Celebrations, Gratitude, Life, Losing a Parent

Valentine’s Day 1965 Redux

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Ya’ll are sweethearts  to read my blog.

Do you have one?  A Valentine’s Day gone wrong?  I did.  1965.  The Fifth Grade Valentine’s Day Square Dance.  Hampton Elementary School.  Towson, Maryland.

At the practice dance the day before, one of the cool, cute boys asked me to be his partner.  Yes!  I was set for the real shindig.  I was sure of it.   We would dance together again on February 14.

On Valentine’s morning, the boys began inviting girls to be their partners.  (No, we girls didn’t ask the boys in 1965.)  The oh so cute, cool boy asked another girl.  Devastation for this eleven-year-old.

Soon almost everyone was paired up. Poor Barbara.  No one to do-si-do with.

Finally, one of my friends did some negotiating, and Eddie Pissaro asked me to be his dance partner.  Not anywhere near my first choice.  I still remember how lumpy and sweaty his arm felt as we promenaded right and left.

Fast forward 45 years to my dad’s memorial service.

“Barbara, I’m Eddie Pissaro.”

The name shot through me like an arrow from a winged cherub.

“Eddie!  How wonderful to see you!  You knew my father?”

“I live in your old neighborhood now.   When your dad was out raking leaves, I’d stop and chat with him.”

We reminisced a bit about Hampton Elementary School and the kids we knew there.

And now, TA DA!   I would make his day.  (My girls had told me that despite my lack of eye makeup, I looked pretty good in my funeral dress.)

“I haven’t forgotten you were my partner for the Fifth Grade Square Dance.”

“I was?” said Eddie.  “I don’t remember.”

“You don’t?”

 Eddie shook his head.  “No.”

How could he forget?

That week, when I came home to Hillsborough, I did a bit of archival research in my closet.  Note the goofy-looking girl with the glasses in the bright pink velvet  jumper.  Does she look like a dream date?

“Your dad was a good guy,” Eddie said as he left the church that August day.

“Thanks, Eddie.”

I should have added, “You’re a good guy too, and on 2-14-65, you were a REALLY good guy.   What an honor to be your square dance partner.”

P.S.  I circled Eddie.  The boy who passed me over shall go uncircled.

Now tell us your worst Valentine story by clicking on “Comments” below.  Have the years mellowed or enlightened that story at all?

Aging, Menopause

Guest Post: Men-o-pause Dating

 A guest post from writer Dawn Reno Langley:

When I started dating at sixteen, I never expected that I’d be going through dating spurts throughout my life, but then again, life takes over, doesn’t it?  And here I am, at 58, with hot flashes to tend to, hormone pills to take every night, and an active (and funny) dating life.  It’s not what I necessarily imagined at sixteen, but it’s my life.

Dating during the menopausal years is decidedly different from dating at sixteen. Gone is necking in the backseat of my beau’s car.  I don’t even know if I could get into a backseat now (or whether a guy would even interest me enough to consider doing so!). And it’s been a long time since I’ve felt butterflies upon seeing a man. Instead, I’m wondering whether my Spanx is holding in my ever-softening stomach when I open the door to the “date of the evening.” But the biggest difference between dating now and dating then is that most of the introductions to new men are now done online at Plentyoffish.com or Match.com, and that leads to some complicated and “interesting” situations.

First step to dating online: constructing your profile, a narrative that one must design so that readers will get a snapshot of your personality and become intrigued enough to “wink” or “nudge” you – or perhaps send the first email to determine whether you want to get to know each other better. I suffered over my first profile, trying to make it a little funny, a little romantic, and most importantly, truthful.

And I must admit that I pay quite a bit of attention to those the guys write.  But we all lie.  The guys will tell you that women lie about their weight, and I counter that men lie about their height.  My single girlfriends and I all groan, “He’s nice, but he’s so short!”  It almost feels like the guys are shrinking while our waists are expanding.  What’s up with that?  Do we get both shorter and heavier as we age?  Where were the Tweets about that phenomenon? And how is this fair?

The second step: the photographs.  This one is, well, amusing.  The general trend among men is to photograph themselves with their cars, motorcycles, fish or deer.  None of which interests me or any other women I know. Do they not know that?  Or is it just that they want to be sure to let US know what THEY like so that WE can keep THEM happy? Instead, I find myself wondering whether they smell of fish or deer blood, or whether I would be expected to straddle that big Harley in my ever-tightening Spanx.

