wasn’t until you hit the 12 month mark that it was considered “abnormal” (not the medical community’s term, mine).  But I was still hopeful.  But I was also starting to feel crazy.  So I halted the ovulation tests because I believed I knew, at this point, when I was ovulating.  I did, at this point, keep taking my temperatures so I could monitor whether my post-ovulation temperature was staying high (which, if it stays high and your period is late, is usually indicative of pregnancy).  January went by.  No change.  February went by.  No change.

In March (rapidly approaching a year of trying), I had my annual OBGYN exam.  I told them a very nutshell version of our attempt-to-conceive story (“We’ve been trying for 11 months, my cycles are VERY regular, I always get positive indicators on OPKs, and I get a temp rise every month after I ovulate which stays high through the end of my cycle, I don’t know what’s wrong!”).  They decided to put me through two cycles of Clomid. For those of you who are fortunate enough to not have to know what Clomid is, it is basically a hormone that tricks your brain into thinking it is not making estrogen, thus kicking your body into producing MORE estrogen than you actually would, which is supposed to spur your body to make better (and possibly more) eggs that cycle.  They said that if after two cycles of Clomid there was no success, they would refer me to a specialist.

First round of Clomid resulted in absolutely nothing.  It basically put my body through the ringer for no apparent reason.  I got 9 days in a row of “high” fertility, never a signal of peak fertility, and got my period a week early.  This is not to mention a whole host of physical side effects and the roller coaster of emotions thanks to my new levels of estrogen.  Wholly frustrated and now over a year after we started trying, I got to a new level of pissed off.  And accepted, for the first time in the whole process, that we were within in the throes of the “I” word.

About a week after the first round of Clomid failed, the rest of the country celebrated Mother’s Day.  I mourned Mother’s Day.  The entire day was an exercise–and a failure–in not crying.  Having to sit through an hour-long mass that consisted primarily of praising the worth and importance of mothers in our lives, celebrating the moms in the room by making them stand, and generally otherwise making me feel like absolute dog shit.  This was the exclamation point on the weekend, because the day before, we found out some of our very best friends were pregnant after only a couple of months trying.   By noon I wanted just to go home and go to bed.  But, of course, we couldn’t.  And we didn’t. And so the rest of the day, I sat around with family and pretended I wasn’t dying inside. But I was.

My second round of Clomid might have been worse, emotionally, than the first round, although considering the timing of Mother’s Day, it wasn’t. Everything was looking a lot more “normal” during my cycle. At least at first. I got my signal of “peak” fertility, but then days followed and my temperature stayed low.  I think this was enough for me to subconsciously accept that I had probably not ovulated. But the hopeful idiot inside me told me otherwise. So the two week wait went by and Day 27 landed on the day I met my beautiful (then) 9 day old nephew. And… no period. On Day 28 I took a pregnancy test, and it came back negative.  And still… no period.  On Day 31, I took a pregnancy test, and it came back negative.  And still, this whole time, I stayed hopeful.  On Day 34, a week late, my period showed up.

And so I took a couple of weeks off. No temperatures, no pee sticks, no pills, no appointments. My whole life felt like an exercise in fertility-futility, and I was tired of it. So I let the rest of June fade by with no plans, in an effort to regain some of my sanity.

At the end of July (15 months of trying), I was referred to a reproductive specialist. After a three hours of every question you could possibly think of regarding reproductive history, and almost two hours of waiting, we met with the doctor for a grand total of three minutes.  It was just long enough for him to tell us that I was probably ovulating based on my cycles, but he wanted to do a bunch of lab work on me and Eddie, a transvaginal ultrasound on me, and a run of the mill pelvic exam to check for a whole host of things. Based on the nature of human biology, and based on my insane travel schedule last Fall, that took three cycles to accomplish.

In October (18 months of trying), we met with him to discuss the findings.  It turned out that all of my lab work and all of Eddie’s lab work came back normal. He said my hormone levels were really good, I was ovulating, so that was all good. However, he suspected I had moderate endometriosis based on my pelvic exam. But it wasn’t severe because it was not picked up in my ultrasound.  So his plan was for me to have laparoscopic surgery to remove the endometriosis (which basically creates a toxic environment for conception, but oddly enough, not implantation or pregnancy itself).  Without laparoscopic surgery, really my only chance of getting pregnant was IVF.

At this point in the process, we decided to tell our families.  The natural next question was, “How do you feel about this?”  And the answer was, I didn’t know. I was happy to know what was not the problem and that I could confirm what I believed all along – that my ovulatory system was working like it should and JEM had a whole brigade of swimmers at the ready. I was happy to know that there was a plan.  (I love plans.)

I was not happy that our chances of conception were only 60%. I used to think 60% was a lot. Well, maybe not a LOT, but enough.  Hell, I only needed 60% to pass the bar in New Mexico.  If someone tells me that my chances of something bad happening from a chosen action is 60%, that’s definitely enough of a motivator for me to not do it.  If someone told me the odds that I would win the lottery were 60%, of course I would play.  60% is more likely than not.  It was more likely than not that laparascopic surgery would result in a successful pregnancy for us. And I like those odds framed in those terms.

But deep in the back of my mind–or, actually, right at the front of my mind–was that mean voice that lives in all of our heads (and who, in some minds, speaks louder than others) that reminded me that, so far, the odds had not worked in my favor. It reminded me that 92% of couples trying to conceive do so within one year, and we were not one of them. And that scared me. Because I hated getting my hopes up.  My hopes had been as up and down as my [normal] hormone levels.  So I was still somewhere between hopeful and pessimistic. I didn’t know if my heartstrings would allow me to swing all the way to the positive side for fear of the pendulum swinging back.

At the end of October, the surgery was done and completed successfully.  They removed all the bad stuff and confirmed through an HSG test that I did not have any type of tube blockage.  He said the surgery went very well and to call him if by February I was not pregnant so they could put me on hormone therapy to try and speed things along.

The bottom line was that once the surgery was done, I had a 10-12 month window to try and get pregnant, and the odds were about 60% for having a successful pregnancy.  After that, the endometriosis would become a problem again, and basically our only option at that point would be IVF (also only about a 60% chance of a successful pregnancy).  IVF is a cost-prohibitive procedure since it is fully out of pocket and not covered by insurance. Needless to say, I was ready to start 2016 (21 months of trying) with a clean uterus–er, slate.

Fast forward to the last week of January, 2016.  I had just finished my third cycle post-surgery [read: I had just started my period.] I decided I would go on and start the hormone therapy in an effort to speed things along.  What I didn’t know was that hormone therapy works best with IUI, or intrauterine insemination.  IUI basically takes ALL the fun out of baby-making.  During the first week of my cycle, I would be required to have an ultrasound so they could check how many follicles I had developing.  Then, over the course of the next five days, I had to take a combination of [very expensive] pills and self-injected hormones to beef up my egg production so I would release more than one follicle and increase my chances of conception.  THEN, on about the 12th day of my cycle, they would give me another injection that would trigger ovulation within 24 to 36 hours.  The following day, they would directly insert Eddie’s “sample” into me at the doctor’s office.  After two weeks, I could take a pregnancy test.  Despite all of these shenanigans, IUI still only has about a 20-25% success rate for women in my age group.  Oh, it also costs about $1,100 a cycle, all out of pocket.

The hormones were not horrible, meaning they did not make me feel any more crazy than I was already feeling.  Injecting them, on the other hand, was not my favorite activity.  Stabbing yourself in the stomach with a needle is not up there with my most positive experiences.  However, by the time IUI came around, I had three ripened follicles ready to hatch eggs, so I was, once again, very hopeful.

