The Period Blog

Like me, Sheri from the super-fabulous blog A Novel Menagerie has two preteen daughters.  Inspired by My Little Red Book, we recently chatted about periods: 

Lisa:  I got mine when I was 11, the summer before 6th grade.  How old were you? 

Sheri:  You know, since my brain fell out of my va-jay-jay after I had the twins, I can’t really recall.  I think I was 13, close to 14. 

Lisa:   So 8th or 9th grade, something like that?  Being a bit younger, I guess I was pretty stupid about things.  I know we saw a movie in 5th grade, but it was more about all the wonderful things you can do when you become a woman- you can go horseback riding!  You can ride a bike!  

I was at summer camp and didn’t connect the rusty streak in my undies to the movie at all.  I thought I was dying.  I hid my messy underwear in my duffle bag (gross!)  My mom discovered what happened when she did my laundry after I came home, and she handed me a book called Growing Up and a box of pads.  There was no discussion, no Q & A, and lots of embarrassment.  What about you? 

Sheri:  In our school, we had the sex-ed classes, so I knew it was coming.  Also, most of my friends had theirs before me.. again, I knew it would arrive.  My mom gave me some mini-pads, told me a bit about them, and set me loose.  It wasn’t at all that big of a deal for me.  I think developing my breasts were a much bigger memory for me.  I really had some difficult cramping in high school and took a lot of Motrin during those years.  Did you know that I’m so old that Motrin was by prescription only back then?  Yes… yes it was! 

Lisa:  Breasts- that was a sad subject for me.  I was skinny and flat as a board.  I had nothing going on upstairs, which caused me great embarrassment in junior high. 

How are you preparing your own daughters for their first period? 

Sheri:  I am the world’s biggest embarrassment to the twins.  Whenever I talk about it, they say, “MOM!  We know! We know!”  They never want to talk about it.  They each have some panty-liners and are prepared to let me know when it happens. (Oh, and our school has had some really great classes over the past couple of years). 

Lisa:  Ours too.  My kids know how their bodies work from me, from the classes at school, and from books.  American Girl has a great book called “The Care and Keeping of You.”  It even has a diagram showing how to insert a tampon.  And I’ll be sharing My Little Red Book with them too.

We’ve discussed everything openly although my youngest would rather not talk about it.  The other day I took them to the drugstore and we purchased some “supplies” and cute little zip-up bags to carry them in so they can take them in their backpacks to school.  I want them to be secure in the knowledge that they will know what to do when the time comes.   

Sheri:  One of my twins does and the other doesn’t.  I guess we’re heading to the drug store before school starts.  Thanks for the head’s up! 

Lisa:  Your girls are a little bit older than mine.  Mine are 10 and 11, and as you know my 11 year old is really tiny.  She’ll probably be carrying pads around in her backpack for the next 3 years before she needs to use them.  Although she is very moody, and her skin is starting to break out a little, so you never know.. 

Sheri:  After her recent physical, the doctor told one of my girls that she will start very soon.  In my best estimation, the other one is probably 2-6 months behind her.  Seeing that they are both in women’s sizes now, have acne problems up the wazoo, have body odor issues, and greasy scalps… it’s just a matter of time.  It’s a challenge to get them to focus on their self-care and proper hygiene.  I actually asked the doctor to talk to them a bit about it.  She did and the twins seemed to take it more seriously coming from her than from me.  In fact, they were much better about the acne care after the doctor’s visit. 

Lisa:  That’s a good idea.  I should have the doctor talk with them about it.  It was almost funny last year, trying to get my 4th grader to start wearing deodorant, and her defensively asking, “Why?”  Um, honey?  I hate to say it, but.. you smell.  

Sheri:  Dude!  It’s bad enough with their hormones now… I can only imagine that cramps are going to turn my world upside down!  EEK!  What I’m really concerned about is having the 3 of us starting to all cycle together at the same time.  It will be total mayhem and grouchiness for 10 days straight.  And that’s like a third of the month!  OMG!  

Lisa:  I know, same here!!  My poor husband!  He is SO outnumbered. 

In My Little Red Book, there are essays about how families mark the occasion of ‘becoming a woman’.  Some celebrate with a special dinner, a cake, or a slap in the face.  One mom gave her daughter a dozen roses in a pretty vase, and the daughter kept the dried rose petals in the vase on her dresser for years- I really liked that idea.  I don’t have any family traditions but I think I may start one with my girls.  How do you plan to handle it with the twins? 

Sheri:  I hadn’t really thought about it until the book.  I think flowers is a lovely idea.  It is the beginning of an entirely new phase of their lives. 

Lisa:  Thanks, Sheri, for talking with me today!  This was fun. 

Sheri:  I appreciate you bringing up some great little reminders and tips.  And, you totally know that I’m going to secretly tell you/my other girlfriends when it happens!  It’s almost like a small rite of passage for us moms, too!  Don’t you think?  THANK YOU, for including me in your amazingly wonderful, always fun blog: BOOKS ON THE BRAIN! 

