Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Warning: if you don't know the difference between an ovary or a fallopian tube, or if TV commercials for feminine hygiene products make you run from the room--you should stop reading now.
So here's the deal. Tomorrow I have to have my uterus removed. It's because I have a "benign" tumor (uterine fibroid). I put the word benign in quotes because although it is true that it is not life-threatening (and I am exceedingly thankful for that) I would hardly call something that has caused two years of pain and six months of hemorrhaging "benign". But there you have it. And the only way to get rid of this sucker (it is embedded in the uterine wall, size of a golfball) is to take the whole dang uterus out.

It is really strange to think that after tomorrow I will never have a period again. Most people don't get to know this in advance--things just drift on until one day they realize they haven't had a period in a long time. Which got me thinking of a piece I wrote some time ago.

So in honor of my "procedure", I give you a recycled essay. To my uterus I say farewell, you served me well. To my little red-headed friend I say, good riddance, you were always a terrible friend.

This first appeared in The Chicago Tribune under the title of “ Chronicling the strangest of relationships: Period" on April 21, 2004

I was talking to a good friend the other day and she told me that her daughter had just gotten her first period. My friend had been prepared for this momentous occasion and she got out the necessary products and helped her daughter with them. About an hour later her daughter came in the kitchen and said, “OK, Mom, can I take this off? Am I done yet?”

Oh honey, if you only knew. Her daughter is embarking on a very long relationship that lasts from puberty to menopause with her new “friend”. If I were to tell her what I’ve learned about this relationship (which I wouldn’t, there’s no reason to send her screaming back to her childhood) here’s what I’d say.

It will be a strange and dysfunctional relationship but it will follow a fairly predictable chronology. First, you will start out hating and loathing your new friend. No filmstrip or book or talk from mom can convince you that this is “beautiful”. It’s uncomfortable, painful, messy, and embarrassing. It requires the use of mysterious, unwieldy products you have never even seen let alone know how to use. With the help of a best friend shouting directions through the door you will finally figure out how to use the more challenging but effective products. Eventually, say in 5 to 10 years, you will even master said products so that you are not totally uncomfortable with your new friend. But then you will do something to mess up this relationship. You will become sexually active.

Now, instead of loathing her, you look forward to seeing your friend every month. She is a reassuring and visible sign that you have not made the biggest blunder of your life. Even if you are exceedingly careful, you will not know real relief until you see concrete evidence of her return. Cramps are not enough. You need proof of your freedom.There are times you are less cautious than others. On these occasions you will not be just glad to see her, you will fall on your knees and thank God she has returned. You will reassure her that next time you will take every precaution necessary to ensure her timely return. The relationship will continue along like this for some time.

Then one day you will hear the unmistakable ticking of your biological time clock. Now you will find yourself in an upside-down world in which you will try, very, very hard to achieve a physical state that you have tried very, very hard to avoid for a very, very long time. This will seem very, very strange.

Most of us will be in this phase for what seems like an eternity even if it is in fact only a few months. Each month you will not only hate the mere hint of your friend’s return, you may actually be moved to tears of bitter disappointment at the sight of her. You will resent that the pregnancy tests are placed so closely to the sanitary products at the drugstore.The longer this phase goes on, the more you will come to hate her. Sadly, because of the vagaries of life, some women will find themselves in this phase for many years without a happy resolution.If you are fortunate enough to reproduce more or less when you want to, you will finally rejoice at your friend’s absence. If she is even a day late you will run out to the drugstore and purchase your EPT kit and wave that magic wand around in glee.

For the next several months your friend will be replaced by a myriad of bodily changes that are absurdly taxing, but you will not wish for the return of your friend’s relatively gentle presence. One day, quite suddenly, you will remember her for a few nostalgic moments as your labor begins. But your friend is to labor as a chimp is to King Kong and you will soon forget her again.Nursing will keep her away for a few more months and then one day, she will return and you will be happy to see her again. She will remind you that your body no longer belongs to another tiny being but is in fact returning to you.Now you will be back to the days of welcoming her every month, glad to know that at least for now your body is your own. Until you decide your child needs a sibling, then you can revert to the days of dreading the sight of her again.And so it goes. Until one day your house is full of children and you realize you are done.

But strangely, your body does not. Though you are mentally and physically past the optimal age to reproduce, your body keeps trying to. You do not want to be like someone in the Old Testament and you return to the days of fearing her presence. Even if your husband has been “fixed” you know that mistakes can happen.These days stretch into months and years and your old friend will visit with less and less regularity. Sometimes she’ll stop by for a brief unexpected visit and other times she will hunker down for an extended stay. And then one day, without any word of warning, she will disappear for good. Like all old friends, you will not realize that her last visit is her last.

As my friend’s daughter begins this relationship I am fast approaching the end of my relationship. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I realize my friend has left for good but I suppose I’ll be as conflicted about her departure as I’ve always been about her arrival. I’ll be relieved she’s finally gone but no doubt a little regretful to see her leave forever.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I was recently with some mom-friends when one of them mentioned her adolescent son was starting to get text messages from girls. "Oh, it was harmless though. I went back later and read them all and it was just silly talk."

This casual admission of invading her son's privacy made me, umm, queasy. I know, I know, everyone does this. Now that we can peek into our children's lives via electronic media it's easy to do but I'm not sure that makes it right.

I grew up in a house where personal privacy was highly regarded. I could have left my diary (had I kept one) open on my bed-stand and my mother would have walked by and gently closed it without looking. I extend the same courtesy to my own children.

I have wrestled with this thing since I see so many of my peers peering and see that some even consider cyber-spying to be good parenting. I'm not so sure.