Two weeks later, on a Friday, I took a pregnancy test.  Negative.  I was surprised, but not defeated.  I would just wait a couple of days and see what happened.  Two days later and still no sign of a period, I took another pregnancy test.  Still negative.  At this point, I basically gave up on that cycle.  I knew the chances I would have  positive test after I was three days late was all-but-impossible.  And yet still, the hopeful idiot talked me into thinking positive.  Two days later, I took another test.  Still negative. I really hate that hopeful idiot.  She can talk me into anything.

A week late, my period came.  Determined that IUI round number two would be the one, I called my RE to set up my next round of appointments.  I re-ordered my $500 in hormones and showed up that Thursday ready for my ultrasound.  After two hours in the waiting room, I started getting annoyed.  Luckily, I was called in soon after and assumed the position in the stirrups.

“Did you empty your bladder before you came in here?” the resident asked me.  “Yes…,” I said, staring up at the ultrasound screen at the huge black blob.  “Huh. Interesting.  I think that’s a cyst.  Let me get Dr. Noble in here.”

Because of the hormones, one of my follicles had turned into an ovarian cyst.  Not just any cyst.  A 5 cm cyst.  My doc’s exact words were, “Usually your ovary is about the size of a walnut.  This cyst on your ovary is the size of an orange.  It’s nothing to worry about, just a little hiccup.  We will wait a cycle for it to shrink and then we can resume treatment.  By the way, don’t do any strenuous exercise or you could cause ovarian contortion.”  Oh good. That doesn’t sound worrisome at all.  And then he said these words: “Have you ever taken the pill before?”

The pill?  As in the Pill?

“You mean like birth control pills?”

“Yes.”

“Yes, I’ve taken birth control pills.”

“And you tolerated them well?”

“Sure, I tolerated them fine.  Why do you ask?”

“We’ll need to put you on a cycle of birth control pills to shrink the cyst.”

 

At that point, I could not get out of the office fast enough.  The lump in my throat was as big as the cyst in my pelvis.  Birth control?  Are you kidding me?  I paid for my sonogram and barely made it out the door before the tears started coming down my face.  Once I got to the Jeep, all hell broke loose.  After 22 months of trying to have a baby, you want to put me on birth control?

That was six weeks ago.  I did my duty and took my birth control pills.  I never went back to follow up on the cyst, but I assume it shrank away because I have not felt any detrimental effects from it.  But I think that was the end of my IUI journey, at least for now.  I no longer have the stomach to put my body through the roller coaster of artificial hormones.  I no longer have the will to sit for hours on end in a waiting room.  I am tired of having nurses talk to me about fertility treatments as though they’re talking about brands of cereal.  I am tired of having to drop everything, both work and personal, to make it to endless doctor appointments. I am tired.

So, here we are.  Exactly two years from the month we started trying.  And we are back to the old fashioned route.  There are some more holistic, alternative options I’m looking into for the remainder of this year, but I have all but resigned myself that IVF may be our only legitimate option left.  I think by this time next year we will have been able to save enough for IVF, so we may explore that option more when the time comes.

Here is what I know: I am lucky. I am lucky that I have JEM as a partner in this whole awful mess (and who agreed to let me put our personal life out there), who has been 110% supportive of me, understanding when I freak out, cry every 27 days, get pissed off for no reason whatsoever, schedule sex like it is a court hearing, try every over-the-counter remedy possible, and just generally be me [read: a weirdo]. I am lucky that I have health insurance that has covered a lot of my fertility treatment . I am so lucky to have understanding family and friends (those who knew) who have been so sympathetic, empathetic, positive and uplifting during this process. I am so lucky to have beautiful friends with beautiful babies and toddlers that have been able to sub-in to feed my little person cravings. I love being Auntie Rae Rae to both my actual nephew and “surrogate” aunt to my several unofficial nieces and nephews. I am so lucky to have been able to share in the joy of two close friends who found out they were pregnant, knowing I was dealing with infertility, and still felt comfortable enough with me to want to include me in the celebration. I am lucky to have been able to travel to amazing places this year and participate in a whole host of activities that would have been all but impossible to do if I had been pregnant and/or had a newborn. I am lucky that I have two huge dogs that I can dote on and spoil and who remind me that I am already a very loved mother of two.  Mostly, I’m lucky to lead what amounts to a charmed life with wonderful people in it, and blessings around every corner.

And now, for your PSA of the evening: April is infertility awareness month.  Remember that one in ten couples struggles with infertility, and one in four women suffers a lost pregnancy.  Remember that your innocent question asking when someone is going to have kids could be a reminder of the huge gaping void they feel in their life. Remember that not all pregnancies are planned, and not all couples without kids are trying to keep from becoming pregnant.  Getting pregnant, being pregnant, staying pregnant and becoming parents are all extremely emotional, personal decisions, some of which we have no control over.  So be sensitive to those around you of child-bearing age because you never know what their circumstances are.

Love y’all.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Painfully honest reflections on Whole30.

I decided to start writing this post on Day 22 of my Whole30 journey.  I am not out of the woods yet, but I do feel like I see a clearing.  And it is a good thing, because only a few days ago, I really thought I might lose my damn mind. So I’m going to write about my experience so far while the “bad” is still fresh in my head and my memory is not clouded by fading affect bias which will undoubtedly set in at the end of my 30 days.

For detailed information about Whole30, go here.

I anticipated my Whole30 experience would reflect, in large part, the timeline that has been published on the Whole30 website.  Abbreviated, the first 10 days were the hardest, the next 5 were a little easier, and the last two weeks were more or less a breeze.

In short, that was not my experience at all.

For me, the first 10 days were, if you’ll pardon the expression, cake.  I was enthusiastic about the plan, I felt great, I could already tell I had lost a couple of pounds, I was sleeping like a rock, I was in a great mood all the time.  Colors were brighter, smells were sweeter, and I felt like a million bucks.  Day 10 was Friday, April 10th.

Enter Day 11 – Saturday, April 11th.

Nothing remarkable happened that morning. I ate my usual breakfast of eggs with some kind of sauteed vegetable, avocado, coffee with coconut milk, and a piece of fruit.  Lunch was likewise unremarkable. I probably ate some kind of Whole30-compliant leftover from days prior.

Dinner on Day 11 is when it started to get real.  JEM’s uncle was in town, which, as with any Moreno relative, generally means the entire weekend is devoted to sitting outside in the perfect weather, drinking cocktails, cooking out, and other merriment. Plus, it was my mother-in-law’s birthday, so there was extra cause for celebration.  Armed with my Pellegrino (which, at the time, was still sort of working to curb my alcohol cravings), I was ready to beat the desire for all the delicious food and booze that would be at our house that I couldn’t eat.

It was a physical win but a mental loss.

After walking past the bowl of tostadas for the dozenth time, I nearly broke. Three times, I picked up a chip and had every intention of eating it, until I remembered that it was verboden.  The birthday cheesecake? Not allowed.  The margaritas that I made? Couldn’t drink them.  The secret-family-recipe beans that literally stewed for 48 hours? Forbidden.  I ate the meat. I ate the salad. I drank my Pellegrino. And I pouted.  My usual alcohol-induced second wind never came, and I eventually snuck off to bed around 11:00, vaguely hungry, wholly unsatisfied, and grumpy.

