The MAD Goddess writes out loud with candor and humor about the changing landscape of life for women with retired husbands,
adult children, and grandchildren. It's not always a pretty story,
but it's usually pretty funny.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Okay, file this one under "Because I'm a mom, that's why."

Which would be the answer to the youngest daughter's question, "Why did you have to post that picture on your blog?"

And - because the picture sits above my desk where I can see it every day, right next to the snow globe of the city she is living in whilst pursuing her higher education (she gave it to me the day before she left).

She's majoring in journalism - I know some day the payback is going to be a b**** .

And - Because, how could I not add this after my last post which (she emailed to tell me as soon as she'd read it) has always been one of her favorites.

And finally - Because that day the circus came to town and I was ready to run away with them . . . it was always in my plan to take you with me.

(see previous post to get the whole story)

. . . . . .
GET A ^ LIFE at MAD Goddess


I’m sipping creative juices from my fellow blogger and kindred spirit over at Ann’s Rants. I noticed that a recent post had the label “circus freak”. She was recalling some of her on-stage theatrical moments and the attending get-ups.

I can relate, that's me on the right (and, no, I'm not a natural blond but, yes, I was chewing gum and blowing a bubble when that photo was snapped). I’ve been performing in community theater for over 20 years. My costumes always consist of wild wigs, garish clothing that generally shines or glitters, gaudy beads and feather boas. People always seem not to believe when they ask, “Where did you find that get-up?” and I tell them it came from my closet.

For me, community theater is an excuse to dress up and act out – all on account of an altar ego that’s been lurking inside me for as long as I can remember. Now, the older I get, the closer she comes to the center ring.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books was “If I Ran the Circus.” I wasn’t so much interested in running the circus as running away with it. I thought living in a wagon (okay, an RV) and traveling across the country with a band of equally eccentric make believers would be the life for me. No worries about acting a fool or past regrets ‘cause I'd always be leaving town the next day. Goodbye cruel world, I’m off to join the circus!

My ancestors hail from south-central Europe. (The ruling governments and borders in the region have changed so frequently, let’s just say north of Greece and East of Romania). Wanderlust runs like blood in my veins. I just know I’d be a hit with the circus as the mysterious, veiled fortune teller.

Can you say, “Cross my palms with silver.”

I’d probably have a thang goin’on with the lion tamer. I’ve always wanted a pet tiger.

I almost made the break one day, back when I was very much stuck in the middle of my child raising years (talk about a three ring circus). My oldest was out of the nest but still ruffling my feathers. The middle child was testing her wings now that big sister’s shadow wasn’t blocking her time in the sun anymore, and the youngest was, well, young - and I was tired.

A tiny little circus came to visit our tiny little town on a warm September weekend. In fact, I will never forget because it was the Labor Day weekend that Princess Di – died, proving that there are no real fairy tales and contrary to having it all, the best we can hope for is make believe.

I dragged myself from beneath the covers where I’d retreated after the last exhausting battle with oldest child. Daddy, toddler and I trotted off to see the show.

At intermission, the ring master (a woman – fyi) announced that they would be paying for help to take down the tents and pack up the show after the last performance. Then she said the thing that made my heart stop. “If anybody has ever dreamed of running away with the circus, now's your chance.”

My brain and mouth connected so fast there was no stopping the words that leaped from my lips. I jumped right up, right in front of the tiny population of our tiny little town, raised my hand as high as it would go and shouted “I want to go!” Visualizing it in hindsight now, I must have looked like that clumsy, pigeon-toed, knock-kneed kid that never gets picked when choosing teams. “Pick me. Pick me! OH Please! Pick me!"

My daughter looked up at me with a mix of terror and hurt feelings bringing tears to her eyes. Mommy." Her little chin quivered. "You can’t join the circus – you’re my mommy!”

She was right. The saw dust and smell of greasepaint would have to wait until she at least graduated from high school . . . which happened two years ago this May! Last summer I bought a 1970-something travel trailer. My husband doesn’t believe me when I tell him I’m going to paint Gypsy Woman on the side in letters two feet tall.

Oh ya, and the best thing about circus folk? They have their very own world in Baraboo, Wisconsin and they winter in Florida baby.

. . . . . . mid
GET A ^ LIFE at MAD Goddess

Sunday, March 29, 2009


This past week has been of those that you would just like to rewind and start over. Too many obligations pulling me in too many directions and when the dust settles I can see that I accommodated the wrong people. Worse, exhausted and on my last – no really – my last nerve, I lashed out at the one least deserving.

