Running (or lack thereof)

As I’ve mentioned before, my dad is the Athletic Director for San Pedro High School–my alma mater’s hugest rival.  Despite attending Narbonne High, my brothers and I pretty much grew up within the PE department of Pedro, and the coaches and teachers became like a second family to us.  Because of the prestige we’ve gained from our father, and the fact that we all ran Cross Country in high school, we were invited to run in their Alumni Cross Country meet at our home course tomorrow.  I’ve heard that Valerie, Pedro’s best runner during my time, and my fiercest competitor, will be racing.  By “fiercest” I mean, friendliest and humblest non-teammate I’ve ever had the privilege to run against (and beat once…in the mile…at my home track…but that’s another story).
I probably would have ignored the pain of my recovering ankle surgery and negligently ran in the meet for nostalgic purposes, but as soon as I heard Valerie was going to be there, I opted to be a supporting observer.  Marissa humorously expressed my exact sentiment when I told her she could run, and that Valerie would be there, by replying:  “I’m not about to make a fool of myself.”  Back in high school, Valerie was a top notch runner, as well as the entire San Pedro Cross Country team, and while Marissa and I still run occasionally to keep in shape, we are nowhere near the racing speeds or endurance of our youth, and we’re betting that Valerie still is.
Without coming across as a braggart, I just want to state that Marissa and I were born with some raw talent in running.  As freshmen, we were the fastest on our team, and went to City Finals every year of high school.  We quickly overcame our competitor from Banning High, Juana, in our freshman year, and were living large until San Pedro’s team stepped it up and started producing some bomb runners.  We had some goodhearted coaches who believed in us and worked with us to the best of our abilities, but we just weren’t as dedicated as the San Pedro runners, and our high school’s running program was just not as well organized as theirs, so it became increasingly difficult to individually win meets.
I wish I could say that we tried our hardest, but looking back at my high school running days, it’s clear that we did not.  Our coaches continually told us girls to separate during practice runs, so that we’d be training at each of our ability levels, but we stubbornly stayed in a group so that we could chat together for the 5 or so miles.  As soon as we got a few blocks away from school, we’d slow down and plan out the order of a natural arrival, leaving in waves so that it would appear to our coaches and teammates that we weren’t actually running together the entire time.  Sadly, our coaches eventually caught on and would periodically monitor our runs more closely.
Also, on hot afternoons, or days that we just didn’t feel like running, us girls would run to my house (which was right off our route and only a quarter of a mile away) to gorge ourselves on granola bars and fresh oranges picked from my tree, all while jumping on our huge backyard trampoline.  It could be argued that we were still getting some sort of endurance training through the constant jumping, but really, it was purely a time for rest, relaxation, and sweet, sweet snacking.  Our workout was so minimal that we’d have to “sweat” ourselves with the water hose before we took off back to school to make it look like we actually did our run. 
I’m not saying we did this all the time, or even every week, but I can imagine what sorts of runners we could have become had we actually trained correctly.  We relied on our natural abilities to get us through our meets, and it’s amazing that we got as far as we did.  That said, I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.  No, I never made it past City Finals to State Championships, and yes, San Pedro’s growing team eventually overtook ours, but I have some amazingly fun and silly memories with my cross country teammates that I wouldn’t have had I actually listened to my coaches and broke away from the pack during practices.  What other cross country team sings camp songs together while running for miles?  Instead of focusing on medals, we focused on friendships, and I’m thankful for it, because you know what?  I got both.  


