I’m post-menopausal and…ummm….I just forgot what I was gonna say

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Entering into menopause is kind of like falling into a dark cave without a flashlight. There’s no way out, except blindly crawling along, towards a very faint light at the other end, and all along, encountering bothersome beasts. Oh, sure, lots of people have gone in before you and have lived to tell about it. Hundreds of these survivors have written myriads of articles and books about the process. But, still, it is a scary place, because you just never know which of the perils will confront you on your own journey through the cave, and which ones will linger on after you come back into the light. Think of menopause as climbing a very tall mountain. (Yeah, I know, I said a dark cave before, but just shut-up and play along. I’m post-menopausal, and I’m moody.) So anyway, you climb this menopausal mountain, slowly and painstakingly. It’s a difficult and challenging journey, but you’re strong and determined, and you make it to the peak. You’ve gone slowly enough that you’re now able to breathe in the higher altitude, so things aren’t really all that bad at the top. You sit down to catch your breath, put bandaids on all of your blisters and orthopedic braces on all of your aching joints, and then you enjoy the view. Once you’re recovered, you begin the slow (but easier) trek back down. (Puts that whole “over-the-hill” phrase in proper perspective, doesn’t it…?) In my case, because of some bad side effects from my chemotherapy nine years ago, I had to have a medical procedure done to block the blood flow to my uterus. The symptoms of menopause rushed upon me in a flood-level time warp. For me, the entrance into this stage of life was more like being pushed out of a plane with a parachute (but no training), and crash-landing on the above-mentioned mountain, all while being out of shape and not at all accustomed to the higher altitude. I think I just sat there stunned for a couple of years, before I started to regain my senses. How does anyone prepare for that?!

I wish there was a checklist, so we could at least choose the afflictions we want to deal with. Perhaps we could be required to select just eight symptoms from the list – it would look something like this:

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Please select your preferred tortures for the duration of your travels through menopause (keeping in mind that these terrors might stick with you for the rest of your life). And don’t forget to read the small print!

 

____ hot flashes (imagine St. Joan of Arc being burned at the stake, and you might get a vague understanding for this particular torment. St. Joan might even be the patron saint of menopause sufferers…if she’s not, she should be. She was an amazing woman, so absolutely no disrespect intended!) This particular beast is bearable with an endless supply of sleeveless shirts, dressing in layers, setting up small, electric fans in every room, and carrying collapsible hand fans packed in all your bags.

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_____ over-sensitivity to heat and/or sweating more than usual (a slightly lighter sentence than hot flashes)

____ early morning awakening (say, anywhere between 4:00 and 6:00, with the most likely time being about an hour before your alarm is set to go off, so you’re guaranteed no chance of falling back asleep before that time)

____ insomnia (not being able to fall asleep in the first place, even though you are completely exhausted)

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____ night sweats (just to make the insomnia and early morning waking more fun)

____ fatigue (do you really need an explanation for this, after the previous three options?)

____ hair loss or dryness and increased facial wrinkles (because, why do you need to look nice enough to attract the opposite sex at your age?!)

____ weight gain (even if you eat like a bird, and go to bed each night with your stomach rumbling, you’ll soon be buying the next size up in clothing, and the next, and the next, unless you happen to be one of those annoying people with an incredibly healthy metabolism, in which case….PBTHPBH

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____ loss of sex drive (and other related problems…’nough said)

____ anxiety (from what my friends tell me, this one is not optional. You’ll have it, even if you don’t check it)

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____ moodiness & irritability (ditto, from above)

____ dry skin (not so bad, unless you find yourself constantly scratching. Buy lots of expensive, therapeutic lotions, which will do little to help, but at least you can say you tried)

____ absence of menstruation (PICK THIS ONE!!!!!! It’s the tiny hint of silver lining in this storm cloud passage of life)

____ And, finally…………..(Shoot, what was it? I know there was one more thing….it’ll come to me, tonight when I wake up at 2:00 am. I’ll get back to you on this one.)

