Children, Grandchildren, Grandmother, Grandparents, Menopause

Guest Post: On Becoming a Grandparent

A guest post by writer Carol Baldwin, with advice for grandparents everywhere:

Dear Barbara,

In your 35 years of marriage to Cliff, the two of you have experienced a lot. You accomplished all sorts of tasks: you bought houses, held down jobs, wrote books, mentored friends, nurtured many relationships, and had to say goodbye to loved ones.

You also bore and raised two lovely daughters. You were nervous as they left home for kindergarten, anxious on their first dates, and then misty-eyed when you left them at college and drove away.

In all that time, one thing stayed the same: you and Cliff had created a family. But then you walked Kath down the aisle and now are getting ready to give away Laura.

Your family has changed as you gained your sons-in-laws. So, you would think with all of those life experiences under your belt, you would be prepared for anything and everything.

You are and you’re not.

Are you prepared for the bonds you’ll feel the first time you hold your grandson in your arms? Are you ready for the awe of the continuation of generations that will fill your hearts as you try to figure out if his tiny fingers look like Cliff’s or yours?

Will he have big feet like Matt? Do his eyes look like Kath’s?  And how about all of that hair (or the lack thereof). There will be more theories flying around that labor and delivery room than receiving blankets.

But it won’t matter. All that will matter is that your very first grandchild has entered the world—and nothing will compare to the excitement and pride you both will feel.

Fast forward a few weeks. Your grandbaby will be home and Kath and Matt will be trying to get sleep and return to some semblance of order. You don’t have to tell them that what they are living through is their new normal. Eventually, they’ll figure it out.

But what they might not figure out—or so it may seem to you—are things like the proper feeding schedule, or nap schedule, or how much to let your grandson cry, or when to introduce a bottle/solid foods/or potty training.

In other words, you and Cliff have something new to learn: to discern when your advice will be wanted, and when, quite frankly, you’ll need to keep your mouths shut.  Remember when your girls announced that they knew how to drive and didn’t need your help anymore? It’s a little like that, all over again.

Very soon Kath and Matt will exhaustedly welcome your babysitting services. But they might not welcome your guidance. Biting your tongues may be the hardest task you and Cliff have embraced so far.

Your experience as parents is invaluable but may not always be appreciated. Not yet. And just as you had to watch Kath pick herself up after falling down when she was learning to walk, you will also need to take a back seat and watch her and Matt learn the tasks of parenting. These are the same tasks (with some modern twists—see picture below), which you and Cliff learned, so many years ago.

But you will be there, in the wings, waiting with a shoulder to cry on and advice on the tip of your tongue– just in case you are needed.

Just as every parent—and grandparent—always is.

Welcome to your next adventure. You’ll love it.



About Carol: Carol Baldwin’s most recent book is Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8 (Maupin House, 2008). She blogs at and is writing her first young adult novel.

She is active in SCBWI, serves on the board of the Charlotte chapter of the Women’s Novel Book Association, and is a writing instructor in the Continuing Education Department of CPCC.  She has two step-daughters and three daughters; in the last five years she has been blessed with four step-grandchildren who she enjoys reading to.

Photo above: Grandma Carol enjoying two of her step-grandchildren, alongside her husband Creighton.

Photo Below:  Carol keeps a journal for each of her grandchildren, adding bits and pieces when she sees them–what they’re doing, what they’re saying, etc.

Bottom Photo:  Carol suggests I study this one for a glimpse into my future! The photo, sent to her by a relative, is making its way around the Internet.

Memory, Menopause

The Lost Toys: Baby Sue and a Canvas Print Giveaway

Am I the only one who wonders about her lost toys?

The doll in the picture is Baby Sue. She was the first baby doll I remember.

I loved her so much I gave her baths, slept with her, took her on baby carriage rides, and washed and ironed, with my mom’s help, her clothes.

I still remember how flexible she was, with bendable rubber legs and arms; the intent expression in her eyes; and the the way her painted on brown hair never got mussed up.

So why did I abandon her?

I know I moved on to fancier dolls: Chatty Cathy, Tiny Tears, Kissy, Barbie, and a nutty doll named Shrinking Violette.

And my mom, like most moms, was anxious to clear out, to share our old toys with kids who needed them.

But in recent years, I’ve thought about Baby Sue more and more.

At best, she’s in someone’s collection somewhere. I don’t like to think of the worst.

At least I have this picture!

And when Easy Canvas Prints approached me about a free canvas for me and one as a giveaway, it was an easy choice whose picture was going on that canvas.

I miss you Baby Sue!

What about you?

What toys would you love to have back  again?

Giveaway:  The good folks at Easy Canvas Prints are offering  a reader a free10 by 8 canvas print. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment saying you’d like to win (by September 3 at noon E.S.T.)  Due to shipping costs, the winner must live in the continental U.S.

Need any cool signs. check out their other sites: Signs on the Cheap,  Banners on the Cheap,  and Magnets on the Cheap.

