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I Am NOT Ready For My Close-up; I Am In Menopause

I have loved being in my fifties.  Sure, sometimes I look worse than ever before in my life.  Sometimes I feel worse.  But I became a mother again.  I have cared more about what’s in my head than on my face.  I’ve cheered women like Helen Mirren and Annette Bening who have had the chutzpah to keep their real faces throughout their fifties, thereby empowering us all.  But that was then.

Helen had a “lower face and neck lift.”  And now I want one.  I want one, actually, that starts from my ankles and pulls everything up.  Everything.  Up.  Several inches.

What happened?  I am interrupting our regularly scheduled programming (How I Met Your Other And Became A Menopausal Mother), to tell you.

Yesterday, I was happily working on a book when my husband said excitedly, “Will you take my head shot?  The light right now is PERFECT for a photo.  Right now.  We have to do it now!”

Head shots help him get work and that makes him happy, and I like it when he’s happy, because I like(d) him.   So I stepped away from my own work to help him.  Out of the goodness of my fifty-three-year-old giving heart. 

After snapping some lovely shots of him looking very debonair and James Brolin-ish in the allegedly PERFECT LIGHT, he offered, “Let me take a couple shots of you.”  How sweet.  I would post the results of those shots in THE PERFECT LIGHT here, but pride will not allow.

Have you ever made Flubber?  It’s really cool.  Flubber stretches and pulls, and you can poke your fingers in it.  It’s fun to play with.  IF IT’S NOT YOUR FACE.

Not only have my cheeks and jawline turned into Flubber, a network of lines–some of them actually intersecting–have crisscrossed what used to look like skin, but now resembles a U.S. Geological Survey map of earthquake faults.  In California.  Also, my left eye is nearly completely covered by what I assume is my left eyelid (although I didn’t know eyelids could stretch that far).

“AUUGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!  Is that what I look like?  Is that what you see?  Is it?  Is it?  IS IT???????” I screamed, pointing at the giant head displayed on the jumbo tron my spouse calls a computer.

“No, no, no!” he screamed back, obviously startled, but then he seemed confused.  “Well, yeah.  I mean…yeah.  Why?  You look good.  Honey, don’t you ever look in the mirror?”

The lines on my forehead must have reconfigured to spell the word D-I-V-O-R-C-E, because he quickly backpedaled.  “No, no, you have to remember that is a photograph.”

“So?”

“So your head’s really big up there.”

“Yeah?”

“And my camera picks up every li–.  Every detail.”

“Uh huh.  So in real life, you can’t see that many details on my face?”

“Noooo.”

“And I do still have an upper lip?  And a left eye?”

He hesitated a tad too long.

I started to sniffle.  “I’m aging badly.  When I’m sixty, our children will pretend they don’t know me.”

He put his arm around me for a snuggle. “Come on, they do that now.”

I smiled.  A little bit.

“Listen,” he said, “you grow as a wife and mother and woman every day.  You make menopause beautiful.”  I smiled a little more.  He draped an arm around my shoulders and walked with me back to my desk.

I nodded against him.  “It was just such a shock.”

“I know.”  He kissed my temple. ” I think the best thing to do is to make a list of all the reasons you always tell me you’re grateful for menopause and read it regularly. That will keep your mood calm.”

“That’s excellent advice.”

“Yes.  And whatever else you do,” he murmured, helping me into my chair, “please don’t ever, ever let anyone take a picture of you in full daylight again.”

Wendy…about to Google Sublative Rejuvenation.

 

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Identical Cousins…And Sisters Of The Heart

DSC03559My daughter has lots of cousins.  Because she’s adopted, she’s not related to any of them by blood.  Most of them aren’t related to each other by blood, either.  Blood shmud.  I have girlfriends who are my sisters.  We give each other b-day cards that say so.  I would go to the ends of the earth for them, and they’ve already done the same for me.

Some of the cousins are the children of Tim’s and my blood relations and some are my friends’ kids.  I forget which is which.

When my daughter was five, Carolyn and her kids made a Cousin Adoption Agreement, signed by them all.  They’ve introduced each other as “My cousin” ever since.

