A perfect sea urchin

My Evil Thoughts

Welcome to where I air my evil views, proud, uncowed, unbowed, and absolutely evil, superficial, and ignorant. Get used to it. To return to the main blog page, just click here.

Don't Die, Shani!

Shani is from Israel. Shani is twenty-six. Shani was in an auto accident on New Year's Eve and is now in Grady. She may have an anyurism. That anyurism could kill her. There I said it. Any prayer, I pray for Shani comes out as a scream. It comes out as a scream, because I remember being twenty-six. That was twenty-two years ago, not quite half a lifetime. What do I remember about being twenty-six? I had my first professional job which once it was secure, meant I could get my first kitty. Her name was Georgia. She was a blue cream half Siamese girl who was a legend.

I remember the day I adopted Georgia from the Stevens Swan Humane Society. I put her on my shoulder and she purred. Of all the kitties in the shelter, she was just the color I wanted and she was also the only one awake. That was because she was in heat. The shelter staff would not let her have a little, braided rug in her cage for fear she would pee on it. Georgia who was in heat for several days in my house, never went anywhere but her litter pan, but the shelter staff did not know. Georgia could have been reacting to some kind of noise, but Georgia tended to only protest pee when there were power tools used in the house. I think the shelter staff just collectively punished all queen cats who came into heat.

I think of Georgia's purr when I think of Shani. I think of the road trip I made to Memphis, the first time I could travel and afford to stay in a motel rather than a parent or grandparent's house or with friends. For some reason I don't think of the trip I made to Pittsburgh a year later. That is another story for another post. I think of walking up Mud Island and eating fried okra in a cafeteria. Fried okra was and still is a Southern Delicacy. I should learn to make breaded, fried okra.

Twenty-six is the time when you lose your dumb as a box of rocks mentality, that comes with being relatively new in the world and get a bit of maturity. That is not to say that life then is more fun than life at forty, but the fun is still new, and you can enjoy it more than when you were eighteen or even when you were twenty-two, because you have a job, respect, money, and knowledge that you didn't have when you were younger. It's this joy that Shani will lose if she dies, and no she does not make me appreciate every day or live it to the fullest. Shani did not get hurt because I did was an ingrate, and my being grateful will not make her well.

I just want her to have what I had which is what a lot of people get. With Shani, I think about what she could lose if she doesn't make it. It's an awful stand over an abyss feeling. I don't have to say that if I try to pray for Shani it makes me want to scream and cry. I'm not angry at God. I did ask him to spare her. If there are betting odds for an outcome, God holds the dice in the palm of his hand (metaphorically). God decided to let the Falcons get creamed by the Packers. Well, Shani is not a football game. She needs a break. She needs it even if she was at fault for the accident. She may suffer plenty, but she needs her shot at the good times ahead.

And yes, Hell still has its own MARTA station. It's called Georgia State or E1. It is two blocks from Grady. I delivered food to Shani's family in the infamous deathwatch room on the seventh floor of the eastern part of the hospital on Wednesday. I can't get the place out of my mind. When my friend, Charles, was in intensive care at Grady, I would not go in the deathwatch room except to pee. Sorry, I was afraid of that place. I was superstitious. When they turned all the visitors out, I went to the cafeteria, the balcony over the eastern lobby, the chapel, anywhere but that room. I gave Shani's mother and sisters alternatives to that creepy seventh floor lounge. They said they were afraid to leave their daughter. I hope and pray they don't get burnt out.

Part of me sees myself running across the ice flows between the ship of misery and dry land. I could easily get back on board the ship of misery. I have issues with someone that I do not want to discuss on this blog. Sometimes I wonder why it is always a woman's job to sweep the emotional dead bugs off the metaphorical porch. I wield the broom like a cudgel, banging it on the boards. "This one is for you," I think as I send the debris scattering off the porch and into the dead leaves.

I enjoy the catharsis of a clean sweep. I'm not really angry. I sometimes feel lonely, but I tell myself not to call. There is no point in writing since I'm not sure which one my friend up north uses. Yes, he is an exboyfriend now and I'm an exgirlfriend. It happened with a gesture and actions rather than words. Yes, I just called it what it is. And don't begin to ask me why, except it was a long time coming, and we both could have stopped it a hundred different ways. Mostly though I could have ended it sooner, and don't ask me why I didn't because sweeping dead bugs off one's emotional porch is not nearly as satisfying as doing it in empty life. There is nothing special about an enmpty porch.