Standing To Pee


You can now purchase a pStyle from me! Scroll to the bottom of this post for details.
Three weeks ago, I posted this picture of my newly purchased pStyle on Facebook and Instagram.
It caused many dudes to question why, and many girls to ask where they could get one.  It even sparked a curiosity as to whether the GoGirl was better.
I’m only including a picture for comparison purposes. I have
never tried this product and cannot endorse it’s use. Though if someone
buys me one, I’ll totally go use it and review it.
I love camping and backpacking, but I’m getting too old and tired of hiking a mile away from my companions, digging a six inch hole to bury toilet paper, and popping a squat every time I have to pee.  I also do not enjoy the times I accidently pee on my shorts or ankles while attempting this squatting process, so I decided to spend the last half a year researching stand up urination contraptions.  Though the GoGirl seemed to be the most well known, it also had extremely varying reviews, which troubled me and delayed my purchase of a device.  The women who loved the GoGirl, professed that much practice would be needed before taking it to the wild, and the women who had problems with it…dude…they had problems!  I read review after review of the flexible rubbered GoGirl collapsing and leaving a puddled pee mess in their pants.  And then I also read many horrible accounts of women filling the funnel faster than it could be expelled; overflowing the container and again, making a wet mess.  I just wasn’t sold on the GoGirl, so I kept looking; and that’s when I found the pStyle.
Though the pStyle didn’t have as many reviews as the GoGirl, every single review it had, was positive!  I couldn’t even find a review lower than 4 (out of 5) on Amazon.  The 5 star reviews raved of it’s greatness, and the 4 star reviews pointed out petty complaints such as: it’s too long and made of hard plastic (making it less discrete than competitors) and it didn’t come with a carrying case.  That’s it.  No horror stories of pee leaking all over themselves, no woes of hot urine splashing back or dribbling on their feet, basically, no functionality complaints whatsoever!  I was sold!  After receiving it and posting the picture above, I decided that I would come back from a backpacking trip and review the shit out of this product for my inquiring friends and family.  So here’s what I found:
The pStyle rocks!
The day I got it in the mail, I drank copious amounts of water so that I could test it multiple times that afternoon in my home before I left for my backpacking trip the following morning.  For my first test, I dropped my chonies and shorts, stood over the edge of the tub, slightly bent my knees (as instructed) and peed into my shower.  The stream never even came close to flowing over the outer edge of the pStyle, and it drained out and away from my body just like it said it would.  The last step was to gently press upward as I pulled the pStyle away from my body to simulate wiping.  Afterwards, I grabbed some toilet paper and did a regular wipe anyway, to see how well the device actually “wiped,” and I gotta say, it did pretty well.  I only had a small drop on that piece of toilet paper.
For my next test, I dropped my shorts and chonies again, but stood over the toilet.  Though I had to badly urinate, it took my body a few seconds to respond to the awkward positioning and overcome the fear of peeing all over my bathroom floor.  As soon as I relaxed, the pee came, and it went perfectly into the toilet!  I was ecstatic!  However, I didn’t let my excitement completely overtake me, as this tool would not prove to be perfect unless I could pee without dropping my pants and exposing my butt to the world.  Half the reason I got the pStyle was so that I could turn my back to my friends and pee on a tree!  Anyway, my last home-test worked.  I unzipped my shorts, pushed my chonies to the side, positioned the pStyle, and peed with ease over the toilet.  I was ready to go camping!
The next morning, I left on an overnight backpacking trip with my dad and uncle.  I was eager to try out my pStyle after we stopped for lunch on the trail.  Unfortunately for me, my body freaked out.  Even though I had hiked out of view, as I stood there pushing and willing the pee to come, it would not.  I don’t, however, blame this on the pStyle.  As this unfortunate event was taking place, I remembered that this happens almost every time I try my first outdoor pee.  I usually squat and push and nothing comes out due to my body telling me that it is unnatural, and this was what was happening to me then.  Dejected, I zipped up my pants and returned to our lunch spot.  Of course, as soon as we began to walk, I felt the urge to urinate, but we were on our way, and I wasn’t about to ask my dad and uncle to stop just so I could fail again.  I waited until our next break, and then, despite my body not wanting to urinate in nature, I HAD TO PEE, and what a glorious and perfect pee I had using my pStyle!  No leaks, no hesitation, and very easy to use in the wild!
This is what it looked like from my perspective after
positioning it.  See?  All lady parts covered!
Also, please erase from your memory my dorky
Tevas with socks. Coolness is a low priority out in
the wilderness.
I wanted to post a picture of my urine actually coming out of the pStyle (‘cause yes, I totally took a picture of that!), but my brother, who is as gross and unashamed as me, pretty much told me (through his laughter and shaking of his head) that it would be a bit over the line, so I decided against it.  However, what’s a good review without pictures of the product in use?  For those of you who would like to see how it worked, I created a Flikr account just to give you the chance to witness it in it’s glory.  To see that picture, click HERE.  That way, for those of you who think pictures of pee are the grossest thing in the world, and better kept to our imaginations, just keep reading and don’t click on the link!  We all win.
The rest of the trip, I was able to use the pStyle successfully, and I was so thankful to have it!  Our campsite was wide open, with thin bushes scattered throughout, so if not for the pStyle, I would have had to hike quite a ways before finding a decent place to drop my pants and pee.  Instead, I was able to duck behind a bush, turn my back, and urinate.  Alas, I never did walk up to a tree to pee.  Even though my private areas were completely covered, my embarrassment of peeing in front of others overcame me, and I felt that I still needed to hide.
If you are a camper, or you just don’t like using public toilets, I highly suggest the pStyle.  Not only did it function perfectly, but it was also easy to clean and put away.  The shape of the device allows the pee to drain right off, so when it was stored in the Ziploc it came in, there were no lingering drops of urine.  Though the wiping effect isn’t perfect, it’s damn near close, and I didn’t have to use toilet paper on the trip.  Also, it was small enough to carry in my fanny pack (heck yeah I rocked a fanny pack!) and I felt pretty discrete whenever I brought the pStyle out.  Seriously, I have no complaints about this device whatsoever.  I can’t wait to add my review to Amazon and inspire more women to get this product!
UPDATED: If you would like your very own pStyle, you can now purchase one from me!
Just click on the button below.  Each pStyle is $10 and you have five colors to choose from!