…They’re Cousins, Identical Cousins, All The Way…

Recently, my DD (third from the right, above) called in a promise that she could get her ears pierced at age ten.  The night before, she decided to watch a YouTube video of a nine-year-old getting her ears pierced at Claire’s.  Big. Mistake.

“Mom, I’m dizzy,” she said.  The child turned whiter than I am, no joke.  “I can’t do it,” she cried.  “I wanna do it.  I wanna do it sooo bad, but I can’t do it.”

I told Carolyn, and the next day she and all her children were at Claire’s, holding my DD’s hands as she got her ears pierced…and learned that love lends courage.

DSC03563My “sister” Judy just sent beautiful earrings–and these days stays on the phone longer with my daughter than she does with me.

My “sisters” Su and Darla were the first people to greet us–at ten-thirty p.m. in a winter storm–when Tim and I got off the plane from Guatemala with our new baby.  Neither of them lives anywhere near the airport.

“Aunt Terry” and “Aunt Micki” are beloved in our home, their visits eagerly anticipated by all.

Sisters…Cousins…they come in all different colors, from lots of different places.

And thank you, God, for them all.

Who are the sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles of your heart?

Wendy

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I’d Love to Cook Something, but I’m COOKING

My family wants sweet and sour chicken, black bean baos, stir-fried veggies and fried rice for dinner.  Yuh, right.

It’s ninety degrees today.  They’ll be lucky if I unwrap the popsicles before I hand them out.

I used to revel in cooking elaborate meals from scratch.  Now I have menopausal ADD.  Midway through the Sweet and Sour Chicken, I will notice my Vegan Crockpot Cooking book and switch to vegetarian chili.  Or, I’ll do a load of laundry and forget that I was supposed to cook dinner altogether.

Pioneer Woman is not menopausal.  It couldn’t be any more clear.  She and all those other over-achieving bloggers who have made posting pictures gorgeous pictures–de rigueur  with their recipes, are just baffling.  IF I made a gorgeous meal, I would not be able to snap a photo before my family stuck a fork into the Four-cheese Porcini Mushroom and Smoked Sausage Fettucine.   C’mon.

Are these women really cooking for their families, or are they making beeeauutiful blog food, setting up lights and hiring professional photographers while their families eat Cap’N Crunch with Crunch Berries? … Hey, that sounds good.  Maybe I’ll slice a banana on top if the weather cools off.

ADD Moment:  Just checked my e-mails.  Carolyn is still in Uganda.  She says the food is great and that everything is mashed.  Mashed beans, mashed nuts, mashed bananas over brown rice.   Now that’s the kind of cooking I can get behind.  Maybe I’ll mash the popsicles and say it’s sorbet.

And photograph it, too.  Maayyyybe,

–Wendy

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I Can’t Find Carolyn

Carolyn has been gone over a week, and despite the laundry list of possibilities that could befall a post-menopausal woman in Uganda without a Starbucks, she seems to be doing fine. 

Better than fine.  I’ve received several e-mailed updates, and, in fact, there are baristas in Uganda, and they make outstanding lattes.  More importantly, Carolyn says that her work with Kuza has been life altering.  Her descriptions of Uganda are riveting.  To learn more about what she’s doing, I decided to Google KUZA.  Here’s what I found:

Apparently, the gentleman above is a musician named Mike Kuza, and I’m pretty sure Carolyn is not with him.  I don’t think we’ll know for sure, however, until she gets home and we check her for new piercings. 

Next, I found KUZA Beauty products.  They have 100% Indian hemp oil and Apricot Body Scrub.  Sounds good, figured I’d buy some, but I still don’t feel closer to Carolyn.  So, I Googled again and found

post4

THAT’S CAROLYN IN THE BLUE SCARF ON THE FAR RIGHT!!!!  Her daughter Maddie is in front of her.

If you want to learn more about this KUZA and what Carolyn and Maddie are doing in Uganda, go here:

http://kuzaprogram.org

What a beautiful, inspiring organization.  I’m sure Carolyn will tell us all about it when she returns. 

