Playgrounds and Passages

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Playground

About twenty-five years ago, my mom described a dinner she hosted in Baltimore for Cousin Jim, visiting from Canada.

“Your brother’s children (two and three at the time) didn’t behave very well.” She paused and then said, “I think Jim is glad his own kids are grown.”

Zam! Mom’s comment really struck me (and for some reason has stayed with me).

Having grown children means you’re old (or at least it did to my thirty-year-old self).

Who wants to be old? Wouldn’t you rather deal with pesty kids than be old?

Jump back to now.

I’m walking in Gold Park on a steamy, soupy August morning. I pass the playground.

“Dad, Parker is being mean.”

“Then just play your own way,” says Parker’s dad from the bench. “Be imaginative.”

More whining.

“Colin, Parker doesn’t own the playground,” says the dad. “Go play on another piece of equipment.”

Whining encore.

“You boys just need to play separately.”

Then like a see-saw slamming to the ground, I get it.

Been there, done that.

I’m my mom. I’m Cousin Jim.

“See ya, Parker and Colin,” I say to myself as I head across the bridge for home. “I’ve invited grownups  for a beer tasting. Got to bake some cheese straws.”

 

Bridge

Old has  some advantages!

What about you? Would you like to be thirty, raising Parker and Colin, or are you content with the age you are?

Mom’s Cheese Straws

Two cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

One cup very sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Six tablespoons butter, slightly softened

Eight or so tablespoons cold water

Blend dry ingredients. Add the cheese. Slowly add water and cut in like you’re making pie crust. Roll the dough pie crust thin. Cut into strips 1/4 inch wide with a sharp knife or pastry wheel. Bake on greased cookie sheets until golden brown. These keep well.

Cheese Straws

 Disclaimer: My brother’s children turned out wonderfully, and I’m sure Parker and Colin will too!

Lifescript: Tips from Menopause Bloggers!

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Menopause Tips

Lifescript writer Susan Jara put together this collection of menopause tips and life strategies from nine bloggers, including yours truly.

Jara writes, “Often, women who have experienced it have the best tips for managing perimenopause or menopause symptoms.”

That’s for sure! Don’t miss these suggestions for dealing with painful sex, low libido, fatigue, memory loss, mood swings, early perimenopause, feeling old, self-doubt, and weight gain.

Here’s the link to the article.

Thanks to Susan Jara for the article and to Lifescript for providing plenty of excellent information on menopause in their Menopause Health center.  

Lifescript on Menopause

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ManyPaws! A Menopause Pop-up Book and a Giveaway

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Many Paws with Popups

A post by artist  and teacher Susan De Garmo:

When I was about 47 years old, I put some eggs on the stove to boil. I went downstairs to my office to grade papers and before I knew it, I heard explosions coming from my kitchen! I ran up and saw exploded boiled eggs sitting in a pan with no water. Exploding because I left them in there and totally forgot to take them out.

That year when I had my yearly check-up, I told my doctor I thought I was going crazy! I couldn’t remember the simplest things. I was starting to leak when I laughed, I sweated in bed, had hot flashes in the day, my eyesight was getting worse and my middle was spreading!

She patted my hand and told me that I was going through the change. I couldn’t believe what she was saying! At 47 years old I started getting “old.” She handed me a paperback book that she said would help me understand what my body was doing.

That night I relaxed in the tub and picked up the book and began to read. The words were sweet and delicate. “You’re still a woman even though you can’t have babies anymore.”

I couldn’t take it! I tossed it in the trash.

My doctor wouldn’t give me anything to get rid of the symptoms. “It’s perfectly normal,” she said.

So, every day became a new adventure with the symptoms of menopause. Thank God my family still loves me!

Since I couldn’t find a book that shared the in-your-face experiences of menopause and getting older with a bit of humor, I decided one day while teaching my altered book class at a local design college, I would make an altered book on the subject and it would be about my experience.

Why did I come up with that idea? It was freezing cold outside, my head was beet red, sweat was dripping down my face, and my students looked at me like I had a third eye! I just shrugged and pressed on.

I found an old book that had a by-line…the years of change. I took that book and altered it to create  ManyPaws, the Years of Change.

Each week I did a spread in the book.  Depending on what challenges I was going through, that is what I wrote about. We had a show-n-tell in the class every week to show off the work we did in our books. I showed mine to the students and there were lots of “yuck,”“my mom’s doing that,” and sometimes laughter. I wasn’t trying to appeal to them, just critiquing the pages.

At the end of the semester, we had an Altered Book Show. The students and I would have our altered books on display for the faculty, staff , family and friends. Of course, my whole experience with menopause was there for the whole world to see.

It wasn’t long before we heard laughter. Not only from the moms and older women of the college, but from their husbands!
Oh no. I was totally embarrassed, but come to find out, they liked it. The women started telling me their stories and wanted a copy for themselves or to give to their girlfriends.

So my husband and I decided to publish it ourselves and see if the book could really work the way I made it and it did! Not such a bad outcome that started with exploding eggs….in more ways than one!!

To see Susan’s cool book trailer and to purchase ManyPaws and greeting cards taken from its pages,  check out the ManyPaws website.  You can also purchase ManyPaws though this Amazon link.

Here’s the Facebook page!

Giveaway: Susan is giving a copy of ManyPaws to one lucky reader. For a chance to win, simply enter a comment by November 1 saying you’d like to be the winner. U.S. and Canada only. Thanks, Susan!

Many Paws Cover

About herself, Susan writes: 

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee.  Since I could remember, I had a crayon in my hand, coloring something. I was one of those kids who wanted to learn about anything creative. I sewed, painted, took apart things and put them back together just to see how they were made.  My curiosity always guided me to figure out how things worked.  It still does!

I graduated from Memphis College of Art in 1984 with a BFA  Advertising/ Graphics Design Degree…that was BC….before computers. I started college with two small children and a husband that traveled a lot, so you can imagine what my house looked like! Anyway, being a graphic designer I was able to work from home and be with the kids while my husband was away. I’ve designed gift cards, album covers, invitations, license plates, basically anything except wall paper and  wrapping paper.

For almost eighteen years, off and on, I taught graphic design at a design college. The students wanted me to teach them something that wasn’t on the computer, so I looked around to see what could be interesting.  I stumbled upon altered books (taking old books and making or re-purposing them into something else).

I’ve sewn and designed costumes and painted backdrops for a play, was an art director for a boys magazine, designed the house we live in, won first place from Liberty of London for a quilt I made using their fabrics. (That’s a crazy story!) I also paint!

I married an incredible guy, have two beautiful daughters, two son-in-laws and 5 grands. They are the delights of my life, especially now that they suffered through my weirdness with the “change!”

 

Susan Headshot

Downsizing: The White Elephant

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White Elephant

“I wanted to give you your first white elephant,” my mom’s kooky friend said as we unpacked the wedding present.

And she did.

We found the elephant so homely, we never put her on the wall.

But we’ve never gotten rid of her either.

“We gave her away, didn’t we?” Cliff asked at dinner a year or so ago.

“Yes, I’m pretty sure we did,” I answered.

But in our attic downsizing project this summer, we found her in a dusty corner in her original box.

It’s funny what a lot of years will do to you.

Now I see her charm. Her whimsy. And the skill it took to make her.

Cliff found the perfect spot, high above a cabinet in our downstairs bathroom. She won’t have to be a working towel rack; she can just be Elephant Queen of the Powder Room. She deserves it after how we’ve treated her for the last 37 years.

What about you? Any treasured white elephants in your life?

White Elephant!  Where did the expression come from? From real white elephants! Read it here on Wikipedia.

White elephant