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New Year’s Intentions

fireworks for blog
I don’t make resolutions anymore.It’s too freaking stressful to make them and subsequently break them. I do make intentions, however. Intentions for me are large global visions of how I want to live for the next year (and maybe longer.)

I am in the habit of drawing an angel card each morning. The one word on each card serves as a daily focusing, a mantra if you will, for noticing or expressing a certain quality throughout 24 hours.

For example, today, I drew Kindness. Musing on kindness throughout the day allowed me to slow down when my cat was walking all over my keyboard and just pet him for awhile, rather than push him away. Work could wait. And it did. I was nicer to the people I met in town and even to myself, usually last on the list.

Similarly, I’ve found intentions to be helpful for me in focusing on a larger scale, on defining what might be important to me to notice and embody for the coming 365 days. Under each intention are ways in which I might accomplish it, but I am in no way absolutely wedded to them as goals.

That said, here are my intentions for 2017:

Notice and follow Beauty.
Photography
Prose: read and write
Butterflies – follow them.

Artify
Become an Art Activist rather than a politics watcher
App and paint photos
Write

Nourishment
body: exercise, yoga, eat healthy most of the time
mind: Scrabble, reading
spirit: solitude, music, time in Nature

Connection
Spouse: quality time, shared pursuits and adventures
Family: spend time w kids, parents, pets
Good friends: spend time

Celebration
Being on the top side of the dirt (that’s big!)
Each moment
Celebrate What’s Right With The World site

Give Back
Blogs
Healing Images
Art Activism (see above)

I will re-view these throughout the year – maybe find that some are easy to focus on and others need more attention. I use them as a sort of fuzzy logic compass to give my meanders through life a sense of direction and purpose.

I will eventually set goals as I focus more on my intentions – for example, within the intention of music, I want to learn to play ukulele. I’ll need to set a schedule of practice and lessons as well as determine how far I wish to go in this pursuit.

Your intentions may echo some of mine or they may be completely different. I offer mine only as a template and you may find a better way to define your New Year visions. Please share them if you do. That’s how we become Menopause Goddesses – growing and sharing. I wish you all a peace and joy filled New Year.

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Black Friday Comes Early This Year

Tangled Turkey © lynette sheppard

Tangled Turkey © lynette sheppard

Slumber Cloud, one of my favorite product websites is having an early Black Friday sale – up to 40% off! Here’s the link – sale lasts from now until Nov. 28. Don’t miss out – we menopausal goddesses NEED a comfortable, restful night’s sleep.

Here’s the link: http://try.slumbercloud.com/black-friday-cyber-monday-sale/

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. We are grateful for all of you! Together we will not only survive, we will thrive. (And no, I’m not going to share diet tips or workouts – let’s just enjoy a lovely holiday without guilt. Besides, it is such a wasted and wasting emotion. Say it with me: Gratitude, not guilt. Gratitude, not guilt, Gratitude, not guilt. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

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The Magic of Menopause

magic-of-meno

Lorraine Miano, an Integrative Certified Health Coach, sent me her new book: The Magic of Menopause, A Holistic Guide to Get Your Happy Back. I admit the title set me back a bit – after all, it used to be that books on menopause were either dry medicalese or overly perky treatises that only served as a further irritant during the throes of menopause.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Lorraine didn’t shy away from all the suckiness of the Change. She freely shares stories of her transition as well as that of others. Then she moves on to offer helpful options and solutions for beginning to survive and then thrive during the Big M. With humor and heart, she offers a guide to beginning to indeed “get your happy back”.

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Vaginal Dryness – Affects One in Three Women

High Sierra Flowers © lynette sheppard

High Sierra Flowers © lynette sheppard

Wow. One in three – that is a lot! (There are a lot of us baby boomers that have come of age.)

Menopause brings many changes and one that really affects our intimacy is vaginal dryness. The folks at Genneve are committed to helping with this with their special lubricants designed to mimic our natural moisture. They sent me some samples (and since, yes, I am one of the one in three), I will be testing it. In the meantime, enjoy this video that brings the topic to light.