Eileen H. Kramer -- January 21, 2011

The Adventure Ends

I am not sure how large a toll the snow storm took. A week lost, is not the same thing as an extra snow day added five times in a row. Somewhere there is a difference in kind rather than degree. I have a messy apartment, and I don't care. I have a freezer full of bread. I have kitty fort strewn all over the living room. My hair is clean. There is sink laundry hanging on the wooden rack. I have gotten out of the habit of rising early, but never forgot the day of the week and the date. I'm on Meal Train, and there is food for a patient's family in my fridge. No one should ever take potluck. Trust me on that one.

I have no idea what I will find at work, except a dirty cup of tea gone mouldy, left thinking I'd be back for it in a day or so.

Sunday everybody replenished their food stocks. If you ever have a snow storm, lay in lots of apples, oranges, and figs. You need fruit. You will eat fruit before you eat anything else, at least I do. Did the snow storm make me charitable. I had time on my hands and could get out. In the end, the strong help the weak, and it is easy.

I can see the ship of misery on the frozen canal. "No," I tell two passengers that have straggled aboard. "No water main has broken since early December." It did not get cold enough for long enough. People slipped on the ice instead. I wish I could say more about what got my friends back on that godforsaken tub. I know the ship is always full, but I'm off of it permanently.

I'm still off of it, when I see a small bald spot in the front and a bit of iron grey in my brown hair. It's an awful color. I wince, but there is not enough grey to cut my hair short and start dying it. I don't want to be a red head and am not sure Loreal or Clairol can duplicate mouse brown. Being a brunette really is a deep part of my identity. In Portuguese the word is morena. A morena like me can wear reds, oranges, and pinks. She likes her yellow shirt as a change of pace, and a nice hot lime or kelly green works fine. Blues are good too. Blacks are poison.

I read the hot flashes in my face. I wonder why no one has stuck a socket in my shoulder and lit up all of Atlanta. I can get radiant with heat beneath the skin. Enough hot flashes and my stomach jumps around. I got off the train early today to avoid motion sickness. With all that, the storm is long gone. My body is attempting to have another period two and a half to three weeks from some time last week. That is good news.

I am trying NOT to think about my friends in Israel or the young woman with the TBI at Grady, to whose mother and sister I deliver food. I did pray for her. I did not put her on any online prayer lists. I really don't want the whole world to know how strong I am. I don't want to find myself prey to moochers. Sorry, I don't wear a cape. I'm not Superman. I stocked up. I had extra food. I have good balance on ice and can spare a few dollars. I'm nobody special and somebody strong. Maybe the storm taught me that.

It also taught me that I have no place on the Ship of Misery. I listen to the bad news and then let myself over the rail and back across the ice flows. Having a good pair of boots comes in handy at such times.

Eileen H. Kramer -- January 17, 2011

A Real Life Adventure

I'm near the end of my third consecutive snow day. This is a first in a lifetime of nearly fifty years. I've had a snow day here and there, and also the inevitable one and two hour delays and a few early closures too, but generally I have attended the school or institution that "never closes." There was a joke about Ardsley schools, which were the schools I attended K-12: It's pouring snow. There's six inches on the ground. The ploughs can barely make it through. There is a travel advisory. Ardsley schools are on one hour delay.

Well, now I live in the South. Sunday night the snow came, and shut down the city which gave up without a fight. It is boggling how utterly not snow adapted this city is, and that is an understatement, not the boggle, but the utterl lack of ability to deal with winter weather. DeKalb County has one snow plough. I saw it today, but that's just the tail end of the issue. There is no such thing as a shoveled sidewalk in most places because most people and businesses don't have snow shovels. I cleared the apartment house' front steps with a broom Sunday night and with a dust pan to hack up the ice Monday and lots of calcium chloride to melt the ice. Our driveway is an ice field. No one had the tool to dig to the road and shovel the sidewalk. Ninty percent of the ice that makes walking hazardous is there because no one shoveled a sidewalk or walkway. And the kind of snow we get in Atlanta is the "bad kind." It's heavy close-to=freezing snow that requires multiple shovelings due to its weight. When no one cleared this snow, it turned to ice and more ice covered it.

