Celebrations, Hot Flashes, Menopause, Menopause Symptoms, Mood, Music

Guest Post and a Giveaway: Bring Out Your Inner Dragon!

A guest post by my friend Minnilue :

Finally– a holiday that embraces menopausal women.  The Chinese New Year starts on January 23. Get out your noise-makers ladies, the Year of the Dragon is almost upon us. In Chinese Astrology, dragons are special and revered, so wipe out your western view of Smaug or Puff. These dragons are a symbol of power and wisdom.

I searched online, and found a western definition of Menopause that called it “a normal phase in a woman’s life.” How boring-sounding is that? I don’t know about you, but menopause was anything but normal to me.  I prefer the Chinese medicine definition I found that said menopause is “a natural change that creates an imbalance in the body.”

I had a washing machine that worked well for years and years. It washed baby diapers, shin guards, jammies, occasional rocks and Ninja Turtles. Suddenly one day it bucked, bumped, and spun out of control–leaking water all over the floor. The red light flashed “IMBALANCE” over and over—“Danger Will Robinson!” After a day or so, I got it to work (well, at least on the Delicate cycle. The Normal cycle never worked again. ) After another year, it finally stopped. I just got a new washer. It washes and behaves well, but without the thrill of the bang and clang, washing clothes is “normal and boring” again.

You have to admit that a fire-breathing dragon, like menopause, does lend itself to drama and aura. Hot flashes—once they start, there’s no going back. Mood swings? “The dragon made me do it.” But hang in there. One day menopause will be over, and your body will be back in better balance–whatever that means.

Lucky Envelope Giveaway:  For a chance to win a Good Luck Chinese Envelope, please tell the Dragon about a change you fantasize happening in your life (or a friend’s life) in the New Year OR what dragon in literature or mythology is your favorite dragon.  Send entry by Friday at noon,E.S.T.  Winners will be chosen at random.

For further reading check out:

 Wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese-New-Year   and Chinesenewyear2012.net

Read about your animal sign according to birth year:  Chinesezodiac.com  

The Dragon:  A Google Image search found this handsome dragon here.

Minnilue  lives with her husband, Tom, ‘Fraidy Cat, and a new washer with the Normal cycle. The rest of her life is a combination of Normal cycle and Year of the Dragon.

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Menopause, Menopause Symptoms, Mood, Perimenopause

The NOT Silent Treatment

Here’s a joke sent our way by a high school friend:

A husband and a wife have just had a heated argument.  They are giving one another the silent treatment.

The husband does not want to blow his cool and start speaking to his wife.  However, he needs her to wake him up at five a.m.  He’s catching an early morning business flight.  (No working alarm clocks in this household, I guess.)  He writes her a note:  “Please wake me at five a.m.”

He leaves the note in a place where he knows she will find it.

The next morning, to his chagrin, he doesn’t wake up until nine a.m.  OH NO!

Furious, he gets out of bed.  He’s off to find his wife. This time for LOUD fussing.  But first, he looks down at the covers.   Near his pillow is a note:  “It’s five o’clock.  Wake up.”

The silent treatment has failed him.

Many women confess that they feel uncomfortable telling others when they are sad, grumpy, or jumpy from hormonal woes.   I know that’s how it is with me.  I wonder why?

Is there something about hormonal funks that whisper, “Shhh.  Keep it to yourself.”

Are we sometimes silent because we’re embarrassed about our moodiness and our inability to snap out of it?

But the silent treatment doesn’t help our partners or our friends,and it sure doesn’t help us.

Honesty is always the best  policy when it comes to the nastiness of hormones.  We can’t get help or comfort or understanding if we are silent.

Shout it from the rooftops!  Speak up!  Banish the days of the silent passage.  Let others know you are having troubles.

And let those who love you shower you with love.  Loud love.  Quiet love.  And all the love in between.

Photo:  Speaking of the silent treatment, wouldn’t you like to know what the Mona Lisa was thinking as Leonardo painted this picture?  A penny for you thoughts, Mona Girl.

Life, Mood, Stress

Just Breathe…

I send out this post with special thoughts for those of you who are worried, weary, grieving, hurt, or ill this holiday season. The holidays are an extra tough time to be dealing with life’s punches.

I’d heard the expression for years.

JUST BREATHE.

Big deal.  So what.  Platitude.  Simplistic.

I didn’t get it (and I also didn’t give it much thought).

And then one December, my father was sick.  Really sick.  On his fourth hospital.

Throw in unexpected company, the start of an MFA program, and quickly approaching Christmas with its trappings (or should I say traipsing, here or there in a hundred different directions on holiday errands).

I was opening the car door after finishing another errand.  If I could have sunk through the parking lot to the center of the earth and stayed there, I might have.

I remember holding onto the door handle for a second.   “Breathe,” a voice from within instructed.  “Stand still Barbara and breathe.”

I did.

And then I got it.

JUST BREATHE.

Sometimes, standing still and breathing is just  what you need to do.

Sometimes, at least in that moment, it’s all you can do.

But small miracles abound in those breaths.

