Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Voice is Here

After blogging for over two years, I left what felt like my first truly “negative” comment the other day. 

I’ve second guessed myself a lot since then. As both a blogger and an avid blog reader, I’d decided from the start that if I didn’t have anything positive to say, I would not say anything.

Knowing that it does take some effort, if not downright courage, to put oneself out there by publishing a post, I’d vowed to take the high road. I have tender feelings myself and want to show respect for other blogger’s work. After all, there are MANY people who are more than willing to express their criticisms, so my voice is not needed when I disagree with a blogger’s position, I felt.

Even if I differed vehemently with someone, I didn’t want to be part of the snarling pack. Acts of kindness, paying it forward, Little Miss Sunshine—that was me.  Not rocking the boat, damn it, being the nice girl. Argh. I can be such a wimp. But I’d rather err on the side of wimpy, than to hurt someone’s feelings or stifle someone’s right to express herself. That was my choice.

But a post by an “expert” on HuffPost50 got me riled up. Reading along, it was all good until about half-way through when the writer paused in her advice to midlife women about diet and exercise. She said something that made it all very personal to me. 

To paraphrase, she actually repeated that ancient and hard to dispel notion that anyone who is overweight or out of shape is … lazy, sluggish, unenlightened AND lacks the passion needed for healthy living. Find your passion, and the weight will fall off easily, she claimed.

She just said I lack passion.


Whoa. Passion?

Calm down, I told myself. It’s just a blog post. Be kind. She’s misinformed, judgmental, holier-than-thou, yes, but let it go.

I tried to dismiss my outrage.

I failed.

I commented, as calmly as I could, in a few sentences, ending with the charge that she had just added one more voice to the chiding chorus, to those who wag fingers at midlife women struggling with their weight.

We hold down jobs that while perhaps aren't deeply fulfilling, keep the bills paid. Or, laid-off, are looking for employment in a workplace that openly discriminates based on our age and our looks. We may commute for hours, care for elders, children, spouses, homes. 

We’re trying to get another year out of a 15-year old car, or keep enough cash on hand for the bus. We do not need one more rebuke, one more expert telling us we are too stupid or too lacking in passion to be the same dress size we were 20 years ago. 

Because our clothing size is the only issue we have to worry about, right? I ended with note that she had “not advanced the dialogue on women’s health issues.”

Not particularly proud of my anger, fearing I was being a bit Joan of Arc, I hit “post” on my comment.

I don’t plan on making negative comments a habit, but maybe there is something to the notion that at menopause, some women find their voices (thank you, Magnolia Miller at The Perimenopause Blog). 

I think it’s happening to me. My voice. MY VOICE IS HERE.

It’s been a long time coming.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Me? Defending Prescription Drugs?

A dear friend, Caroline*, recently announced that she chooses to live her life without prescription drugs. A few years ago, her doctor told her she had high blood pressure, and advised her to begin a regimen of blood pressure medication. Caroline never went back to the doctor, and currently has no firm plans for a checkup. 
When I read this declaration on her popular blog, I was stunned and worried about this woman, a lady with an extraordinarily beautiful soul, who is as precious as a sister to me. Although I share some of Caroline’s views that prescription drugs can possibly cause harm and prolong life without maintaining an acceptable quality of life, I hope I can convince her to rethink her choice to avoid doctors and completely refuse any prescription medicine.
In her post, Caroline cites the experiences of her brother and father. Both men died too young. Her brother underwent a time of kidney dialysis, until his life was an endless round of visits to the dialysis center. His quality of life was miserable, and he finally chose to refuse treatment. Caroline’s father began his decline with the simple step of taking blood pressure medicine that led to more and more prescriptions, and death at 67. Knowing Caroline’s loving nature, watching these adored family members succumb to ill health was heartrending and hellish for her.
She has a valid point when she rebels against the idea that there is a pill for every minor-to- major blip on our health radar, and that sometimes the smart thing to do is to say no or at least get a second opinion before embarking on drug therapy. Our nation is awash in a sea of pills. With a Walgreens, a CVS, or a Rite Aid on nearly every corner, drug ads on prime time TV, and even children taking prescriptions in record numbers, we are over-medicated, as Caroline implies. Having had some unfortunate experiences with drugs, I can understand why she is wary of being made sick from prescription pills.
My own best example of prescription troubles started when I was in my late forties and was diagnosed with slightly elevated cholesterol. My doctor prescribed statins, and I remember being hopeful that these common drugs would lower my lipids. After all, many people take statins, they are considered safe overall, and some doctors believe so strongly in them that they propose adding them to the public water supply! At this time, I also got serious about my diet, added more exercise, and lost twenty pounds, bringing me into a healthy BMI. Proud of my lifestyle changes and sure that along with the statins, my cholesterol levels would be the envy of all, I had another blood test. My cholesterol had gone UP!
First, I was incredulous, then dismayed and discouraged. How was this possible? My physician, Dr. D., was unconcerned, and told me that some people had hereditary high levels that were stubborn to treat. Over the next eight years, she tried me on four different statins, and on increasingly higher doses. At the highest dose of the strongest statin, my back, wrists, and muscles began to ache. Brushing it aside as too much time spent commuting and working at the computer, eventually I complained to Dr. D. She advised me to stop the statins, and a scant week later my painful back, joint and muscle pains disappeared. 
The pain that I thought might be my lot to bear for the rest of my life—after all, old people have aches and pains, right?—had been caused by the pills that were supposed to make me “well.” The statins had caused me to ache all over, and had NOT reduced my cholesterol to “healthy” levels. This experience shook my faith in the marvels of supposedly safe modern drug therapies.
So I approach any prescription drug with caution, and with the thought that if the drug does not accomplish its stated goal within a reasonable amount of time and with a minimum of negative side effects, it’s time for a second opinion. But I feel bound to add that over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements need much the same caution. Tylenol can be deadly to the liver, vitamins can be toxic at too high levels, and herbal supplements should be considered as potentially as powerful, and as prone to unpleasant side-effects or interactions as any prescription drug.
We can’t be passive consumers; we must do our research and due diligence. It exhausts me to put so much thought into health, but I haven’t found a shortcut around working with my doctor while also trying to stay reasonably well informed about any drugs she prescribes. Additionally, I attempt to keep up with ongoing research for my health conditions.  Alternative therapies can help in some cases—I also get therapeutic massage and I’ve tried acupuncture.
After my sobering experience with statins, one might expect that I am living a happy-go-lucky, drug-free life. I was, for about six months. Then some other conditions reared their ugly heads; I now take 3 prescription drugs on a daily basis. I’m not thrilled, but I have realized that my current prescriptions are necessary for me to function. The drugs keep me going; without them, I would not be able to work, to be here for my husband, or for my aging mother. 
I used to have concerns, as Caroline does, about “what if I have to stay on these drugs the rest of my life?” For me, and for many people, if prescription drugs are what it takes, so be it; we are resigned. Sometimes, we’re even grateful. At least these drugs are available, and the alternative for me is near complete disability. Without these drugs, there would be no “rest of my life” to worry about.
Further, I would tell Caroline that yes, she is her own woman and she has the right to refuse treatment. We have the freedom to choose how to live, and how to die. However, she is not an island. She has a loving husband, children, grandchildren, and many friends who all love her. We don’t want her to die too young. We don’t want her to suffer anything remotely near the fates of her father and brother. We do want her to consider finding a doctor she has can develop a trusting relationship with,  and who in turn answers her questions about high blood pressure, possible treatments, and recommended lifestyle changes.
We want this for her not because we are trying to tell her what to do or because we are trying to make her feel guilty, ashamed, or unreasonable for her choices. We want her to be WELL, to live a long time among us, and when the time comes, to be able to have a dignified, pain-free death.
Prescription drugs are not inherently good or evil. They are chemical compounds, as are OTC drugs, herbal supplements, and the food and drink we consume daily. Our own physical bodies, at the most basic level, are chemicals. Prescription drugs are sometimes useful chemical tools that can help to decrease or delay many diseases. Life expectancy was a bitterly short 47 years for an average American woman in 1900 (University of California, Berkeley, n.d.). The average woman today can expect to live 33 years longer, to over age 80. The CDC (2008) says Caroline, as a Hispanic woman, can expect 3 years more than that, on average, 83 years! 
Prescription drugs are certainly no guarantee of longer life. However, many people would agree that when used judiciously under the supervision of a knowledgeable, caring physician, drugs are an option we sometimes must consider.  Caroline—please make that doctor appointment soon. We love you and want you healthy, happy and with us for many, many years to come!
*not her real name

