Monthly Archives: November 2016

Gynecologists and Dignity: My Stewart’s Story



Let’s step back in time.

About two years after my periods started, I began experiencing bad cramps. My mom never had trouble with her periods, so she was unsure of what this meant. Was it normal?

One day after school, we were driving to Stewart’s, a Baltimore department store, in search of spring clothes for me.

“I asked Dr. Hawes about your cramps today,” Mom said. “He told me they aren’t real. Girls get them from talking to other girls.”

I was fifteen. I didn’t know a lot about the inner workings of the female body. But I knew Dr. Hawes was wrong. And I hated his implications.

I don’t remember what I said, but I blasted my mother.

“Barbs,” Mom replied, her hands gripping the steering wheel. “Do you want to go to Stewart’s or not?”

I’ve always loved clothes. I must have mumbled something, and we were back on track for the shopping trip.


But the gall of that man. He was a creep or very poorly trained or maybe this was simply the thinking of the day. Still makes me angry forty-plus years later.

Ten years after the Stewart’s incident, I had two more negative experiences with condescending and cold gynecologists, one a man and the other a woman. This time the encounters were in person. I’ll save their stories for another post.

Luckily the medical world has changed. I now have a male gynecologist whom I thank for diagnosing my cancer and treating me with compassion. And the surgeon who did the intricate work of saving my life is a woman. Neither was condescending or presumed to know what I was feeling. They let my body and spirit be mine. And I was delighted to meet smart, energetic young women and one fine young man who were training  in gynecology at UNC Hospital. Hope abounds that the tides have turned for the dignity of women in medical situations.

What about you? Any doctor stories from your youth to share?

Oh, and I have one more. This one involves breasts and no robe and our family doctor. But that one, too, can wait for another day.

Photos: When I registered for wedding presents at Stewart’s in 1977, the bridal department gave me this booklet. I found the second photo online. Stewart’s, like so many old department stores, is now gone.

Happy Thanksgiving One and All


Grandson Maze’s turkey joins me in wishing all of you a very happy Thanksgiving. My kids and grandkids are off in other directions this holiday. Cliff and I are happily celebrating with dear friends.

And thanks to all of you for being a dear friend for the ride. I am grateful you read my words, look at my pictures, and put up with my eccentricities.

Eat an extra slice of pie for me!

Love, Barbara

The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Austria Edition



On our fall trip to Vienna and the Czech Republic, I had a fabulous time hunting for ladies room doors. Sadly, I didn’t do a good job of documenting the locations of those doors. With apologies, I present you the above sign from somewhere in Vienna.The sign indicates that the toilets are downstairs (which seems to be where bathrooms usually are in both countries).

I like the simplicity of the sign below, but not sure where in Austria I found it.


And talk about simple! Look at the F below. We know what it means, and it has a bit of spunk to it.


This door leads to bathrooms at the Hofburg-Imperial Palace. Cliff set this one up, announcing, “You’ve got to get that guy’s bottom in the picture.”


At the palace, I learned of the mysterious Emperess Sisi, a Princess Diana-like figure in some ways.


Sisi was murdered after shopping for presents for her grandchildren. Yikes! Made me think twice about picking up presents for Maze and Emmie.

You can even buy Sisi figurines in a variety of sizes at the gift shop. My friend Judy, who knows more about Sisi than I do, reports that Sisi handled menopause with the help of cocaine. Now that’s an idea.

NOT! Maybe I should have bought a figurine though, as a reminder that I survived menopause without cocaine, and you can too!

By St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Cliff and I sat at the Konditorei Bistrou. Loved the bells tolling from the church, and my ladies room visit introduced me to a bathroom in creamsicle colors!








Cliff and I, for the first time, navigated the European train system and arrived in Melk, Austria. Among other adventures here, we sailed on the Danube. Here’s the ladies room door on the boat.


Sailing on the Danube felt like living a dream.


After two beers, I decided I’d better switch to spritzers.


The Melk Abbey is magnificent, the largest abbey in Austria.


I went nuts over this pink stairway.

We stayed at the Hotel Donaublick in Melk. Note the sweetness of their ladies room door.


With some naughty inside the ladies room.


In Salzburg, we took The Sound of Music Tour. You can read about it here, on Friend for the Ride.  I found this sign near the entrance to Mirabell Gardens, where Maria and the children sing Do-re-mi and march around the fountain.



This is a sign at the Hohensalzburg Fortress above Salzburg.



We had a lovely dinner at the cafe overlooking the city.


Love this plain sign at Mozart’s house. I also liked learning about Mozart’s mother, who deftly handled an eccentric husband and son.


We stopped into the McDonald’s in Salzburg (in search of hot chocolate for me) and found quite creative bathroom signs.


You have to pay to get into the bathrooms, but you then receive a coupon saving you fifty cents or so off your next purchase. Fair deal.


No clue where I snapped this sign.


On our last night in Vienna, we attended a concert at St. Charles Church.


A university nearby offered its bathrooms to concertgoers. This was quite an eventful potty stop as two women, a bit younger than I, were in gales of laughter. I’ve never heard women laugh so hard anywhere in my life. They spent the entire bathroom visit in hysterics. Even if I could speak German, I wouldn’t have known what they were laughing about because they never stopped long enough to utter a word.


To life and laughter and ladies room doors!

Gray on Gray



A post by my good friend Judith Gray:

This past year I became a grandmother, went on Medicare, started playing more pickleball than tennis, joined a gym, and stopped coloring my hair.  Of all these, the hair is the least important but the most physically obvious and, in my peer group, the most unusual.

I had made some prior attempts but kept going back to coloring (which I did at home;  I rank low on the level of hair fussiness).The first excuse was that I wanted to look good for my kids’ wedding pictures, and it was bad enough that one of my eyelids had started drooping and brown spots were multiplying  on my hands. After that it was mostly wanting to look young and following the crowd…none of my friends had gray hair, and even my sister, ten years older than I, was dyeing her hair.

But then two people inspired me,  my niece and Janet Yellin.  My niece, ten years younger than I, and a recent gym convert, said, ‘If you look buff, people won’t notice the gray hair.”

She’s attractive and glows with fitness and recently went gray. Janet Yellin is the smart, no-nonsense chair of the Federal Reserve.  I like hearing what she has to say, without any glamorous or pretentious distractions.  Finally, a  gray-haired woman with a grandmotherly face  appears  on the tv news, and the investment world clings to every word.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 15, 2015, before the House Financial Services Committee hearing on monetary policy and the state of the economy. Yellen told the committee that if the central bank waits until 2016 to begin raising rates, it could mean that subsequent hikes might occur more rapidly. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

It took me a few weeks to get used to the new look; I was a bit surprised every time I looked in the mirror, not really sure I liked what I saw. I get a variety of comments and puzzled looks…”Did you get a new haircut?”  ask  those I haven’t seen in a while. “I’m jealous,” comment  women who have misgivings about the whole ordeal but not ready to go natural.  “I like your hair,” say  kindred grays welcoming me to the  club.

I feel liberated, freed from the coloring process and the pull of looking younger. I’m happy with who I am and how I look and delighted with new babies who will call me Gram into my gray-haired  old age.

Judith Gray is a mostly retired reference librarian who lives in Bedford Mass. with her husband Ed. She is a fan of all kinds of  exercise, especially pickleball! She enjoys reading, travelling, memoir writing, and visiting her children and grandchildren in CT and NY.

Photo Above: Judith, with her new hair color, hugs her grandson Hudson.

Photo Below: Judith and Ed “already gray” Gray at their daughter’s wedding, 2010.