…is not actually a question. It’s a fact of life.

Queefs. What are they? Even though all of the people I surveyed agreed that they are called “vagina farts”, that’s not what they are. “Farts” are a result of gas that has built up in the digestive tract. A queef is air that’s been trapped in the vagina finally making its noisy escape…like a whoopee cushion. Fun. How does it happen? When air is forced in to the vagina through either exercise or sexual penetration, it can become trapped in the “rugae” or folds. With only one way in and one way out it’s inevitable. How can you minimize it? Certain positions can decrease the likelihood. Hint: any position (either sexual or yoga position) with the word dog in it is not your friend, but the key word here is minimize. You can’t prevent them entirely. So, how will you handle it when it eventually does happen?

How to Handle the Queef

How to Handle the QueefWell, how do you recover from an embarrassing incident like tripping on a crowded street? Burping in an elevator? Accidentally letting a curse word fly in front of your kids? Do you pretend it never happened or are you a laugh-it-off kind of person who handles awkward situations with humor? The way you handle those situations will be a good indication of how you might handle the occasional queef that could escape during that deep lunge routine or at an intimate moment.

In my perfect world, nothing gross would ever happen ever, but sex is a collection of ordinary-extraordinary-ugly-beautiful-embarrassing but meaningful actions. (That goes double for exercising.) In other words, there’s a lot of eww with those ooos and aaaahs and it’s all worth it.

Just Go With It

However you recover from the occasional snafu at the gym or in the bedroom (or living room or kitchen or hotel room) remember that all that pleasure can come with a price. Odd noises, strained muscles, and a queef or two. It’s no big deal. Ignore it or laugh about it…just enjoy yourself!

Fancy lingerie has been a thing since Eve first realized an appropriately positioned fig leaf could catch Adam’s attention. OK, maybe we don’t know when the first woman (or even if her name was even Eve) decided her nether region protective wear could be pretty.

Adam and Eve

But we do know that lingerie has been a “thing” for centuries. Thongs are newer on the underwear scene, with some fashionistas crediting their appearance with a mayoral action involving 1939 World’s Fair entertainers and others saying it was the 1970s when the skimpy set of drawers emerged on the beaches of Brazil.

Once scandalous, it’s now hard to miss the piles of thongs at big box department stores, peeking out of some low-riders, and up front in music videos. There are even thongs sized to get you through pregnancy.

Some mothers consider the appearance of a thong in their daughter’s laundry hamper as a sign of either sexual activity or hope of same and take it as a sign that it’s time for “the talk.” (Let’s hope most of them don’t use the laundry as their guide to when to communicate with their kids, but that’s a topic for a later blog.)

If you’re a regular wearer of these flimsy scraps of material, or the guardian of one – here are four thongs you need to know:

  1. Size matters: wearing thong that’s too tight isn’t just uncomfortable, it can cause skin irritation and even lead to infection.
  2. Material things: silk is sumptuous, and lace is pretty, but cotton is your friend when it comes to material that’s safest to snuggle twixt your cheeks.
  3. Triangulation: cotton crotches are a nice nod to proper fabric, but don’t really give you the coverage you need, plus, if they’re covered on one side by silk or rayon or another nonbreathable fabric, the tiny cotton triangle isn’t really helping.
  4. Proximity: Thongs are up close and personal with your vulva, vagina and anus, and that means fluids and other things are easily transferred along that thin strip of fabric. That means bacteria – including E.coli – can easily travel from one cavity to the next.

None of these things mean you can’t wear thongs safely and sexily. Just be smart. Make sure they fit, save the sexy silks and rayons for short-term wear and go with cotton for daily use; keep things as clean as you can and thong safely on, ladies.

For nine months, you’ve had that “glow” … that little inner smile that something really miraculous was going to happen that grew into a giant beachball … that was covered by a shirt you grew to hate.

But now, that baby is sweetly swaddled and intermittently snoozing and wailing right next to you. You sigh and think, “On with the show!”

Not so fast, mom. You’ve got some changes coming at you for which you may or may not be prepared. Because doing something that miraculous is probably going to take a little toll on your body. Like the TV PSAs say, “The more you know …” So, read on.

The Hormones. (Or as Aunt Tula in “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding” called them, “The Hormonies”) You know you’ve been a raging ball of hormones during pregnancy. Consequently, following birth, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop which can result in mood swings, anxiety, sadness or irritability. Typically, you even out in a week or so but if not, it can become post-partum depression.

