Saturday, September 24, 2011

Menopausal Man

     Seldom will you find articles about a man's point of view when it comes to menopause, but the male perspective, according to my husband, needs to be told. After all, men have to live with us throughout the ordeal (remember that part in your wedding vows about 'for better or worse'?) and endure our hair-raising roller coaster ride of emotions. My husband strapped on that seat belt a long time ago and has ridden through some rough terrain with me over the past few years. When I was pregnant, he shared the experience with me through his own "phantom pregnancy". As my belly expanded, so did his, along with every weird craving I had. If I ate reuben sandwiches and orange sherbert for breakfast, so did he. When I was grouchy and crying over swollen ankles, he was miserable and swore that his ankles looked a bit swollen, too. Or at least that's what he said when his socks got too tight. Same goes for when the jeans no longer fit. It had absolutely nothing to do with all that beer chilling in the fridge.
     Whenever it was "that time of the month" for me, he could match me in crabbiness and lower back pain. I once found him studying the label on a bottle of Midol pills he was considering taking, and that's when I had to draw the line.
     Now that I have crested the hill of my youth and am peddling downward into the menopausal stage of life, guess who's riding behind me on the two-seater? Just the other day I caught my husband jotting down the 800 number for hormone replacement therapy. Problem is, I don't know if it was for my benefit or his.
     It's rough on a man, not knowing what kind of a woman he might be coming home to each night when she's in the throes of menopause. If the planets are aligned in his favor and his special numbers hit the lotto jackpot, he might come home to a sexy vixen in a French maid's costume. But  more than likely he'll come home and hit speed dial for the local priest to come over ASAP to perform an excorcism.
     Part of our shared moodiness and fatigue stems from lack of sleep, and I blame myself entirely for this. There is no such thing as a restful seven hours of shut-eye after turning 50. An over-active bladder and hot flashes rob me of this pleasure. My husband and I call it the "battle of the blankets", because all night long we play tug-of-war with the sheets. I wake up sweating, which prompts me to use the bathroom, and once my feet hit the cold, tiled floor, I'm shivering like my house has been transformed into an igloo. Meanwhile, the bed sheets are still warm from my recent hot flash, which spreads warmth to my husband's side of the bed. Now he's the one having a psuedo hot flash and he kicks off the sheet. I hop into bed, my teeth chattering, and yank three layers of covers over us. The unbearable heat wakes up my husband, who stumbles bleary-eyed into the bathroom. Just as I am beginning to dose off, I hear the toilet flush and realize there are beads of perspiration forming above my lip. After muttering a few choice words, I begin kicking wildly at the blankets that are tangled around my legs. "Get 'em off! Get 'em OFF!" My husband gawks at me. "What do you mean?" he asks. "It's feezing in here!"
     It has taken awhile, but my husband has finally come to understand the mood swings of his menopausal wife. Sometimes it feels as if there is a loose connection between my mouth and my brain, which is when all hell breaks loose and the insanity begins rolling off my tongue. "WHO THE HELL MOVED MY 'CALM YOURSELF WITH YOGA' BOOK THREE INCHES OFF THE SHELF?"  "DID YOU FORGET TO BUY THE CLUMPING CAT LITTER AGAIN? I'M NOT CLEANING UP THAT #@!*#!"   "WHO ATE MY LEFTOVER KUNG PO BEEF?!"  No wonder there has been a steady increase in our bill from the liquor store.
     My husband and kids have both learned the hard way to NEVER tell this menopausal mother to "just chill" when I am on one of my hormonal tirades over stupid stuff like missing socks in the dryer. Two go in, one comes out. Where do they go? Mismatched sock heaven? It's the little things that send me over the edge. A hurricane could be chewing up my back yard but I won't notice it because I'll be too busy yelling at the culprit negligent of cleaning out the congealed macaroni-lettuce-dog food gunk in the dish drainer. This is what my spouse has to deal with on a regular basis---a menopausal maniac.
