Thursday, July 31, 2008

Brilliance will be delayed

Dear friends, I'm heading off to the Willamette Writers Conference tonight, and I have yet to find just the right inspiration for the Friday Childless by Marriage blog, so rather than bang out something worthless, I'll get back to you next week.

Meanwhile, I don't have children, but I do have dependents: an ailing husband and two high-maintenance puppies, so I know what it's like to try to get away when you have people depending on you for everything. It's almost impossible. For all those who kvetch about "breeders," get off their backs. They're doing a hard job, and if nobody had children, we wouldn't be here.

Have a great weekend. I'll be meeting with editors and agents, and I hope to report good news about the Childless by Marriage book when I return.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Who will inherit my stuff?

I am the keeper of the family heirlooms. I have my maternal grandmother's silver tea set, handwritten recipes from her notebooks and her diamond engagement ring, my stepgrandmother's poetry, both grandmothers' china cups and saucers, and craft supplies and clothing from both my mother and my mother-in-law. In fact, I'm wearing my mom's blue knit shirt right now.

Many mornings I sit in Grandma Avina's wooden rocker softened with the pillows I crocheted for it and rock as I write in my journal. Occasionally I wonder what will happen to the many volumes of my journal after I die. Should I burn them to hide my secrets? When? Or should I keep them for future biographers, in case I became famous?

I recently worked out my will, and frankly the extra notes are more important to me than the standard bits about money and things like the car and house. I never had much money, so we'll be lucky if I come out even in the end, and I'm happy to give wheels and lodging to whoever needs it. What I worry about are my writings, my musical instruments, my jewelry, my photos, my books, my quilted wall hangings, the desk that Grandpa Al and Uncle Tony made for my mother's brother long before I was born, the bookshelves that used to be in Grandpa Fagalde's house, the statue of Our Lady of Fatima that my late godmother bought for me when I was a religion-crazed little girl, crazy things like that. What about those miniskirts I saved because they were so cool? Or the photos from my first marriage? What will happen to these things? Who will sort them? Who will give a sh—?

It's not really just a childless thing. If you're lucky enough to have a son or daughter who understands and cares about the same things you care about, you might hope they treat everything with respect. But they might not. And with stepchildren, they really might not.

The truth is everybody's stuff is up for grabs. Grandma Rachel never had kids of her own. Grandma Ann had two children and six grandchildren, but both ended up with young folks plowing through their things, throwing gobs of it away and offering the rest to anyone who wanted it. That's how I got the china cups and a turquoise necklace that Grandma Ann probably never wore.

That's how I got Mom's clothes. I bagged the ones that fit and brought them home. My father, distraught from his loss, just wanted them gone.

Nobody cares about your stuff as much as you do.

Many of the women I have interviewed don't worry about their stuff. When they're dead, they're dead, they say. How do you feel about it? If you don't have children, who will sort through your stuff? This is a morbid subject, but having sorted too many dead relatives' things, I know it's an important one. How does the woman without children make sure someone cares her treasures when she's gone? I'd love to hear your comments, especially if you know of some particularly creative things women have done with their worldly goods.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Births are Up--In Some Places

A report released yesterday on AOL by the National Center for Health Statistics shows that a record number of babies, 4.3 million, were born in the U.S. last year. That's a lot of diapers. It was the largest number of births reported since 1957, the middle of the baby boom.

People have been talking about a baby "boomlet" for a while, but it's not the same as in the '50s when all the moms were about the same age, in their 20s, living in suburbia with their post-military husbands who were employed in the economic boom. On my street, every family had children about the same age. Not any more.

Demographer Arthur Nelson of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, is quoted in the AOL report as saying that this boom won't be nearly as big as the 1950s version. It can't because so many of us remain childless. Plus the babies are coming from different groups, primarily immigrants, professional women who waited until their 40s to have children, and the 20-to-30-year old children of the original boomers. It's just happening all at the same time. In a few years folks may wish they hadn't turned so many schools into senior centers and shopping malls.

Although the numbers are up in some areas, it's important to look at WHO is giving birth. Another report this week, coming from Melborne, Australia notes that the rate of childlessness among 20-to-44-year-old professional women is up to a whopping 62.5 percent. The overall childless rate among Australian women of that age group is 40 percent.

