Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Did you miss me? Well, shame on you if you didn’t notice that it’s been four long months since I sat at a computer and thought about my blog. Hey – I’ve been busy, okay? 

I’ve already told you about my relocation project, otherwise known as the longest-lasting move in history, and my complete disgust with packing and unpacking boxes. Unfortunately, I wrote that a bit too soon, because the moving process (from NY to NC) had been dragging on and on. It may sound whiney of me, but I frankly just couldn’t deal with blogging on top of everything else. Topics floated by, and I thought about writing about lots of things: living in a different state than your husband, living in temporary quarters that are more like your first apartment (borrowed furniture and all) than that contemporary, professionally-decorated home you just sold at a loss, friends helping out in a pinch, exhaustion, changing careers, the importance of a creative inspiring environment to write in, exhaustion, planning the future when you don’t know what’s coming, saying good-bye to old friends, saying hello to new ones, exhaustion, becoming southern, road trips, exhaustion, exhaustion, exhaustion, and exhaustion. 

At 54, I’m not old (just sliding into it…). But I’ve decided I’m definitely too old for the chaos I’ve been dealing with for more than two years. 

Should we move? Let’s move! Wow – a buyer’s market! We found a great southern house at a great price – let’s buy it! What do you mean the vacation condo won’t sell? What do you mean our northern house won’t sell? The market collapsed? We own three houses? The condo sold – move our stuff out of that. The house FINALLY sold. Yay!

But…I can’t afford to leave my job right now to start all over again. So let’s move all of our furniture there, and rent a partially-furnished northern house at a great price from a pal. A house on a busy, noisy street. A house that’s attached to a professional office, and we share the kitchen with the office staff during the day. It’s fine. Tiny desk crammed into a corner of the living room that doesn’t inspire. Retired Hubby moves to the south on his own and golfs while I stay here and work all winter. No problem. Take the dog. Leave me here. It’s fine. Really.

Okay, time to make a job decision. I can’t live 750 miles away from my husband any longer. Negotiate a deal with the boss – they’ll let me try to work remotely. Say good-bye to life-long friends and family. Drive my remaining belongings south. Hi, Hubby, remember me? Drive back north to work a few weeks on an enormous work project, stay with a gracious friend, and drive a borrowed company vehicle that has 163,000 miles and a duct-taped hood.

How in the world did I become that loser that drives around in a beat-up old van begging friends for a place to stay for a few weeks? I’m a 54-year-old professional woman in a high-level position with a prestigious company, for heaven’s sake. And here I am, camping out on a borrowed bed, with a duffel bag of assorted clothes and a dresser covered with wine bottles.

Yeah, I’m exhausted.

But at least I was mature enough (a/k/a old enough) to know that I would surely give myself a nervous break-down if I didn’t set some limits. Dial back on volunteer work. Dial back on hobbies. Dial back on the blog.  I had to let some things go. Like this blog. Deal with it.

One benefit of being older and wiser is that you recognize when you’re over-committed, and you do something about it… like say “no”.  There’s only so much energy to go around, and I had to recognize that I was adding too much unnecessary stress to my life by trying to be everything to everybody. It’s one of those lessons that tends to come with age and experience. In other words, we (especially women) usually have to learn this lesson the hard way, by over-extending and finding ourselves tired, bitchy, sick and ineffective at everything we’re trying to juggle.

But the move is winding down, and I’ve missed the blog (even if you haven’t missed me, you ungrateful -_ _ _ _s!).  So I’m going to gradually step it up and see how it goes.  My generous friend has a lovely extra space for me to use that is soothing and inspring, and I can definitely feel my creativity crawling back to life in these surroundings as I tap-tap-tap on my new laptop.  So I’ll give it a shot, and you can let me know how I’m doing. 

Just be kind.  Because I’m still really very tired….

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Driving Home Last February

Let’s face it – we Baby Boomers have learned a thing or two in our 50 – 60 years on this planet.  Some of us have learned them through experience (both pleasant and bitter) and some of us have learned them by observing others, or being taught by our parents or others.

