Contemplations from the Marianas Trench

from the Marianas Trench

The Contemplations Continue.....

Bitch Week

At a cocktail party a few years ago a women informed me that there was no such thing as PMS, it was, in fact, a conspiracy by the male establishment, particularly doctors, to control women. When I realized she was completely serious I informed her I was living proof that such a thing existed. She suggested I see a psychiatrist because I'd been brainwashed. Well, I may need to see a psychiatrist, but not about PMS.

That same woman has gone on to lecture extensively on her theory. You may on the face of it consider her far more successful than I - I don't have a job - but I consider myself the more successful of the two of us because I am not paranoid or delusional. I have also moderated the symptoms of PMS.

For those of you who would like to know how I did this I will offer my strategies - and sue you if you write a book. Moderating PMS involves training, activity and drugs. Forget that stuff about diet. I can't control my diet on a normal day, how the heck amd I going to control my diet when I am half-mad with PMS?

Let's start with training. The training is not for the victim of PMS but for all those who live in close or regular proximity to her. The training is meant to make them more aware of the subtle signs of PMS attacks and react more quickly than they have in the past. The training is very simple - it involves awareness and avoidance. Awareness and avoidance are two tactics I used to teach in self-defense classes. This is emotional self-defense!

The awareness training is easy because anyone living in a PMS infected house has always been attuned to moodswings. My husband was aware that I had PMS before I was - and he didn't even know there was a Name for it! "Bitch Week" is not a clinical term. Before the Inspirations were aware of female bodily functions they whispered things like, "Better not argue with Mom today..." Being aware of approaching attacks, they then learn to run for cover when the PMS victim grits their teeth. Running for cover is also easy because the instinctive reaction to any threatened animal is fight or flight. As no one can win in a confrontation with a PMS woman, flight is the only sane alternative. Both aspects of training are easily accomplished because of the student's motivation. Forget calm relaxed atmospheres, fear is a terrific motivator - therefore it is not difficult to train families of women with PMS - excepting, of course, the others in the family who are also mature women. For those in homes with this dynamic I suggest you add prayer and as much absence as possible.

On to strategies for the victim. Activity. Preferably solitary ones. Forget meditation. If I attempt any sort of meditation (vegetation being my preferred flavor) during Bitch Week I will merely dwell on some insignificant thing that is disturbing my peace of mind at the moment. If I try to involve other people they will become the insignificant thing that is disturbing my life. Running is good, though not running after people. By the same token punching bags are good, the leather type of course. Then there is always less physical activity. Although I have not charted it I would bet my web wandering increases sharply a few days of the month.... I sense there is a bestseller here...

Neither of these strategies is the least bit effective without drugs. The drug of choice is dong quai (aka tang kwai, tangelese, angelica, etc, etc.) I buy mine from Chinese apothecaries for $3.00-$4.00 a bottle. It is also available at GNC stores and herbalists for between two to three times that. It is the best investment I've ever made. I'm told it's excellent for any "female" problem and I've known people who use it for hot flashes and for cramps (not the same person of course)... I know a great many people who are very skeptical about herbs - I was before I started taking dong quai. My answer to people who are skeptical is to tell them to try it. If they don't I figure their PMS isn't that bad anyway!

So what does this do for me? Pre-dong quai I could not calm down when I got mad during PMS. I would rage. And I KNEW I was going over board but I couldn't stop. I would often end up in tears - not of rage but frustration that I threw such a tantrum. Yes I still get mad - good heavens I have three children - but I calm down. It is a liberating experience for us all.

So if you have PMS or live with someone who has PMS, I suggest you give them a copy of this and find some dong quai. Read some literature about it, read the instructions and follow them, and see what happens. If it doesn't work after a few months explain that she has been brainwashed by male doctors and needs to see a shrink.

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1996


With all due respect to Gail Sheehy the passages which move me at the moment are more immediate and important than such trivial things as adolescence, leaving home, marriage, menopause, etc. No doubt in a few years I will find menopause immediate and very important. And no doubt I will write about it. No the passages that currently affect the Inspirations and I are pet passages.

We have had the misfortune to loose a pet. It is especially tragic because the the loss was a decision the Contemplator was forced to make. Knowing I did the right thing does not make it any easier to bear.

Aslan, as noted in the biographies, was a territorial dog. And the children, as hinted in the Contemplations, are .... challenging (are there any other kind of children?) and spirited. There were many altercations between Inspirations over the years - children have scratched children, and hit children, children have even bitten children. The dog has scratched and bitten children. But Aslan never did serious harm - a nip at the heels, a nip on the hand when he was grabbing food... I was concerned and after one episode I discussed finding a home for him which did not have challenging and spirited children.... This caused hysterics all around and I let children and dog off with severe warnings.