So in an effort to help myself understand this a little better, I offer the following points of consideration:

1. First, ask yourself why you are spying. Do you have some reason to be generally concerned for your child's safety (drugs, abusive relationship, bullying) or are you simply spying because you can--or because it is entertaining or because it makes you feel like you have a little control as they grow up and more out of your control. That's not nice. Would you like your spouse or your children to hack into your email just for fun or just to see what you are up to? Probably not.

2. Try to think of the cyber-communication in terms of something you already understand and have established boundaries for--for example, texting is a little like a phone call--it's direct communication from one person to another, not intended for anyone else to see/hear. Would you ever pick up the receiver in the other room and listen in? E-mail is similar and is like a letter --would you ever open your child's mail? I hope not as that is a federal offense.

3. If you do decide to spy, alert your kids first. It's only fair to give your kids a head's up. Simply declare that going forward you reserve the right to peek in on their Facebook account (or whatever) from time to time. Facebook is a little more like a public space and therefore it is not as invasive as spying on emails or texts. It is said Facebook is like the mall--although that said, would you go to the mall and follow your kid around eavesdropping on his conversations?

So there you have it. Some food for thought as we navigate these new high-tech media-crazy times. To quote The Onion, "Now the only thing keeping you from spying on your kid is having a life of your own!"

Friday, September 10, 2010


One of the great things about having kids who are too close together in age is that they can hand text books down to each other in high school. Why, you might ask, would that matter? Because, despite the fact that my kids attend a public high school with amenities such as a sushi bar and a rock-climbing wall, for some reason, I have to pay for their books to the tune of about $600 each kid each year.

So when the book list comes out I like to go through it and see which books we already have in the house. Of course, this is not as simple as one might hope. For one thing, the school likes to "update editions" rather frequently (how much can the World History book change in a year?) and apparently the teachers are sticklers about having the correct edition (are they getting a kick-back from Scott Foresman which happens to have its headquarters here in town?).

Sometimes, when I get real lucky I can reuse books we already had in the house even before we had kids. For Atticus, since he is a flexible kid, this works pretty well.

Me: Oh, Great Gatsby, I have that book!
Atticus: Okay.
Me: Hmm, but it says you need the 2007, hard-cover, annotated version . I think I have the 1977 totally dog-eared version.
Atticus: Who cares? It's not like anyone has re-written the story.

Unfortunately, Grace is not so flexible. Instead we have conversations like this.

Me: Catcher in the Rye! We have three copies of that. (and I go fetch them all)
Grace:(inspects them all and declares) I need a new one.
Grace: It has to be the newest, rack-size version and this one has the wrong cover, this one is the wrong size, and this one is right but Atticus has already written notes in it and I have to turn it in so the teacher can check our notes.
Me: They should not be encouraging you to write in books.
Grace: I need to buy a new one.
Me: Forget it. Your choices are to use the wrong size or the pre-noted version.
Grace: I can't use the wrong size! When she says we have to read pages 23-47 it won't line up!!!
Me: And you can't figure that out? Fine, if you need a fourth copy of Catcher in the Rye, you can buy it yourself.

That was the end of it it I thought until driving to school the other day when Grace said, "Atticus, I cannot figure out why you circled this sentence and I had to make up a reason for my teacher."

"What sentence?" he asked. She read it aloud.

Thus ensued a spirited discussion on Holden Caufield and his propensity to label everything as phony and what exactly phony means anyway and I thought of the law of unintended consequences and decided that while reading a book and trying to explain why your brother circled certain passages is not exactly the assignment the teacher had in mind, it isn't the worse way in the world to discover a piece of classic literature.

And most of all I was glad to know we didn't need a fourth copy of Catcher in the Rye though it will be interesting to watch Lilly try to explain all the passages both her brother and sister circled.

Friday, September 03, 2010


I'm on my way to Baltimore to celebrate the marriage of my dear friends Anna and Julie. I post this in their honor. Long after many a hetero marriage has disintegrated, they will still be together, exemplifying what a wonderful, strong, God-filled marriage looks like. Bless you both.

Apparently, this topic of gay marriage is rather controversial. I am told. Often I hear otherwise sane people say "Well I don't have a problem with them being gay, I just don't want to know about it. I don't want to know about anyone's sex life! It makes me uncomfortable."

And we wouldn't want that would we? We don't want anyone to be uncomfortable. So for all of you with delicate sensibilities, I suggest a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy that applies to us all equally.
From this day forward, none of us, gay, straight, lesbian, whatever, will discuss our "sex life" as you put it.

Beginning immediately, you must:

1. Stop talking about your spouse in any way that might let us know you are more than friends. please don't mention he snores or that he sometimes walks around in his underwear. If we know that then our minds might wander to the fact that you are intimate and that makes us uncomfortable. For some of you, it even grosses us out, frankly. Refer to your spouse as "your friend" so you don't offend anyone.

2. No longer attend weddings or celebrate anniversaries. These events acknowledges that you are a couple and probably share a bed and we all know what that means and we don't want to think about it.

3. Take down the pictures of your spouse you have at work. No one wants to know that he is more than just a friend to you. Also get rid of the pictures of your kids. When we see you have kids we know you had sex and that is something we are very uncomfortable thinking about.

4. Never hug, hold hands or for god's sake kiss your spouse in public. This includes in front of family and friends because it makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Really, we don't need to know about your sex life!

5. If your husband leaves you tomorrow, you are not entitled to anything because the law no longer recognizes that you are a couple. That's because if they recognize you are a couple, the law would also recognize you have sex, and we don't want to know about anyone's sex life.

6. If you go to the hospital your spouse will not be able to find out how you are doing. He can only find that out through blood relatives like your parents and siblings. I think you know why.

If this all seems ridiculous, then ask yourself, why do you expect this from our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters?

Peace and blessings to all married couples today. What God has joined, let no one put asunder.