Almost always, they fuel the courage to go on.

Photo:  On Bald Head Island off the coast of North Carolina, there are four one room cottages that sit by the harbor.  Named for the elements, they are Water, Fire, Earth, and Air.  I present you the sign that hangs on Air, in honor of the air we breathe.  With gratitude, air!

Winners of Unwrapping the Christmas Creche are Elle and Leslie!

Menopause, Mood, Perimenopause, PMS

Attack of the Venom Hormones

I had a fab time taking photos at the North Carolina State Fair this year.   Every new sight was a blog post possibility!

But it was husband Cliff who first spotted Spider Girl.  “Take her!  You’ve got to take her!”

Hmm, could he possibly think that women rattled by hormones morph into Spider Girls?

Double hmm, could he possibly think his sweet and perfect wife has ever turned into Spider Girl?

Tell me it isn’t so!

Well, maybe once or twice.

Grrrrr….

Snarl…

Snap….

I don’t understand the psychology or physiology of hormones.  Yet if the instant the words come out, you say to yourself, “Was that me talking?” you can be pretty sure hormonal spiders are at work.

But look carefully at Spider’s Girl’s face.  Her expression isn’t mean or bitchy or witchy.  In fact, she looks troubled.

Hormonal meanness is indeed troubling, for those who strike with its nasty venom and those who receive it.

Perhaps the best solution is for Spider Girl to wrap her eight furry arms around her victim and say she’s sorry.  If she’s lucky, the victim will respond by wrapping at least two arms back.

Photo:  I don’t know if this is a marquee for a ride or a  spook house.  Next year at the fair, we’ll try to make friends with Spider Girl and find out!

Children, Hot Flashes, Menopause, Menopause Symptoms, Mood, Perimenopause, Periods, PMS

Surf and Turf–When Menopause Is on the Menu

Abby Catering Company Photo

Mima Tipper and I are both graduates of the MFA Program in Writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts.  I am pleased to present her guest post…

Recently at dinner I fanned my face, asking, “Is anyone else hot?” Without missing a beat, my 18 yr-old son said, “Oh, Mom. It’s just menopause.”

Some pun intended, his snap-quick response gave me pause.  Sure, I knew I was experiencing dribbles of early menopause, but to have my child—my son, no less—chime in (even going on to joke that he learned about menopause on “hotandcold.com”, and oh, yeah, that site required a “flash” drive) well, that surprised me.

Later I reflected on my own teen years: did I have a clue menopause even existed back then? The answer? No. Worse, I don’t think the concept registered with me truly until I was well into my twenties, maybe older.

Intrigued by my cluelessness, I asked my Mom about her menopause experience, particularly the onset. Her answer surprised me more than my son’s dinner-table comments.  “Oh,” she said, “I don’t think I went through any of that.”

Hunh?

How did she escape the mood swings? The hot flashes? The night sweats? The bizarre cycles of doom, where hellacious PMS pre-curses 30 or so hours of flooding rivaling the red sea?

Could she have forgotten? Or could it be that she hadn’t been aware that these early signs had anything to do with menopause?

Then I remembered…The Trip.

In the spring of 1975, my Mom and my then StepDad took all of us (2 yr-old half-sister, 15yr-old brother, and 14 yr-old me) to Florida for a little R&R. The cracks in Mom’s and StepDad’s marriage already showing, the trip’s mood was rugged from the get-go, everything coming to a head the night we dined at a fancy restaurant. My brother ordered the most expensive item on the menu—yes, “Surf and Turf”—and StepDad had a conniption, demanding he order something cheaper. My brother did, and Mom, usually conciliatory to the max, sank into a pinched-lip sulk for the remainder of the meal.

Later, through the thin wall of our no-frills motel room, I remember hearing Mom and StepDad “discussing” things. The next morning he was gone. Mom? She took us on a Mastercard-driven spending tear that, frankly, scared us kids. What I remember most was going back to that fancy restaurant (more than once) and Mom insisting, insisting, my brother order the Surf and Turf.

When we returned home, StepDad had pretty much moved out and, probably needless to say, divorce was imminent.

I reminded Mom recently about The Trip, and a door of realization opened. Maybe some of her furiously irrational behavior back then could be attributed to the onset of menopause. The likely truth gave us both an aha moment.

Now, I’m not trying to make a big point here, but these days when I think of the sum of my own menopause experience so far—that steak-sized helping of discomfort often accompanied by a tasty lobster-tail of humor—yup, I see a big plate of Surf and Turf.

Sure, my head and body are often whacked, and it is mad strange to have my teenage son (along with my other two kids AND my husband) tease me occasionally about that whackedness. The truth is, however, that I know we’ll all deal better if we keep discussing life experiences like the big M openly, and—more than anything else—if we just remember to keep laughing.

Mima Tipper:   Mima Tipper has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is represented by Erzsi Deàk at Hen & Ink Literary Studio, henandink.com. Her YA short story “A Cut-OutFace” is in the latest issue of Hunger Mountain’s online Journal of the Arts (Read it here) and another of her YA short stories, “Waiting for Alice”, will appear in Sucker Literary Magazine’s premiere issue, coming winter, 2012. Mima lives in Vermont with her family, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Menopause, Menopause Symptoms, Mood, Perimenopause, PMS

Whirligig Menopause

Mr.  Whirligig stands on my porch.  