And Boomers growing up in the Northeast have learned how to cope with cold weather.  We remember the happy winters of our youth, when snow was nothing but fun.  When metal “saucers” were the high-tech alternative to the sharp bladed wooden Flexible Flyer snow sleds.  When we thought nothing of bundling up and heading outside to play for hours in the snow.  After all – we didn’t have the myriad indoor options of today’s youth, with 500 television channels and computer games and such.   The modern marvel of my youth was the snowmobile, which roared into popularity in the late sixties.  I grew up racing my snowmobile (a Rupp…) around the frozen lake with my friends.  Instead of using a game controller to pretend to drive a vehicle, I actually drove one, and learned early how to change a spark plug and fill a tank with gas.

Of course, as I’ve gotten older, I’m increasingly less inclined to play outside in the snow.  My primary goal in the winter these days is just surviving it warmly and safely.  Some new and dear friends (love it when that happens!) recently moved to the frigid north from a much warmer clime, and I’ve been advising them on how to adapt to our winter weather.  Here are some both old-fashioned and modern marvels I’ve recommended to them (and now to you) to make winters easier to bear:

1.        Thinsulate.  This wondrous lightweight material from the geniuses at 3M™ is used in everything from boots to coats to gloves and hats, and it is wonderful.  Outer clothing no longer has to weigh 25 lbs to keep you warm – Thinsulate™ can do it while weighing only ounces.  My personal favorite – Isotoner gloves lined with the stuff.  Warm, yet stylish and practical – you really can pick up a penny (and handle a credit card and juggle your car keys) with your gloves on.  Yes, they’re pricey, but they last for multiple winters of daily use.

 

2.       Anything made in Canada.  What can I say?  Our neighbors to the north know how to make warm clothing and good boots.  If you’re looking for warm outerwear, you can’t go wrong with product made in Canada.  I have a pair of Canadian winter hiking boots that have lasted nearly 20 years and several trips to Ireland, and my tall Canadian leather winter dress boots are heading into their eleventh cold season. 

 

3.       Anything from L. L. Bean.  When they tell you a coat will keep you warm to 10 below, they mean it.  Their clothing wears like iron, and is usually machine washable.  Their Polartec® fleece vests are the warmest things I’ve ever seen.  Super thin, they layer perfectly (and invisibly) under a winter coat, and they really hold in your body heat.  And L. L. Bean is one of the few companies to offer good down coats in full lengths.  I never understood the logic of a warm down jacket that left your tender butt cheeks and thighs exposed to below zero wind chills with nothing but a thin layer of cotton or wool dress pants for protection.  Down coats aren’t pretty, but they’re effective. 

 

4.       Heated mattress pads.  Okay, I was very late discovering this one, and I have to say that I was an absolute fool for not knowing about them sooner.  A heated mattress pad is nirvana.  Our current rental home is not well insulated, and the master bedroom is the coldest room in the house.  When hubby was traveling in November, I was going to bed wearing warm socks, a flannel nightgown, my chenille robe, and layering three blankets over myself in bed.  I was beginning to picture Hubby finding me smothered under 50 lbs of layers in my attempts to stay warm.  Then someone mentioned using a heated mattress pad.  Who knew?  I turn it on an hour or so before bed, and the sheets are nice and toasty by the time I crawl in.  Then I turn it down, and set it to turn off a few hours after I go to bed.  So I fall asleep nice and warm, but stay asleep in a healthy cool bed (researchers say sleeping in a cool room is better for you).  This is true bliss.  If you live anywhere cold, you need to buy one of these.  Right now.  And it has dual controls, so I can make my side of the bed snuggly warm, and Hubby, who generates his own heat naturally, doesn’t have to deal with it.  A warm bed and marital peace.  Sweet.