Orange $10.00 USD
Blue $10.00 USD
Green $10.00 USD
Purple $10.00 USD
Pink $10.00 USD
Clear $10.00 USD

Will You Sign My Dead Chipmunk?

Two days ago, my cousin Marissa and I left Los Angeles a little before 1pm, to drive down to San Diego for a book signing that started at 7pm.  Yes, we did get to Barnes & Noble four hours early to inquire about Jenny Lawson’s signing, and no, we didn’t regret how excessively early we were.  If you haven’t yet, you must read her book: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) and visit her blog, because then you’ll understand why we absolutely needed to be seated as close as humanly possible to her. 
We asked the nearest sales clerk for information about the event, but we weren’t satisfied with his answer of, “It’ll be over there at 7pm,” and him quickly flicking his wrist and not even bothering to look up from his bookkeeping.  We did not arrive hours in advance to get information we already knew, so Marissa kept politely prodding for more details of where and when we could begin lining up.  You could tell he was a bit bothered with our questioning of every detail, so Marissa saved us by cheerfully adding, “We’re really excited to meet her!”  At that, he softened and inquired as to whether we bought her book yet, and gladly signed a ticket for us, showing that we had.
Noticing that we were the only two nerds there and ready for the signing (and pretty much the only two in the store) we felt more than comfortable leaving to meet up with my other cousin, Marissa’s sister, for a long lunch.  She was quick to laugh and question our attire, as we were matching in our Lawsbian Pride shirts and gray shorts.
We got back to Barnes & Noble a little before 5pm, and after perusing every square inch of the store, we sat ourselves down in the cleared out kid’s section, where Jenny would be doing her reading (which is hilarious because she has an awesomely funny, but foul, mouth).  We were sure people must have thought we were child predators since the cushions we sat on were located right next to the play table, but we sat down anyway and tried not to stare too much at the cute kids who came to play with the train-set on the table.   
For the last few weeks, I have been working on a Jefferson Peabody cross-stitch to give to Jenny, and with my luck, I still wasn’t quite done with it.  I had worked so hard and was determined to give it to her, so I sat and stitched furiously, my hands shaking with the anxiety over not finishing in time.  While I stitched, Marissa was audibly enjoying herself while re-reading Jenny’s book.  Amazingly enough, I finished just as my online Lawsbian friend, Shelly, arrived at the store. 
It was the first time we’d be meeting in person, and I was terrified of being the usual ball of awkward that I usually am, but Shelly’s warm personality kept our conversation going, and the three of us sat and chatted the time away while we waited for the chairs to get set up.  The event organizer was really nice, and offered up-to-the-minute information on what he was doing, and how he was planning to set up the area without us even inquiring.  As soon as he got the first two rows set up, Marissa, Shelly, and I plopped ourselves down on the first three seats of the front row.  A brown chair next to Shelly was marked with a post-it that said it was reserved for a relative.  We were told it was for her sister-in-law, but being the super Jenny stalkers we are, we knew her husband, Victor, didn’t have a brother, and began to excite ourselves over the prospect of it being Jenny’s sister, Lisa….and it totally was!  I got to share side glances and knowing smiles with her on a few occasions throughout Jenny’s appearance, and that made the night just that much more special.
We brought our humanely taxidermied critters, and they were
just as excited to be sitting right up front.
But to get back to the waiting part: While I was sitting, nervously clutching my book in my lap, I noticed Bree, my cousin-in-law, (is that even a term? She’s my cousin’s husband’s sister….so it makes sense in my head) sitting in the row behind me.  I had no idea she was a fan too, so I tried to get her attention, but my soft voice was overshadowed by the excitement she was causing over the 2-foot metal chicken she had in her hands.  If you’re not a Bloggess fan, you should go read this to see what the hub bub was all about.  I finally caught her attention, and after sharing a hug, she showed me pictures of our niece’s 2nd birthday party.  (Well, she’s not really my niece, she’s Bree’s niece, but she’s my cousin’s child, so she feels like a niece to me…and now I’m realizing that I apparently like to make up family relationship names…that’s cool, right?)
