Phew! What a ride the past six plus years have been. And like everything that’s worthwhile, it’s important to know when to step away. And so, I must bid adieu to Flashfree to make room for new writing, new reporting and a new journey.
As an early adopter in the menopausal blogging space, I’ve watched a burgeoning interest among women who are entering or in the middle of the menopause transition. Mostly, I’ve received validation time and again that open dialogue and self-care are essential as we age. And while Flashfree has mostly stayed away from the personal, I have experienced my own growth in terms of gaining a better understanding of my body and the changes that it’s going through, my mental health and tolerance (or intolerance for stress) and the factors that are needed to live life to the fullest. I hope that you have likewise, gained knowledge and a sense of self along this ride that we’ve been on.
Several people who I know and love suggested that I leave you with a list of my favorite posts. I’d rather leave the Archives to you to discover and find them on your own. The Flashfree Archives will remain accessible although some of the information contained within may eventually become dated.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank you and others who’ve supported me along with way. And in particular, I would love to thank and acknowledge the multiple guest bloggers that have contributed to Flashfree: Bob LeDrew (who is heading on to broader pastures with Guyside) Danny Brown, Richard Becker, my brother, Andrew Scherer, Wendy Goldman Scherer, Patti Digh, Amy Zimmerman, Walker Thornton, Danielle Omar, Cyma Shapiro, Nina Perez, D.A. Wolf, Susie Hadas, Kelley Connors, Dr. Brian Hughes, Dr. Elaine Schattner, Alexandra Williams, Dr. Jen Gunter, Sarah Bowen Shea, Laura Bowman, Cherry Woodburn, Kathy Korman Frey, Sheryl Kraft, Dr. Barb DuPree, Joanna Paterson, Erika Napoletano, Jesse Mendes, Dr. Val Jones, Jonathan Black, Julia Beck, Jackie Silver, Carla Birnberg, Andrea Learned, Peter Koshland, Kris Rowlands and Elizabeth Alraune. If I’ve overlooked anyone who’s contributed, please know that I am appreciative of your vision and your knowledge.
Good health and good journey!
It’s been a weird seven days up here in Canada. Last Wednesday, a man appeared at our national war memorial and shot to death one of the ceremonial guards, then made his way to our House of Commons (think Congress), was pinned down by security, then shot and killed by our Sergeant-at-Arms. This happened while essentially all of our elected representatives were having weekly caucus meetings within a few metres of where the shooter was stopped. That attack came on the heels of an incident where two soldiers at a shopping mall were run down in the parking lot. One of those soldiers died of his injuries.
Then on Friday, a very high-profile national radio host (think Terry Gross level) named Jian Ghomeshi announced he was taking a leave from his show Q. By Sunday night, his employer, CBC had announced he was fired, allegations of sexual misbehaviour were flying, he published a 1600-word post on Facebook explaining that yes, he was given to BDSM-type behaviour in the bedroom and that this was all the product of a jilted girlfriend, and he was filing a $55-million lawsuit against his employer. Meanwhile, an utter typhoon of drastically divided opinion swirled.
On Monday, a Member of Parliament wrote another note on Facebook (since removed) alleging that an unnamed prominent political reporter had tried to coerce a Hill staffer into sexual improprieties by blackmailing her with embarrassing information that was released when she didn’t accede to his demands.
And yesterday, a video was released of a woman walking the streets of Manhattan to what seemed to be a neverending stream of catcalls and inappropriate come-ons. When I posted the video on my Facebook profile and asked how it resonated with women I knew, the results were not surprising but utterly disheartening — more than a dozen had stories to tell of truly creepy encounters, starting with “hey baby” and escalating to things that would freak me out if they happened to me.
What’s all this have in common? They all revolve around perceptions and expectations of masculinity.
Parliamentary Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers was widely hailed as a hero for his sangfroid and dignity during and after the shooting incident. The Ghomeshi and unnamed reporter stories highlighted the perception — and the reality — that men in powerful positions are often able to engage in heinous behaviour with little consequence. And the “catcall video” is a vivid demonstration that reality for women is utterly different than for me.