 

5.       Hot toddies.  Medical research claims that cold weather doesn’t cause colds in humans.  That’s hard for us Boomers to accept, since our moms constantly told us to bundle up so we didn’t “catch cold”.  But perhaps it’s not the frigid temperatures that make us sick, but our lifestyles during this season.  We lock ourselves up in hermetically-sealed buildings all winter long – at home, at work, at the mall – creating virtual Petri dishes where viruses can hop from one person to another.  I’ve known I’d catch this cold I’m currently suffering from since mid-December, when it first began its progression around my office, my church, and through the family members we visited at Christmastime.  I threw vitamin C at it, and zinc, and now “real” cold medicine.  But the best thing for a cold (or at least the most enjoyable), and a true sign of winter’s arrival, is a good old-fashioned hot toddy.  More specifically, my hubby’s hot toddy.  Boiling water, a shot of Irish whiskey (Michael Collins is my choice), a dollop of honey, and a splash of lemon juice, all combined in a large mug.  Drink it as fast as you can (at home, just before bed).   You’ll soon be sweating, and then you’ll be sleeping.  And when you wake up, you’ll feel better.  Or at least well rested.  And if you don’t drink alcohol, well then, I’ve known people who’ve made toddies without the whiskey, and they claim it worked.  I’ll just take their word for it. 

With the proper tools, winters can be bearable.  And at the proper age, we become wise enough to avoid winters.  This will be my last winter in the northeast.  It’s been fun, but I’m outta here.  I’ve enjoyed the survival skills I’ve shared.  But I’m headed south after this one, thank you very much.  My old bones can’t take it.  And I’m eager to learn new skills at staying cool rather than staying warm.  Someday maybe I’ll share those here…

Hello, 2012!

I can’t really say that I was sorry to see 2011 leave.  It was stressful year. 

We (finally) sold our house and completed the first phase of our move to North Carolina.  Packing boxes, unpacking boxes, settling into a very temporary rental house that is reminiscent of my first apartment thirty years ago, complete with cheap and/or borrowed furniture.  It’s been an adventure. 

I said good-bye to some dear friends in 2011 – dear friends who were my age or younger – a sobering part of growing older.  These friends all left this earth far too soon.  While I blogged about losing Donna and Billy, just this past week I’ve also said good-bye to both Betty and Steve.  It’s even more tragic that Steve’s death was due to alcoholism.  Younger than I, he just couldn’t defeat the demons that cost him his career, his marriage, and ultimately his life.   

And we added the happy stress of a new puppy, who has unexpectedly grown to the size of a small pony and threatens to become a dog of Marmaduke proportions and adventures.  Even now, as I type, Tully is prodding at my elbow and whining to be taken for a walk, which I’ll have to do if I expect to be able to finish this post, so excuse me……….okay, I’m back.  Welcome to my world since Tully entered my life.  It’s all about her.  All the time.  Really.

I avoid making detailed new year’s resolutions, because they’re just a recipe for failure, depression and frustration.  It’s so easy to rattle off a list of goals on January 1st, and they seem so reasonable at the time.  Lose 20 pounds.  Exercise daily.  Stop eating sweets.  Organize my closet.  But by January 31st, like the vast majority of people, my resolutions have fallen to the wayside, and the mere thought of them makes me feel like a fool.  And who needs that?

So, for the past few years, I’ve gone to setting “themes” – one-word goals that I try to frame my year around.  I’ve used “de-clutter” (moderately successful), “focus” (moderately successful), and last year it was “finish” (not so successful).  But the joy of one word resolutions is that failure isn’t glaringly obvious, and they can still help me set and meet smaller goals through-out the year.  I don’t know if I’m any better at finishing things than I was a year ago.  But give me a break – it’s tough to change a life-long habit of being a starter. 

Today’s the day I have to set my theme for 2012. 

Drum roll, please – the word for this year (for me) is – “fearless”. 

2012 will be a year full of changes.  Moving out of state.  A new career (and possibly a job hunt for a new employer – yikes!).  Making new friends in a North Carolina.  Leaving dear friends behind in New York.  Settling finally into our new home.  Maybe even starting a business of my own.  Or writing more (for money).   