Oxytocin, aka the mommy’s friend, is the awesome hormone that provides the “mothering” instinct. It can also make you anxious, like you’re on alert for every bad thing on the horizon (like subconscious thoughts into the teenage years). Meanwhile, thyroid hormones that regulate body temperature, metabolism and organ function can be affected by giving birth, as well leading to insomnia, anxiety, rapid heart rate, fatigue, weight loss and irritability (one to four months after birth) or fatigue, weight gain, constipation, dry skin and depression (four to eight months after birth).

I Just Had a Baby. Now What?Finally, did you even know you produce a hormone called “relaxin”? Seriously, just thought that’s what I wanted to do on the weekends. Nope. It’s the hormone that makes your joints looser to allow that baby to exit into the world. It can also make your feet slightly bigger and arches a bit flatter (and that may be permanent). It can take up to five months for joints to return to early stability. After about six months, it’s good to do some strength training to re-strengthen the muscles that hold those joints in place.

Hello Vitamins and Minerals! For starters, don’t discount the fact that you have lost some blood during delivery. That can lead to low iron levels and shakiness. Concentrate on eating iron-rich foods (red meat, leafy greens, beans and lentils). In addition, keep on taking your prenatal multivitamin with iron for as long as you are breastfeeding. Concentrate on eating a well-balanced, healthy diet.

I’ve Got Big Boobs and I Cannot Lie. Yup. Those are huge. Who knew? After buying bras in digits you didn’t know existed, you realize there’s not much more excruciating pain than engorged breasts and a hungry baby. Some things that may help: Applying warm packs before breastfeeding and cold packs afterwards, as well as taking a mild anti-inflammatory (such as ibuprofen, which is safe during breastfeeding), expressing a bit of milk in the shower or tucking a clean, slightly crushed cabbage leaf against your breast all help. (We know, it sounds weird, but it works.) If your breast becomes warm, red and/or more painful than usual, contact your doctor immediately; it may be mastitis, and you don’t want that to go untreated.

Down There: What are You and What Have You Done With My Lady Parts? Giving birth is rough business; you’re going to be sore no matter how that baby comes out. Make amends with rest and some painkillers … soothe your sore and stitched perineum (the area between your vulva and anus) with a sitz bath or by tucking a frozen maxi-pad sprayed with witch hazel into your undies. (Just for kicks, offer one to the baby daddy.)

You will continue to have “afterpains” — contractions that help your uterus start to shrink to its pre-baby state. Some women find that “belly binding” is helpful in providing additional support to your healing body during this time. You will have a bloody discharge (lochia) for up to six weeks after delivery. If you are not breastfeeding, your period will likely return … also the ability to get pregnant again. Safety first. And, with low estrogen, you made need a little help from some water-based lube when you have sex.

Our sisters in Europe have a standing postpartum appointment with a pelvic floor therapist. It’s preventative for later-in-life issues like prolapse, incontinence and even joint pain. And don’t forget the Kegels.

Self Care. We make light of some things, but seriously, you have got to take care of you. It is not selfish to hand off the baby to a family member or friends and take a breath. Go for a walk. Meditate. Do nothing. Check in with yourself. The old saying, “Ain’t no one happy if mama ain’t happy” bears much truth. Give yourself permission for these “mental health minutes” to ensure healthy, happy motherhood.

We’ve all the seen the ads and commercials for the miracle bra that encourages us to throw out our old bras because this one does it all. It shapes, supports, and smooths, with no pinching or pulling or digging…or style.

Looking like rejects from a sports bra factory in the 90s, these bras may provide comfort and support, but I want to say “Ooooo!” when I see myself in a bra. I do NOT want to say, “Uuhhh.”

Why can’t a bra be both comfortable and pretty? Functional and appealing? Frilly and flexible?

Once Upon a Push Up Bra

Once Upon a Push Up BraWhen I was in college, I desperately wanted a bustier. I was studying a lot of romantic literature and poetry and had decided that I NEEDED to become the type of woman who wore a bustier. Whose opinion did I ask about this burning desire to become the female heroine in the arms of Fabio? My mother. Yes. You read that right.

