My Vaccine Experience and Some Wonkiness

I’m three weeks out from receiving the last of the Pfizer vaccine, so permit me to share my experience. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, please consider getting it. It’s the single thing that will allow us to have some light shining this summer. While it shouldn’t lull anyone into thinking vaccination means you’re ready for a crowded bar or restaurant sans mask and social distance, it will allow you to find the other inoculated souls and bubble with them—inside and outside. That means you are free to enjoy life with your like-minded friends and family and kiss total isolation goodbye.

For the rest of you not on board the vaccination train, please at least mask up and keep your distance.

I got my vaccines at a Baltimore Convention Center in a mass inoculation effort, and it was as organized and seamless as anyone could hope for. Once checked in with just a display of my license, I was given a flyer with information about the vaccine I’d receive, possible side effects, and what to do about them. I was pointed to a clearly designated line where we were all spaced six feet apart and the line moved quickly. Multiple stations helped everyone clear the final level of check-in and then we were directed to the last checkpoint facing many injection stations.

As each medical professional finished injecting people and cleaning their stations, they waved flags at the person directing us. Then we were pointed to an available spot where a healthcare professional verified information, asked me to pick an arm, explained what I’d be getting, and gave me the shot. The first one felt like the normal flu shot I get every year. Once done with that, the healthcare person noted the time the shot was administered and a time 15 minutes from that point.

Then we were directed to a socially distanced sitting area to wait out our 15 minutes (the time marker needed to gauge severe reactions). There was a triage crew ready for that event should it be needed. When my 15 minutes were up, we went through a speedy line to show a worker our time slip, state how we were feeling, and then we were free to go (with water and chips or cookies to boot).

I was a little tired that afternoon, had some soreness on my arm for a couple of hours the next day and then I was totally fine.

BUT… shot 2. J

The process of check-in and direction was the same as before—efficient, quick, and everyone was cheerful and helpful. But this second jab—whoa baby! It smarted, yes it did. But I’ve given birth—twice. So, I had to suck it up.

I had no immediate reaction within my 15-minute window, so after getting a bag of Baked Lays and water, I was off. This about 8:45 in the morning.

My lunchtime, my arm was killing me. The soreness radiated down to my fingers, but a dose of Tylenol and a short nap later, I felt better. However, that night I had the most fitful sleep, and my body was just aching. Tylenol helped again briefly, but for the rest of the day, I was sore, lethargic, and got a migraine (my go-to in headacheville). That night I switched to Advil, went to bed early, and as good as new in the morning.

BUT THEN…

Three days later, I got my period. FOUR DAYS EARLY. I was completely perplexed because that doesn’t happen to me. If I’m early, it’s by one day. Not four. This means my cycle got shortened to 21 days that month. I immediately wondered if the vaccine had just thrown my body for a loop and my cycle went wonky. Incidentally, I saw a video by a board-certified OB/GYN saying she’d been getting questions about this very phenomenon—getting the vaccine and then getting a period early or having more issues with it than normal. She felt confident that though evidence to that effect is anecdotal at this point, it is not outlandish to think that if the vaccine is causing a strong immune response in a female’s body, the menstrual cycle could be affected temporarily.

BUT LO And BEHOLD…

I got my period this month 8 days earlier than my period tracker (which never fails me) predicted. So, I’ve had two periods within two weeks now. That has never, ever happened to me in 33 years of being a monthly menstruating like clockwork female. I also see an integrated medicine specialist and told her what happened. She thinks that maybe the vaccine is the culprit, but that only a return to normalcy next month will help us see a pattern.

As a 45-year-old, I know perimenopausal symptoms are likely at the point, but not sure that this is related to that. So, I plan to call my OB/GYN this week and get this checked out.

In the meantime, I’ve been googling, and it appears there were are many women reporting period wonkiness after getting the vaccine—something not reported in any of the trials for Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson. But it’s important to remember data collection and analysis are ongoing.