She said she feels like a changed woman.  I wonder if she’ll still want to write books?  I wonder if she’ll still be menopausal?

In the meantime, I’m home, cleaning my house, buying school supplies and thinking about adopting from China.

What are you doing with the rest of your summer?

Wendy

 

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In Whose Image?

Recently, my husband told me he is proud of his body, because he is made in God’s image.

God has man boobs?

Kidding, sweetie.  But we aren’t aging quite as well as some others.  Currently, we have house guests.  One of them is a 57-year-old man who looks like he is maaaybe 40.  If you cut off his head (but no one would, because it’s too cute), he looks twenty-two.

 For his 57th b-day, which was this past week, he swam 57 lengths of a pool, biked 57 miles, ran 5.7 miles (wimp), and did 57 crunches, chin-ups and other stuff.   ALL IN A SINGLE DAY.

I think he’s afraid of aging.  Obviously, I am not.  But I think that for my 52nd birthday, I will do 52 minutes of exercise a day all year.  Or bake 52 cupcakes all at once.  I have a couple of months to decide.

In the meantime, I am going to try to take a photo of our house guest as he gets in the shower.  I know that’s not polite, but for you, dear readers, I am willing to violate the Hostess Code.  Hopefully I’ll be posting his pic tomorrow.

–Wendy

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“My Bags Are Packed And I’m Ready To Go…”

girl-suitcases-young-woman-retro-style-old-31355831I’m sitting opposite Carolyn as she listens to a travel alert on her computer so she can scare the holy doody out of herself before she heads to Africa to work with Kuza, a fabulous organization that helps young people in Uganda attend college.  Apparently now there is just the slightest chance she could be riddled with bullet holes prior to the trip home.

Here’s what I love about Carolyn:  She is Lucy Ricardo.  I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating:  You say, “Hey, Carolyn, you want to–” and she is signed up, suited up and waiting with the car running before you’ve completed your sentence.  If no one has suggested an adventure in, oh, say the past seventy-two hours, she will surely come up with something.  It will be big.  It will be whacky.  It will require inoculations.

So when she heard about Kuza’s work in Uganda, she said to me, “I’m going to go to Uganda someday.”  She occasionally confuses the words “someday” and “tomorrow.”

She’s already taking medication to ward off malaria and rabid dysentery and has been inoculated for  yellow fever, red fever, pretty much every color of fever known to humankind.  She leaped first.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we are best buds; it takes me an hour to decide whether to go to Bi-Mart.

I think about things.  A lot.  One might argue “too much,” but at least I am prepared.  Carolyn had no idea how to spell dysentery until I mentioned that I’d Googled it and that she could get it.  Now, I’m sitting across from her as she reads about it.  She’s turning a mite green, but that’s okay; she’s informed. 

I love being Carolyn’s friend.  She’s gets me into all sorts of situations I would never get into on my own.  She’s the reason I nearly got strangled in a Krav Maga class and almost got arrested in a NY subway.  I was with her when she stopped the car to try to break up a street fight in Woodburn.  I have seen her fly across the country to pick up a baby she didn’t know she was going to parent until only a day before, and I’ve watched her enroll her five kids in a school I told her about only that evening.  Split decisions that turn out beautifully are her gift.  So is steadfast friendship.  Should I have the need, I know she would fly to the ends of the earth to accompany me on whatever adventure I get into my head (after a suitable mental incubation period, of course).

She’ll be in Uganda eighteen days if the typhoid doesn’t get her.  I’m going to miss her.  I will have to go on some kind of adventure while she’s gone.  Oh, what the heck: Bi-Mart, here I come.

Safe journey, Carolyn.

–Wendy

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“I am so, too, old enough to date.”

So.  After my ten-year-old daughter announced to her friends that she was going to go on a date (“Dating in Low Heels”), she set about convincing her father and me.  We were a tougher sell.

“But every single girl my age has gone on a date already,” she argued.

“In Barbie Fairytopia, yeah.  You are not going on a ‘date.'”

“You guys are crushing my spirit.”

Woah.  First time we’d heard that one.  Had to give her props for outstanding achievement in manipulative skills.