This blog is not intended as medical advice. Consult your own health care professionals for advice related to health and prescription drugs.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Staging My Comeback, Maybe?

I picked up a book by Christopher Hopkins the other day: Staging Your Comeback. His topic of midlife makeovers for the style-impaired tied in perfectly with a self-improvement project I’ve embarked upon. 

I’ve been on a mini-campaign of spending more time on myself. Trying to enhance my midlife health and self-esteem has me eating Greek yogurt, taking more walk-breaks than sit-breaks at work, getting deep tissue massages, doing a little yoga.

Most importantly, I’m trying to keep my self-talk as kind to ME as I would be to a FRIEND, instead of looking in the mirror with a sigh or a groan.

On Mr. Hopkins’ advice, I reviewed my wardrobe. I’d been following the folks over at The Great American Apparel Diet who vowed not to buy any new clothes for a year—surprisingly easy to do with my aversion to shopping and those badly lit, evil mummy-crypt dressing rooms in particular.

So my wardrobe was in a particularly grim condition. My knit shirts are pilled and droopy, or shrunken. My black slacks have been washed so often they’re dark gray. Don’t even ask about my undergarments—they aren’t even suitable for dust rags.

So I clicked the computer mouse a few times, the UPS man came, and I had a couple of new pairs of fun printed capris, knit sleeveless layering tops, and some ¾ sleeve open weave, tunic length cardigans that I was sure were all the rage.

Yay! I can totally have a comeback! The internet was built for GOOD, if it can make pretty capris show up on my front porch lickity-split.

I care about my appearance, even at 55! I’m going to stand up straight. Look out, world! I am sexy, I am a real woman, power to the feminine, this earth goddess has wings! And I’m out of breath!

Later that day, still basking in the new glow of my mid-life confidence, I accompanied my mother to church. A lovely, but quite elderly lady of 80+ years was walking with a cane in front of us as we went in. Her hair was as white and puffy as a dandelion ball. And she was wearing my butterfly print capris with a sweet crocheted sweater that bore a remarkable resemblance to the one Mr. UPS had delivered to my front porch.

I was the balloon, and she was the needle. Pop! Her comeback was going quite well, but mine was dealt a setback, let’s call it. I guess it’s better to be dressing too old for my age rather than too young. Bah.

So you don’t need to worry about me getting vain, peeps. My humility is intact. My comeback has been temporarily postponed.

But I did hear Kohl’s is having a BIG sale this coming weekend….

Monday, October 8, 2012

Say What? "American Voters Don't Like Older Women"

Why should I care?

Why am I letting it bother me that I heard yet another conversation telling me older women are distasteful and irrelevant?

The source of the specious judgment was a commentator I formerly admired, Melissa Harris-Perry, age 39, educated in my home state at venerable North Carolina colleges Wake Forest and Duke University. She’s a professor of political science at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Some Sunday mornings I watch Melissa Harris-Perry’s political talk show on MSNBC. Bright and savvy, she has guests who spark lively conversations. Related to their prospects of making presidential bids, a discussion of the age difference between Joe Biden, 69, and Paul Ryan, 42, came up, and segued to Hillary Clinton’s possible candidacy in 2016.

Melissa drew back in dismay at the mention of Mrs. Clinton’s name, pulling away as if burned. “No,” she said.

No? What does she mean, no? What is going on here? I wondered.

“American voters don’t like older women. We won’t even buy makeup from aging women…as an aging woman, Hillary Clinton becomes less and less appealing to American voters, not in a way that’s fair….”

One of her panel members, Republican strategist Robert Traynham, broke in, defending Hillary, proving once again that politics make strange bedfellows. A male Republican defending Clinton? Whoa.

Mr. Traynham wanted to argue that Harris-Perry’s concern about “aging women” didn’t apply to Mrs. Clinton for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, he was cut off by another commentator who took the conversation in a different direction.

I sat there in front of the TV, coffee cup in hand. Did I misunderstand, somehow?

Surely Melissa Harris-Perry was not dissing older women? I must have been mistaken.