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So, that’s my big idea. Us middle-aged women will go to see our doctors with our long list of complaints (take legal counsel along for good measure), we’ll be told we’re entering into the inescapable transition of menopause, we’ll ask for the list, and we’ll check off the ones we reckon we’ll be able to live with. And, from there on, we just hope for the best, because that fine print I mentioned earlier….., it leaves us all on very shaky ground. But at least we have each other, and our collective sense of humor, for continued support and survival. Because, if we lose the power of laughter (and/or the power of prayer!), this potentially beautiful season of maturity, wisdom, self-acceptance, and grandchildren ain’t gonna be near as fun! So come on, ladies. Saddle up your horses, and stock-pile the chocolates, wine, and hand fans, we got a trail to blaze, and things to accomplish, in this beautiful, promising autumn of our lives!

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You Didn’t Know It, But I’m a Poet!

In my last post, Utensils Vs U-Turns, I used a quote from one of my all-time favorite poets, and suggested that I could, perhaps, have a bit of poetry in me. The truth is, I have always enjoyed, for as long as I can remember, writing poems and making up new, original verses for popular children’s songs. My poetry is the “Old Mother Hubbard, Went to the cupboard” brand of verse – I am drawn to reliable meter and perfect (or at least near perfect) rhyme. In an effort to share my gift of poetry with you (and, also, to get a quick blog post in before I head out of town for a week in the “greater” Big Apple area, visiting a dear, old friend), I have composed an “on-the-edge-of-epic” poem about my car, Louie. Get a glass of wine, light a cigar, and sit back and relax. You are about to be courted by some cultivated verse.

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Louie the Shark    

I bought an older Hyundai,

A sweet, reliable guy.

He’s the greatest transport buddy.

If I lost him I would cry.

 

There is one crazy thing, though,

he thinks he is a shark.

I know because he told me,

one night when it was dark.

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At first I thought him loony.

He’s just a common ride

who’d never seen the ocean,

and not once rode the tide.

 

But as I looked much closer,

I was surprised to find

a cute gray fin upon his back,

a baby sharkish kind.

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He had a battle scuffle

etched on his auto nose.

I’ve seen a real ocean shark

sporting one of those.

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And so, in part, for his sake,

I headed to the shore,

all the way to Virginia Beach.

six hundred miles and more.

 

My plan was for his welfare.

I hoped that he might find

a day spent near the ocean

would soothe his shark-like mind.

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He couldn’t hang out on the beach,

The lifeguards wouldn’t let him.

An access road with ocean views

Was the closest I could get him.

 

But, Oh, he was so happy,

his horn beeped Ode to Joy.

He didn’t want to pull away,

he shouted out, “Ahoy!”

 

I witnessed this with merry mirth,

my gray car’s alter ego.

And now I could believe him,

my auto shark amigo.

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I’m considering a vanity plate

(if they didn’t cost so much),

‘cause what I’d put upon it

would be the sovereign touch.

(“LUI SHRK”)

 

So someday you might see us,

driving in your town,

me and my harmless, land-locked shark,

sporting our sharky crown.

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I hope that you will greet us

and give my shark a wave,

’cause waves are what he longs for

my car shark, true and brave!

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Cat Kidnapping Caper

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Over the past few months, a stray, black cat has been making fugitive appearances around my client’s house. We cleaned out the freezer a few weeks ago and found some pre-cooked bacon to put out for the wildlife. (My client and her dad live on a wooded lot, and they love feeding the wild critters, especially the raccoons, possums, and birds.) Minutes later, as I watched, the petite, black kitty snuck stealthily up onto the deck, snagged a piece of bacon from one of the bowls, and hightailed it off into the underbrush. Sometimes, a member of the local cat society will stop by for a check of the daily lunch special, and I guess the menu had finally appealed to this feline “critter.” However a few weeks passed without another sighting of the black mouser (or, should I say, “baconer”).

Seemingly out of the blue, she showed up again earlier this week, and, bold as you please, tried to waltz right into the house when we opened the door onto the deck. I finally got a chance to hold her and get a good look at her. She was sweet as could be, but the poor little thing was missing her left eye. It was an old injury, the wound healed and shrunken, but still, it broke my heart. She did not appear to be underfed, but there was no collar (which to me, always implies homelessness for a cat!), plus, she seemed more than ready to move in with my client. I concluded that she was probably an unwanted pet who had been dropped off in the woods. My cat-loving instincts, along with my cat-whispering skills, came bubbling to the surface. I called my personal, cat-rescue mentor, Regina, and asked her what I should do, in my efforts to save this cat. First thing to do, she advised, would be to get the cat to a local animal clinic, get her scanned, and see if she had a microchip. By the time I had received that message, the cat was gone. I went walking through the woods, calling and calling, to no avail. I put my cat-saving super hero cloak away for the day.