     My husband believes in the old adage, "if you can't beat them, join them", because he has. While we share similiar complaints about aging (weight gain, fatigue, brittle nails, creaky bones), he has certain issues that I (thankfully!) do not share. Things that only a man can understand. Like testicles. According to my husband, New Year's Eve at Times Square isn't the only time a ball drops. Wait until you turn fifty and are forced to walk bowlegged. He also claims that flatulence is a problem with aging. Most of the time he feels like a helium balloon avoiding a hat pin. Just scribble "Goodyear" on his back side.
     Have you noticed that a man's ears get bigger as they age? My husband calls it the Dumbo Syndrome. Speaking of elephants, check out the skin on the elbow of you fifty-and-older spouse. Time to join a herd of mastodons. AARP has already offered my husband a gold card membership.
     Not only has my spouse had to endure hair loss and frequent bouts of butt chafing, to add insult to injury, a man his age should be driving a snazzy sports car, but mine is driving the minivan from hell. You know the type---oxidized paint, missing hubcaps, broken door handles...circa 1999. The van seizes up at every stop light and belches smoke if you punch the accelerator too quickly. Oh yeah, it's a babe magnet all right. Well...maybe to a menopausal mama looking for her soulmate in a menopausal man.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

I Need A What?!?

     A colonoscopy. The scary "C" word. Something I have been putting off for two years.  This is what you get for your birthday once you hit fifty. "Hey, happy birthday! Here's your present---a gift wrapped colonoscopy!" Thank God they don't sell home kits for that sort of stuff or else everyone would lie about their birthday and stay forty-nine forever. My husband had to drag me kicking and screaming into the doctor's office because I seriously rebelled the idea of a camera being shoved up my you-know-what. Who the hell wants that? "Wow! What a gorgeous morning! It's a great day for a colonoscopy!" Unfortunately, it's a fact of life once you reach your middle age years. The only way I agreed to do it was if my husband scheduled his procedure the same day as mine. "The family that has a colonoscopy together stays together!" My husband was four years overdue, so he was anxious to get it done. He has a history of  polyps, so he was due for the double whammy---the camera shoved into two orifices for the price of one. His first question to the doctor was to make sure the the camera they used to explore his colon wasn't going to be the same one they used down his throat. The grinning doctor assured him that yes, it was indeed the same camera, but not to worry because they would explore the throat first before heading south. That's when I interrupted the conversation and said, "No way in hell are you using the same camera on me! I don't want the leftovers---schedule me first!"
     After much ribbing from our friends and a lot of great advice ("Use Gatorade to mix the powdered medicine," "Use wet wipes for your behind, because trust me, you'll need it by the end of the day...") we faced the daunting task of getting through the "day of preparation", which is the day before the procedure. No food allowed for twenty-four hours, just clear fluids. Oh, and this nasty powdered medicine you mix with liquid and drink gallons of to clear out your colon. In other words, don't leave home because your butt is going to take you on a wild ride at the speed of light. Another word of advice---if you have to go through this little excercise in colon gymnastics, do not eat corn the week of your procedure---trust me, you'll be sorry if you do.
     On the prep day, I felt like a contestant on Survivor. No food to a "foodie" like me is like serving a jail term where 24 hours seems like 24 years.  I started chugging chicken broth and apple juice until I felt like I was going to start clucking and pecking at apples. My husband was just as miserable as me. I've never seen him look so longingly at the handful of pretzels my son was munching on in front of us. I was dying of starvation, ready to forage in the flower beds in my garden or start gnawing on the wooden couch legs. Even the dog started to look pretty tasty. The doctor said, "Only clear fluids"...I idly wondered if that included gin or vodka.
     At 2:00 p.m. that day we were due to start drinking the "magic elixir of life"---the stuff that makes you poop uncontrollably. We mixed the powder perscription with lemon lime Gatorade and began chugging. It was like the games we played in college---my husband and I stood side by side at the sink and tried to out-chug one another. I could just hear the frat boys chanting, "Go, go, go!"