I hope no woman on the fence about getting vaccinated is reading this and saying “hell no! I won’t go!” Period wonkiness is just an inconvenience, much as periods are in general. Of course, it sucks to have a period within two weeks, but it’s not a big deal.

I’m curious ladies. For any of you fully vaccinated, have you experienced anything strange with your periods?

Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

You’re Going to College. That’s Enough.

We just got done with college acceptance and rejections for our last child and are currently in the process of helping him weigh his options to make a final decision. We’ve gone through this with our daughter three years earlier, though this time around we completely missed out on the campus touring process thanks to COVID. That sucked because it is a special experience. If you are a parent of a college-bound kid, do the tours. Trust me.

We spend the entire first semester of this school year—which for our boy meant senior year at home to start—and let me tell you, I wanted to pull my hair out, so I can only sympathize with all the kids who have to navigate this on their own. To say we are a family who likes to work like an annoying team on the big things such as college is an understatement. Most evenings would find all four of us (older daughter was doing college online and was home with us), sitting with our respective laptops with Google Docs open to the essay at hand critiquing, suggesting, and rewriting, with the final decision of edits left to our son. He was annoyed, we got annoyed, it was a thing. Common App essays, program-specific essays, and all the checklists of portfolios, transcripts, and teacher recommendations that he had to juggle. It felt like insanity. And it left me thinking, this is freaking too much.

Early action decisions started flowing out in December/January/February—everything a bit off this year due to the pandemic. If you pay attention to YouTube or TikTok you might have seen videos of kids anxiously (some in tears from the pressure) logging on to the respective school portals and either screaming with the entire family or dissolving into tears.

As a parent, you tread the very thin line between acting like you aren’t phased either way and searching the heavens for exactly the right way to console and encourage your child. For a bunch of 17 and 18-year-olds whose brains are still not fully developed, don’t you think this entire process is over the top?

Kids wanting an Ivy league or top-tier college experience have to hit the ground running from the first day of 9th grade, and for some schools, even in middle school. Every class counts, every activity counts, every extracurricular counts, every summer job, and even internship counts.

But what’s happened over the years is the emphasis has been taken off of getting a college education to getting a college education from the same top tier/Ivy campuses that the same gazillion children are all applying to. What has happened is that a student who gets straight As all four years, has a GPA well over 4, scores high on the SAT or ACT, and has activities and recommendations to boot, can and in many cases will, get shut out of the more famous universities. What else does a kid need to do? Cure cancer? Apparently, yes. That would help.

It’s all dumb. American society needs to flip the switch on thinking big-name schools are the only pathway to success. Let’s be real—a degree from them can certainly help—but there are tons of extremely successful professionals who have achieved what they have with degrees from schools no one has heard of or have even forgone college altogether (which I do not condone, but that’s another story).

Was it worth it for Aunt Becky to go to jail so her YouTuber daughters could fake their way in USC when as applicants they did not check all the boxes? That whole scandal shows you how low some parents will go to get their kids into the “right” school.

What many families fail to realize is that the right school for your child has more to do with the campus and programs being the right fit for the kid, not the big name on a diploma (or a grandparent’s bragging rights).

Education is important, period. Education from an accredited school with solid programs and strong faculty is very important. Those things do not only exist at a big-name school.

And I’m not even going to talk about the price tag here.

Wouldn’t it be great if in 20-30 years my grandkids were living less stressful lives because they could be assured a great college education would be theirs and it wouldn’t break them if that came from a place not too many people know? Shouldn’t the ultimate goal be higher education that works for the student (and the family paying for it)?

But for now, if there are college-bound kids in your world, cheer on their final decisions no matter where they are going. They’ve worked hard for 12+ years to get to this point. Their adult lives are about to start, and we, as those who love them, get to cheer them on every step of the way. And that’s the stuff of bells and whistles.

Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

Rest

I don’t often wax poetic about my faith very much, but it is a driving force of my life. So indulge me please, with this post. You will notice that I cap any mention of Christ and God and their pronouns as a sign of respect to the divinity that is so much higher than any of us can even fathom. I work in faith-based publishing and this is an element of our style manual, but I also do this in my personal life because I think it is deserved. Just a note about that.

This weekend, followers of Jesus Christ around the world are remembering the weekend that in our estimation, changed the world forever. The death and resurrection of Jesus, which many refer to as His passion, is the event that set a faith movement in motion. These pivotal days started Thursday night, wherein our tradition, Christ celebrated the last supper with His disciples, telling them of what was to come. It was the night Judas betrayed his Friend for a few pieces of silver—a mistake so devastating the man couldn’t live with himself and committed suicide.

On that Friday, Christ was interrogated, flogged, humiliated, and sentenced to death. There was no real crime for which He deserved to die, but He went to be crucified (the most brutal of death sentences the Romans could mete out to a criminal), nevertheless. Where just a few days before He entered a city to shouts of adoration and love, those same people turned away from Him in the moments when He needed them most.

By the evening of that Friday, He asked His Father for forgiveness for all who had done this to Him. For those who had come before, and those who were still to come—like us. And then He died.

Friends found an empty tomb nearby and cleaned and prepared His body per the Jewish custom of the day. Wrapped in clean new linens, His body was laid inside the tomb, a great stone rolled over the entrance, and Roman guards placed on duty to keep the dead man’s body inside, and others out. And then Sabbath was there.

The Sabbath is the 7th day of the week. The day in which the 4th commandment of the 10 Commandments asks us to keep as a day of rest of worship. It is observed so by observant Jews and seekers of the word of God, including Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh-day Baptists around the world. There are those of believe it and follow it, those with no affiliation with any formal congregation or denomination around the world.

So, between that Friday where Christ went to His rest, and the Sunday morning when He said, “enough of this,” and rose to life as He said He would, there was observed a day of rest—the Sabbath. It must have been a miserable one for any who loved Him. I can’t imagine that worship anywhere in Jerusalem felt restorative, celebratory, or even holy that Sabbath. Those that sent an innocent man to His death had guilt and blood on their hands, not to mention fear. And those who loved Him and believed Him were heartbroken. But they were all still called to rest on that Sabbath. To try and distance their hearts and minds from the sadness and cruelty of their reality, using only faith to sustain them through their pain. There was the promise in ancient prophecy that said the Savior would rise on the third day. Rest was their only course of action. And it was needed.

For early the next morning, Mary Magdalene the woman scorned by the pious needed to see if what He said would be true. Their rest is taken—for the living and the Man in the tomb, it was time to begin the story of redemption for the rest of time itself. And when she came to the tomb, the massive stone was rolled away. Inside were death linens—neatly folded. The Roman soldiers—powerless and useless now knew Whom they foolishly tried to keep inside a grave. An angel was there, telling Mary what she needed to know: Christ has risen. He was not there.

Today, in that quiet space between His death and His defeat of death, we rest and sit in reflection. The rest is good. It is needed. And it is ours. As it was since God commanded it, this space in time allows us to breathe, pause, remember. For in the morning, the greatest miracle of all time will occur.

So, we rejoice in this space. In this quiet waiting. Because in the morning the world will know forever: Death could not hold Him.

*Photo by Ann on Unsplash

The Things You Shouldn’t Say

Eighth grade is a time of life I’d never revisit. That in-between period where everyone is going through puberty yet exhibiting its signs in various ways. It’s not pretty—well not for everyone. Of course, there are always the girls who seemed to blossom into young womanhood with ease, their bodies becoming lithe and womanly overnight, with clear skin and eyes that didn’t need glasses to see. Whatever they lacked naturally was made up with access to salons and the best stores.

For a girl such as myself, whose gift from the puberty fairies were extra layers of fat and unruly hair, thicker glasses, and zero access to the fashions I wished I could wear, the inequities of middle school womanhood were never more apparent than in the locker room. Yup, we all had to dress out for PE, changing from our school outfits to shorts and school-logo shirts.