Then we have the typical Southerner reaction to snow and cold: stay inside. I learned this when I went to clean the cat litter pans yesterday. I baged up the first pan's worth of litter and hauled it out to the dumpster. This is a heavy bag. The lid on the dumpster was down and covered with a nice little coat of snow. I tried to open it and shove in the litter. It was too heavy to open with one hand and hold open while lifting five plus pounds of dirty kitty litter. The only option was fling the lid back and stick the litter in the open dumpster and then close the lid. I lifted the lid with two hands and inched along the back of it to get it all the way open and then let it flip backwards. Off came every bit of snow, and my arms ached. In went the litter. Down went the lid, and then I asked myself: "How had all that snow got there?" It had accumulated, and the reason it was still there was that no one had taken out their trash or emptied a waste basket in forty-eight hours. This is in a complex of eight apartments and a house.

I've been out twice today with garbage, but I also went to Open Door to deliver carrot salad. I'm a bit sick of snow days. I am starting to wonder what this much free vacation does to your head. Does it go to mush? I've done some interesting cooking, not much reading, and a lot of Second Life, and some domestic chores. The house doesn't stink. My hair is clean. There is sink laundry hanging from the wooden drying rack in the kitchen. I'm out of stuff to do.

By the way, if I had had to go to work today, I would have had a very interesting experience. I would have been able to get as far as Kensington Station. MARTA trains ran on a twenty minute schedule. There were no buses until 11am and nothing at the eastern end of DeKalb County. I would have had to walk two to three miles to work from the train station. This was not undoable. Of course it's moot. I'm off again tomorrow. Will we have a one day week on Friday? As the cop in the AM-PM Minimart, who DID NOT have a snow day said: "Mother Nature does what she wants."

What is more interesting is thinking back to what people did before the storm. We had all Sunday to watch it come in and get ready. The Farmer's Market was jammed. One sees all sorts of merchandise in peoples' carts, but one expects it. The Farmer's Market caters to everyone's ethnic and cultural cravings. The root table has its devotees. The stringbean bin is always jammed even when string beans sell at close to three dollars a pound, thanks to a crop failure. I don't buy them though. I do hit the root table, but not this week. What did I buy with a storm coming, not milk or bread. I have powdered milk in the fridge and make my own bread. I bought oranges and apples, lots of oranges. I bought apples and calmyrna figs. I knew I needed fruit. In the worst of times, fruit is what you really eat. I also planned to make an orange and anchovy salad for Shabbos. I guess I was not only preparing for the worst but thinking ahead.

What was even more interesting was to see the last minute shoppers at the Publix on North Avenue. I was over there so I could get a High Octane Mocha cappucino at the AM PM Minimart near the North Avenue MARTA station. I could see the sky going from grey to sickly yellow to black in the space of a couple of hours. No one was buying milk or bread at Publix. I saw people with ready made deli sandwiches. I saw people with bags of chips and candy. I had catfood, kitchen matches, and fancy tea. The tea was for work. The kitchen matches were for candles in case we lost power. I was both an optimist and pessimist with all the bases covered.

I just never figured on three snow days and now a fourth. The gift made me cheer. The fourth one still makes me cheer. I don't want to think about how out of kilter this is going to make everything at work. It is easier to pretend that outside is an alien and hostile landscape, but that doesn't last lnog, once I am out in it moving around. Yes, it's slippery, but one never loses the memory of walking on ice or the idea that one is supposed to be out and about.

Part of me wonders if the world can ever return to "normal" again. Part of me knows that last winter, Atlanta suffered countless water main breaks, and nights in chilly drafty apartments. It's been colder, but not this icey, but when a city, really two counties, shuts down for three to four days, what happens afterwards? How can an experience like this not leave scars. Of course there are people there not as lucky as I was. Twenty-four homeless people slept on the floor at the Open Door Community. I saw a woman on North Avenue with socks but no shoes. I told her where she could get shoes or even boots. She did not listen. The cops who were out in the storm, the first MARTA drivers, the driver of our train that had to reduce speed between Candler and Inman Park all have snow stories. I have my own from this morning's adventure.

