Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Trying to understand

Sometimes a series of events seizes you, shakes you hard, bewilders you. You search for words to comfort those who have lost a loved one, but words sound hollow. Like a snake chasing its tail, your thoughts circle, with no resolution and little rest.

It started with a pet, a sweet, companionable, blue-eyed cat who was losing weight. No problem, I’ll intensify my efforts, take him back to the vet, try this, try that; I’ll nurse him back to health. 

I know how to give TLC to a cat. 

Instead, he continued to decline over weeks before my disbelieving eyes. On a Friday another trip to the vet reassured us that his blood work was okay, but over the weekend he spiraled downhill. By Monday we tearfully made the decision to end his struggle.

Helpless. I was sure I could mend him, but I was powerless to save him. Some would say he was just a cat, but when he looked into your face, there seemed to be a soul behind those eyes. I stroked him for the last time as the vet put the needle in Blue’s leg, and his big round blue eyes closed.

A friend of over 15 years, Jim, who sometimes picks up a day’s work with my husband, dug Blue’s grave while we took the kitty for his last trip to the doctor. Jim is empathetic that way, and was glad to help out.

Days later, Jim’s wife, Lillian, took her own life with a shotgun blast to her head. The scene was so awful that seasoned police officers cried. Lillian left behind children, grandchildren, and a shell-shocked husband.

Words come out of your mouth, but you know they are no comfort. Or pitifully inadequate comfort. But you say them anyway. Jim’s previous wife had died of cancer, and now this.

A few more days passed, and a neighbor, 36, went out alone on her paddleboard in the afternoon. Extremely physically fit, she somehow met with an accident. Sheriff’s deputies and another neighbor in his boat found her body floating in the creek hours later. She had drowned. A phys-ed teacher, she was a wife and a mother of two children under six-years of age.

A week passed, and a former student, Frank, who visits about once a year, stopped by to see me. He’d lost a lot of weight, and told me he had bad news. Oh, no, the cancer, I thought, knowing from his last visit that he’d had a biopsy. But the shocking news was that he had lost his wife of 35 years to a botched routine surgery at the end of June.

“It wasn’t supposed to happen like this,” he said. “I was supposed to go first. Why am I still here?”

We chatted for a while, and as we talked about religion and the possibility of life after death, Frank mentioned that he’d read Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, by Eben Alexander.

Strangely enough, I had also purchased that same title, but hadn’t worked up the courage to read it—I thought it would undoubtedly make me cry, thinking about my own lost loved ones, even if it gave me hope to think that a formerly disbelieving doctor had experienced death and returned convinced of an afterlife.

I did my best to comfort Frank—he’s a “no b.s.” kind of guy, so the normal platitudes were quickly dispensed with as we talked about death, and how a healthy woman can die with a careless slip of a surgeon’s blade for the simplest of procedures. Frank blames himself, too, for not listening when his wife said she didn’t like the doctor.

Frank has grown children and a couple of grandchildren who have rallied around and give him emotional support. I was impressed that he had come to school to tell me what had happened; it seemed to be a difficult mission he’d worked himself up to perform. Perhaps it was a station on his road of grief.

My heart ached for him in his sorrow, but after all the other recent deaths, I was also somewhat numb. My midlife wisdom, often a comfort, let me down.  My efforts to understand why all these tragedies were happening to people in our circle were futile.

Intellectually I know that difficulties do converge at times, but it’s hard not to feel broken when so many are suffering in every direction. Just like when I was trying to nurse Blue back to health, I want to make it all better, to mend the broken friends, to mend myself. I used to have much more confidence that I could make it all better. Part of the lesson here seems to be that not even a smart, capable midlife lady with all the good will and determination a woman can muster, has the power to fix broken hearts. The owner of each heart must fix his or her own. 

No one else can do the work.And it can be slow, hard, messy, lengthy work.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Giving Thanks for Students

Have I told you lately about the best part of my job as a community college teacher? No?

The students.

Thank God for the students.

This summer semester I taught a 2/3 instead of a full time load for the first time in many years, thinking that a lighter load would help with some health issues and a mild case of burnout. Instead, I learned that the lighter load still brought with it the stress of being a faculty member in the state of North Carolina.

