Sunday, January 29, 2023

Where Did 2022 Go? Hello 2023!

At the end of each year I usually do a recap and talk about the blogs I wrote. I didn't do that this time. But if I had written one, it would have been the shortest one... I only wrote six blog posts the entire year. The least I've ever written. I wrote ten in 2021. So I'm not going to bother recapping a year that flew by. It was a year that I've been planning for a good while because I knew I was going to become an empty nester. I kind of just eased into this new lifestyle in the fall, doing more in the community, attending events, but I have big plans for 2023.

For starters, I began the year with 21 days of positive manifestation exercises. I wrote them out on these dashboards for my planner. I took out all the old dashboards and I started the year with fresh new pages. 

I was reading back on blog entries from seven years ago and I set six and seven year plans for preparing the kids to be ready to go off to school. They did in fact go out of state like I predicted, so I'm alone while they're in school in New York.

Now I'm setting new seven and twelve year plans for myself. In seven years I'll be sixty!! (That blows my mind!) And in twelve years I'll be sixty-five, retirement age. I'm actively working on all the things that I need to accomplish in order to be healthy and ready for retirement. I do not want to get to the end of this road of working my whole life only to find that I have illnesses that keep me from doing the things I want to do. 

Just to be clear, I am realistic enough to realize that sometimes the Universe has different plans for us and there are some illnesses that are inevitable. We can't do anything about those. I'm talking about the illnesses that I CAN avoid by being mindful and balanced about what I eat and how much I exercise. 

What are some of my plans for retirement? I'm going to yell some of my ideas out to the universe or the interwebs! 

1. I want to really give my writing the time that it deserves. I want to actively work on sending my work out to literary magazines and working on novels I want to write. These are things that I can start doing now that I'm an empty-nester and I've claimed back so many hours in my life. 

2. I want to buy a renovated vintage trailer and a small pickup truck for my retirement and travel around Texas and neighboring states with it. 

3. I'd like to live in a different European country three months at a time. Maybe three months there and come home for three months. This idea is still very preliminary. Ideas for countries? Spain of course, Italy, France and Greece. Maybe countries in the UK, but I need to visit first.

So what are the things I'm doing in the next few years to prepare for retirement? Some of the same old song and dance. Eat right, exercise and write. Write, write, write. I can only get where I want by writing, like a musician practices their instrument. 

I want to go visit the spots I'm thinking of living in and I need to start budgeting how much rent will cost, etc... Then start working on a plan for how I'm going to pay for my retirement besides social security, 401K and my pension. I'm sitting on a nice little nest egg right now (house and land) and that's a whole other decision in itself. 

My word for 2023 is "Balance." It's a year of practicing balance in everything I do. No overeating or overindulging, no overspending, taking care of myself, writing and traveling when I can, both domestically and internationally. It's also the year my girl graduates from college so there's a big New York trip in May for her graduation and to get Seth packed up for the summer. I love New York!

Always keeping in mind that, "life is what happens when you're making plans." Cheers to a great 2023!

Monday, November 07, 2022

Possible Empty Nest Syndrome or a Shriveled Up Left Ovary?

I'm struggling with a little bit of depression. Struggling is the right word because I'm fighting it and if you see me out and about you'd never guess it. Since my kids both left to college I've been keeping busy with activities all around town. 

Me at a fundraiser for Art in the Heart

I've been to book launches, fundraisers, events at Art in the Heart, Oklahoma to visit family, and a lot of dinners and gatherings with my girlfriends. So on the surface it looks like everything is great. The truth is that I've been paralyzed in a way that's very similar to how I felt after my dad died. It's really strange to feel this mix of being busy and out socially, but then not being able to get anything done in my house, like cleaning and laundry.

I've been wondering if secretly I'm suffering from empty nest syndrome. By secretly I mean, even I don't know I am or I'm in denial that I am. I pulled up an article with signs and symptoms and a couple of them stood out as possibilities. One of them was feeling a lack of control over the kids' lives and another was anxiety because I'm worried about them. The two are very closely related. I lack control and maybe that gives me anxiety. I can see both of them as possible reasons for how I'm feeling. I worry about Seth because it's his freshman year and I hope he's keeping up with everything. I worry about Miranda, her senior thesis and getting into medical school. Things I have no control over. 