The following week (Days 12-18) was not much better. Day 13 I had to go to a luncheon where I was served breaded chicken smothered in gravy, mashed potatoes and three baby carrots.  An apple and emergency stash of almond butter held me over from my carrot lunch.  Day 14 lunch was in the Kemp Smith suite at the Chihuahuas ballpark; I had two hamburger patties with mustard only because it took almost two hours for the food to arrive – without vegetables.  Day 18 was first lunch with friends that included grilled corn on the cob (nope) and baked macaroni and cheese (double nope) and later, a Kentucky-derby-themed gala in Las Cruces – fortunately, I could eat the steak and veggies and had only to avoid the mashed potatoes. Oh yeah, and the mint juleps on demand. Twice that weekend, I actually melted down into real tears and some mild shouting at the ceiling. Just one treat – ANY TREAT WILL DO – that’s all I wanted.  The weekend was capped off by JEM and our friends making a trip to Dairy Queen. I ate a handful of frozen strawberries and seriously considered crying myself to sleep.

Day 20 – Monday – was the first day I actually felt sane since Day 11. The cravings have subsided substantially.  Topo Chico – that’s a Mexican brand of mineral water for those of you unawares – has finally satisfied my beer cravings.  Finding compliant meals in restaurants is getting increasingly easier.  And the sweet tooth has finally fallen out.

* * *

By the time I got to Day 30 of my Whole30 extravaganza, I felt like a different person, at least chemically.  I had lost 9 pounds (which, for those of you who think I should not have lost any weight, I’d gained 10 pounds in the previous 6-8 months, so it was necessary).  Most of my clothes fit better–albeit, some were a little too loose.  I felt balanced, I felt in control and I felt, well, healthy.  I also felt like I had mentally climbed Mt. Everest.

Then I fell off the mountain.  Actually, I leapt off the mountain.  And happily committed nutritional suicide.  The second day after Whole30 was over, I think I ate everything.  I helped host a party, and I literally ate at least one (but usually multiple) of every kind of cookie, cracker, and cheese in the place, and that’s saying something because there were about a dozen varieties of each.  I single-handedly consumed about a quarter of a wheel of baked brie.  Why? Because I could.  And since then, it hasn’t been much better.  That was just over 30 days ago.  Luckily, the damage has not been irreparable.  I haven’t gained any pounds back, but mentally, my game is shot.

So that brings me to my next task.  Finding some kind of middle ground.  Although I know it would not be impossible, per se, I really don’t know if I can, or would want to, try to sustain Whole30 on a permanent, or even semi-permanent, basis.  While I did feel great at the end of it–and maybe I shouldn’t feel this way–life is just better with some of those things in it.  If you can’t have a glass of Cab with your steak, or a piece of cake on your birthday, or a meat and cheese plate with Champagne on Valentine’s Day… I mean, really, what are you doing?? It’s not worth it to do it all the time.  It’s just not.

But I have definitely learned one thing.  I need hard and fast rules.  And I need someone to keep me accountable.  That doesn’t mean I need them doing it with me, but it does mean I need them in my corner.  JEM did an excellent job of that during Whole30 – steadfastly encouraging me to be strong while he ate his DQ chocolate-dipped cone.  He tolerated (very well) my hangry, stabby mood swings and my desperate cries for just one beer.  And I think it also helped having you people–that is, Facebook people–who knew I was doing it.  I had several good friends who continually texted me throughout to encourage me and see how it was going, and then congratulated me when it was all over.

The next step is make a plan.  Then share the plan with you all.  It has to be finite, it has to be quantifiable, and it has to have real rules.  And when I’ve created that plan, I’ll let you know so you can all ride along with me.  It will probably be a 90-day thing.  I think I need that long to develop a real routine and form new habits.

So that’s it, with all its gory details.  I’ll keep you all posted on the next chapter.

– Rae

Categories: Health and Beauty, Nutrition | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

‘Poo free was made for me: How I gave up shampoo and conditioner – PART III

It’s been about 6 weeks since my last update and I wanted to fill y’all in on my no ‘poo adventures.  I have been free of shampoos for 12 weeks now and I am very excited with how my hair is these days… for the most part.  But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me back up.

Shortly after writing the last post (as in, approximately a week later) I started getting frustrated with the texture and feel of my hair.  It more or less digressed back to where it was the first week (after I failed to clarify my hair and it got a very disgusting waxy buildup).  Even after washing with the baking soda, it was definitely not clean; or, rather, maybe it was clean but it did not feel clean and it definitely did not look clean.  I read around a bunch and speculate that I was experiencing a common issue among people who wash their hair with baking soda but have hard water.  Even with my shower head filter, our water is not soft.  SoftER, yes, but far from soft.  And apparently, hard water + baking soda = waxy buildup on your hair.  Some people have great success removing this buildup with any number of things.  I tried them all.  Lemon, applesauce, beer, you name it, I put it on my head.  I had very little success.  The buildup removal was negligible, if any.  “Fortunately,” this was mostly occurring on the underneath layers of my hair, so I could more or less get away with still wearing my hair down, as long as I didn’t move my hair around too much.  Sounds okay, but it’s no way to live, believe me.  But after about 5 days, the waxiness started spreading to my outermost layers, and something had to be done.  I was truly at my wit’s end.

So I gave myself a pep talk and convinced myself I was not to blame and that El Paso’s hard water was to blame.  And then I made a decision to switch off baking soda and go to “low ‘poo.”  

Low ‘poo is more or less “non-traditional” shampoo.  It is sulfate free, silicone free, paraben free, basically free of any non-naturally occurring chemical and oft made with the vast majority of natural ingredients.  There are a semi-wide variety of low ‘poo options to choose from, most of which can only be found in health food stores (e.g., Whole Foods, Sprouts, Vitamin Shoppe, etc.). I went to Sprouts and started scouring the beauty aisle.  Sadly, even a lot of “All Natural!” shampoos are still full-blooded shampoos.  They have sodium laurel sulfate, silicones of every number and variety, etc.  So I read the labels of about a dozen and a half “all natural” shampoos until I found a couple that really were all natural.  

I settled on Alaffia Super Hydrating Coconut Shampoo.  [Ingredients: “Coconut (Cocos nucifera) Water*, African Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Extract (aqueous), Saponified Virgin Coconut (Cocos nucifera) Oil*, Lauryl Glucoside, Panthenol, Copra (Cocos nucifera) Extract. *Certified Fair for Life – Social and Fair Trade by IMO.”]  Naturally, I googled the ingredients I didn’t know (lauryl glucoside and panthenol) and was very happy to find out that they are plant based and vitamin B derived, respectively, and given the thumbs up by crunchy, organic hippies all over.  Yay!

Armed with my new pseudo-poo, I drove home with reckless abandon so I could wash my hair.

AAAAAANNNNNNNND I’M BACK!

This is the best stuff I’ve ever used.  Really! It gets my hair so clean and light feeling but I have nary a hair out of place because there is nothing harsh in it whatsoever. No frizz.  SERIOUSLY – none.  I don’t even use conditioner – I still use raw apple cider vinegar to rinse my hair when I use the low ‘poo.

So my new hair routine is as follows:  I low ‘poo and vinegar rinse my hair on Day 1.  Then usually 2 days later I do an egg yolk wash.  Yes – egg yolks.  I take three egg yolks (because my hair is freakishly long now), toss the whites, mix up the yolks and apply little by little to my whole head, roots to tip.  I rub in the yolk really well to my scalp and then rinse really well with cool water.  NOTE – do not rinse with hot or even warm water or the little bits of white that have stuck to the yolk will scramble in your hair.  Ask me how I know this.