This year – I will be FEARLESS!  I will push myself to do things that scare me.  I will push myself out of my comfort zone.  I will do my best to not worry about failure.  And if I fail at something, I’ll just get back up and FEARLESSLY try something else.  One example is the new look for the blog – a change was long overdue.  Hope you like it!  I’ll admit that’s a baby step when it comes to change, but it’s only the first day of the year.  Give me time to build momentum.

I tend to not be terribly bold in general.  Some people might find that surprising, because I can fake it pretty well.  But I have that female-born-in-the-fifties angst about drawing attention to myself and being in charge of my own fate.  Too much Ozzie and Harriet when I was growing up, perhaps.

Will it be scary to act so boldly?  Yup. 

Setting a resolution of “fearless” doesn’t mean “fear-free”.  It means acting fearless, taking bold action.  And I can do that.  I’ll reinvent myself, or better yet, find my true self, in a new home in a new state.  Instead of struggling to finish that first novel, I’m going to start a new one, and the story is already kicking around in my head, getting ready to hit the page.  I’ll figure out how to make a living somehow, in a way that doesn’t stifle me. 

How?  No clue.  But I’ll figure it out as I go.

So tell me – what would you do in 2012 if you were truly fearless?  And what’s stopping you?

Dogs of Our Lives…

There are many great advantages to not having a dog. 

No bundling up for walks in the midst of a blizzard…

 

 

No home electronics destroyed… 

 

 

 

 

No need for elaborate care plans and pleading for dog-sitting volunteers when you want to have a simple weekend get-away with your spouse.  No worrying while you’re away that your dog is probably trampling through your friends’ vegetable garden with abandon at every opportunity, no matter how many barriers they erect.

No fretting about your horse-sized canine leveling grandma or the neighbors with her enthusiastic greeting, and the lawsuits that could follow.  No dashing home from work to hurriedly walk the dog before you head out to your other evening obligations.  No need for a lint-brush and vacuum in every room and at the office to remove all the dog hair. The. Dog. Hair. Is. Everywhere.

No triple-digit veterinary bills, or monthly double-digit food, treat and toy bills.  And speaking of toys, no tripping over tennis balls, stepping on ragged-edged beef bones in the middle of the night, or listening to the nerve-chilling squeak-squeak-squeak of squeaky toys all day long.

And the greatest advantage to never having a dog – never having to say “good-bye” to a beloved four-legged friend after years of companionship.  Their departure carves a hole in our hearts that never fully heals.

Yes – there are many advantages to being dog-free.  But I honestly just don’t think some humans were intended to be without dogs, and I’m one of them.

Molly

Molly was my first – a boxy little Australian Shepherd puppy purchased for protection when I lived alone on a country farm.  A territorial breed, Molly knew her job and did it well.  Then I met Hubby and we moved to the suburbs together, and she learned to be a civilized house dog.  In the process, she dropped me like a hot rock and bonded with my husband.  She would literally brush past my open arms to run to him.  Molly wasn’t the brightest bulb in the pack, but she was my (then his) faithful and comic companion for 16 years.  We put her to rest a day after she suffered a violent seizure, and it broke our hearts.  Hubby vowed to “never have another dog”. 

And we didn’t for a year or so…until Jenny came along.  My friend’s mother was moving to assisted living, and they needed a home for her big, black, hairy mutt who had been rescued from euthanasia several years earlier when her neglectful owners left her at a veterinarian’s office.  Back then, she was skinny, sick and hairless, but the vet and my friend nursed her back to health because of her placid, loving nature.  Our quiet routine vanished when Jenny moved in, and she immediately bonded with Hubby (I was starting to get a complex).  He had a retail store in town, and she went to “work” with him every day.  She was even featured in the local paper, and people came to the store just to see Jenny. 