As soon as Bree went back to her seat, a girl with a cool camera around her neck who was taking candid photos of everyone asked if I was Erica.  Turns out, it was Melanie, the one who started the Hope Blog Relay that I took part in!  I was pretty much as awestruck as if I was meeting Jenny, so I jumped right up and gave her a hug, and then sat right back down, all awkward-like, and mumbled something about how great it was to meet her in person.  I thought I scared her away, ‘cause she quickly retreated to the back where she continued to take pictures, but turns out she was feeling just as socially inept as me!  So like opposing magnets, our awesome social skills kept us from sharing more than a hug and a quick hello.
Time seemed to fly by, and soon enough, Jenny was right in front of me.  And I mean right in front of me! 
Best story time EVER!
She read one of my favorite chapters (of course it’s the one about poo), and we all laughed our asses off the entire time.  It was fun sneaking glances at the trying-not-to-smile-security dude and the Barnes and Noble employees who were hearing her story for the first time.  After an awesome question and answer session, it was time to line up for the signing.  Being in the front row, we got to line up first, and I happened to get shuffled to the very front of the line!  I gawkily stood there fumbling around with my phone, my book, my cross stitch, and of course, my taxidermy newsy chipmunk, Marjorie, watching Jenny take a seat and prepare to meet us all, and waiting for someone to usher me forward.  
When they finally said I could approach the table, I was a mumbling fool, but Jenny was so sweet, that she helped calm me down.  She was all kinds of excited to see Marjorie, and said that she was the first chipmunk she’s ever signed!  And when I gave her the Jefferson Peabody cross-stitch, she was beyond grateful.  She didn’t just give a polite thank-you, she was genuinely impressed and happy to receive it, and it made my heart happy.  I couldn’t have asked for a better reaction:
So excited!
As we prepared for the picture, and I made sure to position Marjorie in it, she remembered that she had brought Copernicus, who was sitting in her purse right at her feet.  I watched her struggle to pull him out of the clawing tangle of things in her purse, and contemplated helping, but wasn’t sure if it was cool to reach into a New York Times Best Seller author’s purse, so I held back.  After seconds of her struggling, which felt like minutes, I decided, awesome author or not, she needs help, and it’s the humane thing to do, so I reached down to help untangle Copernicus.  At the same time, her sister rushed in to help, and suddenly there were too many hands, and I heard her sister softly say, “No,” and wasn’t sure who she was talking to, or what she was referring to, but I’m pretty sure it was directed to me, the complete stranger, putting her hands on her sister’s purse junk.  I get it though.  If I were ever famous, I’d like to think that my brothers would look out for my possessions too.  In any case, out popped Copernicus, and with Jenny victoriously holding him, we snapped a picture together. 
I love how genuine she is! I mean, look at that smile!
When it was all over, Marissa and I were literally shaking with nervous excitement, and our giddy smiles stayed plastered on our faces all night.  It truly was one of the best days of my life, and one that I will never forget.
Marissa, Jenny, Me, Copernicus,
Not-So-Bad-Ass-Legolas, and a naked Marjorie.

And if you made it to the end of this post, thanks for sticking it out!  There was just no way I could cut any of that day from this entry, so I appreciate your dedication. 

She validated my Cool Girl Book Club name by
voluntarily writing, “You Rock!”

Hope 2012: A Blog Relay

There’s a blog relay going on during this Olympic season started by Melanie Crutchfield where she began blogging about hope, and passed the torch to other bloggers who then continued passing that torch of hope, and so on.  She will even be conducting a “closing ceremony” with excerpts from blogs in this relay.  The torch of hope has been dangling in front of me from many fellow bloggers, and I desperately wanted to write on it, but inspiration was failing me.  That is, until today.
This morning, I woke up from a bad dream.  It consisted of me being upset with some sort of thing Greg did or said, but whenever the action was completed, and I began to reason and argue with him, he morphed into my ex, and my past feelings of entrapment and desolation crumpled in around me. 