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Two days later, I was at work again, no sign of the cat. At 3:00 in the afternoon, my client decided she wanted to go to Ikea. Considering the time of day, the potential traffic, and my shift ending in three hours, I was a bit skeptical about this Ikea idea, but I rallied, as any good employee (and loving friend!) would, and we were on our way to the van, when, “MEOW, MEEOOWW, MEEEEOOOWWW!” broke into our thoughts. Where was that noise coming from?! I scrutinizingly scanned the landscape, as I grew closer and closer to the source of the caterwaul, until I seemed to be standing right under it. I looked up, and sure enough, there was that black cat, stuck in a tree, the nearest branch at least 15 feet up. (Photo below, actual tree, she was in that little crook, where limbs start branching out! Okay…..maybe it was only 12 feet, but it felt like 15, or more!) I did what any self-respecting lion tamer would do…I tried to sweet talk her into coming down. No dice. She continued to complain…loudly. Time to call out the heavy rescue team.

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I went back inside to rustle up the rest of the emergency brigade, my client’s 88 year old dad. Together, we managed to drag a huge, heavy, extendable ladder out of the garage, up the driveway, and painstakingly (not to mention rather three-stoogishly, with only two stooges) get the ladder leaning, somewhat securely, against the tree. I started climbing. After a few rungs, I came back down to see if we could get the top of the ladder settled a bit more snuggly against the tree. I started back up, still noticing that the ladder was slipping off the tree a bit on the right side, but knowing that the two of us were not going to do any better with a third attempt. Each rung of the ladder became a prayer. Slowly, nervously, I inched my way to the top. Once there, I grabbed the cat like a mama cat would, by the back of the neck. She was not happy about that, at all! She howled at the top of her lungs and grabbed onto the tree for dear life. I am wrestling with this cat at the top of this ladder, thinking to myself, “If I fall, and I don’t die, my husband will kill me for taking this risk for a cat!” Somehow (no doubt through my prayers, my client’s prayers, and the watchful eye and intercessory prayers of St. Francis), I got the little lynx into my arms (or, one arm, to be exact), curled her up close to me and said, over and over, “You gotta trust me babe, you gotta trust me!” Then, painstakingly, white-knuckling the ladder with one hand, I deliberately worked my way down, one careful step at a time, until we were back on solid ground. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking as I placed the sweet (and now, calm) little girl into a carrier, which we had waiting and ready.

Fast forward through, 1: getting her to the vet;  2: getting a reading from the chip (YAY!);  3: calls made to the pet recovery service;  4: attempted calls to the registered owner which went unanswered;  5: realizing that we were obliged to house this cat until the owner responded, and stuck with finding alternative housing if the owner had vanished;  6: providing my cell number in the hope that they would hear from the owner and he or she wanted to contact me about getting pussycat back.

After returning to my client’s home, we set up plush, temporary housing in a basement room, which would protect little missy from my client’s two cats, and vice-versa. I headed home, after hearing from Regina that our only option for kitty (if we failed to hear from the owner) was to take her to the local SPCA, where she had originally been adopted from. They promised she would not be euthanized, and a new home would be found for her.

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Finally at 9:30 pm, my phone rang. IT WAS THE CAT OWNER, very surprised to have received a message that his cat, Olivia, had “been found,” because he had no idea she was even lost! Turns out, he lives practically in my client’s back yard (albeit an acre’s worth of woods away)! He was thinking that she had stayed out a little later than usual, but wasn’t really worried. I related the entire adventure, from bacon to basement and (luckily) he laughed and laughed, and so did I! We ended our conversation in hopeful agreement that Olivia’s tree-climbing days were over. But I was left with a slightly guilty conscience, realizing that I had been gloating about my successful foray into cat rescuing, while all along, I had actually been carrying out a clandestine cat kidnapping! After sheepishly swallowing my disagreeable dose of humility, I texted Regina to tell her the news, and apologize for wasting her time. She promptly forgave me by signing me up as an official volunteer for her cat rescue non-profit. Wow….I am an official cat rescuer now! Regina….., can I have a cape?!