After the yolk wash, I usually do a coffee rinse.  I take whatever was left from the coffee pot the day before and dunk my ends in it and then pour it over my head.  (I just realized it sounds like I dunk my hair in the coffee pot.  I do transfer the coffee from the pot to a plastic cup and then dunk my hair in it.)  A little scalp rub, and a cold water rinse.  The coffee is another great acidic rinse (like apple cider vinegar) that is especially good for brunettes.  Brightens your color, smooths the shaft of your hair strands, allegedly stimulates hair growth (?? something about the caffeine) and, of course, makes your hair smell like coffee.  All good things.

Then I try to last the rest of the week without a wash, but sometimes if I have something I want to look really nice for, I will just do another low ‘poo wash.  I decided I was putting too much stress on myself trying to stretch my washes.  I can definitely tell that my hair gets oily slower than it used to.  Maybe someday I will be able to comfortably keep it to two washes a week.  It is difficult now, but I am loving the results with the low ‘poo and egg combo.  So I’ll keep at it.

I hinted at this earlier, but the biggest thing I’ve noticed, besides the vastly improved texture of my hair, is how much my hair has grown.  It has been a little more than three months since my last haircut and I am not kidding, I think my hair has grown close to three full inches.  So that’s just another added benefit.

I’ll keep y’all posted on my progress.  Thanks for keeping up and if you’re thinking of going no ‘poo or low ‘poo, I highly recommend it!

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Lunch time musings: Fighting hate with hate.

Yesterday, Fred Phelps passed away.  You know, the leader of the Westboro group in Kansas that calls itself a church. I’ve been reading articles during the last 24-hours or so discussing his life and his “church” and the vehement hatred his church spewed, and even now typing the words, I can feel my ears turning red and a lump forming in my throat because it makes me so sick.

But this post isn’t about how much I dislike him. It’s not about how much I hate him, and I do think I hate him, which I don’t like admitting. I want to pretend that my hatred is really just quantifiable dissatisfaction with his practices, but really, in my deepest being, I hate him.

This post is about wanting to pray for him.  And wanting to pray for his family. And wanting to pray for the whole Westboro “church.” And wanting to pray for the people, like me, who hate him.  And wanting to mean the words coming out of my mouth when I do.

My first instinct in situations as these is celebration.  Celebrating the loss of a life who caused so much grief and heartache to so many.  He’s gone now.  And I want to be thankful for that.

But to be thankful for the absence of life is the opposite of good. It is bad. It is the exact same thing Westboro did at every funeral it picketed.  “Thank God for dead soldiers,” I believe was one credo.  To believe that it is acceptable to celebrate the death of one person while unacceptable to celebrate the death of any other person is to believe that the value of one life is greater than the value of another.  And THAT kind of sentiment can get you into real trouble. That kind of sentiment is the ground level of fear, hate, war, and pretty much every other human strife that exists.  The moment you are happy someone is gone is the moment the cause is lost. It is the moment that hate has won.  Because someone–even if only one person–cared about and mourns for the lost life.  And when we celebrate that loss, we celebrate their hurt.

The Bible I read (which I’m convinced is different from the Bible Westboro teaches) says to love my enemies. GOD, I am bad at that. I want to think I am bad at it because I am such an avid believer in pursuing social justice. Upholding the little man, fighting for the unrepresented, standing up for the underdog.  But maybe, at the end, it’s really just because I want to be right. And if that’s the case, then what I’m doing isn’t for them (the little men, the unrepresented, the underdogs)–it’s for me.  And while that might not necessarily make the underlying cause wrong, per se, that does make it selfish. 

So what to do in a situation like this one, where a man exists purportedly on a mission from God, but (on a slow day) preaches messages of hate, exclusion, and death? It doesn’t take a hero of social justice to see that this guy’s message is a bad one.  I’d venture to say that an overwhelming majority of Americans disagree with his sentiments.  This isn’t a case where education could be a key to enlightenment, where preaching truth and light might win over one in agreement with him.  And Phelps is not alone.  Religious extremists, racists, bigots, homophobes, terrorists – they all share the common theme of hate, so quick to point out the differences between us rather than the unity among us.  

How can such a sentiment be combatted, then?

I don’t want to alienate my non-religious friends by suggesting prayer.  It doesn’t require a religious person for prayer.  It requires a thoughtful person.  A person in touch with humanity.  A person in touch with him or herself. Whether that prayer is to God, or any other deity, or just putting the energy out there and seeing what happens, prayer is a deeply personal moment.  It is an acknowledgment of your own thoughts and desires and the desire to see those things come to fruition.  It is an acknowledgment to someone or something “out there” that the good of humankind cannot be accomplished by one person (the pray-er).  That, at the very least, it takes cooperation to achieve such an overwhelming feat.  I believe that cooperation is coordinated by a higher power, a God of love and peace.  My belief is, at least partly, religiously motivated.  You may believe that cooperation is simply the collective of the human spirit.  But either way, I don’t think many would say that one person can achieve it alone.

So back to my question: how do we combat this type of hate? The only thing I can think of is to pray for him.  To pray for his family.  To hope that they, all of them, feel the overwhelming love and peace of God and of humanity that they deprived from so many, and that I believe they are wholly deprived of, themselves.

But it doesn’t end there.  For me, I have to pray for myself.  I have to look inward and want that peace for myself.  Because saying or thinking the words alone are not enough in this case.  Because my hate, right now, is so great that it cannot be overcome simply by words.  It will take the collective good of God and humanity to quell the hate inside me just like it will to quell the hate Phelps spread.

Anyway.  Heavy thoughts for a Friday, for sure.  But I just felt like I needed to get that off my chest.

What time does happy hour start?

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‘Poo free was made for me: How I gave up shampoo and conditioner: PART II

I’m sitting on the floor of the San Antonio International Airport next to an outlet where my laptop is plugged in.  I’m wearing $100 Nordstrom-brand jeans, a $6 v-neck t-shirt worn so thin that even moths turn up their noses at it, strappy sandles, and a black blazer.  My Ralph Lauren work bag  is slung on the floor with mock-trial papers half-way hanging out of it, and a luke-warm Dos XX (is that redundant?) is sitting next to me in a plastic cup with a lid and a straw.

I don’t know why but I felt like I needed to set the scene.

I’m stranded in San Antonio trying to get home to El Paso by way of Dallas, but apparently all hell is breaking loose weather-wise in my hometown, so flights are grounded until things clear up.  Will I make it out? Who knows! Will I spend the night in the airport? Stay tuned!

One thing is sure.

My hair looks damn good.

Of course I can’t take credit for it.  Credit goes to sweet ol’ Mother Nature.  Funny how once you stop trying to fight things they stop fighting you back.

But I digress.

“Shampoo, forgive me, for I have sinned.  It has been 26 days since my last lather.”

That’s right! 26 days.  So as I discussed last post, I had to go back and clarify my hair with clarifying shampoo because I skipped that step last time.  Apparently some people can get away with skipping it and make it through okay.  My hair was malleable.  Like so malleable I could have done a flock of seagulls ‘do and it would have stayed on its own with no product.  It was gnarly.  Yeah, gnarly.

So on February 17, I clarified with Herbal Essences NAKED shampoo (ignore the moniker, they think because it’s silicone free that it’s au natural…  whatever, it served its purpose).  After clarifying my hair felt like straw.  Worse than straw.  I don’t know what’s worse than straw but it was bad.  I then deep conditioned with raw honey.  Let me tell you.  You haven’t lived until you’ve poured warm honey on your head and massaged it into your hair.  It’s… weird.  Sticky.  Surprisingly enjoyable.  …Okay, this is getting weird.

