The Rules! Let’s Break a Few…

PicassoWant to break some rules?

Work rules?

Family rules?

Fashion rules?

Aging Rules?

Money rules?

Decorating rules?

Eating Rules?

The story goes that menopause makes us braver. I don’t feel overly brave, but I do think I’m gutsier.

I’m not sure of the difference between brave and gutsy.

Brave seems more serious, more challenging, more noble.

But gutsy sounds like fun.

Cliff and I recently stayed in a hotel in Surfside, Texas. Rules were posted in the hall:


The signs made me want to run and slam and shout!

(But I didn’t. Menopause hasn’t made me THAT gutsy, especially since this was the only hotel in Surfside, Texas–or at least the only one I’d be brave enough to sleep in.)

Still, I think it’s time to question the rules.

Some rules.

All rules.

Or maybe just rules that seem extra-fun to break.

William Faulkner wrote his plot outlines on the wall of his study.

On the wall!

When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to even tape anything on my wall for fear I’d ruin the paint.

At my grownup house, picture hanging is a big deal. We try to do it right. We follow rules of proper height and spacing.

But look at William’s plot right there on his wall:

Faulkner's Writing on the Wall

Faulkner ended up so famous that people like me go to his house and snap pictures of his walls.

(Which wasn’t against the rules because I asked the docent.)

And then there’s Pablo Picasso, who encourages us to be rule breakers.

And everybody wants to plaster their walls with Picassos.


Is it time to break some rules?  What rules would you like most like to break?


Tai Chi Brings Balance after Breast Cancer


A post by writer Lisa Flinn:

In early January 2008, I felt like Alice plummeting down the rabbit’s hole into a new reality. I’d just received biopsy results confirming that the invasive ductal mass in my left breast was cancerous. 

Needled by worry, I’d seen my doctor three weeks earlier, and she had arranged for an immediate diagnostic mammogram.

Swiftly, appointments were scheduled for me at the University of North Carolina Comprehensive Cancer Center. There I met my team of specialists– Claire Dees, Keith Amos, and Jan Halle. Each person I encountered was gentle and plain spoken about my diagnosis and treatment plan. My emotions vacillated between hollowed-out fear and the flickering sense of new courage and openness. 

On that same day, I volunteered for several research studies. Less than 72 hours later, I readied my claustrophobic self for an MRI. Climbing on and turning face down on a sled-like contraption, I surprised myself by laughing. And still laughing, I wiggled my boobs into two openings, then rode the sled into the tube.

My laughter didn’t last too long. The imaging revealed suspicious atypical cells in the other breast. Pathology on those cells concluded the presence of lobular cancer. I was seized by numb shock. Might this additional finding indicate need for complete bilateral mastectomies?

I collapsed into my husband’s tender love and care.

When the hospital called me in for even more imaging, my surgeon, Dr. Keith Amos, met me in the waiting room as I arrived. He explained the MRI findings, addressed my concerns, and assured me that partial mastectomies on both breasts would be my best course of care. The surgery, six years ago on January 28th, with lymph node removal, went very well.

Our friends, family, and church encircled Bill and me with the warmth and light of a summer sun on those scary winter days. And as I recovered from surgery, then radiation, I began to crave something new and positive for my body. I chose five things. One of them was Tai Chi.

In July, I began Tai Chi classes with Nina Maier in Hillsborough, NC, and I was enthralled.

It took three years of practice to gain a rudimentary ability to move through the 108 positions of the Wu (Hao) form.


More importantly, NIna led me along an ancient path towards intention, balance, patience, strength, and a mental and physical readiness to act. In Nina’s ongoing class, she also teaches Shiba Luohan Gong for breath, flexibility and energy work.

It’s 2014, and I’m still loving the class!

The concentration needed to learn and improve is good for the mind. The practice is wonderful for the body. The mind and the body house and rouse the spirit. Tai Chi has been a true avenue to my healing and overall health. 

Lisa Flinn is a year-round organic gardener who delights her family and friends with home-canned creations.

As the author of twenty-two books for children, teens, and adults, she appreciates the contrast between her all-season outdoor labors and her fruitful diligence at the desk.

One Moon: Learn more about Lisa’s  instructor, Nina Maier, on her website.

Photo One: Gongs made  from oxygen and argon tanks by Lisa’s husband, welder Bill Flinn

Photo Two: Lisa strikes a pose called “Grasp Sparrow’s Tail.”

Photo Three: Lisa, who has been my writing partner for twenty-five years.

Lisa Flinn


Announcing: The Ladies Room Door Art Series


Over the holidays, Cliff and I visited the Menil Collection, a funky museum in Houston that houses art collected by John and Dominique de Menil.

I never thought about taking photographs in a museum before I started blogging.