It's strange to say this because I'm really excited to have the time to do all the things I want to do and I have been out doing a lot in the community. I'm also super happy for my kids and I want to see them fly. Why would I be sad that they're gone or because I don't have control over their daily activities? It's also possible that I'm secretly depressed because having both kids in college is a reminder that I'm growing older and that I have less time to achieve my goals. 

Another possible reason for my lack of motivation may be menopause. I've never shied away from talking about menopause. In fact, I think it's ridiculous that people can't talk about periods and menopause when they are all part of the cycle of life.

I've been in menopause since October of 2020, however I've had a couple of weird things happen so my doctor sent me in for a pelvic ultrasound. When I received the results in my portal I tried to decipher them. One thing that stood out was that the technician couldn't see my left ovary. I Googled why that could be and I found out that when our ovaries stop working they get so small that they can't be seen on an ultrasound. So in other words, I have a shriveled up left ovary. My ovaries are packing up and leaving. It's like they are saying, "Our work here is done!" 

This could be another reason for my listlessness. I seriously don't feel like doing anything at all. But I am. I'm forging ahead anyway, going out to events, writing essays, finishing the last chapter of my Kindle Vella novel, and planning what I'm going to read next. Even writing this is doing something and let's not forget that I do work 8-10 hours per day, depending on the day. I've been working so hard that sometimes I don't feel like cleaning, exercising or writing at the end of the day. 

I need to do something to address the possible empty nest syndrome and find strategies on how to cope. I also need to see the doctor so I can get the official diagnosis of my ultrasound to put my mind at ease. Unfortunately I can't control the fact that losing our ovaries affects us emotionally. I need to learn how to work though that too. Maybe I should schedule a weekly massage for the stress. All I can do is find 
ways to work through these feelings and to take everything one step at a time. #selfcare #selflove

Sunday, September 11, 2022

And Just Like That... I Live Alone

On the first morning that I woke up all alone in my house I lay in my bed for a while and I could clearly remember bringing my youngest home from the hospital. It really does seem like just yesterday. How can I still remember the feeling, how he looked, and how exhausted I was those first couple of weeks? I can remember bringing Miranda home too, but I mention Seth because he's my baby and the last one to leave the nest. Almost two weeks ago he set out on the 1,600 mile road trip with his sister and father and I flew out to meet up with them in Brooklyn. 

First we moved my daughter's things out of storage and into her dorm at LIU Post on Long Island. She's a senior this year. I got this gem of a photo of the three of us at LIU Post. My babies!

So now I'm alone and although I know it's not permanent until they are full blown adults, who don't come home for the holidays and summers, it's still Phase 1. It's also the first time I've lived alone in my entire life. How can that be? 

Well, I grew up in a traditional Hispanic and religious home with older parents. I wasn't allowed to go away to college and even when they let me go to St. Petersburg, Florida to do a summer internship the stipulation was that I had to live with two older Jehovah's Witness women. So that wasn't really living alone, although the women were nice, didn't enforce a curfew, and I had my own private entrance to my room. 

I lived at home, through college, when I started working, and until I got married at twenty-seven. I went from my parents' home to being a wife and then a mother. When I got divorced at forty-one I had two young children and not too long after that my elderly father came to live with me. Although we had reversed roles now that I was the caretaker, it was still my father and there's a dynamic in that relationship where you're never really the adult. 

Here I am four years since my father passed away, and my kids are both in college. I went grocery shopping just for myself when I got back from New York and it was strange to only shop for one. Then I remembered that this was actually the first time I have ever lived alone, even if it's just for four months, until the winter break. 

I also know that if my daughter ends up in medical school in Houston she will live with me again, so this new experience may only last for a year. I'm okay with that because it means my girl will be a doctor and that's way more important to me, because being a mother never ends. Of course if she ends up at NYU or Tulane that will be a different story and this adventure will continue. I just have to enjoy it while it lasts. 

So what's the plan for this empty nest? Write, read, exercise, make art, go to readings, go to art exhibits, go out with friends more. The list goes on, but writing and exercising are my two main goals. I also want to create more art, like collage art and zine art, something I've really wanted to try.

Life is beautiful and I have a lot of time ahead of me to do the things I love. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

My Half Birthday and a Colonoscopy on the Side

Nobody likes to talk about their colon. Nobody likes the idea of having a colonoscopy and many people don't.  Yet colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Tomorrow I'm having my first screening.