This stuff isn’t “women’s problems” — it’s OUR problem as men, and beyond being a good man myself, I just don’t know how to make a contribution to fixing these problems.Read More
Did you hear the news? The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) is gearing up to launch MenoPro, the first ever mobile app designed for use by clinicians and patients. NAMS representatives explain that the new app is geared toward both clinicians and patients, and will streamline the decision making process. The two-mode application will evidently allow users to access NAMS resources and a heart disease risk score calculator and will also encourage women to communicate and work with their clinicians to identify and individualize strategies to manage troublesome menopause symptoms. The app will be demonstrated this week in Washington, DC at NAMS’ annual meeting.
MenoPro is not the first app to hit the market; you may recall the ‘myPause’ menopause tracker. The distinction offered by the NAMS app, however, is that it has an extra feature that offers clinicians the option of emailing summaries of the conversation as well as information handouts on such topics as treatments for hot flashes and night sweats and genitourinary symptoms; links to additional resources will also be available.
NAMS says that it developed the app without industry involvement, which is terrific. Yet, it is important to mindful that many of the resources contained in the NAMS database have been sponsored by industry. Moreover, an app is only as good as the person who actually uses it. According to a 2010 Pew Internet and American Life Study, only 20% of mobile phone users utilized their devices to look up health information and a mere 9% used mobile to manage or track their health regularly. Updated Pew data from 2012 showed a slight increase in the percentage of users looking up health information on their phones (to 31%), but only 9% said that they received text messages to track their health and a mere 19% have at least one health app on their smartphone. These numbers are pretty dismal and imply that the majority of people are not tracking their health via mobile nor do they appear to have much interest in doing so. Perhaps the fact that Apple now has skin in the game may change that paradigm.
I applaud NAMS for taking the steps needed to provide women and clinicians with an easier way to communicate and exchange information about menopause. Yet, I can’t help but remain skeptical about the utility of the app as well as the value of the resources that have industry involvement. As of this writing, Apple has not yet signed off on the app so there is no information on when it will actually be available. I’m inclined to withhold final judgement but NAMS has traditionally condoned the medicalization of menopause and I can’t imagine that the app will alter this point of view.
I recently picked up the telephone to a shocking call. A friend had been terminated at his job, and was calling to let me know not to use his work-issued mobile phone or email address.
It was shocking for a couple of reasons. First, even as I head towards 50, I am still naive enough to think that competent, “good” people are never fired. Second, it was only one of a very few occasions on which I can remember my friend choking up.
We men tend to be far less likely to cry than women. A report from the American Psychiatric Association in February suggests that women cry about five times as much as men.
Some point to hormonal differences in men and women as one reason for this difference in teariness.
And others point to the childhood socialization men receive. There’s a reason that the band 10cc had a big hit with their song “I’m not in love” with its iconic “Big boys don’t cry” spoken line. It resonated. And still does.
I’m not much of a crier. I’m more of the occasional leaker. I haven’t had the proverbial “good cry” since my mother’s death earlier this year. I did have one of those after my father died in 2012. But beyond that, I’m more of the person who wipes a tear away, often inspired by a moving performance of a song, than the person who sobs or needs a wad of tissues.
When I was a kid, my parents subscribed to Reader’s Digest. In addition to the “I am Joe’s Kidney” features, I remember the humour columns, like “Humour in Uniform,” “Life’s Like That,” and my joke-obsessed-kid favorite, “Laughter, the best medicine.” It’s still there, at least here in Canada. In addition to the monthly magazines, our house had a bunch of anthologies of funnies that would have come with “Reader’s Digest Condensed Books” (not to be confused with Condensed Milk, apparently).
I don’t know if those jokes got me into being funny early on, but something did. Humour has been part of my life pretty much as long as I can think, for both positive purposes — if you’re thought of as ‘the smart one’ in school, ‘the funny one’ is a big step up — and for negative — I spent a lot of years using jokes and humour to keep people away from any real feelings I might have had.