Now the art inspires ideas for posts.  I’m itching to pull out my camera and click away.


I tend to get in trouble at museums.

One evening at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I slipped off my shoes  while admiring Pissaro’s landscapes.

This was in my heels days,  the 1970s, after long hours on my feet at work.

“Miss. You’re in an art museum. We don’t go barefoot here.”


Five years later, in the North Carolina Museum of Art, I fed  my toddler daughter grapes to keep her from shrieking.


Shrieking so loudly those big old oil paintings might come a tumbling down.

The second the first grape went into her mouth, a guard rushed over. “Food is not allowed in the museum.”

Now that I am old and wise, I know better than to mess with museum guards.

“Do you permit photography?” I asked the guard at the Menil.

“No ma’am.”

“Just thought I’d check. Thanks.”

But then I was struck by a masterpiece.


Black on white. Bold. Confident. Simple. True. Contemporary yet borrowing from elements of classical design.

I looked around.

No sign of the guard.



The power of art– that masterpiece got me thinking.

How many times have I entered a ladies room without paying any attention to the lettering on the door?

(Besides making sure it didn’t say “Men.”)

Let’s celebrate womanhood by admiring and photographing the doors we walk through on the way to the potty.

A Ladies Room Door art series!

I’m on the prowl for interesting doors.

Please help the project by sending me photos of doors you find especially artistic at home or on your travels.  I’d love to post them! My email address is to the right. Thanks!


Slammed into Menopause

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A post by blogger and landscape architect Amelia Grant:

Women in my family tend to go through menopause later than usual. My mother was 56 years old and claimed ,“It only took one day!” My cousin is 54 and my sister 57, and  neither of them have any symptom of ‘the change.’

Last year I was diagnosed with a fibroid the size of a cantaloupe and an ovarian cyst the size of an orange.

I was looking somewhat pregnant and feeling a bit, um, large. The gynecologist was none too happy with me when I, at age 51, said,“Let’s give the things a little time. Maybe menopause will naturally shrink them.“ (This is possible –estrogen causes them to grow and lack thereof causes shrinkage).  51 is the average age of menopause.

Needless to say, I found myself having a total abdominal hysterectomy 3 months later, as I was still producing plenty of estrogen and the things were getting bigger instead of smaller. I emerged from the surgery thinner and happy my ovary had not exploded .

Things were not too bad at first. I was (and still am) reluctant to take hormone replacement therapy.

However, one night I awoke to find more fluid coming out of my body than I had ever experienced. Primarily, my neck for some bizarre reason.

It was as if some gigantic pores had opened below my hairline; the pillow was soaked, and I had to get a towel and sleep with it.

Then I decided to start counting the hot flashes; it was exceeding 10 a day, most of them requiring a wipe down.  Living in South Florida and the time of year being Summer did not help matters. I called the gynecologist and asked for some help.

“Is your sleep disturbed?” they asked.

Only by waterfalls of mysterious fluid leaking out of my neck..followed by frozen clamminess.

I am not sure if disturbed is even the proper word. Defiled is more like it.

So, I got the horse dose of HRT in a transdermal patch. The patch does help but I am still not out of the woods and menopause has definitely lasted more than one day.

Amelia Grant is a very experienced Landscape Architect/Designer who a few years back left the big city of Atlanta for an idyllic life in a small town in South Florida. The ensuing experiences led to a blog and new found pleasure in writing and sharing information online.


She lives on the Treasure Coast with her husband, two retired racing greyhounds and a fluffy  white cat. Landscape design and consulting are her primary occupation with writing, gardening, and cooking as sidelines.

Amelia’s  blog,The Shrub Queen, may be found at


The Pearly Whites: A Smile Brilliant Giveaway

Orange Slice

My brother and I used to eat an orange slice and then slip the skin onto our teeth  and grin at one another.

Next we’d take it off and sing, “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.”


Those of you of a certain age will remember that catchy tune!

Perhaps that’s why I’m of the keep-your-teeth-as-white-as-you-can persuasion.

I know it’s a matter of opinion, of course!


But toothpaste won’t do the trick (at least not for me).

In the fifty some years since I learned that jingle, more effective methods of whitening teeth have been developed. My dentist gives them a safety thumbs up.

Smile Brilliant has offered Friend for the Ride a giveaway! One reader will win a teeth brightening kit.


Read more about the Smile Brilliant kit here. 

Check out Smile Brilliant on Facebook. 

Follow them on Twitter

Giveaway: To enter the Smile Brilliant Giveaway, simply leave a comment before Feb. 15 saying that you’d like to be the winner. U.S.  and Canada only please. Thanks!

Past Blast:  To hear that catchy Pepsodent tune, listen to the video below:

For some scoop (interesting stuff, I promise) on the Pepsodent of long ago, check out this Wiki entry.


