“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: In Search of Fiddlehead Unfurling

I love ferns. They are all over my backyard. I am fascinated by the journey of each individual “fiddlehead” of the fern. A new fiddlehead unfurls itself toward the sky to join the existing fully developed fronds to increase the collective beauty of the plant as a whole.

Each unfurling fiddlehead reminds me of a human spine as it articulates out of flexion and into a beautiful upright posture. The new fern fiddlehead represents the spine of a confident, courageous woman who is transitioning and articulating into her full upright potential in life. I am so moved by this growth process that I based my business logo on ferns. 

My parallels between robust, flourishing ferns and robust, flourishing women continues. Many ferns are so hearty that with the proper care, they can withstand both winter cold and summer heat. With women, it is the same, and women need water and the right balance of sunshine and shade.

Every so often, fern fronds turn brown and they look a little...

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“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: When You’re Hot, You’re Hot…

When You’re Hot, You’re Hot…and Not in a Good Way

The next strange awareness I had was that I seemed to be warmer than usual—constantly. It was the beginning of summer, so at first, I just assumed that was the reason. But then I started to perspire in weird places, like the backs of my knees and the tops of my thighs, and at weird times, like in the evening when it wasn’t really that warm out anymore.

And now those odd women at the gym in my Cardio Dance Party classes who always demanded the overhead fans be turned on didn’t seem so odd anymore. In fact, now I would high-five them when they did so. 

It was clearly time for me to do another survey. At first, I was really against holding a conversation using any “perimenopausal” vernacular. I reluctantly talked to one of my best friends, Cordelia (60), about the “F” word (hot FLASH). She assured me there would be no mistaking it if I were having a hot flash. She said it...

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Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: Is PMS supposed to last 3 weeks?

Another early perimenopausal (PM) awareness was that my state of PMS-ness seemed endless. We are talking sore boobs, acne and cramps, to name a few. I even entertained crazy fantasies. Any PMS woman knows what I’m talking about. Whereas I used to be a little cranky for the 3–7 days prior to my period, now I had a full-blown Murder-Death-Kill—aka MDK from Demolition Man, 1993 sci-fi action film—attitude for at least three weeks prior to the big day.

Meditation/Prayer for the day: 

Dear God, What is going on? I don’t like it. Help me trust You to get me through this uncertain time.

You can find more excerpts from “Dammit … It IS Menopause!” by clicking here.

Sally Bartlett, ©2021

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“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: Feeling Old, Forgetful & Overwhelmed

Feeling Old, Forgetful and Overwhelmed: Making Mistakes, Experiencing a Diminished Ability to Focus

I made the mistake of looking at my bare arms in the distorted reflection of the car window today. Bad idea: I feel really old. As if that weren’t enough, my four-year-old son keeps getting frustrated with me when I don’t complete sentences because I have forgotten what I was talking about mid-sentence.

Several times lately I have put on the wrong turn signal while driving. Things that used to seem insignificant now seem overwhelming and I just want to go to bed. I frequently forget where I was going, what I was doing, or whom I was calling, all for no apparent reason.

Meditation/Prayer for the day: 

Dear God, I feel so frustrated. What’s going on? Please guide me. Give me the ability to embrace “what is” for today.

You can find more excerpts from “Dammit … It IS Menopause!” by clicking here.

Sally Bartlett, ©2021

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“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: Am I losing it?

In the weeks following the crying jag episode, I exhibited several other traits that were abnormal for me. I misplaced my keys. Except for one time at age 16 when I locked my car keys in the trunk, I am not the key-losing type. On top of that, I left the house without my  purse more than once. This is SO not me, and what’s more, I was on a trip to purchase one of my favorite things—frozen yogurt. I do not think I have ever left home without my purse prior to this time . . . EVER!

Meditation/Prayer for the day: 

Dear God, What is going on with me? Why am I doing all these things that are so out of character for me? Please give me patience and self-compassion as I embrace and explore this new place in my life ... gentle, gentle.

You can find more excerpts from “Dammit … It IS Menopause!” by clicking here.