 

Jenny

Jenny traveled to Massachusetts with us (where the grandchildren adored her), and to Florida, and North Carolina.  Because of the neglect in her early years, Jenny had separation anxiety.  That meant she went nuts when left alone, and had to stay in a dog crate.  And she was also completely terrorized by thunder and lightning.  She tore an extra large and very sturdy metal dog crate (and a section of drywall) to pieces during one storm when we weren’t home.  But when she plopped her head on your lap and gazed at you adoringly, you just couldn’t help adoring her right back.  Sadly, Jenny wasn’t young when she came to our home, and after 6 or 7 years, she was showing signs of old age.  She lost strength in her back legs, and the lost control of her balance, and we made another tragic trip to the vet.  Again, there was never going to be another dog – we could barely say her name without shedding tears, even months after her death.

You’ve probably already figured this out – yes, another dog has joined our life. 

February 2011

Last February, when apparently our house seemed too peaceful, we made an impulsive visit to the pound, and brought home a small yellow lab mix puppy who fit into our laps easily and charmed us completely.  Tully (named for the Irish city of Tullamore, one of our favorite places in Ireland) has noisily and rambunctiously taken over our lives.  She wasn’t supposed to be a big dog.  We didn’t want a big dog.  But she is big.  Really big.  And she’s still growing.  When she stretches out on our king-sized bed, she covers it from edge to edge. 

 

December 2011

While she used to sleep curled up in Hubby’s lap, she now threatens to topple the recliner if she tries it today.  She wants attention all the time, and seemingly never tires.  Her toys cover the living room floor, and her favorites are those that squeak the loudest.  She doesn’t like being alone, but she will resign herself to napping on the bed while we’re gone.  She can destroy an entire box of tissues if we leave them within reach, but rarely destroys anything else (with the exception of the TV remote she chewed up yesterday).  She’s the first truly intelligent dog we’ve had – her wheels are turning all the time, and it’s hard to stay ahead of her.  She’s a goofball, she drives us crazy, and she has brought a permanent form of chaos to our home. 

And yes, I know that my heart will be broken again someday, hopefully many years from now.  Getting a pet means planning on heartache – they rarely outlive us.  But the joy, warmth, laughter, and pure unadulterated love they bring into their lives while they share their time with us is invaluable, and yes, it’s worth the grief, no matter how bitter that grief may be at the time.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the store to buy Tully some new treats, and later today you’ll find me in the backyard, throwing a purple soccer ball over and over and over, just to watch her leap and bound and run.  And she will make my day complete.

Where Did My Brain Go?

As long as I’m on the subject of hormones…  I find the second-most irritating symptom of menopause (after the raging emotions) to be the loss of mental function in general.  This is more than being absent-minded – I’ve been absent-minded all my life. 

But lately, it’s like I just go into a “brain-fog” with no warning.  I’ll be driving home from work and suddenly realize that I don’t remember getting off the highway exit, and yet here I am, driving down the side street to my home.  Apparently I drove it safely and legally, as I heard no honking horns or blaring sirens.  But I don’t remember doing it.  It’s not that I was thinking about something else – I wasn’t thinking at all. 

I’ve been in conversations recently, and I’ll suddenly realize that I’ve “tuned out” and I have no idea what I’ve missed.  I’ve become good at using my “interested” face and appearing to be listening – nodding, smiling, jotting a few notes.  But I didn’t hear an entire block of speaking.  Well, I heard it, since my hearing isn’t gone, but I didn’t process it.  Again, it’s not that I’m daydreaming, which I’ve always been very good at – my mind is just blank. 

It’s pretty creepy, actually, to realize you’re losing time (without the assistance of alcohol!).

And even when I’m not losing time, there are moments when I just can’t kick my brain into gear.  I’ll pick up a new bag of (low-fat) chips, start to pull it open, and then just stop.  What was I doing again?  Do I need the scissors?  No, I just have pull it open – and still my hands aren’t moving.  What the hell?  Do I want these chips?  Is there something else I’d rather have?  Is it too close to dinner?  Oh, for crying out loud – open the damn bag!

And choosing clothes for work?  There are days when it’s agony, because I can’t make a freakin’ decision.  Do I want the black pinstripe pants?  Did I wear black pants yesterday?  What shirt should I wear?  Does that pattern go with the pinstripe?  Will it be warm enough?  Maybe not…  But this brown sweater would do.  But then I have to pick different pants.  Do these need to be ironed?  What shoes would I wear?  Do I have trouser socks that match?  No, no – I already had my black shoes pulled out to wear.  I should wear the pinstripes.  Maybe add a jacket over a short-sleeved shirt?  But which jacket?  Does this match??  A-r-r-g-g-h-h!  By now, I’m late for work. 

