Menopause

A Long Time Marriage: A Happy Burial of Sorts

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A post by writer Doreen Frick: 

Today I took my wedding band and buried it. It was cold and snow showers were threatening, but I wasn’t cold or sad or threatened when I took the ring out of my coat pocket and put it under the soil where my husband’s great-grandparents rest.

Yes, it was symbolic, and yes, the next day I almost went back to the cemetery to retrieve it. Yet a week later, as I write this, the ring remains where I laid it, safe and sound and with the ones I think would understand. I need to let go and move on with my life.

Initially I took the wedding band off in the morning after a night of weeping. In the spirit of hopelessness (if there is such a spirit), I wanted to run away from my problem (and in my sleeplessness I came up with a Plan A, a Plan B and was working on a C when I fell asleep), but when I woke none of my plans seemed to matter. What was important was that I awoke happy. Confident. Whole. My problems had not been solved, nothing had been accomplished, and yet I had a new vision. A trust. Not so much in us, but in me, and in him, and therefore in us.

Still I kept the ring off, and when he noticed, I told him the truth. I want a new ring for a new beginning. Yes, after 43 years, we (and I mean we) need a new start. He never asked where the ring has gone, and I’ll probably never tell him. I applied for a job that day (most of our fight was about money), and then I led a seminar on writing your story to a group of women and young people who’d answered my ad in the newspaper. In preparation for the day out, I cut my own hair, colored and moussed it, and put on foundation and a new outfit. Turns out Mom was right after all. Sometimes when you’re feeling down you need to go shopping.

Spend money when you’re fighting about it. Fix your hair when you feel low about yourself. Reach out to others when you want to pull in and stay in bed. I had no intention of running away after I buried my ring; I was fine with staying put. All notions of solving this with my nighttime planning dissolved.

Having options (no matter how flimsy) helped me come out of my quagmire much more quickly. As crazy as it sounds, it was as if having choices helped me make the more sound one. Stay. Get strong. Eat a good breakfast. Fix your hair. Voice your opinion and wait. Remember Who is watching over you. That night I got a text from my granddaughter in Michigan. I texted back and asked how she was doing. Her reply was pure magic:

“I’m doing good most of the time, but I have my moments.”

Seventeen-year-old honesty, and instantly we bonded. She’s mine, oh yes, she’s mine because I, too, have my moments. But I’m good too.

In the freedom of waiting, I looked back over the past week when the problem surfaced. Of course it’s been below the surface for over twenty years, but that’s my way of dealing with things. Hide. But on this day, while eating lunch in the car, I railed against him, and began the unloading of assault.

In the middle of it, I looked over and saw his hand tremble, and his pulse racing in the vein in his hand. His demeanor belied the worry beneath, and I had a thought that maybe I can back off for now, and revisit this problem later. Of course I picked the middle of the night to let it all out.

Or maybe it picked me, but the real miracle is the thought that maybe he’s wounded too. Maybe the man has to hold it in and figure out how to solve it, but just for him to listen to my pain means he has to be mighty courageous. Nobody can take somebody’s pain away. But they can be brave enough to hear it.

And that’s where we’re at. I bought a cheap $5 ring at the thrift store to hold me over until we can afford the one I want. I put the picture of the gem-encrusted ring front and center in my pen jar to remind me there is nothing but beauty when one looks for it. In the acknowledging we have an unsolvable problem, I was given the confidence that took me out of myself. Tackling the next phase of life, where things do not revolve around how I feel, but who I am. A beloved child. A strong woman. A listener. A healer. Wounded, but for a purpose. I can’t ask for anything more than to have purpose. For me, everything has to have a purpose.

The snow skiffed by and the temperature dropped, but the sun came out again and when the night fell I slept like a brick. Did I get the job? I don’t know yet.

Will I ever fight with him about money again? I can’t promise.

Am I glad I didn’t buy a plane ticket to Florida? Yes.

Have I ruled out the little house next door to my daughter? Not yet. I’m half-plugging for that in our future.

In one of the many meltdowns, I mentioned if I should ever lose my memory and forget him, I will never lose the memory of the cologne he used to wear when we were dating.

That afternoon while I was out burying a ring, he came home with Brut in his shopping bag.

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About the Ring: This is Doreen’s dream ring, which she spotted in a cowboy magazine. It’s sold in a shop in Santa Fe, and the middle diamond is, in her words, “massive!”

Doreen Frick is a 61-year-old writer from Philadelphia who has lived in Washington State, New Mexico, and finally she’s half-settled in Ord, Nebraska where her husband’s people homesteaded over one hundred years ago. She first began to write when she journaled in a tablet her days raising four children, some dairy cows, and a horse, chickens and the welcome stray cats that found their way to her place.Capture

Menopause

My Cancer Story: Twenty Months

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As I wrote here, sometimes joy abounds in shocking ways. I never would have guessed that my two days spent in this place, UNC Hospital, would be two of the happiest of my life. On my way back for a checkup at twenty months, this thought hit me anew. And why so happy? A successful surgery, little pain, AND a best case pathology report. My cancer was early stage, and I needed no further treatments.

