Board Members for Life! Part One


A post by writer Sue Pace:

Some of the most memorable films depicting strong women bonds are rooted in the south: Steel MagnoliasThelma and LouiseFried Green Tomatoes.

Conversations about sex, men and birthing babies just sounds better when it involves women with high-rise hairdos and a ya’ll dropped into a sentence.

But, as part of a real sisterhood of the south, I know the secret to this bond. We tease each other, not our hair. We can find Southern Comfort in a bottle and in the strength of good friends who know how to have fun smack dab in the middle of a thunderstorm.

There are six of us in this group.

We are all from various regions of North Carolina, and we were brought together at that tender age of newly-conferred college graduates finding jobs as worker bees at a Chapel Hill, North Carolina multi-media enterprise. We were hired cheap and taught well. We each excelled in our own careers.

Some of us worked in the graphics department (Beth, Lisa, Denise and myself). Polly was in sales. Boots worked as the CEO’s assistant. Thirty years later, we’re still dancing collectively at someone’s wedding.

We call ourselves The Board.

It started out like a secret post-college sorority.

Our night’s out became the talk at the water cooler. Co-workers wondered where we’d go? Who did we talk about? If they had to ask, no doubt we were talking about them.

But, as we grew older our bond went beyond the walls of our collective companies. We started doing grown up things like having babies, getting divorced, changing careers.

Our dinners moved to each other’s living rooms. Our conversations held more real-life meaning. Our friendships became more substantive.

But, just like the differences in a tangy eastern BBQ and the sweeter taste of the western fare, we each bring our own distinct ingredient to the recipe.

Boots is the comedian.

Denise is the eternally glass half-full kind of gal.

Beth is the organizer and planner.

Polly filters nothing.

Lisa is a self-proclaimed control freak.

I think I’m perfect until one of them tells me otherwise.

Our success in staying together for thirty years?

Truth be told we prey on each other’s foibles. We never let each other forget them.

We force one another to put our big girl panties on and “getover it ya’ll.”

But, there’s no din more powerful than of the six of us, wined or whined up women, rejoicing in each other’s victories.

So, between us we’ve been married ten times, divorced four, suffered six miscarriages, birthed eleven kids, suffered three rounds of cancer and one heart attack.

We’ve watched five parents die and two lose their memories.

Two brothers have died before their time.

Most of us are in menopause. The rest of us are cranky enough to pre-qualify (except perky Denise, of course).

We know crying is about as useful as a trap door in a canoe. 

So, we get together and we laugh. We love our other catch phrases, too – “fish gotta fly,” “ya’ll stop laughing at me,” “Un-cle Ben’s or Min-ute Rice,” and our collective favorite “Ya’ll, I’ll bring the wine.”

We’ve supported each other through challenging times – a cheating spouse, bankruptcy, a change of careers, a lost brother, death.

And we’ve marveled at the victories – an RN degree at 40, dangerously preemie babies, that first love after a lost marriage, second weddings, surviving cancer.

While not everyone chooses to disclose their own personal details (some of us are more proper Southern girls, after all), there are those that have shared hilarious stories about intimacy – on a gator cart in a football stadium, in a field of sunflowers along a highway in France.

One of us has even proclaimed that getting dragged over broken glass sounded preferable to that first amorous encounter after birthing a baby.

To be continued….


Menopause, Midlife

Those Intent Teddy Bear Eyes

I took this photo because last year, I decided to start a teddy bear blog.  It’s still in my plans, but in the meantime, I have a picture of  three handsome bears.

Theodore is the yellow bear on the left.  He went to Duke with my mom in the forties.

Sadly, the other bears, who are younger, don’t have names yet.  The girl bear is wearing a vintage Shirley Temple dress, but somehow “Shirley” isn’t hitting me  for her name.  I’ll keep pondering.  Send your suggestions!

Anyway, I thought you might like to see the picture. In order to post it on Friend for the Ride, I needed to figure out a what teddy bears might teach us about menopause or midlife.  The two bear boys shouted, “Absolutely not!” to menopause talk, so I stuck to the subject of midlife.

In thinking of the true character of teddy bears, what strikes me most is their determined, intent expressions.  They know their minds.  They are happy with who they are.  Wishy-washy is not in their bear vocabulary.  Even Pooh, a somewhat bumbling bear at times, is, all in all, content with his life–his friends, his love for honey, his poetry, his world in the Hundred Acre Wood.