Never good with names, I now meet people and forget their names within seconds of meeting them.  Even when I’m trying to remember – even when I made up a word-association to remember.  Or I mix up the word associations in an embarrassing way.  For example, I use word association to remember the name of a consultant our company is working with.  He’s tall, good-looking and conservative, and his first name is Don.  So I’ve associated him with Don Draper of Mad Men, and it helps me remember his first name.  But twice recently I’ve referred to him as “Don Draper” to colleagues, who then look at me as if I’ve lost my mind.  And perhaps I have.

So I did a little research, and sure enough, one of the symptoms of menopause is “foggy thinking”, absent-mindedness, short-term memory loss, lack of cognitive ability, etc., etc., etc.  Something to do with hormones (of course), and probably stress.  It can be a vicious cycle, actually.  Get frustrated at the brain-fog, stress out, which makes the brain function more poorly, which cause more stress, which makes the brain function even more poorly, and pretty soon, you’re driving home without remembering the trip, and wearing blue socks with black shoes. 

It’s not all the time – it comes and goes.  Some days, even weeks, I’m perfectly fine (or at least as good as I was before menopause arrived).   And then one day, or string of days, I’m just out of it.  I have to struggle to maintain any kind of focus and momentum.  It’s scary.

The good news is that it’s temporary – once menopause goes along its merry way and finishes with me, my cognitive ability should improve again.  How long will that take?  One article tossed around 3 – 12 years…..  3 – 12 YEARS??????  Oh, come on!!  I have a life to lead in the meantime. 

My husband thinks I’m just careless and should “try harder”, my co-workers wonder what’s happening, my boss thinks I’m not paying attention, my friends and family think I’m losing it and wonder why I let weeks go by without calling or emailing.  How do I tell them I sometimes have trouble remembering just how much time has gone by.  Did I call my mom yesterday?  Or was it last Friday?  Did I talk to her at all this week?  Maybe…but maybe not.   Damn it.

So how do I get better (other than waiting YEARS for menopause to pass me by)?  Most articles agree that three things can help – moderate exercise (oh crap, I hate exercise), a diet that includes many small meals during the day to keep the brain “fed”, and easing up on the stress load. 

Okay – so today I threw new batteries in the Wii and will try to get back on board with morning workouts.  My diet’s been better lately, but can certainly still improve.  And I’m trying to lose the same 20 pounds I’ve been trying to lose for more than a year (down 4 in two weeks), so I’m trying to limit snacking, which now may not be helping my brain.  And stress.  Ah, stress.  Let’s see – major system conversion going on at work, just finished a traumatic and exhausting move, trying to lose that damn 20 pounds that have settled into a happy “meno-pot” in my belly which makes all my clothes uncomfortable, and can’t remember anything.  What stress???  I guess I can get some “down-time” in there somewhere, between work, marriage and church activities.  Maybe get up between 3 and 4 AM to do some journaling?  Try to squeeze a yoga class into my hectic schedule?  A little more prayer? 

Somehow, I have to figure out how to get through these brain-fog spells without losing my job, my marriage, my friends and my sanity.  So I guess I’d better find the time to relax, eat better and exercise.  If I can only remember to do it….and why….and…what was I saying again??

Hormones Gone Wild…

I cried at a movie trailer last week.  You know, those two minute movie previews you’re subjected to in the theater before the real movie starts? 