And, finally, the first dates themselves:  I have to admit that there’s a lot of judging going on between the sexes the first time you meet on a date that originates online. We both have expectations of the other, particularly because there is usually a “relationship” of sorts that already exists between the two people involved.

Typically, we email back and forth for at least a week before meeting face-to-face. During that time, you find out some basics (though I tend to stay away from talking about one’s exes), ask some interesting or kooky questions (designed to do some sort of amateurish psychological evaluation, that almost never works), and some flirting. We’re no good at the flirting anymore. Either the guys are downright sexual or they try too hard to be funny. Neither works. And we’re not the coquettish sixteen-year-olds we once were. Personally, I have no interest in the flirting until (or IF) the guy interests me.  But it’s a necessary evil.

The guys pretty much fall into categories after a while:  (1) The Mr. Me Guy – he talks about himself as if he’s reading his own resume aloud.  You are not required to respond other than to nod occasionally and to look appropriately flabbergasted when he talks about balancing the books at his organization and how fascinating it is that they actually came out in the black.

(2) The “I Was a Star” Guy – this is the guy who’s still living in the past, usually as far back as high school, when he was the reigning basketball/football/soccer/baseball/chess team star. He’ll tell you in graphic detail about the time he scored the winning basket/touchdown/goal/hit/move, and if you didn’t hear it, he’ll tell you again. He hasn’t done anything since, so don’t ask him about last year.

(3) The Relationship Guy – this one wants to regale you with stories about all the other women he’s dated on these websites and how they just didn’t realize how great he was or about how they all lied about their weight/relationship/financial status.  What he won’t admit is that he states on his own profile that he’s 6’ tall but you’re 5’7” and not wearing heels, yet you’re his height.  How’s that possible?

(4) The Mr. Needy Guy – you can tell the minute he sits down that he’s going to want a second date, but you’ve already decided it’s not a possibility because he looks like he hasn’t met a dry cleaner in years, might not make as much money as you, and probably will stalk you at every hour of the night and day whining about how he needs you to take care of him and won’t be able to live without you

(5) The Mr. You’re-not-the-right-age/weight/height/hair color-and-I-can’t-wait-to-find-someone-who-is – this one makes you want to run for the back door immediately, but before you do, he’ll make you feel absolutely horrible about not being the right . . .

And did I tell you about the guy who is 20 years younger (or more) and insists he likes older women? Sometimes that’s a bit of an ego boost, but when the guy is younger than your own children, watch out. One challenged me (and I can’t resist a challenge) to give him a chance. I did, and I thought he was fun/handsome/smart, but then I realized how young he was when it was obvious he thought phones were just for texting and that it was fun to put all his friends online with me just to prove to them that he’d “snagged himself a cougar.”

And then there are the plain and simple weirdos.  One looked like Einstein – wild white hair and glasses – and sent photos of himself drinking tea with cats on the kitchen table and at least ten cages with parrots in the background. (Ah, no.  Not interested.)  Then there was the one who asked if I owned high-heeled shoes with ankle straps and would I mind wearing them on our date, then slipping one off under the restaurant table and running my bare foot up his leg.  (Again, ah, no.  Not interested.)

But, as my mother always told me, all you need is one good man.  And there are plenty out there who are looking for exactly the same type of relationship I am. I see them online and meet them for dates all the time.  They are good men with good jobs who are looking for a good woman to come home to at night and to spend the rest of their lives with.  I think about those men (and about my mother and the women of her generation) when I consider this latest adventure in my menopausal life.

The difference between my mother and myself is that my mother wouldn’t have even considered dating if she and my father had divorced or if he had died before she had. She would have spent the rest of her life alone, surrounded by family, and would have been happy, the way my great aunts and grandmother were. None of them ever complained about being without a man (in fact, I think most were fairly happy about it). Maybe they realized that dating after menopause is no easier than dating at sixteen.

Be that as it may, I’m at least entertained on a daily basis – and can work my “adventures” into my writing!  And I still believe Mr. Right is out there and that he will be the one who’ll rub my feet while we’re lying on the couch watching sappy reality shows on TV and that we’ll be just as happy in our 80s as we were when we first met – probably because, by that time, I’ll be post-menopausal!

