Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cut the Clamor: Accessories for the Disturbed

In yet another installment of Tales from Menopause…

I have squishy foam ear plugs stuffed in my ears. They come in a little cardboard box from the drugstore, and sell for about $2.00. Such a small price to pay for saving a smidge of sanity.

With these plugged-up ears, I can hear my own breathing, my heartbeat, and not much else.

Menopause has made sounds that were formerly mildly annoying rise to the level of perhaps justifiable homicide. I really don’t want to kill people because they make noises like rapping a teaspoon against a coffee cup. It’s against my high moral code. And I don’t think I’d look nice in an orange jumpsuit.

So these foam earplugs have become my latest menopausal accessory. They only come in ivory, but I think I’ll write the manufacturer and ask for an array of colors to coordinate with my wardrobe. Some shades of blue, perhaps? That way the plugs would even match my dominant mood.

But I digress. It’s a Saturday morning, it’s 8:00, and a light rain is falling. I’m drinking coffee, my extra-special delicious Bananas Foster weekend blend, and reading about Janet Evanovich’s fictional heroine, Stephanie Plum, ramming her Buick into a murderer’s sedan. I live vicariously through Steph’s kick-butt bounty hunting adventures. Yet one more way I keep myownself out of jail. Life is good.

But what’s this? The sound of a chainsaw breaks into my reverie. From my back door, I see a neighbor-man whacking twigs off a tree. The twigs are an inch in diameter and could have been dispatched with a sharp pair of clippers. Instead, he’s fired-up a gas-fume spewing Husqvarna with a window-rattling volume. If I remedied the situation with a Molotov cocktail, no one would even detect the small explosion.

I shake off the bloodthirsty notion, remind myself I am a woman of peace. Or of shattered pieces? I reach for the trusty foam earplugs, breathe deeply, and yet another potentially headline-making crisis is averted. The neighbor-man lives for another day of power-tool abuse.

Even the non-menopausal may find chain-saws annoying, you say? What’s the big deal? Ah, but volume has only a little to do with the reaction of a menopausal woman to sound.

What about a spoon being scraped along the side of a cereal bowl? Some years ago, I remember a dear friend, Lu, who was going through her man-o-pause—I mean menopause—telling me she had given her husband a plastic bowl and a plastic spoon to eat his cereal. The racket he made eating his All-Bran from a china bowl had become torture to her.

Since she loved her husband and dreaded the nuisance of replacing him, she hit upon the brilliant solution of the plastic bowl and spoon. It’s really hard to make an objectionable racket with plastic, especially after you’ve seen a homicidal gleam in your dear wife’s glittering eyes. The marriage was saved.

At the time Lu told me the story, I was blissfully ignorant of menopause, and chuckled at her tale. Wow—Lu is such a funny person—how she exaggerates! Ha-ha!

But now with the scales fallen from my eyes, I see Lu was saintly in her menopausal restraint. I hold Lu in high regard, striving to live up to her peaceable standards.

I don’t believe she killed a soul during her menopause. Or if she did, she buried the bodies deep.

That reminds me… maybe I’ll go sharpen my shovel… just in case.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Guest Post Gig @ MyAlienBody !

I didn't dream it would be this fun to be asked to guest post on my great bloggy buddy's site, but I feel like I've walked down the red carpet of blogging!

Today, I'm at This n That, MyAlienBody's blog. (She's a.k.a. Melissa Aiello).

Melissa is smart, funny, a great writer and skilled in my favorite art form... the stick figure.

Please come over for a visit! She has cake!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tell Me A Story, Regina

I’ve given shout-outs and bloggy-love to my internet pals in previous blog posts. But the way R.K. Ryals and I came together as friends is more quirky than most.

About six years ago, we had secretary, Sabrina, in the English department at the community college where I’m an instructor. Her personality was charming; she was the epitome of a genuine, kind-hearted young lady. We hit it off, and in chatting she told me she had a twin sister, Regina.