You never know when the wind will set his arms spinning.

And that’s how I’ve found it to be with menopause. 

You never know when a symptom (a new one or an old one) is going to start up.  Grumpiness.  Hot flashes.  Night sweats.  Insomnia.  Water retention.  Nervousness.  Dryness of one sort or another.  A period arriving six months after you figured you were done.

The wind’s direction determines which way Mr. Whirligig’s arms will twirl.  They can go one way or the other.

Is that the best way to handle the mercurial winds of menopause?  Twirl the way they send you?  Perhaps.  They seem to be the boss, anyway.  

I’m surprised sometimes, when Mr. Whirligig’s arms start  to turn.  A slight touch of wind, from nowhere in particular, will get a reaction.

It’s the same way with menopause.  Just when this girl is feeling calm, just when I think I’m finished, the symptoms swirl on back.

Drats and drats and DRATS!

 Poet Christina Rossetti writes:

            Who has seen the wind?

            Neither I nor you:

            But when the leaves hang trembling,

            The wind is passing through.

I would love to SEE a hormone.  What do these little buggers that cause me so much trouble look like!  (I’m not ditzing, really, on hormones.  I know they fill a biological purpose far beyond my understanding.)

But I want to lay eyes on one.  Actually,what I’d really like to do is have a conversation with one.

But I can’t.  And I can’t see the wind.   Neither can Mr. Whirligig.

All in all, he seems pretty content.  And he reminds me that when it comes to The Great Pause, there ain’t no telling just how that wind is gonna blow from day to day.

How about you?  Have the winds of PMS/Perimenopause/Menopause knocked you flat?  Or have you been able to twirl in the hormonal winds with the grace of a whirligig?

Photo:  Mr. Whirligig, who probably needs a more creative name, was handmade by someone whose name I will never know.  He was a gift from my mom.

Whirligigs:   Wikipedia has a fun article on whirligigs.  To see a festive variety of whirligigs on sale today, check out the website of Hand Crafted Creations. And take a few minutes to watch this video from the Whirligig and Weathervane Festival in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.   Whirls and twirls!   Amazing!

Life, Menopause, Mood, PMS, Shopping

Eleven Tips on 11-11-11 for the Anytime Blues

Feeling the Menopause Blues?  Or the PMS blues or any kind of blues at all?  In honor of 11-11-11, here are eleven ways to BEAT THE BLUES!

1.  Go back to your childhood.  Blow bubbles.  Ride a bike.  Yo-yo.  Get out your scrapbooks or yearbooks or picture books and lose yourself in yesterday.

2.  Change things up.  Change locations.  Change tasks.  Change the topic of the conversation.  Sometimes, change can shake up the blues and shake them away.

3.  Blast music.  Your favorite.  You’re the Boss of the Music World right now and you get to pick!

4.  Use your hands.  Paint.  Dig.  Stir.  Knit. Scrub.  Kneed.  Rake.  Hammer. Stitch.

 5.  Cheer up a shut in with a visit, a phone call, or a card.  If you have a balloon shop in your area, send a bunch of balloons. You can usually get three mylar balloons and delivery for around twenty dollars.  The cheer will come right back at ya!

6.  Escape into someone else’s story for a bit.  Read a good novel or biography.  Watch a movie.  Click here for the Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller Lists.

7.  Check out The Happiness Project website of Gretchen Rubin.  She explores the whole arena of happiness and moods.

8.  Connect with other people.  We sometimes stay clear of others when we’re feeling blue, but moods improve when we’re engaged in meaningful conversations.  Call someone you haven’t talked to in a long time, just to check on him or her.  Invite a new neighbor over for tea or dessert or a drink.  Start a conversation about your finicky cat when you’re in the pet food aisle.  Maybe another cat owner needs a pick me up too!

9.  Exercise. The blues make you fight exercise, but once you get moving, the blues may just dash away.

10.  Do a task you have been procrastinating. Get that car inspected.  Deal with the hall closet.  Tell yourself, “I’m grumpy anyway, so I might as well do a project that makes me grumpy.”  This often has a reverse effect.   Your mind gets busy, too busy to think about the blues, and when you’re finished, you’re quite pleased with a task accomplished.   

11.  Try a little Retail Therapy.  Don’t drop a bundle, but purchase something simple that will brighten your mood.  So often we don’t allow ourselves to buy small things that we love, need, or crave.  New gym socks. An alarm clock with a gentler buzz.  Funky earrings your daughters will envy.

Photo:  This blue lady is chasing her blues away with Tip Number 11, Retail Therapy.  She was created by Aubrey and chosen to be part of the school art exhibit at the North Carolina State Fair.

Contest:  Mary Be won the copy of Goodnight Moon!  Mary, send me your address, and I’ll send you “In the great green room there was a telephone and a red balloon and a ….”