You can tell how females feel about their bodies by the way they will change clothes in shared spaced such as a locker room. Those with nothing they wish to hide would strip off shirts and jeans, taking their time transitioning to PE attire while laughing and chatting in their underwear, which was decidedly more adult-looking than not. The rest of us would change clothes quickly and efficiently, taking special care to expose no part of the body to anyone as much as possible. At that age, you either had too much of something, not enough of what you wanted and a shared loathing of the unfairness of it all.

I didn’t grow up with female role models who paid attention to healthful eating and exercise. What I had been exposed to be many women who married and had babies and no longer looked like the women used to be. This was usually blamed on the marriage and the babies and accepted as the price one pays for the life they got. It was a cultural thing because our move to Southern California when I was 12 years old showed me a very different narrative. These girls who floated past puberty woes were the daughters of women who appeared to have floated past pregnancy and childbirth woes. My insecurities were only further inflamed.

But here’s what didn’t help—adults in my world who felt compelled to comment on what was none of their business—my body.

While trying on a junior bridesmaid’s dress, the bride brought over a size 5, which was too tight on me. She commented that her waist was 24 inches and how was it that at age 13, mine was not? Her fiancé walked by and saw me in the dress and said, “well, you know you need to lose weight, right?” But the more tragic part was the shame I felt, tainted with the foolish notion that it was my duty to answer them all and acknowledge that yes, I needed to lose weight.

I got chubbier and high school started. That summer I got a turquoise lace, tea-length formal dress on sale (hideous, but this was 1989). There was a family wedding in the fall, and I was excited to debut the monstrosity there. When I arrived at the wedding and greeted uncles and aunts I hadn’t seen since I was a child, whatever bubble of loveliness was popped when the relatives gave me the up and down and said, “What happened to you?” with looks of disappointment on their faces.

Those experiences and my teenage desire to be someone different from I was, got me motivated. I got serious about improving myself halfway through 9th grade and started doing aerobics classes I’d tape on VHS off of ESPN. When you are young, it doesn’t take too much to kick your body into great shape, and before long all sorts of people made comments about my body again. But this time, the flattery filled a hole that had been dug by the cruelty. And it wasn’t long before my sense of worth became completely propped up by someone else’s approval of my body.

Then I had my first baby, and the pregnancy weight didn’t fly off. Again, relatives and even casual friends made comments about how large I had become. About how I’d need to commit myself to work harder to look better. And I took it, smiling through humiliation, yet seething and hurt on the inside.

How was this anyone’s dang business?

In South Asian culture, there is this very unfortunate phenomenon where pretty much anyone, but especially if they are related to you, feels perfectly entitled to comment, even ask for explanations, about one’s weight gain. Those same people will clamor all over you like ants on an unsupervised slice of watermelon at a summer picnic when you lose weight and, in their eyes, are now acceptable. All of it is wrong.

All I choose to say is this: If you have ever told someone to lose weight or fix themselves up, shame on you. If you are a parent or other adult meant to love and support a person who was verbally assaulted with such unkindness and did nothing about it, shame on you.

And if you’ve been on the receiving end of this BS, know this. Those people who dared to make hurtful comments about something that is none of their ever-loving business are the ones with problems beyond your care or control. And if the ones entrusted to do better by you stood by while you were hurt, they were the ones with the problem.

I was enough then. I am enough now. You were enough then. You are enough now.

Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

Bombay Begums and India’s #Metoo Movement

Scrolling Netflix one day for my latest series to binge (hurry up with season 6 Outlander!), the top suggestion of the moment was Bombay Begums. Bombay is more currently referred to as Mumbai, its ancient name before the British thought Bombay was more fun to say, and Begum is an aristocratic or royal title for women who are “up there.” In the context of this series, which at first, I thought was going to be a reality show about rich, film-industry connected Indian ladies of leisure (alas, Netflix already has one of those), “begums” refers to high-powered career women and those trying to climb the ladder.

