Celebrations, Gratitude

Happy New Year! The Best Twenty Seconds

My favorite twenty seconds of all.

The ten seconds just before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

And the ten seconds right after that big ball drops.

This is not ordinary time.

These are not ordinary seconds.

I find the rolling out of the old year and the rolling in of the new one to be filled with extraordinary hope and joie de vive. The world is giving me a whole new year.  Amazing.

2012 brings millions more seconds.

If only I could cherish each and every one of them like I do those twenty seconds on New Year’s Eve.

I’m going to try.

Want to join me?

Photo:  Actually, these are next year’s noisemakers.  We were going to host a party, so I picked up these festive horns.  Then a friend and neighbor announced she was having one too.  We cancelled ours to join hers, and I’m tucking these guys away until December 31, 2012, when hopefully we’ll rock in the new year at our house.

Menopause, Menopause Symptoms

JUMP! It’s Menopause

What makes you jump?

A snake on your hiking path?

A spider in your kitchen sink?

Chalk on a blackboard?

The last one probably doesn’t happen very often since blackboards seem to be a bygone .

When I was thick in the middle of menopausal weirdness, I had jumpy days.

Sometimes, it was just a general jumpiness, little bouncing balls inside me.  I was perhaps more jittery than jumpy.

Other days, I felt the snake in the path kind of jumpiness.  A dropped fork, the telephone, a voice behind me (that was supposed to be there such as a husband coming into the kitchen) would make me jump like Kanga.

I don’t think there’s a solution to menopausal jumpiness except to be extra careful, especially if you’re holding your great-grandmother’s Waterford bowl or standing at the end of a dock.

Or perhaps you could gather two menopausal friends and get your jumpies out by jump roping.  Maybe they’ll let you be The Little Dutch Girl or Miss Mary Mack.

Photo:  I found this sign on a dock used for launching kayaks into Bald Head Island Creek.  I haven’t jumped into the creek, but I’ve been in, thanks to a jumpy kayak.

Jump Rope Rhymes:  Forgotten the old ones?  Want to learn some new ones?   Here’s the site for you!


Nude Beach in 2012? Nope. Naked Church!

Every year, when resolution time comes around, I have to decide if I want mine to be about my body.  My body needs some resolving.

But resolutions don’t work that well for me.  They’re too easy to ignore.  I realized this week that I needed a more clever plan.

Especially now that The Great Pause is playing its ha ha body tricks, I wondered if I could fool my body into kicking ass (excuse the language) and stomach and arms and thighs and all the rest.

Bam!  Brilliance.


This summer!  Six months from now.  July.  Me, buck naked on the beach towel.  Skipping in and out of the surf in my birthday bathing suit.  Maybe taking a turn on a surf board.  Would that be enough to scare the fat and jiggle out of me?

Sure!  Who wants to be the frumpiest fifty-something  nude on one of those exotic beaches?

But my friends don’t frequent nude beaches.  Only strangers would see me.  To really get my body in tip top shape, I needed even more pressure.

So another plan.  An even more brilliant one.


This summer.

What if I knew that in six months, I was going to have to go to church naked?

I don’t mean this disrespectfully–I figure God liked nudity before Adam and Eve went and messed things up.

What if I had to face the entire congregation?  Naked.  And if they were naked too, that would make the pressure even greater.

Do I want to have the plainest outfit in the pews on Easter Sunday?  Nope.  And I don’t want to be the frumpiest nude in July either.

I’m starting the fitness program right now!  I’ll wait until late April to approach the  Worship Committee to see if they will back up my idea.

That will give me a four month running start.

Opinions?  Want to join me in the challenge?  Should we take the plan nationwide?  Those of you who aren’t church or other place of worship-goers could consider Naked Theater Group, Naked Rotary, or Naked Book Club.

Photo:  This picture hangs on a beach house on Bald Head Island.  The beaches aren’t really nude on Bald Head.  That’s a good thing, because after I go to church in the buff, I’m going to have to get the heck out of Hillsborough.  I’ll need an island where I can hide, and I have a hunch I will never go naked again.


Singing Holiday Praises

This angel, whose name is Clara (after Clara Schumann), keeps me company in the kitchen at Christmastime.

What’s extra cool about Clara is that she sings my praises, which really helps  my holiday spirits.

“Those cheese straws look delicious!  A bit of burn around the edges only makes them more colorful.”

“Lumps add intrigue to the gravy, kind of like Rocky Road Ice Cream.”

“Your kitchen is spotless.  Let’s skip the Christmas plates and serve dinner right on the floor!”  (Clara may need spectacles.)

“I wouldn’t trade your bourbon balls for a whole cabinet filled with the finest Kentucky bourbon.”  (That one seems rather odd coming from a tea-totaling angel.)

I told Clara that this year, I’ve started Friend for the Ride.   She’s singing your praises now too.

“Those women are good sports to read what you write.”

“You even have a few male readers?  Three cheers for them.”

“Guest posters!  How generous of them to share their words.”

And I sing your praises too.  Thanks for reading!  I wish you the happiest of holidays.  Let the moments delight you, no matter the lumps in the gravy, and enjoy.

My Clara:  My mom’s church, Divinity Lutheran in Towson, Maryland, sold Clara and other angelic cats at their Christmas bazaar about twenty years ago.