But when it comes to health, humour is pretty decent medicine. Trust me on this one. As a bladder cancer guy, I have had multiple people dealing with the areas I normally only show one person over a period of years — and being in a city with a med school and multiple health science programs means that you’re not only dealing with the urologist / nurse / sonographer / whatever, you’re dealing with residents / interns / students… Sometimes the only way to deal with the more embarrassing parts of the whole affair is to crack wise. I think it helps them too.
But there’s more to humour than just dispersing embarrassment. There’s lots of research that shows humour can help when you’re ill, and help before you get ill. One study of prostate cancer support groups found that for participants, humour is a way of sharing information about their health and feelings that doesn’t leave the men feeling vulnerable. Given what we already know about men’s unwillingness to be open about their health, that’s a valuable thing.
There can be a dark side to humour, though, especially as men sometimes use it. Sometimes jokes can be couched in mean or insulting terminology, and sometimes (as I know to my regret!) humour that works in one context doesn’t in another. I’ve made some jokes about cancer that have gotten a laugh from some people and dropped jaws elsewhere.
Ask yourself if you have enough laughter in your life. If not, find ways of seeking it out or making your own fun. It may not be the best medicine — if you have a heart attack, I’d recommend a bypass rather than a Marx brothers marathon — but it’s more important than you might think.Read More
I don’t own a cottage — although I am quite happy to be invited to other people’s! When we started to get on top of our mortgage and cash flow, and something like a recreational property became an option, my partner and I opted for investing in our back yard instead, and we now call it the cottage.
She’s in charge of the garden and I lend brute strength and occasional good ideas; I’m in charge of drinks, food, and keeping the little patch of grass, the stonework, and anything else that needs maintenance maintained. We’re happy with our choice. We tell people “we can barely keep up with one house — what would we do with two?!”
But … I grew up with a “cabin” (that’s what we called it, not a “cottage”, although sometimes it was “the bungalow”) a few miles from our house. What I remember from my childhood is roaming through the little patches of forest with an air rifle and plastic Viking figures that were in my mom’s bags of puffed wheat, setting up shooting galleries and practicing my aim, swimming in the clear salt water of the Bras d’Or Lake, playing with giant inner tubes that my dad got hold of from somewhere, bonfires with toasted marshmallows, and my dad working.
My mom worked when we were out there, but her work never seemed as hard to me as dad’s work. Mom worked on keeping us all fed and watered, on getting bug spray applied, at planting a few flowers here and there, at welcoming friends and family when they’d pull up. But dad… There was a marshy section of the property, and he worked to dry that out and clear it, seed it, and turn it into something you could walk on. Wheelbarrow loads of fill and soil. I first remember actually getting to the lake holding on to a rope that helped you down the fairly steep bank. Then there was a staircase, and then a nicer staircase. My dad would take a swim, but then he’d put on an old pair of sneakers and grab a pry bar and start moving rocks to make a bigger swimming area. When the grass needed to be cut, it wasn’t a ride-on mower, it was a push mower, its motor roaring, its wheels being adjusted to accommodate the rough terrain and stumps and rocks and roots. When it came time for the bonfire, it was he who built the fire, and it was he who would tend it with a long steel poker, making a place where the coals glowed for the best marshmallows.
He worked way harder than I’d be prepared to do at my age. And he did that after a week’s hot, sweaty work at a steel plant. His brother was another steel plant LeDrew — they almost all were — and when his emphysema got to be too much to let him work at his cottage, he stopped going rather than watch his children do what he saw as his job.
We live in an era of specialization and technology. I grew up helping my dad change our car’s oil and do basic maintenance. Much of what we did simply can’t be done on modern cars. Our back yard was landscaped by others. When our dishwasher broke recently (DISHWASHER, my dad would scoff, were he here…) I tried and failed to fix it. In came the specialist.
Our cabin didn’t have any pretensions. It didn’t even have plumbing. The beach wasn’t an endless expanse of honey-coloured sand. But I hope that my dad looked at it with the pride of someone who had used his muscles to make something. That’s what men like him did.
It’s difficult to muster a similar sense of pride over some glowing pixels. Sometimes, there was a nobility and a simplicity about how things were that I’d like to try to recapture now. How about you?Read More