     So far, so good.
     Fifteen minutes later as we sat on the sofa and watched the food channel (we were gluttons for punishment), I heard the first rumbling. It sounded like Mount Vesuvious getting ready to explode. I turned to my husband. "Was that your stomach or mine?" Gurgle, gurgle, then, "OH MY GOD!!!" and the race to the bathroom began. Thank goodness we have two toilets in the house because if we didn't, someone would be sticking their fanny in a bucket. These were not bowel "urges", these were bowel demands screaming "NOW!" Too bad we don't have a television in our bathroom because I sure could have used one after sitting in there for five hours.
     The day of the procedure, I no longer feared what was going to be done to me because I was so hyper-focused on what I was going to eat once I woke up from the anethesia. I wondered if they'd serve me steak and a big baked potato in the recovery room. That would be a nice thing to wake up to after being molested by a small camera.
     As promised, I was wheeled into the surgical room before my husband. I feebily waved "good-bye" to him as I rolled past, and he gave me the thumbs-up. It was a bit disconcerting to see so many doctors and nurses waiting in the room for me---like this was major surgery or something. That's when I glanced over at a partially hidden closet and saw these long, black, snake-like tubes hanging from hooks. The tubes looked long enough to stretch all the way to Russia. They were going to put that thing up my what?!? Before I could rip out my IV and run for the hills, the anethesiologist patted my shoulder and sent me off to la-la land with propofol, the infamous Michael Jackson drug.
     Next thing I knew, these very kind nurses-more like angels- gently woke me and asked if I'd like some coffee and graham crackers. I sat up like a seal  and clapped my hands. Food!Food! Graham crackers have never tasted so good.
     As soon as we got home (polyp-free), my husband and I raided the refrigerator. We didn't even shut the door---we just stood there in its light snacking on lunch meat and cheese sticks with the cool air hitting our faces.
     All in all, a colonoscopy is not as bad or scary as you might think. At least you can drop a few pounds in the process. It should be called "the colonoscopy diet" because you starve and then poop out everything you've eaten for the last month. Everyone should be awarded a souvenir once they finish this procedure. An "I survived a colonoscopy!" tee-shirt would be nice. Or maybe just hand them a steak.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Vitamin Shop

     My medicine cabinet looks like a nursing home has been secretly stockpiling drugs in my bathroom. Aside from all the necessities for a hangover (the three A's---aspirin, Alka Seltzer, and Advil) and the usual creams promising to de-wrinkle skin as leathery as a catcher's mitt, I also have tons of supplements on my shelves. In fact, there are so many supplements that I have to use a second medicine cabinet just to fit them all in. Each morning I lay out all my pills in a neat row like little soldiers. Other than black Cohosh for menopause, most everything else is for heart health and my immune system. Other than extreme hot flashes, irritability and an appetite that could rival Genghis Kahn's, I'm pretty healthy, but very paranoid. So I take supplements to supplement my other supplements.
     If I continue on this path of collecting every pill Dr. Oz recommends to promote longevity, I might have to buy stock in Walgreens or CVS just to supply my habit. You name it, I've got it: garlic pills, fish oil, flaxseed oil, magnesium, cinnamon, CoQ-10, Vitamin D, baby aspirin  and a multivitamin. The problem is that I take them all at once, and about 10 minutes later I'm bloated and burping garlic cinnamon fish. These flavors do not mix well together, and after experiencing that unsavory taste in my mouth, I have to wash it down with a cherry antacid followed by a cup of green tea. God only knows what that weird combination looks like in my stomach.
     But it doesn't stop there. I take fiber supplements as well, and you know what THAT is for!