Anyway, the honey works like a charm! I let my hair air dry and it still felt a little waxy and weird when it dried, but after I brushed it out, it was very soft.  And, bonus, you smell like everyone’s favorite natural sweetener.

So I was a born again no-‘poo-er on February 17.  Since then, things have been relatively smooth (pun intended)! To be honest, the timeline of my routine has not changed much; that is, right now it still takes me a while to get ready.  Less time on the hair fixing and shower time in the morning (unless it’s a wash day) but more time in the evenings with the hair brushing routine.  I’m doing the Marsha Brady hair brushing thing.  Allegedly using a boar bristle brush will (1) help distribute natural scalp oils, also known as SEBUM (which, by the way, is easily top 5 GROSSEST words in the English language–like, epic proportions of gross), down the length of my hair, rather than concentrating it at the scalp, which makes hair look oily; (2) helps stimulate your scalp by exfoliation, which promotes hair growth and, in general, feels really effing good, (3) helps remove dust and other filth that has collected in my hair as a result of overproduction of SEBUM (see, doesn’t it make you shudder?) that my scalp is trying to regulate as we speak.

So I know what you’re thinking.

“I thought she said her hair looked ‘damn good’? Sounds to me like she’s a greasy lint-trap.”

Au contraire!

I can’t describe how shiny and THICK my hair is.  Like my hair has never been particularly shiny and, despite feeling like I have many strands, has always felt thin.  NO MORE! It’s like a different beast now.  The entire length of my hair is brilliant, shimmering brown, healthy looking, very manageable and styleable.  And I really don’t want this to sound like bragging because it’s not like it’s a result of my own doing.  It’s just my hair being itself! And the best thing is that your hair can do it too! I’m telling you.  I had totally unremarkable hair.  But now that I’m not fighting it anymore, it isn’t fighting me.

I’m still not out of the transition phase.  Presently, I am washing with baking soda and then going three days with no washing before I wash again.  By day 4, my hair looks pretty grim.  But I can tell it’s getting better, which gives me even more inspiration.  It is looking better and better between washes.  Before, by day 2 (the day after I baking soda washed) it would look dirty enough that I’d feel like I had to wear it up.  Now, on wash day I wear it down.  Day 2, I wear it down.  Day 3, I try to wear it down in the morning and then I usually put it up by the afternoon.  Day 4 I wear it up.  Day 5 I wash again.

Deep condition days are my favorite days.  I don’t really have a set day that I do this, but it’s usually when my ends feel a little dry but it isn’t a wash day.  Some days I deep condition with honey, some days with egg yolks (on those days, I wash with the egg white and condition with the yolk).  I want to try aloe too since I have so much of it at my disposal at home.  Next on my list is applesauce though, which is supposed to be a phenomenal “clarifier” and humectant. I may do that tonight, if I ever get home.

The other thing that’s been kind of cool is I’ve looked into a lot of fun and exciting (and easy and quick) updos for my dirty days.  It’s nice to have fun looking hair when worn up.  The ballet bun is always my go-to but there are a lot of other fun ones that I have been able to play around with (especially on weekends and casual Fridays).

Long and the short – it’s working. It is an exercise in patience and I had hoped to already be through the transition, but the good news is that it’s definitely getting better.  Only a matter of time before I’m a one-wash-a-week girl.

Can’t wait.

I still need to post pictures. I promise they are coming.  I’ll be back!!

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A Girl and Her Gallon: Weeks 3 – 5 in Review

[DISCLAIMER: Somehow this entry never got posted.  Honestly, it still isn’t really a complete post because I never did the full post-op write up.  But I’ve had a few people asking about the final results so I wanted to put this up so there was some closure on the issue.]

When the eating gets tough, the tough keep eating.

My apologies for the extreme delay in updating on my progress.  Between work, eating, drinking milk, and CrossFit, I’m left with little time to do anything besides what absolutely has to be done.  But I’ve finally gotten a brief breather to fill you in on what’s happening.  And what’s happening has been pretty big.  Literally.

As of this morning, I’m weighing in at a lively 128.3 pounds.  Lively is the biggest overstatement of the year, because, at 13 pounds heavier than I was 5 weeks ago, I have about as much energy as a beached whale.  Apparently all of my calories are feeding the little hamsters running on the wheels that keep my metabolism running (which, at this point, are probably starting to wonder what is really happening out here on the outside).  I can definitely tell that my metabolism has kicked it up, because the first two weeks I gained 10 pounds, and the last three weeks, I’ve only gained 5.  [Now I know what you’re thinking.  “128 -115 = 13.  You just said 15.  I… um… what?”  I lost two pounds during my third week, and had to gain them back.]

Losing the two pounds was incredibly frustrating for me.  After one day when I only ate about half of what I should have [READ: I still ate a “normal” day’s worth of calories–just over 2000 calories], I lost two pounds over the course of the day.  So, clearly, I’m going to have to eat a lot more than what is “normal” to maintain my weight.

[UPDATE: WEEK 6.]  Overall, my maxes all improved. I added about ten pounds to each of my lifts, which, in six weeks, is pretty dang awesome.  Long and short of it – it works.  Sorry I suck at life for not taking after pictures. Just take my before pictures and imagine that I have a lot more meat on my bones and my ass is huge.

[UPDATE: 2 YEARS LATER.]  I am back to just about my pre-milk weight because I’ve been eating like a human and not a mammoth.  Depending on the day, I weigh right about 118.  CrossFitting semi-regularly, eating semi-Paleo, not trying to gain at the moment.  But I may be back to that mental place over the summer. It’s really pretty amazing to see what the human body can/will do.

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‘Poo free was made for me: How I gave up shampoo and conditioner – PART I

The No ‘Poo “Movement” is not really new in the scheme of trends.  Based on the internet “research” I did on it, I found blogs and forums about it dating back to around 2009.  Of course, the real “trend” is shampoo; humans have been ‘poo free for the vast majority of the course of human history, saving a shampoo-type service for only the most luxurious and special of occasions.  It was not until around the 50s that someone thought it would be a great idea to market shampoo as a daily ritual and necessity for personal hygiene.  Based upon their fool-proof mantra of “lather, rinse, repeat,” we all became slaves to the industry in the name of staying clean.  Of course, it isn’t necessary to shampoo to stay clean, healthy and hygenic, and it certainly isn’t necessary to pour carcinogenic chemicals on your head to do it.

And so, on something of a whim after my most recent bottle of baked-goods smelling, commercial, designer-brand shampoo and conditioner ran out, I decided to bite the bullet and ditch the ‘poo for good. I guess it wasn’t really on a whim. I had actually been considering it for months but could never think of a time when it would be socially acceptable to have disgusting, stringy hair, as I was certain mine would be. But I figured no time like the present, and since I have something of a history of putting my body through some variety of healthy experimentation, I knew I would enjoy the novelty more than I disliked the grease.

But… there really wasn’t much grease.

Now I feel I should preface this post by providing a “before” visual for how my hair operated. I have fine hair with medium body that is mostly straight with a little wave that can be coaxed out with certain methods. It is uncolored and hasn’t been colored in about a decade. It is a pretty standard shade of dark brown (with a couple of creeper grays making their way in). I have an oily scalp and dry-ish hair and split ends (my ends weren’t too bad when I gave up shampoo because I had just gotten a good trim, but they were split a little). And my hair is long – currently it falls right about where my shoulder blade points meet.

And now for the process: I can’t take the credit for my no ‘poo method. Countless blog posts offered tips that I considered and tried to tailor based on the experiences of others. 

So here’s what I did:

The last day of shampooing was Saturday, February 7.