So I’ve replayed the video several times since Sunday. Harris-Perry’s facial expressions, intakes of breath, and body language belied her attempts to temper her comments with “not in a way that’s fair,” and “no, she’s [Hillary Clinton] enormously popular right now.”

Harris-Perry even threw in a further tidbit: “it’s not hard to be popular,” dismissing all Clinton’s years of public service as a mere popularity contest which anyone could pull off.

It's not hard to be popular?


Now, read my lips, my outrage is not so much for Hillary Clinton as an individual, as it is for all “aging women.” Hillary can take care of herself—she doesn’t need me to make her relevant or to tout her impressive resume.

My outrage is for how little attitudes have changed towards women at midlife and older. An enlightened woman like Harris-Perry taking such a dim view of older women is truly sad.

I would love to be around in 15 years, when Harris-Perry is 54, to replay this tape for her. I’d like to ask her then what she thinks of “aging women” and whether she thinks that whatever the “American people” think of older women means that we should dry up and blow away. We don’t need to consider running for president, because we offend the general public so much they won’t even buy makeup from us.

What will "older woman" Harris-Perry say then, do you suppose?

(The video is available at MSNBC’s website. The segment is called “Generation gap between vice-presidential candidates” on Melissa Harris-Perry’s Oct. 7th show.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Playing the Fool, Being Un-cool, Comma Splices, & Teddy Pendergrass

After nine years of commuting two hours daily began to get to me, I recently broke my resolution not to incur any more monthly expenses. The lure of endless oldies on satellite radio finally seduced me. I figured the monthly fee for Sirius would pay for itself if some jazzy radio tunes helped me hang on to a shred of my sanity.

 I got a satellite radio and installed it in the aging minivan all by myself(!), complete with a bird’s nest of dangling wires. A whole new world opened to me. Not to mention I’m sure I'll save money on various prescription mood altering pharmaceuticals.

That middle-aged woman you see singing and banging the steering wheel to the disco beat of The Seventies on Seven at Sirius? That would be me. I don’t even care if I look goofy as heck to observers at stop lights; I’m in another world as I get my groove on to Earth, Wind, and Fire. After all, I’m already driving the arguably most-uncool ride on the planet—a white minivan, complete with peeling paint. The “cool” bus had obviously left me behind some time ago.

One of the better aspects of coming to terms with midlife is finally not giving a …. hoot (keeping it clean, here)… about playing the fool. Life is too short to worry about people thinking I look silly. Beating on the steering wheel is just plain fun, and I think I’m actually releasing endorphins while thumping out the beat.

Today’s especially revelatory song was from 1979, Teddy Pendergrass laying down “Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose.” Dancing in my seat, I forgot how tired I was this morning and how far behind I am in grading dozens of papers. A little seed of an idea was planted in my mind, and when I got to campus, I checked out some clips on YouTube. Uh-huh. Just what I was looking for.

Slowly I walked the hall to room 103. The lesson plan for my 9:00 college composition class was the dreaded comma splice lecture. If you don’t know what comma splices are, count yourself lucky. I learned about them to my great and lasting sorrow, and now, sadly, I must bring the news of these evil saboteurs of college essays to my sweet and unsuspecting students.

I’ve been blessed with a great group of young people in this particular class—they actually listen and have motivation—amen, halleluiah. So it particularly pained me as I saw their previously eager eyes gloss over about ten minutes into the comma splice debacle. We continued on, as I gamely did my best with possibly the driest lecture I give over the course of a semester.

Finally, I gave the class a worksheet to test their comfort level with those devils, the comma splices. I could tell it was a relief to them that at least I had stopped talking! There’s an ego deflator for a teacher.

We checked over the answers to the worksheet together, and the punctuation gods were smiling at the class who were still engaged and trying their best to deal with the comma splice nemesis. I was proud of them. They got through an episode of what I think of as a necessary evil.

And wait—we had three minutes of class time left!

“I have something very important I want to show you before we go,” I said, deadpan.

The overhead projector popped up the Teddy Pendergrass “live” 1979 YouTube video of “Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose.” Teddy was in his glory: fit, handsome, in an all-white outfit, gold neck-chains shining, smiling and working it, man. He had the club patrons at the venue on their feet!

I was dancing and singing next to the classroom computer. Some students smiled, some gaped, some looked shocked, some rolled their eyes, some looked like they wished the floor would open up and swallow us all (or at least just me), some were swaying to the beat, clapping and snapping fingers.  One young man said, “That’s Teddy! Teddy Pendergrass!” I can only assume that his grandmother played the LPs to him in his cradle.

After Teddy sang the refrain several times, adding in “Whatcha come out here for?” I told the class that I saw this song as a metaphor for college. They laughed. No, I said, you took the trouble to get here to college, like Teddy took the trouble to get to the club, and by heck he’s going to get up, get down,  get funky, get loose,  now that he’s there. You’re here to make the most of college, I can tell.

As the class filed out, one smiling young lady said, “Mrs. Bruce, thanks to you, I’ll make it through my next class, ugh, Chemistry, with a smile on my face.”

Yes, my silly, foolish, un-cool, comma splice, Teddy Pendergrass, disco work here is done.

Thanks, Teddy. 

I come out here to party / And party is what I’m gonna do / I done worked hard both night and day / And now it’s time for me to shake it loose / Took me an hour just to get here /
Do you think I’m going to stand up on the wall? / Gonna have myself a ball, do you hear me? / Have myself a ball, come on y’all.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In Defense of Nice

This was originally a guest post I did over @ my girl Melissa's blog

Hello, Melissa! Wasn't that BlogHer conference a blast?

All is well with me, my loves, I've been ... writing a book. Just typing that makes my head want to explode. More on the book (draft) later. 

In an effort to prove I am still here in the blogosphere, I'm borrowing this post to give me a jumpstart back into the blogging groove. Hope you enjoy.

What’s so bad about nice?

With so many corners of the world in turmoil, strife-- crushed under war, illness and sadness, is there a place for “nice”? Or should the word be abandoned as an archaic notion?

Attending college and getting exposed to a bunch of literary theorists beat the wordnice out of me. 

I was taught that the word was never to be used when describing literature, for instance. Calling Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, or Henry David Thoreau nice in a college English class might get a student verbally stoned. 

Nice was a dirty word, showing the ignorance of the person who used it. Nice was uncool. I was already supremely uncool as a non-traditional student, typically the oldest person in any college class (often including the instructor).  I didn’t need to feel even more out of place because of a four-letter word.

So I turned away from nice as I would from a bad smell, holding my nose, coughing a little when someone else made the mistake of using nice during class. A professor told me that using nice was as bad, as damning, as a woman wearing the color pink. Nice showed a lack of commitment, of seriousness, of intellect.

I swallowed, hard, as I was wearing a pink cardigan that day, and wanted to crawl under the desk. I gave the cardigan to the Goodwill. No more pink, no more nice. I could sneer at nice with the best of them. 

But the sneer didn’t fit me well. Uneasy, I avoided the word nice, but for my own reasons, or so I told myself. Nice was vague, wishy-washy, a term used by default when an un-schooled individual was at a loss for words. Nice didn’t have cachet, joie de vivre, or prestige. Nice did not garner respect. I was too snobby, too smart to use nice.

My nice-avoidance lasted a good ten years. 

Over the past year or so, I’ve been having second thoughts about nice. Blogging has exposed me to a group of supportive people who’ve become my friends. Most, if not all, of the comments they make are kind. I like it that way. 

I didn’t begin blogging to find flagellation. I can flagellate myself just fine, thanks very much. Feel free to make nice comments, call me nice, and be nice to each other at my blog. Really.

Other bloggers may revel in abundant criticism, verbal sparring, and don’t mind mud-wrestling with readers. Kudos to them. I don’t have that kind of blog, not that there’s anything wrong with thoughtful disagreement.  

But if you want a spirited debate on every point I’ve made, you probably won’t read me more than once. That’s not my niche, if I have a niche. Or maybe I have a nice niche? Sorry, couldn’t resist that bit of alliteration.

While nice can and often is overused and abused, I hear it creeping back into my casual conversation and sometimes, my writing. In a worldwide cesspool of derision, intolerance, back-stabbing, and prejudice, perhaps it’s okay to be, and to use, nice.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

CNN: Headline Epic Fail

 Today in Tech: Yahoo has a new CEO, and she's pregnant

I read the headline above on CNN online yesterday.

Way to go, CNN. The article actually reported AS NEWS that it was okay for Marissa Mayer to be pregnant, since she plans to work through her maternity leave.

Say what?

Once I reattached my feminist head to my feminist body, I brainstormed ways to help you out, CNN.

Here are some other headlines you may consider. I used fictional names to protect the innocent. 

Election results: Mary-Mary Contrary new POTUS, has Excellent Lipid Panel

New Head at Pain Capital Has E. D., Plans to Work Through Treatment

German PM Reports No Cavities

Gray-Haired Grandfather, Still Continent, to Head Drug Giant Pillslinger

Brit M15 Top Agent has Exemplary Digestion, Credits Fiber

“My Small Pores Hereditary,” Claims Florida Governor

Chief of Canadian Mounted Police Lactose Intolerant, Gives up Cheddar

Each of these events seemed at least as newsworthy as CNN’s headline about Mayer’s pregnancy.  Come on, CNN. In what universe did a headline about a woman taking a CEO job of a major corporation need to include information about a baby in her uterus?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Age of Discrimination-- or We'll All Look Old on Facebook One Day

I used to love watching Ann Curry on the Today Show on the rare occasions I had to watch a little morning, mid-week TV. Smart, witty, self-deprecating, she has an unspoiled quality even after years in front of a camera. I grew to love her sincerity.

I even loved her perceived flaws-- she occasionally stutters, and since I do, too, I found that deviation from perfection endearing. She sometimes got emotional, but reporting on some of the horrendous stories that make up the news, her wet eyes and cracking voice seemed to me to show heart, not weakness. Ann is the opposite of a plastic, highlighted blonde, interchangeable news anchor.

I’m allowed to say that, because I’m blonde, by the way.

Now that Ann has been busted back to the infantry, or whatever you call her dismissal from the Today Show anchor position, I look at the younger women on the show with sadness and a bit of dread. Savannah Guthrie, Ann’s perky replacement, is 40 years old (she looks 30 to me!), to Ann’s 55. Savannah is smart, a lawyer, and looks great in the de rigueur sheath dress. Natalie Morales, 40, is the news reader, wearing her own sleek sheath. Ann can rock a sheath, too, no doubt. Looking great in a sheath is, after all, imperative—buckets of brains and charm are no substitute.

I have nothing against Savannah and Natalie, but they do seem a tad giddy that they are the heirs to Ann’s years of hard work.   

I don’t want to believe that Ann was fired because of her age. But I am beyond certain that this was the case. Even though Ann is a beautiful woman, she is in mid-life, in an industry where mid-life women are few and far between. Of the very few mid-life female news anchors, the vast majority conform to America’s skewed ideas of beauty. Most look like they spend countless hours in the gym, and eat only arugula. Gray hair is practically unheard of for on-camera female reporters.

Matt Lauer, at 54, is allowed to age. He is balding, and his hair is naturally salt and pepper gray. He does stay in shape, but that may be more to keep up with his wife, a former model, than to retain his job. Al Roker also is permitted to show his age, 57, has had very public battles with his weight, but his position seems secure.

Most of us will never be in contention for a job on the Today Show. So we can relax about age or other hiring biases, right? Not exactly.

Consider the influence social media is beginning to have on the way we, the masses, get our next gigs.
The Brave New World of social media is about to bite us where it hurts.

Apparently, paper resumes are on the way out. Employers will soon use social media to peruse prospective employees. While I use and abuse social media daily, I was appalled to realize that an employer would see what I look like before reading my <cough> outstanding resume credentials.

Anyone looking at my photo will see not only am I middle-aged, but my BMI is on the high side. They’ll see my race, my hairstyle, my lack of fashion sense, or that I remind them of their mother-in-law, and can then discriminate against me for any or all of those reasons.

My friend Melissa argued, well, discrimination can happen at any point in the hiring process—that even if an employer calls me in not knowing my age, once I’m interviewed the hiring manager can at that point discriminate against me. Melissa has a valid point, but my meager hope was at least some employers may show a measure of caution at repeatedly discriminating against prospective employees who’ve made it to the interview process-- if only for fear of a lawsuit. That was my tiny shred of optimism to cling to, and it admittedly isn’t much. Now that employers can plainly see that I’ve had one Krispy Kreme too many, what is left?