     As if two medicine cabinets are not enough, my husband and I have two more "special" drawers of medicine. This is where all the gross stuff is hidden in case someone nosey uses the bathroom and wants to root around in the medicine cabinet. We should probably put a lock on these drawers because no one wants to know that one of us actually uses this stuff. And it's not me. It all belongs to my husband. Stuff like Gas X, A & D Ointment, Lamisil, Immodium, Bengay and Preparation H. Sounds like a party on the geriatric ward. He has other weird tubes in there; scary stuff that dates back to 1992, and even, Dear Lord, and enema kit. Why is the couple on the outside packaging smiling? Who wakes up in the morning and says, "Wow! Can't wait to eat some egg whites, dry whole wheat toast and black coffee with an enema on the side!!"
     My multivitamin promises to boost my energy level so that I can fold a month's worth of laundry in neat little squares, organize my spice rack alphabetically and do jumping jacks at 2:00a.m. without needing a wink of sleep. So why are my eyelids drooping down to my chin every day after lunch? I used to have crazy energy before menopause---everyone was always asking me if my morning coffee was administered through an I.V. drip. People looked at me as if I was a Chatty Cathy doll on speed. Now I'm more like sluggish Sammy on sleeping pills. Forget a measly cup of coffee---I need to carry around the entire pot in a hip holster or use an industrial size thermos large enough to serve 10 construction workers. I got hooked on energy drinks for awhile but I started getting those strange looks from people again, and besides, the kids were sneaking cans for themselves. So like a true addict, I had to hide my stash. Problem is the kids always found it, so I started counting the cans left in the case (yes, I bought my energy drinks by the case load) and leaving sticky notes all over them: "DON'T TOUCH!"...."DRINK AND YOU WILL FACE MOM'S WRATH!"..."YOU'LL BE THE VICTIM OF A SURPRISE COLONOSCOPY IF YOU TOUCH MY DRINKS!" I've since learned to limit myself to 2-3 per week, but I still hide the cans in places the kids will never bother to look, like the bottom of their dirty laundry hamper because God knows they never go in there.
     Sometimes all the pills and ointments get confusing. If I don't have my contacts in, it gets really interesting.  I once squirt nail strengthening serum into my eyes because the bottle looked similar to my eye drops. Recently my husband started to squirt a tube of A&D Ointment across his toothbrush. Guess that would have kept his teeth from chafing. Next thing you know he'll be accidentally rubbing toothpaste in all the wrong areas to prevent personal chafing.
     What I don't get is how people can actually buy prescriptions with dangerous side effects. I see it all the time on T.V. Hair loss? Take a pill. Depression? Severe indigestion? There's a pill for that too. Overactive bladder? Erectile dysfunction? Nail fungus? Insomnia? Lots of pill for that. Then the commercial quickly spits out a list of side effects easily masked by soothing music and some gorgeous, healthy couple playing frisbee on the beach at sunset. Or sitting in matching bathtubs out on a pier. Why would anyone want a pill that may cause stroke, heart attack, blurred vision, suicidal tendencies, hair loss, rashes, acne or having to wait for a bowel movement that never comes? I don't want to wake up some morning bald with a third thumb growing out of my elbow. No thanks. I'll just stick to my supplements and catch the next bus out to the senior citizens center.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Just Call Me Grandma

     Last week I accompanied my daughter to the obstetrician's office for her 19th week pregnancy check up. Thank God I brought enough food and water to last a week on a deserted island because the waiting room was PACKED. I was surrounded by young women in various stages of pregnancy, and as I sat there sweating through a hot flash and fanning myself with a wrinkled baby magazine, I realized I was the only fossil in the room. The medical assistants behind the reception desk gave me a few funny looks like, "What's the old lady doing here?  Giving birth to a dinosaur egg?" I self-consciously rubbed my stomach and remembered the good ol' days when there was actually a baby in there taking up space, causing my belly to expand like a distorted Stretch Armstrong doll. Now the only thing growing in there is my food baby. That's right. A food baby. You know what I'm talking about. Men have them too, but theirs are called beer bellies. For women, it's food babies. An accumulation of every nacho, every chicken wing and all those glasses of chardonnay sipped between bites of chocolate bars you keep hidden in your underware drawer. It's God's little joke on women, all because Eve had to take a bite out of that damn apple. Unless you have the metabolism of Speedy Gonzales or a body like a Barbie doll, most middle aged females I know have what my mother fondly refers to as "the pouch" after your babies are born. We are not marsupials---we do not need these pouches to carry our young, so what gives? I've been carrying around my food baby for years, so I can't imagine giving birth any time soon. What I can imagine is this: sitting on a park bench next to several women my age. The conversation would go something like this:
     "How far along are you?"
