In 2004 I became co-owner of a bead shop in a small town in western North Carolina. My partner and I secured a large retail space one block off a quaint little main street and set about painting, building display cases and decorating the shop. Then we sank the rest of our money into inventory.

It was fun and exciting selecting all the different beads, crystals, gemstones, findings and jewelry making tools for our new venture. We were clinical therapists by day and now retail entrepreneurs on evenings and weekends.

Delivery day finally arrived and we met the UPS guy at the shop. He opened the back of the truck and carried (in his arms, not on a dolly) four boxes. He handed them to us, went back to his truck and drove away. We looked at the boxes, then at each other, then at the boxes and then at each other again. We shrugged and one of us said, “I guess the rest will come later”.

We set about opening and unpacking and oohing and ahh-ing at our new inventory, but as we checked everything off the master list, we soon realized this was it. All of it. Thousands of dollars of inventory in four boxes, in an almost 2,000 square foot retail space. I can’t remember if we laughed or cried or both. I do remember feeling foolish. Beads, we learned, don’t take up much space.

What to do? What to do? We made the best of it. We pulled everything forward into the front one-quarter of the space. Spread everything out so that shopping was not elbow to elbow. Added a living room-like space for hanging out. Hung a curtain the width of the room.

The store was not a financial success, but it was an interpersonal success. We became friends with a core group of our customers and ended up having after-hours potluck dinners in the area behind the curtain. We added Bunco games and wine. Lots of wine. When one of the group moved away we all contributed gemstones and made her a beautiful necklace. Being a lover of acronyms, I dubbed us the Sisters of the Stones, aka the SOTS, which seemed quite fitting. I was the youngest at 45 and the eldest of our group was 65, so we were all also WOACA – women of a certain age.

One evening conversation turned to current events, politics, the state of the world (mind you, this was 2006, long before things really went to crap) and someone said, “If all these arrogant, entitled men would just get out of the way and let women run the world everything would be fine in a matter of a few years!”. And another said, “Yes! Women know how to do fifty things all at once and do them all well; how to motivate, organize, direct, coordinate, you name it.” And then our most cynical group member said, “Well to start off it needs to be all menopausal women because they’ll get in there and kick butt and not take any shit, especially if they’re hot flashing”. “Yeah, we need an army of…no, no we need a militia of menopausal women to whip this planet back into shape!” And we all laughed and toasted our problem-solving prowess and poured another glass of wine. And that was that.

Except over the years I haven’t been able to let it go. I’ve returned to the concept repeatedly wanting to turn it into something more. I liked the double M’s of the name and sketched out an emblem, like an old-school Girl Scout badge, but full of hidden meanings. I liked the felt sense of camaraderie and bonding brought on by this universal experience of WOACA.  Our group had likened it to the Red Hat Society, except hormonal and easily pissed off. And that made me think about the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph and the line “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple…”. This piqued the irreverent poet in me, and I wrote the first stanza of a parody poem in 2006. I stumbled across that fragment in 2019 and completed it. It has become a favorite at local poetry nights.

But now I want to do more. As a therapist I see not only the healing value of humor but also the need for resources; especially skills and guidance on how best to cope with this life transition that bonds us yet also challenges us (and those who love us) in so many ways. I hope becomes a safe place for you to land when you need any or all of the above.