Sally Bartlett, ©2021

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“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” Excerpt: This Can’t Be Happening to Me

Looking back, my first realization that something unfamiliar was going on with me was when I was about 45 years old. I was crying more than my usual PMS (premenstrual syndrome) amount … sobbing. I called my friend Cordelia, saying, “I don’t know why I keep crying so much today. I don’t feel like myself.”

What was happening to me? 

I was in the midst of choosing which kindergarten to send our son to in seven months. I know that’s big, but the volume of tears that were flooding my ducts just didn’t seem to match the intensity of the circumstance. I felt this strange urge to call my son’s preschool teacher to discuss my options. From the phone I told her, between sobs, I wanted to speak to her, and asked if she was available. I had never cried in front of her, so she probably thought I was dying or something.

She offered to see me right away. When I arrived at her classroom, the floodgates were open. This volume of crying alone was...

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[QUIZ] Is it … menopause? Is this community right for me?

The Varsity Menopause Quiz

I’m so happy you found your way here—to a community of women who have experienced menopause (and yes, survived all the emotions, physical symptoms, ups and downs) and have made a decision to make it a Varsity Menopause experience

But, how do you know if this is the right place for you? And … is it even menopause anyway? I’ve put together a quick YES/NO quiz to help you determine if what you’re experiencing is a hormonal shift, perimenopause or menopause, and if this community is right for you. 

  • Are you experiencing overwhelming physiological symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, erratic periods, cramps, breast pain, waking in the middle of the night, inability to stay asleep or go back to sleep, body odor, dry skin, itching that wakes you up, night sweats, hair loss)?
  • Are you suddenly more forgetful than ever in your life? 
  • Have you experienced “brain fog”—trouble finding...
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My Story: How I Overcame Disordered Eating & Maintained a 35-lb Weight Loss, Even through Menopause

Around the age of 10, my mother put me on my first diet. She had only the best of intentions. But, looking back, I realized that my weight had made her uncomfortable. I had been fine with it. The body that made her uncomfortable was functioning just as it needed to be in preparation for the onset of puberty. 

Years later, I have made peace with my cherished anorexic mom, knowing that she loved me as much as a mother could love a child, and was merely passing on what was taught to her at my age. I am grateful for having the right mom for me.

Nonetheless, this began my 14-year spiral deep into the world of what I refer to as “diet mentality,” which included endless dieting accompanied by dangerously rapid weight fluctuation and progressive weight gain, perfectionism, compulsive exercising, people-pleasing and negative self-talk in an effort to feel good enough and thin enough to be lovable. You name it, there was not a diet I hadn’t tried between 1969 and 1984....

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Healthy Aging through Loving Your Liver

Advice on what we “should” be eating abounds. Eat only protein. Fast intermittently. Be vegan. Eat high fat. How does one decide? As someone who has been maintaining a 35-pound weight loss for more than 30 years—without dieting—I am keenly aware of food talk and recommendations about eating. Working in the Wellness and Fitness field, I hear talk about diets almost daily. However, I have not participated in a fad diet for 35+ years.  The philosophy that enabled me to lose weight and keep it off has always been to eat all things in moderation. 

Still, my observations about the nutrition mindsets of my clients is that they continue to focus on “what food plan is the current rage” and “which food plan offers the quickest results.”  Meanwhile, current scientific research shows that high-fat, high-protein diets are not the best option for many adults over 50; especially menopausal women.

Women’s Healthy Aging Researcher,...

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One Simple Mindfulness Technique to Help You Live in the Present: Gratitude

Mindfulness. We hear the word everywhere these days. Physical Therapists recommend it.  Psychologists recommend it. Places of worship recommend it. It must be important. It must be helpful. But how does one achieve it?

Breakdown: In its simplest form, mindfulness is tuning in to thoughts and feelings one experiences in his/her immediate environment. This can be accomplished in a multitude of ways.

Today’s focus is on one simple mindfulness technique to help you live in the present: Gratitude. Using the tool of gratitude takes some practice. Here are two examples of ways to incorporate it into your day.

Beginner Version:

  1.     Obvious Gratitude List

Upon waking, rather than checking your phone, try thinking of 3 things you are grateful for.  In the beginning, this may be difficult. Let it be okay to list very basic things, such as vision, the ability to walk, etc. With perseverance, it will get easier, and become a positive spiral. 

Advanced Version:

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