“Define ‘date,'” I said.

“Well…we’re not going to kiss, if that’s what you mean.  I can’t even stand to watch you two do that.”  She shuddered.

After a great deal of discussion and assurance that the parents of her main squeeze were on board with a brief and thoroughly public rendezvous, we agreed that they could arrange a meeting.  The happy couple decided on the bench near the play structure at their school.  Recess, high noon.

The morning of the big day, she argued less than usual about brushing her hair.  Her socks almost matched.  And she chose a tee shirt with only one hole.

“How did it go?” I asked as soon as I picked her up from school.

“Okay.”  She shrugged.

“What did you do?”

“Sat.”

“Uh huh, and what did you talk about?”

She frowned.  “Talk?  We didn’t do that.”

“What did you do?”

“Sat.”

Time to put on the reporter’s hat, obviously.  “While you were sitting, did you hold hands?”

She wrinkled her nose.  “No.  Mom, c’mon, he’s a guy.”

“So, you think you want to date again?”

“I guess.  But this time, we want to invite more people.”

“Ah, a double date.”

“What’s that?”  I explained that she would have two more people on her date.  “Oh.  No, we want more people than that.  Like, enough for kickball.”

“Ah.  Good thinking.”

“Yeah.  So, see, Mom, I am old enough to date.”

Absolutely.  Last night, though, two months apres The Date, she told me she is through with men until she is at least fifteen.  “They’re too complicated.”

Indeed.

–Wendy

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Dating in Low Heels

kids datingMy ten-year-old is dating.  I found out by eavesdropping on the following conversation:

DD to her friends:  “Who are you all asking to the carnival, because I’m going with Z.  I have to buy the licorice, but he’s getting the cotton candy.  I had to give him a chicken nugget to get him to go, but now it’s for sure.”

Two other girls made immediate plans to give their crushes lunch at the earliest opportunity.

Say what?  It seems that just yesterday my daughter felt no need for a Ken doll to hang out with her Barbies:  “What for?  What’s he gonna do?”

Indeed.

Then she turned ten this past spring.  Ah, spring.  Such a ripe season, with little goslings following Mama and Daddy Goose on the pond near our house, rhodies bursting into bloom…and the girls from fourth grade quite suddenly figuring out why Barbie wants Ken.

One girlfriend, however, had a different take on the situation.  She sounded frankly appalled.  “You can’t invite a boy.  That’s called dating, and that is not allowed.  You’re too young to go on a date.”

Peer-driven mandates do not sit well with Miss, so she plopped her hands on her still boyish hips, whipping back, “I can, too, date.  I’m old enough.  I’m allowed.”

(Note to reader: Uh-uh.)

Anxiety clutched my chest as I listened.  I’d been counting on the tween years to start around eleven or twelve or, better yet, forty.  I needed more time before I relinquished my baby and all her innocence to the likes of Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus.

I wonder if the Berenstain Bears have a book about dating? I thought as I prepared to step in with as much good humor as I could muster.

Before I entered the room, however, I heard my daughter’s voice again, this time tinged by a modicum of doubt.  “I can date….”  There was a pause followed by this conclusion:  “I’m not allowed to eat too much junk food, but I can date if I want to.”

Indeed.

As it turned out, she did go to the carnival with Z—and her friends.  More on that next week….

For now, sign me:  ‘Tween Mom

–Wendy

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HOW KRAV MAGA IS MAKING A MAN OUT OF ME

Don’t Mess With Bubbie

Carolyn told you a bit about our foray into self-mutilation…whoops, I mean “defense.” She left out a few things.

Remember how in I Love Lucy, Lucy Ricardo would come up with some cockamamie plan and just assume Ethel Mertz would go along with her?  Every couple of episodes, Ethel, bless her heart, would try to grow a backbone and stand her ground.  But Lucy always won.

“Ohhh no, Lucy, count me out of this one.”

“But Ethel—“

“Nothing doing!”

And the next thing you knew, Ethel was standing on the ledge of their apartment building, dressed like a martian.  Well, that’s Carolyn and me.