Now, all you need to know about my mother is that she was almost 40 when she had me and I was the youngest of 12 children. (Yes. You read that right, too.) Lingerie was not a thing she’d been interested in for a very long time. She’d spent years searching for comfortable, functional bra. She had no time for me and my bustier. However, she was a patient woman and she took me to Victoria’s Secret to try some on. She did this not because she wanted to make me happy. She did this because she knew if I tried one on, I would hate it. She was right. I hated the feeling of being strapped in and all the stays poking me all over. This woman had already raised six girls. She knew what was up.

After that, I was more than happy to purchase a pretty push up bra and call it a day.

Lift and Separate

My evolution from a woman who needed a bustier to a woman who was happy with a push up bra to a woman who schlepps into a beige comfort bra is uninspiring to say the least. I say, NO MORE!

It’s time to demand comfort and beauty! So let’s seek out underwear that not only provides support for our bodies, but also for our psyches!

Ok, we admit that your vagina probably won’t go missing anytime soon, but we’re also willing to be that you couldn’t pick your own vagina out of a line-up. If, you know, there were police lineups of vaginas.

The fact that you’ll never have to identify your own parts isn’t the point. The point is that too many women not only couldn’t make that ID, they also don’t know much about their most private parts.

The Twitterverse recently had some fun with a man who tried to teach a female gynecologist that she’d misused the term “vulva” — “The correct word is vagina,” he tweeted. If you missed it, do yourself a favor and find it.

Better yet, find the book or documentary “Womanhood” by Laura Dodsworth, that seeks to shed light in what has for too long been considered a nether region proper folks dare not discuss.

Even better than that, get up close and personal with your own vagina. You can wax poetic about the shape, size or color of your eyes, nose, breasts and eyebrows. Can you do the same for your vagina?

It’s a sad fact that too many women don’t know much more than the mansplainer, and it’s high time we gave up terms like “front butt,” “pee-hole, “poke-hole,” “down there,” or “bearded clam” to name a few.

Getting a good look at your crotch isn’t easy. You need a decent-sized hand mirror, a bit of flexibility and a healthy dose of curiosity.

Two-dimensional drawings are helpful in labeling the parts and showing where they are, but they don’t really give you a great look at the reality of what’s down there. Unless you saw Ms. Dodsworth’s work, you may not be prepared for hairy, wrinkly folds of skin that await you. If it’s been a while – a few pounds or children – since you sneaked a peek you may find your vulva has changed a bit.

Unfortunately, many of us use the porn industry or photoshopped photography to set the baseline for what a vulva should look like. Vulvas are like snowflakes, none is exactly like another. There is no “normal.” Despite that, nearly half of the respondents to a recent Refinery29 survey said they had concerns about how their vulvas look.

  • 64 percent were concerned about size;
  • 60 percent were concerned about shape; and
  • 30 percent were worried about color.

The truth is, despite a spike in cosmetic surgery and bleaching to achieve “normal”, there’s rarely a medical need to trim, tighten or lighten any part of your vulva. If you’re concerned about your lady parts, by all means, seek advice from a reputable physician. But try hard to think of your body as a unique and beautiful snowflake.

Want to learn more about your parts? Hurrah. Let’s start with this drawing from HelloClue.com’s Vagina 101 – a must read for anyone who has a vagina or wants to interact with one.

What everyone woman needs to know about her genital tract:

What everyone woman needs to know about her genital tractThe vulva is the external part of your lady parts. It protects your sexual organs, urinary opening, vestibule and vagina and is nerve center of most of your sexual response. The outer and inner ‘lips’ of the vulva are called the labia majora (the outer folds) and labia minora (the inner folds.)

The vestibule is just what it sounds like if you’re used to

bandying about ancient Roman terminology that refers to an enclosed porch.

Your vaginal vestibule is your front door, if you will, to your vagina and your urethra. Your vagina is the tube that connects your vulva to your cervix. Your urethra is the tube that connects your vulva to your bladder.

The clitoris is party central – the pea-sized node that contains something like 15,000 nerve endings and is responsible for sexual pleasure. The hood is a protective fold of skin that keeps you from constantly sparking those nerves.

There you have it. Want a closer look? Hand mirrors are available in stores everywhere. Get yourself one and celebrate the beauty of your unique snowflake.

First, you worry about circumcision … to do or not to do. Then, you spend the next few years making sure it’s clean, regardless of your decision.

There’s the whole infant peeing extravaganza that prompted one genius to invent the “Peepee Teepee” to prevent a stream that makes the NY Fire Department (or a 65-year-old man) envious. But that comes in handy when they’re peeing on grandma’s trees in the backyard … because who wants to take a break from play? Farting and burping is SOOOO funny!