Have you heard the news about us lately? We had a pretty good reputation in our institutions of higher education, but funding has been cut to the bone, and in some cases the bone was amputated. My persecution complex has gone into overdrive—the depth of the hatred some people have toward teachers is finally getting to me. The state legislature, along with a rampant mice and roach infestation in my moldy, windowless office building made the “lighter load” of the summer semester seem not as “light” as I’d hoped.

My morale has been in the toilet. The basement toilet.

Then today as I was scrambling to complete the long end-of-semester checklist in time to take a short break before “Fall” semester starts next week, yes, on August 13th, a student knocked on my door.

Oh, no.

In she came, in search of academic advising for Fall semester classes. The advising period had ended two weeks ago. A silent inward groan raised bile in my throat. She did not have an appointment. I did not want to take time from grading papers, posting final grades, and filling out official paperwork in quadruplicate to assist her. Usually advising for a full load of classes can take an hour, and I had hoped to be finished for the day in a hour. My head was pounding.

But I gestured to the comfy upholstered chair I brought from home to make students feel welcome in my cave of an office, and asked her how I could help. 

She sat. Caroline is in her sixties, African American, a pretty lady with high cheekbones and a self-effacing manner. While I was pulling out her file, I asked her to remind me what her major was.

“What do I want to be when I grow up? I don’t know. I really don’t know why I’m even taking classes. I guess I just want to improve myself.” She chuckled lightly.

We talked a bit about the differences between an Associate of Arts and an Associate of Science degree, and Caroline said she wasn’t sure if she would be seeking a degree, but she wanted to keep taking classes.

“I take care of my mother and my nephew,” she said, “so I don’t have a lot of time for my studies.”

“Oh, I take care of my mom, too,” I piped in. “She still lives on her own, but I try to help her out with groceries and doctors’ appointments.”

“My mom has dementia,” Caroline said, so softly I could barely hear her.

Oh, damn.

“Taking classes helps me to get out of the house for a little bit, and think about something else besides my own troubles. Being around the younger people helps me. They’re fun to be with. I need to take an 8:00 class, though, so I can get back home to take care of Mom.” She smiled.

She had taken a developmental math course over the summer semester, and wanted to continue with the next math course in her sequence.

That was it—she only wanted to take the one class.

“That’s all I have time for, but I want to keep taking classes. I don’t know where it will lead me, but I want to keep using my brain.” Courage, I thought, and tenacity. Sacrifice. Strength.

We filled out her registration form, chatted for a few more minutes, and shook hands. She left my office to stand in line at the registrar's for her fall class.

Yes, it’s the students that are the best part of my job. Thank God for the students.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Wick my (sweaty) troubles away: Cool-jams to the rescue!

Companies are not showering me with free stuff. That’s okay, I’m not hurt. Pass the vodka, please.

So when Cool-jams sleepwear contacted me inquiring if I wanted to try a nightgown—for FREE and review it on my blog—I jumped up and down and did the happy dance. 

Yes, I am occasionally that shallow. I like pretty things, so sue me. And hey, the idea that a company knew my blog existed and wanted me to test drive their product was a stroke to my wild and hungry ego. Come on, those of you who are regular readers know that I do not normally endorse products, and I’ve been blogging for 3 years.

Even though I had decided long ago that my blog was not going to be a source of filthy lucre, that my motives were of a higher, more pure cause than mere pecuniary rewards could hope to match, (ha-ha) I snatched at the chance of a new nightgown and a better night’s sleep. Yep, I snatched that nightgown faster than a duck on a June bug.

The ugly truth is that since the tendrils of perimenopause first began twining around my fair neck, yay, those many years ago, I have sweated EVERY night. I was 35 when I first noted that sensation of mild night sweats. No biggy at the time, and I certainly didn’t associate it with the oncoming tidal wave of warmth. Believe me, sometimes ignorance truly is bliss.

As the years passed, regardless of the season, the level of air conditioning, the speed of the ceiling fan, the size of the window open to the frosty air, or the type of night clothes or covers, I … well, there is no delicate way to put this. If horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies glow, I glowed enough to light up a medium-sized city.

Sleep is elusive enough through perimenopause, menopause, and beyond, without the added discomfort of damp night clothes. Some women even find they need to get up to change their p.j.’s and sheets before they have any hope of returning to a fitful rest.

Enter Cool-jams.

However, color me skeptical. I’d heard about wicking sleepwear for years, but frankly did not believe the hype. No one I knew had tried the products. The idea that merely changing to a different fabrication of pajama would make a difference seemed ludicrous.