I got up a bit later than on a usual Wednesday. I all ready knew this was a snow day. They tell you a day in advance. I got my salad bagged in its fishnet carrying bag so the plastic container would be easier to hold. My caution brain told me to check to see if MARTA was running. The trains were running. There were no buses. I planned a different route to the Open Door. I took the train to Five Points and then caught a north bound to North Avenue. There was almost no waiting on any platforms.

I headed down North Avenue because it was sunny. That was a mistake. Behind City Hall East the street and the sidewalk became slick and I took a spill. I then picked myself up and kept going. I took another spill. I landed on my butt, and then my head hit the ground. It did not hit it hard. I thought all sorts of dire thoughts about concussions and such, but I did not see stars, and got right up. I checked for a bump or bruise. There is none. The back of my neck is a bit stiff. I think I wrenched it, rather than doing any damage to my head. I kept going, this time walking in the road. Suffice it to say, I made it to Open Door in one piece. Sidewalks on Ponce de Leon were much better shoveled than those on North Avenue.

I got a small time heroes welcome at the Open Door. The homeless were all ready eating lunch. There was their world famous soup. I got my salad container washed out. People who lived at the Open Door asked me endlessly if the buses were running and then how I got there. I told them I had traveled by train and then on foot. At 11am MARTA would decide on which buses ran. It did not restore the Number Two bus, the one that connects the upper reaches of Ponce de Leon with the rest of the world.

I walked back down Ponce fairly uneventfully and had a High Voltage Mocha cappucino at the AM PM Minimart. I met two cops and talked about the weather. a man who bought a Heineken and a Snickers bar for a snack. Well after this storm, I figure he was entitled to anything. Each to their vices. Each to their adventure.

Eileen H. Kramer -- January 12, 2011

Ill Wind on the Snow

Atlanta is paralyzed due to a winter storm. This is the end of a second snow day. There is a third snow day tomorrow. Part of me is overjoyed. Who isn't. Snow is rare in Atlanta. Walking in the winter weather is both fun and very treacherous. The sidewalks are fields of ice, so are the roads. I am hunkered down. Like dealing with menstrual pain, dealing with snow storms has a drill. Dealing with ice storms also has a drill. I did not need to think about buying kitchen matches Sunday. I did not need to know to sweep off the steps of my apartment building Sunday night or de-ice them on Monday afternoon was a rote procedure. Not having a shovel or pick to break up the ice was new. Having to rely on calcium chloride which is bad for animals paws is new, but I made due. I broke my dust pan which was my improvised ice breaker on the front steps, but at least I de-iced them.

This city is so badly adapted to winter conditions that it is not funny or maybe it is painfully humorous. We don't even have snow shovels. I don't think they even sell them. With shovels we could at least clear sidewalks and dig our way to the street. When I went to put garbage outside, the dumpster roof was covered in a heavy layer of snow. I tried to lift it and almost couldn't, then I pushed it higher and higher and flipped it all the way open. Off fell all the snow! Only then did I realize that no one in my complex had put out the garbage or emptied their waste baskets in forty-eight hours.

I am fully stocked up on food, including plenty of fruit. I need to bake bread, but that is a kind of weird long range need. I can't make the starter for a loaf of bread until after about seven pm, so it will wait. Tomorrow, I brave the transit system and the roads to deliver five pounds of carrot salad to the Open Door Community. Then I will learn how the homeless have been faring. This is something I don't want to know, but know I have to learn. I know I am very lucky to have three days of paid vacation. I've been making good use of the time, cleaning cat litter pans, writing fiction, doing laundry in the sink and settling some matters that do take time in Second Life.

I joked with a woman in Syracuse on Second Life about how little snow it takes to shut down a Southern City. I watched the few other pedestrians out for walks on the ice this afternoon. I was one of the few females, I t hink I was the only female to venture outside. I went out for a cappucino and also to prevent myself from going stir crazy. I am glad I'll be able to go to synagogue on Shabbos. I will be glad to see the world return to normal. I wonder how far behind the whole world has fallen. I picture a mess and a lot of destruction in this storm's wake. I know that when the water melts and refreezes, the ice will destroy sidewalks and pretty brick work.