For those of you new to my blog, or unfamiliar with the details of my past, I was in a detrimental relationship for 6 years that I finally found the strength to get out of during the early summer of 2009.  I told myself that I never wanted to blog in any great detail about my ex, and that he didn’t deserve any mention or acknowledgement, since I’m still recovering from the scars he left.  However, with the way he haunts my dreams, I know I will feel better writing not about him, but about my struggles with him, the hope that was lost while with him, and the stronger person I’ve become without him.

It’s still too shameful to admit to myself, let alone the public, everything I endured while in that relationship, but suffice it to say that I was verbally and mentally abused, as well as threatened, frightened, and physically harmed.  It wouldn’t be fair of me to call him a “beater,” though I bore many a bruise due to his anger and myself being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  At one point, I think I was crying out for help by wearing shorts while visiting my family after receiving a softball size bruise on my upper thigh, but when my dad inquired about it, instead of telling him the truth of my ex’s anger, I told him it was just that: a softball getting batted into my leg.  For some reason, I kept getting sucked back into that relationship despite my wanting to get out.  I knew it wasn’t a good relationship, but I didn’t know how to get out of it, and thus, lost hope that I’d ever truly be happy, and resigned myself to the fate of dealing with him and living unhappily for the rest of my life. 
I sunk into a depression that swallowed me and pulled me into myself.  I rarely left the house except for work, and turned down outings with my friends and family.  Much of that was due to the dark funk I was in, but just as much of it was out of my distrust of him.  Though I never had solid proof of his cheating, I did have proof of his flirting through texts and social networking, and even proof of a dinner date he took with another woman. (he was good at manipulation and lying, but horrible at covering his tracks)  I thought that if I was always home, he wouldn’t be able to follow through on his plans with other women.  Constantly being around him and my creeping depression was slowly killing my spirit, and I was stuck in a vicious cycle where I saw no way out.
It wasn’t until our final days, that I overheard him making plans to get away for a weekend with another female.  For some reason, even this wasn’t enough to make me want to immediately break up with him.  It was when I heard him confidently tell this woman while chuckling, “Don’t even think about telling my girlfriend about this.  Alex(andria) tried that years ago, and it didn’t work.”  Which was true, and hurtful to hear out of his own mouth.
It’s probably hard to understand my rationale without knowing all of my heartbreaking background, but his evil laugh, and his cocky demeanor, as well as finally getting my solid proof of him sleeping with Alex was the final straw.  I had finally found my courage and built up enough anger to exit that relationship.  When it was done, there were no more tears.  I had never felt so free in my entire life, and as surprising as it was to not cry, it also made sense.  For the first time in years, I was truly, and utterly, happy.  All at once, my black cloud of depression lifted, and I started to recover my old self.
I suffered a great deal, but came out stronger.  I never understood why women stayed in abusive relationships until I experienced it myself.  In hindsight, it’s easy to realize how dumb I was, and tell myself how easy it could have been to get out, but at the time, it was the hardest thing in the world.  My hope is that other women (or men) feeling trapped in their abusive relationships will find their strength sooner than later, and that they can find support from others to assist them.  For me, it took the love and encouragement from two very special cousins and one irreplaceable best friend.  I don’t know that I could have done it alone, and I am eternally grateful to them for not putting me down, but constantly lifting me up and accepting my decisions no matter how harmful they might have been to me. 
If you are in a relationship that is ultimately damaging your happiness and ruining the person you used to be, my hope is that you look to others to help you find your inner strength.  Surround yourself with love, and don’t lose sight of your self-worth.  And those of you watching a loved one suffer; I hope that you will be the un-judging stronghold that they will need to pull themselves out.
And now I pass the torch.  What is your hope?  It can be a hope for you, a hope for a friend, or a hope for humanity.  It can be anything you dare to hope for, so hope away!    

BlogHer 2013 Giveaway

I know I’m due for a solid post, and I promise I will soon, but I need to first mention that BlogHer is giving away a free entry into their annual convention next year, 2013 in Chicago.  They’re also giving away two swag bags which would still be pretty awesome to win.  You can enter here:  Part of that entry is blogging about the sweepstakes, so here I am doing just that!  Wish me luck, and good luck to my other blogging buddies who have entered.  You still have till tomorrow to enter!