Sabrina mentioned when they were young girls, Regina, like a little Scheherazade, often made a blanket-tent and told Sabrina fabulous stories by flashlight.

Sabrina was only with us for a couple of years before she moved away, but we kept in touch through Facebook.  One day last summer, Sabrina messaged me.

She reminded me about her twin sister, Regina. “Regina’s a really good writer, she’s written a book, and she needs an editor. Do you know anyone who might be interested?”

I was hesitant, but something nudged me. “Do it,” said a voice in my head. I wrote back to Sabrina, hit send, and wondered, “What in the world have I done?” I needn't have worried!

Regina started emailing me chapters of a paranormal Young Adult novel she’d named Redemption (and may have had her own "what have I done?" moment). At first, it seemed like a vampire novel, and that was okay, but the competition in the vampire book market is intimidating.

Then I realized that Redemption was about a teenage girl, Dayton, who was half-angel. She was being pursued by demons. And Dayton cussed. A lot.

Redemption was not at all what I expected.  

The smooth plotting and the characters got to me, especially Dayton and her oddball but loyal teen friends. Now, don't tell me you are in the least surprised that I like oddball characters!

Regina wrote well and fearlessly. “I’ve got to get these stories out of my head,” she said. She sent chapter after chapter, and I was more and more impressed. We got to know each other through our emails as the chapters flew back and forth.  We became friends across eight-hundred miles and two time zones.

In light of Amanda Hocking’s popular Trylle trilogy’s success, I suggested that Regina self-publish.  A computer whiz, Regina navigated the considerable details of formatting and uploading her book to Amazon, and shortly Redemption was available for Kindle.

You’ve heard people described as a force of nature, but Regina is unstoppable. She’d made a promise to herself to have a book published by age thirty, and she made it happen.

And oh—she’s not reclining in a bed of daisies with her laptop as she writes. She’s a wife, a mother of three incredibly active girls under age ten (one in diapers), an aunt, and has a part-time job, among her other pursuits and accomplishments. In less than a year, she’s written two novels. She’s now working on two more. Simultaneously.

Did I mention she drinks a lot of coffee?

Regina, a.k.a. R.K. Ryals, is starting to collect some positive reviews for Redemption and its sequel, Ransom.  The buzz on her books is on the upswing, and that is incredibly cool.

But so is my dear internet friend, Regina. Write on, R.K., write on!

*Regina writes as R.K. Ryals and her books, Redemption and Ransom, are available on Kindle. She is working on the third book in the Redemption series and another book, Acropolis, about one of the Redemption characters, a gargoyle named Conor.
**This post is an unsolicited account of my very real friend, Regina! I do not receive a commission on books sold. But I do get teary-eyed proud of R.K.!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What Makes a Great Blogger? Virginia, the HomeRearedChef, is One Year Old Today

Virginia’s, one year anniversary is today. She has been blogging for a year at BlogHer, and has logged over 195 posts. When I say she is amazing, I do not exaggerate. Although I am a little prejudiced, for I am proud to have her as a friend.

What makes Virginia, a.k.a. HomeRearedChef, such a great blogger that people feel they MUST read her blog to make their day complete?

Yes, I’m going to go there.