Illusionary Lists

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I’ve reached an age where, sometimes, at the end of the day, I add insignificant things to my to-do list, just so I can cross more stuff off and get a good sense of accomplishment for my lazy self. Have you ever done that? It’s not as easy as it sounds. I have to plan ahead, when I’m writing out my list in the morning, and leave blank spaces for the potential, end-of-the-day add-ons. As the day wears on, and I find myself suffering from fatigue or allergy malaise, my list of things to-do begins to haunt me. Did I get the laundry done? Well, sort of. The clean clothes are lying in a neat pile on top of my cedar chest, but I can’t talk myself into the final step of folding them, or arranging them on hangers, and putting them away. Did I trim the cats’ claws? No, that’s been on the list for three days now (dislike that job immensely, I’ll wait until I notice them shredding the couch again). Did I make it to the library to return that book? Nah, the fines aren’t that bad, and they help support the library. How about defrosting the freezer? The weather cooled down too much for that job today. And, what’s this…., dust and organize all the books on my bookshelves? WHAT?! Who put that on my list? HONEY!?

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Time to do some damage control, i.e., strategize and do some inventive editing of my list. First of all, I’ll change the laundry job into several steps. Sort dirty clothes into lights and darks. Check. Put dirty clothes into washing machine. Check. Transfer clean clothes into dryer. Check. Sort clean clothes into neat piles for various family members. Check. Put my clean clothes away. Save that for tomorrow. Alrighty then, this is looking a lot better. Cross off those four completed items. Now, what else did I do today? Hmmmmmm….. Well, I brushed my teeth. Write that down, cross it off. I took a shower, write down, cross off. I pulled a few weeds in my vegetable garden, write/cross off. And so the creativity builds and the “finish lines” grow plentiful, and my list is transformed into something I’d be proud to share on social media.

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I only dispense this hard-won wisdom to you, my readers, as a means of building your own level of self-esteem. With a humble, whole-hog act of helpful generosity, I want you to have an empowering list to admire at the end of the day. Even if everything is not completed, all of the “cross-offs” on your list will look very impressive, and make you realize how much you really did accomplish. Here are a couple of my sample to-do lists, as they looked after my editing, to inform, enlighten, and inspire you.

Things to do today: (italicized items were added near the end of the day)

Get out of bed

Go to the bathroom

Make gluten-free muffins for breakfast

Warm up some Jimmy Dean’s pork sausage for breakfast

Do meal planning and grocery list

Weed vegetable garden

Weed flower garden

Write a blog post

Cut up vegetables for fajitas

Make guacamole

Make chicken fajitas for supper

Dig a pizza out of the freezer for dinner

Toss some baby carrots & dip on the table for a side dish

Go grocery shopping

Play several games of solitaire on my Ipad

Read news stories on my Ipad

Do a jigsaw puzzle on my Ipad

Shave my legs

Lay out long pants to wear to work tomorrow

 

Things to do tomorrow: (helpful for those of you who work outside the home; make these simple so no editing is even required!)

Get up at 6:15

Eat breakfast, leave for work

Do all of the stuff my boss makes me do

Drive home

Eat supper (hopefully some leftovers from yesterday)

Relax in recliner with cold drink and Ipad

Go to bed

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Do you see what I’m getting at, here? It’s not really all about the amazing things you accomplish, but rather, how many things are crossed off “the list” at the end of the day. These are visuals that I can appreciate. Yeah, sure. There are some days when I am extremely productive. I plow through my list accomplishing chores aplenty and serving my family a delectable dinner (with plenty of leftovers), followed by an evening walk in the neighborhood, and, after a shower, tumbling into freshly changed sheets for a night of energetic dreams. In those cases, list embellishment is not needed. On those days, I post pictures on facebook of my gardens, or my dinner, or scenes from my evening walk. That could go on for a few highly profitable days, and then, no matter how honorable my intentions might be, I find myself feeling just plain-old worn out, and it’s time for a couple of slow-paced days. These are the situations that call for creativity, ingenuity, and (perhaps) a little fabrication. Because, seriously people, it’s all about how impressive we can make ourselves look, right?!