On Sunday, February 8, I woke up with hair that was about its usual morning-after state: a little greasy and matted around my skull and limp around my shoulders.  Here enters the no ‘poo:

3 Tbs baking soda into 2 cups of water in a leftover (rinsed out) shampoo bottle

I got in the shower.  I squeezed out a palmful of the baking soda mixture into my little mitt and put it on my part.  Rubbed it into my scalp.  Got a little more of the mixture and spread it throughout the rest of my scalp.  THIS IS IMPORTANT: the mixture is intended to clean your scalp, NOT your hair.  Ergo, I didn’t use it throughout my hair strands, just right at the roots where it met my scalp.  Once massaged in a bit, I rinsed it out right away.

Next is the “conditioner”

Diluted apple cider vinegar

Now I’ll be honest here, I’m not sure exactly what my ratio was on this.  I venture to guess it was about 1 part apple cider vinegar to about 5 parts water, but I could be wrong.

For this part, I leaned my head to the left side and pooled a lot of my hair in my left hand while my right hand wielded the diluted vinegar solution in a bottle. I squeezed the solution onto my locks and rubbed it in a little and then switched sides and did the same on the right side to try to adequately coat my locks. I then took a wide-tooth comb and combed through my hair, including my scalp.  THIS IS IMPORTANT: I did not put vinegar directly on my scalp. While some people did this with good results, I read some results that the vinegar directly on the scalp made the hair at the scalp too oily during the transition process especially. Since I know my hair tends to be oily, I opted just to keep in in the tresses and let the comb bring a little to the scalp, but not much. Then after just a minute, I rinsed it out well. [Update: I switched to 4 Tbs. of distilled white vinegar in about 14 oz. of water. I think it will help control the oil in my hair a little more.  Will report back.]

I wish I had taken a picture of my hair on Day 1 because it really looked nice. It looked a lot like it did when I washed it with my Philosophy shampoo, John Frieda conditioner and used my Aveda phoamollient. But I didn’t. That list of stuff I just mentioned costs me about $60/6 weeks. The baking soda and ACV cost me about $4 and I think will last me 6 months or more.

Monday, Febraury 9–also known as Day 3–and I woke up pleasantly surprised. I was expecting greasy matted and sad looking. Surprisingly, it really wasn’t! Okay, it was a little oily at the crown and immediately around my (oily) face, but I was not deterred.  I pinned my hair up during my regular shower, careful not to get it wet, and showered as usual, minus anything having to do with my hair.  Once out of the shower, I decided I would wear my hair up because it was a little kinky looking and I didn’t want to use a straightener on it and risk taking out all the lovely body it still had. So I pinned back my bangs in a little bouffant pouf and then did a high ballet bun.

HERE COMES THE MAGICAL PART.

Especially during the transition period, oily days are going to happen. True, wearing your hair tied back helps, but even a sophisticated ballet bun cannot always hide a true Exxon-Valdez crisis in your hair.

Enter the “dry shampoo” cheat for oily days. Except it’s not a cheat because it’s not ‘poo.

Equal parts cornstarch (or arrowroot starch) and cocoa, for brunettes. [I saw other blog posts where redheads added in cinnamon and blondes added ginger root, if they were a darker or more golden blonde. Or if you have the time, you can do pure cornstarch and let it absorb before you go out so you don’t get the powdered wig look.]

This has changed my life, and that is not an exaggeration.  There were times living in Houston that even if I showered at 2:00 p.m., the damn humidity made my hair oily by cocktail hour. Sometimes I showered again or was forced to wear my hair up to avoid an embarrassing shiny night out. NO MORE.

It works like magic. I don’t know how else to describe it. I put it in a little plastic tupperware container and using a large powder brush, I dabbed a little along the oily spots.  It went on looking a little powdery, but in just a few minutes and after a couple of strokes, it blended in beautifully with my hair. And just like that, oil = gone.

Days 3-6 went about like above.  On Day 3 I no ‘pooed and then miraculously waited until Day 6 to no ‘poo again.  Everything was going great until Day 7.

Days 1 – 6 consisted of me more or less obsessing about no ‘poo and wanting to soak up as much info on it as possible.  So I read and read and read and started second guessing my formulas, started worrying that I hadn’t clarified my hair before I started and hadn’t deep conditioned first.  So on Day 7 I decided I should deep condition.  I did a 1:1 ratio of raw honey and almond oil and walked around with a plastic bag on my head for 30 minutes.  Then I tried rinsing it out with complete failure of epic proportions.  I tried baking soda to get it out, I tried castille soap to get it out.  Nothing worked.  Then–more reading–I determined one or more things had happened: 1) the washes I was using weren’t strong enough to get out the almond oil (which is why no-pooers should use only non-oil deep conditioners); 2) the castille soap had reacted with the hard water in my shower and left a waxy film behind; 3) my hair was never properly stripped of the silicones from my old shampoos and conditioners, which were now showing up as buildup on my hair.  Whatever was happening was bad.  Really bad. My hair was actually malleable.  The roots were surprisingly clean, but the length of my hair was covered in waxiness.

So I had to take a step back and re-examine my routine.  I decided to go back to “Step 1,” or what really should have been “Step 0,” which was to clarify with regular sulfate-laden (but–important–silicone-free!!) shampoo and then deep condition with an all natural conditioner.

That’s where I am today.  Tonight I will start over and shampoo again (hopefully, really, for the last time) and start the process over knowing now what works for me.  I am still very optimistic!

I can offer the following advice before beginning no ‘poo:

THINGS TO BUY BEFORE YOU START NO ‘POO:

My issue with no ‘poo was I was so excited to start it that I didn’t plan ahead well. I thought, ‘I have baking soda and ACV.  I will never need to buy a single other thing for my hair ever again.’ So wrong was I.  Granted, I will save a ton since I’m not buying hair products per se, but there are things you need to get before you start.

  1. Boar bristle brush.  Only 100% boar bristle will work.  It will help spread your natural oils and sebum down the length of your hair without damaging it.  I found one made by Conair at Walgreens for $10.  A bargain for boar bristle.  Make sure you clean it out regularly.
  2. Shower cap.  Okay, admittedly I still have not bought these, mostly because JEM laughed at me uncontrollably when I told him I was thinking about getting one. But they are really helpful for deep conditions and other hair treatments, not to mention days when you aren’t washing your hair at all and you want to keep it dry in the shower.
  3. Deep conditioner.  There are tons of good ideas out there for deep conditioners.  The ones I have tried and loved were the egg (I used a whole egg) and the raw honey.  I want to try aloe too because I have heaploads of it sitting around my house.  **Important – If you are doing baking soda as your no ‘poo of choice, make sure your deep conditioner is oil free.  Otherwise you’ll find out the hard way that it doesn’t rinse out.
  4. Clarifying shampoo.  This was the one step I missed and I have to go back and start from scratch at today. I bought Herbal Essences Naked shampoo which has sulfates but is silicone free.  There are a ton of clarifying shampoos out there that cost anywhere from $1 to $30.  Mine cost $5.  Just make sure it’s silicone free – no ingredients ending in -xane, -zane, -cone, or -conol.
  5. Empty plastic bottles to put your new mixes in.  At least save your old shampoo and conditioner bottles. Rinse them out well, keep the squeeze cap on there for easy administration, and you’re good to go.
  6. Essential oils, if you’re into that kind of thing.  I already had some peppermint essential oil on hand, but got some tea tree as well, just for kicks. Good stuff. It’s like a kick in the face–in a good way–every time I open the baking soda solution bottle.

