Don’t Walk In the Dark

20170123_181755I worked late last night. The sun had already dipped below the horizon, and even the ribbons of twilight had twisted into charcoal gray shadows. I drive through the countryside, past full cornfields or soybean fields in the summer, stretches of empty farm fields in the winter.

As I drove along the deserted country road, I had the strangest urge to pull over to the side and just take a walk through an empty cornfield. Of course, I couldn’t because: a) I was wearing only dress shoes, b) it was only 32 degrees out, c) it was dark, turning to black dark.

But the desire made me think past the temporary roadblocks.

If all other circumstances were constant, i.e., warmer weather, gym shoes, a tad more light, I still would think twice about crossing the field. I would be afraid that someone would come along and — well, you can just imagine. I would clearly be at a disadvantage because I am: a) 5 ft. tall, b) 60+ years old, c) know nothing about self defense.

I know that sounds silly, and in some ways it is. But women have always been at a disadvantage when it comes to going off on their own. We are easily bullied, pushed around, beaten, and worse. We always find ourselves having to “prove” we are able to take care of ourselves.

We do take care of ourselves, of course. We travel by ourselves, drive by ourselves, go to restaurants by ourselves. But we don’t often wander through the woods or fields by ourselves. Not when there’s little or no light.

I find that very sad.

I think it’s unfortunate that so few have affected so many. It’s easy enough to bully women to begin with, but it’s worse when our own fears of adversity stop us from doing things we really want to do. It’s one thing to do things alone in a controlled environment, but take off to walk the beach or the woods totally alone — second thoughts. Always second thoughts.

I don’t mean to make this a sour grape thing — I have friends who don’t let petty things like crazies stop them from enjoying life. They are smart, sharp, and pay attention.

I supposed I’m easily spooked. I have a safe path through the patch of woods behind my house that leads to the back gate, and the whole area is wire fenced. Yet you won’t catch me walking that path in the dark. I don’t like that there may be things I can’t see just at the edge of sight. Same is true about empty country roads. Or endless cornfields.

To quote my favorite Mrs. Dudley in The Haunting:

I don’t stay after I set out the dinner, not after it begins to get dark. I leave before the dark. We live over in town, miles away. So there won’t be anyone around if you need help. We couldn’t hear you. In the night. No one could. No one lives any nearer than town. No one will come any nearer than that. In the night. In the dark. 

Funny thing is — it’s not the spirits of the dead that frighten me. It’s the spirits of the living —

 

March Madness Mamma

printable-march-madness-bracketFriday at noon I’m taking the Women’s March Madness Weekend into my own hands — and into the hands of loved family members. I’m busting out of this basketball-crazed household and going to a world filled with sister-in-laws, goddaughters, daughter-in-laws,and mother-in-laws. We will be pedicuring, manicuring, shopping, wineing, and whining, talking and laughing about anything but “THE” tournament.

Of course, I had to jump into my family’s competitive male circle and fill out the March Madness brackets before I left.

Have you ever seen these diagrams designed by the left hand of God? They look like a spider’s nest.  64 perfect little lines connected 2 at a time, narrowing down to 32 little lines, narrowing down to 16 little bigger lines which break down to 4 decent sized lines which flip into 2 important lines that poke into a big box from either side that will hold the logo of the winning team. You need a magnifier to read the teeny type on the 64 lines, and and patience to finally narrow it down far enough so you can thread the needle into the box.

Plus all these team names make my head spin. I know what Eagles  and Wildcats and Badgers and Cardinals are, but they also have Blue Hens, Billikins, Aggies, Sooners, Tar Heels, Crimsons, and Jaspers. Am I supposed to know what they are? Are they supposed to help my picks?

But I am a team player. I love my boys and cousin boys and all who encourage me to enter these nonsense pick ems games. I wanna be a cool mom, a cool granny. I don’t want to get lost in the nonsense of girlhood where you run around saying “Who’s THAT? What does THIS number mean? I don’t WATCH basketball.”  So the other day I sat down and tried to take the challenge seriously. I didn’t pick by the color of their uniforms or the cuteness of their mascots. I read the competitors side-by-side statistics and even their strengths and weaknesses. No way my family was going to call me a dumb redhead!