Perhaps you, like me, have friends over 45 who are job hunting, and hunting. The employment search once the chill winds of mid-life begin to blow can seem like pushing a boulder over Pike’s Peak in winter. If I were to lose my job, I shudder to think how hard finding another in my field would be.

Ann Curry still has a job. They left her with a few crumbs. She will be a roving reporter on “special assignments.” By chance, I saw her last day on the job. Why is Ann crying, I wondered, listening to her say goodbye. She apologized to her fans for not being able to “go the distance.” Don’t apologize, Ann. Some events are worth crying about. I would have cried too. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Through Menopausal Eyes: Lessons from the Wizard of Oz

How does The Wizard of Oz remind me of menopause?

Watching the 1939 film with 16 year-old Judy Garland through menopausal eyes—the only way I see these days—I reflect on the alien world Dorothy finds herself in.

She’s not in Kansas anymore, and neither am I.  Someone has died, in Dorothy’s case the Wicked Witch of the West, flattened under a farmhouse.

Some days I feel as though my old self has died, the weight of a house collapsing on my head. Some days I feel like I’M the wicked witch, times 10.

Dorothy is growing and changing. She will never be the same after Oz, and I am going through my own emotional evolution/revolution, one that I didn’t surely didn’t anticipate. No way will I be quite the same after weathering this twister.

Watching TWOO this time, I focus on Dorothy’s bravery. Plunked down in a land where she knows no one, told to walk to a faraway wizard for help, she doesn’t hesitate. She starts down the yellow-brick road, all alone, with only Toto for company.  How very strong is that? I want to emulate her fearlessness.

She meets those wonderful friends along the way: the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion. They are seekers, like her, and I’ve met friends on my meno journey without whom I’d have little hope of making it to the other side of this emotional storm. Friends are a main ingredient in the prescription for menopause survival.

Dorothy already has the brain, heart, and courage that her friends seek. I have these too, although many days they seem to have shrunk to the size of the grains of sand in the witch’s hourglass.

What about that hourglass? Dorothy watches the grains trickle down what she believes may be the last minutes of her life. This passage of life and my upcoming 55th birthday reminds me of my mortality, prodding me to set priorities with a sense of urgency I may have lacked previously.

It’s time for me to pay attention—to do what I have been putting off—to take risks. To write the book I’ve been mulling over for years, for Pete’s sake. To save up for the trip to Italy, a dollar at a time if that’s the only way.

I can’t wait around for the Good Witch Glenda in a sparkly gown and magic wand to point me in a new direction. 

I’ve got to get going, on my way, to the new land. Whether the road is through Oz or Kansas, I don’t know.

But here goes.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Not a Mama at Menopause

Apparently I have some “inner work” to do. Lately my brain is whirling like an Oklahoma twister. Lots of debris swirling around, transforming, shifting the old ideas about who I am.

Scary stuff, sometimes, but apparently necessary. A new phase of life has been forced upon me, whether I like it or not.

Now that I have officially passed the ability to have children without having any children, I am second guessing my childfree life.

I did not see this little “gift” of the Big M. coming, but here I am, feeling a bit bereft.

For the most part, I am content that birthing and rearing a child has not been part of my life. Of all the many reasons, (some under my control and some not) why I am not a mother, perhaps the strongest reason is that I don’t have much of a mother-instinct.

Not every woman has a strong mother-instinct. To put it mildly, this isn’t a popular sentiment to voice. I like babies and children; I never had a strong urge to have one of my own. This may seem bizarre and unnatural, but I always kind of smugly congratulated myself for realizing this lack of motherly feelings and then not fighting against these feelings and having kids anyway.

There were sweet moments when I enjoyed cuddling other people’s babies, truly marveling at the mysteries of birth. But when I handed the babies back, I was fairly happy to do so. Some women have an almost unbearable urge to have children, and motherhood is the fulfillment of a dream for them. They are meant to mother.

I respect that mothering need enormously, even if my childlessness has made me an outsider to a lot of what is central to most women’s lives. Childlessness makes me a bit defensive, too, as if I need to justify why I’m childless, or explain that I’m not evil, or emotionless because I’m not a mother.

For instance, I feel obliged to note that by teaching college students, I have had a turn at being a mother figure. Our student population here is a vulnerable one that often needs a shoulder to cry on, parental advice and motherly encouragement. There’s more than the typical amount of tears, tragedy, and trauma on this campus in a military community.

Maybe this is the mothering I was meant to do? Maybe if I had children of my own, I wouldn’t have as much energy to give to these students who do really need me, although I know plenty of teaching mothers who also boundlessly love their students.

I have had a fulfilling ten years giving myself to my students, and they have given back to me, too. Maybe I can be okay, knowing that I have loved these students, some who did not have loving biological parents to sustain them.

This does not change the revelation that I do have some grieving to get through, now that the door to motherhood is closed.

Even though I am still mostly content with an official end to my fertility, I have some truly unexpected, startling, sadness. I felt confident that I had already worked through my feelings about not being a mother prior to the final knell menopause brought to my fertility.

In reading about menopause, especially Magnolia Miller’s wonderful The Perimenopause Blog, I’ve found that grieving associated with this time of life is not unusual, whether one is a mother or not. Magnolia says we must acknowledge we are “mourning a loss" and "coming to terms with a new life on the other side of that loss.”

But the feeling of permanent loss, of no chance of a do-over, of not ever having the photogenic kind of family life that dominates social media, tv, and magazines does sting. Facebook, in particular, is soul-sucking for the childless woman. Some non-moms have deleted their Facebook accounts after it became too painful to look at other people's babies and children.

Even when we are savvy enough to realize that Facebook is mostly how people want to present their lives under best case scenario conditions, we still tend to buy into the seeming perfection. How can my childless life measure up?  Because that photo-shopped gourmet meal at the rustic table with the clean, smiling children, Dad carving the turkey, that's what family life is really like, right? At least some of the time.

I do grieve what I have missed and will never have, and I need others to understand that they can make me feel like an alien
Unfortunately, my grieving won’t be rushed, no matter how much I want to shake it off and move on to this new life ahead of me.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

We're Going Indie-- This Includes You!

Something creative is in the wind with my indie family and friends. Something freeing, liberating.

I must pause and think about it, since I’m swept up in it, too.

My brother John is making an independent horror movie, F.U.B.A.R., in Michigan.

My nephew Will, in San Antonio, is making an independent kids movie, Fields Afire.