1.      She is sincere. If Virginia says it, she means it. She is rarely sarcastic. Good grief, a little sarcasm is okay, but aren’t some blogs just swimming in it?
2.      Virginia is funny, but she doesn’t make fun of other people. She may turn her gentle humor on herself, but she doesn’t have anything even close to a mean streak. Again, do we really need more ranting and raving in the world?
3.      She stands up for herself. She can tell about low points in her life, but she doesn’t apologize for being human. She is not afraid to be authentic. You can always tell the post is one of Virginia’s. She has her own voice; you would never mistake her for anyone else.
4.      She is not a girl-scout or too goody-goody to be true. She has made mistakes and had bad times in her life, she writes about them, and readers feel validated and not shamed if they have shared a similar experience.
5.      She is friendly; she is welcoming. Reading her posts makes readers feel like they are sitting at her kitchen table.
6.      She is not afraid to be emotional, but doesn’t overdo it. She knows that some events in life are worth crying about.
7.      She is thoughtful. She learns from others, so that her blog is not a one-way street.
8.      She is modest. She really doesn’t know how good a writer she is.
9.      She praises others even when she disagrees with them. She appreciates her readers.
10.   She has LIVED. She has had a life rich with love, happiness, and sorrow. She lives every day that has been given to her. She writes about it all, the bitter and the better.

I can’t believe how lucky I was to find her kind, compassionate voice. Let’s celebrate a Blogging Queen, Virginia!

To find Virginia, go to You can usually find her on the right side under "Most Popular," or you can search for her as HomeRearedChef. She also posts great recipes to the Examiner. Here's her latest:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I (Kind-of) Hate Clothes

No, this is not a post where I announce I have become a nudist. Rest easy.

It's about someone who spooks me.

I’m not afraid of many things, not really. I do worry and obsess about this and that, but real fear and trembling, thankfully, no.

But I am deeply afraid of a woman of my acquaintance.

This is why: on Sunday evenings, she chooses all the clothes she will wear for the coming work week. She arranges them, cleaned and pressed, hanging in order, on the back of her closet door. She chooses shoes, jewelry, scarves, barrettes, and other accessories to complement each outfit. I haven’t asked her about her undergarments, but she probably has those picked out and color coordinated with each day’s clothing choices. All she need do each morning is pull the prepared outfit and dress.

This is terrifying to me on so many levels.

Over the last twenty years (who thought I would ever live long enough to make such a statement?), my interest in fashion has waned. I don’t hold it against anyone who follows clothing styles and dresses trendily; it just doesn’t float my boat anymore. For my work as a teacher, I need to be presentable, but as one fashion forward young student told me, “No one cares what an English teacher wears.”

She got bonus points for rhyming. And I agree with her for the most part. My memory is shaky, and I do occasionally wonder if I have repeated an outfit in the same week, but I figure my students have too many other things to worry about. Honestly, they could care less if Mrs. B. wears the same outfit on Friday that she wore on Monday, and it’s extremely unlikely they would even notice!

An annoying development lately has been that I have trouble pulling my separates together to dress for work. (For some reason I never wear dresses to work, so I always have to put a top with a bottom.) I remember back to my own college student days, and one professor who always wore khaki pants and a nicely ironed, colored, button down shirt (he had an excellent shirt-laundry). Some of the other students commented on his lack of imagination, but I admired him for making a choice and sticking with it! Would his teaching have been more effective if he threw some navy or black pants into the mix? Oh, please.

Part of my dilemma in dressing each morning is my demand for comfort. With my menopausal madness, I can’t stand anything that’s binding, itchy, or too heavy. Some days I can’t bear the thought of wearing certain dark colors, other days I dress in black from head to toe, trying to maintain a cloak of invisibility. This morning I made immediate progress choosing black pants, but tried three or four tops on. I was disgusted with myself, and having flashbacks to my teen years, when clothing mattered to me and I had similarly indecisive mornings.

With the temperature forecast to possibly reach 80 degrees today, my big concern was finding a couple of comfy layers that would not suffocate me. Should this decision really be so difficult? No. But difficulty making decisions is one more crackpot menopausal symptom. Finally I settled on a sleeveless teal shell covered with a cotton-knit cardigan—in leopard print! Woo-hoo, and I was out the door.

I will never be the lady who picks out all her clothes on Sunday night and carefully hangs them on the back of the closet door. I never want to be that organized. The thought of it chokes me. I want to run, screaming.

If you are that pulled-together fashion-wise, please never, never tell me. Or I’ll be terrified of you, too.