Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Focus On The Floor

Back in the day, it appears, “the weaker sex” thought a lot about their floors. As Madison Avenue ad men not so subtly pointed out, it was a woman’s prime preoccupation…aside from what to make for dinner and which beer to serve after she burned it. Whether it was no wax, hardwood, linoleum, tile or carpet, the print world placed a priority on pushing products to keep women focused on their floors . 

And I get it. The floor gives you a firm foundation. If it goes, although you may have a leg to stand on, you won’t have anywhere for that leg to stand. But I noticed that none of the products paraded across the pages of past periodicals offered up anything to strengthen that floor. They were all about keeping it clean and the cosmetic covering of whatever was beneath.

It was all about appearances and disguising any unpleasantries. Dealing with every spot or speck as it crept to the surface of the carpet, rather than addressing the core cause below. Very similar to the way the modern world expects its women to care for their other floors. The pelvic ones.

Just watch the nightly news or prime time and you’ll see there’s a pill or a pad to cover every problem. You can also keep it all buffed and waxed and fresh as a Summer’s Eve. When you look good, you feel good right? But appearances can be deceiving and that firm foundation may not be as solid as it once stood.

Wait, my pelvis has a floor? Yes, yes it does and it holds everything up, just like the one in your living room. Imagine if your living room floor started to sag. Your furniture, fixtures and television all sliding towards the middle of the room. Sure they would still work, but they wouldn’t be as comfortable or function the way they should. You could use wedges and blocks to try to make everything appear level. Buy extension cords for all of the things that can no longer reach their outlets. Stock up on extra napkins and paper towels for all of the spills that will occur. Or, you could shore up that floor!

Your pelvic floor is a series of tissues, including muscles, that support your bladder, rectum, uterus and vagina. Without strong support, these four major components don’t function to their full potential, thus all of those pills and pads and perfumes. Not only has strengthening the pelvic floor been shown to improve overall core strength and address incontinence…it can also improve your sexual wellbeing!

And no major workouts necessary, although they can assist in strength building. The Kegels are the key! Some of these exercises (yes, click on the word exercises and an expert will tell you what to do) can be done on your commute, while you’re brushing your teeth or even reading a blog post, without anyone even knowing. So what have you got to lose ladies, other than the appearance of everything being okay? What if you could gain the reality? What if all it took was focusing on your floor?

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The September "Issue"

Every fall without fail, completely unsolicited, it arrives…The September Issue. No, not Vogue’s ample annual offering with five and a half pounds of pages that finds its way to my mailbox at the end of August. But rather, the fashion fix I find myself in shortly thereafter.

When pumpkin spice promises collide with sandals and suntans. When the wardrobe worn all summer suddenly loses its sizzle, but it’s still too early for the boots stored under the bed. When the thermometer and the calendar refuse to corroborate and we’re left in the lurch of an artificial autumn.

And I am not the only one afflicted with this annual ambivalence. I’ve already seen knit hats with flannel shirts in 90 degrees on too-eager teenagers who couldn’t wait to wear their back-to-school best. And witnessed shivering after sunset in sundresses while wool wearers were wiping sweat from their brows on the same sidewalks. I have even seen one Franklin Avenue Fauxhemian in a scarf, slip and snow boots. And yes, he was a hipster, not homeless, who picked this on purpose.

It’s a clothing conundrum with too little trendy transition and no prospects for practicality. And for those of us in larger cities with limited leeway there’s not enough closet for crossover. There’s no space for seasonal uncertainty. And so it all winds up crammed and cramped and crinkled and creased until it is completely unwearable.

Ugh! Why won’t summer just get out and leave the key making a clean break until we’re ready for reconciliation? Is it jealous of autumn being so cool and all? Worried that we’ll forget the warmth that we shared. I just need a break from the intensity. It’s not like this is forever, it’s just for now.

And I want it, like I want just about everything. Now! Now! Now! I have grown so bad at waiting. I so rarely have to do it anymore. In this fast-paced-at-my-fingertips-order-it-online-same-day-instantanious world in which we live, I want to want something and then no longer have to want it. And I want my seasons the same way. I want my fall to fall when September starts. No lingering through Labor Day. No Indian Summer, which is a HORRIBLE term by the way insinuating that an entire group of people, not even from India, have an inclination to give and then take back everything…including warm weather.

