10 Things you might not know about me.

Are you sometimes surprised at what others might think if they only see the outer layers of you?

In the delightful film, Shrek tells Donkey, who was afraid of him at first, “ogres have layers”.

We’re all comprised of layers. More and more layers accumulate through our lives.

Most of what contributed to my layers was during my perimenopause years, late 30s through early 50s. I had no idea it was happening.

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Layers. I never participated in a sport in school, mostly reading and drawing pictures copying fashion magazines. I absolutely dreaded the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge. I’m the eldest of 6 kids, treated like a grownup early on, and often referred to as “Perfect Polli”, which I did not like at all. That’s pressure, which can result in unhealthy consequences.  When I was 15, I thought I was fat, and seeing Twiggy the emaciated model on the cover of Seventeen Magazine I decided to try extreme dieting that summer, and ran miles in my Keds sweating from places I didn’t know a body could sweat. I got very skinny for a short time, which thankfully didn’t last long.

Searching. In college in the 70s as a hippie art major, I thought jocks were dumb. Picture long blonde braids, thrift store dresses, often covered in paint or clay from hours working in art studios. After college and a stint in an exreme religious group, I began a short career in retail management, until my mom set me up on a blind date with the guy I eventually married.

As a young mom I joined charitable organizations, did daily runs (aka jogs), often with a stroller. I entered local road races, and rode bikes with kids. Years were spent baking, cooking, raising vegetables and flowers in a 3 acre garden, and thinking of writing a cookbook. I entered art shows, sold my work, sometimes won awards, and made flower arrangements for charity events. I taught pottery and painting classes for senior citizens. While my kids were in dance classes I signed up for beginner adult ballet classes. With zero sense of grace, I was a terrible ballerina but I was very good at jumping. I was sidelined for several months one summer with viral meningitis.

Living in the happy moments. Blümen was born around the same time as my 3rd baby. A friend had seen my floral arrangements and asked me to design a wedding for her daughter for 400 guests, and she had such confidence in me that I agreed. For 12 years a seasonal “pop-up” floral and event design business continued with a dedicated crew of flower friends. Brides were happy, and so was I, most of the time.

I was good at living in happy moments. Through these years I had 3 more kids, took them to NYC for modeling jobs for a few years, and experienced a long hospitalization resulting from a frightening blood clot and surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Perimenopause? No one talked about it. Divorce with 6 kids was a grueling five year endeavor, and I thought it was “just” stress when I developed fibroids and a cardiac arrhythmia, which required months of testing, and thankfully no surgery.

I knew nothing about perimenopause, but I was in my mid-40s and it was happening,

A friend invited me to join a cycling group. I showed up at that first ride with my trusty, rusty old bike, with the baby seat rack, a helmet with a baseball cap underneath, a mirror clipped on, and a coffee cup holder. After several embarrassing rides I got a better bike, joined a team, and started training. I felt better with lots of exercise, but with crazy irregular periods, and soaking night sweats, I still had no idea I was experiencing perimenopause. I was ferrying kids to lessons and sports, running the summer swim team, and barely hanging on.

Lucky me. Being on a cycling team was helpful in several ways – being outdoors, getting exercise, having a new social connection, and personal achievement doing something super challenging that I never expected to do. Like many women I thought I had to ignore or tough out symptoms of anxiety, sweating, sleeplessness. I’m so lucky that I was invited to join that cycling group, and very lucky to have a doctor who understood when I told him about the symptoms I was experiencing. He offered HRT, and the results were a relief.

Divorce was finalized, and a new chapter began to unfold.

The kids were a bit older and I had a desire and time to explore my strengths and interests and put them to use. Racing my bike was exciting, sometimes scary, crashing, once breaking a rib and puncturing a lung. Being a cyclist, getting a Spinning certification seemed like a good fit. I was doing Pilates, so the Pilates Mat certification was a logical addition. I created a group fitness program, earned a personal training certification, and more certifications followed. Rowing was the best thing I never knew I needed to learn. A great coach stuck with me and helped me obtain a certification as an indoor rowing coach.

Personal fulfillment. I was encouraged to enter a powerlifting event at age 65. I trained seriously for a few months, and I won my age category! I’m hoping to give it another shot this year in May.

During the Pandemic Get Up Keep Moving, my coaching business began, offering virtual training, and has evolved into a successful in-person and virtual business, specializing in strength training for women., and recently achieved a League Of American Bicyclists Instructor certification.

I’m an advocate for mobility justice, as director of Asbury Park Complete Streets Coalition  – safe access for people who don’t own cars, walking and rolling. I recently testified at the NJ Senate Transportation Committee for NJ Bill S361, Target Zero, zero traffic deaths.

After 5 years looking for a space and rowing machines, I started the Youth Indoor Rowing Program for kids at the Boys & Girls Club in Asbury Park. The kids are enthusiastic and really learning to row every Friday. I’m hoping to help get some kids interested in rowing on the water this summer!

Things I never imagined I would do:

Floral and event designer.

wedding flowers
Happy brides and families 1990-2005.


Polli Art Vermont spring mud season
Mixed media 2003 “Vermont Mud Season”

Bike racer.

Polli Tour De Fair Haven in front
Never thought I would be a bike racer.


A small garden nowadays.

Cook and baker.

This is the BEST apple cake.

Mom and grandma.

Being a grandma of 14 is wonderful.

Powerlifting competitor 2019.

Polli backsquat win 1
Powerlifting competition.

 Eldest sister of 6 and mom of 6 

family in grey
Family reunion 2021

Founder of Asbury Park Complete Streets Coalition

Polli testifying bill 361
Testifying in Feb. 2024 before the New Jersey Senate Transportation Committee on NJ Target Zero bill.

Youth Indoor Rowing Coach

polli with kids rowing 4
The Youth Indoor Rowing Program at the Asbury Park Boys and Girls Club

The takeaway:

Perimenopause is different for every woman. It’s been too often ignored, or misdiagnosed, like for Halle Berry. I had no idea it was happening, but it’s finally getting the spotlight so women can advocate for themselves, and find professionals who have tools to help.

For me, physical movement, strength training, good food, a supportive community, family, and a doctor who understood me and started me on HRT, which I have used for 20 years. I’m grateful for my sons who encouraged me, and other cyclists who believed in me, and my great coaches. I’m grateful for the people in the community who support advocacy for mobility justice, and our church, a hub for social justice.

Many layers have beed created in 70 times around the sun. The experiences have been challenging, fulfilling, and joy-filled, and everything in between. Thank goodness for my wonderful partner of 19 years, and our family of 6 married kids and 14 grandkids who keep us on our toes.

Never hesitate to ask for help. 

You’ll find people who are skilled, and experienced practitioners who know about women’s’ health with resources at Feisty Menopause

Movement is medicine.

Keep a social network around you.

Get strong, stay strong. Do it for you, and for the people you love.


trainer photo
My first trainer shirt.

I’d love to know about your layers.




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