One Last Post!

Here’s an essay I wrote on breast cancer survivorship.

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Announcing My New Blog

It’s available at Hope you enjoy it.


It’s That Time

Years ago, my friends Paula and Melissa told me I should write a blog. I thought they were nuts. I barely knew what a blog was — and besides, what would I find to say? (I’m not the chatty type.)

But they turned out to be right. I did have something to say — precisely 865 posts over the past eight years. I’ve blogged about everything from the execrable Save-the-TaTas campaign here and here to friends’ and loved ones’ deaths to Pat Robertson to not being a Tiger Mom to Brazilians (you know, the wax, not the people). I’ve written about moving to a condo, spending a wonderful year in New York, aging, parenthood, marriage.

My blog never had a niche. Some people referred to it as a personal blog or a life blog or something like that. I don’t know. I just wrote about what interested me, what moved me, what pissed me off. When you live in interesting times — as, God knows, we do — you never run out of topics. The question, How do you find subjects to write about? always confounds me. How could you not find subjects in this ever-shifting, dazzling, deeply disturbing world we live in? Most days, all you have to do is look around and take notes.

Besides, as I may have mentioned on hundreds of occasions, I live in Texas. How hard do you really think it is to come up with blog ideas in Texas if you’re a liberal feminist with a sense of humor and outrage? See this and this and this.

For the most part, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these eight years of blogging. After all, I’ve always been attracted to low-paying work — and, since blogging pays nothing, naturally, I loved it. I’ve made great new friends through it, enjoyed airing my opinions, and now can look back on an offbeat chronicle of my life from 2008 to 2015.

Well, it’s obvious where this is leading. I hate being obvious, so I’m going to make it short. After eight good years, it’s time for me to quit this blog. I’m not even sure I can explain why; it’s just something I feel strongly. I never want to be the last to leave the gathering (with the door being closed firmly in my face) or the bore who hogs the conversation at a dinner party. I also don’t want to get stale.

I’m planning to gather the best blog posts from the Fabulous Geezersisters into a collection in print and ebook form. I think I’ve done some of the best writing of my career on this site and really want to preserve it somehow. Anyway, I’ll be posting info on Facebook when it happens. Please buy multiple copies.

Also, I’m going to be starting a new blog of letters and completely unsolicited advice to my new granddaughter. Since I’m chronically disorganized and not much of a planner, I’m not quite sure what it will become. But, my intent is that I want Ellie to know me before I’m a drooling old gargoyle in the corner of the room. And I want to try to pass on what I’ve learned in my 65 years. We’ll see how it turns out.

So — that’s about it. You’ve been a wonderful group of readers and commenters. Thank you — and please stay in touch.

(Copyright 2015 by Ruth Pennebaker)


What Can I Call It But ‘Great Expectations’?

My daughter, my own darling girl, is pregnant with a firstborn daughter. Being around her has brought back so many vivid memories of my pregnancy with her that sometimes I can’t tell whether it’s 1982 or 2015. (No, scratch that. The clothes and hairstyles are so much better; it’s gotta be 2015.)

Still! It’s impossible not to be absorbed into her expectant world. We sit and fold laundry one hot afternoon and I feel relaxed and dreamily content and fulfilled. Since when does housework make me feel relaxed and content and fulfilled? Since never, that’s when.

The nesting syndrome, I decide, must be contagious.

me, ctp preg

* * * * *

These days, the sonograms are eerily precise and, praise the lord, more obstetricians are women. In so many other ways, though, the experience of pregnancy hasn’t changed at all: For some reason, a pregnant woman is everybody’s business. The rest of the world notices and judges and comments.

“Wow! You’ve really put on the pounds!”

“You’d better get your sleep now!”

“Good grief, you’re about to pop!”

“Of all the rude, gratuitous remarks,” our daughter says, “‘about to pop’ is the worst.”

“They were saying ‘get your sleep now’ 33 years ago,” I tell her. “Three decades and they can’t come up with a better line?”

Much of the attention is kind and well-meaning — mostly from older, sympathetic women who smile and ask her how she’s feeling and when the baby’s due. They nod and say yes, they remember what it was like. And yes, it seems like it goes on forever, doesn’t it?

Other remarks range from innocuous to overly familiar. A few are troubling in their sheer idiocy (who comes up with the bright idea to tell pregnant women horror stories about childbirth and infant abnormalities? Where’s capital punishment when you really need it?). Odd to think that, at a time when a woman feels and is most vulnerable, she’s subject to more criticism, commentary, and even occasional hostility.

Why? I didn’t know in the 80s and I still don’t know now. There’s something about a pregnant woman that makes the rest of the world go a little bonkers.

But I love it that this generation of pregnant women is more defiant and in-your-face than my generation ever was. Thirty years ago, we shrouded our expanding girth in acres of perky floral material and prim little bows. We looked more like dimwitted shepherdesses than mature women, which was probably the point.

Our larger bodies, too, were a little embarrassing and unseemly. Feminists or not, nobody wanted to be a woman who took up too much space or who looked as if she were letting herself go.

Today — God, it’s so different! I love the pride in the baby bumps. I love the sheer insolence of pregnant women like Amy Poehler or my daughter’s friend Carolina who danced up a storm at my daughter’s wedding in a tight, brilliantly red dress that hugged her pregnant stomach. Or my daughter herself, whose wonderfully confident attitude seemed to proclaim, Hey, world: this is what an 8-1/2 months’ pregnant woman looks like. Deal with it.

So maybe it’s taken women millennia to get to that better place. But the point is, we’re finally arriving.

* * * * *

My husband and I leave Seattle on a beautiful summer day, our daughter still pregnant. I am convinced she will go into labor the moment our flight leaves the ground, but she doesn’t. She waits five days.

That whole day, I become a babbling idiot who accosts total strangers, an entire yoga class, and most of the people in a small restaurant with the news our daughter is in labor with our first grandchild. (My husband, quite unhelpfully, is on a flight to Toronto. He bored everyone on the plane with his almost-grandfather stories, he says later. Nothing like a captive audience.)

The hours pass. At first, I think our daughter is going to be live-tweeting her baby’s birth. Then the contractions get more serious. Our son-in-law sends a photo of our daughter, relieved and relaxed after her epidural. “I am a great fan of modern drugs,” she texts later.

Elizabeth Teal Blodgett, six pounds and 15 ounces, is born in the early afternoon of Saturday, August 8. She’s beautiful. I stare obsessively at the photos my son-in-law sends — the perfect, round head, the furrowed little brow, the open rosebud mouth.

etb -- first photo

It’s so funny when you notice that a wildly thumping little piece of your heart has suddenly taken up residence two thousand miles away. How did it happen, who agreed to it, and why? Stupid (almost infantile, you could say) questions. Six minutes, six years, or 65 years old, you still can’t begin to explain that fierce blossom of new love.

“You know what?” my husband says when he returns from his trip. “We thought we’d never have to go to Chuck E. Cheese or Disney World again. We thought that was all over — thank God — and we’d never have to show up at those horrible places any longer.

“But now I’m realizing — it’s all starting over again.”

Oh, yeah, I say, oh, yeah. I think you’re right about that.

(Copyright 2015 by Ruth Pennebaker)


Summer Break

I’ll be taking off the summer, and spending much of it in Seattle close to my daughter and son-in-law. So … that’s silence you’re hearing out of me.

Have a good summer, all of you! — Ruth