I’ve decided the eyes on my teddy bears are saying,  “This is the honeypot.  Don’t wait for a new one to swarm into your world and sweeten everything up a notch.  Live life now, lady.  We mean it!”

What about you?  Go get your teddy bear right now.

(Pause while you get your bear.)

Now look into those expressive eyes.  What are they telling you?

Below are the original Pooh animals.  They live in the New York Public Library.  Standing in front of the showcase and seeing these beloved characters was one of the most exciting moments in the life of this writer of children’s books.  I’m positive.  As positive as the eyes on a teddy bear.

And here are the eyes of Alan Alexander Milne, the brilliant mind behind Winnie the Pooh.  I found the picture on Goodreadsa way cool literary site.

Menopause, Midlife

I Can Solve Your Problem! I know I Can, She Thinks with Her Hand Over Her Mouth

I can solve her problem.  I know I can.  I know I can.  I just know I can!

But she won’t listen.

I can solve his problem.  I know I can.  I know I can.  I just know I can!

But he won’t listen.

I can solve everybody’s problems.  I know I can.  I know I can.  I just know I can!

But they won’t listen.

And oh no!  I bet they sometimes feel the same frustration with me.

So what’s the answer to this quandary?  Can you solve it?

Why won’t others take our advice, and why won’t we take theirs (most of the time)?

Is it because they/we are stubborn?  And the solutions will force us to go in directions we don’t want to go?

Or are we just not insightful enough to get deep inside one another’s problems to really understand them?

Don’t know.

Friends and family (well mostly family, who tend to be so ouch brutally honest), say I give way too much advice.  And so with The Great Pause and midlife, I am learning to just keep my mouth closed, at least some.  (Blog excepted.)

But if someone says, “I need your advice,” this old brain goes to town.  Yippee!

What about you?  Are you a giver of advice?  Or has age taught you to hold your wise tongue?

Photo:  I took this picture from a fourth grade arithmetic test my mom saved. I got a 98%.  Funny, no math tests exist for Barbara Kiehne [Younger] once she got into Algebra Two.  Maybe a tutor or a wise math friend could have helped her, but she was too stubborn to ask for advice.

Note that the test was mimeographed.  Remember the fumes!  Those were the days.

Aging, Life, Menopause

Practically Perfect: Mary Poppins, Not Me

It was  a big deal to this fifth grade girl when the movie Mary Poppins came out.  My dad drove us into Baltimore City to the Hippodrome Theater where we waited in line to get our seats.  What a night!  I was mesmerized and so was Dad, who especially liked the chimney sweeps leaping over the rooftops of London.

When she took out her magical measuring tape, I learned that Mary Poppins is practically perfect in every way.  Shouldn’t I try to be  perfect too?  (After all, who wouldn’t want to be just like Julie Andrews?)

I can make a list of imperfections longer than the string on Jane and Michael’s kite:  hair, brains, house, figure, makeup, manners, cooking, nails, teeth, career, relationships, parenting, garden, directional skills, linen closets, handwriting, and on and on and on.

Why do I set the bar so high that even chimney sweep Bert would have trouble jumping over it?

Blame it on Mary P.  Blame it on the media.  Blame it on parental expectations.  Blame it on comments from spouse and kids.  Blame it on hormones.  Blame it on the moon.  Happily,I’m slowly learning that I can be content without being practically perfect (not that I ever had much chance anyway).

There comes an acceptance, I think, with menopause and mid-life.  A  realization that life  really is short.  Why waste it picking at your own self, of all people.

Toward the end of the movie, Mr. Banks figures it out in A Man Has Dreams.”   We have plans that get dashed.  We don’t measure up.  We’re not the woman or man we thought we could be.

Mr. Banks’s voice moves to a new tenor as he sings, ” A spoonful of sugar, that is all it takes/It changes bread and water into tea and cakes.”

I think I’ll take a dose right now.  I’ll serve it up on the Mary Poppins spoon I ordered from the back of a cereal box in 1965.  Then it’s on to a tea party on the ceiling.  Later, I can scout out a chalk drawing to pop into (as long as nobody makes me dance.  Majorly Imperfect Me cannot dance).

Thanks, Mary.  You floated in on the wind and taught Mr. Banks and me some stuff.  And if someone gets to measure up to be practically perfect, I’m glad it’s you.

The Kite:  I promise you the kite flying finale will put you in a splendid mood.

Picture above of the super cool nanny is from Wikipedia.

Below is the practically perfect scene!  I found it here.