My friend R.K. Ryals is pumping out indie novels faster than I can edit them.

A little over a year ago, I leaped out in to the great independent blogging universe, where I’ve made friends with an incredibly inspired, intelligent, and literally award-winning group of bloggers. They’ve rocked my world.

We’re independent.  Hey, yo.

We’re taking it to the streets!

We’re not waiting for the man with the checkbook to tell us it’s okay to make movies, to write books, to blog our thoughts out to the great universe. 

We’re not waiting for the agent to call. We’re not waiting to be discovered. 

We’re discovering ourselves.

Exciting? Hell, yes.

New frontier. We’re at the beginning of a revolution in creativity and its distribution.

Where is it all leading? Who the heck knows?

Listen up y’all. It’ll be the ride of our lives.

This is getting good. Really, really good.

Polish up your crystal ball and tell me what you see coming.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Small, Small World

Do you have a small world story? Most of us do. Today the husband and I took a drive, looking at houses for sale. Many of you may recall that we have our albatross/McMansion with its king-sized mortgage on the market. 

No, it hasn’t sold, but local home sales seem to be taking a slight! turn for the better. So we were doing a bit of dreaming as we drove around the area, checking for a Tiny-Baby-Pseudo-Mansion. What a relief it will be to finally sell and downsize. 

A cute little house caught our eye. I had seen it online and knew it was a vacant foreclosure. We boldly pulled in the driveway to get a closer look. We were enchanted by the live oak trees, and just had to take a walk around the house to check out the sweet shady back yard.

It’s okay, don’t panic. It was a bright afternoon, and we weren’t carrying crowbars.  Here in the South if you’re middle-aged, wear glasses, have recently had a shower, and drive a minivan, people don’t generally call the cops on you for walking around a house with a for sale sign.

The retired neighbor man next door was out mulching his azaleas. He met us at the fence and we chatted about the house. It turned out that we all were originally from the same area in another part of our state, the Outer Banks. We knew a lot of the same people, and were practically related. We talked for an hour over the chain link fence, and when we parted, he kindly said he hoped we’d be his new neighbors.

What’s more, he told us the neighbor lady’s name on the other side of the little house. Hubs and I stared at each other, eyes wide. We knew her parents from the old hometown, hundreds of miles away.

Is that just a little freaky? Or is it truly a small, small world?

What’s your small world story?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quitting the Q: Goodbye, Home Shopping

I’m coming out of the closet as a former viewer of QVC. Sadly, I can’t stomach it anymore. Yes, the astronomical prices of gold and silver have taken a little zest from my life. Goodbye, QVC.

For those of you who are sane, reasonable people who don’t watch television shopping, QVC is the biggest shopping network. On TV for over 20 years now, the company got its hold over cuckoo Americans like me by hawking gold and silver jewelry. Oh, and of course cubic zirconias, the diamond look-alikes that once sparkled in my ears.

Like many, I was turned on to the gateway drug of QVC by a girlfriend wearing a pretty gold ring. It was back about 1990 when she shyly told me she’d purchased it from TV. From TV! I was shocked, amazed, and I admit it, titillated. I wanted a pretty gold ring, too, by golly, and soon I had one. Set with pretty peridots and juicy-colored amethysts.

Oh, I was hooked.

I was living alone at that time, lonely and bored. The QVC “hosts” as they’re called, talked to me as if I was one of the girls. They worked to create “relationships” with viewers, and after all, there’s a 30 day unconditional money-back guarantee! They were there for my viewing pleasure, 24-7, always perky, showing me shiny stuff. I do like shiny stuff. Oh, those were heady years, way back before the internet, you sweet youngsters.

Only my cautious nature about spending money saved me from certain ruin. I liked gold, but after all, it was $200.00 an ounce! So I limited myself to one or two gold items a year (or every other year), and a sprinkling of sterling silver and gems here and there. I even tried a few of the cubic zirconias, but only if they were small enough to be possibly be mistaken for “real.” Oh, I was sly.

But then came the rise, seemingly overnight, in gold prices. QVC executives could not have imagined what nearly $2,000 an ounce gold would do to their programing, once so heavy with gold jewelry shows. 

Bracelets that once sold for $200.00 on their network now priced at a staggering $1,000 retail. Even sterling jewelry pieces today commonly go for over $100.00, a price that impulse buyers (is there any other kind of buyer for TV shopping?) found harder to justify.

What was a shopping channel to do? The Q started pushing designer handbags, such as Dooney and Bourke, pricey cosmetics from Philosophy and Bare Minerals, costume jewelry by Joan Rivers and Nolan Miller, fashions by Bob Mackie and Issac Mizrahi.

Eh. I tried a few cosmetics, but it just wasn’t the same rush.

What broke me of television shopping once and for all were the vacuum cleaners. When the best my on-air buddies could do was try to strong-arm me into buying a Dyson or an Oreck, I knew we were through.

A vacuum cleaner does not make my selfish, materialistic heart flutter like a 14 kt. gold bauble. No. Not nearly shiny enough. Maybe they could try embedding some cubic zirconias in the vac handles? Maybe not. 


Goodbye, QVC. It was fun while it lasted. Yet another former guilty pleasure gone. Sob.

P.S. I sold a pile of my old jewelry recently, and you know what? I wish I had bought more back in 1990. If only I had loaded up on the stuff, I’d be able to finance a Mediterranean cruise on the proceeds. Who’d a thunk my dirty little secret buying habits would have proved so profitable? I’m still astonished.

You’ll never get that kind of return on a pet-hair attachment super-suction vac.

Friday, May 11, 2012

End of Semester: Knocked-out (Knock-out roses)

Survived another semester. I love you, my readers. I shall live to blog another day, but for now, rest and recovery is needed. Summer semester begins in less than a week.
Happy Mother's Day and Happy Spring to all!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

My "Ashley Judd" Moment: 34AAA and Saggy?

Ashley Judd, 44,  was in the news recently for her eloquent rebuttal after negative comments made about her face being "puffy" in a photo and some media people assuming she’d had “work done” or was “letting herself go.”

She asked women to share one of the moments when they were shamed about their appearance.

The first moment that came to mind was when I was 23. Yes, 23. I worked as a sous chef in a non-air conditioned restaurant kitchen in the American South. Hot!

