Monthly Archives: January 2014

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