     "Oh, we started Junior back in 1986."
     "So when are you due?"
     "Well, I'm not too sure...maybe when I start the South Beach Diet."
     "I don't think mine wants to be born at all."
     "What kind of baby are you having?"
     "Mine is a sausage pepperoni pizza baby."
     "Mine is taco dip and enchiladas."
     "We're going to be the proud parents of cheese fries."
     "Mine is Ben and Jerry icecream....I think I'm having twins!"
     Thinking about food babies while sitting in the obstetrician's waiting room reminded me that I needed to feed mine, so I nibbled on a granola bar and read an article about diaper rashes, diarrhea and colic. I smiled. My daughter has no idea what she has gotten herself into.
     An hour and three granola bars later, I had a front row seat to the gynecological show when my daughter put her feet up into the stirrups on the examining table. I looked anywhere else in the room except at THAT.
     Hearing my future grandchild's heartbeat for the first time brought back a flood of memories. My last pregnancy was 16 years ago (feels more like 60 in dog years). Time has (thankfully) dulled my memories of labor pains and c-sections, and yet I distinctly recall simple things like my favorite blue, polka-dotted maternity outfit, the circus clown lantern in the nursery, and how incredibly good a rueben sandwich tasted after a solid week of intense pregnancy cravings. Sleepless nights, panicky calls to the pediatrician at all hours, fold-up umbrella stollers, bulky baby car seats, lost bottles, tears, pacifiers and the smell of baby powder...these things have all passed by in a blur. My daughter was once that tiny baby swaddled in pink in the nursery, and now she is pregnant with one of her own. I think of how my own body has changed these past few years, how menopause has slowly crept in and stolen my fertility. Some women view menopause as a thief who steals their youth, while others experience a greater sense of freedom. Menopause should not define who we are; it is a time of change and enlightenment. How we adapt to those changes is what determines who we are now.
     Even though I felt older than dirt that morning in the obstetrician's office among young, fresh-faced mothers, I took stock of my past and who I am today. Yes, I'm more tired, more impatient, more emotional and my body aches most mornings before I hit the local walking trail. I'm a happy but sometimes grumpy woman because I'm hot flashing in elevators or denying myself the slice of chocolate cake I so desperately crave or wasting too much precious time searching the house for things my kids "borrow" but never return (scissors, tape, markers, hairbrush...). I wear many hats these days---cook, dishwasher, maid, chauffeur,tutor, therapist, budget planner, dog walker, party planner, hostess, and family organizer. But above all else, I am a mother...a soon to be grandmother. And after last night, the proud parent of a beef and bean burrito food baby!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


     My teeth belong in the Smithsonian alongside the display for Pre-historic Cro-Magnon. It's my fault---I lived on a diet of Sugar Babies, Mars Bars and Little Debbie cakes for years until a dentist found decay in every tooth in my head. I had enough silver and gold in my mouth to open a pawn store, but eventually I learned to take good care of my teeth . Once I hit the pre-menopausal stage, things began to happen in my mouth. Bad things. Old fillings washed away to be replaced by root canals and crowns. Several months ago I heard the dreaded news no one with a $20,000 mouth wants to hear. I needed to see a periodontist! Impossible! Only old people with walkers go to periodontists! My teeth look great! What do you mean there's bone loss? Memory loss, yes, but bone loss? Could that possibly have something to do with too many years of drinking inferior white wines? I brush, I Water Pik, and for God's sake, I carry a huge roll of dental floss in my purse (at times it has also doubled as a shoe string and a trouser belt, but I won't get into that right now).