These poor people are not to blame. September is! September, with her sweet assurances that autumn has arrived only to continue forgoing fall. September, with her shell game of seasons. September with her “wouldn’t you love to wear this, if only I would let you?” September! September! September!

Fashion isn’t the issue. Summer isn’t the issue. Even impatience isn’t the issue. September is the issue!

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Monday, August 29, 2016

The Crappiest Time of Day

Without a doubt, 4:45-6:45 PM is the crappiest time of day. This is not a feeling, it is a fact. I have never, in all of the time that I have lived in the South Bay, departed my doorstep during these exact hours without encountering hordes of humanity carrying tiny little totes of turd.

This fecal phenomenon unfolds each and every evening as commute weary crowds accompany their canines to defecate along the coast. And I mean multitudes. I suspect it’s some secret city statute. A mandated measure on manure that with strictly set synchronization dogs must descend directly on the beach in a mangled melee of masters with mutts all…on the make.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand it’s necessary everyone does their duty, including dogs. And biology tends to tick on a timer, but I am just fascinated that this one little strip of beach a block from my home is such a hot spot to plop with such punctual precision.

Oh sure, I regularly encounter pups on the promenade outside these parameters, but without a single plastic pouch of poo. And I have also encountered many a man’s best friend on a side street leading to the shore without a single squat copped. It’s as if they’re holding it in until they arrive. There’s just something about this particular parcel during these two hours. Perhaps it is because there’s no more picturesque perch for a pooch to potty than above the Pacific at sunset.

And I am grateful to the owners who take the time to scoop that poop. No one wants a feces filled footpath. There’s already enough, somehow conveniently forgotten, to keep us all on our toes. Because who doesn’t love an evening stroll with the odor of ordure following them firmly affixed to a flip-flop? As a result, I now try to take my daily 10,000 steps before the bewitching hours befall us.

Because they say sh*t happens. Well, I can tell you it does. And I can also tell you exactly where and when: Every evening along The Esplanade between the hours of 4:45 and 6:45 PM. The crappiest time of day.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sticks and Stones

I was 10 years old the first time I heard the name, "Geraldine Ferraro."

It was in a joke, I now can't remember, somehow swapped for the word "Ferrari” on the merry-go-round at Washington Elementary School. I found myself reeling as I whirled in circles soaking up the scoop on this sinister succubus who would one day dare to oppose our republic’s rightful redeemer, Ronald Reagan. I was thirty miles outside of Wichita, but a world away from the “elitist East Coast” as I gained my informal education on the playground in my proudly conservative precinct in Southern Kansas.

My stomach lurched from a mixture of motion sickness and admonition as I gobbled up all I was being fed about this monster in our midst. This "pope lovin' man hater" who wanted to force me to pee in the men's room standing up, stop all little boys from being born, draft only the girls to go fight a nuclear war in Russia and turn everyone Catholic! Aside from the fact that I was already Catholic, a rarity for my region, I was terrified by the rest.

But how did they know this? Were they sure? How could this possibly be true? They “saw it on T.V.” And that was that. The preeminent principle of the playground. If some kid said they saw it was on T.V., then it was so.

Ms. Ferraro was reported to have said something about women’s rights, which I was informed, was code for that ERA thingy. I had no idea what the E, the R, and the A stood for, and neither did they, but I was notified that it was definitely illegal. There was a vote and everything. And even though this Geraldine didn’t exactly say all of that other stuff directly, everyone knew that that’s what ERA really meant. Plus, this kid’s Dad said she was Catholic, and everyone knew Catholic’s couldn’t be trusted.

Hmmm. I suspected that last part was more about me than Ms. Ferraro because in the second grade, after I forgot and accidentally ate the little smokies that came with my macaroni and cheese during Lent, I was told in front of everyone that they were going to have to take me to church so the priest could pray the wienies out of me! I went home and cried until my mother reassured me there was no Roman Catholic ritual for exorcising miniature kielbasa.

One of the first lessons learned in any schoolyard is that misinformation is key. If you can’t beat ‘em, spread rumors or at least suspicion. And when all else fails, throw dirt.

But regardless of any ill intent on his part, it was clear the end was near. We had to prepare for the apocalypse...whatever that was. But we didn’t have time because the recess bell rang, foiling the fifth graders from formulating a plan to save our future. But I assured myself it would all be okay. It wasn’t like she was trying to be president or anything. And anyhow, she was a woman, so like that could ever happen?