Dawn Reno Langley is considering putting her cat on a dating site and seeing whether she has any better luck than Dawn has, but in addition to doing that, she writes (29 books and counting), does yoga, loves the arts, is an avid coupon/thrift store shopper, and acts as an academic dean for a local college.  She looks forward to the day she can retire to the beaches of Ecuador.

Booming Memories:  Dawn writes a boomer blog that focuses on growing up in the Boston area during the 1950s/60s, recently posting about Saturday matinees and Disney television shows.  Read it here!

Children, Life, Menopause, Music, Shopping, Stress

Feeling Rattled?

The Great Big Bad Hormones of PMS or Menopause sure can rattle a girl.  And of course sometimes life itself adds to the clatter.

I read once that when things are so crazy you feel like a Mexican Jumping Bean,to try some slow motion.  Pretend you’re a turtle or a sloth.  (Well actually, the pretending part is my idea.)

SLOWLY put the dress back on the hanger.  The mug  in the dishwasher.  The cell phone in the charger.  Think of the nun at the abbey gate in The Sound of Music:  “Slowly, Sister, slowly.”

S….. L….. O….. W….. L…..Y

Doing a chore or even part of one in slow motion is hard, almost painful.  It goes against the core of our efficient adult selves.   But in those slow moments, even if they only last a few seconds, you feel life differently.

You remember the excellent dinner you enjoyed while wearing the dress. Smile about the silly mug your boss gave you in December.  Relive the last phone call you received:  some super cool news from  your son.

Rattles don’t calm babies.  They set them laughing, wiggling, and kicking, but have you ever tried to rush a baby or a toddler?  Can’t really be done.  They must know something we know-it-all grownups don’t.

Feel the calm of slow motion the next time you’re stressed.  And in that instant, hear the rattle of your life silence itself, even if just for one slow, peaceful moment.

Photo:  Since I have a grandchild on the way, I have rattles on my mind–the good kind.  I don’t think I’ll let the baby play with this antique celuloid model.  That rattle will remain on a high shelf, but if Baby wants brand new rattles, Grandma will take them off the toy store shelf faster than you can say “Do-re-mi.”

Quotes from The Sound of Music In a slow moment, check out these quotes from the movie!  I was amazed how many lines I knew.

Celebrations, Diet

Fudge: Pondering Good and Evil

Good and evil. Often, it’s easy to know the difference. To decide. To choose. “Always do what’s right,” was one of my father’s trademark lines.

But then, there are the in-between cases, the not-so-sure situations, the maybe yes or maybe no’s of morality.

As I grow older, I’m seeing the line more blurred, the answers not always so simple.   Hence my Fudge Prayer, posted especially in honor of  upcoming Valentine’s Day. (As an aside,  some women and men find this holiday almost holy; others see it as the work of the underworld.)

Anyway, back to moral quandaries and fudge.  Let us pray:

Dear God,

I can’t decide if fudge,

Is good or evil.

Cocoa beans, sugar, rich butter,

Confection of good delight

Or calories of evil to the body temple.

The fudge is gone,


Not unlike the cat and canary.

And now I offer this

Grateful Prayer of Thanksgiving

Or this humble Prayer of Repentance.

Amen and Amen.

What about you? Is chocolate a gift from above or an enticement of the devil? What other cases of good and evil do you debate with yourself and among family and friends?

Photo:  It’s your decision, of course, but here’s the recipe for the fudge in the picture.  If you decide to cook up a batch, just announce, “The Good Saint Valentine made me do it”

Be an angel and post a comment by clicking “comments” below.

Diet, Fitness, Menopause, Menopause Symptoms

Thanks, Menopause: The Marshmallow Stomach

I’d read about it for years:  Weight gain around the middle is common in menopause.

And in recent years, I’ve read more and more:  Weight gain around the middle is dangerous, especially in menopausal women.

Dangerous not just for wearing a bathing suit when you finally get to visit Hawaii.

Dangerous for your health.


I’ve never had a great stomach.

Well, let me clarify.

It’s great for eating cake with buttercream frosting and burritos lathered in sour cream.

It’s just not so great for looking svelte in knit dresses or bathing suits of the one or two piece variety.