Raised during the years when polyester and other man-made fabrics first became mainstream, I had a built-in prejudice against poly that was hard to overcome. I couldn’t imagine that a poly fabric would be anything other than sweat-inducing, somewhat like sleeping in a plastic bag.

My lovely violet Cool-jams “Julia” gown and Cool-jams pillowcase arrived lickety-split once I agreed to test the products. I washed them both according to directions, and embarked on my nighttime adventure, still not expecting much, if any positive results.

I was wrong. Oh, so wrong.

I do not say this lightly, but Cool-jams wicking sleepwear is a game changer. I wish I had tried this product 15 years ago. I don’t know how it works; I don’t care. But when I woke up several times during the night, as is my norm, I was dry. No sweat. Nowhere. No how.


The pillowcase was an added bonus for my hot head, but the night gown was the key to making my dreams of a dry night’s sleep come true.

Cool-jams are not cheap—they run about $40-$60, sometimes less, but would make an excellent gift suggestion for those times when a baffled friend or family member asks you what you want for your birthday, holiday, or other occasion. Cool-jams do have sales; they come in a full range of sizes. I’ve had my nightgown for several months and it has washed and worn well. This product is high quality.

Normally I do not spend this much on sleepwear, but after suffering through years of night sweats, I would gladly save up my greenbacks to purchase this product. They are that good. In fact, I hate taking my gown off in the morning to put "real" clothes on. 

Test results: Cool Jams Sleepwear: 4 out of 4 stars.

Verdict: Worth the price for the comfort of sleeping dry. Don’t suffer one more night in a puddle. 
Really. If something so simple can improve the quality of our lives, we need to do it.

Cool-Jams provided me with a nightgown and pillowcase but did not otherwise pay for this review. The views expressed are my own. They also have bedding and men’s p.j.’s.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

For the Love of Old Houses

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by houses.

Mostly it was old houses, especially if they had old stuff in them.

There was a Victorian brick ruin near my elementary school; naturally, my sister and I explored it. We scared ourselves silly imagining ghostly women in long skirts. We climbed rickety, mahogany-trimmed stairs; peeling, flowery, wallpaper fluttered as we ran, giggling, startled by our own reflections in cracked window glass.

So many houses, so little time. The occasional trespass. But the houses! The stuff!

A yard sale with my parents, at a farmhouse with a detached kitchen, complete with a top- of- the-line chromed wood-burning cook stove. In a corner stood a Hoosier cabinet with a well-cared for porcelain top, though concealed under a layer of dust. How I lusted for the house, the kitchen, the woodstove, the Hoosier. Dad bought the Hoosier for $5.00. He and Mom gave it to me when I got married. I still mourn the house and the cook stove.

As a twelve year old, I read the real estate section of the newspaper regularly. At that time “urban renewal” was a new concept. Our city, in an effort to curtail the razing of historic houses, offered them for $1.00 (yes, $1.00!) to buyers who pledged to fix them up and live in them.

“Look, Mom, this one is from 1810, and it has the original wide-plank oak floors. Check out the crown moldings!” l called from the breakfast table.

Was there ever such a strange child? These houses needed to be saved, and I wanted to bring them back from the brink. Once they were gone, they were gone forever.

Mom politely read the piece, and while appreciating my interest in historic structures, threw cold water on my plans to use my babysitting money to buy a brick townhouse in the inner city. It would cost too much to fix it up, she explained, as kindly as she could.

“But, Mom, the tax credits!” Are you surprised that I later became a real estate broker? If there is such a thing as a real estate nerd, then I was one before Trump was a gleam in his daddy’s eye.

Contributing to my old house delinquency was my grandmother, Dorothy. Although we didn’t get to visit her very often, my Gran lived in an 1880 white elephant on Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire, during the 1960s.

This seemed completely typical to me. Didn’t everyone’s granny operate a “guest house?” A guest house was an early version of the bed and breakfast, without the breakfast. Gran and her husband catered to city folk escaping the heat of the summer, and skiers looking for bargain accommodations in the winter. The house had nine guest rooms that, gulp, shared one hall bath. Times have changed, eh?

Gran married her third husband, Bert Sawyer, in 1960, having met him while staying at the guest house he ran on the lakeshore. He was much older; she was a hard worker, with a resume as a fine cook and housekeeper for the wealthy.