Try it, dear ones, and I know you will thank me. Especially if you add to your list, “Read Grandma’s Coffee Soup blog,” because this is always a wholesome, beneficial use of your time. Then, cross that off the list and head off to bed. Tomorrow is a whole new day, latent with list-making potential. Put these new skills to the test, and control your lists, instead of letting them get the best of you!

Broccoli Buds on my Bicuspids

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Making the choice, and the concentrated effort, to eat healthier has many obvious good effects. However, some of you may be wondering, “What are the negative consequences of eating healthier?” I am here today to enlighten you on this taboo subject, to boldly go where organic farmers fear to tread (which is a pretty short list!), in order to bring into the light these hidden dangers of being a foodie.

First of all, eating healthy is just a lot of hard work. In simple terms, you can no longer eat out of a box or bag. No more easy-fix hamburger helper or mac & cheese, and don’t even think about soup from a can! And going through a fast-food drive-thru…..pphhttt….that’s gonna require DAYS of advance, online investigation! This way of life will necessitate premeditated food selection and labor-intensive food preparation. Just deciding to eat healthier is a big step, which you will have to present to those in your life who might be affected by it. After clearing that huge hurdle, this new lifestyle requires never-ending research, and driving around town to farmer’s markets and alternative vendors’ drop-off sites to find what you need. This burden has been lessened to some extent by the local grocer’s dive into the “natural foods” market (i.e., they saw a chance to cash-in on the latest eating trends). You have to be very careful, though, with the grocery store offerings, because food producers like to put all kinds of information on their labels that make their products sound healthy. Since finding out that I have a pretty serious gluten sensitivity, I have discovered all sorts of “gluten-free” items at the grocery store. I can safely drink a six-pack of Mountain Dew, or eat an entire box of Popsicles, and I will not have any allergic reaction, because they are gluten-free foods. Well, whoopdedoo and laudeedah…thank you, food mega-companies, for being so helpfully informative in your labeling practices.

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I must admit that I never make it to Farmer’s Markets anymore, but not because I don’t want to. I used to belong to a CSA, even worked the market for a couple of summers with my organic farmers, but then I got a job which has me working on Sunday mornings, and that’s the time of the market, so there went that plan. I miss it sorely, and have finally been forced to take up gardening again, to plug up, somewhat, the gaping hole left in my local, fresh, organic produce options. I find it amazing that what is now taking me so much work to grow, or extra money to purchase, is what God had all planned out in the first place, as being the PERFECT food sources for mankind…go figure. God’s design always wins out in the end, no matter what we’re talkin’ about!

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Some of the other “negative” side effects of healthy eating include, but are not limited to:

*constantly coming up against the naysayers and devil’s advocates of this world, who choose to believe everything the government “feeds” them, and like to question the need for healthier choices in eating, and complain about the harder work and higher cost of acquiring healthy food (most often climbing on their soapbox while they are stuffing grossly-processed piles of crap into their body, with an ingredient list which is illegible to all but the most highly schooled scientists among us!).

*coming up with additional storage spaces/appliances for piles of fresh produce and fresh eggs and sides of beef and whole chickens from your garden (or fruit trees or chickens) and/or from a local, organic farmer.

*finding tasty recipes for ways to use above mentioned produce (some of which you have never heard of before in your entire life, and also some of which you might not like) and whole chickens and unusual beef cuts and chicken bones and beef bones……in other words, learning to be good and adventurous stewards of “the harvest!”

*taking up the age-old practice of canning, when above mentioned produce gets out of hand.

*starting a compost pile because above-mentioned produce creates a lot of useful compost material.

*burning off most of your daily caloric intake by chopping up tons of the above-mentioned produce for your supper!

*realizing that you are beginning to get cravings for (GASP!) salad greens, and dealing with your friends’ teasing when they find this out.

*getting into a habit of always, before venturing out in public, checking your teeth for bits and pieces of fresh greens that may have become stuck on your teeth, and/or flossing to remove tiny broccoli florets.

*running out of storage room for all your new recipes (either on the bookshelves or on your Ipad).

*expanding your organic/natural preferences to other categories, like personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies, health care, hair dye, etc.

*gloating about feeling healthier and more energetic, improving your metabolism, and maintaining a healthy weight

*struggling to remain humble, all the while knowing that you are doing good things for your body (and your family), and for the earth.

I, personally, can vouch for the authenticity of each of these healthy eating “side effects,” because I have experienced every one of them. I’m still on the journey to restoring my body to the level of health I was at prior to chemotherapy treatment nine years ago, but I am definitely heading in the right direction, and I will not give up, and neither should you, because this healthy way of eating will not “lettuce” down…even if it does get stuck in our teeth! IMG_2626.JPG

Mow It Down March

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It all started with No Shave November. Someone on social media came up with this (somewhat) alliterated phrase suggesting that this was the month that all of us womenfolk burn our razors and let the leg hair go wild. As soon as Halloween has passed us by, we’re subjected to posts regarding the winter shaving habits of women all around the world (or, possibly, just in the northern hemisphere). Of course, this isn’t something that has come about since social sites became a means of sharing our every move with every one. I, personally, have been in the habit of relaxing the winter shaving schedule since these facebook youngters were knee-high to….to my shaved knees! My patella protrusions were shaved back then, even during the winter, because knee-high socks were in style, so the lower, hairier parts of my extremities could be safely hidden behind my hefty hosiery. I only had to worry about public exposure of the neglected leg locks during gym class and church on Sunday. Knee socks were a life-saver, all through the long, wooly winter. Anyway, I still allow my facebook friends to have their fun, while reluctantly withholding the history lesson.

However, I’ve always been frustrated with the no-shave focus limited to just November. The way I see it, No Shave November is merely the first in a five step cold weather custom. In a climate where most legs (of season-smart dressers, anyway) go into hiding for the winter, I’m wondering what my lanate lower limbs motto should be for the remainder of the hibernation months. I’ve been waiting for someone on facebook (who obviously has lots of time to waste) to figure this out for me, but it is just not happening, so allow me to take the bull by the hairy legs, pull out my thesaurus, and get the job done.

No Shave November slips by quickly and quietly. No one really notices the nubs that have sprouted like garden plant seedlings, hidden in the basement, being quietly nurtured with gentle care. Before you know it, the stuffed bird has left us stuffed, and we’ve moved on to…Decidely Shaggy December. This is the trickiest of all the no-shave months. Many of the faithful followers of the no-shave community cave at this point. There are holiday parties and skimpy dresses to wear to said parties. At this point, only the toughest and bravest can continue to carry the torch. We carry it through the blaze of the holidays, packaged up in bright Christmas socks and long pants, right into Just Plain Pileous January.

Life in Ohio during January, as you all know, from my previous posts, is barely worth living, and it is certainly not worth shaving for. For all the diehards who have held fast to the no-shave plan through December, January is a breeze! In January, I simply don’t care what anyone thinks of my legs. They are either wrapped up in warm boots or buried under a pile of blankets, and if something comes up where they’re going to be exposed, like a doctor’s appointment or emergency room visit, I consider it a good test of a doctor’s professionalism and/or sense of humor. A shave free January is a no-brainer, so let’s just move on, people, to Fabulously Furry February.

This is the month of valentine cards and chocolates, so the numbers of our cult dwindle, once again. This commitment is not for the faint of heart, and if women want to choose romance over membership in our club, so be it. And, good riddance. We have no tolerance for the temperamental. If you can’t say good-bye to the blade for the whole winter, you’re not fit to call yourself a No-shaver. Which brings us to the next, and final, month for our No Shave Society.

Spring weather is on the prowl, and will soon be a daily encounter. Some of you may have even had a pretty good taste of an early spring this year, before old man winter pounced relentlessly upon us, one last time. It was tempting to give up on tending the lower tresses during the week of temps in the 60’s. But I did not give up. When you’ve come this far, there are shrouded, secretive ways to carry on, which I will not divulge at this time. Suffice it to say that it can be done, when one has made an unyielding commitment to the pledge. Spring begins officially today, and so, I can celebrate by dusting off my razor and participating fully in the springtime ritual of the No Shave fanatics. Happy Mow It Down March to all of my fellow, (and, now) clean-shaven comrades. Have a lovely spring and an adventurous summer, and I’ll see you all again in November, for the next No Shave kick-off!