This week, Valerie Ricordi, 63, chat with us about heartbreak and recovery, the importance of the arts, and the cure for hot flashes! Hint: it’s not what you think! Valerie currently lives in Miami where she serves as Executive Director and Board Member for two different nonprofits serving the arts community! So cool!
Starting menopause could not have been more inconvenient for you, it was a very tough time in your life. Can you share what happened?
Menopause at age 50 coincided with the end of my 27-year marriage, so it is hard to separate the tumult of those years into physical changes vs emotional turmoil. It was all one big mega upset. Even though my husband and I had drifted apart, I had always thought we would grow closer once our youngest left for college. Instead, he filled our empty nest with a series of affairs that he was very open about, and then cruelly mocked me for my outrage and heartbreak. Of course, all his love interests were younger and glamorous. I had been a doctor’s wife who met him during his postdoc fellowship and had enjoyed all the perks and satisfactions of having a spouse now with a high income and prestigious position. Who was I if not Mrs. Doctor? My self-image plummeted.
That sounds so hard. How did you get through it?
Fortunately, the reassurance of my family, friends, and work colleagues kept me afloat. Hot yoga and prayer finally brought about a breakthrough. After 3 years of crushing heartbreak, I got my mojo back, as a friend described it. Then, I met a guy who made me laugh.
Aside from the heartache, what about your menopause symptoms, how did you deal?
The physical aspects brought on by “the change” as my mother used to call it, were not so debilitating. Maybe because I live in Southern Florida where temps in the 90s are the norm for 6 months of the year, hot flashes are familiar. I was so relieved when my periods dwindled to barely noticeable and then disappeared. Menopause is the best part of getting older. Birth control and heavy periods – good riddance! Another plus of a post-menopausal body — I don’t have to shave my legs or pluck my eyebrows as often. As for sex post-50, it is essential that both partners have a good sense of humor. Lovemaking often includes laughter.
Regular exercise and eating well have also helped you curb your symptoms. Can you talk about your regimen?
Regular exercise is essential. I am in a walking group and participate in Half Marathons 2-3x a year.
The very first thing I have in the morning is a glass of water with either fresh lemon juice or a shot of apple cider vinegar. Then I follow that with a scoop of vanilla protein powder mixed with decaf coffee. Yum. The best brand for me is Kathy Smith’s Plant-based Protein Shake. With age, I have become lactose-sensitive so I don’t drink cow’s milk proteins but I do love cheese of all kinds. At some point during the day, I have a BioK Probiotic drink. It helps digestion and boosts my immunity. I eat a big salad at least once a day to which I add protein, feta, sunflower seeds, and diced avocado. I am not a big pasta or bread eater, but I love rice. Nowadays I avoid red meat for dietary as well as ethical reasons. My indulgences are popcorn and chocolate chip cookies. Flavored sparkling water such as LaCroix or Spindrift is usually always nearby.
The most important supplement I take every day is 4g Omega3 capsules. I use Dr. Sears Zone Diet OmegaRx2. I also take Vit D, B Complex, Calcium/Magnesium, PreserVision, and MaquiRx which is a polyphenol Dr. Sears sells.
You are a huge lover of music and the arts. Could you talk about why the arts mean so much to you and maybe a bit about the non-profits you serve?
I love being around creative people. In high school, I hung out in the art room and in college, my friends were either architecture, drama, or art majors. This translated into a long career as an art museum professional. My time is now split between two nonprofits. For over 12 years I have been an active Board member of Artists in Residence in Everglades, aka AIRIE. We oversee an artist residency and contemporary art gallery within the Everglades National Park. Working with Park staff, contemporary artists from all over the country are invited to live in the Everglades where they learn about the complexities, challenges, and beauty of the Everglades, one of the most unique ecosystems in the world, and the source of fresh water for all of South Florida. The artists respond by incorporating their experiences into their creative practice which is then shared with the public through exhibitions and performances. Artistic expression can be transformational in ways that scientific data fall short.
I also serve as the Executive Director for Camilla and Earl McGrath Foundation created from the estate of a couple who were close family friends. She was a prolific photographer and he worked in music production and then owned two successful art galleries. During their long marriage they were known for their salon-type dinners at their large Manhattan apartment where emerging artists, writers, and musicians would interact with their older established friends, many of whom were cultural leaders of their day. The Foundation celebrates its legacy by supporting artist residencies.
Thank you Valerie for this glimpse into such an interesting life. Now we know to avoid hot flashes, just move to Florida!
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