Bert was always kind to me, his odd, house-obsessed step-granddaughter. I shyly returned his affection, and then fell head-over-heels in love… with his house, his basement, his attics, his barn, his numerous and varied outbuildings, his boathouse, his tenant houses, and his boat dock. Yes, dear Bert was house poor, but that was not a concept I had yet learned in my study of the real estate pages. The upkeep--think of it! Merely keeping a coat of paint on the structures would have been expensive and exhausting.

The Sawyer House, as it was known, was full, from basement to attics, with the accumulation of over eighty years of Bert’s collecting and ingrained New England thriftiness. Very little had been thrown out. In the basement, a dirt-floored room was full of salt-glazed earthenware crocks of every size, shape, design, and description. The hulking coal-furnace had been converted to oil, and cost “the earth” to run each winter, so Gran said. Closets in the house were stuffed with 1920s raccoon coats, tattered flapper dresses, galoshes with rusty metal buckles, ladies’ hat boxes, skis, and ice skates in every size for those long winters.

The house attic boasted a buffalo hide, trunks full of old linens, dusty rugs. Books were everywhere; for a bookworm like me, it was heaven, even if some of the books were a bit musty. The barn attic was accessed by one of my favorite features—a cast iron spiral staircase! I swooned over that stair, imagining that one day I would have a cast iron spiral staircase in my own house, somehow, someway. The barn basement was brightly lit by many mullions and smelled of sweet hay, even though the chickens, cows, and horses were long gone. I pictured the barn cellar converted to an artist’s studio, with the eastern light bouncing in off Lake Sunapee, and grownup me, in a smock, standing at my easel.

Gran showed me old platters, feathered with age, taught me what “flow blue” china was, told me the romantic legend that goes along with the Blue Willow plates, and instructed me that fine crystal made a  musical “ping” when flicked with a finger. Her domain, the sunny, high-ceilinged kitchen, ran the full width of the house. The brightly windowed butler’s pantry with its tomato-red pots of geraniums faced west. On the sun porch, I napped on the ratty bench seat removed from an old Chevrolet.

Crackled cobalt blue vases and ruby glass pitchers gleamed in the window over the broad front stairs that wound up from the large foyer. Pocket doors led to parlors with faded upholstered furniture. Bert let me rummage in the cubbies of his roll-top desk. When I found a turquoise ring, he insisted I have it as a keepsake. I have treasured it all these years, and will never forget his unfailing kindness to a gangly girl.

We were sad when gentle Bert passed away in 1970. Gran sold the house to settle the estate with Bert’s grown daughters. We kept a precious few items as mementos. I asked Mother if she could buy the house for Gran and us. She explained that Dad’s job wasn’t in Sunapee, the old house took a lot of money to maintain, and that it wasn’t practical. It just wasn’t in the budget. The Sawyer House and contents sold for $30,000.

I can’t resist looking at old houses, and dreaming. Sites like,, and various preservation society’s web pages are my regular haunts. I imagine the people who lived in old homes in years past, and the ones who might move in and keep the houses alive in the future.

In fact, there’s a ramshackle ship captain’s house from the 1700s not too far from here that overlooks a saltwater creek. The floor is totally rotted away, but the ceiling beams are heart pine… just imagine what those beams have seen.

The houses, the stuff, and the stories will always hold me captive.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Me, teach? No way!

One of the routine questions I ask my college English classes is, “Who plans to be a teacher?”

I laughingly tell those who raise their hands that they can be my “special helpers.” It’s useful to have students at the ready to hand out copies, record lists when we brainstorm, put out the lights when we use the projector. 

Yes, even some tough, abundantly tattooed,  facially pierced college students want to be the teacher’s special helpers. Especially if there is a whiff of extra credit in the air.

This year has been different.

This semester, for the first time, when I asked about future teachers… not one student raised her hand. In any of my classes.

“But who is going to teach the children?” I asked, lightly. Were the future teachers too shy to declare themselves?

Now that I have repeated the question several times over the course of many weeks, I’m starting to worry.

When I asked for a bit more information about why students aren’t considering the teaching profession, first the incredulous stares spoke volumes. A girl in the front row, a smart student, a hard worker, pulled back from me as if I was contagious. A male student in back looked me over as if I was promoting a bizarre religious cult.

A woman in the second row stammered, “Bbbut Ms. Bruce—teachers don’t make enough money! I have two kids!”