     For months I put off a visit to the periodontist, especially after hearing a detailed description of the gum surgery I was to endure. Gum flaps? Bone grafts? Sutures? No, double no and hell no. Where does that replacement bone part come from? You guessed it---cadavers. Or even a cow. The doctor also mentioned something about coral, but I was still trying to digest the word "cadaver." The office asked if I was ready to set the appointment for the procedure. It was definitely a "Don't call me I'll call you" situation. Yeah, I'll get right on that....
     More time went by and my bone loss increased ever so slowly. I kept praying that my meticulous dental regimen would cure the problem on its own, but no such luck. I contemplated using a pair of plyers and the liquid courage from a bottle of tequila, but then I thought of my older son who recently had four wisdom teeth pulled. Certainly if a 24 year old could survive oral surgery, then so could I. With the help of a few valium.
     On the day of the appointment, I looked longingly at a crunchy apple, a hard pretzel and a bag of chewy caramels. It would be weeks, maybe months, before I could indulge like that again. In the doctor's waiting room, my gaze automatically drifted toward the periodontal disease pamplets. I had to turn away or be sick.
     Once I was seated in the dental chair, the valium kicked in and I no longer cared if the tooth was pulled or if an entire cow was going to be jammed into my jaw bone. I closed my eyes and waited for the last suture to be threaded through my gum. The best part? Hearing the doctor advise my husband to pamper me all day and to let me sleep for hours on end. For once I was given permission to be a sloth and watch tacky TV shows from my bed. I was even allowed to hold the coveted remote control all day.
     Once home, my husband turned to me and asked, "So which is it? Cow or seventy-nine-year-old man?"
     "I'm not sure," I answered, "but if I begin mooing or digging through the night stand drawer for a tube of Polygrip, you'll have your answer..."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Who Stole My Period?

    I was the last girl in my group of friends to get my period. I was also in a training bra longer than most of the female population in North America. I could never catch up with the other girls in my class. By the time I bought my first A cup bra, my peers were tossing aside their C cups for D's. Same goes with my period. While all my friends were stocking up on sanitary pads, I was still stocking up on Charms pops and gum wrappers for my gum chain. Every time one of the girls called to tell me they'd started their period, I was a bit envious.  "Do you look different?" "Do you feel like a real woman now?" "Do you know you can get P-R-E-G-N-A-N-T?!"
     I didn't get my period until I was almost thirteen, and let me tell you, it was a big disappointment. Not that I was expecting a parade with balloons, confetti and fiesta-colored tampons. I just thought that on such a momentous occasion, there would be some sort of fanfare...or maybe just a nice dinner out with my family, where everyone would raise their glass in a toast to my period and say, "Job well done! Welcome to womanhood!" I even checked out my reflection about ten times that day to see if I had changed. Nope. Still  a goofy looking 12 year old with braces and a little patch of freckles across my nose from the sun. It also didn't help that my chest was as flat as a tortilla.
     None of that really mattered. All I cared about was that I finally had my period and the right to carry bulky, cotton pads in my purse. I could finally sit in a circle during P.E. with all the other girls and complain about cramps, bloating, and the messiness of it all. The best part about having a period  was being able to avoid doing things I disliked. I didn't have to run track in P.E. I didn't have to don a swimsuit at swim parties where all the other girls were shaped like Barbie dolls. When my mother discovered the 14 wrappers from the World's Finest chocolate bars in my drawer (that I was supposed to sell in the band fundraiser), I blamed the binge eating on chocolate cravings from my period.