Mommin Your Mama’s Boy Ain’t EasyAnd then they hit about 12, and the real fun begins. I know. You can’t wait. While most parents agree that raising girls can be a harrowing experience, most moms view that as a “known commodity.” But what the heck are we supposed to do with boys? During the next couple of years, your son is going to go through a “growth spurt” (which will probably be accompanied by an eating spurt … now is a good time to invest in a Costco or Sam’s Club membership for bulk buying). He will get taller and gain wait; he will begin to have facial and body hair. He will think he is the only person on earth who masturbates and has “wet dreams.” He will probably be concerned about his penis – is it normal?

So clearly, parents should be open and honest about the body and bodily functions for the entirety of their child’s life – don’t wait until your kids are going through puberty to have “The Talk.” The Talk should be going on since birth. A little “proactive parenting” will make it feel not so “weird” when your son begins to express concerns and questions about his sexuality.

According to the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, teenagers are spontaneous. (Suppress your urge to say, “duh.”) But, let’s reiterate that teens – boys and girls — talk when THEY want to, not when YOU want to (nor when it’s necessarily convenient to you). Talking “with” — not lecturing “at” – proves successful in most cases. And try to limit the “parent freak out” moments to your closet or when they’re really warranted. Like, when he wants to wear gym shorts to school and it’s 30 degrees, it doesn’t need to turn into a big long dissertation on common sense. Save it for things that are potentially harmful.

What are actual health concerns for teen boys?

While we normally associate eating disorders with teen girls, teenage boys – especially those involved in wrestling, swimming and track – are at-risk for eating disorders. They may be focused on gaining muscle mass, so it may appear that they’re simply getting in shape. Likewise, LGBTQ+ identifying teens are also at high risk for eating disorders. Eating disorders are not a “phase” you can talk through. Seek professional counseling immediately if you suspect your son has an eating disorder.

While your son may be fixated on his penis and testicles, and that’s normal, you both need to be aware of some health issues “down there.”

Boys aged 12 – 18 can develop a condition known as testicular tortion, when the spermatic cord, which provides blood flow to the testicle, rotates and becomes twisted. When it happens, emergency treatment – surgery — is needed fast. If testicular torsion goes on for more than a few hours, it can permanently damage the testicle, and a damaged testicle must be removed. Many times, there is no cause, but can happen after strenuous exercise or an injury to the scrotum. Regardless, if your son complains of sudden pain in his testicles, err on the side of caution and call his physician immediately.

A more common occurrence for young men ages 15 – 25 may be a varicocele — a mass of swollen and enlarged veins in the scrotum. It’s caused when the veins in the spermatic cord don’t work correctly and the blood that normally circulates in the area backs up. When this happens, the veins stretch and swell up, called varicocele. Your son may notice a heavy, dull ache in the scrotum or even a painless testicular lump. While not an emergency situation like testicular tortion, it is something that should be seen, diagnosed and monitored by a physician. It may or may not require treatment, depending on the severity of the condition. Sometimes, a physician may just suggest wearing an athletic supporter to relieve the minor discomfort.

And as a “boy mom,” what more can you ask for? … More jock straps in the laundry!

It’s safe to say we are living in a stress-filled era. We don’t really need to list all of the stressful things in your life because … that’s stressful. That said, yoga class enrollment has soared, countless numbers of “relax” stations can be found Spotify and Pandora … and wine sales are up.

You don’t need a mat or a wine opener or even an hour a day to get some relief from the never-ending “monkey mind” that our fast-paced existence creates.

At its simplest, meditation and mindfulness are about creating more presence. How you can do this is simply by noticing. Meditation and mindfulness are about slowing down a little too ‘tune in’ to your physical response and emotional responses. Like, pausing to notice that you are breathing or listening to the rain fall. Or (gasp) even pausing before you hear your Tinder notification or answer the phone.

All this breathing and mindfulness have a purpose. Studies have shown that even spending 25 minutes a day can reduce the psychological impact of stress. Not only does it make you feel less stressed, but it also represents more active coping and greater engagement with the task.

meditation and mindfulness

Other benefits of meditation, include controlling anxiety, improving emotional health, enhancing self-awareness, lengthening attention span, reducing age-induced memory loss, helping with sleep and controlling pain. Some experts believe it’s helpful in small ways – like improving your ability to be kind – too big ways – like fighting addiction.