It was the 1980’s and the style in the tiny, supremely casual beach resort town where I lived was for younger women to go braless, if they so desired. It was a bit of a hippie thing, and not at all unusual or remarkable. For me, a bra was more than a bit unnecessary.

I was well aware that most people thought I was flat-chested. That’s how I thought of myself, too, and sometimes it really bothered me. For the most part I had learned to accept that my breasts did not align with the view that bigger was better. But I had other things to worry about, and the size of my 34 AAA breasts was getting less important to me every year.

So there I was, well-covered in a cotton t-shirt, braless, reasonably confident about myself, sweating my ass off working in a broiling hot and humid kitchen. A young man, Tim, age 19 and a dishwasher, took a look at my t-shirt one day and made a hand gesture across his chest while uncharacteristically scowling. Tim and I were friendly acquaintances, although he ran with a different and younger crowd than me, the old lady of twenty-three.

I didn’t understand what his gesture meant, so I smiled and asked him what he was trying to say.
“They’re saggy. You really should wear a bra.”

Oh, yeah, he did.

“Are you kidding me?” was the only retort I managed to sputter.

Red-faced, disbelieving, stunned, stung, shamed at the criticism, invaded, humiliated, and self-conscious in a way that only a woman who has had her breasts publicly evaluated without asking for it can understand, I went to the other side of the kitchen and finished my shift under a pall of embarrassment.

Even today, I want to deny the charge of saggy breasts, even though whether they were or were not saggy does not truly even matter. It was the idea that someone else thought it appropriate to look closely at my breasts, evaluate them, and then pass that evaluation on to me in the form of unsolicited advice. That does matter, that Tim thought my breasts were ANY of his business.

Would I feel differently if he had said, “Nice rack!”?  

Honestly, yes, my indignity would have a different feeling, more like the all too familiar reaction most females are acquainted with-- unwanted sexual attention. That he was criticizing me for part of my body, one of the quintessentially “female” parts, is partly why this memory has stayed with me so long. He was telling me I was flawed.

Even though Ashley Judd was criticized for her face, an arguably slightly less embarrassing feature to have scrutinized, this experience from over 30 years ago was what immediately popped into my head when she asked other women to tell their moment.

My moment was in 1981. Ashley Judd’s was in 2012. Is anyone else as utterly sick of it and as ready for change as I am? Pervasive negativity about women and their looks has got to stop.

One way we can promote change is to avoid casual negative comments about a woman’s appearance, no matter whether we "like" the woman or not. JUST DON’T DO IT. I’ll be the first to admit that this is not as easy as it sounds, but I’m re-committing myself to this goal.

Will you join me in making an effort to change the way we talk about women?

Feel free to tell your “Ashley Judd” moment below.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Stalking Steve, My "Primal Grill" Crush

The recent alleged stalking of Alec Baldwin got me thinking. Uh-oh.  Very dangereuse, me, thinking.

Alec Baldwin? Pphht. Come on.

If I were a stalker, I could do waayyy better than Alec Baldwin. Geeze Louise with squeeze cheese on top.

If I were a stalker, I would stalk Steve Raichlen. (Note to FBI: this is completely hypothetical and represents no intent to commit an illegal act.)

Yes, the award winning Barbeque University founder and Primal Grill cooking show guy. Wrote the best sellers The Barbeque Bible and How to Grill along with 26 other books.  Trained in Paris at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools.

Now, with Steve we have some serious stalking potential. He grills. He travels the world. He’s handsome, smart, and he GRILLS.

Have you seen his TV show, Primal Grill, on PBS? The man has at least three barbecues full of food going at once, with a few more smoking in the background for ambience. Hubba-hubba.  

He grills with gas, charcoal, hickory wood, apple wood, rotisserie style, in a brick oven, with skewers, on rosemary twigs, with rubs, marinades, brines, AND he always cleans his grill both before AND after cooking.

This is a man a girl can pin her midlife daydreams on. Hmmn. Would it be completely sexist to add him as a Pin on Pinterest? What category? For the home?

I assure you, my affection for Steve is not mere lust. No, these are feelings not only of attraction but of genuine admiration.

He’s perhaps the foremost authority on grilling habits of cultures around the globe. He’s the kind of smart that I find, well, sexy. He’s absolutely brainy. He had a Fulbright scholarship, for Pete’s sake.

He projects an air of calm, even when the game hens flare up. He never panics; he is fearless at the Weber kettle. He voice is strong, slow, and quietly confident.  In fact, Primal Grill is on in the background as I write.

He just said “What really turns me on…” and my breath caught in my throat. “Is finding a barbeque recipe that exists nowhere else in the world,” in that silky, smooth voice of his.

Now he’s wrapping a Columbian-style beef tenderloin Lomo al Trapo in a cloth with salt crust enlivened by a mix of herbs. He’s tying it up with string; his hands are masterful and dexterous. Oh, Steve has mad skills. He puts the beefy bundle in a bed of wood coals. He adds sweet potatoes, in their naked skins, to roast beside the meat. 

Just think of the anti-oxidants. 

Is anyone else feeling rather warm?

He’s wearing a natural linen button-down shirt, untucked, and his round, John Lennon glasses. Garlic-cilantro butter gets basted on the now roasted-to-perfection sweet potatoes. Steve rolls his “r” when he says “cilantro.” 

“Looks like we nailed it,” he says as he’s carving the tenderloin. “Smoky and succulent,” he adds.

Oh, Steve. Tell me more.

P.S. In case you got worried, I love my husband and he loves me! His fantasy girl is Anne Burrell, who stars on Food Network's Secrets of a Restaurant Chef. Sometimes, if I use extra hair gel, and he squints, he says I look like her! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Middle-Age: Am I There Yet?

Thanks to Bookalicious Pam for the prompt. She recently tweeted, “What is middle age?”

Wow. What IS  middle age? Am I there yet?

Looking at longevity stats for Western countries, life expectancy is roughly 80-85. Depending on sooo many factors.

So midlife begins at 40?

I did not feel middle-aged at 40. No. Forty seems young from here.

Now that I’m coming up on 55, yes, I do feel middle-aged, although as I joke in my heading, only if I live to be 108. Not counting on it.

In writing this blog over the past year, I have come to better terms with my own aging.  Despite my whining and gnashing of teeth.

A few downsides: I’m having a realllyy rough menopause, in case this is your first time here.  Holy cannoli—let’s leave it at that—I am so tired of menopause that even I, a menopause princess, am momentarily sick of talking about it.