And I am not talking about having dewy eyes or a little sniffle.  I’m saying that, less than 15 seconds into this preview, tears were welling up, and a few seconds after that, they were pouring down my cheeks.  I tried to stop it – told myself how stupid it was – tried to think about something funny to stem the tide – but it was no use.  So then I tried to at least hide what was happening by lowering my head.  But when Hubby glanced over, he couldn’t miss the tears that were now running down my neck and into my décolletage.  And he started snickering.  Which made me giggle.  But I still kept crying those big crocodile tears, laughing harder all the while.  Mind you, this was a trailer for “War Horse” – a Spielberg movie about, you guessed it, a horse in a war.  One shot of the horse snorting majestically, and I was reduced to tears.  Yes, I love horses, but this was stupid.   

You might think that I was shocked by my inappropriate and spontaneous emotional reaction, but I wasn’t.  I’m used to them these days.  And so is my husband. 

Hormonal mood swings are nothing new for me, but they used to at least be so predictable.  Hubby and I both knew that I was more likely to burst into tears over some imagined insult during that “time of month.”  Or perhaps break into hysterical laughter that I couldn’t stop.  Those few days every month often had me dancing on the edge of some form of hysteria, and opened the possibility that in the middle of the calmest, most normal conversation, my tone would abruptly change and I’d be lashing out verbally or stomping off to the next room in a huff. 

As I explained to Hubby when I’d see his confusion, it truly wasn’t something I could control.  I  hear the sharp words and sudden anger in my voice and literally wonder where the heck it came from.  It’s like being possessed.   It’s not a fun feeling.  But it was reliably predictable.  Watching the calendar helped, because if I knew when to expect those over-reactions, I was able to control them more successfully.  

But now that I’m in my 50s, all bets are off.  There is no predicting.  My period shows up whenever, which means my hormones ebb and flow whenever, too.  There is no “time of month” anymore, because I can go two or three months without having any actual period, but with multiple hormone surges showing up at random times. 

This makes for some interesting scenarios – like sobbing in the theater… over a preview.  It leads to totally irrational anger and responses to the anger.  I’m serious – I’ve had drivers cut me off on the highway, and I’ve actually considered ramming them as a possible response.  Of course I wouldn’t actually do that, but the idea that it is now one of the possible options running through my head (alongside flipping them the bird, honking the horn, giving a dirty look, etc.), is a shock. 

I remember my mother bursting into tears and sobbing over spilling a can of tuna fish into a basket of laundry when I was a young girl.  That’s not a happy thing to have happen, but it certainly didn’t warrant the anger and frustration and anguish that she displayed.  But now that I’m about the same age she was at the time, I understand it completely.  I can see myself having the same exact reaction.

A woman gave me the wrong change the other day, and, while I didn’t think I was angry about it, and it’s not something that would normally make me angry in the first place, I caught myself saying “I gave you a ten dollar bill” in a suddenly sharp and forceful tone that clearly said “you stupid idiot”.  I closed my eyes for a second and took a breath – then I smiled extra wide and thanked her profusely when she corrected the simple and harmless mistake, trying to make up for my nasty tone.  But I have no doubt that she muttered “bitch” under her breath as I walked away.  And who could blame her? 

Remember those old western movies and TV shows from our youth that always seemed to have a story line revolving around nitroglycerin?  It seems like someone was always taking a wagon past the Ponderosa or the Big Valley ranch with a tiny bottle of innocent-looking nitro that was at dramatic risk of exploding if it was dropped or jostled too much.  Yeah, well, that’s what menopausal hormones feel like.  Everything’s innocent and calm, and then BAM!!! – hormones gone wild.

Since my periods have been totally random for 2 or 3 years now, with no sign of stopping permanently anytime soon, I’m guessing my hormones are going to be raging for a while longer. 

Maybe I should have cards printed up that I can hand to innocent bystanders that say “I’m sorry for the over-reaction you just experienced – I’m mid-menopausal and I can no longer control or predict my hormonal responses.  It’s not your fault – but it’s not mine, either.”

My poor husband.  I know he loves me, and while he tries to be understanding, there are times when my wildly fluctuating moods frustrate and, even worse, hurt him.  I hate that.  So I continue to drink soy milk and whatever else might help, and I wait for these hormones that have been with me since my teens to just move on.  I’m too old to be this hysterical.  Hopefully I can manage to keep myself in Hubby’s good graces (and out of jail!!) while I work my way through this interesting part of the aging process.