Here’s the portrait  that Easy Canvas made for me. I love it!  Of course yours doesn’t need to go on a shelf. They’re great for walls, too.  (It looks even better in real life. The photo I posted below doesn’t pick up the texture of the actual canvas.)


Celebrations, Children, Grandchildren, Grandmother

Baby Blue Countdown

Although the official due date is August 31, I figure my first grandchild, a boy, might  want to come into the world a little early.

That got me wondering: Is this grandma ready?

I bought him my favorite Mother Goose book, with a note to his mother that there WILL BE  a quiz in three years.

I purchased a brand new bed for his visits here. A pack and play that meets all the safety standards, unlike the antique  bassinet in my upstairs hall or the port-a-crib saved all these years in the attic.

I have recounted to Katherine the story of her birth as often as I think she will listen. She recently found an article on the similarities in childbearing experiences of mothers and daughters, making her willing to listen one more time.

I’ve made a zillion inquires about the name, which they are keeping secret, JUST IN CASE they want my opinion.

And I’ve held that baby boy for the first time in my mind’s eye more times than I’ve even asked about  his name.

Just today, I purchased baby blue crepe paper to hang when he is born as a happy signal to our neighbors.

“Couldn’t you have gotten Duke blue?” Cliff asked when he saw the streamers.  “That looks like Carolina blue to me.”

In this area of North Carolina, college football and basketball rivalry is intense. Cliff, a true blue Duke fan, greatly favors Duke’s royal blue.  Baby blue and Carolina blue are closer to one another in color.

“This isn’t Carolina blue,” I said, swirling the steamer in his face.  “This is baby blue.”

Come on into the world, Baby Boy! It’s time!

And when  you do, I just might paint the house and the driveway baby blue, too.

This grandma is more than ready.


Guest Post: Hope Springs!

A guest post from writer Lisa Winkler:

Hope Springs, the new movie staring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones isn’t a comedy, despite what the ads say. There a few funny scenes and lines, and it does have a happy ending.  Getting there however, is awkward and painful.

It’s a movie being advertised for the over 50 audience. Perhaps producers figure that’s an age where people still want a movie that isn’t based on a superhero comic book character, still like going to the movies and are too technically inept to stream films into their home televisions, which if their TVs are anything like mine, have too many remote controls to figure out how to use in the first place.

But the movie, about a woman who after 31 years of marriage, wants to revive the lost intimacy and enrolls her and her husband in a weeklong couples counseling course, isn’t just for those whose long marriages might need a bit of rekindling.

I hope young people will see it and perhaps glean an understanding of what makes a marriage.  Kay, played by Streep, could have decided to leave her husband, Arnold; instead she was determined to try to keep what she had and regain what was lost.

I hope middle-aged people will see it. I imagine bits of the characters resonate with everyone.

Joe Morgenstern, reviewing Hope Springs (scroll down) in the Wall Street Journal, writes that Streep “could enchant us by doing a vacuum cleaner commercial.”  He’s right. Streep is everything we expect of her: facial expressions and gestures that speak volumes, creating empathy without melodrama.

I couldn’t help think about the vacuum cleaner.

A vacuum cleaner

Swallows dust and cobwebs

Dirt and debris

Sometimes the hose clogs

The bag, overstuffed, tears

A light blows or a motor fails

With proper care and maintenance

can last a long time

like a marriage.

Lisa Winkler and her husband Matt celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in June by cycling in France. This review was first posted on her blog, Cycling Grandma.



Guest Post: The Guest Book and a Novel Giveaway!

Whenever I discover a guest book in a beach house or mountain cabin, I’m intrigued by the entries on every page. So when I found a novel titled The Guest Book at the Zondervan booth at BlogHer, I grabbed it. I’m delighted to present this post by the book’s author, Marybeth Whalen:

I received a letter in response to my first novel, The Mailbox, a story about a mysterious mailbox on the coast of North Carolina that united two people over time and against the odds.

The reader wanted to tell me how much the book meant to her, and to share that reading the story brought back memories of her girlhood days spent at her grandmother’s lake house.

She wrote that her grandmother had a guest book in the lake house and that it was customary for the family members who vacationed there to leave a message about what they’d done and enjoyed in their time there, connecting the family members to each other via this simple little book.

She shared that when she was very little—too small to write words, her father had encouraged her to draw a picture instead, reminding her that pictures could communicate as much as words.

Instantly an image filled my head—the little blonde girl bent intently over the guest book, endeavoring to make her drawing the best, to say all that she could about a wonderful vacation in this one drawing. But the little girl in my head wasn’t alone. She had this loving father standing in the background, watching proudly as she drew. In that moment, The Guest Book was born.

The other elements—Macy’s prayer, the three men showing up in answer, the final scene, her daughter and mom and brother—all emerged slowly, as I waited patiently for them to.

I love this quote from author Andre Dubus about letting the elements emerge: “There’s a profound difference between making something up and imagining it. Imagining it instead is falling into your psyche, your imagination, and finding something that’s already there that wants to come out—instead of you pushing it into the world.”