     I liked having my period, especially the power it gave me to manipulate certain situations. I could be moody or foul-mouthed and it didn't matter---everyone blamed my Jekyl and Hyde personality on my period. It gave me a license to act out and plead insanity caused by high hormonal levels for one week out of each month.
     This fun lasted about six months until one day when I got off the bus and started walking home, a group of boys behind me burst into laughter. I had no idea what was so funny until I got home and saw the dark stain covering my back side. That was the day I lost my power and my period betrayed me.
     I was extremely paranoid and self-conscious after that, constantly checking my underware at school for any accidental visits from "Aunt Rose." I soon hated the fact that all of my activities revolved around my period---"Sorry, can't go to the beach today. If I get in the water I'll become a shark magnet"..."Sorry, no, I can't wear the new white sun dress to the high school dance tonight because someone might think I fell butt first into the red punch bowl."
     What about the savvy girls who learned to use tampons early in their menstrual cycle? We had some unsavory names for them, smug in our certainty that there was only one reason they were actually able to use a tampon with ease. We secretly gossiped and criticized them as we waddled down the school halls in bulky pads the size of diapers. And we thought we were the smart ones!
     Fortunately, my periods became more accurate as I became older. I could pinpoint the day the spotting would begin, and the calender never lied. It made pregnancy planning pretty easy, except for the one "oops" baby, but that was the champagne's fault. If my period was a day late, it meant one thing and one thing only--that I wasn't going to see it for another nine months.
     My period remained predictable most of my life, until this past year. It simply...vanished. After the first month without it, I was terrified that I would end up on the cover of The National Enquirer: FIFTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD WOMAN GIVES BIRTH TO TRIPLETS---CLAIMS SHE NEVER KNEW SHE WAS PREGNANT! I was on the verge of buying a home pregnancy kit when a close friend snapped me out of my momentary insanity. "You're not pregnant dummy, you're menopausing!"
     "Wait a minute," I cried, "Who stole my period? Was it that twelve-year-old down the block? She's wearing makeup and she has breasts! I'll bet she stole my period!" And then the little voice of reason inside me spoke. "Who cares? You're free. Free! Burn the tampons! Use the panti liners like sponges to clean the kitchen walls. You're free!"
     Again, my joy was short lived, because although my period had stopped, the symptoms did not. Each month I'd break out in pimples (I never had acne in high school, why now?), experience painful bloating and gas (you don't want me to go there), horrific mood swings and tears over stupid things like Publix holiday commercials. The kids run for cover at the first sign of hormonal changes in me. That usually happens when my mouth forms a thin line and I start resembling Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
     For six months I lived period-free. I cleared the bathroom cabinets of all feminine products and started carrying smaller purses. All was well until the day I attended the local renaissance festival. It was an unusally warm day, and I was dressed in my renaissance finery---hoop skirt, slips, lace, the works. I crammed myself into the tight, dirty port-a-potty at the park to pee and guess who came knocking at the door? Yup. Good ol' Aunt Rose, back from an extended vacation in Bermuda, and nary a tampon in sight.
     It was a horrible period that lasted ten days (or was it ten months?) and it drained me of all energy and enthusiasm for life. Even a chocolate bar did nothing to lighten my spirits.
     The PFH (period from hell) finally faded away, but this time I held onto the box of tampons like a shield, just in case.
     Another six months passed, and it was time for my daughter's college graduation. I was so excited to get out of town for a few days and to see my daughter receive her diploma. The suitcases were packed and stuffed into the car, and after a final check on the locks and lights around the house, I took one last trip to the bathroom before hitting the road.
      You guessed it. Aunt Rose. But this time I was prepared. I blew the dust off my box of tampons and tossed them into the car. The Red Sea was not going to stop me from visiting my daughter.
       The way I see it I'm due for another period during the Christmas Holiday season. Maybe on Christmas day. Perhaps Aunt Rose will be too busy skiing in Colorado to bother me. Or maybe not.
       The calender never lies.                                                                                                                   


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