And then, it was upon us…sixth grade. 1984. I started middle school in the fall of an election year. You can imagine my horror at returning from my clueless summer sloth to discover for the first time, the Democrats had in fact, selected a woman as their potential V.P. A woman! And not just any woman…that woman!

All summer I had spent my days in clueless abandon, frittering away the last of my childhood, while Mondale and his minion had been mounting their campaign! How could this happen? I have to admit, I hadn’t really learned any more about her, but I hadn’t unlearned what I thought I already knew either. And I was pretty sure I knew plenty. Enough to be certain she was “no match for our morals.” Not that I in my middle school mind had any idea what exactly those might be, but I had heard a grownup say it. So, it must be so.

In the end, the incumbent won. Mondale/Ferraro carried only Minnesota with its 13 electoral college votes. And we as a nation we got exactly what we asked for.

And Geraldine Ferraro, the joke from the playground, never won an election again. She became a passing icon I knew in name only, as I shoved her to the back of my mind...where she stayed for nearly three decades.

And then, upon her death, information passed before my now-adult eyes. Showing me I actually knew next to nothing about this woman, who despite all of the opposition, managed to make history. I made a choice to learn more about her, without any pretense.

And what I found, in the most concise terms…she was pretty badass! No wonder they feared her. Change can be scary. Especially when it's so far ahead of its time. 

But I was no longer afraid. I was grateful. Grateful for what she did for little girls like me. And grateful for her willingness to endure the sticks and stones thrown at her from much loftier perches than that silly little playground.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Post-hysterectomy, writer Laura Becker discusses the freedom of getting rid of the metaphorical trappings of femininity along with the literal ones.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Out Of My Body Or Out Of My Mind

There is a good chance, that at some point, I will completely lose my mind. And I mean, put it down somewhere and never find it again.

A little over a year ago, I had a total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. In layman’s terms, a complete removal of all of my female abdominal inner workings. I was 42.

Oophorectomy, the removal of the ovaries, pre-menopause has been found in some studies to increase the risk of future cognitive impairment by 50%. While dying has been found in all studies to increase the risk of death by 100%. And although it isn’t perfect, I love my life. I love the people in my life. I love the spouse in my life. I love me in my life. I made a choice to stay.

I also made the choice to use the mind that I still had for the time being to examine the possibilities of all that I might be facing. The good, the bad and the ugliness of uncertainty.

On the one hand, I had two grandmothers whom I loved dearly. Both of whom struggled with their sanity towards the end. One battled Alzheimer’s slowly forgetting and failing to function in the life she had forged. The other had an oophorectomy in her twenties and became bipolar with ever increasing bouts of mania where she painted the dining room emerald green in the middle of the night and once kept me up until all hours at the age of four filling every available surface of the kitchen with batch after batch of gingerbread men because we had read a story and she already had all of the supplies and why not? Fun? Yes. Normal? No.

I have to admit, my antenna are up and rightly so. We all sprout from the same family tree and one of them had the exact procedure I did, only 14 years younger. It does make me take a heightened notice. There are days right now, when I stop and wonder did I just forget or did my mind fail me? Am I just being creative or am I going into overdrive? And, that could very well be me one day. All of it! All manic and moony and mixed up.  But then again, it might not.

I also made a choice to do what I should to keep what I could for as long as I would. I walk every day. Eat relatively well. And wear what we jokingly refer to as my disposable ovaries. And so far so good. Except for the first day of hormone replacement when I stuck the tiny, nonthreatening, dime sized patch to my abdomen, then casually went to Target to run an errand when suddenly and without warning I was hit by an overwhelming, savage sense of hunger so severe, I had to fight the urge to run across the store, rip into a bag of Bugles and start fist slamming them into my face. And I can't stand Bugles!

Hormones don’t mess around! And neither do I. But that doesn’t mean I don’t face my possible fates with humor. It’s my future to do with as I will. And what’s the point of sticking around if I can’t find a little funny in it?

Ultimately, I can only control so much. I choose some, I inherit some and have some surgically arranged for me by saving my life. But at least I’ll be around to see how this whole thing plays out. And I’m pretty sure that was the whole point in the first place.

Follow me on twitter and Instagram! @TheLauraBecker