Lisa:  Oh, you are so sweet.  Believe me, I’ll be calling you too when things start flowing in my house!!  I will need to have someone to commiserate with.  It is a rite of passage, a beginning but also an ending too.  It kind of makes me sad that my babies are growing up so quickly.  Ok, I may start crying now.  Pass the tissues, the Motrin and the chocolate.  

And for a good laugh, watch this!

Guest Post: A Room of My Own by Meg Waite Clayton

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Please welcome Meg Waite Clayton, author of the national bestseller The Wednesday Sisters,  to Books on the Brain!  In this essay she writes about her workspace and the special things she keeps there to inspire her.  

Virginia Woolf famously said in “A Room of One’s Own” that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” My room is a bedroom which has in place of the requisite bed and dresser: a desk, a couch, two small round tables suitable for setting manuscripts on, and lots of books.

imageDBI occasionally think I should replace my bookshelves—a walnut bookcase and a china cabinet, both originally my mother-in-law’s—with more practical floor-to-ceiling built-ins that would hold the books now overflowing my shelves. But it’s hard to imagine parting with the history and beauty they bring to my space, so my books spill over to my closet and, I admit it, my floor, my desk, even my couch. I turn to them sometimes when I’m writing. (Whenever I write a party scene, I pull out The Great Gatsby to remind me how it’s done.) But for the most part, I keep books near to inspire me. One glance at the Austens and Eliots, McDermotts and McEwans, among others—many signed by the author—reminds me what I’m shooting for.

The center of my room of my own is my desk. It’s a holdover from my days as a lawyer, when I could afford to buy swanky hand-crafted reproduction Queen Anne. I fell in love with it at first sight, and even when I was still marking up corporate contracts in my lawyering days, I imagined I might someday work up the courage to pursue my childhood dream of writing a novel here on its lovely cherry-wood surface.

webarmadillo-150x98I’m a superstitious old soul, and so I keep on my desktop a number of talismans to bring good juju to my writing: a psychedelic armadillo my sons gave me in celebration of my first publication credit (an essay in Runner’s World, and your guess is as good as mine what a psychedelic armadillo has to do with that!); a Japanese doll my Uncle brought me from one of his many adventures, which wears a string of pearls given me by the Vice-Mayor of Wuxi, China during one of mine; a card, the cover of which is a lovely photo by my friend Adreinne Defendi; a “Follow Your Dream” candle made for me by my friend Mark Holmes; a cheesy “You will always be my Best Friend. You know too much” plaque my best friend, Jennifer DuChene, sent me; a pen holder given to me many, many years ago by the best storyteller in my family, my Uncle Jim—which now holds a pencil (for practical and symbolic reasons) and has taped to it a fortune cookie message: “The great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do”; my favorite honeymoon photo of Mac and me, now 21 years old; one of my children at 5 and 3, taken 14 years ago; and a digital frame that rotates a myriad of family and friends; and the medal from the one marathon I’ve run (also years old).

webbrendaangel-107x150Like my books, my talismans spill over. Elsewhere in my office are the dried rose petals from the bouquet my parents sent me when I sold my first novel; a collection of champagne corks each marked with a date and event that was cause for celebration; a bullet shell from my turn at a machine gun near some war tunnels in Vietnam, where I was traveling when The Wednesday Sisters sold to Ballantine Books; a writing angel send by my dear friend and fellow novelist, Brenda Rickman Vantrease, to watch over me. Why these particular things? The marathon medal reminds me that if I can run 26.2miles, I can do anything. But I think the other talismans simply make me feel loved, and that love frees me to be myself, to trust myself as I write.

marathonmedalforweb-150x145The desktop photo above is repeated on my website, on my Writers’ page. There, you can scroll over my talismans—as well as marked up manuscript pages, outlines, my journal and the “research bible” I put together for The Wednesday Sisters—for a glimpse at how I write. Some of the items listed above are pictured, but others have been added since I took the photo: my talismans multiply almost as fast as my books do. The roses? I have a wonderful husband, who gently nudged me toward my dream years ago by telling me he believed I could do what I feared I could not.

To be honest, my desktop rarely looks as neat as it does in this photo. It’s usually covered with post-it notes to remind me of things I want to do or revisions I mean to make. Dirty coffee cups, yes, and chocolate wrappers, newspaper clippings, and books. But that’s one of the nicest things about having a room of my own: I can close my door. It allows me what Woolf writes so eloquently of in her essay: room—psychological room—to live in whatever place I choose, free to imagine my own, unlimited world.

megMeg Waite Clayton’s bestselling novel, The Wednesday Sisters, has been selected by major book club programs including the Target Stores Bookmarked program, and the Borders Book Club program. Her first novel, The Language of Light, was a Bellwether Prize finalist, and her third, The Ms Bradwells, is forthcoming from Ballantine Books. Her short stories and essays have been read on public radio and have appeared in commercial and literary magazines including Runner’s World, Writer’s Digest, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and theLiterary Review. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Michigan Law School, and lives with her family in Palo Alto, California.