A 35 year-old male Marine Corps combat veteran spat, “Teach? No way! I don’t think they’d appreciate the discipline I would want to give!”

That got a round of chuckles.

“My high school was awful—most of the teachers could care less if we learned anything. All they cared about were the EOG’s” (end of grade tests).

“Yeah, my little sister failed her last EOG’s and they pushed her on to the next grade anyway. That was stupid. She wasn’t ready to be promoted.”

“No Child Left Behind ruined everything. My mom’s a teacher and she said she’d kill me if I ever decided to teach. She’s counting the days to retirement.”

“But many of you have children!” I said. “Aren’t you worried about who is going to teach them?”

“Heck, yes, I’m worried,” said a 30 year-old mother of twins. “But it won’t be me. I don’t need that kind of abuse.”

A friend and fellow blogger who works at a school in California recently vented her frustration. “Most of the teachers are 'retired,' but the worst of it is… they are still 'working' in the classroom. They show up in body, but expend the bare minimum energy to teach.”

I’m certainly not trying to indict my fellow educators. I’m on the same team! They often have a thankless job. Many of them are doing the best they can. No one got into teaching to be rich or famous. But at least there used to be the prospect of a modicum of respect from students, parents, administrators, the local community and even by elected officials. Teachers were not seen as leeches on the system, adversaries to “balanced budgets.”

For some teachers, the grind year after year with little or no support from administration or parents, turned once enthusiastic new teachers into burned-out shells. The dropout rate for new teachers is sky-high.

Nowadays, even college students who I see excited about learning and are enjoying our class, wouldn’t dream of teaching as their profession. I’m running out of time to try to change their minds.

Who is going to teach the children? Does anyone know?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Everyone Comes from an Old Family

My last post, Memories of Arcadia, told a bit about my adventures in family tree research. In its original form, the post was much longer as I mused on tangents related to genealogy. Those tangents need saying, sayeth me.

Like this post title says, everyone comes from an “old family.” I get a big kick out of TV shows or movies where some duke or duchess, in referring to another member of the aristocracy, notes something along the lines of “She comes from a very old family in Devon.”

As if all the families in Devon are not old. This is silly. We all come from scallywags, princes, and paupers. Thieves, chiefs, stable hands, empresses. Priests, healers, zealots, idiots, ne’er do wells, geniuses, farmers, city dwellers, conquerors, conquered, enslaved, free people.

Most of all, we come from survivors.

My search through some of the branches of my father’s family went easily, thanks to distant cousins who had already done much of the work back to about 1640 and posted it online. Another break in my favor was the county in Virginia where these ancestors lived for so many years has existing, continuous court records. Just to have court records is unusual with the perils of fire, floods, or other disasters.

Then too, this part of the family didn’t move West, but remained “sticks” in the Virginia “mud” to this day. Finding the genealogical information owes little to my research skills and more to luck. Other branches of the family are proving much more difficult or impossible to trace.

As I pointed out in “Memories of Arcadia,” my forefather Richard came to this country under a cloud, and quite possibly was an indentured servant. My foremother Dorothy certainly was indentured, since Richard had to purchase her freedom. Richard did amass some property by the sweat of his labors, but he was no aristocrat. He was a farmer, just like some of your ancestors undoubtedly were, whether in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, South America or all of the above. Just because I have an inkling of part of my bloodline in no way means my family is older or better than anyone else’s.

Looking at how our family tree is connected to so many other family trees was a little dizzying. Finally I realized something you probably already knew (hey, I’m not as brainy as I appear)—we don’t have to search back many generations to see that we are all related.

Yep, all of us.

So love us, like us, hate us, or don’t give a hoot—we are all connected. We’re all in this together. 

Pablo Casals, the famous cellist, said "We ought to think that we are one of the leaves of a tree, and the tree is all humanity. We cannot live without the others, without the tree."

I think grandfather Richard and grandmother Dorothy would agree.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Memories of Arcadia

I’ve been digging around the roots of the family tree, and discovered an ancestor from the 1640s in Virginia who had a wee farm. Of 2,000 acres. Don’t get too excited—he probably came over as an indentured servant, and a lot of the farm was marshy—more sea than land. We aren’t talking royalty here-- He was a tobacco and sustenance farmer. Aside from farming, he must have loved the sea, since he dwelt within sight of it until the end of his days.

His name was Richard, and he had three wives over his long life. Wife one was Dorothy, definitely an indentured servant, according to the records. How desperate was an Englishwoman like Dorothy, to indenture herself to live in the dangerous, god-forsaken colony that was Virginia? Richard agreed to buy her freedom from another planter, by “replacing” her with a servant from the group due to arrive on the next ship. She gave him the son from whom I am descended.

The next wife was Ruth. She was a pistol, and Richard must have loved her to put up with her wild ways. Ruth was convicted of fornication, and had two sons “from the other side of the blanket.” Richard stood by her and got along so well with the two illegitimate sons they eventually took Richard’s surname. Now that’s being broadminded, all the way around, for the 17th century or any other time.

Wife three was Elizabeth, a much younger woman, who was with him to his death. Richard referred to her in his will as his loving wife, leaving her a life estate on his farm. The will mentions distribution of the acreage, cows, sheep, horses, tobacco, bedsteads, and a few other basic, household goods among the five children. Not a bad estate for a man who had arrived in the New World with nothing and did not own slaves.

In those days, conditions in Virginia were so harsh, that many, especially indentured servants, did not survive their first two years in the colony. The first year, called the “seasoning,” would have included scorching, blistering heat, followed by an icy winter, when water drawn in buckets for the livestock was frozen by morning. Clouds of biting insects, diseases, back-breaking work, crop-failure, and scant food for many years was the lot of most colonists. Setting traps for game, netting fish, eating venison, turtle, wild duck, geese, and mud-hens, and glad to get them.

Richard, who’d been converted to membership in the Society of Friends by an itinerant preacher, noted in his will that he was departing this life with much more than he deserved. He committed his soul to God, his body to Mother Earth. I can find no known remnant of his dwelling place or his grave. Much of the land is still under cultivation, right down to the marshy edge of Gargathy Bay, with its outlet to the Atlantic Ocean.

The place names from Richard’s day fascinate me. The creek near his homestead he’d named “Long Love Branch.” The plantation--no, not Tara—it was probably originally one room and a dirt floor-- was called “Arcadia,” a reference to a district in ancient Greece, a symbolic, lost, rural place of innocent bliss, as the dictionary tells me. A school near the site of his farm bears the name Arcadia to this day.

You may have heard a Latin expression:

Et in Arcadia ego.

Roughly translated, it means “I too lived in Arcadia,” and as an inscription on a grave marker meant the departed one had also enjoyed the metaphorical pleasures of an idyllic place, his own personal Arcadia.

I too lived in Arcadia.

Learning about Arcadia, Richard’s farm, explains a lot to me. In high school my group of friends joked a lot about running away to live on an island. I was the one who actually did, when I slipped off to live for 15 years on Ocracoke Island, on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. I worked as a commercial fisherman for years, and I’m sure that Richard took what fish, clams, crabs, and oysters he could from the teeming waters near the farm. Although I have never raised enough food to sustain me, I’ve dabbled in gardening, dirt under my fingernails, since I was a child. I have had a compulsion to plant flowers, herbs, and vegetables, even when I lived on sandy Ocracoke.

My years on the remote island were often idyllic, although not without struggles and heartbreak. Yet, there I was free. The simple kind of free that comes from not owning much, having few bills, being able to walk to work or the grocery store, futzing around in a garden, having a few books and the time to read them.

So when I discovered Richard's Arcadia, I was not entirely surprised. Not to get all New Age-y, I believe some of us have a genetic memory that may affect our lives in ways we don’t fully understand. These memories pull on us, giving us dirty hands at the end of a summer day, calling us to live near the sea, and making our ears prick up at the sound of Canada geese flying overhead.

As their 10th generation granddaughter, Richard’s and Dorothy’s blood is present in me, even across four centuries.

Friday, February 8, 2013

When menopausal women dream...

When menopausal women dream…

1.      Donuts are a health food.

2.      Reubenesque figures are the height of hot.

3.      Employers fight over women aged 50+, offering bonuses on a sliding scale for chicks with the most gray hair.

4.      Young women dye their hair gray because it’s sexy, fashionable, and gets them faster promotions at work.

5.      Broken capillaries, age spots, wrinkles, and varicose veins become so desirable that younger people draw them on with makeup. Some have them tattooed on for that extra-sexy flair.

6.      Men attend mandatory “how to make menopausal women happy classes.” Those who earn less than a B average face exile to Mars.

7.      Washington insiders have many menopausal women on hotlines and take our sage advice on important legislative matters.

8.      Men get manopause. Suddenly, manopause and menopause are made grounds for two years of paid vacation leave.

9.      One week a year is set aside as Menopausal Appreciation Week. Women of menopausal age are feted, fed, and pampered. Respect, admiration, even jealousy are shown to the women lucky enough to be in this highly anticipated Passage.

10.   Uttering the phrase “Damn, you’re moody!” is punishable by six months of community service to the menopausal community. While wearing a sackcloth and ashes.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

S*#! Menopausal Women Say

I am going to kill him.

If I could just get some sleep, I’d have the energy to kill him.

What is this poofiness around my waist?

I’m going crazy.

Is it warm in here?

It’s so f-ing hot in here.

I am not crazy!

When did I grow these gigantic breasts?

Why are you looking at me?   
Where is my icepack?

What bullsh--!

I'm going completely drug-free through this hallowed passage. Wine, anyone?

What fresh hell is this?

When did I become invisible?

If I see one more article on vaginal dryness, someone’s gonna die.

Lovely. The vaginal gel company sent me a free sample? How did they know where I live?

Don’t Spanx come in heavy duty?

I just threw all my Spanx in the fire pit.

I dreamt that I held my boss under water until he drowned. No, it wasn't a nightmare.

I worked out every day this week, ate Paleo, and I gained two pounds.

Sometimes, I break china, just so I don’t kill anybody.

Why shouldn’t I wear shorts and a tank top to go ice skating on the pond?

I’m not crying. Have you got a tissue?

Sale on stretchy pants? I’m there.

Turn the f-ing heat down!

Turn the f-ing A/C up!

Don’t you dare touch the f-ing thermostat.

Moody? You think I’m moody?  
For lunch? I’ll have an HRT on Zoloft, hold the Zanax.

I need a new moisturizer.

I need a new drug.

I’m going to stop taking all my drugs.

Gotta go to the drugstore. My drugs are ready.

I don’t think the drugs are working!

If men got menopause, there’d be a drug for this.

Motherfu---! My sweater was on inside-out all day and no one said anything!

Stop scraping your spoon on that bowl!

Why are you breathing so loud?

I’m gonna save so much money on tampons and pregnancy tests.

If I don’t get some sleep, someone may have to die.

If men got night sweats, there’d be a cure for this.

Who invented magnifying mirrors? I'll strangle them with my bare hands.

The person who invented air conditioning? Should be made the saint of menopause.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Menstrual Math at Menopause

Officially in menopause as of October 2012, and now wondering why we don’t throw parties to mark this occasion, I’ve been doing some menstrual math.

The book, Riding Astride: The Frontier in Women’s History, by Patricia Riley Dunlap, inspired me to ponder some numbers associated with menstruation. Dunlap goes into detail explaining how women’s biology-- experiencing childbirth every two years, breastfeeding, child rearing, and menstruation-- often confined them to the home virtually until they died, most often by their forties.

Amazed that women ever had a spare minute to make the intriguing and important history that they have, and not having thought about women’s history in quite this way, I questioned the numbers related to the menstruation in my own life.

For me, my 12th birthday was the never-to-be-forgotten day of my first period. Whoopee! Little did I know about the years ahead.

The years.

Age twelve from age fifty-five is dear Lord, 43 years! Of menstruation.

Let’s let that sink in. Forty-three. Years.

I menstruated for more years than most women used to live.

My average period was seven days. That’s 3,612 days of Aunt Thelma. Let’s say I used 6 sanitary products per day on average. Now we’re at 21,672 products. Since periods and cramps went hand-in-hand for me, let’s say I used 4 aspirin or later Acetaminophen or similar per day.

Suddenly I understand why there’s a CVS or Walgreen’s on every corner with me knocking the doors down to purchase 14,448 cramp-killer pills plus all those pads and tampons. That’s not counting the icepacks for headaches, the cola to settle my stomach, the pimple cream, the salty snacks, the sweet snacks.

No, I won’t do the calculations in dollar amounts. I'm just guessing the cash would pay for an extended luxury vacation in the Mediterranean or the South Pacific. With lots of fruity drinks and a massage therapist on staff. But I digress.
What do all these numbers mean?

Derned if I know.

But hey, Menstruation—I don’t miss you. Not even a little.