After twelve hours of sleep followed by a day in jammies and slippers, I am beginning to feel human again.

When will my husband learn that doormat and wife are not synonymous? He would like me to live in a landscape of limitations where he rules by virtue of his testosterone. Instead, I systematically (and ever so gently) remind him that he is an ass.

Sometimes, extenuating circumstances like a 1,235 mile round trip in less than 48 hours to attend a funeral pushes me to the brink. When I get little thanks and even less consideration – I’m over the edge.

The real problem here is that it’s entirely my own fault. I never was very good at math, but an idiot can figure out that 48 hours of pure stress followed by two days of recuperation and a stack of backed up projects at work, when measured against an hour or two of argument over not attending his uncle’s funeral, is not equal.

As a good (single) friend once said to me, “I am not responsible for anybody’s happiness but my own.”

Perhaps if I have it tattooed to the back of my hand where I can see it everyday, I won’t forget again.

And if I try really, really hard, I will set a better example of placing and respecting my own boundaries in a healthy marriage (in all relationships for that matter). Then maybe I'll be less apt to lash out at the wrong people.

. . . . . . mid


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


This tears it! I thought it was over. I thought the last box of tampons I bought were the last box of tampons I ever bought. They’ve sat idle for months now and I was envisioning them in a sort of shrine – an homage to the end of bloating, cramping, bleeding – aching head, aching back and aching boobs.

I should warn you, if you get squeamish at the mention of womanly body parts and female functions, you might want to stop reading now.

About a month ago, I had the worst cramps I could ever remember. I gave birth with less pain (and that was completely drug free - nazi doctors!). Killer cramps but no visit from my Auntie Flo? Odd, but it isn’t like I wanted to see her again.

A few days later I noticed that my body-temp surges had completely disappeared. This was a huge disappointment in itself. I live in the northern most realms of Wisconsin. It’s cold here. It was 35 below in late January - February wasn't much of an improvement. Those flushes of intense body warmth were the only thing getting me through the winter.

Cramps & hot flashes gone? Could all of this be pointing to a spike in estrogen levels? Sure enough, I woke up to the gift of bloody sheets this morning. I warned you to stop reading if you were squeamish.

Toddling to the bathroom with legs pressed together, I remember how nice it was to be done with all this. Toss the panties in a bucket, add cold water and pour in some peroxide (it lifts the stains like nobody’s business if you get to it right away). Grumble through a shower, dig the tampons out from the back of the bottom shelf in the linen closet and get ready for the struggle.

Struggle? It would seem that my body is staging an all out defense against these bullets of compressed cotton on a string. To be blunt (pun intended) I can barely force the little buggers in. Once there, they won’t stay put. The first time I have to pee, the tampon practically drops into the toilet.

On my last visit to the doc for his annual invasion of my private regions I was still having pretty regular periods – pretty and regular being relative terms here. Ugly surprise attacks would be a better description. You never know when they’ll show up and the hemorrhaging flow gets ugly.

I asked if things had changed down there. Doc was confused. I told him the problem with the tampons. He suggested I try a lubricant if I was having trouble inserting the tampon.

If dryness is the problem, why the heck are they sliding back out on their own? I asked.

If an obstructed cervical opening were the problem (as I’d suggested), how would they drop back out once I had them in place? He countered.

My body is clearly rejecting these nasty foreign objects. If all of that isn’t bad enough, they’re not doing their job. I think it’s called by-pass leakage. I know it means I have to wear a pad too.

After days of this, I start to worry about Toxic Shock Syndrome – you remember back in the 80’s when they told us that wearing tampons overnight (or for more than a few hours at a time) could kill us?

So, I ditch the tampon and pray for the best luck with my latest brand of pads. Forget it. If it shifts forward, I bleed backward. If it shifts if backward, I bleed forward. If I try the extra long, I bleed over the sides. The winged-wonder pads twist and stick in places they shouldn’t (can you say ouch - dammit!?).

I’ve stained so many pairs of underwear in the last two years I’ve lost count. Sometimes you can’t get to them right away (like if you have to work for a living – gross, but true). Instead of throwing them out when I get home, I throw them in the washer with lots of bleach. I stash them in the back of the drawer to wear the next time Auntie Flo comes to visit (again, gross but true). I’m through ruining $5 a pair panties.

My mother was done with all of this fuss by my age. My sister was done. My cousin was done. What’s up with this? I should be done. I want to be done.