Then one night I returned home to screaming and crying - and blood. I am not sure exactly what happened, but Inspiration Three accidently rolled too close to Aslan - who bit at the closest appendage - which happened to be a face. An eye to be precise.

Having been a mother for fourteen years I am a good person to have in a crisis. I managed to calm everyone down (including the King, who was with us at the time) and we drove Inspiration Three to the hospital where he received five stitches on his eyelid. He has also received the Award for Grace Under Fire. The emergency room visit was one of those strange family events which is an inherently stressful and potentially tragic circumstance but ends up being a gift. Inspiration Three lay down with his head on my lap on the way to the hospital and we talked softly about things that we've done and the adventure we were on. At the hospital we played a guessing game - he stumped me. I never did stump him. He had a three inch needle put in his eye but practically fell asleep while the doctor sutured him up. Then we joked about how he looked like Frankenstein (because they didn't cover the stitches) and about the stories he could tell in school.

There was much discussion over the next day about Aslan. "Children bite other children and you don't put THEM to sleep." Which evolved into "when people are mean you don't murder them." And "Can't we give him one LAST chance..." "My friend's dog bit her and SHE had to get stitches, but they didn't put the dog to sleep..." It wasn't the words but the tears which moved me. Their tears and mine. I held Aslan close, patted him and sat beside him for hours knowing I had no choice. I asked myself and still ask myself why. If only we had done this, hadn't done that.... I remembered him running around in the snow, sinking into the snow drifts and digging for the snowball that vanished... and I cried. I still cry. But I don't second guess the decision. I remember the blood and the three inch needle.

We mourned Aslan and the King said he didn't want another dog. We didn't listen - which didn't surprise him, of course. So we got a yellow lab Named Paco. She is a female and we have no rationale for calling her Paco. The kids like the Name. I call her Paquita Bonita Vasquez because although that also has no rationale it's long and complicated and people have a reason when they say, "what?"

Now the house is crowded and busy with activity - even more chaotic than usual. Cats are running for cover (or jumping for cover depending on what furniture is handy that a dog cannot get under or on). Children are running - chased by a chubby uncoordinated blob of yellow - or a chubby uncoordinated blob of yellow is being chased by children. We are constantly asking, "Does she have to go pee?" (And meaning the puppy). The household alternates between complete chaos and absolute silence when children and dog collapse from exhaustion.

I sit here with a warm fuzzy feeling - and there isn't a cat on my lap as usual because they're in hiding. But I'm also sad because I miss Aslan. And I think, this small situation must correlate with something in the human condition.... something to do with temperament, something to do with loss... but all that matters to me is that I have lost a friend.

Goodbye Aslan. I'm sorry.

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1996


Some of the first books I read were science fiction. I've probably seen every American science fiction show on TV (I apologize for being so provincial). It goes without saying (though, of course, I'll say it here) that I have watched the X-Files from the first episode... that I'm a trekkie ... Which means I have a great deal of experience with fictional aliens.

There are people who are convinced they have been abducted by aliens. I don't deny the possibility. But the Contemplator is not concerned with either fictional or kidnapping aliens. I am concerned about the real ones - ones all over the earth, living along side us.


I don't care who you are or what credentials you have NO ONE is an expert on teenagers. They are a special breed of person who have no relation to the person they were a year ago and who - hopefully - will have no relation in a few years to what they are now.

Don't get me wrong. I am as close as one can be to the aliens in my household. In fact, scary as it may seem, we are similar in a great many ways. We battle here and there - over the phone mostly. Duh... In my soon to be released tome, "Surviving Life with an Alien" Rule Number One is GET CALL WAITING. That, it turns out, is no guarantee you will get your calls, but it at least increases the possibility.

Life was so simple when children did what you wanted. Sometimes you had to cajole, be stern, yell or cry. Bribery worked extremely well. It's not that bribery doesn't still work - it's that it is now prohibitively expensive.

Now life is one constant explanation. Why aliens must do this, why aliens must do that, why can't the alien do this or that. Explanations usually run like this, "while you are in MY house....", Then there are the rational discussion such as, "I don't trust 17 year old men - you shouldn't either... their brains are in their pants!"

Aliens require special care and attention. I'm not sure what the gender specific requirements are. I am enjoying the challenge of dealing with the life form which took over my children's bodies and in complete contrast to my teenage years they seems to be enjoying themselves too - in spite of the fact that I can't afford to bribe them as much as they would like.

Our main battles continues to be the phone. In considering the situation I have turned to an X-Files mentality. In fact, teenagers have been taken over by AT&T and other phone companies. This is a conspiracy - a very effective one - to increase their profits!

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1996