At the moment I’m in last place (out of 7). Pink toenails and lunch at an Italian restaurant will do more for my psyche than triple-overtimes.  But just want them to know — if I win, I DO want the trophy. I’ll take a picture of it and post it in a blog. To show you what women can achieve.

Of course, I might put a hat and purse on it first…

Hot Hands and Cold Feet

Hot Flashes and Cold FeetThe combination of hot flashes and cold feet is something most women will deal with in their lifetime.  A parody of opposites, it is nonetheless almost a given for any woman going through pre-, mid- and post-menopause. I never thought I would be the one to throw covers to the wind and beg for a soft breeze to cross my heated body in the middle of winter.  I never thought that tales of hot flashes would relate to me. I was always the one who sat curled in the corner of the sofa under a pile of blankets.  The one who wore granny gowns to bed every night.  And now my husband sleeps under three blankets and a comforter while I’m in a summer nightie with the windows wide open.

I have never been the most energetic of beings. Exercise programs consisted mostly of walking to the mailbox and back, or, on occasion, up and down the stairs to either bathrooms or bedrooms.  But I have managed to keep in decent shape through the years.  My mental state has always been fairly stable, too — no nervous breakdowns, no paranoia.  My kids have turned out fairly normal, my dogs are well behaved (except when they get into the garbage), and my sex life was at least existent.

But now I cry at baby formula commercials and feel terrible when I see a flower crushed on a city sidewalk. I want the windows open all four seasons, and I’ve started cutting romantic love songs out of my musical play list.  I guess that means I’m standing on the fence of menopause. No – let’s tell the truth. I’m waist deep in it. I’ve heard horror stories about women going through “the change”.  They metamorphosed into ogres, witches and over-the-top “B” words.  They never liked anything; they were crabby, vile creatures that turned the world upside down with their declining supply of estrogen. Is that  going to me??

I’ve talked to many a woman who danced through this time of their lives, and I am happy to say there were few — if any — evil transformations of the sort. But that didn’t ease my anxiety much. I get hot flashes first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Suddenly I can’t wear my wedding ring because my hands are swollen and anything without an elastic waist is too tight. I can’t fall asleep at night, and when I do, it never lasts for more than an hour or two at a time.  Spicy food has become inedible and certain rock and roll jams are intolerable.  Could this be the same woman that blew out the speakers with Free Bird?

I am bummed that this phenomenon has hit me full force.  I cannot wear any of my heavy-duty sweaters or eat spicy foods.  My back aches and my hair feels like a cheap wig from Woolworths.  I alternate between dry skin and oily pores. Headaches are a dime a dozen, only one of many body parts that ache and moan and whine away the hours. Is this the payback for a healthy libido?  Is this what I get for surviving my youth?

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy being a girl.  I love playing dress up and going shopping and watching old black and white movies.  I love to bake pineapple upside down cake and getting a manicure and painting the bathroom pink.  But I don’t know how much longer I can sleep on top of the covers or drive with the windows open in December.  I don’t know how much longer I can deal with anxiety attacks over the dishes in the sink or cry over dog food commercials or go without listening to It’s a Wonderful World by the Great Louie.  My emotions are dancing on pins and needles, as well as my food cravings. (What do you want for dinner?  Chinese — no, hot dogs — no, oatmeal  — no, bananas!)

I never thought I’d be such a mess.  And I never thought I would look forward to being on the other side of the virgin/mother/crone fence.  While I admit I am not taking this aging thing gracefully, it will be a welcome day when my rings fit again and I can wear hoodies without fear of passing out from overheating.   While I enjoy the idealistic renditions of middle age, I find it hard to reconnoiter them with reality.  Since I cannot take a break or vacation every time my biological clock skips a beat, I will have to be content with sitting in front of a fan and keeping a stash of fudge in the back of the frig.  This, too, shall pass, as the scholars say.

I just hope it doesn’t take too long.  I really miss my hoodies ― and I’m running out of fudge.

Sex — What Is It and Where Did It Go?