The Menopause Goddess (who we all know is Ms. Qurikypants Do As She Pleases) has not been gracious to me in this area: the area of my marshmallow stomach.

Or is this not menopause at all?  Is this just me eating too much and paying oh so NO attention to that distasteful word:  MY CORE.

Not the core of my being.  I like working on that.

The core of my body.

Menopause or sloppiness or a bit of both, I’m going to try to have some of  my marshmallow melt away by summer.  My friend for this ride is going to be My Fitness Pal.com.  Since this program means I get to spend more time online, I’m having fun with it so far.

May I have a few volunteers to promise to question me about my success (0r failure) come the First of July?

Photo: In lieu of a photo of my menopausal stomach, I offer this old Campfire Marshmallow tin.  It’s a good thing the tin isn’t filled with marshmallows anymore.  A few weeks on My Fitness Pal, and I might  be ready to woof down five pounds of marshmallows in nothing flat.

P.S . For those of you who remember my Naked Church post at the start of the new year, the visualizing, bad as it was, wasn’t scary enough.  Hence, the new plan.

P.P.S:  The winner of the tube of Valera has been notified.  Thanks to all who entered the giveaway.


Guest Post: Embracing Winter and the Eeyore in Me

A guest post from my good friend, Judy Brown:

The winter blues. It doesn’t have a tight hold on me but it presses gently.

I don’t like winter.  And I don’t like that I don’t like it. Winter is dreary,  makes my skin itch,  my clothes feel so heavy, wool gives me rashes, everything seems droopy, and the water out of the faucet is bone chilling. I don’t even appreciate Fall anymore because I know winter lurks behind every golden leaf. 

Is it because I grew up in the tropics? Is it because the distraction of  my children’s busy lives is over? Is it Seasonal Affective Disorder? Or is it the Pause?

One day, 2 years ago, thanks also to the Pause, I had a small epiphany. I DECIDED I was going to LIKE winter. The ever present disdain  for winter was making me weary. This would be my new midlife challenge (well, one of them). I felt uplifted even just making this seemingly simple decision.

With much determination and great focus I persevered. I searched eagerly for the positive and put on new lenses to see the cold winter world in a new way. Two years in to my new project I can happily report that I actually have acquired a growing fondness for the season.

I now look at the bareness of the trees and find beauty in its starkness.

I now indulge in expensive skin lotions.  I now have fun shopping for comfy and stylish sweaters.  I discovered UGGS, a miracle boot, quite unattractive but so toasty.

With great anticipation my husband and I look forward to planning our next house project.  Books and maps are purchased for our  our next family trip.

I find STING’S melancholy “If on a Winter’s Night” CD so soothing as I drive to my work place and to the grocery store. Walks in the woods provide well needed exercise and fresh air and even adventure.

Searching for creative outlets is not a new idea. Taking a new class or writing for a friend’s blog (!) is fulfilling. Alone time may be a challenge but with effort it always renews me. Conversely, even though the temptation to hibernate is strong, get-togethers with friends for food and laughter is always uplifting.

I still affectionately call my 24 year old daughter Pooh Bear. I have several friends who are “Tiggerish”.  I admire their exuberance. Piglet is adorable and pink, but he admittedly makes me nervous. Winter always made me feel “Eeyorish”.  Even though Eeyore is smart and precious, he is undoubtedly droopy.

So many things in life are droopy.  The weather is droopy, old curtains are droopy, worn flannel pj’s are droopy, our boobs have become droopy, and even smiles can be droopy.

In 2012 I have declared NO MORE DROOP!  I am done with droop! The winter blues may nip at my nose from time to time but the Pause will supply me with needed warmth and determination.  Winter is inevitable but droopiness is not!  What are your winter blues fighting secrets?

I leave you with my favorite Ancient Japanese Proverb:  “One kind word can warm three winter months.”

Photo Above:  The Brown Family Pooh Characters are well read on many subjects, including menopause.  The book is The No-nonsense Guide to Menopause by Barbara Seaman and Laura Eldridge.

Judy Brown lives happily tucked away in the woods with her husband Martin.  She has two grown children,Jamie and Tyler.  She and Martin are busily working on their  2012 winter project, a new patio.  Judy loves to travel, and this is a recent picture of her riding a bike in a favorite city, Paris!

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