Atlanta is a fragile city. It is not built to suffer like this. All ready we have had one water main burst back in December. There will be more water mains that burst before winter is over. There will be a few very cold nights where we will need to leave our faucets dripping to prevent pipes from freezing. The apartment is drafty, but now I can stand with bare feet on the hardwood floor. I was afraid of that, but somewhere along the line, I lost my fear. I remember walking back from the convenience store about a mile from the house, with a cup of Swiss Mocha. I was not as scaird as I was walking out empty handed. I needed to again remember how to walk on ice. Courage is very much a learned thing in the face of cold weather.

Invisible Except for my Money

I paid my synagogue dues last week. They were more than a month's rent. Now, I have cheap rent, and am glad of that fact, as any self-respecting member of my tribe should be. Still, I don't get a discount, not that I'm sure I deserve one. I am also invisible. If you want to get noticed at my synagogue you either give money, which makes sense, or you have a simcha. Single female adults, don't get very many simchot. We don't get them if we save a criminal from being wrongly convicted or obtain a conviction for someone who deserves to go to jail. We don't get them if we teach children to read. Reading is the killer app when it comes to school, but that is another story. We don't get simchot if we teach a student how to do a research paper, even though that "ooooh!" moment when a student encounters a source that teaches him/her about his/her topic or sees that there is lots of work done on their area of interest is priceless. We don't get simchot if we save a person's life by nursing them in a hospital, or increase their function and capabilities in the physical therapy room. We don't get simchot if we save someone as part of a search and rescue squad or fight for our country in the armed forces, or help keep the domestic piece by working in law enforcement. We only get simchot if we marry or reproduce. Otherwise, we do not exist. Of course my dues are as good as anybody else', money whether it's from a spinster or mother of six is still green. Now ask me what

Now ask me what I am to make of all this? Well, I'm supposed to ignore it. My synagogue is set up so everyone can see what happens on the bimah. Women can "Strive for Five" along with the men. I can't read Hebrew anyway, so separate and unequal is surprizingly egalitarian. My synagogue also lets women give sermons, and lead all female Megillah readings at certain holidays. These last are great fun, because they radiate joy and lots of energy. We even have our own dancing with the Torah. The adolescent girls love this. That the local Jewish Day School can not run a real Drama Club or chorus because the girls are religiously forbidden to perform in front of men or have a swim team or a gymnastics team, is a fight in which I don't have a dog. I don't have teenage girls, but I would want them to have the rite of passage that public performance is for adolescent girls in the United States.

In the United States, houses of worship are also very congenial places for females. My syngoague fits this most of the time, so in one sense, I have no reason to complain. It would be nice, however, to have a day that honors all teachers and academics, another day to honor everyone whether married or single, childed or childless, who works in health care. I'd also like a day for those who help others with the law. I think that takes in everybody, except those with their own business. OK, let's have an entrepreneurs' day.

And while we are at it, let's change that dues structure! The person who teaches public or day school is going to make less meoney. The county attorney shouldn't have to think about going into private practice to afford a religious life style. Let's base the dues on income so that those whose jobs involve pulbic service but pay less, receive recognition for the good they do through their work with less burdensome dues. Who knows? Maybe some of those less well paid public servants, might join the synoaguge because they could afford it, and others might give additional contriubtions rather than being obligated to pay a large sum in dues. Oh well, as they say: "when pigs fly." I can imagine flying pigs all day long. I did pay my dues.

Parshas Bo

Last week's Torah portion was Parshas Bo. Bo means go in Hebrew. It is about the ninth and tenth plague and the Hebrew Children's escape from slavery in Egypt. It also begins introducing readers to the holiday structure and life under the priestly hierarchy. The last plague in Prashas Bo is the killing of the Egyptian firstborn. Not just the first born of the wealthy who could afford to own slaves, but the poorest Egyptian, the worker behind the mill stone or the slave in the dungeon, and all the Egyptian animals' firstborn as well.

What does this teach? Surely, the poor and the downtrodden among the Egyptians did not oppress the Hebrews. They in fact competed with slaves for employment, yet there they were victims. God exacts collective punishment and most of the Egyptian firstborn are collateral damage. Parshas Bo can teach that it is fine to exact collateral damage, to kill the innocent, if God is on your side. This is a lesson many cultures have unfortunately taken to heart.