I am so happy that reader wrote me and shared her story, because her story morphed into Macy’s story. A story I was surprised by, yet so happy to find.

Marybeth Whalen and her husband Curt have been married for 20 years and are the parents of six children, ranging in age from college to kindergarten. (See the Christmas photo below.) They live outside Charlotte NC. Marybeth is the author of The Mailbox and She Makes It Look Easy.

Her newest novel, The Guest Book, brings readers back to Sunset Beach NC and was released in the summer of 2012. Marybeth spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scribble some words. She is always at work on her next novel. You can find her at

Giveaway: To win a copy of The Guest Book, please enter a comment saying you’d like to win by August 28 at noon, E.S.T. Winner will be chosen at random. Thanks!
Celebrations, Menopause

Thirty-five Years!

Wow. Thirty-five years. That’s a long time!

If someone asked me the secret to a long and happy marriage, being one who likes to give advice, I suppose I could expound a bit.

But I think the real key is to celebrate everything you can from the baby’s brilliant first word to the first spring night when it’s warm enough to eat supper on the porch.

Oh and start off eating cake with buttercream frosting and keep buttercream on the permanent to-do list.

Happy celebration of everything good and happy in our lives and yours!

Photos:  Cliff and I were married on August 20, 1977 at Divinity Lutheran Church in Towson, Maryland, followed by a garden reception at my home. The figures on the cake were also on my mom and dad’s cake. My girls turned them down. Too old-fashioned.

Laura, who is wedding dress shopping, did consider wearing my dress, which pleased me. She’s decided  there are some other styles she prefers though. She wants a dress to change into for the dancing and suggested we cut mine off for her to wear then. I said no. My friends Gail and Judy say yes. Opinions?

The photo at the top was taken by Katherine in her living room two Thanksgivings ago.

Menopause, Menopause Symptoms, Perimenopause

Guest Post: Transparency at Midlife– Let’s Have the 2nd Talk About Menopause

A guest post by Poise Menopause Blogger Lori Jo Vest:

Once you start talking about menopause, you find out all kinds of interesting things that no one told you before.

A few years back, one of my close girlfriends shared how surprised she was that the beginning of perimenopause for her meant MORE flow and MORE periods, not less, as she would have expected.

Another friend shared that she had hot flashes whenever she got anxious and they caused her face and ears to turn bright red. It usually happened in work situations and it was completely uncontrollable.

A third friend suffered from constant headaches, causing her to miss work and her favorite activities for weeks at a time.

And yet another shared that whenever she laughed or sneezed, her bladder leaked.

Personally, I tell everyone “I’m so transparent you can see right through me.”

I tell people all kinds of details that others might keep to themselves. Most thoughts go straight from my brain to my mouth – no pauses and no filters. (Fortunately, my husband appreciates it and says it makes him happy that he never has to wonder what I’m thinking.)

That may be one of the reasons I feel so fortunate to be blogging for the new Poise website and the 2nd Talk campaign. (First, we talked about puberty. Now it’s time to talk about menopause. Hence, the “2nd Talk”.)

The 2nd Talk was initiated to start an open dialogue about a topic that has been off-limits to generations of women before us. We worry that there’s something wrong with us. We worry what men will think. We don’t want people to see us as “old” so we don’t talk about the crazy new things that are happening with our bodies.

However, the more we talk about it, the more comfortable we’ll get taking care of ourselves during this next stage of life. And to help us with that self-care, Poise has developed a new line of products designed for use during menopause.

There’s a feminine wash, panty fresheners, a roll-on cooling gel, cooling towelettes and a personal lubricant – all designed to help us fabulous menopausal women feel more confident and in control.

Learn more about the 2nd Talk and the new Poise products at (Check it out here.) You can watch videos and read stories from real women sharing their experiences. We’ve brought together a select group of experts in nutrition, aging, intimacy, fitness and menopause to provide valuable articles and answer your questions. And we’ve got two bloggers – Marilyn Suttle and me – to keep the dialog flowing.

Let’s change the conversation about menopause. The more we talk, the more we’ll know. And the more we know, the more we can share with other women who are following in our footsteps.

Lori Jo Vest lives a crazy full life, like most 40+ women. A customer service and sales expert, social media fanatic, best-selling author, overachieving wife and mom to a teenager, Lori gets energy from her close relationships with her numerous girlfriends.

Those friends have become somewhat of an informal research group for changes women in their 40s through 60s experience – like hot flashes and erratic periods – that Lori found herself going through as she hit her late 40s. She’s always enjoyed sharing what she’s learned in the business realm. Now she’s discovered how her experiences can help women who are also in this transitional phase.

Me:  I met Lori Jo Vest at the Bloomer Party at BlogHer.  She’s very real and lots of fun. I’m glad she’ll be blogging for Poise and glad to introduce her to all of you.

Poise is offering us a way COOL giveaway. Watch for it in a week or so!