Okay, so that’s it for now.  I’ll do another post in the next day or so with some day-by-day picture updates so you can see the true carnage of how my hair looks today, and how it will look after my clarification/deep condition.  I also want to include some link-backs to the blogs I found most helpful and that I still refer to a lot. I’ll also update every week or so until I reach no ‘poo nirvana, as CodeRedHat so eloquently put it.

Until then… keep fighting the good fight.

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The Obsession with Being RIGHT

Every day on facebook, I read posts made by people shredding opposing views on various and sundry issues: politics; religion; health; money; hell, even driving and fashion.  Anything and everything is game:

  • Democrats are hippie idiots; Republicans are close-minded idiots.
  • If you aren’t doing CrossFit, you’re wasting your time; if you’re doing CrossFit, you’re in a cult.
  • Drivers who tailgate are the worst sort; people who don’t get out of the way in the left hand lane deserve to get tailgated.
  • Leggings are not real pants; if you can’t appreciate how fine I look in these leggings and my new crop-top, you’re tripping.

I am no less guilty than the rest – I oft find myself thinking, “if only he/she/they thought/acted like I did, the world would be a better place.” In fact, I probably think it daily at work, although I wouldn’t have much of a job as a litigator if everyone thought like I did. (Or would I be the BEST litigator…?  I digress.)

Really, all that statement means is that I wish people would think and act exactly like I do so I can have the ease and satisfaction of living in a world where no conflict with my point of view exists.  How nice it would be for me to not have to constantly defend my thoughts and actions.

And the question is—why do I care?

If someone has a different religion or political stance or moral view or fitness regimen or view on non-pants, why do I feel such crushing pressure to make them believe as I do?  Why have I actually lost sleep over this pressure?

Why do people have this hankering to be right all the time? I know the answer is because our egos tell us to, but why do we have to cater to that instinct?  Does our inherent competitive nature control our ability to just be content with the existence of opposing views—or even our own views?

When it comes to what other people think or do, with few exceptions, it has zero practical effect on my life.  I suspect it is that way for most people.  When I see facebook statuses on some controversial issue with a string of 40 comments, only about once in a grillion times is there a comment like, “Huh, I never thought of it that way.  You’ve shifted my entire paradigm.”  Actually, I’ve never seen anything like that.  It’s just a dozen people arguing their point four different ways and making zero headway in changing the others’ minds.  And what’s more, the people commenting [probably] don’t even care about changing the other persons’ minds—they are, most likely, only seeking validation from others who think the same way they do.  The only practical effect, then, is that the viewpoint that got more ‘likes’ sits back in their office chair with a look of satisfaction on their face and the opposing viewpoint gets more convinced that there are a whole lot of idiots in the world.

I know the practical effect that “being right” has on my life.  I usually feel it most when I get cut off in traffic and lay on my horn and get issued a middle finger.  The injustice of being flipped off when I know I’m “right” will literally eat away at me all day.  It will fester in my brain and brew evil thoughts and make me lose grains of faith in humanity.  And it happens time and time again.  AND WHY? Because the person who cut me off didn’t stop their car, get out and issue me an apology? Because they thought they were justified in cutting me off? How many times have I cut someone off and laughed it off when I got honked at? – more times than I’d like to admit, I’m sure.  And I always think I’m right then, too.  Could it be that, regardless of circumstances, I am always right and others are always wrong? I think that’s moral relativism, and, besides that, crazy talk.

It says something about human nature when the overwhelming majority of people would like nothing more than to shame opposing viewpoints in validation of their own views.  In fact, the “status update” part facebook is just that—an outlet where people can seek validation for their own thoughts (too often at the expense of others’).  Even if we don’t terrorize someone else’s point of view, when did we become so committed to posting our every thought to achieve satisfaction in someone else placing value on it?  Why doesn’t it hold intrinsic value simply because I believe it?  Do multiple people also have to believe in an idea for it to be worthwhile?

Anyway, if there is a point to this pyroclastic flow of questions, it is this: I’m taking a step back from facebook for a while in my own self-interest.  [Perhaps another upside is more time to blog?]  Life is way too short to sit around wondering if people agree with me.

Just a little something to think about.

And, seriously—don’t ‘like’ this post.

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A Girl and Her Gallon: GOing MAD after Week 2

Week 2:  Also known as, “Hey, those pants used to fit me!”

Alright, kids, it’s officially been 15 days since I started this journey, and as of Sunday, I was up 8 pounds.  That’s right, that puts me squarely at 123 only two weeks in.  If I continued gaining at this rate, I’d be 155 after 10 weeks.  And I might look like this.

My guess is that the initial weight gain will be easier than the last few pounds… just as the same is true in losing weight.  So I’m imagining that I’ll get up to 125 and then the last five pounds will not come without a fight.  Luckily, I’m up for the challenge.  I’m hoping to break 125 by the end of the week.

BUT, I can’t lie.  These gains have not come THAT easily.  Now that the initial novelty has worn off, the true drudgery of the task ahead of me is starting to set in.  While the task of actually drinking the milk does not bother me, nor is it much trouble, the task of finding time to cook and eat the tremendous amounts of food required of me is taking its toll.  Luckily, I am the queen of cooking in bulk, which, these days, lasts about two days.  Also luckily, I have developed a very attractive habit of shoveling my food down my gullet fast enough that by the time my stomach has figured out how much it has to stretch to accommodate the enormous volume, it has no choice but to just accept its fate, and then delegate the real work to my intestines, who, most of the time, are working ’round the clock.  Occasionally, my intestines appear to go on break, and then its just a free for all.  Whoever can work does, and whatever doesn’t get done, I have to bare the consequences of… so to speak.  Alright, well, I think I exhausted that analogy.  Moving on.

The other thing that is getting difficult is the mundaneness–yeah, it is a word–of my diet, which is my own fault because I don’t have time to spare to think of more creative things to make.  Ergo, my sample menu from last week’s entry isn’t really a sample menu, it’s more like the ONLY menu off of which I am eating.  Some parts of it I am not tired of yet, but I got to a real breaking point in my relationship with chicken, so I am currently exploring my other options in poultry–namely, the half-of-a-homemade turkey meatloaf I just murdered.  I talked it over with Chicken, and, quite frankly, it seemed relieved.

On that same vein, I realized last week that milk is literally the only thing I drank for the last two weeks, aside from occasional sips of water while I lifted.  I did not realize this on my own accord; my body shocked me into a reckoning that forced me to take notice of it.  Therefore, I am now drinking a gallon of milk a day, as well as about 80 oz of water a day.  This has resulted in two things: (1) I feel tremendously better than I did before, and (2) I probably spend about an hour and a half of my ten hour work day walking to and from the bathroom.  Currently, I’m triple-fisting milk, water and a Bohemia. …Because sometimes, there is no substitute for a beer at the end of the day, even if you also have two glasses of milk, two glasses of water, half a turkey meatloaf, half a head of brocolli, roasted potatoes and an avocado to eat, too.

Hey bartender, bring me a cold one.  No, I’ll drink it straight from the bottle.
Make sure it’s whole – none of that light milk crap.

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A Girl and her Gallon: Week One in Review

Well, 7 days into GOMAD and I figured it was time for an update.  The first week of milk-guzzling has already had its share of memorable moments for me that I figure are worth sharing, and I also intended to do a preliminary write-up before I even started, but somehow that time came and went.  At any rate, before anything else transpires, I wanted to fill you all in on my adventures with GOMAD starting from the beginning.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  Let’s back up.