There are two major styles of meditation that you can check out on one of these free, guided meditation exercises offered by UCLA and Head in the Clouds:

  • Focused-attention meditation in which you concentrate on a single object, thought, sound or visualization. It emphasizes ridding your mind of attention and distraction. Meditation may focus on breathing, a mantra or a calming sound.
  • Open-monitoring meditation encourages broadened awareness of all aspects of your environment, train of thought and sense of self. It may include becoming aware of thoughts, feelings or impulses that you might normally try to suppress.

Once you identify the style of meditation that’s right for you, you can explore these online “guided meditations … There are even some specifically created for women!

Irregular periods. Fluctuating hormones. Bloating, cramping, insomnia, hot sweats, night sweats, headaches, exhaustion, AND osteoporosis?! Welcome to perimenopause where any, or all, of these symptoms could show up at any time. Fun!

Oh, and for no reason let’s throw in the added unpredictability of the age perimenopause begins. In your 30s, 40s, 50s? Yes, it might begin then. No, I can’t be more specific. It just depends.

What was that? You want to know how long perimenopause will last? Oh, that’s easy…4-8 years. Again, no. I cannot be more specific.

Flash Dance

It wasn’t until I was standing with my head shoved inside a convenience store cooler that I even thought about perimenopause. I had no idea that what I was experiencing was a hot flash. All I knew was that I was going to spontaneously combust if I didn’t get inside that cooler.

Raging HormonesAn estimated 35-50% of perimenopausal women experience hot flashes to some degree. Oh, you were curious about how long those lasted? Again, it depends. 10% of women experience hot flashes for years after menopause. Woo-Hoo!

Triggers for an episode can be hot air temperatures, hot beverages, or spicy foods. You’ll have the joy of discovering which of these is your particular on-switch. Just know that I’ve moved far north, drink nothing but water from a local iceberg, and only consume beige foods.

Raging Hormones Part Deux

Remember how amazing puberty was? How you woke up every day and thought, “Wow! I love being a temperamental, moody human with brand new things happening to my body that I can’t control! Super!” No? Me neither.

The fluctuating estrogen levels experienced during perimenopause can cause 10-20% of women to have mood changes. However, if you take a low dose birth control pill, it will keep the hormone levels even during this time which will improve the symptoms. It has the bonus of regulating your menses which is a word I hate to type. Sorry. Had to.

Variables, Schmariables

There is so much about perimenopause that depends on each individual experiencing it that nailing down specifics is difficult. The nature of perimenopausal symptoms will show up in each woman differently and for different reasons. Some through surgery (a hysterectomy) or through aging.

Consult with your doctor, take care of yourself, and keep an open mind to walk in cooler therapy. I’m thinking of opening a store full of just coolers where women can stick their faces in anytime they need to.

Happy Monday. Just my random thoughts on this lovely day one week after Daylight Savings Time. Perhaps because I feel I am drastically sleep deprived and my random thoughts need to be voiced today. Let’s be honest, I’m not sleep deprived because of one day. HA! And I complain and gripe about this day EVERY YEAR!! I know, I know, I need to chin up buttercup and just get over it. But admit it, you are probably in the exact same boat. I can go to Nashville, TN for a fun weekend and there is an hour time change, and I am FINE and loving life. This ridiculous law and time change and I’m not happy for at least a week. Real world problem, huh???

Ok, back to my real message today. Lately, I feel like I am on a lot of adventures. Good ones. Challenging ones. Ones that scare me. Ones that I can’t wait for. Ones that make me smile and light up. Ones that make me want to roll my eyes and turn off my filter. Ones that some don’t agree with. Ones that I could sell tickets to join me. You get the picture. But each and every one required me to take action. To take a first step. To shake things up. To make a change.

So today I challenge you to take a first step. Work. Home. Family. School. Friends. Anything at all!

And yes, a first step is only the beginning. Those adventures above? My many first steps have led to many forward, a few detours, a couple of reverses, a few off the beaten path, a fair amount of stop and wait, but all are for the best. Even when I don’t really like the way it may be going. It’s a game of inches, so keep going.

And I write this because I need to remind myself – FREQUENTLY! ;0) I want to remind you that we are all in this together and should encourage each other to take that first step.

PS: note to self and squirrel moment –I’m Just Jenn who needs to take that first step to call for my annual adventure – mammogram followed by margaritas as my reward. LOL!!

The First Step