My point to this meandering wash of statistics? Having children in your 20s or 30s is not a given anymore. Although the overall birth rate may rise and fall, now that we have legal abortion and birth control, there will always be a segment of the population that does not have children, and we are too big a group to be ignored. People cannot assume that women of a certain age are mothers and grandmothers. They must consider the possiblity that all we have raised are puppies and goldfish.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What is Our Cancer Risk?

I have been doing research lately on the risk of certain cancers for childless women. I have now read dozens of times that childlessness increases the risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers. Apparently pregnancy offers some protection by giving us a break from nonstop estrogen onslaughts every month, and there are other hormonal protections that develop. There's a trick to this. In order to reap the benefits, you have to give birth before 30 or 35, depending on which expert you ask, and you have to carry the pregnancy to term. Abortions and miscarriages do not help; in fact, they may increase the risk.

What I'm finding frustrating is that so far I can't find out how much risk we're talking about. In the U.S. the standard is that 1 in 8 women will have breast cancer. But if we haven't had children, what is the ratio? 1 in 7, 1 in 6, worse? Or is the risk so small there's no point in worrying about it? That's what I'm trying to find out.

It does appear that having a family history of cancer is much more likely to be a problem, and of course if you've had suspicious mammograms or biopsies before, the odds get really scary.

As far as I know, I don't have any cancer, but I'm waiting for my pap smear results and having my mammogram in August, so I can't say for sure that I'm cancer-free. I'm surrounded by friends with cancer right now. Nobody can be smug about this stuff.

I'm still working on this project and when/if I get the numbers, I will share them here. Meanwhile, if you'd like to know more about female cancers, here are some sites to check out: National Cancer Institute, Cancer Answers, American Cancer Society, and the World Oncology Network.

If you have information on this subject or know someone good to interview, please let me know.

Stay healthy, okay?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Childless Fourth of July

It's a drizzly Fourth of July on the Central Oregon Coast, which does not bode well for the planned parades and fireworks, but I'm content to stay home and enjoy a good book, maybe watch a video. I do worry about the puppies not getting out to play, but they'll be all right.

If I had children around, it would be a different story. After all, aren't they the ones who get the most excited about Fourth of July? The food, the fun, the fireworks are all new and thrilling to them. We have something in the nearby town of Yachats called the La De Da Parade. Anybody can join in, the sillier the better. If we had kids, could we deny them the privilege? In a tiny town like Yachats, they might well be representing their scout troop, their school, their dog club, their swim team, whatever. I might even be walking with them in the rain from the Commons around the downtown streets and back. Rain or not, that's what moms do, right?

When my husband and I attend the parade, we watch from the sidelines, then skedaddle to a nearby restaurant for a romantic lunch for two, eating seafood croissants at a table overlooking the bay while all those parents and kids scramble to reunite and find something cheap to eat before dashing off to other holiday events, all of which will culminate in finally opening the big box of fireworks the second it gets dark.

As a non-mom, I can choose to stay home and do nothing special. I don't even have to watch fireworks. I can just close my eyes and remember the many fireworks displays I have seen before: at the Calgary Stampede, at Great America, at Disneyland, at the Bees Stadium in San Jose after the baseball game, and so many other places. I can even track back to my own childhood. We could see the big fireworks show from Buck Shaw Stadium from our driveway. Dad set off smaller fireworks from the red, white and blue box Mom had bought earlier in the week. My little brother and I watched, swirling sparklers around, painting pictures of light in the darkness. I can still smell the smoke, hear the crackle, whoosh and bang of the Roman candles and firecrackers, and see the bright colors flashing in the street. The whole neighborhood came out, the summer nights were deliciously cool, and it was so much fun.

If I had children, I couldn't deny these experiences to them—or to myself. It would be like getting a chance to relive my own childhood and share the best parts of it with a new generation. Although I'm not sad to stay in on this rainy holiday, I am aware once again that my life as a childless woman is different from the lives of those who have children and grandchildren, different from the life I could have had.

I'm wearing red, white and blue. Why not? It's Fourth of July. Have a happy holiday and do something to delight the kid in you.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This blog has moved. Please switch over to the new site at All of the old posts have already been transferred over there, and it would make life easier if you would comment at that site. Thank you.