Of course one does not have to read the Bible literally. If one thinks that the some of the Egyptians did not deserve to die, then literal reading has done its job. You are a good, civilized person whom the "bloody Old Testament" has given justifiable pause. Pat yourself on the back and let's take another look. The pause you felt is a good thing. Collateral damage is ugly and wrong. Chances are good that the story in Exodus is just a myth. Myths are fine things, and they can be much bloodier than in real life. The last time I checked, there is no written corroberation or historical corroberation that the Exodus even existed. The Egyptians do not record a famine, a crop failure, plagues, or even a slaves' revolt. The story in the Bible is a teaching tool, to remind us we have humble origins and that God is mighty and that he can indeed inflict collateral damage, and that as we read in the prayers every Saturday morning, if we ourselves leave the straight and narrow, we are next. Starvation, by the way is God's favorite weapon. His next favorite is warfare.

By the way, if you are interested, Ezekiel and Jeramiah's prophesies about Egypt do not come true. Egypt under the Ptolemies remained a force with which to be reckoned and one which we Hebrews often played off against the Hellenized Assyrians or the Persians. And by then, there is written corroberation for the story.

Eileen H. Kramer -- January 11, 2011

Four Miles Home

I haven't looked at Walter's database of his tenants' payments for parcels in his estate in Second Life. The database is a mess. My body is a mess. Everything is a mess. I could hardly eat yesterday, my stomach was so tightly in knots. The last stroke that broke the camel's proverbial back crashed down when I got off the #121 MARTA bus and walked into Kensington Station. There on the sign board, it announced that I would have to wait ten long minutes for the westbound train. The eastbound train was due in twelve minutes. I did not have a book with me. I thought: "What the EXPLETIVE DELETED are you doing here?"

I walked back up the stairs and headed out of the station and home. It's not a hard trip. The neighborhood is either commercial or decent. The street changes name several times and is an old foot trail that runs east to west. Clarkston and Stone Mountain are east of Decatur. I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I was light headed and dizzy. That was better than feeling angry.

I tried not to think about Second Life or my crampy guts. I tried not to think about perimenopause. Eventually I thought about all of that. Eventually, I just stopped thinking about all of that and had a good look around. I saw churches. I think I passed four huge churches. I saw apartment complexes, and then stores, not huge strip mall type stores, but mom and pop places that offered all sorts of services. The stores reminded me of the little stores in L'Assomoir by Emile Zola. I just got done reading that book before Christmas Break. I passed tailoring shops, lawn mower repair shops, shops to fix dented auto bodies, two veterinary clinics, and used clothing and furniture shops randing from classy consignment places, to grubby holes in the walls that promised all clothing and shoes a dollar. In one emporium of used goods there was a window display of half size baby bottles. I think now they were pet nursers, for hand rearing orphaned animals. I've hand-reared a kitten, so I've been there and done that. This place also advertised "luxury sheets" for fifteen dollars. They were closed so I could not go inside and examine the goods.

I returned home feeling pain free for the first time all day. My body will be mine again. If I have to move in Second Life, so be it. The rest, I don't really want to discuss on this blog, except that it could be worse. I was able to make five pounds of nap-slaw with dill and pineapple for the Open Door when I got home. I delivered it this morning. I was surprised how quickly I put everything together. I was also surprised at how tired I was. Hertzel even crawled under the covers with me though I slept on my left side. I awoke to find him a distance away from me curled in a tight, white ball. He is a white, neutered tom cat, and as sweet and loyal as any kitty can be. Seeing him curled up made me feel serene. I guess he knew I needed him last night, even though in my current state, I often give off very bad vibes. The cats can smell these or feel them. They are sensitive creatures.

I am still as grey as the winter. It really is grey out today. I am in less pain, but somehow that doesn't register. Being in pain gets to be a bad habit. Pain leaves the fear of itself behind if it is not too bad. Very sharp acute pain is the kind of pain your mind blocks. I am not so lucky. There's not much I can do when I've hurt like this. I just keep going. I look back behind me and see where I've been, and sometimes I get very angry and take a walk.