Me and Hilda, early 1970s

Tomorrow also happens to be my half birthday, halfway to fifty-three. Something of significance, that I may have mentioned before, is that my half birthday always falls a day after the anniversary of my sister Hilda's death. It's always a time of introspection for me. A time to take stock of my life and where I'm at in this journey. I'm glad I'm doing something as important as getting screened for colon cancer.

First let's talk about the colonoscopy and why I've been putting it off. I really haven't been avoiding it completely. It's really been the circumstances and yes, I haven't been in a hurry to do it. My first excuse was that I turned fifty during the Covid pandemic. When my OBGYN asked me about it I told her I would do it but I let another year go by and I didn't make an appointment. She asked me to do it again and she referred me to a doctor in her building. I made the appointment, which wasn't available for a few months, but I still wasn't in a hurry. The appointment was scheduled for May and then the doctor's office called me because the doctor was going on maternity leave. 

In the middle of all of this back and forth I found out in May that a friend from elementary school and middle school passed away from colon cancer. He was fifty-two. I'm not going to lie. Finding this out and going to his funeral was another reminder that I needed to get this done.

So here I am three months later on the eve of both my first colonoscopy and my half birthday and on the 27th anniversary of my sister's passing. I've been doing a lot of planning and plotting my goals lately. I have two notes in my phone. One is "Three Month Goals" for all of my immediate goals, like getting the kids off to college. The second one is called "5 Year and 13 Year Goals," and that one has all of my longer term goals for writing and moving towards retirement. I am trying to make it a habit to look at these goals every single day to keep myself on track. 

One of the most important parts about my long term goals is my health. I've said it again and again. My health is the bedrock on which I must build all of my goals for the last part of my life. If I don't have my health I won't be able to go on any of the adventures that I have planned. So starting with this colonoscopy tomorrow, here is to prevention and doing the things to keep me alive.

Monday, July 18, 2022

An Empty Nest and the World is My Oyster

We are more than halfway through 2022 and I've only blogged two times this year. My biggest personal accomplishment this year has been that I ran several 5K runs and my first 10K. My second biggest achievement has been that I finally put my 25 year old novel out into the world. The third goal I've accomplished is to do well in my career, chiefly making my goals consistently. My current and most pressing goal is to get these kids off to New York and for them to find an apartment. I picture them living over a deli or restaurant in a building like this is Queens. This is a photo of a building in Brooklyn, but same idea.

I am at a very interesting point in my life. Both my kids will be gone to college now and I'm going to be somewhat of an empty nester. I say "somewhat" because they will still be coming home for holidays and the summer. (There's also the possibility that Miranda may go to medical school in Houston next year.) Other than those times, I will be alone for three months at a time to do more of the things I want to do. 

I wrote about this a year ago and how I felt like I was on the cusp of something amazing. I still feel like that and that I'll be open to more opportunities. I feel like I did in 1993 when I had just graduated from college, started working, and I had my whole life ahead of me. I was free to do anything I wanted to do. I wish I had really appreciated it then. But I'll be there again soon, except this time I have a lifetime of experience that I didn't have back then and I know what little time I have left on this earth.

One of the great things about being where I am in my life is not having the desire to procreate. I wrote about this freedom a while ago when I turned forty-seven. It's a very freeing feeling when you don't really care what men think of you. I'm not out to impress a potential mate any more because I'm done with that biological phase of my life. 

With all this in mind I've created five and thirteen year plans for the things I want to achieve. For these next few years that the kids are in school I want to take in as much art and literature as I can and in turn I also want to create as much as possible. I want to write earnestly and I want to complete a few books, not just this one. I have more personal goals and I want to dream big. I want to be like Grandma Moses and other people who have successfully achieved their goals in the last half of their life. Those people inspire me and are my heroes. 

However, in order to do any of these things successfully I need to be sure I'm around long enough to do them. Exercise and eating right have to be the bedrock on which I build the rest of my goals. If I don't have my health it will be harder to achieve my goals. That's a whole other conversation and post, but one I've blogged about several times over the years. All I have to do is read my blogs from 2021 and I'm reminded of all the reasons why I need to do better before I run out of time. 

Speaking of running, I've been physically running a lot for the past year, but I have realized that nothing works as well as riding my Peloton. I had my blood drawn on Friday for some doctor's appointments coming up and I can literally see the difference in some of my counts during the time that I was riding the bike. It's what works for me and I need to stick with what works. Back to the Peloton drawing board!