You might want to check out the blog on their site too – lots of great info: click here

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Drink Wine, Lose Weight

To Your Health © lynette sheppard

To Your Health © lynette sheppard

I love a glass (or two) of wine in the evening. But I’ve felt a little guilty – I mean all those extra calories. I was sure they flew right to my hips, thighs, and buttocks. At 125 calories a glass, it adds up. I already have sufficient padding, thank you very much.

Now I’ve consoled myself (read rationalized) that  the health benefits of wine balanced out the caloric devilment.  I loved that wine decreased my risk of heart disease, provided antioxidant anti-aging resveratrol, not to mention offering  significant psychological benefits of mellowing me out after a stressful day. But never in my wildest dreams did I conceive of wine as a weight loss adjunct.

Oh happy day! Three recent studies show that regular wine intake can prevent obesity and may even help women lose weight.

Harvard University studied 20,000 women over 13 years and found that those who drank two glasses of wine per day were 70% less likely to develop obesity than their non-imbibing counterparts.

A University College Medical School of London study of 43,500 female participants over eight years  found that those who drank a couple of glasses on a daily basis were 24% less likely to put on weight compared to those who abstained from alcohol.

Finally, our own CDC conducted a study on wine intake.  Of the sample size of 7,230 people, the drinkers gained less weight than non-drinkers. Conclusion: alcohol intake does not increase the risk of obesity.
And if that isn’t enough incentive to drink your wine, another study found that red wine increases HDL – the good cholesterol in your body AND can improve type-2 diabetes thanks to its ability to metabolize simple sugars into energy.

Why does this work especially well for women? Apparently, enzymes required to break down and use wine are present in lesser quantities in women than men. So we may actually use more calories to metabolize the wine than we are taking in.

OK, ladies. Join me in a toast to science, wine, and weight loss tonight!

 

 

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Menopause Medley

painted aspens 1 © lynette sheppard

painted aspens 1 © lynette sheppard

This week we offer a medley of natural, simple helps for menopause symptoms. (And good advice for us post-menopausal goddesses too.)

Exercise for Hot Flashes

Strenuous exercise may reduce hot flashes. That’s right, two new studies published in the Menopause journal and the Journal of Physiology found that jogging or bicycling 30 – 45 minutes 3-5 times per week resulted in as much as 60% fewer hot flashes. That’s good news. Still, it might be worthwhile to train carefully and slowly increase your exercise tolerance to avoid injury. I’ve done brisk walking for years and recently decided to add a little jogging to my regimen. I ended up injuring my hip, which took a few months to heal.

My preference is always for low impact, aerobic exercise. Swimming might be a great option – you can get moderately strenuous workouts while in a cooling environment. (I’ve never had a hot flash in a pool or the ocean, just sayin’).

Superfood Bars for Women 40+

Bar and Girl Naturals have created some yummy  mini bars that help regulate hormones while providing nutritional support. Their bars contain maca root (which I profiled a couple of weeks ago). They also contain turmeric, flaxseed, nuts, and coconut oil. Check them out in the Menopause Marketplace.

Chocolate for Health

Dark chocolate is probably a major food group for menopausal women. Serotonin in chocolate flavenoids helps with irritability and mood swings. (Remember those major cravings just before your period? You were in dire need of serotonin.)

There is evidence that chocolate is beneficial to cardiovascular health. Those little flavenoids exert a protective effect on your heart and blood vessels.

The antioxidants can protect against free radical damage to your skin.

And last, but certainly not least, chocolate improves focus and brain function.

Eating a bar per week of dark chocolate is a necessary adjunct to a menopausal woman’s treatment plan. Yum.