Why does my health come to mind first of all when I consider my middle-agedom?

Health is not everything, but it is A LOT. If you have good health, little brothers and sisters, do not squander it or take it for granted.

I get migraines, have had some heart rhythm problems, and ridiculously, stubbornly high cholesterol. A few aches and pains. Not bad, all in all, but in middle-age, there can be that nagging question, even for the relatively healthy—what’s the next health problem?

As for the vanity stuff: my body has been rearranging itself, my neck is squishy, I would like to be more fit, but I can walk for an hour without tiring and climb steps easily in our three story house. My skin is paying for having spent years working outside in the southern sun. Too late to change that now.

I have a good husband who loves me, saggy bits and all. He tells me I’m pretty. He doesn’t wear his glasses much, and that is A-OK with me.  

I have a Mom who is my friend, and at 82 is in reasonably good health and I see her often. We take walks together.

I have some siblings who I love, and a few I even get along with.

I have friends. Some of my best friends I have not met in person, but that doesn’t matter.

I have a job; I like working with the community college students that I teach.

I go to church, but I am pretty private about my faith.

I have learned some life lessons that I didn’t know at forty, late bloomer and slow thinker that I am. Keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open, little grasshoppers, and you will keep learning, too.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is when to shut-up.

I’m still not sure what middle age is, Bookalicious Pam. But this, where I am now, seems like it to me. It’s a bit hard won for any of us, but it’s okay. Don’t be afraid.

You will still be you when you are middle-aged.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hope for Headaches

This post was written for the Headache Blog Carnival. Thanks to Diana Lee at for providing the prompt: how to keep hope in the face of migraine headaches. The link provides a list of other participating bloggers. 

It’s almost always there, the feeling of dread.

I have plans for the day, may have been looking forward to visiting a museum, shopping, a road trip to a nearby historic town. After all, it’s a holiday, and I have much to do. I’ll spend the day with loved ones, have a pleasant meal, maybe end the day watching a new comedy film.

Or maybe not.

As I drift out of sleep each morning, I’m already accessing my health. Do I feel a headache coming on? Even though I went to sleep feeling fine, did I let myself get too tired over the past several days, inadvertently eat a food with MSG, or change my daily routine in some small way, triggering an incipient migraine attack?

Or did I do none of the dozen things that I’ve identified as possible migraine triggers, and yet still feel that beginning of a throb, slight but deepening nausea, the morning sun blinding me with harsh light sensitivity instead of being the welcome portent of a pleasant, sunny day?

As a migraine sufferer, I have learned to de-emphasize to others the daily attention I give to the brain disease. There’s a stigma attached to being a migraine sufferer, and I go along by pretending that the possibility of a migraine doesn’t color many of my daily thoughts, plans and activities.

It’s just a headache, after all, right? And who wants to be known as the weakling who stays in bed in a darkened room for days, just because she has a headache? What kind of drama queen does that?

I wonder how it looks to others. Although I suffer much less than many migraineurs, I may spend four to five days in a row in bed several times a year, trying to sleep off a migraine. I know some people wonder what’s up, why I don’t just take a magic pill, or learn a meditation technique like their cousin did, and shake the headache off? I’ve tried to spread some knowledge about migraines to those who know me, but even specialists in the field admit that the migraine brain is incompletely understood.

Truly, when in the midst of an attack, people’s opinions matter little to me. But once I’m back on my feet, I am embarrassed at the thought that I had to call in sick to work, forgo plans, and ignore my family. The headache was in control, another four days of my life are gone, and can’t be replaced.

If I dwell on the attack that I just emerged from, I fear I’ll only bring on another attack. So I brush off concerns of my co-workers, friends, and family. I assure them that I’m fine. I’m ready to take on the world again, to venture out into the sun for a long walk, to tackle the project at work, to pretend that the dread is not always there in some degree, as hard as I work to repress it.

Sometimes if the days between migraines stretch into weeks, I dare to hope I’ve turned a corner. I get bolder yet, and hope that maybe this is the year researchers will come up with a solution that works for me and so many other migraineurs that are waiting. An effective preventative, a reliable, safe treatment, maybe even a cure.

We’re waiting for our tiny, budding hope to grow into full flower—a sunflower, one that doesn’t have to hide in a darkened room until the pain is gone.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Plum Fun

Some of my blogging buds, Virginia, Darcie, and Melissa (hi, girls!) goaded me into starting on Janet Evanovich’s series of eighteen books about a New Jersey bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum.

I’m hooked. Perhaps even addicted, with no desire to enter recovery.

Evanovich started the books back in the 90s, so she pre-dated many of the bounty hunter series on TV. Being a bounty hunter gives Stephanie many opportunities for danger, excitement, and “don’t taze me, Bro” Jersey-style fun.

To me, the series is about Stephanie, the woman, more than anything else. The plots are secondary and are just to keep my pal Stephanie busy between buying her latest used car (she tends to destroy one or more motor vehicles per book), going shoe shopping, changing her hairstyle, or deciding which of the two men in her life she’s lusting for this week.

In Seven Up, she once again leaves her gun stashed in her cookie jar at home, when she should have taken it to work. Stephanie regularly finds herself covered in goo, picking week-old spaghetti out of her hair after chasing a Failure to Appear/bond jumper through back alleys and dumpsters. Kudos to Evanovich for including inconsequential, goofy details like this to make Stephanie a girl I’d like to sit down and have a pizza with. After she showers and changes, of course.

Steph is one mixed up chick. She’s an adrenaline junkie; she regularly mooches dinner off her parents. She talks to her pet hamster, Rex. She likes the old people who live in her apartment building and knows their names. She loves New Jersey:  smog, hairspray, belligerent drivers and all.

She can’t figure out whether she should give it all up, and marry her childhood love, Joe Morelli. Should she get married, settle down, and have kids? Nah, not this week.

More Tastycakes than high literature, if you pick up a Plum escapade don’t expect to find Stephanie or her friends  pondering the meaning of life. Not going to happen. Purely escape fiction, a great beach read-- the series may be like candy, or better yet like the greasy Pino’s pizza Steph favors, but I for one need a few carbs to get me through life’s rough patches.

And life is like a slice of pizza, no?

Crunchy on the bottom, a little burnt, messy, spicy, but ultimately filling. And sometimes gives us bloat.

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.