{Guest Post} The problem with “normal”

By Julia Wilkinson-Minks

 

I don’t really remember a lot of the sexual education that I had in elementary school. I remember there was a lot of giggling from my peers, and probably from myself as well. My mother had done a very thorough job of ensuring that my sister and I were as “prepared” as we could be for the world of womanhood, and, thanks to my sister being older, I had an example as to what to expect when it came to puberty living in the bedroom beside mine.

normalOne of the things I do remember, however, is this whole idea of what is “normal” or “average” when it comes to puberty. Just to jog my memory, I recently Googled “What is the normal age to get your period?” and the consensus seemed to be that as early as eight or as late as thirteen or fourteen was “normal”. Well, no wonder that all I remember about sexual education is that I felt like there was something wrong with me.

My older sister developed within this “normal” range. She started wearing a bra in sixth grade; and as a result I dubbed her—quite unoriginally—“bra-wearer”. I think that just showed that, from an early age, I wanted to be on board the puberty train: I was jealous. I wanted to wear a bra and have to carry tampons in my backpack too! Turns out, I was in for a very, very long wait.

That isn’t to say that my teacher-mother (who actually is a teacher by profession) didn’t warn me that this would likely be the case. She tried to tell me that even if the handouts from health class told me something was “normal”, that didn’t necessarily mean it was.

For example, the whole “your period might last 3-5 days”? Well, to my mother, this was the world’s biggest lie. Sometimes hers lingers on for eleven days. Yup, you read that right: eleven days. For me, I often get the four days on, then nothing, and then the old horror movie trick: you know, how “the killer always comes back for one last scare”? It’s like every month my body’s lot in life is to ruin a nice pair of panties.

Anyway, my mom bought me my first bra in seventh grade, even though I was as flat as Saskatchewan. She didn’t believe in “training bras” because, as she used to say: “What are you training your breasts to do? Jump through hoops?” But, she bought me a bra before I physically needed one anyway so that I wouldn’t feel like a weirdo when I changed for gym class. My first bra had no underwire: it was essentially a sports bra with a clasp. And, following form, as the girls in my class got their periods one by one, I waited, jealously. I read and re-read “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” hoping that Judy Bloom’s words would help kick-start my reproductive engine and launch me into womanhood. But, seventh grade came and went.

As did eighth. And ninth.

I finally got my first period in November of tenth grade: I was fifteen and a half. I remember actually not believing what I was seeing in the bathroom, because the fact that I “didn’t have a uterus” had become such an ingrained running joke among my friends and me. The irony is that I wanted my period so badly, but by my second cycle I would’ve done anything to send it back. Apparently I was blessed with being a member of the “gals with excruciating cramps” club. In fact, a few months ago I woke up and thought I had food poisoning in the middle of the night because my stomach was so upset and my cramps were so severe. Nope, turns out it was just my monthly gift!

The reason I wanted to write about this, is because when it comes to puberty, there is no normal. I have long given up on hoping that my A-Cups will someday turn into the likes of my sister’s D’s. Whether you are the first or the last in your class to buy a bra, or need to use tampons, pads, or –here’s hoping—The DivaCup, you are still your own normal.

I have always liked to do things my own way. I learned to write before I could read. Instead of getting a real job out of college, I followed my dreams and swam in my second Olympic Games. This January, I married the man of my dreams who just happened to grow up three thousand miles away from me. I didn’t get my period until I was fifteen and a half, and, when I’m at race weight, I still don’t really need to wear a bra. My life, to most people, would not seem normal. But it’s my normal: and I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s.

So, when it comes to teaching your daughters about their periods, try to leave out the word “normal” or “average”, because in the world of Puberty, that will be unique for each and every girl.

julia 3Julia Wilkinson-Minks

Retiring from competitive swimming in early 2013, Julia Wilkinson-Minks swam competitively since the age of 8 and is not only a two time Canadian Olympian swimmer, but also currently holds the Canadian record in the 50-meter backstroke with a time of 28:09 sec. Julia is also a guardian to her pet hedgehog Roxy, a guest writer for CBC’s blog and SwimNews, and recently became an announcer for collegeswimming.com. Look for her on the pool deck this season!