Humor by PerimenopART

Kirsty Collett, a menopause goddess sister from New Zealand has created some wonderful cartoon musings on the menopausal condition. They are hilarious – and so true! Here’s a sample that she sent me:

© Kirsty Collett

© Kirsty Collett

 

Laughter and sisterhood may be even more important to surviving the Change than chocolate, exercise, or superfood bars. Luckily, we don’t have to choose just one. You can follow Kirsty on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PerimenopART?__mref=message_bubble

 

 

 

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Maca Root: Natural Support for Menopause

Daisy Chain © lynette sheppard

Daisy Chain © lynette sheppard

In keeping with Ashley’s most recent post about plants and their healing properties, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite remedies: maca. Maca comes from Peru, a veritable paradise of wonderful grains and healing plants. (Including the much maligned coca leaf, but that is a story for another time, girlfriends.)

Originally eaten by the Inca for strengthening and increasing energy, recent studies have found maca root to be helpful in relieving menopausal symptoms and returning our sexual vitality. Side effects? Virtually none, save occasional reports of gas with the raw version. (It is available in raw powder, capsule, or elixir.)

Maca root seems to work by balancing hormones and the entire endocrine system. Believe me when I say that our hormonal systems are interconnected and all of them need balancing after the Pause, not just our estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone.

I took maca root early on in my menopause journey – then I ran out and “forgot” to order more. Menopause brain, I suppose. Luckily, the wonderful folks at The Maca Team contacted me about trying it again. They sent raw red powder, gelatinized powder, and elixir.

Two of our goddesses have tried the powder and both are reporting better energy. One was suffering hot flashes again after losing fat and adding muscle mass. (Yep, fat is a great place to store hormones it seems.) Her hot flashes have decreased using the maca root and she is once again sleeping through the night.

I opted for the elixir and love taking it – I get lazy when it comes to powders. I know, ridiculous but true. A couple of droppers full three times a day and my vitality has definitely risen. Placebo effect? I don’t know, since I can’t split myself in two and conduct a controlled clinical trial, but any way I can feel strong and healthy works for me.

So many reports are anecdotal (stories by women like us) but more studies will likely bear out maca root’s health benefits.

Synchronistically, just as I was working on this post,  I got a note from ethnoherbalist Kevin Curran about maca and its role in relieving menopause symptoms. To learn more about this wonderful plant medicine, please visit Dr. Curran’s site .   It’s fascinating!

For more information or to order maca root supplements, visit The Maca Team website. Let us know how maca root works for you. We learn by sharing our wisdom and experiences with one another, so don’t be shy.

Interesting side note: Every time I try to type ‘maca’, autocorrect changes it to ‘mama’. A message or sign? Maybe not. Then again, maybe.

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Cultivating A New Relationship with Ourselves

Ferntasia © lynette sheppard

Ferntasia © lynette sheppard

One hard lesson we learned – possibly the most valuable of this transition – was that the pivotal relationship we needed to cultivate was with ourselves. When it seems that virtually every molecule in our body has changed, it shouldn’t surprise us that we need to get to know our new selves. That truly is the first step in creating new relationships with our intimates. Oh sure, we all thought we knew ourselves but further examination made us completely rethink that premise. Here’s how we started the process.

Me – meet Me

The mantra of midlife women “I just don’t feel like ME anymore” serves as an call to awakening.  Who WAS I?  More important,  who AM I now?  Perhaps our increased need for time alone has a purpose.  We need to become acquainted with the changeling emerging from the upheaval of our bodies, psyches, and beleaguered spirits.  We must question ways in which we have known ourselves prior to now.

We identify ourselves by the roles we’ve played in family and society.  We also have ideas of what describes us – quiet, outgoing, sensitive, impulsive, etc.  Identities and descriptions make up much of what we think of as ‘myself’.  These roles and ways of being are familiar and comfortable, if not exactly the dreams we thought we would live.  In getting to know a new SELF, we must first relinquish these familiar identities.  We need to let go of them however much they may resemble a life preserver tossed upon the stormy seas of so much change.

We addressed this in one of our Menopause Goddess gatherings with the following exercise.