Technology! Reward Yourself in Polka Dots



Pictured above are my new smart phone gloves, a Christmas gift from Laura’s husband Matt.

Matt drew my name on Elfster, the online program Laura used to organize the family gift exchange.

My gloves rest on my  new phone in its polka dot case.

“Your cell phone matches your outfit!” I heard three times over the holidays. (I’m partial to polka dot shirts and sweaters.)

Clothing compliments are always a pick-me-up. Since this one was high tech related, I counted it double each time.

One of the compliments came from my seatmate on an a plane. ‘

“Thanks!” I said, turning toward her.

She sported a pink sweater and held a pink phone in her hand. “I buy cheap cases and change them to match my outfits,” she explained.

Talk about a technical fashion tip!

I read the following tip a few years ago in a happiness book:


The tip really stuck, as delving into technology is not my idea of a whoopty doo activity.

My brain doesn’t bend in a technical direction, and my fine motor skills are lacking, which is perhaps why I favor the random nature of polka dots.

But each time I tackle, successfully, something technical, I feel empowered, relieved, and proud.

I’m earning my polka dots and stripes.

What about you? What draws you to technology? What chases you away?

And do you agree with the happiness expert? Does keeping up with technology contribute to your overall happiness?

Aging, Menopause, Skin, Skincare

Skin! 10 Ways To Start The Anti-Aging Process at Any Age


A post by freelance writer Elizabeth Rago:

It’s never too late to start the anti-aging process. From encouraging cell renewal to seeking out professionals to recommend skin care products, here are 10 tips to reviving the vibrant and youthful skin you were born with…

1. Exercise–Dinana Rodriguez of lists 5 ways working out can benefit your skin and besides boosting oxygen and unclogging the toxins in your pores, exercise eases stress making that natural happy glow shine.

2. Wear (SPF) protection–Exposure to the sun can happen any time you step outside, so choosing a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) and applying properly is key.

3. Be patient–If you are starting a new regimen, whether it isa change in diet or testing out new skin care, give your body some time to respond to the switch in routine. You are planting a seed of healthy goodness inside your body and while you can’t see the results yet, the benefits will bloom in time.

4. Lather Up–Keeping your skin hydrated is a key element to the anti-aging process. Supple skin reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

5. Control Yourself and Don’t Over-exfoliate–“It’s no coincidence that women often start to overdo it in terms of exfoliation at midlife,” said The International Dermal Institute’s Director of Global Education Annet King.“This is when the cell-turnover begins to slow, and the skin’s overall metabolism subtly declines. In response, many women may get a bit reckless, wanting to “amp up” the exfoliation.”

6. Protect Yourself From the Sun Even In Cold Temperatures– Use a tinted moisturizer with an SPF, even during cold months when it might appear that the sun is not strong enough to cause damage.

7. Encourage Cell Renewal– In your 20’s, your skin cells were full of cell turnover energy, busting out fresh new cells every 14 -25 days. But as we age, too many poor choices like all-nighters or the overuse of alcohol starts to catch up with us, not to mention what our skin is exposed to environmentally. New Beauty Editors suggest you stay away from sweets, “Sugar will boost inflammation’s damaging effects, but eating good fats and oils, like tuna, salmon, soybeans, tofu, olive oil and avocado, help regulate cell metabolism, boost cellular repair and suppress inflammation.”

8. Get Educated – “It’s so important to interview, consult and map out the facial conditions of your client, as a free service before any product purchase and certainly before any professional service,” Annet King impresses to students who are preparing to become licensed estheticians and professional skin therapists.

9. Eat healthy – We are bombarded with the message “eat healthy”, but it’s important to take into account your personal lifestyle. The Mayo Clinic’s approach to diet “aims to teach you how to choose healthy foods and portions and to develop healthy lifestyle habits so that you can maintain a healthy weight for life.”

10. Invest In Quality Skin Care, But Don’t Break The Bank– It is important to find out from a professional what kind of skin care products you should use, but natural health and wellness practitioner, Dr. Andrew Weil, disagrees that buying expensive products ensures healthy skin. In fact, he says, “The best ways to maintain skin health aren’t very glamorous and certainly aren’t overly costly: good nutrition, adequate intake of both water and essential fatty acids, and daily use of a good antioxidant multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.”


Elizabeth Rago is a freelance writer specializing in health, wellness, and women’s lifestyle content, working with yoga studios, chiropractors, mental health, and wellness practitioners. Elizabeth writes the weekly column, The Circular Home for Chicago Shopping (an editorial partner of the Chicago Tribune) and is Senior Editor of All Things Girl, highlighting topics related to the modern domestic woman. She has been published in Mamalode Magazine,, and  Connect with Elizabeth on Twitter, LinkedIn, Houzz, and Google+.