14 Sex What Is It and Where Did It Go 2This is going to be a ditty about that “S” word — you know — the one between “salamander” and “stupid”. The word your parents never talked about.  Back in the days when names and animals were simply names and animals and not slang for body parts, sex was something separate from us.  Oh sure, everybody thought about it; some even did something about it. But there were many that merely dreamt about it. 

A lot of us were naïve back then. Some on purpose (I don’t want to know), some because of our friends (they don’t know either), and others because we were warned we would be sent to the convent if we explored that world before we were 21. Love was simple, clean and innocent.  I mean, the Beatles never fooled around!  How could they?  They were as pure as the driven snow!

Alas, it didn’t take long for most of us to catch on to the reality of the world of boy-meets-girl.  Somewhere within our blossoming we found we really enjoyed checking out that “S” word, and made it part of our daily activities.  We dreamt we were the ones fooling around with the Beatles.

Everyone’s idea of procreation is based on how they were raised, who they hung out with, and how much of the world they explored.  As women got older, we talked a little more openly about affairs and romances, leaving the stigma of virginity behind along with wedding night memories.  As we became fruitful and multiplied, we began to appreciate the difference between the sexes and how to use our own to get what we wanted.  

Back in the 80s, every woman wanted to be super woman.  We wanted to have wonderful, loving children, an immaculate house, a career in a field we enjoyed, a great body, and a highly electric sex life.  We wanted to be room moms and company executives and whip up elegant dinners for two or twenty.  I suppose there are many women who, even today, want to be all that — and more.  But the majority of us realized long ago that super woman was an illusion, and the first chip to fall from that illusion was sex.

If we thought our antics were restricted when our kids were toddlers, that was nothing to the puritans we became when our own kids came into sexual maturity.  Toddlers didn’t care about their parents having sex because they didn’t have a clue what sex was.  But believe me, teenagers did, and the thought of two adults that didn’t look like models or rock stars wrapping themselves naked around each other was enough to send shivers through the whole house.  So mom and dad had to wait until the kids were at choir practice or football practice or at grandma’s for the day to do their “S” thing. 

Of course, funneling hot, passionate love into a schedule that also included scrubbing the kitchen floor and changing the spark plugs in the car was a juggling act all in itself.  As much as the two lovers wanted to bathe in the light of ecstasy, there were always the second thoughts of what else they could be doing with that half hour all to themselves.  And besides, the possibility that their teen could walk in to this debacle at any time tended to deflate most sex drives before they could even take off.

Well, you know where this is going.  Kids grow up, responsibilities change, and being spontaneous isn’t what it used to be.  Those same said kids go off to college or get married and you think, “Whoa boy, now we’ve got the house to ourselves!”  Now you can finally walk around naked in your house or try out new pieces of furniture and nobody will watch you but the dogs. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

This is about the time that that ol’ clock starts winding down, and before you know it the stranger our mothers referred to as “change of life” comes dancing down your driveway.  Pre-, post- and actual starts to mess you up in ways you never imagined.  Your bones creaking from under use, and slowly but surely you are filling out, drying up, and burning up every time you turn around.  You start to have hot, free range passion, then realize the hot was not so much from the sex as it was from the flashes.  You wait for those exciting tingles and twitches and all you feel is the throbbing of your toes or the itch of your dry skin.  What once was an overactive libido is now a freight train carrying a heavy load of steel.

What happened to the sexy sprite that waited so long for liberation?  What happened to the romantic interludes and wild nights freedom promised?  I’m not saying that sex isn’t richer and fuller than it ever has been.  Hopefully the paranoia a houseful of people can bring has disappeared.  There are more open rooms, more chances to start and stop and say and be whatever you want to be.

But there is something to be said about the depletion of estrogen as women get older and the way it affects our reaction to the “S” word.  We don’t want to be that naked sprite quite as often; we’d rather put our jammies on and settle down with a good book or movie.  We’d rather spend money on a support bra rather than some skimpy lingerie thing that barely covers our hips.  We still love and adore, but sometimes find it more rewarding to sit and cuddle rather than wrestle with an out-of-shape body.

I am hoping that once men get their fill of their “V” pill, scientists put their minds to creating one for us girls. 

Let’s just hope that there’s plenty of room on the living room floor.