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That’s my reflection in the glass. I had about twenty minutes before my appointment, so I took a nostalgic stroll around the hospital. I walked past the desk where Cliff and I checked in at six AM on surgery morning. I recall feeling subdued but calm. In an article I wrote for Sixty and Me, I called it “Cancer Courage.” Shout out to reader Cheryl who is rocking Cancer Courage right now, as she prepares for her sixth chemo infusion for breast cancer.

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The Ladies Room Door Art Series had just begun. I was pleased at my pre-op visit to find this door with UNC’s symbol of the Old Well. Snapped it again!

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And what a happy ride I took in one of these slick carts when it was time to go home post-surgery.

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I’m a Duke grad, but I got my master’s in library science at UNC. In fact, I had my first gyno exam at the health facility there shortly before my wedding. Never would have guessed I’d return almost forty years later for exams of a more serious nature.

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Even though I’m twenty months post-surgery, it still takes me back to see this sign. Oncology. Think Cancer.

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The photos below no doubt call up a yuck reaction. Most women hate pelvic exams. I’ve become a pro, but more importantly, I don’t hate them anymore. Thus far, post-surgery, they’ve brought me good news. It sure puts a bounce in my step when the doctor announces that all looks well. (A bounce in my step, that is, after I get off the table).

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My oncologist, Paola Gerhig, confirmed that I am to see her once a year and my gynecologist six months later, for five years. At that point, if I’ve had no recurrence, Dr. Gerhig will release me to the care of my gynecologist.

But not before I say what I say each time I see her: “Thank you for saving my life.”

Endometrial Cancer:  Please don’t hesitate to contact me, as some of you have, with personal concerns. You can read my cancer story on Friend for the Ride’s Endometrial Cancer page.

 

Menopause

Thanks for Thinking of Us, Mrs. Rabbit!

Easter Bunny

So did it work?

Did you get a happy share of chocolate delights?

I remember years ago trying to figure out how to sneak candy from the girls’ baskets. Could I get by with eating one of four foil-wrapped small bunnies? Could I knock off a larger bunny’s right ear? What if I took ten M & M’s from the plastic tube with the yellow ducky on the top? 

Life sure presents chocolate challenges…

Have a your favorite chocolate in the world kind of day!

Menopause

Building Your Resilient Self: A Writing Workshop

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For those of you who live locally, my friend Judy Brown and I are repeating our writing workshop at RambleRill Farm here in Hillsborough. We’re talking about resiliency for women! We were delighted by the response to our first workshop, so we’re offering it again. The workshop is for both writers and non-writers. Come join us!

During the workshop, we ask participants to write about a troubling experience. This is what one woman reported in her workshop evaluation:

“Just such a memory had haunted me the week before attending your workshop, so I wrote about it. I also wrote about the advice that I would give someone undergoing a similar experience. That night I slept better than I had for some time. So thank you very much for the healing quality of this workshop.”

Here’s the workshop description:

Building Your Resilient Self:
An Afternoon of Wellness and Words

“The oak fought the wind and was broken,
the willow bent when it must and survived.”
Robert Jordan

Come join an intimate group of women for an afternoon at RambleRill Farm in
Hillsborough as we explore writing techniques and how they can be a tool for
resiliency. Whether we are the oak or the willow, life hands us many challenges.
Writing is a strong tool for guiding us to bend when we need to, and to help us
bounce back to physical and emotional wellness.

Judy Brown, a certified holistic health coach, will explain how our emotional,
spiritual, and relational lives can impact our resiliency and our health.

Barbara Younger, an author and writing teacher, will lead us in writing from the
heart to reach the strength within us.

The afternoon will include guided meditations, relaxation exercises, and an
afternoon tea.

Date: Friday, April 1, 2016
1-4 pm

Where: RambleRill Farm, 913 Arthur Minnis Rd., Hillsborough

Cost: $40

Please contact Judy Brown for more information and to sign up for the workshop.
Jfrances40@earthlink.

RambleRill Farm: I snapped the photo of the RambleRill Barn right before our first workshop on a cold winter day. Come meet the farm in the Spring! You can read more about RambleRill here.

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Menopause

The Heart of the Fight: A Book Giveaway

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Fight! Fight! Fight!

Yep, fight! Turns out after years of thinking we should avoid them, fighting is one of the best things you can do for your marriage. The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer spells it out for us. What’s extra fun about the book is that the authors, Judith Wright and Bob Wright, are married and they reveal plenty about their own marriage and their own fights.

Here’s the book’s description from the publisher:  Every couple fights — it’s how you fight that can determine the success of your relationship. In this unique guide, you’ll learn how to use disagreements as an opportunity to deepen your understanding of your partner, bring more intimacy to the relationship, strengthen your bond, and really learn from the conflicts and tensions that occur between you. If you’re ready to start fighting for your love, rather than against it, this book will show you how. Read more about the book here.

Giveaway: The publisher is offering a copy to one lucky Friend for the Ride reader. For a chance to win, please enter a comment before April 10. Tell us about  your biggest fight ever. (Just kidding!)

The Authors, Judith and Bob Wright, below, sure look to me like they’ve worked their differences. Guess they know just what they’re talking about.

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Menopause

Losing Mom: Happy Birthday to Me

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When you’re little, your mom and your birthday go hand in hand. She tells you about the wonderful day you were born (or adopted). She bakes your cake. She wraps your presents. She organizes your party. She might even paint a tile with your hand print and birth date on it (which sadly cracked  years later).

When you’re older, she still talks about that wonderful day, and she still gives you presents. Your mom and your birthday go together forever. Happy birthday, the day of my birth, to both of us!

But never, ever do you think you mom will die on your birthday.

Mine did. Last year. On March 20. The first day of Spring.

I was back in Hillsborough. Mom’s cancer pain had ramped up. She had begun to experience some moments of agony, yelling in pain. Trying her best to stay off full-time morphine, she didn’t understand she now needed constant medication. Her beloved New Yorker sat by her bed. Mom wanted to read and think and converse as long as she could.

The night before my birthday, her good friend Kathy helped her phone me. “Happy birthday,” Mom said, her voice strong. “You were a darling baby.”

When I woke up that morning, I thought my heart had shattered. I’ve never experienced such horrific sadness. Not so much that Mom was dying but that she was in pain. (That morning my brother convinced her that it was time to stay on morphine, but I didn’t know this until nighttime).

I spent my birthday crying and getting ready for a dinner for our church group. I had tickets back to Baltimore three days later. I considered skipping the party (Cliff said he could manage) and getting a flight up that day. I didn’t though.

My friends arrived, with a card and a birthday cake for me. My mood lightened as people filled the space.

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About fifteen minutes later, Kathy called. I stepped into the spare bedroom. Mom’s breathing had changed. Her eyes were closed, even though she’d been quite alert at noon. Kathy didn’t think Mom would live the night.

As I walked back to my guests, a great calm and a sort of joy came over me. This was good, good news. Soon my mother’s suffering would end.

I ate dinner, joined in the book discussion, and then everyone serenaded me with “Happy Birthday.” I cut the delicious cake Carolyn baked. When I watched the phone video Cliff took of me listening to the singing and then blowing out my candles, I am smiling. My mother is dying, and I am smiling.

Next, we sang hymns in our living room, including a favorite: On Eagle’s Wings. Alice suggested we lift Mom’s name up in another hymn, and we did. I don’t have eloquent words to describe how those moments felt. I’ve been postponing writing this post for a year because I know this writer can’t do justice to the mystical nature of that night.

Shortly after everyone left our house, my brother phoned. Mom was gone.”Happy birthday,” he said at the end of the call. That may sound odd or even cruel, but Chris was expressing kindness. I was his sister, and after all, it was indeed my birthday.

But what a happy birthday it turned out to be. Mom was at peace. So was I.

Life tosses us surprises. Joy abounds in the most shocking ways.

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My mom, Nancy Kiehne, was an artist. This is her rendering of St. Cecilia, the Patron Saint of Musicians.

 

Menopause

The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Part Twenty-one

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Above, this door graces the entrance to the ladies room at The Calgary Stampede. Below, a Pizza Hut in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. These fine doors were sent to us by reader Cindy.

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Cindy wrote that she discovered the doors below “at a Greek restaurant in Banff. At first it was kind of confusing as to which was which.”

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I asked my friend, classical scholar Dr. Ken Ostrand, to identify the figures for us. The lady above is Athena. Ken writes about the gentleman below: “I’ve always felt it was Zeus, but until recently the majority view was that it was Poseidon. Now authorities are shifting to Zeus. It’s a magnificent bronze piece, about 6’6, naked, and powerful, from ca. 470 BC, if memory serves me right.”
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And finally, Cindy  found this sign at a bar in NW Wisconsin.
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The wreath graces the bathroom door at the Blissful Journey Day Spa here in Hillsborough.

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This tall lady peeks out from the ladies room door of Food Lion in Hillsborough.

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I snapped this elegant sign at the Black Bear Cafe and Bistro in Warrenton, Virginia.

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Reader Silvia sent this shadowy lady from the IKEA in Merriam, Kansas.

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Silvia found the  door below at The Chef, a diner in Manhattan, Kansas.

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And the fancy feather lady at The Folly Theater in Kansas City, Missouri.

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From Ericka, comes a door on Marco Island, Florida.

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Carol, famous for The Potty Trip of Potty Trips, discovered this door at the Evans Prairie County Club, The Villages, Florida.

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And another from Carol, Morgan’s Tavern in New Bern, North Carolina.

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Finally, a lady shape on the wall at my beloved Southpoint Mall. I think she’s got a nice funky edge to her.

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And that wraps it up for Edition Number Twenty-one of our Ladies Room Door Art Series. I can’t tell you how excited I am to receive an email with new doors! Thank you all so much!