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Menopause MondaysThe candles are lit, and as I take a deep breath to blow them out, I realize: Inside this 60-year-old body lives a joyous 40-year old that I let run free as often as I can.

That's right: today I'm the big 6-0, although I don't feel 60 most of the time. That's why I wanted to plan a huge 60th celebration - I've earned the right to celebrate every one of those years! Truth be told, I spent about half of my 59th year planning the party for my big six-zero. For six months, I racked my brain on exactly how I wanted to celebrate the big day and year.

In the running was a trip to Disneyland to let out my inner child, a sexy burlesque party, and a "60 is Taking Me to the Cleaners" theme party. I even looked at renting out a local dry cleaner shop for the shindig! Maybe a "pamper Ellen" party where everyone would come prepared to pamper or spoil me in some way? I love a good pampering, but that party could get real kinky real fast My mind also trailed off to an Oprah-esque luncheon with 60 of the most important people in my life—but the thought of narrowing down the guest list to 60 people gave me a headache, so I nixed that idea.. Last year, I even thought about having a 59th birthday party and calling it "Almost 60, But Who Is Counting?"

After six months of brainstorming, I finally decided what I wanted for my 60th: to stay healthy, celebrate the health of my family, love my dear husband and terrific children (my daughter Sarah just got married, so now I have three kids!), and spend my special day with these special people.

It has taken me a while to figure out what's most important to me in life and how to take care of myself to enjoy life to its fullest. In the process, I have learned how to live and age gracefully. As I entered perimenopause in my mid 40s, I had no idea what was going on in my body and mind, as no one had given me "the talk." Something was changing, to be sure, but I just couldn't not put my finger on it. As most women do, I kept my head down and powered through. Finally, after far too much suffering and struggling, I came to terms with the fact that I needed to take better care of myself. I needed to put myself first if I was ever going to be the woman I wanted to be for the people I loved.

Now, at 60, I have achieved hormone happiness—and have mastered the fine art of celebrating myself! I try to make every day a celebration of life. I put myself on my own to-do list. Yep, right on top! I take care of myself with the same passion, enthusiasm, and determination with which I care for my family! Each morning, I ride my bike with my husband, David. We do resistance training twice a week and together we keep each other honest on Weight Watchers. Let's face it, I'm much higher maintenance that I was in my 40s—my drawers are jam-packed with my systemic hormone replacement therapy, my local estrogen therapy, and all the requisite skin crèmes and potions to eliminate every wrinkle .—but that's OK. I feel healthy. After all, our bodies are the only place we have to live, so we better take care of them!

What's more, I have found a purpose in my life that is bigger than myself. My mission is to educate and prepare women (and the people who love them!) for perimenopause and menopause so that they can lead happy, healthy, fulfilled lives. Some of my best years have been immersed in this journey: writing my first and second book with my son, Jack, finding my own voice, and now participating and expanding the reach of my mission. I know for sure that I have many more best years to come! My mission is ageless and so am I—I am living a great life after menopause!

Last, but certainly not least, I continue to fill my life with love—both giving and receiving it with open arms. David and I try to find joy together in each day, whether it is just holding hands while strolling along the beach, or taking a few minutes to sit in our backyard. We met 37 years ago and still date each other! I am confident my 60th year will be one full of love and laughter!

Still, I would be lying to say that I never get that "OMG, 60!?!" pang of panic. There are days when I look in the mirror and say, "What the hell happened here?!?!?" There are days when I wonder if buying the magnified lit mirror was really a good idea. Thank goodness I can't see much without my glasses anymore! When those thoughts creep into my mind (or out of my mouth!) I try to remember that each and every wrinkle, ripple, and roll is me. I embrace all of who I am and consider myself lucky to be turning 60! After all, I want to be mentioned on the TODAY Show when I turn 100! Willard Scott will surely make a cameo appearance to announce my momentous day!

I know it might seem counterintuitive to all of the age-phobes out there, but I feel stronger, healthier, and more empowered today than I did when I was 40! For me—and for many women—60 is the new and improved 40. For us, gone is the archetype of the grandma-esque, stout menopausal woman with white hair. My mom is 93 and I have never seen a gray hair on her head! She is still going to the beauty salon every week—her head full of rollers, teasing, and hair color! You can bet I am following her lead... sans the rollers and teasing, that is! Frankly, most of my friends are grandmas, but they don't look anything like that old grandma we often picture sitting in a rocking chair. They are biking, surfing, and hiking with their grandkids. They are full of life—amazing, awe-inspiring life!

What a joy it is to be 60 and leading a healthy, vital – and purposeful life, surrounded by the love of friends and family! Celebrate with me... Happy birthday to all of us!

Remember: Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!


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