Clara Schumann:  Read more about the unsung musical talents of the  wife of Robert Schumann here.   Photo is from the Wiki article on Robert.

Celebrations, Hot Flashes, Menopause

An On-line Chat with Mrs. Claus!


I couldn’t believe my luck when I received word that Mrs. Claus was willing to do an on-line chat with Friend for the Ride.  (I had emailed the North Pole and inquired.)  So here is my brief but insightful conversation with Santa’s wife:

Me:  Thanks so much for agreeing to chat, Mrs. Claus.  I’m new to blogging . This is quite an honor for me.

Mrs. Claus:  You’re welcome, honey.  Santa and I are all about helping those who need extra help.

Me:  I hope you won’t mind me asking:   How was your menopause?

Mrs. Claus:  Whenever I got a hot flash, Santa just took me for a chilly ride on the sleigh.  I flew through menopause!

Me:  Did you have trouble with weight gain?

Mrs. Claus: Yes, but mostly because Santa brings back the Christmas Eve cookies that you good folks leave him.  We freeze them, and I end up nibbling all year long.

Me:  Now that you’re in your senior years, do you have any regrets?

Mrs. Claus:  I wish I’d had my own career.  I’m usually portrayed as the woman behind the great man, smiling in a rocker.  I wish I’d rocked the world in other ways, maybe as a Rockette  or an astronaut blasting about in rocket ships.

Me:  When Santa returns from delivering presents on Christmas Eve, are you waiting  up for him?

Mrs. Claus:  Anyone married to a man as spunky as Santa would wait up for him.  That’s all I’m going to say about that!

Me:  I know you’re mega busy right now, Mrs. Claus.  Again, thanks so much for chatting with me.

Mrs. Claus:  Life’s a beach, honey, even in the North Pole.  You tell all your readers to whoop it up this holiday.

Me:  Thanks, Mrs. Claus. I will!

Photo:  The famous couple on a 1919 postcard reprinted on Mrs Claus-Wikepedia.”

Celebrations, Stress

All the Holiday Nuts in the Family

The holidays can bring out good nuttiness.  Holiday revelers don’t seem to complain about that.

And the holidays can bring out some pretty annoying and troublesome nuttiness too.

(I’ll pause while you fill in names and examples.)

Sometimes, do you feel like you’re celebrating with a bowl of mixed nut relatives?   (Yes, mixed, because they’re not all nutty in the same way–if they were, they’d be easier to figure out.)

Oh but wait?  Maybe we’re the nutty ones?  Tell us it isn’t so!

Here are two suggestion for coping with holiday nuttiness, no matter who the culprits are:

One is to model your attitude on my friend Rudie the Reindeer above.  He comes out of the attic every year and graces us with his laid back  yet pleasant demeaner.  Rudie doesn’t react.  He doesn’t judge.  He doesn’t argue.  He doesn’t even roll his eyes.  And yet he still seems to have a jolly old time.

The other solution is to mix up a whole bowl of these delicious Holiday Nuts.

When someone starts acting a little off, announce, “You look like you need a Holiday Nut to go along with your nutty behavior.”

And if you feel your own nuttiness peaking, have a few  yourself!

Holiday Nuts

Toast a pound or so of pecans in the oven for twenty minutes at 350.  Watch them.  They can go nuts on you and burn quickly.

Meanwhile, beat two egg whites until stiff with one cup of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Let the toasted nuts cool for a few minutes, and then toss them in the egg white mixture.  Spread as a single layer onto a baking pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for about thirty minutes until they are golden brown.

What would the holidays be without holiday nuts?  People and confections!

Rudie the Reindeer: About twenty-five years ago, my sister-in-law Mary Ellen made Rudie for us out of a baby’s old sleeper, gray socks, brown corduroy, felt, and stuffing.  He adds dignity to our celebration every year.  Thanks, Rudie, for putting up with our nutty family.

Life, Mood, Stress

Just Breathe…

I send out this post with special thoughts for those of you who are worried, weary, grieving, hurt, or ill this holiday season. The holidays are an extra tough time to be dealing with life’s punches.

I’d heard the expression for years.


Big deal.  So what.  Platitude.  Simplistic.

I didn’t get it (and I also didn’t give it much thought).

And then one December, my father was sick.  Really sick.  On his fourth hospital.

Throw in unexpected company, the start of an MFA program, and quickly approaching Christmas with its trappings (or should I say traipsing, here or there in a hundred different directions on holiday errands).

I was opening the car door after finishing another errand.  If I could have sunk through the parking lot to the center of the earth and stayed there, I might have.

I remember holding onto the door handle for a second.   “Breathe,” a voice from within instructed.  “Stand still Barbara and breathe.”

I did.

And then I got it.


Sometimes, standing still and breathing is just  what you need to do.

Sometimes, at least in that moment, it’s all you can do.

But small miracles abound in those breaths.

Almost always, they fuel the courage to go on.

Photo:  On Bald Head Island off the coast of North Carolina, there are four one room cottages that sit by the harbor.  Named for the elements, they are Water, Fire, Earth, and Air.  I present you the sign that hangs on Air, in honor of the air we breathe.  With gratitude, air!

Winners of Unwrapping the Christmas Creche are Elle and Leslie!