“Letting Go of the Old Me” Exercise
Cut up heavy unlined paper or cardstock into pieces big enough for one or two words to be written.  (approx. 1/2 inch by 3 inches each is a good size.)  Give each woman 30 pieces of paper and a pen.  In silence, each Venus writes down one role or description on each piece of paper,  eg.  homemaker, nurse, artist, spiritual person, wild woman, sister, daughter, mother, and so on.  When finished hold all your roles and identities in your hands.  One by one, put them down, feeling the sensations and emotions of letting go of each one.  Take as long as needed – noticing how it feels to shed each identity.  When all your papers have been relinquished and your hands are empty, just sit quietly and notice what is left.  How does it feel to be without your roles?  Without your descriptions of who you are?  Don’t forget to breathe.

After 5-10 minutes of sitting quietly in this fashion, slowly begin to pick up your roles and descriptions one at a time.  Notice this time how it feels to reclaim each identity.  Are there some that are easier to take back?  Some that are burdensome or seem irrelevant?  Are there surprises?

If you’ve done this exercise in a group, (definitely the preferred way), those Venuses who wish to may share their experiences.  This serves to deepen and validate the experience for all.

For some in our Venus group, this exercise was deeply emotional, with great pain experienced on ‘giving up’ some of our most cherished identities.  Others were equally surprised at the ease with which some roles dropped away, like burdens laid to rest.  We found ourselves re-thinking the roles we have adopted until now and contemplating releasing those that no longer serve us or others.

The most important epiphany of the exercise involved feeling what was left when we let go of all our supposed roles and identities.  “Something” essential still remained.  An authentic being with value apart from what she does or how she is perceived exists when we give up all our identities.  Each goddess might be well served to acquaint herself with this essential ‘she’. Our ‘aha’ discovery of Self without proscribed identities led us into a discussion centering on another relationship that we wished to cultivate in midlife: our spirituality. We’ll touch more upon this in our next blog post.

This post was partially adapted from “The Big M” by Lynette – ebook version is called “Becoming a Menopause Goddess.”

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Forging New Relationships With Intimates after Menopause

Coupled Palms © lynette sheppard

Coupled Palms © lynette sheppard

Again, I want to thank all of you who let me know what topics you want explored as we step into our next phase of Second Adulthood. It didn’t surprise me that “forging new relationships” was a hot pick. We Venuses spent all of our second gathering and significant portions of our subsequent meetings digging into this part of our changing. With that in mind, here is Part I of what we discussed and learned.

Forging New Relationships With Our Significant Others
Next to ourselves, the people most affected by our midlife changes are our intimates.  Our spouses, life partners, and significant others are not sure how to relate to the entities who have seemingly taken over the bodies, hearts, and minds of their best friends.  They want the sweet, loving, sexual woman they used to know to come back.  Well, guess what, so do we.  But she’s nowhere in sight.

One spouse, when feeling amorous one evening, told his Venus, “Honey, I just want to make you happy.  I just want to give you pleasure.”   All the Venuses hooted and hollered when she shared this – we’d been there.  At this time of our life, when we are struggling with diminished libido, hot flashes, night sweats, and life-altering insomnia, pleasure seems an elusive dream. The first responses that had bounced into our heads luckily remained unshared with our well-meaning mates, but we voice them now.  “You just want to give me pleasure?  Then bring me a fan!”  or “Great.  Then just let me sleep.”

After the laughter died down, we set about confronting the real difficulties of reconciling the new us with the old them.  Oh sure, they may be going through their own changes, but let’s not muddy the waters with that just yet.  No, on second thought, we decided the waters were already muddy, so we’d better look at that too.

Leavin’ Libido Loca
One change that seems to surface with the “climacteric” (scientific name for menopause) in men is that they begin to “feel older”.  They confront their own mortality in a very real way.  No longer is death an abstraction.  Time is running out.  This can lead to questions (or obsessions) of virility.  It seems to us as if they believe that if they can still get it up and working, they are not old yet. Virility = youth. As a consequence, they may suddenly be wanting sex a great deal more.  “Hey, if I can do it 3 times a night, I’m still young.”  This increased interest in ‘doing it’  is in direct collision with our waning or hibernating sex drive.

While we were on the subject of sex and pleasure, several of the Venuses blasted the so-called sexual performance drugs:  Viagra, Cialis, and the like.   Despite the Hallmark-esque commercials’ rosy pictures of happy, satisfied couples, our goddesses denounced the use of these pills as artificial.  Worse, they felt that the drugs acted as a barrier to intimacy and sensuality, reducing this intimate act of sharing to a poor mimicry of teenage prowess, a contest of turgidity and longevity, a tractor pull between the bedsheets.  Yeah, baby!   We’re ready for ESPN!

Hey, guys!  Even if our libido were running full tilt boogie, (which we think we’ve already established, it is not) we wouldn’t want a sporting event in our bedroom.  We want closeness and sensuality – not endurance.  It’s not about the thrill of victory vs the agony of defeat.  It’s about being together physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Forget chemically.  The Stepford penis doesn’t work for us. It’s artificial and we hate it.  Enough said. (Note: this feeling was BEFORE any of our spouses suffered true erectile dysfunction – the drugs can indeed be helpful in those circumstances. The trouble was when the pills were taken when not truly medically necessary. Live and learn.)

Pillow Talk

Sexuality issues are sensitive issues, not easily talked about in even the closest relationships.  Yet until and unless we confront it in conversations with ourselves, we won’t be able to broach the topic with our intimates.  The Venus group provided a way to learn and share together, to gain understanding and grow strength, compassion, and courage for the scary, delicious process of creating new relationships with our old loves.

Okay, so what do we do?  How do we reconcile our diminished sex drive with their normal or increased drive?  Lei-Venus was able to talk to her husband about the changes in this way.  “Hormonally, it’s like I’ve become a little girl again.  When I was a little girl, I didn’t really think about sex.  And now, without the physical drive from my hormones, it just doesn’t come up on my screen.  Emotionally, of course, I’m still a woman in love with her husband.  So I just need to remind myself how much I love being physically close with you, and get myself in the mood for making love.”  As we mentioned earlier in the Help Chapter, Lei gets herself in the mood by reading romantic literature or watching a movie love scene.  Bobbi sets the stage with romantic dinner, music, and rose petals.  Little touches of sensuality help get her in the mood for love.

Recovering from Lost Libido

A additional wrinkle for some of the Venuses involved an increased emotional sensitivity on the part of their lovers.  These spouses expressed a desire for their mates to initiate lovemaking more often.  Perhaps this was just another side effect of the mortality/virility question, wanting to know if they are still desirable to us.  For our part, it isn’t that they aren’t desirable to us.  It’s that we seem to have forgotten desire altogether.  If we DID lust for someone, it would be our partners. Sandy-Venus summed it up when she said, “I forget that I like sex, until my husband approaches me, and we get it on.  Then I remember – hey, this is great.  We should do this more often.”  Like so many of us, she suffers from a sort of sexual Alzheimer’s phenomenon.

Alas, our libido seems to have gone to some netherworld, maybe the land of lost socks from the dryer.  Regardless of the lack of drive, we were going to have to find ways to maintain our physical closeness in our primary relationships.  Additionally, to honor our partners, we would need to be proactive at times, not simply submissive.  Most important, we realized that we have to TALK about physical intimacy with our mates, and how we are going to adapt and grow into the changes that we are experiencing together.

Bobbi-Venus and her husband set “dates” for enjoying one another physically to make sure that this aspect of their relationship isn’t neglected.  For the upcoming year, the Venuses vowed to pay attention to nourishing the physical connection with our mates, for ourselves as well as them.

Beej-Venus and her husband follow their therapist’s advice.  All they have to do is to set a date and both agree to show up naked with a smile on their faces.  If anything happens, so much the better.
(This post was partially adapted from “The Big M” by Lynette – ebook version is called “Becoming a Menopause Goddess.” These issues not only come up during menopause, but are prevalent after the Pause as well. A vibrant Second Act will mean creating new relationships in many arenas – we’ll talk more about intimate relationship re-creation and re-bonding in my next post in two weeks.)

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Elderhood: Embracing New Values

 

Opening © lynette sheppard

Opening © lynette sheppard

After menopause, aging can jump to the top of the concerns list. Aging comes with a multitude of changes. Some of them are disconcerting in the extreme: droopy skin, aches, jowls, invisibility, hot flashes and the like.  These changes require adjustment and acceptance. They are here to stay.

However, some of the changes are nothing short of marvelous. If I were offered the return of my physical youth in exchange for the wisdom accumulated atop my wrinkles, I’d turn it down. Oh, I’d think about it for a minute or two, to be sure. But it seems to me that the gifts far outweigh the losses; at least so far.

One of the biggest gifts has been a change in the values that are most pivotal in my life. I sat down to make a list of how my values have morphed over the decades.

Value harmony and understanding more than being right
Being right is not all it’s cracked up to be. Being right means someone else is wrong and these days, it just doesn’t seem worth it. I’d rather find common ground or try to understand another viewpoint than be right.

Value silence as much as discourse
Actually, I value it more. When quiet, I can feel others and connect on a more elemental level. I have found that presence and togetherness do not require spoken word. Silence is no longer uncomfortable to me, but a soul satisfying cloak that I can wrap around me.

Value kindness more than mental acumen or braininess
I used to be wowed by those who were smart, quick, clever and strove to be like them. These later years have me admiring and emulating kindness and compassion more than accumulated knowledge. I am deeply drawn to those with emotional intelligence.

Value presence more than accomplishment
Our culture perpetuates doing to the exclusion of being. Small wonder that so many of us feel guilty when we aren’t accomplishing (yes, I fall prey to this all the time, but I’m working on it.) I am in awe when I meet those who make no apology for being, who relax in their non-doing moments.

Value plain more than fancy
I love plain food, comfortable clothes, just hanging out with friends and family rather than big excursions or amusements. The fancy or complicated things feel like they sap my energy rather than filling me up. Less really does feel like more these days.

Value learning more than teaching
This is weird. We elders have a fair amount to impart and may take this responsibility quite seriously. Yet, as I age, I am struck also by how little I really do know and can revel in the pure joy of learning without putting pressure on myself to “do something with it” or succeed. As far as I’m concerned, we get an A just for trying.

Value self deprecating humor over sarcasm
I’d rather laugh at myself or the human condition in all its sweetness than indulge in snarky humor. Besides, when I look at myself, there is just so much comic material that I need never stop chuckling.

Value internal peace over external validation
While I still check Facebook for the number of “likes” that Menopause Goddess Blog receives, it matters to me less and less. When I feel that I have given my best with an open heart, I feel centered and peaceful, less craving feedback from others.

Value communion rather than nomenclature
I really don’t care as much about the names of birds, plants, butterflies as I once did. What really thrills me is just hanging out with flora and fauna, feeling a part of the oneness of existence. OK, it’s a little challenging with cockroaches and centipedes, but they too have a certain quirky beauty.

Value taking time over time management
In the autumn of my life, I find that I just don’t get as much done. I’m not as productive or efficient. Many items on my to-do list are carried over for days, even weeks. This bothers me less and less as I surrender to the bliss of just taking time for myself. Daydreaming, writing, reading, walking are all as important as getting my chores done. Weirdly enough, the chores seem easier when I’ve taken time to just re-create myself.

What changes might yet be in store? I don’t know but I’m looking forward with curiosity, excitement, and some trepidation. So far, I like what I’ve discovered on this life’s journey.

Perhaps you also have values that have changed – share them here in the comments.  We learn so much from one another, so please don’t be shy.

(I originally wrote a version of this post for the Celebrate What’s Right Blog. I’ve found that during this time when so much can be wrong, celebrating what is right can ease the more daunting passages.)

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