A Diva Valentine’s Day

Diva_CandyIt’s Valentine’s Day, which means most of us will be surrounded by pink hearts, chocolate hearts, paper hearts… lots and lots of hearts! It also means a day to remember and show those we love how much we really care.

To this day there is still not one agreed upon origin of Valentine’s Day. Most will agree that Valentine’s Day originated in Ancient Rome, but the details surrounding the day vary from a Pagan fertility festival to stories of the Roman Emperor Claudius and his orders against marriage and a Christian priest named Valentine – a priest who was martyred on February 14th for performing secret marriages. Whether linked to fertility or the memory of St. Valentine, the core theme of Valentine’s Day is love.

Chocolate and hearts aside, sometimes as women, it is hard to love Valentine’s Day. As kids we welcome the holiday, but as we grow older, the pressure of having “A Valentine” begins to make Valentine’s Day a day we can’t wait to bypass. As women we play many roles throughout our lives – daughter, mother, wife, sister and friend and each role grants us new experiences, memories, challenges and sadly for some, heartache.

Over the last 15 years, Valentine’s Day has taken on new meaning as V-Day. V-Day was founded by playwright Eve Ensler, best known for the award-winning play, The Vagina Monologues. Each V-Day, cities around the world stage this empowering play raising awareness to the tragedy that is violence against women. And every year, Diva International supports V-Day community raffles, silent auctions and Vagina Monologue performances.

To celebrate V-Day is to join globally in a pursuit to end violence against women and girls by drawing awareness to the abusive reality many are forced to face and to raise funds to support services that seek to aid those affected.

As Divas we need to help narrate a new story for Valentine’s Day – V-Day. February 14th should be a day that celebrates women, reminds us to stand up for justice and a day for Divas to be empowered to be true to themselves and practice self-care.

urDivaBut we need your help!

This V-Day, organizations like Amnesty International are joining the 1 Billion Rising campaign to bring awareness to the importance of V-Day and to allow communities to “WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence”. The funds and awareness raised through this campaign will go towards ending violence against women and girls worldwide.

And it’s not too late for you to personally join in the day’s events!

Attend one of hundreds of events that are happening this V-Day in your community by visiting the 1 Billion Rising events page (such as attending a staged performance of the Vagina Monologues, themed poetry slams, film festivals, yoga and belly dancing class or flash mobs).

Tell the Diva Community what you are going to do this V-Day to show your support for organizations that are providing care to women and girls who are victims of violence in your community.

Share  the news of V-Day through your Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest profiles! The more women we can reach, the more women we can help.

Show  the women in your life that you support and care for them by sending them one of our Diva Valentine’s Day cards! Visit our card gallery today!

 

 

Be Positive

PositiveEvery once in a while we all need a little bit of sunshine and rainbows in our lives. While we can’t necessarily revert back to our childhood days of afternoon cartoons, nap time and playground fun, we can do a few things to remind ourselves to Be Positive.

It’s week 4 of our “Be a Diva” celebration and we are excited to be talking about what it means to be a Positive Diva. Positivity is a marker of progress, a reminder of the possibility of what could come next. When we have a positive outlook, we give ourselves the incredible opportunity to look forward to something great!

Splashes of color, the perfect playlist, family games night and cuddle time with a puppy, little things like this make us smile. They remind us to Be Happy and this happiness encourages us to have a positive outlook – to be a Positive Diva.

Of course, being positive is even easier when you have a good support system and tips to help you better think positively. Just like we did for our Happy, Healthy and Active Diva posts, we want to start a conversation about what it means to be a Positive Diva.

positiveBefriend Happy!:  I have some incredible friends that have a real gift for having a positive attitude no matter what they are experiencing. Although I may not always want to hear it, this positive attitude is like a breath of fresh air, much needed air in times of crisis or sorrow.

Positive Markers!: Surround yourself with reminders that help you stay positive. I like to post photos of those I love on the interior of my car; others wear a bracelet or necklace, while others a key chain from a wonderful family vacation.

