Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Start of Something Big

I know that there must be a lot of terrific women out there who are in the same boat — learning to live on the other side of menopause. This journey is fraught with opportunities, but sometimes I have trouble recognizing things as opportunities when they look so much like troubles. For instance, we used to have a pretty average middle-class life in our small mill town in Massachusetts. But in 2004 that all changed when Hewlett Packard let Richard go due to the downsizing following the merger with Compaq. Since then we have been sinking slowly into poverty, using all our tips and tricks to juggle things so we can remain afloat with a good credit record. Now, with the crash (and imminent Depression?) our retirement plan has been gutted and we can’t see how to climb out.

How can this be viewed as an opportunity? Well, for one thing, it made me count my blessings in a new way. Our two daughters are happy and healthy (25 and 19), and successful. My brothers and their wives are doing fine overall and are hugely supportive and loving. We both have good brains and can find ways to use them. We have generally good health.

The ironic thing about this stressful situation is how it affected my creative, artistic side. With all the time I spent doing stuff I didn’t want to do (either to earn money or help Richard with the job hunt) I found it necessary to balance it out by allowing myself to make pretty things for part of the day. I roam from thing to thing, trying altered art creations, handknit purses, pincushions with little scenes on top. I needed to see something come out of my time and effort, something that I could see and admire in a relatively short time. I can control this, if nothing else in my life.

I also find that I meet new and interesting people at a clip through the Etsy site where I sell my finished pieces ( There are so many super-talented people; I can’t help but wish to have a conversation with all of them. It was lucky I discovered Etsy through a friend, or I would be hardpressed to come up with a way to use all the things I make.

I have come to admire myself a bit for my optimistic nature and ability not to get too wrapped up in my own troubles. I know some people who wallow — I hate wallowing. I have a time limit, and I am very strict with myself about the wallowing. I have a time limit for ranting, too. Except for discussions about Sarah Palin. Not a fan. . . .

My sense of humor has also come in handy. I believe that laughing is really healing. I love old-time humor and the newer, ironic kind. I love Jean Shepherd, but also find David Sedaris hilarious. Erma Bombeck is great, and so is Maureen Dowd. The oldies are goodies. The new stuff keeps you sharp.

I love to cook, and cooking on a shoestring is interesting. Sometimes take-out is cheaper, but I have become a soup chef. Soup is heroic. Soup makes me feel like a pioneer. Soup is like creating life. Also cheap to make. Yay, soup!

Hobbies: reading, handiwork, games

Favorite genres: mysteries, weird (Koontz, King), anything British, those Norwegian/Swedish police procedurals, Anne Tyler, Frank Parrish British mysteries

Weaknesses: chocolate, Martha Stewart reruns from the old days, onion rings

Joys: Reading the perfect poem, seeing the perfect photo, thinking about things in a new way (my brother calls this “seeing around corners.”

I love to hear from women who are of a certain age and moving into a new chapter of their life. I like to share stories with these women. My daughter says this blog will lead to that. “Trust me,” she said. “You are not alone.”

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