Doctors can suck your fat out, cut 6/8ths of your stomach size out, give you drugs (with a list of frightening side effects longer than both arms) to regulate your mood, help you sleep or clear your sinuses. They can prescribe Viagra for your husband even though it may cause blindness (hey, listen to the commercial “sudden change or loss of eyesight”) or death (when you shoot him for pointing that thing at you one more time) but the FDA regulates the use of drugs to stop menstrual flow with a slam of it's patriarchal fist.

If men had to go through this ritual every month (or two weeks as it seems near the end), you can bet the minute the family was complete, the factory would somehow be closed.

As for me, I will (impatiently) wait for the next walk-out strike my hormones stage and hope that management finally shuts down production for good.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I’ve been spending the last several days contemplating where my middle age is going from here. That is the most mental exercise I am indulging in while on vacation in Florida, other than contemplating what color I should paint my pinkies to flatter my deepening tan.

Could I live like this every day for the rest of my life? The short answer for this born and bred Midwesterner is, “You betcha!" There’s only one glitch. What would I do with my husband? He is your typical man retired before he should be -- he doesn’t know what to do with his time.

In fairness, there is an added complication. He didn’t retire willingly; his heart gave out after too many years of neglecting his health. Now, the plan to stay alive includes no more physical activity than walking a few blocks after a preventative dose of nitro and only on his good days. Good days have as much to do with his moods as with his physical condition. Can't blame him there

His life as he knew it is over. His laboring heart also won’t hold for any of the activities he planned in retirement. Golfing, swimming, home repair and improvement. To add to the conundrum, his laundry list of other physical ailments isn’t making travel easy or pleasant.

So where does that leave me? My life as I knew it, is over. With both of us suffering the same loss, why are we having so much difficulty understanding each other?

I want to know what's going to happen with my life long plan to get the heck out of frozen tundra land during the winter months? What about my visions of a small, two story cottage or the storybook garden? The structures and foundations would be his handy work, the brush strokes of colored petals waving across the canvas of our backyard would be mine. Now he can’t climb stairs and chores are completely off the list.

I planned to write in the mornings while he puttered in the garage, doing whatever it is that men do when they putter. In the afternoons we’d walk to the grocer’s for quart of milk or to pick up the daily news. We’d ride our bikes through the neighborhood streets. Heck, I’d even golf a round or two with him.

Instead, when I try to write in the mornings he impatiently waits for me to finish. Right now, on vacation, he is sitting three feet from me looking as bored as any human being can be. He glances my way about every 5 minutes. I’m not sure what he’s thinking, but I can guess.

He seems jealous of my ability to occupy myself, to engage my brain in something that thrills me. Observation indicates that he is only able to achieve that from external sources; watching sporting events, watching action films, reading the newspaper and grumping at the anchors on CNN. I understand one can only do so much of that and then, apparently, I am all that’s left to entertain him.

The MAD Goddess in me wants to scream, “Exactly when did I become responsible for your contentment?” The answer is, of course, when I said I do. My 50 years in the conditioning of what a wife does is hard enough habit for me to shake. I indulge him to keep the peace – just like my mother did with my father. She had to tape the one and only soap opera she watched, her measly hour of self indulgence, because during that one hour my father seemed to absolutely need her attention for anything and everything. She could watch her show in peace only when he dozed off for his afternoon nap.

It’s difficult for me to break the habits of the good girl, good daughter and good wife indoctrination of my middle class rearing, even with all that’s at stake. It’s impossible for him to consider another model of wife. And why wouldn’t it be? He has nothing to gain and everything to lose.

And that is precisely where men always get it wrong. My husband has one choice, get with the program or get out of my way. For thirty years I have devoted myself to raising and caring for children, caring for a husband and being on demand for aging parents’ needs, both physical and emotional. I have waited, patiently for my time and now that it’s here, I am not giving it up.

He’s afraid that I will leave him. I won’t. It isn't the answer. I will stand firm, stand up and speak out for what I need. His response is entirely up to him, but our life together will be much more joyous if he can (first) discern my needs in the midst of his neediness, and (second)understand that they are as important to his ultimate happiness as are his own.

I remember my father’s bitter complaints about my mother’s “change of life”. They were the worst years of his life. That sentiment angered my mother because she shielded him from most of the emotional upheaval of those awakening years. Being in her shoes now, I know what she was thinking. “Mister, you don’t know the half of what I wanted to say and do.”

The French have a saying that when a woman loses her blood she finds her voice. I’m sure that is inconvenient, irritating, perplexing and especially frightening for the men who have been in charge. That’s too bad for them, and if they don’t like it I suggest their best course is to learn to speak little and listen much. They might also be ready to duck because now we are carrying the metaphorical big stick.

. . . . . . mid