Be spontaneous! : Plans play an important role in ensuring we get the job done, but they can also limit us. Spontaneous outings, mini vacations or a quick change of plans can liven up your mood, help you refocus and give you the positive attitude you need to get through the rest of your “to do” list.

Watch what you eat : The food we eat not only affects our health, but our emotions too. Overloading on heavy foods can wear down your energy and have a big impact on your response. These tasty foods can help boost your mood and help you better focus your response.

Mind Shift : Shift your thoughts from the negative to the positive. We all respond differently to situations, but each of us can choose whether or not our response will be a positive one.

Talk to someone . We all need some one-on-one time. Sharing your joys and pains with a good friend or counselor can help us all work through the “not so good stuff” of life.

Now it’s your turn!

What does being a Positive Diva look like to you? In our final week of our “Pin to Win with Diva” giveaway we are excited to be giving away 2 DivaCup prize packs. To enter, simply share what being a Positive Diva looks like to you with the hash tag #PositiveDiva on Pinterest. Then follow this link to our contest entry page.

Every pin you pin gives you one entry!

 

 

 

Be Active

ActiveI always find it difficult to get out there and be active during the winter months here in Canada, especially when I’m not feeling 100 percent. Whether fighting a cold, what remains of a restless night, or period related symptoms, being active is not always my top priority.

But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.

As a January baby, you would think I would be more inclined to winter sports and the beauty of the snow, but I’m the exact opposite.

As we move into week 3 of our “Be a Diva” celebration, I am excited to write about the importance of being active, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too. When we look at what it means to be an Active Diva, we need to look at this holistically. Our mind needs just as much training and support as our bodies and our emotions benefit when both of these elements are healthy.

Whatever you do to be active there are a few things us Divas want you to keep in mind.

Exercise

source: thinfortomorrow

The first, accent your activities! Start each workout with a good pair of running shoes and sports bra. Next, motivate your movement with a workout playlist that gets you excited for the next step! Third, during your period week, be confident in your protection by trying The DivaCup – a reusable silicone menstrual cup that offers 12 hour leak-free protection is comfortable and ideal for any sport. And lastly, hydrate, not just during your workout routine, but before and after.

As mentioned above, being active is not just about working out the body, but also the mind and your emotions. Learning is active! Even if you are not a full-time student, taking a special interest class or online course can help keep your brain sharp. Word and number puzzles and memory exercises can also help keep you brain healthy. And with all the learning you will be doing, it is important to supplement your diet with foods like whole grains, nuts and those that are high in omega 3 fatty acids; these will give you the energy to be alert and focused.

When it comes to emotions, we can all use some care in this area. If you live in the North ensuring you are getting enough Vitamin D is important for fighting off those winter blues. Sleeping well and taking time to reflect, whether in a journal or through meditation, can calm your mood, helping you better respond to situations.

The Diva Team has gathered a few tips for you, using the acronym ACTIVE:

APPLY  yourself! Start small, a walk (or run) a day, join a co-ed soccer league or yoga studio and as you get more comfortable with your routine, add a second or third activity.

COMMIT  to realistic standards. Set goals for yourself that you will want to achieve. There are a number of online tools such as these fitness apps that can help you get started and maybe even give you the motivation and accountability you need.

THRIVE  in the moment. Enjoy what you have and who you are. Recognize that everyone works out at different levels, with preference of different workout activities, duration and location.

INVESTIGATE  your options! Traditional sports and activities are much loved, but trying a non-traditional activity like geocaching, bike polo or Frisbee golf will get you outside and moving.

VARIANCE  is key. Change up your routine every few months to keep yourself motivated, challenged and excited for the unexpected.

ENJOY  what you are doing and do what you love with others!

Just as every woman’s body is unique in shape and form, every woman’s quest to be active will be unique. Some of us will prefer walking, while others enjoy the cardio workout of a good run, still others a yoga class.

In the celebration of being an Active Diva, we are giving away 5 DivaCups in our Pin to Win with Diva giveaway. To enter, simply pin what being active looks like to you with the hash tag #ActiveDiva on Pinterest. Then follow this link to our contest entry page. Every pin you pin gives you one entry!

Share what being an #ActiveDiva looks like to you with the Diva Community today!