As some of you know, on Monday I started a weight-gain initiative.  The desire to do it kind of spawned out of frustration I experienced during the CrossFit Open, wherein every single WOD that involved weight (i.e., all of them, except the burpees) was cripplingly difficult for me; specifically, the weighted movements.  Granted, when the Open started, I was just starting back to CrossFit “full-time.”  But the fact remained that, even at my strongest, the weighted stuff has always been difficult, and not just heavy weight.  Even average weight is more of a challenge than it should be.

So I decided to do something about it.

As someone who has weighed roughly the same since high school–give or take three or four pounds–gaining weight is not an easy task for me.  Even in my days of eating anything I wanted, drinking my weight in sugar-laden cocktails, and hardly ever doing any kind of working out at all, my weight has remained constant.  <Insert comments of hate and ridicule here.>  Obviously, in a lot of ways, this has been a tremendous blessing.  But when it comes to CrossFit, it is one of my biggest obstacles.

Here’s my past strength parabolic curve:

I got an A in statistics... or whatever stupid class graphs are used in.

I’ve been doing CrossFit long enough to know that there is no set formula for what separates the elite from the good from the average.  However, I also know that I can never be either of the first two without getting stronger.  And while I do think that I would continue to grow marginally stronger without first putting on some weight, I know the potential for dramatic increases grows significantly if I put on some mass.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Here’s the plan:

  • For roughly two months, I am increasing my caloric intake to fantastical levels.  This involves two things:
    1.  Drinking a gallon of whole milk a day (“GOMAD”); and
    2.  Eating until I hate myself… and then eating some more.  I’m trying to take in about 5000 calories a day, and those 5000 calories are comprised about half from the milk and half from clean food–i.e., no sugar, no grain, no (other–ha) dairy.
    I tried to kid myself into thinking that I would automatically gain 10 pounds of muscle doing GOMAD. Of course, this is impossible.  What I’m hoping to do is gain about 15 pounds total, and then level off at 10 to 12 pounds of muscle after it’s all said and done.  See below for more explanation.
  • During these two months, I am following a German-inspired strength program concocted by my coach, which roughly involves a high number of sets and a low number of reps of two strength movements, super-set (alternating) with one another.  As time goes on, my number of reps decreases slightly as the weight increases slightly.  Do not ask me the mechanics of how and why this is supposed to make me get bigger.  All I know is that this program is specifically focused on gaining size.  I’m also cutting down to one MetCon (metabolic conditioning) WOD per week, because I don’t want to be burning a tremendous excess number of the calories I’m working so hard to consume.
  • After the first two months, I drop the milk (at this point, I should have gained the requisite pounds, although only time can tell).  This will make me ravenous because it will be taking out approximately 2300 calories from what I’m used to.  So it will motivate me to eat YET MORE (assuming I haven’t eaten the entirety of the world’s food resources by then) in order to supplement that loss.  However, it will be better for me because it will be 100% clean (i.e., not dairy).  This is when I’ll lean off some (most, hopefully) of the inevitable fluff I will gain during GOMAD.  The key, of course, will be to continue eating at the level to which I have become accustomed.  If I don’t, over time, I will slip back into my bird-like frame.  This is not what I want to have happen.
  • During the second two months (months 3 and 4), my programming changes slightly, I think, but I don’t really remember what that entails.  Suffice to say, if I am able to put on the weight in the first place, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
The first step was knowing where I was starting.  Here are my starting statistics:
  • Starting weight: 115.5 lbs
  • Starting body fat percentage: 15.68%
  • Current PRs (from which I will be working off of):
    –   Deadlift: 215 lbs
    –   Bench press: 80 lbs
    –   Back squat: 115 lbs
    –   Power clean: 105 lbs
    –   Power snatch: 75 lbs
    –   Front squat: 100 lbs
  • Before pictures:
    Front shot

    So awkward that I am smiling.

    Side shot

    I need some sun.

    Backside

    It's a miracle I didn't get scoliosis with that crooked back.

So I put this plan into practice starting on Monday, April 3, 2012.  The first day was the hardest, by far, but not because of the workouts–because of the food.  Never in my life have I ever eaten so much, and I eat A LOT.  Luckily, I started out at only 1/2 gallon of milk for the first few days (because that made it so much easier…).  However, now that I’m going full bore, I’ll give you a run down of what my meals look like:

Breakfast:  4 eggs, 4 pieces of turkey bacon, a whole avocado, and 1/4 gallon of milk.

Midday:  Another avocado and half a can of coconut milk

Lunch:  A whole large chicken breast and half a head of brocolli, and 1/4 gallon of milk

Afternoon:  1/4 gallon of milk, two enormous spoons-full of almond butter (or some other nut alternative)

Dinner: Another chicken breast, two whole bell peppers, 1/2 a sweet potato, 1/4 gallon of milk, and a healthy dose of self-loathing (or regret, depending on how the rest of the day has transpired)

There’s a little variance from day to day, but that’s a pretty good idea of what’s happening.  Of course, there’s fish oil and post-workout recovery shakes, but what you see here are the literal meat and potatoes of my day. **Correction: Meat, potatoes and milk.

As I hinted at earlier, my WODs are supersets of 2 movements, 10 rounds, 5 reps.  Example:  Last Monday, I did bench press @75% and dead hang pull ups–4 second descents on each, with 90 seconds between each set of 5 reps.  On Tuesday, I did the same pattern, but with back squat and glute-ham raises.  Then after the super-set series is completed, I do one other small combination of movements; i.e., 3×8 super-set of ring dips and renegade rows (@35 lbs), OR 3×6 ring flys and ring rows, OR 3×3 rope climbs.  Then, one day a week, I do a short, dirty MetCon.  Last week I did an 8 minute AMRAP of 5 thrusters at 65 lb. and 10 slam balls at 20 lbs.  The program lasts 8 – 10 weeks, and the idea is that as time goes on, my number of reps decreases and the % of my 1 rep max increases.  But all of that will come later on.

SO–One week in, what are my impressions?

First, I still get endless pleasure from the look on people’s faces when they hear what I’m doing.  The reaction is always some combination of shock, awe, amazement, disbelief, and disgust.  “A GALLON of WHOLE MILK a DAY??”  I get a lot of crazy looks from people at the grocery store too, when half my cart is full of milk, and the other half is full of eggs, chicken and sweet potatoes.  Second, and I knew it would be the case, but this is going to be an expensive venture.  By my estimation, I’ll burn through about $125 on milk ALONE each month.  After the end of April, I will report on my grocery bill for the month.  Third, despite what I know EVERYONE is thinking (“What does that much milk do to a person?!”), my guts have adjusted quite nicely.  The first couple of days were a *cough* challenge, but I think after my stomach expanded to provide the necessary real estate for all the additional food and milk, the volume of food balanced out the volume of milk so that THAT was not an issue.

Mostly what I’m excited about is that, one week in, I can already tell a difference.  Notably, the milk is serving its purpose, because I am hungry almost all the time (except immediately after I finish a feeding–er, meal).  But mostly, I can tell I’m getting bigger.  I might not have really noticed if I hadn’t put on pants today that, two weeks ago, were so big that I almost didn’t wear them because they hung on me.  Today–like a glove.  I am probably the ONLY girl in the entire world who is excited that her pants are fitting tighter.  However, considering how little of an idea I had about how this whole plan would actually work, I’m pretty ecstatic.  And to be clear, they were tighter throughout the leg and the seat, NOT the waist.  So I consider it to be a success so far.

In a few weeks, I’ll re-weigh and report in.  I was planning on weekly updates, but I think I’m going to just update as I feel so inspired.  In the meantime, I’m just going to keep eating and–naturally–keep drinking.

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