“Hey,” I said one afternoon when I had obviously lost my mind, “have you heard of Krav Maga?”  (Never, ever EVER ask Carolyn if she’s heard of something.  EVER.  Ever.)

“No.  What is it?”

“Israeli street fighting.  It’s supposed to be a near deadly form of self-defense—  Whom are you calling?“

She had us registered for a trial class in under five minutes.  I am not exaggerating.

“We should at least think about this, Carolyn.  We don’t know these people.  What if they’re not licensed or insured or sane?  We should at least look at the studio first….”

The next day, our local Krav Maga studio –the one with the logo of the snarling bulldog—had three new students.  (Carolyn brought her 14-year-old, star-athlete son.)

The workout/torture room was dreckorated in black and gray, not a whisper of cheerful color.  The instructors and other students were dressed in black and gray, too, as the Krav Maga uniform is part of the registration fee.  Coincidentally, Carolyn had worn black yoga pants and  shirt for our trial class.  I had dressed in jeans and a pink and yellow v-neck “Peace” tee (so cute, really) with hot-pink, lace cami underneath.

Guess who got the look of admiration from Krav Maga Man, the verrrry serious owner of our new home away from home?  He spared me a glance.  “Did you bring water?”

“I don’t want to get hurt!” shot from my lips before I could stop myself.

Krav Maga Man scowled.  “Did you bring water?”

“No.”

Looking disgusted, he walked away.  “What is his problem?” I whispered to Carolyn.  “They didn’t tell us to bring water.  Did you bring water?”  She raised a quart-sized sports bottle.  It was black.

KMM returned with a tiny bottle of Kirkland H2O, which he handed to me.  “Get going, you three.  Class has started.”

I liked the warm up.  My confidence soared, in fact, as I lunged, squatted, tossed in a yoga asana, rolled my shoulders and shadow-boxed.  The nice teacher was smiling at me.  He was smaller, younger, far friendlier than Krav Maga Man.  Let’s call him Mini Krav.

Glancing at Carolyn, who looked sweaty and focused, I grinned.  Self-defense wasn’t so bad.

After teaching us a few lethal punches and kicks, Mini Krav paired us up—men with men and women with women.  Carolyn was partnered with a statuesque 20-something whose muscles appeared to be sculpted from Caesarstone.  After some deliberation, I was matched with a very quiet, much older woman whose loose tee shirt hung past her knees and whose stooped shoulders gave the impression that a trip around the block with her walker might put her into traction.

I’m not going to lie to you people:  My feelings were hurt.  I mean, I work out.  I own FOUR of The Firm DVD’s.   Okay, I haven’t played them much lately, but c’mon.  (That’s all I’ve got, just…c’mon.)

Looking on the bright side, at least I was unlikely to be injured and could help Carolyn get home after Ms. Olympia 2012 took out a kidney.

I smiled encouragingly at my frail partner and graciously held the provided padding, so she could hit me first.  “Don’t be afraid, I’m tougher than I look,” I crooned.  “You can—OWWWWW!”

The old broad didn’t even wait for me to stop speaking!  Just punched me so hard I thought I lost a lung, even with the padding.  Without waiting for me to catch my breath, she pivoted, letting me have it with the other fist while shouting, “MUH!”

“OW!  Sonova–  Hey, lady!”

“Historically, women have been afraid of their full power, so we don’t hold back in class. Do we?”  Her eyes bore into mine and her lips barely moved when she spoke, making her look less Someone’s Grannie and more CIA Assassin.

“Fine, but from here on I’d like to invoke the Marquess of Queensberry rules, so–  Owww-owwww.”  She got me again.  “I was still talking! What is wrong with you?”

“Attackers don’t play by rules, do we women don’t hold back. Do we?”

“Stop asking me that.”

“Practice your kicks!” Mini Krav called above the shouts and groans.

Instantly, I dropped the pads and used the same signal my daughter makes when she’s playing tag, hoping it would translate.  “Time out.  No puppy guarding.”

I looked around for Carolyn and saw her with the owner of the studio.  He had his first-aid kit open as blood was streaming down her hand….

Part Two on Wednesday.

 –Wendy

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