So, spoiler alert. Rani is the powerful CEO of major Bombay bank. Fatima is fast on the rise in her career in finance with a husband lagging behind her. Aisha is young, pretty, ready to climb but needs to figure herself out first. Finally, Lili is a street-smart former prostitute who wants to earn her money with respect. The series is narrated by Shai, Rani’s stepdaughter who has figured out the power of women long before the grown-ups have. Long story short—these women all become more intertwined than you’d think they would at many points at odd with each other, but finally coming together in a quad of strong women supporting strong women. The biggest common denominator among them all? They’ve been manipulated, abused, and made to be complicit by the men who dangled the keys to success in front of them. Smart and competent women all of them, but voiceless until they all start talking to each other.

India has a patriarchal culture that happens to have a lot of very strong and brilliant women working their way through it. Indian women are entrepreneurs, CEOs, doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors, artists, writers, filmmakers, actors, and society-shakers. Yet they too face the same dilemmas women around the world face in navigating their place in whatever fields they choose to conquer. And like so many women around the globe, finding their voice to speak out about the abuse many of them have suffered has been key to taking back their power and paving the way for the women who follow them. In a culture that clings to tradition while embracing modernity and innovation, the clashes between them are great and often frequent.

Sexual harassment in the workplace has often been sadly seen as part of the job. But as we all well know; all it takes is just one person to come forward and the house of cards quickly crumbles.

German website DW.com published a piece about the movement taking root in India.

 “Like in other places across the world, the #MeToo movement generated discussion in India about sexual harassment within the workplace, particularly in the entertainment and film industries.

As an immediate aftereffect, more women were encouraged to speak up against their harassers, both publicly and anonymously.

Filmmaker Vinta Nanda had spoken up against veteran Bollywood actor Alok Nath, whom she accused of rape. ‘Before the movement, I was afraid to move because I felt isolated and ostracized,’ she told DW. But now, she added, ‘I know I am not alone.’

‘Most of the others who have spoken out feel the same way as I do and that is one massive step forward that the women’s empowerment movement has taken,” she said.’*

In this context, a series such as Bombay Begums is groundbreaking as it sheds considerable light on a serious problem. This happening in a country where many women—no matter how educated or high-powered they are—fall victim to the same discrimination, harassment, abuse of women regardless of socio-economic background. Given that the series also portrays sex, adultery, and a woman’s choice in them (topics Indian media and film/tv productions tend to gloss over), the show makes a strong statement about the bodily autonomy of women.

In one particular scene, Lili witnesses Aisha being sexually assaulted by a senior team member of the bank and tries to stop it. The stereotype dictates that Lili, as a prostitute is used to, even accepting of, a man using a woman’s body at a whim. But the narrative blows the lid off that: Lili has done what she has needed to do to provide for her son and herself. But it is her choice, even if it’s not the ideal choice. So, when she sees another woman being forced to give up her body autonomy 1. She doesn’t question Aisha. She sees what is happening and calls it out. 2. There is no dawdling over consent—she saw that questions answered in Aisha’s eyes and body language. And she’s ready to testify.

Women don’t usually get assaulted or harassed with a witness nearby. And even when someone is willing to corroborate their story, the risks of telling the truth are sometimes too great to take.

But like with many things, there is strength in numbers. As women in India and around the world, get better at believing each other, being willing to stick their necks out for each other, and stand together, it is becoming increasingly harder for the perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault to blend back in the shadows. And when men stand with women, the effect is even more powerful. This is how it must be.

As the male character who assaulted Aisha said (and I’m loosely paraphrasing), “It’s getting harder to be a man with this #metoo stuff.”

And while we know it’s not all men, that is exactly the point of speaking up.

* https://www.dw.com/en/india-metoo-women-rights/a-56785203#:~:text=In%20October%202018%2C%20the%20global,social%20media%20and%20other%20platforms.

Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash