Menopause, Menopause Symptoms, Mood

Pumpkin Menopause

BOO! and BOO!  and BOO!

You might think these pumpkins are men but they aren’t!  They are Pumpkin Ladies who have pulled their hair back.

And guess what?  Each one is in the middle of the Roller Coaster Ride!  You didn’t think pumpkins went through menopause?  Just ask these women:

Hi I’m Paulette, the pumpkin on the left. I am in a BAD mood even though it’s Halloween.  GRRRR. Yesterday, everything had a happy orange glow but not today!  Read my pumpkin lips, honey:  GET OUT OF MY FACE!  You go have yourself a Happy Halloween, but leave me alone.

Hi I’m Polly, the pumpkin in the middle.  Life is good!  Nothing can get me down.  I just want to grin, grin, grin.  Happy Halloween everyone!  I wish I could pop out of the screen and hug you all!  Since I can’t, I’m sending you a thousand Halloween winks!

Hi I’m Penelope, the pumpkin on the right.  I don’t know if I’m in a good mood or a bad one.  I was in a bad mood a minute ago, but now I’m in a great mood. Whoopee!  Oh wait, now I’m in a bad mood.  I could throw candy corn at the world!  Oh hold on, now I’m as happy as a witch sailing on a broomstick through the Halloween Sky.  Oh wait, did someone say witch?  Now I’m feeling itchy and witchy and bitchy.  Drats.

See!  I told you.  Pumpkins go through menopause too.

The next time menopause makes you up, or down, or up and down, remember our Pumpkin Sisters!  We are not alone.


Photo:  When I met them, these lovely pumpkin ladies told me they would be pleased to be featured on Friend for the Ride.   They are spreading the word about my new menopause blog to the rest of the Female Pumpkin WorldWelcome, new Pumpkin Readers! 

The Carver: These pumpkins were on display this year at the North Carolina State Fair.  Check out some more examples of the work of master carver Tim Trudgeon.  

Aging, Menopause


Many years ago, ladies carried pretty handkerchiefs like these.

And just a few years ago, I heard a not-so-pretty revelation at a women only dinner party.  Six ladies all fessed up to the same problem:  When they sneezed, sometimes they leaked!

So I fessed up too.

The first time this sneezing and leaking happened to me, I was shocked.  Mortified.   Horrified.


Kegels.  That’s what the websites told me to do.

So I did kegels… for a while.  But doing kegels gets old, just like ironing handkerchiefs must have gotten old since not many women carry hankies anymore.

Then I had a false alarm with pelvic floor prolapse.  Yikes!  More research informed me that kegels are key to maintaining pelvic floor stability.

So I started doing kegels again.  Lots of them.  Kegels, kegels, kegels…

And now I sneeze with confidence.

Give kegels a try!


Any other kegel stories out there?  Do fess up.

More About Kegels:  Many medical websites provide info on kegels.  Here’s a how-to guide from the Mayo Clinic.  Of course, check with your doctor whenever you have a medical concern.

Photo:  The handkerchiefs above belonged to my mom and my mother-in-law.  Google “antique” or” vintage handkerchiefs” to see more hankies of yesteryear such as these on the site of Sharon’s Antiques.

P.S.  Sorry about the creases.  I should have gotten out the iron…

Aging, Menopause, No More Periods, Periods

I Didn’t Mean to Mourn

Writer Jane Yolen graciously offered to share this poem with Friend for the Ride:

                                                  The Last Time

I didn’t mean to mourn,

I meant to laugh,

But my bloodline

Dribbled away so slowly,

So silently,

I hardly noticed it had gone.

The biological clock having long since

Stopped ticking,

There was no alarm.

Only silence

And a kind of wistful death.

©2002 by Jane Yolen

If you had told me ten years ago that I would feel any sadness over the end of periods, I never would have believed you. No way!

Like Jane, I planned to laugh. I also planned to drink champagne and sing to the Period Goddess in the Sky, “See ya, sweetie.  I’m done!”  I did drink champagne, and I said my goodbyes to the Period Goddess.  (She’s the one who, sometimes, gives you a break and helps you NOT get your period on the cruise to the Bahamas.)

But I understand the “kind of wistful death” that Jane describes.  I feel it too.

Am I mourning  the college girl, long gone, who dealt with periods as she juggled research papers, boyfriend, and dorm conversations that ended in happy hysterics?   Am I missing the possibility of one more sweet baby?  Am I grieving for a body that amazed me because it could count the days?  Am I worrying about the body now, which certainly seems less efficient, and the one to come?

For those of you who are finished, what are your thoughts about no more periods?  Any sadness, or just glee?  And for those of you not there yet, any idea how you will feel?

In Take Joy: A Writer’s Guide to Loving the Craft, Jane gets to the heart of why we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard: “We write to know ourselves.”

And so a challenge for you:  Write your own period poem!  Please do.  Silly or serious or anywhere in between.  Or perhaps simply jot down some words that capture your thoughts about periods and/or not having periods anymore.

Be bold and brave!  You can even use red ink. 

Email your pieces to me, (BKYounger at, and I’ll gather them together for a fun, literary post on Friend for the Ride.  

You’re welcome to substitute a pen name for your real name or just send your first name. 

Thanks from me AND the Period Goddess, who loves to read poems on her favorite topic.

The Poem:  “The Last Time” is posted here by permission of the author. The poem was first published in Women.  Period.  Edited by Julia Watts, Parneshia Jones, Jo Ruby, and Elizabeth Slade.  Spinster’s Ink, 2002.

The Poet:  An opening page in Take Joy describes Jane Yolen as “America’s Hans Christian Andersen (Newsweek) and a modern-day Aesop (New York Times).”  You can learn more about her as well as follow her  insightful journal on her website,

Photo:  I used Take Joy by Jane Yolen (Writer’s Digest Books, 2006) in critical essays I wrote while studying for my MFA in Writing at Vermont College.  Now I read it to recharge my writing soul.  The cover illustration was done by Linda Holt  Ayriss.

Women. Period is a collection of poems, essays, and short stories about menstruation. The forward states that the book “celebrates both the diversity and the universality of the female experience.  We are many; we are one.”   The cover was designed by LA Callaghan.  (And that’s some cover!)

Aging, Gratitude, Menopause, Teeth

A Toast to the Tooth Fairy and My Dentist

A hearty toast to our old friend the Tooth Fairy:

                       Here’s to the old tooth under the pillow,

                        Here’s to the space that it left behind,

                        Here’s to the new tooth soon to follow,

                        Here’s to the Tooth Fairy, generous and kind.

It seems only yesterday that I was leaving my teeth under pillows. Now they crumble away in my mouth.

Well not all of them, at least not yet, but those molars fat with fillings do tend to give way.  But in all, we’re told:  “Practice gratitude.”

And I am grateful.  I’m grateful for a dentist who can fix up my failing teeth.  Thank you, Dr. Cheek (his real name, I promise), and to your assistants.  I’m grateful for fast drills, Novocain, magic moldly stuff that turns into a fine fake tooth, and the glue that holds it in.

Recently, I toured the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore.  If you’re grumpy about going to the dentist, you need to check out the old instruments in this museum.  OUCH, OUCH, and OUCH.  You’ll never complain about a visit to your 21st Century dentist again.  Better yet, bring him or her a present!  I’m giving mine a Tooth Fairy necklace.

Happy Birthday on Wednesday, to my daughter Katherine, who left notes to the Tooth Fairy asking her to please leave the money but let Kath keep the tooth!  You encourage me every day with your boundless energy and enthusiasm.

Photo:  The glow-in-the-dark Tooth Fairy necklaces and flavored dental floss are souvenirs I purchased in the museum’s funky gift shop.  My poem “A Toast to the Tooth Fairy” (© Barbara Younger, 1998) was first printed in June Cotner’s Family Celebrations:  Prayers, Poems, and Toasts for Every Occasion.  Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1999.

Diet, Menopause

Menopausal Pounds (Yuck) and Pound Cake (Yum!)

Anybody remember the Mary Tyler Moore episode in which Rhoda is contemplating eating a piece of chocolate?  She says, in that wonderful Rhoda tone, “I don’t know why I’m putting this in my mouth.  I should just apply it directly to my hips.” An older Rhoda might say, “And my stomach and my upper arms and my rear and my thighs, and for jolly good measure, my chin.”

We can talk more about weight gain on Friend for the Ride, but for now, I just want to say that I wish I had believed the rumor:  Weight gain and menopause are like cake and icing.  They’re buddies.

I should have been more careful while on the Wild Roller Coaster.   If you’re comfortable with some weight gain, of course you can relax a bit.  But if you want to watch gaining weight, approach The Great Pause with some gastronomic caution.  You’re not in Kansas anymore.

That said, we still need to eat cake!  Just not as much.  The cakes on display at the NC State Fair this week reminded me of my mom’s easy pound cake recipe.  Bake one up, have a modest but delicious slice, and share the rest:

 Mom’s  Easy Pound Cake

2 sticks of butter, softened

2 cups sugar,

2 cups flour

5 eggs

Mix all ingredients.  Flavor with two teaspoons vanilla, 4 tablespoons of brandy or bourbon, or any other flavoring you choose.  Bake at 350 degrees in a greased tube pan for 50-60 minutes until a knife comes out clean.  This freezes well.  Note:  I haven’t ever baked the pound cake in a loaf pan.  I think it would probably work, but if it looks too high, try two smaller loaf pans.

Photo:   This lucky pound cake was a Blue Ribbon Winner at the North Carolina State Fair.  Nothing could be finer than pound cake in Carolina (or Minnesota or California or Australia or Guam or wherever you live!)

Giveaway Winner!  This first giveaway broke my heart because I wanted to send each of you who entered a book. Thank you for your interest in Purple Mountain Majesties.   The winner is Cathy,and her book will soon be in the mail.

Mood, Procrastination

Guest Post: Productive Procrastination: Try It, You’ll Like It!

Just in time for the weekend, Friend for the Ride’s first guest post, written by my friend Susan Bellinger:

There are days, maybe weeks, when I don’t have the energy, gumption, or brain power to get anything on my “To Do” list done.  The list’s items sit there, begging to get checked off, but I squander my time doing little nothings, trying to ignore them.

Net result: I am depressed & berate myself for playing computer games or whatever worthless, unproductive activity I can devise to fill my time while avoiding those pressing errands and jobs.  The more time I squander the bluer I become.

I rebel against THE LIST.  No, I will not wash the car, paint the banisters, or strip the credenza.  The grocery shopping can wait, as can the dry cleaning.  I simply don’t feel like doing any of those jobs!

One day while in the throes of another procrastination crisis, I realized that I could fill some of my wasted hours with smaller, worthwhile jobs, ones I could actually tolerate.  Perhaps I could find the energy to put several stitches in that skirt’s ripped hem?  Or I might tackle the wardrobe which could do with a mucking out?

Small jobs finished would make me seem productive and assuage my guilt. Brilliant!  I thought I had discovered a wonderful secret!  I called my new secret “Productive Procrastination,” little realizing that I not only did not coin a phrase but that lots of other people had discovered this little trick.

No matter, I’m a happy camper knowing that procrastination can be, if not conquered, at least tamed a bit.

Susan Bellinger writes that when “she isn’t procrastinating, she tends to a 100 year old house, an overgrown yard, 3-1/2 cats, 1 husband, 2 elderly parents and 2 grown but not forgotten children. Also, a To Do List several pages long.”

Photo Above:  This is my (Barbara’s) junk drawer.  I practice Productive Procrastination by straightening it out when I should be clearing the garden, reorganizing years of  files, and clearing a path through the spare bedroom.  Hmm, looks like my drawer is ready for another round.

Photo Below:   Susan escaping her “To Do List” this fall in Shelburne, VT.


Menopause, Periods, PMS

Period Talk and a Giveaway

Like so many girls, when I found out I was going to have a period every month, I was shocked.  Truly shocked.  I had signed on for life as a woman without understanding all the terms.

Most of us get used to the idea of a monthly period (given that we have little choice), and our cycles become intrinsic to our beings.

  • Am I going to have my period on the sailing trip?  Yikes, how will I manage?
  • What if I get cramps in the middle of my two-hour presentation?
  • Is it chancy to wear my white jeans today?

When I was doing the research for my picture book biography, Purple Mountain Majesties: The Story of Katharine Lee Bates and “America the Beautiful,” I spent hours reading letters in the archive at Wellesley College.

In one letter, Bates writes to her mother that her “flow” has finally started up, and she is feeling better.  As I read those words, I thought, even a hundred years ago, and I’m sure a thousand years ago, your period, including PMS, became part of who you were.

Katherine Lee Bates might not be happy that this very personal letter survived, but I’m glad it did.  We, the women of 2011, are part of the Great Womanhood.  Snatches of history like this help us appreciate our feminine heritage, period talk and all.

Giveaway:  I’m offering a signed hardback copy of Purple Mountain Majesties.  Tell me in a comment why you’d like to win.  All comments must be in by Saturday morning.  Winner will be chosen at random.

Teachers:  You can find creative activities to use with the book here:

Katharine Lee Bates

Photo:  On the book’s cover are lines from Katharine’s line-a-day diary.  No period talk here, but you’ll find sprightly references to her trip to Pikes Peak, where she wrote “America the Beautiful.”

About the Artist:  The wonderful illustrations for Purple Mountain Majesties were painted by picture book artist Stacey Schuett.  To see more of her work, go to: