Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Winter Rest in Midlife

Snow hastens to reach ground
Up-gusts blow sideways
Water is harsh, moving to shore in a hurry
Waves bump rocks over the side and onto grass
Backyard view almost obscured by white
wind and shades of grey
island’s shoreline obliterated by violent tempest.

we are safe inside the window warm and heated
we are on solid ground watching white caps
winter showed up to day grizzly beard and big boots
white hair scraggled and long
not father Christmas with jolly belly and smiles
but burly lumberjack all bluster and blizzard
it is best to be inside, not venture out
it is wiser by far to stay put, drink chai from the red Chinese pot
read the I Ching for aphorisms
throw the coins and divine the future
“It will snow today, tomorrow and the next day” (says the
weatherman) so hunker down in the bedside bunker
with your little dog on your lap and the cats spread like living fur coats
ease the angst in the stomach about the list of things
take the day off
to dream and be remiss
you have an excuse to be late
to not return those library books
to miss an appointment
to stay home in bed and do nothing but read a novel

You have been blessed
with a snow day of rest.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Finding Sanctuary and Serenity in Mid-Life

Here in this room I have created a sancturary and this is what I want - nothing on my list of goals to achieve, nothing on my to do list or to to buy list. Just blessed peace, for a moment, in which to find a still point, a place to let go of thinking, and always running the show.

I have built this sanctuary, this house on the edge of the lake, to have somewhere to dream in, to find whatever it is I need. I do not feel the urge to leave anymore, that mid-life restlessness has been removed. I do not feel the urge to flee myself or keep busy constantly. I even begin to feel joy in the kitchen, in the center of the house, in receiving guests to celebrate the new year with us.

Up until now, what I enjoyed doing most was uncovering new information then disseminating it. Making the unknown known (which was whispered to me during a Soul Purpose exercise at the Writer's Spa in Taos in 2006).

I find healing in Bija's chants, in soothing yoga classes, in lying down on my bedroom rug to do yoga stretches, a vibration that rocks the soul. No need for talking, just being breathed.

There seems no end to war and vengeance in the outside world, but here in my sancturary, I have glimpses of surrender, of letting go and letting fate take its course.

I no longer know what I want to do. What does a know it all do when she no longer knows, I ask myself. Breathe, relax, iron and do laundry. Buy groceries and prepare my class for next week, prepare a mini-retreat for myself on this snowy day. Reconnect with myself through my journal, find my inner self and record it here.

High on the list of pleasure filling activities are music and singing.
I feel strong when I get good feedback about my singing. I feel strong when I help other people feel better about themselves. I feel strong when I am quiet and alone listening to soothing music. I feel strong when I do yoga. I feel strong when I am not rushed and can go at my own pace.

I feel the urge to surrender the direction of my life to an inner current, my heart wants to lead the dance, and my mind is terrible at following the heart's lead. I put my heart's foot first, trust in the unknown. I have strengths in intuition, to guide me if I trust it.

I know what I know. Information comes to me from within.
Follow up on that insight, impulse.

Shut down the internet/computer/emails and reliance on outside information, more often.
Rely more on the whispered truths, subtle influence of the god/ess within, higher power, creative team, guidance from within, pilot light turned on.

In stormy times, seek the center.

Keep the foundation strong by nourishing self-love, water the root. Find the eye of the storm in 'I'ness.

The fear I have that sometimes prevents me from hanging out in this peaceful place is that I will turn into mush if I do nothing, if I explore with curiosity this place of acceptance and waiting for an impulse from within.

This morning I felt so tired of moving from someone else's impulse, energy and always responding as if I have to, as if I am a puppet whose strings are pulled by someone else. I felt resistance to moving this way anymore. I feel how passive I have been, how disconnected from my own passion.

I am at a crossroads, here in the heart and hearth of my new home. I don't want to go out. I don't want to rely on outside sources to fill me with information and inspiration, all the while hungry for my own truth.

Where does my candle get lit from, which fire? It's a new feeling, to feel blank, without direction, with no moral code or order to guide me. and to be ok with it. This is a new acceptance, to stop before heading out in the snowfilled blizzard without compass or direction.

In my mind I am in a snowblind place. But the heart feels the sun's pull, its direction and asks me to be patient. Trust that I have everything I need. Don't let self-doubt sabotage me as I experiment with not knowing how it will all turn out.

Written January 13, 2009.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I am enough

During the menopausal journey, all kinds of old ghosts have come back to haunt me.

Unfinished dreams from adolescence (so you think you can dance/act/sing?). Unfinished loves: remember that boy in Grade 11 who idolized you? maybe you thought he was too immature, even if he was cute. You took him for granted at the time. Maybe he really saw you. Maybe you feel like you want to be really seen that way again.

I found all kinds of circles coming back at me in my forties. In my last year of high school, I was in a dance/mime play of Inuit legends called the Land before Time. It was one of the highlights of my creative life to be chosen for that play, to have rehearsals in the National Arts Center and a tour of high schools in the Ottawa area for 2 weeks (off school, too).

Later, I hooked up with one of the women who was in the play with me, who now lives in Montreal and we became good friends again. One of my unfinished dreams was to be involved with theatre once more, and Jo and I began a project to put a long poem series of my friend Carolyn Souaid, Sedna, on stage (which just happened to be based on an Inuit legend). We hired two actresses and began rehearsals, and during that time, Jo gave me the director of the Student Young Company, Dennis Hayes' email address. He sent me the text of Land Before Time, which absolutely blew my mind, to come full circle with that piece. Our production of Sedna played one night only for the Circus of Words, a night of poetry in performance. But it brought me a lot of satisfaction to be involved with 'theatre people' again.

I also had the chance to clear up some ancient longings and meet with former love interests, to close the door on the 'what if' scenarios my mind was cooking up. There was a lot of unfinished business that came to a head in my forties.

Now, I've just turned 55, and recently received a birthday card from a close friend that said, Jenn, you are so serene, you've changed since I've known you. Is this what post-menopause looks like? I had to laugh, and gave her a big hug of thanks. Yes, this is how it feels, once the rollercoaster of emotions has calmed down, the night sweats are over, and sleep is your friend again.

So this post is about closing the circle, and probably new ones begininng. It is the end of something, for me. One cycle has finished. Another one begins.

I am at peace with myself. I am surrounded by wondferful women friends. I am still married to my best friend. And I feel finally ready to send my work out to the world, to share what I am learning along the way.

blessed be,

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The way of going down, of letting go

A woman in the middle of her life may need to go through a down time, to journey into her depths; it may even look like a depression. She may need some time in isolation to find her own inner powers – connection to her body, her emotions and her sexuality, her intuition, her values, and her soul. She may feel as if she doesn’t know where she is going, what’s coming next. It’s a time of passage in-between – letting go of the old self, not sure of the new self yet. It may imply a change of job, or of roles (mother to grandmother), a divorce, grown kids leaving home, dying parents.

Menopause is a time of dying to the old way and opening up to a new way of being. Sometimes it is difficult to live this change, to accept the end of one thing and open our hearts and arms to a new self. It is not a linear journey.

It helps to look at this as a sacred journey. We do the careful work of an archeologist, excavating in the dark, in dreams and memory for the lost pieces of our selves.

“In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself within a dark woods, where the straight way was lost.” Dante, quoted in Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser.

It takes a great amount of trust to surrender to a higher power, trust the life force, admit we feel lost and let God’s will be done. Sometimes the choice seems limited – either break down or break open, as Lesser puts it so well in her book.

Have you had dreams of feeding or birthing a baby who needs to be fed but has been neglected almost to the point of dying? This may represent an urgent need to reconnect with your own wisdom, your own knowing. And subsequently be reborn as a sensual being, cherishing and nourishing your female body, recognizing that you embody the sacred feminine.

Sumerian goddess Inanna’s story is an example of a dark night or initiation. In her descent to the underworld lies a story of a dying of the outer self and a rebirth. It is an archetypal story for soul growth, by one of the earliest writers in history on clay tablets, Princess Enheduanna of Akkad in Sumeria, 2300 BCE (translation from tables discovered in 1940’s).

The Descent of Inanna: (taken from Joan Borysenko's book)
“Inanna prepares to descend to hell to visit her sister Erishkegal, queen of the Underworld. She instructs her loyal friend and servant Ninshubur to wait for 3 days at the entrance to the Underworld and if she doesn’t come back to call upon the gods for help. Then she girds herself with all her powers, a crown on her head, a circle of lapis beads under her neck, to strands of gems over her heart, a wondrous breastplate, a gold ring for a bracelet, royal robes and a lapis measuring rode and line.

Seeing her coming, arrayed in all her glory, the Gatekeeper Beti calls his mistress Erishkegal – she instructs him to open each of the seven doors just a crack, so that in squeezing through Inanna will have to divest herself of one power at each gate and arrive bowed low and powerless before her.

At the first gate Beti removes the crown of Inanna’s intellect. At the second gate: her lapis necklace (power to defend herself through speech); At the third gate, he removes the double strand of beads over her heart, the twin flames of wisdom and compassion. At the fourth gate he removes the breastplate called ‘come, man, come’ through which she can summon the help of men through her charisma. At the fifth gate he removes the golden ring from her wrist, curtailing her power to strike back. At the sixth gate, the laps measuring rod and line are taken so that she cannot divine her bearings. At the seventh gate her royal robes are stripped away, her outer personality, her ego.

Inanna as naked and defenseless as a newborn is ushered into the throne room before Erishkegal. There, the seven fierce Annuna, judges of the Underworld, surround Inanna and pass judgment against her. Erishkegal fastened on her the eye of death, and spoke against her the word of wrath. She uttered against her the cry of guilt. She struck her. Inanna was turned into a corpse, a piece of rotting meat, and was hung from a hook on the wall.”

Meanwhile, the faithful Ninshubur has waited for three days and three nights for her mistress to return. She suspects foul play and begins a loud lament, accompanied by the beating of drums. She dons a simple mourning dress and hurries off to the gods to ask for help in saving the queen of heaven and earth. Father Enlil, god of air, refuses aid. She asked for it, but he grumbles. “Whoever receives the powers of the Underworld has to stay there.” Then she goes to Father Nanna, god of the moon, and begs him to save Inanna. He is as grumbly as Enlil and will not lift a finger for his daughter for she has chosen her destiny. Finally Ninsubur visits Enki, the god of wisdom who had gifted Inanna with the fourteen me, the blessings of power, to begin with. Enki is distraught, filled with love and concern for his beautiful daughter, the holy priestess of heaven.

Enki scrapes dirt from beneath his fingernails and fashions two odd and wonderful creatures, neither male nor female. To the kurgarra he gives the food of life, to the falatur the water of life. He instructs them to sneak into the underworld like flies through the cracks in the gates and gifts them with the secret of love’s true power.

Queen Erishkegal is in great pain, giving birth, writhing naked and uncovered. He tells the creatures to mirror her pain – oh my insides, oh my outsides. Oh my belly, and this they do. The queen is so touched at being acknowledged and seen, that she is willing to grant these two creatures whatever they want. They ask for Inanna’s corpse, hanging form the hook on the wall. As instructed, they sprinkle food of life and water of life, and Inanna rises up out of death.

The seven judges grab her and inform her she must replace herself with someone else or she can’t leave. The galla, demons from hell, go with her. They pick Ninshubur, but Inanna refuses to give up her loyal friend. Next they try to claim Shara, Inanna’s son, who is grieving his dead mother, dressed in sackcloth. Inanna, sees her husband Dumuzi, sitting on his throne, resplendent in garments of me, reveling to music, not in mourning at all – and she is infuriated, feels dishonoured, unloved. So she fastened the gaze of death on him, and the word of wrath, the cry of guilty (like Erishkegal). The galla clutch him, but he turns into a snake and slithers away. Dumuzi’s sister prays that she might be taken to hell instead of her brother, Innana agrees to a compromise, Dumuzi will stay in hell for 6 months of the year, his sister the other 6. (The alternation of light and dark prefigures many myths of agrarian cultures). A Woman’s Journey to God, Joan Borysenko

Inanna descended to meet her own shadow, death, and the judgments it held of her, so she could reclaim true power she had been gifted with (wisdom and love). Enki had gifted her with the mastery of truth and the art of lovemaking.

Exercise –

Dying to old Self: what time is it in my life?

What is it Time to let go of?

Draw a clock on a sheet of paper, and circle the time on it.

Is it 11:00? Near the end of a cycle?
Or 9 am, near the beginning?
Or noon, right in the middle?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Health Bloggers Vote Now

Hey people
Just got invited to join the People's Health Blogger Award contest for best health blog with Wellsphere.

I invite you to browse this blog, and if you like what you see, Vote for me! on the sidebar.
here is what I've been blogging about over there (and they link to my wisdomforwomen blog as well).

Healing Ourselves (recent Wellsphere blogpost)

The one single most important thing I have learned about menopause, and it has been a wonderful learning opportunity, is about self-care.

There is no fast easy way through menopause. For some of us, it's an emotional roller coaster (I raise my hand on that one). For others, it's hot flash season and lack of sleep that has them tossing and turning.

Others swear they never felt a thing, hardly noticed anything had changed (just too busy I guess, or in prime shape).

Menopause is not an illness. But it does require you to pay attention to your health. In fact, most of the symptoms arise from our body-mind connection - too tired? not getting enough sleep? never stopping to take care of yourself? eating on the run? burning the candle at both ends? adrenaline junkie? your body will let you know what you need to do. Mostly, it involves slowing down, taking stock, being real with yourself.

What do you really need right now? A nap may be enough, or a trip to the osteopath or ayurvedic consultant. Or maybe some help with taking care of your elderly parents.

Most women I know are working moms, or just working. We easily get over busy and over burdened with things we do for others. The last person on our list is ourself.

I invite you to browse my blog/website for articles on and tips on how to take better care of yourself.

For health related information on symptoms, the best site ever is I've used them as a resource for over two years now and have found they are way ahead of everyone else, mixing holistic and western approaches with success.

So ladies, it begins with you, with me. It does get better. It does require serious slowing down. Listen to your body, it is your best teacher.

aka musemother

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Remember Peace

You have fallen in love with sound,
why not silence?

You have fallen in love with war.
Why not peace?

You have fallen in love with doubt,
why not clarity?

You have fallen in love with hate.
Why not love?

You have fallen in love with death.
Why not life?

You have fallen in love with knowing when the time is up.
Why not fall in love with knowing where time stands still?

Prem Rawat

Check out this website for a way to cultivate Peace in a world of turmoil

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Live where your fear is

Reading the Art of Extreme Self-Care by Cheryl Richardson, I came across this line: Forget Safety. Live where you fear to live."

I've been sitting with my fear for a while now, letting it keep me playing small, keep me inside, in the closed circle of comfort and routine, or what is known and familiar. Yet aching to stretch, own my power, get out and play with the larger world.

For myself, it begins with sitting with the feeling in my body, letting tears come, letting feelings rise up, then breathing with it. Being a companion to my sadness or fear or anxiety instead of rejecting it and pushing it back under. This doesn't feel comfortable but it can be done safely, if I am patient with myself. It's like the poem by Rumi, Guesthouse, all these emotions are gifts or guests that come and stay with us, to teach us how to be in the world.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

So live with your fear as a gift, that can lead to greater opening, to more acceptance.
Cradle and mother with tenderness the tender young self imprisoned in the cave of your heart.
Give her a name and breathe her to life.....

Monday, September 28, 2009

10 Best Things about Menopause

"The joy of menopause is the world's best-kept secret. Like venturing through the gateway to enter an ancient temple, in order to claim that joy a woman must be willing to pass beyond the monsters who guard its gate. As you stand at the brink of it, it can appear that only darkness, danger and decay lie beyond...but as thousands of woman from all cultures throughout history have whispered to each other, it is the most exciting passage a woman ever makes." Leslie Kenton, Passage to Power

The Ten Best Things about Menopause are:

1. Freedom to have sex without worry of getting pregnant, No more birth control.
2. Rediscovering my own interests, now that my children have grown older.
3. Rediscovering my life as a couple, more time for just the two of us (see #1).
4. Time alone: indulging in my need for time alone without guilt.
5. Finding my Voice: having a say, speaking my truth, speaking up.
6. Creativity Sparked: letting go of the old, making room for the new creative spirit.
7. Knowing my own body, getting comfortable with its shapes, quirks, needs
8. Growing my intuition, claiming my women's wisdom.
9. Healing time: allowing myself to rest, nap or do nothing; pampering myself without feeling guilty. Sometimes it's all about me
10. Inner Journey: looking deeply, listening, writing, reflecting on the inner life becomes a need.

What are your 10 best things?


Thursday, September 3, 2009

The way of the conscious feminine

(excerpt from A Woman's Way, the tao of turning fifty by Jennifer Boire)

"It is difficult in life to find the Feminine Realm. The drawing of the water, the gathering of the grains no longer are performed under an open sky. ...The sense of her task as consecrated and necessary to the cosmos is gone. And I fear for women yet to come. For under the pressures of modern life, time has become compressed. The feminine sense of time has all but disappeared.

Yet woman cannot exist with only a linear awareness of time, for her sense of sacred Kairos time is the precious essence of life. There must be time enough for her to experience the sacredness within each moment and within herself...."
I sit listening to the wind (Judith Duerk, author of Circle of Stones)

According to Duerk, we have modeled ourselves on the masculine way, but the heroic task and journey of the masculine cannot provide what a woman needs to complete the journey of the conscious and developed feminine...we need a Feminine way.

"When a woman uses her energy only to reinforce what is outside of herself, she becomes cut off from her depths. Her own feelings and life values become inaccessible to her. She molds herself to external standards and loses touch with her individuality. She is cut off from all that is uniquely her own that could nourish her and those around her, cut off from the creative new answers so badly needed in the world today.… And her depths become enraged!

The whole wellspring of womanly creativity within her is furious for not being tapped."
from I Sit Listening to the Wind

Have you experienced this battle inside? A part of you that judges yourself harshly, strives to compete, be prepared, be on time, get things done, and runs steamroller over your own feelings or tiredness, your need for quiet time? Makes you feel guilty for needing down-time, playtime or rest? A force that keeps you primed to perform even at the expense of your own health.

Reading Duerk’s book, I felt a tear trickle down my cheek; yes, my body was saying, you have been tricked into this harsh attitude of performance and perfectionism, and you whip yourself harder because you have no faith in your own feelings or emotions, the heart side.

Focused on doing instead of being, the body resists, and by way of a message, my neck acts up. Freezes, cramps and gets so sore, that I have to quit working and rest....Ah, rest. I allow myself 30 minutes to lie on the lounge chair outside, in the last few sunny days of summer. I put down the book I am reviewing, and let myself nap. Get back in touch with my fatigue, my body's wisdom, and dream my own thoughts.....a woman dreaming the conscious feminine way.

I invite you to find a short space for yourself to rest in today, even if for a brief 5-10 minutes of closing your eyes at your desk, resting your eyes in the palms of your hands. Or a short walk at lunchtime out in the sun. Don't try and do it all without rest. Your children, your co-workers and friends, your parents and students will all benefit from a rested, calm, replenished and present, you.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Knowing the Power of the Feminine cycle

By power, I mean, the kind that comes from taking charge of your life and asserting yourself.

Women have ignored, denied, and bullied their way through the menstrual time for hundreds, if not thousands of years, due to the denigration and fear of female processes. I think it is more than time that we reclaim this power, this unique connection to our inner healing and physical healing.

Getting in touch with the power of the menstrual cycle mainly comes from what you don't do, according to Alexandra Pope, author of The Wild Genie. Now that you are in the menopausal journey, your periods may be very erratic, longer or shorter, come early or late. There is a change in the rhythm of your body. It's harder to predict when it's coming. It's time to listen in carefully.

In our home and work lives, we are accustomed to struggling, setting goals, being heroines or supermoms, but in this case, we must face into what we experience and embody it, not try and rise above it.

"If you are willing to court the rhythmical life of your body you are given access to something Other that happens naturally. And the very act of courting the inner life of your body itself builds an inner sweetness, surety and dignity - a spirit of sovereign authority that is priceless." From The Woman's Quest, Alexandra Pope.

Sounds good, you say, how do I do that? It's mostly about slowing down, practicing surrender, and paying attention to your cycle. A good way to start is by keeping track of your cycle in a journal or even on your calendar.

It feels empowering to know where you are in your cycle, and if you look up at the moon, you will discover how close you are to a pattern of fullness, waning and waxing in the universe. You will begin to recognize the shifts of mood and feeling, see the patterns in your dream life, and also, by charting your cycle says Pope, you build self-acceptance and an intimacy with yourself over time.

"A deep process of awareness, the first task is to get to know your cycle," says Pope. This is also useful for contraception purposes - you need to know when you ovulate and when you menstruate; believe it or not, the first calendars were invented by women for this very purpose. Especially if you are not ovulating every 28 days anymore, (after age 40 your cycle starts to change).

How to deal with the aches and pains that do arise? For me, the best place on the first day of my period was in bed with a hot water bottle getting some extra sleep. And feeling my way through the pain meant I exited on the other side, feeling less achy, less fearful and tense.

Our need for rest at this time is higher, and it is not a sign of weakness to take care of yourself, it is a sign of wisdom.

"Allow yourself a dose of the thirteen allies - silence, solitude, stillness, surrender, simplicity, slowness, softness, self-interest, serenity, sanctuary, sacred, support and sleep however small, as you come into and during menstruation."

If you want to learn more, check out for more information on this workbook.

take good care,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Menopause Quotes

“Orangutans do not go into menopause. Chimpanzees do not need extract of mare pee. …Only in human females does the fertility program shut down years before death.”
(Woman, An Intimate Geography, Natalie Angiers)

“In peri-menopause our brains are being rewired to live with more inner wisdom, to adapt to a more direct current (intuition); and we may experience insomnia, forgetfulness and depression. It takes a great deal of courage and faith to go through this change, and some women go through painful breakdowns before they are ready to relinquish the struggle for control.” The Wisdom of Menopause, Dr. Christiane Northrup

“All the emotional and psychological change of the peri-menopausal years are to the entire life cycle as the week before one’s period is to the monthly cycle. All the issues that have been occurring pre-menstrually and which perhaps had been avoided till now- should I quit my job? Should I stay in this relationship – now come up and hit us between the eyes rather relentlessly, demanding that they be dealt with at this time.” (Northrup, Wisdom of Menopause).

"Do not become alarmed when you experience yourself in totally new ways," sighs Grandmother Growth tenderly. "You are changing, getting ready to be initiated into the third stage of your life. Are you ready for the ride of your life?"Susun Weed, Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

“In this culture we are told to set goals. We are supposed to know where we are going and then take specific steps to get there. But this is not always possible, or even wise. It is the male model of linear, rational thinking. But the life process of women…is more chaotic and disorderly, more circular and intuitive. Sometimes we can’t see the next horizon until we step out of the old life. We don’t yet know where we are going. We may not know the place until we arrive.” A Woman’s Journey to God, Joan Borysenko

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fine Art of Doing Nothing

received this today from Spent, a newsletter promoting a book by the same name about the most common disease in the 21st century, burn-out.

"It turns out that our brains need to have time out…or, as a recent brain study reveals…time in.

According to a study done in May of 2009 led by Stanford and Cambridge (UK) educated Kalina Christoff who heads up the Cognitive Neuroscience of Thought Laboratory at the University of British Columbia in Canada, letting your mind wander allows the areas of the brain associated with problem-solving become more active.

Until her recently, scientists believed that the brain would be busiest and most engaged when occupied with specific tasks – reading, writing, in conversation, focused thinking and doing. But Christoff and her team found that "Our brains are very active when we daydream – much more active than when we focus on routine tasks."

She goes on to say, "When you daydream, you may not be achieving your immediate goal – say reading a book or paying attention in class – but your mind may be taking that time to address more important questions in your life, such as advancing your career or personal relationships."

Or you may be doing some creative loafing, turning off the focus on productivity and letting the mind wander in to imaginations territory.

Summer days, heat finally wafting in, turns us into creative loafers. So hit the deck, or the hammock, or the lawn chair, with a cold lemonade, and turn on your brain.

cultivate the fine art of doing nothing....


Monday, August 3, 2009

I get a newsletter from in my inbox regularly and today's issue concerns me personally as well as my sister, because of the thyroid and gluten:

Here is an excerpt from it, and you can read the whole article on their website at

The connection between thyroid health, soy and gluten:

Some studies have shown that the isoflavones in soybeans can decrease thyroid hormone output by blocking the enzyme responsible for adding iodine to thyroid hormone. This means if you have low iodine in the body, the soy isoflavone may be taking what iodine you do have, leaving an inadequate amount for thyroid hormone production. The good news is, if you have sufficient iodine in your body, eating soy will most likely not be a problem. And I’ve seen soy help so many women with menopausal symptoms that it would be a shame not to consider it as an option.

Soy isn’t the only goitrogenic (meaning food or chemical that can interrupt thyroid function) food out there. The isothiocyanates found in the Brassica family of vegetables — broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and so on — can reduce thyroid hormone in the same way.

Goitrogenic compounds have also been found in very small amounts in numerous other foods — from peaches and peanuts to strawberries and spinach! But, again, if you get enough iodine in your diet, as well as other micronutrients essential to thyroid function, I would not recommend cutting these healthy foods out. Simply pair these foods with the iodine-rich and micronutrient-rich foods listed in the chart above, or consider steaming them to counter the negative effects.

On the other hand, gluten is one food that I would recommend avoiding if you have a thyroid condition. There is a strong connection between celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and autoimmune thyroid issues, and many of my patients find that when they remove gluten-containing foods, they feel much better and notice less of an impact on their thyroid. For more information on any of the above, see my article on goitrogens and thyroid health.

Also, some important news about Rest: Your thyroid deserves a break — sit and enjoy!

This is perhaps one of the most overlooked pieces of advice in our modern lives: sit and enjoy your food! As women in today’s world, we are expected to do and be so many things that eating while standing at your kitchen counter, while driving, or while seated at your computer seems like the norm. But as you may have read in my article on hypothyroidism in menopause, the thyroid is very sensitive to stress. Give your mind, your body, and your thyroid a break by sitting in a comfortable space while you eat. Enjoy your meals in peace with friends and family, and talk, laugh, and let the nutrition you consume feed your thyroid, too. You deserve this break, and your body will thank you for it!

hope you find this useful,

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Poem for Young Women

what shall we do with these four young women
gorging on their own gorgeousness at seventeen
virgin goddesses, or not --
they wield their power
over middle-age
matrons, working mothers, menopausal dames
we are in awe of their peach
soft skin, golden lustre
we may think to outsmart them
with our age and experience
but their shark-bite words can wound

yet we are beautiful in ways
unknown to young straight rivers
sinous and curved, our silted beds
and wizened beauty
have made us wise
in ways they may only dream of being
we hold our power in our eyes
perhaps less glossy on the surface
but wicked with metaphor
we join hands
and watch them walking
longlegged, gorgeous horse women,
and full of promise

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hot Flash Clash of Hormones

Check out the above link to an article in the Globe & Mail today called Hot Flash Clash - about the prevalence of menopausal women with hormonal teenagers, due to women putting off child-birth until their thirties, and the issues that arise.

As a 54 year-old with a 17 year old daughter and almost 19 year old son, I can say, been there done that, and it wasn't pretty. But we're doing ok now.

I didn't put off having kids on purpose - I did get married later than some, at 29, then went back to university. We were actively trying to get pregnant (at least the conscious part of me was, who knows about the ambivalence underneath and how that affected things). It took seven years and two miscarriages, but we finally did have two full-term pregnancies, two wonderful children 20 months apart. I was 36 for the first one, 38 for the second. I had no idea that meant I'd be a menopausal crone while my daughter was entering her maiden voyage.

Hormones are a tricky thing. I think my hormonal odyssey and emotional turbulence began right after the let-down after pregnancy - all those -feel-good hormones that had floated me through nine-months of blimpdom, crashed. Or was it the sleepless nights and constant anxiety? anyway somewhere after baby #2 in the midst of my master's degree, I found myself slamming cupboard doors and getting irrationally upset with my 2 year old. He had the terrible twos and I had the terrible almost 40's.

Needless to say, PMS was a monthly crisis, and increasingly into my 40's it became hard to handle the ups and downs. I was sane, I was not certifiable, but I had trouble managing my hormonal rollercoaster at ovulation and before my period - only now the 'before' period began two weeks before, right after ovulation.

I never went to the doctor for any of this, never was on the pill to regulate my hormones nor did I get them tested. But I did see a family counsellor for tips on managing my household and my angry outbursts.

Needless to say, menopause and puberty hitting at the same time was a major challenge. There were some herbal allies that helped me sleep and cope - Promensil, basically red clover in high doses, was a help. Evening Primrose oil and calcium also, but I did not discover the herb I love most now, Motherwort, until after menopause. It is a nerve and heart tonic that appears to take the edge off my angst, and goodness knows with two teenagers there is still angst, even after the hormones have calmed down.

My daughter was moodier than my son, and being a daughter clashed more heartily with her mother. We have our best talks when we are in the car, not looking at each other. My son has surfed the wave of his hormones as a burly caveman type, grunting rather than conversing, but now has come out of the cave to show his human side.

During menopause (or the peri-menopause period from age 45-51 in my case), I didn't sleep well, overreacted emotionally, was alternately in their face and distant, and needed to be alone alot. My daughter slept alot, used Advil for cramps, and saw an osteopath for lower back pain and cramps. She started menstruating at 14, and is just getting regular in the past year I would say. So both of us are sailing better through choppy waters.

While there is no perfect age to have children, I'd have to say that the older a woman gets, and the closer she gets to her menopausal journey, the more introspection and alone time she may need. This may clash with her family's needs - she might feel they ask too much of her, or realize that she is giving more than she can afford to for her energy level.

It is always a time of reflection on where you are in your life, what you feel you have accomplished and where you want to change. It is not called The Change for nothing. But there is no reason for it be disruptive to others, if you are forewarned. So take good care of yourself, be conscious of what is simmering under the surface. Whatever is buried and left unconscious will make itself known, so be sure you are not taken by surprise by these turbulent winds.

In other words, Deal with It. Sweeping it under the carpet will not help your teenagers who are also Dealing with It.


Monday, June 29, 2009

The Art of Napping

here's a novel thought, "If you have too much to do, take a ten minute nap" (The art of Doing Nothing, by Veronique Vienne).

"What looks from the ouside like inertia is, in fact, an active internal state teeming with rapidly firing neurons."

Vienne compares our napping brain to a humming power station that is firing up more producitivty, alertness and discernment. It's true that lack of sleep can make us unable to concentrate.

So take a nap and avoid disaster. Let the goddess of sleep Morphia (ok so it's the son of the god of sleep, but let's feminize her because we need her help) carry you off to enhanced brain networking land while you doze.

Seriously though, naps got me through menopause. A daily 20 minute nap (more if you can swing it, right at cocktail hour) will get you through supper and to that early evening meeting, and help your neurons keep firing.

sleep tight,

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Are You Too Sensitive?

Menopause is a huge teacher for me. Whatever ideas I have about myself are changing. It's no longer good enough to sweep my feelings and emotions under the carpet. Even if I wanted to, they tend to explode out of me.

Why are some of us more sensitive? Susun Weed says that at menopause all our senses are heightened, our ears, eyes, nose and mouth. And especially our emtoional body - "I feel untruths as physical discomfort," she writes.

While I was pregnant, and for months after childbirth, I remember feeling akin to a mother wolf or bear - I could hear my baby cough from 2 floors below, I could sense in my body when it was time to nurse, even before the milk reflex came in. My nerves were also more edgey, and the slightest thing made me cry.

Normally we consider this a liability, not an asset. But what if this is a survival instinct, bred in us to keep us alive? "Let us honor the heightened sensitivites of the Crones. our communities depend on the Crones' irritability for their survival. In their sensitivity, the Crones are irritated first by that which has the ability to poison all of us, whether it is a food, a feeling, or a rule."
Susun Weed, Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.

There are herbal remedies and flower remedies for soothing an overly sensitive system so you can sleep, work and eat without too much problem (oatstraw and walnut). Maybe all you need is some time alone to sort through your sensitivities. Maybe the emotional turmoil needs more breath work, more grounding in the body through yoga, or prana exercises. Ayurvedic medecine suggests that the liver needs care when we feel overly irritable (milk thistle, dandelion). Calcium soothes the nerves. Gardening, walking in nature, and lowering your caffeine intake may also be beneficial.

Learning to turn down the noise outside you, the tv, stereo, car radio and listening to the birds instead is a wonderful way to quiet the world.

Be gentle, less demanding of yourself. Understand your rhythms and moods and listen in - give yourself solitude, serenity and surrender to your inner needs. Accept the gift of sensitivity and nurture your creative side. Allow yourself whatever it is you need right now to feel taken care of, soothed, rocked and cossetted like a baby.

take care

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Create your own Menopause Party

A good friend of mine is turning 50 next week - a real milestone - and we are celebrating together. Some of us are wondering what an appropriate gift would be. A massage, a spa day, a new yoga mat, something to comfort and nurture her, for all the comforting and nurturing she has given over the years.

She is in peri-menopause, and I think I will suggest when she hits that milestone that we hold a Ms Menopause Party. Instead of fearing and cringing at our body's aging and changing, let's celebrate it properly, with a sense of humour!

While googling menopause jokes and parties, I found several good ideas which I've gathered and compiled here, so you can create your own :

Provide battery powered fans (dollar store)
Decorate with red and pink, candles, decor
Ask everyone to dress in their favourite Hot Red outfit
Find appropriate music, like the song "Hot hot hot"
and the Red Hot Chile Peppers
Have everyone bring their favourite menopause joke and read them
(there are plenty on the internet)
Serve hot spicy wings, red hot candies, red watermelon, chili with red kidney beans,
or go the other way entirely and serve only Way Too Cool drinks and food
Have lots of ice on hand
Cosmos are red!

Here's one of the jokes I like:

Question: How many women with MENOPAUSE does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: One! ONLY ONE! And do you know WHY? Because no one else in this house knows HOW to change a light bulb! They don't even know that the bulb is BURNED OUT! They would sit in the dark for THREE DAYS before they figured it out. And, once they figured it out, they wouldn't be able to find the #&%!* light bulbs despite the fact that they've been in the SAME CABINET for the past 17 YEARS! But if they did, by some miracle of God, actually find them, 2 DAYS LATER, the chair they dragged to stand on to change the STUPID light bulb would STILL BE IN THE SAME SPOT! AND UNDERNEATH IT WOULD BE THE WRAPPER THE FREAKING LIGHT BULBS CAME IN! BECAUSE NO ONE EVER PICKS UP OR CARRIES OUT THE GARBAGE! IT'S A WONDER WE HAVEN'T ALL SUFFOCATED FROM THE PILES OF GARBAGE THAT ARE A FOOT DEEP THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE HOUSE! IT WOULD TAKE AN ARMY TO CLEAN THIS PLACE! AND DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON WHO CHANGES THE TOILET PAPER ROLL!

I'm sorry. What was the question?

Whew! my anxiety went up reading that one.....

seriously though, throw yourself or a girlfriend a party, crown her with a Paper Crone Crown, and let her know she can call you up in the middle of a hot flash....or leave home temporarily when she feels like she's going insane.

Just know that it does get better, and sharing it with your friends makes it easier.

4 years past the hot flashes, and counting,

Monday, June 8, 2009

Menopause Poem

A Poem for Jane turning Fifty

Crow’s feet lay tracks, marking

us Crone (although we hate the word)

but we still know the way to
the source,
the fountain wells:

drink deep.

Grow young,
in heart.

Wise in Crow Mother’s ways.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Follow-up on thyroid

No, my thyroid is fine. That pressure you feel at your throat is anxiety, dear, says the good doctor.


What I do know is that I can relax my jaw and open my throat without fear.

Singing while relaxed is so much more fun anyway.

Let whatever energies are blocked flow.

These words from "I am a woman finding her own voice" resonated with me today....

"Trying to protect myself from these dangers {of looking foolish, being rejected, of loving, losing love, of being vulnerable} by being overly careful or withdrawn limits me and my spontaneity; it makes me fearful and tight insead of relaxed and open. Life becomes much less fun and much more exhausting...My true safety lies not in keeping myself out of danger by avoiding THE RISKS OF FULLY ENGAGING IN LIFE, but by remembering that no matter what life brings me, I am strong enough, smart enough, loving enough, vital enough, intersted and curious enough to handle, learn and grow from it."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Breasts,Hormones and Menopause

Did you know that your breasts have a monthly cycle too? Not only do our uteruses slough off old cells every month, but the ducts and glands in our breasts are also going through a monthly flux, according to this article written by the doctors at

I find it fascinating that we know so little about our own bodies, and am grateful to the dedicated scientists who are doing research to discover how we can maintain optimal health for all our parts.

I have been going to get yearly mamograms since the age of 45, because of a maternal aunt who had breast cancer. It's a special clinic in Montreal with high quality thermograph machines as well as the 'breast squishing' radiation.

While I want to care about my health, and have yearly check-ups with a GP, this past year I cancelled the mammogram. Every two years will give me less radiation exposure, and I will continue with the monthly self-exam.

Plus, in the above linked article, I discovered some self-care tips that I can do at home to take care of 'the girls'.

First of all, get to know them, their lumps and bumps, and if you have fibrocystic breasts, know that you can even give them a nice massage to help with the cleansing and circulation of lymph in the body.

At menopause the hormones are stabilizing, and so you may have fewer symptoms of bloating and swelling with pain.

But if you have breast pain, evening primorose oil has been shown to be helpful.
A diet lower in animal fat and processed meats, with no trans fats, and organic dairy, eggs and meat will promote good breast health.

Things to avoid: salt, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, (tea also). White sugar and flour, natch.
Things to increase: veggies, fruit, fiber from whole grains, beans and seeds.
Natural diuretics: cucumbers, celery and parsley.
Multi-vitamins, and daily exercise to keep the lymph circulating in the body.

Most of this is well-known and common sense.

One thing the article brings up is the role of iodine in our diets - and since our thyroids are acting up sometimes at menopause, it may be a good idea to get your iodine levels tested as well. (read the article for a full explanation).

Most of all, love your breasts and treat them tenderly, not with fear, as you check them each month. Soon there may be a blood test for breast cancer, so we won't need this ritual, which is sometimes a bit fear inducing.

take good care,

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Singing my truth and thyroid

“Relax your jaw”, commands Grandmother Growth as her strong fingers carefully encircle and sensitively touch your throat. Do you know there’s a butterfly in here?

A butterfly that can literally change how you perceive the world. As you change, it changes, too. During menopause its pulsation is slower. Its ability to give voice to the truth increases, becomes insistent.

Be still, dearest granddaughter. Turn off the radio, the TV the stereo, the phone. Her voice is firm and strong. Then listen carefully to the murmurs and screams of your own truth. Accept your psyche’s need to turn in, to grieve, to rage. You will emerge stronger and wiser. (from Menopause the Wise Woman Way, Susun Weed).

see the butterfly shaped thyroid at the throat chakra
may she spread her wings!

My singing teacher has been asking me to relax my determination and loosen the jaw so I can sing.
My reike practitioner has been noticing blocked throat energy and creative energy, and asks if I sing for love or for duty to the choir. She recommends singing to the lake, or in the woods.
And now with this internet picture, I can see my little butterfly is singing from within, her wings wide open in my throat. I want to give her voice.

My doctor took blood tests last week, and one of them was thyroid. She wants to see me again next week, and made an appointment for me so it must be urgent. If it’s my thyroid talking, I will listen. I am listening to the butterfly’s wings.
more on this issue next week,

Monday, May 25, 2009

Peri-menopausal wisdom and self-care

In peri-menopause our brains are being rewired to live with more inner wisdom, to adapt to a more direct current (intuition); and we may experience insomnia, forgetfulness and depression. It takes a great deal of courage and faith to go through this change, and some women go through painful breakdowns before they are ready to relinquish the struggle for control.”
The Wisdom of Menopause, Dr. Christiane Northrup

Before we hit menopause, there is a long period of transition called peri-menopause. For some women it's like a second adolescence, an emotional and hormonal roller-coaster. For others it's a non-event.

For myself it was the mother of all wake-up calls as Dr. Northrup calls it. The first symptom, that I wouldn't have imagined was connected was a huge increase in the length and severity of my PMS. Some authors have likened this premenstrual period to a lightning rod for unfinished business. It is a warning to be heeded: if self-care is minimal, PMS increases.

Personally, I found it increased to almost two weeks out of the month! The year I noticed it, my father had recently died, I was 49, and my kids were hitting their obnoxious, sullen teen years. Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to see a family counselor and get some help managing my emotions, which were very explosive. Teens or not, I did not want my children to suffer the brunt of the unpredictable outbursts. After a few months of weekly talk therapy, I could feel the difference. It felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders (I was struggling with bursitis and sore neck at the time) as years of self-protective armour were being peeled off me. And I also noticed my PMS diminishing, except for some irritability on the day of ovulation and mild crankiness a day or two before my period, like before.

“All the emotional and psychological change of the peri-menopausal years are to the entire life cycle as the week before one’s period is to the monthly cycle. All the issues that have been occurring pre-menstrually and which perhaps had been avoided till now- should I quit my job? Should I stay in this relationship – now come up and hit us between the eyes rather relentlessly, demanding that they be dealt with at this time.” (Wisdom of Menopause).

So consider this time of peri-menopause as a Big Bright Flashing Light on the highway saying, Slow Down. Self-Care Needed Ahead. Major construction going on, re-wiring of brain and emotional sensitivity underway. Proceed with Caution.

Do not drive carelessly or quickly through this 'rough patch'. Heed the signals, give yourself the time off, the down time or the journalling time you need to get in touch with your own needs. Women who mother others (whether they are your children, your parents, or co-workers) are especially in need of self-care, because they normally have spent a life-time forgetting about themselves, and putting others' needs first.

Don't hit the brakes too fast - don't skid on the road. Just incorporate some self-care tips from a previous article on Seven Tips- Tools for Gaining Essential Wisdom, and if you care to, browse this blog for the many tips and articles on all aspects of menopause.

Coming shortly, more excerpts from A Woman's Way, A Guidebook for Peri-menopause.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Menopause and Mothering

Dear menopausal babes and mothers,

Hope you all are taking good care of yourselves.

There is no better remedy (ready-me as my friend Susan says) than self-care, self-love.

You may be going through an up and down time, an inside-out time, a feeling upside down time.

The way you care for yourself is indicative of the way you care for others, and vice-versa.

Can you stop for a moment, and remember the last time you gave yourself an encouraging word, a big hug, a moment of stillness and reflection, a minute to listen in? I read recently that stopping for 5 minutes to look out the window was a great stress reliever. Getting outside at lunch time instead of eating hunched over your desk is also a great thing to do, especially in Spring. Talking to a friend reduces high blood pressure and feelings of overwhelm.

You are the only vehicle you have to get to the other shore, wherever that is. Drive it with care. Don't keep your foot on the brake pedal, don't rev up the engine and pop wheelies all the time either. Take it slow and easy, whenever possible, especially during this Make-over Transitional time in your life.

Listen to your body's wisdom, listen to your gut feeling. It never lies. It expects less of you than you imagine. It just wants time to play, as well as time to work. It wants time to have fun, time to undo the 'should's, time to work out the knots in your shoulders. Time to breathe, time to stretch, time to take in the beauty of this moment.

Take the time, ladies, cause it doesn't come around again. This time is your time.

Your children and families will appreciate a calmer, happier you, so please take care.

Enjoy the Mother's Day message - you do make a difference to someone. You are special, and you are worth taking care of :)

hugs and wishes for loving kindness,

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Befriend you body, find your core balance

Today I heard something new from my cleaning lady Georgia about weight gain and menopause. She said her doctor told her that with the increase in male hormones, women start gaining weight on the upper part of their body, from the waist up.

I have experienced the opposite, everything flowing downwards. Maybe this is explained by genetics and body shape - apple being round on top, with thin legs, and pear shape tending to be heavier around the bottom and thighs.

Whatever shape you have, your weight may change during menopause. I am actually losing weight, partly due to going gluten-free. Thyroid problems can also cause weight gain or loss, so I am definitely going to have this checked at my annual check-up in May.

Whatever you do, first thing is to accept your body and love it - before you can make any changes, you need to stop being critical of yourself. It's an odd fact that when you begin to accept and love yourself, then changes can come, resistance is lowered.

My favourite website for factual information on medical issues for menopause is They recently sent me an interesting article about weight gain.

"whether a woman is overweight or underweight, the first thing she can do for herself is befriend her body. Women are often too critical of the weight level that their bodies find most comfortable. Whether you look in the mirror and see yourself as “too much” or “too little,” obsessing about the extra curves (or the lack of them) is a major obstacle to finding your healthy weight."

"We can hold extra weight — or be unable to gain weight — during periods of hormonal imbalance, adrenal fatigue, digestive disorders, neurotransmitter imbalances, toxicity, and inflammation, just to name a few. Weight gain or loss can also be related to imbalance in our life choices. Exercising too much or too little, over — or under — emphasizing specific food groups so that we don’t have a balanced diet — even imbalances in our relationships or emotional lives can affect our weight!

Whether your goal is to lose weight or gain it, a key starting point is to recognize where your life and health are out of balance."

So ladies, find your balance and your weight problems may be over.
It is not as simple as just going on a diet - find out where in your life you need a make-over -

what do you need less of? what do you need more of?

are you stressed and over anxious? are you giving yourself any time alone, just to be still?

are you living at a pace that's too fast? or too slow?

take a few moments and write in your journal every day/week, about how you feel, where you are going, how you are doing, and maybe throw in some self-love, compassion and kindness instead of harsh self-criticism.

See if a little self-love and befriending will help you find balance,


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Why you should eat organic animal products

Estrogen has many wonderful qualities.
It creates our fertility, protects our health in myriad ways, and serves as a powerful anti-inflammatory. But we are very concerned about environmental estrogens. They’re another story entirely.

Awash in a sea of xenoestrogens

For the most part, our bodies are amazingly resilient. We are hard-wired to resist threats to our equilibrium. What our bodies are not designed for is exposure to the many endocrine disruptors in our environment, among them the family of chemicals known as xenoestrogens.Many of these xenoestrogens are proven carcinogens. They are also well known for their ability to damage the immune system and interrupt hormonal balance.

Our cells can’t always distinguish fully between our own estrogen and xenoestrogens. Every cell has estrogen receptors that recognize and open to the shape of an estrogen molecular chain, regardless of where it comes from.

Pesticides are perhaps the biggest source of xenoestrogens. Most bioaccumulate, meaning they are stored in fat cells of fish, poultry and other food sources in increasing concentration until they reach the top of the food chain — where you and I consume them! They are highly estrogenic, and some experts estimate that the average American ingests over a pound of pesticides a year.

A second major source of xenoestrogens is the many growth hormones given to livestock and poultry, most of which contain fat-soluble estrogens. When we consume those animals or their milk, we ingest that estrogen.

Organochlorides like dioxin (a by-product of chlorine when it is burned or processed), PCB’s, PVC’s, and some plasticizers are just a few of the many manmade chemicals that act like estrogen in our bodies. Many others have the effect of interrupting our normal endocrine function, hence the term “endocrine disruptors.”

Mainstream medicine is finally paying attention because xenoestrogens not only affect the cells of women, but those of men and children. Sperm counts have dropped by 50% in some studies, a significant factor in the epidemic of infertility. The age at which girls develop secondary sex characteristics (breasts and pubic hair) is also dropping.

It is not exactly clear what role endocrine disruptors as a whole have in the steady rise of chronic diseases in children (at earlier ages!), but studies are underway to evaluate this.

taken from article on Estrogen Dominance

Dear readers of this blog,
I have been buying organic meat, (poultry, lamb, beef, pork), eggs and dairy products for almost ten years now, and although I also eat frozen prepared meals and at restaurants occasionally, I feel the best way to protect myself and the environment is to eat organic animal products. Being vegetarian is no longer an option for my health (did it for 8-9 years) because of my low blood sugar. A chinese acupunturist was the one to tell me my dizzy spells after eating brown rice and tofu were a sign I needed more animal protein.

Find out what is best for your body, and don't fall into 'trends'. Ayurvedic medicine has also helped me discover which foods are right for my body type (dosha), which includes mental and emotional states. Eating too much rice is not good for me either! There is no one 'cleanse' that will be healthy for everyone. I tried a grapefruit cleanse that my osteopath recommended, only to find out it was for 'kapha' dosha, not 'pitta' dosha types. Understandably, it did not agree with me.

Be your own best health advocate, do the research, find the health professionals that will give you the right advice, and do not depend on the medical establishment alone for information on menopause.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Is this Menopause?

I don't know how many times I've heard that question - usually followed by a list of symptoms, physical or emotional, that make a woman wonder if, gee, at 42, I could be possibly experiencing menopause, at such a young age.

Often a trip to the doctor only confuses a woman, who has perhaps never missed a period yet, but is still wondering if the sleepless nights, or increased anxiety, or changes in her vaginal health, or lack of desire for sex, all these vague and indirect symptoms, could possibly be part of The Change. A doctor told my 42 year old friend during a pelvic examination that her uterus and vagina were young and healthy and she could still have more kids! (she already has 3, two teens and a seven year old, thank you very much!). You can't be in menopause, the doctor's say, you're too young!

But perimenopause can begin 10 years before you officially end menstruating. Some women begin in their late 30's! And at the very least, you should be aware that changes will be happening in your cycle in your early 40's - ovulation will be less regular, not 14 days after your last menstruation necessarily - my GP told me to be careful with contraception when I turned 40, because I could not count on my fertility period to be right in the middle of the cycle, it might begin the day after menstruating.

The other vague symptom that hits a lot of women in their 40's (way before they are thinking about menopause) is a desire to leave, to get away, to have more time alone to figure out where they are, who they are and what they want to do. You may call this a mid-life crisis, but it's not often a crisis - it's more likely an underlying angst, a questioning, the beginning of a quest for a self separate from all other relationships - mother, daughter, sibling, wife....

The need for a sabbatical from motherhood or marriage is never considered by most of us. We think the well of love and nurturing energy should be endless. It feels selfish to want to get away. To want to be alone. To fantasize a white room with no outside stimulation in which we could just be still, be quiet enough to hear our own voice.

And what would that voice tell us? That still, small voice so hard to hear in this busy, fast-paced world? It might shock us to think about leaving everything - but you may do as I did - and leave temporarily on retreat, then come back. Leave as often as you need to, and return. It doesn't have to be a year-long sabbatical. Maybe you just need an extended leave from being chief cook, bottlewasher and bread-winner (not to mention caring for aging parents, and in-laws).

So, yes, it could be menopause - or the beginnings of a 10-year long prep period - that is calling. It may be a call for self-care. It may be a wake-up call to prevent burn-out. It may be your body saying, whispering, cooing to you (or yelling): time for me, time for me to pay attention within, time for me to slow down and listen.

"When a woman stops doing she must learn how to simply be. Being is not a luxury; it is a discipline. The heroine must listen carefully to her true inner voice. That means silencing the other voices anxious to tell her what to do." The Heroine's Journey

Find that quiet space to do the questing in.

It is not a luxury. It is time.

take care

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Weight Gain and Menopause, a poem

Rose hips

In yoga class, surrounded by three walls
of mirrors, I cannot avoid my hips,
forty-nine-year-old bulging handles
wide at the wrong spot.

The truth about my hips: I find them
sturdy looking, square, front on,
but sideways they spread like sponges,
abundant woman fat, thick as butter on sliced
bread or baguettes bulging in the oven.

Bone on bone cracks as
I raise my legs, lying flat on the back.
Should soak these creaky hinges
in salt foam waves,
let my rose hips rise
like Aphrodite from the sea.

Perhaps a bath will perform some magic,
transform me into Venus
of Willendorf. Is it too much
goddess, to ask you
to bless my hips?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Menopause Time to Slow Down

What is it about menopause that strikes fear into the hearts of 40 year old women, most of whom will enter peri-menopause without even noticing it?

According to ancient Indian wisdom about life and health, menopause is simply the third phase of life, after childhood and pro-creative years. Our bodies move out of productive mode for making children, and move into creativity of another sort. Often, in the transition, women are letting go of their primary role of caretakers and turning within to ask themselves questions about where they want to go from here. And how they can give back to the world with their special talents. (or discover what these talents are).

Menopause is a reflective time, a time to slow down and go within for the answers. All our lives, we've been doing what's expected of us, fulfilling our roles as spouses, mothers, workers, and relationship-keepers. Now, we feel a strong urge to reassess, re-examine, reflect on our relationships as well as our jobs and parenting roles.

Instead of fearing old age, and breaking out in cold sweats (or hot flashes) at the very mention of this Change, we can welcome the shift in focus from outer to inner, and help it along. If we've been burning the candle at both ends, short-changing our bodies and our self-care, there will be a wake-up call. If we have been ignoring our emotional needs and relegating our inner life to the back burner, there may be the smell of smoke as burn-out hits, or depression, or accumulated anger and tears.

But the closer we are to self-knowledge, to understanding and accepting what we feel and what we need, the smoother our shift or transition will be.

Now is the time to bring a sense of balance, serenity, and harmony into your life. Stop doing whatever makes you crazy, make the choices that you've been putting off. Accept the call to slow down and enjoy your life. Put yourself on your "to do list", somewhere near the top, not at the bottom.

Remember the oxygen mask on the plane - put in on yourself first, then on your children, spouse, co-workers.

Savour the wisdom of life, taste the pleasure of knowing who you are and what you want. If you're not there yet,, ask the right questions of your self, and wait for the answers - if you feel restless, and can't sleep at night, don't reach for the anti-anxiety medication until you've looked inside for the answers.

And if you need help, by all means, check out the different options available; there are so many books out there now on the pleasures of menopause,& the herbal allies for menopause. Ayurvedic medicine has a very natural approach to this stage of life, and is one way of finding balance through diet and lifestyle, without medication.

Be well,

ps check out previous entries by clicking on the labels to the left.
Highly recommend The Wisdom of Menopause, the Secret Pleasures of Menopause by CHristiane Northrup; also Susun Weed's New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.

Monday, February 9, 2009

New Menopausal Years Wise Woman Way

Review of The New Menopausal Years, the Wise Woman Way by Susun Weed:

I found this wonderful book near the end of my menopausal years, and although I know very little about herbs, have found it to be very useful. I appreciated the alphabetical formatting and listing of symptoms with their herbal and homeopathic remedies, but even more useful was the women's wisdom in these pages. Weed encourages women going through The Change to practice kindness towards themselves. The emphasis is not on denying or pushing away what you are feeling but on welcoming awareness and understanding. "Remedies here don't seek to eliminate these emotions or turn 'negative' ones into 'positive' ones but, in the Wise woman way to help you incorporate all of your feelings into your wholeness. "

The New Menopausal Years is full of inspiring pages to help women on their Journey of Menopause. Weed employs the persona of Grandmother Growth in italicized sections to give support, encouragement and advice; for example, see this exerpt on Emotional Uproar:

"Dear woman, sighs Grandmother Growth tenderly. "I see that Change has thinned the protective layers hiding your anger, your fears, your grief. yes, I see your hidden feelings and secret desires exposed a little more with each hot flash. You may think your feelings are out of proportion, too sharp, quite irrational, possibly insane. But I assure you, they are only raw from neglect.

"Receive them without judgement, nourish them, and your uncontrollable feelings during the menopausal years will lead you to the deepest heart of your own secrets. If you cannot tolerate those about you, leave. Go to the sheltering space of your cave. Claim your Crone's Year Away."

This was also one of the most comforting aspects of this book for me. Weed encourages women to take time alone, whenever possible, and to advise their friends and family that this is not a rejection of them but a 'claiming of yourself'. I found this to be very true, and once I read this I felt less like a crazy person for wanting to get away and be alone all the time. It is like I needed permission from someone to feel that way. Weed even describes a ritual one can perform to help ease into this phase of your journey. "I must take this journey alone. I ask now for your blessing on me as I begin my Change....I ask you to acknowledge my Crone's Time Away...."

How wonderful it would be if we could allow ourselves this transformation time, this busy interior growth time, without struggling and denying and repressing our needs as they arise because they don't seem to fit the pattern of 'good girl' or 'wife and mother' we have squeezed ourselves into all these years.

I also liked Weed's methodolgy, always gentle and non-invasive. In the chapters relating to symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal and bladder changes, migraines, heart palpitations, etc. the first step is always to listen in, and collect information from your body. Then, in Step 2, to engage the energy, she may suggest Bach flower remedies or massage, a ritual for claiming your boundaries or for blessing your belly; Step 3 is to find the remedy of choice to nourish and tonify, i.e. tinctures, herbs, homeopathic remedies or even yoga postures; Step 4 is Sedate or Stimulate - listing appropriate exercises, herbs and supplements; Step 5, and 6: if nothing else works, as a last resort, she will list the medical prescriptions or surgery usually recommended; and tell you if they are contra-indications.

I love the way Weed engages the energy in this book, and explodes the myth of the Crazy Crone by embracing the volcanic energy of the Kundalini rising:

"Root chakra energies - anger, sex, power - are hot subjects. And this Change called menopause fires the root chakra. Can you sit still in the midst of this rapidly vibrating energy? Can you dance with its searing touch? Oh granddaughter, what are you itching to do now that you are crowned Crone? What lights your passion? Shine, young Crone. Burn. And keep that energy moving so your inner heat doesn't dry you out."

Read this book, and weep with relief. Yes, you are going through major hormonal rebalancing. It is affecting every single part of your body, mind, heart and soul. And it is OK. Yes, you are in menopause, even if you are in your early forties. Yes, this is menopause but you are not alone, as Weed's kindly grandmotherly wise woman advice is here to calm you and help you feel better.

And remember, your authentic wise-woman self is waiting for you to grow Wise with her.

enjoy the ride, and let me know if you found this review helpful,


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Recognizing a stroke and heart attack in women

I just read the signs of a stroke on the blog link below, from a woman who exchanges articles on her blog with me. Please check it out, it could save a life.

These are very simple things you can do. My father suffered two strokes that appeared innocuous at the time, a brief fainting spell in church, and tripping in the garden and lying there until my mother could come and get him (she was in the house and didn't hear him call). Later they did a brain scan and found out he had had these strokes. He did appear confused at the time, but it wasn't apparent just what was happening.

I think women in mid-age should be very aware of the differences in heart attack symptoms in women also.

Here's what was sent to me by email:


I am an ER nurse and this is the best description of this event that I have ever heard. Please read, pay attention, and send it on!

Women and heart attacks (Myocardial infarction).

Did you know that women rarely have the same dramatic symptoms that men have when experiencing heart attack know, the sudden stabbing pain in the chest, the cold sweat, grabbing the chest & dropping to the floor that we see in the movies. Here is the story of one woman's experience with a heart attack.

I had a heart attack at about 10:30 PM with NO prior exertion, NO prior emotional trauma that one would suspect might have brought it on. I was sitting all snugly & warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend had sent me, and actually thinking, 'A-A-h, this is the life, all cozy and warm in my soft, cushy Lazy Boy with my feet propped up.A moment later, I felt that awful sensation of indigestion, when you've been in a hurry and grabbed a bite of sandwich and washed it down with a dash of water, and that hurried bite seems to feel like you've swallowed a golf ball going down the esophagus in slow motion and it is most uncomfortable. You realize you shouldn't have gulped it down so fast and needed to chew it more thoroughly and this time drink a glass of water to hasten its progress down to the stomach. This was my initial sensation---the only trouble wasthat I hadn't taken a bite of anything since about 5:00 p.m.

After it seemed to subside, the next sensation wa s like little squeezing motions that seemed to be racing up my SPINE (hind-sight, it was probably my aorta spasms), gaining speed as they continued racing up and under my sternum (breast bone, where one presses rhythmically when administering CPR).

This fascinating process continued on into my throat and branched out into both jaws. 'AHA!! NOW I stopped puzzling about what was happening -- we all have read and/or heard about pain in the jaws being one of the signals of an MI happening, haven't we? I said aloud to myself and the cat, Dear God, I think I'm having a heart attack!I lowered the foot rest dumping the cat from my lap, started to take a step and fell on the floor instead. I thought to myself, If this is a heart attack, I shouldn't be walking into the next room where the phone is or anywhere else ... but, on the other hand, if I don't, nobody will know that I need help, and if I wait any longer I may not be able to get up in a moment.

I pulled myself up with the arms of the chair, walked slowly into the next room and dialed the Paramedics .... I told her I thought I was having a heart attack due to the pressure building under the sternum and radiating into my jaws. I didn't feel hysterical or afraid, just stating the facts. She said she was sending the Paramedics over immediately, asked if the front door was near to me, and if so, to un-bolt the door and then lie down on the floor where they could see me when they came in. I unlocked the door and then laid down on the floor as instructed and lost consciousness, as I don't remember the medics coming in, their examination, lifting me onto a gurney or getting me into their ambulance, or hearing the call they made to St.Jude ER on the way, but I did briefly awaken when we arrived and saw that the radiologist was already there in his surgical blues and cap, helping the medics pull my stretcher out of the ambulance. He was bending over me asking questions (probably something like 'Hav e you taken any medications?') but I couldn't make my mind interpret what he was saying, or form an answer, and nodded off again, not waking up until the Cardiologist and partner had already threaded the teeny angiogram balloon up my femoral artery into the aorta and into my heart where they installed 2 side-by-side stints to hold open my right coronary artery.

I know it sounds like all my thinking and actions at home must have taken at least 20-30 minutes before calling the paramedics, but actually it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before the call, and both the fire station and St. Jude are only minutes away from my home, and my Cardiologist was already to go to the OR in his scrubs and get going on restarting my heart (which had stopped somewhere between my arrival and the procedure) and installing the stints.'Why have I written all of this to you with so much detail? Because I want all of you who are so important in my life to know what I learned first hand.'

1. Be aware that something very different is happening in your body not the usual men's symptoms but inexplicable things happening (until my sternum and jaws got into the act). It is said that many more women than men die of their first (and last) MI because they didn't know they were having one and commonly mistake it as indigestion, take some Mallox or other anti-heartburn preparation and go to bed, hoping they'll feel better in the morning when they wake up ... which doesn't happen. My female friends, your symptoms might not be exactly like mine, so I advise you to call the Paramedics if ANYTHING is unpleasantly happening that you've not felt before. It is better to have a 'false alarm' visitation than to risk your life guessing what it might be!

2. Note that I said 'Call the Paramedics.' And if you can take an aspirin. Ladies, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE! Do NOT try to drive yourself to the ER - you are a hazard to others on the road. Do NOT have your panicked husband who will be speeding and looking anxiously at what's happening with you instead of the road. Do NOT call your doctor -- he doesn't know where you live and if it's at night you won't reach him anyway, and if it's daytime, his assistants (or answering service) will tell you to call the Paramedics. He doesn't carry the equipment in his car that you need to be saved! The Paramedics do, principally OXYGEN that you need ASAP. Your Dr. will be notified later.

3. Don't assume it couldn't be a heart attack because you have a normal cholesterol count. Research has discovered that a cholesterol elevated reading is rarely the cause of an MI (unless it's unbelievably high and/or accompanied by high blood pressure). MIs are usually caused by long-term stress and inflammation in the body, which dumps all sorts of deadly hormones into your sys tem to sludge things up in there. Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep. Let's be careful and be aware. The more we know the better chance we could survive.A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this mail sends it to 10 people, you can be sure that we'll save at least one life.

**Please be a true friend and send this article to all your friends (male & female) you care about!**

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