Eileen H. Kramer -- January 5, 2011

Peri-Menopause Blues

I feel like I am writing this as a public service. You are too young to know about this yet, and older women joke about it which makes you feel ugly, or maybe you are in denial, or maybe it is happening around you and everybody else is in denial, but hey it's a much bigger mystery than getting your period ever was. That was because you got your period back in high school. If you were lucky you undressed for gym with older girls or at least girls your own age. Guess what everyone around you was doing? They were getting used to menstruating. Guess what we talked about? Female health and lots of female health. Most of us ached. All of us wanted to have fashionable underware. You still had to look good. It was the aching and upset stomachs that were the most upsetting, as were the occasional nerves on edge. Fluctuating adolescent hormones set the nerves on edge.

Now it's about forty-five years later, and this time...no locker room. You're all alone and there it is. I don't go crazy though some things can make me feel sad. I think they would make me sad anyway, but they make me sadder. Sometimes I feel antsy and frustrated, but physical pain does that. I am far too good at noticing when a hormonal switch flips the wrong way and it is a flip. Hormonal changes are relatively fast. They were fast in the prime of life too. I'm good at sensing this. That is why I notice when I have a hot flash. The hot flash is weird, but not awful. It feels like somone threw a hot towel over my face and chest, and like most hormonal phenomena, the switch flips and it's there. That's where the flash comes from. Again, this kind of a fast switch is nothing new. This is how periods start. The switch back is not quite as noticeable. I don't think hot flashes really fade out. I'm just not tuned into anything that lasts less than half a day.

Hot flashes in and of themselves are not the worst thing that happens. There are some women whom they torture, but mine just don't get that bad. The big problem with hot flashes is that they are a sign that other things will or could happen. It's the other symptoms that are the problem. First, I no longer menstruate competently. My body has a hard time stopping bleeding and restarting the build up of the uterine lining. This last concerns me more than a bit of spotting. It doesn't just forget to shut off. It tries to resstart the cycle at the end. For those of you who don't know what it means, it means pain, drawing cramps in the back of the legs and irritable bowel symptoms as well. The drawing pains are the worst! I stood in synagogue with the backs of my legs on fire on Saturday and finally decided I was just going to go through the rest of the service seated. That helped the pain. My legs hurt this morning too. I knew that when I went to the bathroom, I would find a period still happening. It would not be making much flow, but it would not be gone. There was just too much going on.

Then we have the familiar going crazy rumor. It's bullshit, but what does happen is a kind of misplaced PMS. That means insomnia, nightmares, and tossing and turning. It is not pleasant to wake up in bed, too fearful to move or get up the rest of the way. I pet my cats and think about the awful dream just past. My head has a whole parade of sleep demons. It's a wonder I am not afraid to go to sleep.

Last but not least, my hot flashes leave a whole sequalae in their wake. Hot flashes can turn into spells of shivering. Today I shivered before I finally decided to light up the whole city of Atlanta. It is better to be warm then cold. Just take my word for it. If I have enough hot flashes or they last long enough, I get a jumpy, unsettled, somewhat nauseous stomach. Yesterday, I came back from synagogue utterly, mildly nauseated. I drank some cold tea. Lay down for a while, and could eat. Then I slept some more. I guess the pain made me sick and when it let up, I slept off the illnes. This is a scarey thought. It just happens. It's over. Life goes on.

I guess what has to happen is I have to become conscious of the off-switch as well as the on-switch. Perimenopausal pain is irratic. It doesn't last a whole day or more and then fade out. It comes, and then it goes. The switch works in both directions. I am talking aboaut symptoms that are there one minute and after a half hour to two hours are gone. The pain in my legs lifted earlier this evening. I noticed it was gone as if someone had turned a switch. I need to watch the switch in both directions. This should help me feel better and in more control.

And yes, I am doing the good dietary thing. I am drinking mocha cappacino instead of Coke because it has milk in it. I'm also trying to eat sardines or herring (Beechcliffe Herring in Hot Sauce rock!) two to three times a week to get more vitamin D and calcium. I'm taking slow release iron. I'm eating fruits and vegetables, and getting fresh air and sunshine. There are full spectrum bulbs in the bedroom to cut cabin fever.

I have also learned to treat restart and false start cramping (Mostly drawing pains in the legs) as if it were adolescent menstrual cramps. Naproxen kills pain dead. There is no pint soldiering bravely on without good pain medication. I just wish someone told me that peri-menopause hurt.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 1/2/2011