When Terror Got Personal

When I stepped into the shower that bright September morning ten years ago, my only thoughts were of the new job I was starting that day.  The television was running in the background, and Matt and Katie were yukking it up over some silly thing.  It was a good start to a big day.

When I stepped out of the shower, the world had changed.  I heard Matt and Katie talking about something odd, so I stepped out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel and dripping wet, to take a look at the TV.  And there was the first tower crowned with billowing smoke and flames.  Wow, I thought, Some idiot flew into the World Trade Center!  What a terrible accident! 

As I stood there transfixed, listening to the confusion on the Today Show set, I watched in horror as the second plane flew into the towers.  This is no accident.  At that point, I knew we were under attack.  Oddly, I still had a job to get to, so I frantically dressed and headed to work, listening to the radio as journalists tried to disseminate exactly what was happening.  When I walked in, a co-worker said that the Pentagon had been hit.   Another said a plane came down in Pennsylvania.

This was personal.

A little while later, all the employees were gathered in silence in the break room, staring at a tiny television screen.  The footage was of the top of the south tower, and as I watched, I realized the top appeared to be twisting slowly.  I remember crying out, but even then, my fear was of the top floors breaking off and falling.  I couldn’t comprehend that these behemoth towers could actually disintegrate totally in such a short period of time.  But as we watched, the top began to sink into the smoke, and down she came, in a terrible groan of despair and death.

This was personal. 

Before that morning, terrorism was something that happened to other people, in other countries.  It was certainly sad to see buses exploding in Israel, bombs going off in Northern Ireland, mayhem in Asia.  But it wasn’t “real” to us.  It was something we watched on TV and we thought (you know it’s true) Thank God that doesn’t happen here. 

My husband was working at a trade show in Salt Lake City that second week of September.  I was home alone, glued to the news shows, crying endlessly and feeling frantic at the thought of him boarding a plane to fly home once the airports reopened days later.  Ever the pragmatist, Hubby pointed out that his convoluted route through Cincinnati to our upstate NY city on commuter jets was probably not a major terrorist target.  He also explained that, even if he could find a rental car, the 1300 mile drive would surely be more dangerous than getting on a plane.  He was right, of course.  But an even bigger shock (ha-ha) was that we were having a serious conversation about which mode of travel in the United States was least likely to be targeted by terrorists.  Our world had changed.

A few weeks later, we had another serious discussion over Hubby’s travel-filled job and our vacation plans.  Should we change our plans?  Avoid the traveling we both loved?  Find a different job that didn’t involve frequent flier miles?  We agreed that we didn’t want to make those choices.  Giving up meant the terrorists succeeded in their plans – they terrorized us into changing our way of living.  Hubby and I looked into each other’s eyes and we agreed to keep flying, as much out of defiance as anything else.  Not only that, but we would agree, whether flying alone or together, to go down fighting if anything happened on our flights.  We promised each other that, in the freak chance that one of us died on a flight targeted by some crazed attacker, the other would know that we stood up and fought. 

Was that a bizarre conversation to have?  On September 10th, 2001, it would have seemed totally crazy.  But after 9/11, I think it made sense.  It gave us a deeply personal commitment to hang on to in a suddenly dangerous world. 

When I fly these days, I have to remember to wear slip-on shoes so that I can remove them easily to be screened for shoe bombs.  Shoe bombs.  Seriously?  Well, yes – seriously.  That’s personal.  I have to carry my passport to go to Canada.  Canada!!  That’s personal.  When I’m traveling, I watch for abandoned pieces of luggage, suspicious backpacks, odd behavior – all as a matter of course.  A machine that sees through my clothing so that I can get on a plane?  Sure, no problem.  That’s personal. 

The world has changed.  But even more important – the world has gone on.  Our American spirit didn’t collapse with the Twin Towers.  We still go to ballgames and work and church and picnics and concerts and parades and weddings and baby showers.  Terror became personal, terror changed our world, but terror did not win.

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