Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Universe is Shouting at Me

After my last birthday post the Universe showed me once again that it has a great sense of humor and that I am never in control. Or in the words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

I spent a year working from home, wearing a mask, hand washing and sanitizing all the time. I did leave the house. I went to the neighborhood stores, got a pedicure twice in one year, and I went out to eat occasionally, always with a mask. I saw a few friends and not always with a mask. In the end I didn’t get Covid19 from any public place. I got it in the most common way that people get it, from someone I know.

Me, at the tail-end of my illness.

Not to be dramatic, but you all know that I am. I realized something today. This is my 5th lease on life. I really better do something freaking amazing now!

First there was the lump in my breast that was benign – July, 2015. I’m ashamed to say that after that scare I promised that I would start running and eating healthy. I wasn’t true to my promise. So the Universe had to give me another nudge.

In November, 2018 I had a heart misdiagnosis. The doctors thought I had WPW and they weren’t sure what the second thing was that they were seeing. One doctor thought that it was possibly a sick sinus node. Thank goodness it ended up being an ectopic atrial rhythm that’s not hurting anything. I don’t have WPW either. This ectopic thing mimics WPW.

February, 2020. While taking vancomycin, an antibiotic, for a bone infection, intravenously, I developed a severe allergic reaction that put me in the hospital for five days. Thank goodness I didn’t die of anaphylaxis.

That same month, February, 2020, because of the bone infection, I had to have the tip of my toe bone amputated and I felt very fortunate that it was just the tip. I didn’t lose the whole toe! Which would have been terrible for my high heels and open toe sandals.

Now I can add, “Survived Covid19” to the list, March, 2021. Although it’s still early, and I don’t know what damage it may have caused, I am still extremely grateful that I didn’t end up in the hospital on a ventilator.  I was extremely exhausted for three weeks, nauseous a lot of the time and just feeling all-over sick, but I kept saying that if that was it, I was grateful.

Those of you who know me know where I’m going with this. That’s FIVE times that I have had a very close call with either death or a serious illness. I’m taken back to that original scare, the breast lump that was smooth and round. I was told that because of its appearance in the ultrasound it was benign. They’ve never found another lump since then.

Right after that happened I promised that I would start running (this was pre-Peloton bike) and that I was going to change my ways. Although I’ve made a lot of progress since then I’m not where I should be. If I’m being honest with myself I’m at least sixty pound over-weight and I need to seriously work on that. I'm going to change up my routine and I'm going to start running while the weather is nice on the days I'm not on the bike. 

In addition to getting healthier, I also keep starting and stopping on my writing journey. Yes, I write here, yes I’ve been published recently in a magazine, but I always allow myself to be side-tracked. I get distracted from the bigger goal, which is to write regularly, to sharpen my skills, and to publish a book. I used to say a novel, but now I’m thinking a non-fiction book will be my first book.

I have a new lease on life. I have another chance. The Universe is getting tired of sending me these nudges and pushes and now it's shouting at me. I need to listen now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Happy 51st Birthday Eve to Me

Here I am on the eve of my 51st birthday waiting for the clock to tick to 12 midnight. Well, technically I won't be 51 until 7:09 a.m. tomorrow. This photo is of me a week ago, so basically already at 51 years old.

I wanted to give a true and honest view of myself at this age, so I'm not wearing any make-up in this picture. The lighting is probably just right because you can't see the heavy bags under my eyes that you can usually see.  It's just the honest truth. I'm getting older and there is nothing I can do about that except take care of myself. 

I recently did a Vision Board for the next 14 years. Why 14 years you may ask?  Because that's when I plan to retire from working. I'm actually really excited about the prospect. Can you imagine a life of doing whatever the hell I want 24/7? Bliss! However, I don't want to be one of those people who retires and then immediately dies. 

So my vision board points out that first and foremost I need to eat right and exercise. Although, who are we kidding, that's not necessarily a guarantee that I'll live until 90. However, it will increase my chances. EVERYTHING starts and ends with my health. 

If I can stay healthy then I can pursue other opportunities and maybe even move to another city for work, when the kids are both independent. If I stay healthy and strong then I don't have to worry when I retire and I can pursue all the things on my bucket list, ala Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicolson. That is the most exciting prospect of all!

I'm going to be like Grandma Moses pursuing my artistic passions late in life. Maybe I'll join Sisters on the Fly, a group of women traveling around in their vintage trailers. The possibilities are endless. 

When you are staring at a soon-to-be 17 year old boy in your house and your daughter is a sophomore away at college, you realize how insignificant 14 years can be. It's nothing and it will fly by. 

That's why it all comes back to my health. I completed my 200th Peloton ride as promised by Halloween 2020 and when I got back from my nephew's wedding I had another minor toenail surgery. (YES, on that same toe.)  I got back on the bike in earnest in January and I haven't looked back since. On February 4, I completed my 200th strength workout! I'm not the best, and I don't have the most rides, but I am happy and proud of my achievements. Like our Peloton coaches tell us consistently, we are doing way more than the person on the couch! 

Recently I decided to level up. I've never been a morning person, but recently, in January, I also started waking up earlier to work out in the morning. This has been a HUGE game changer in a couple of different ways. For one, I'm waking up earlier and starting the day earlier and on a positive note. Second, I'm not only working out on Tuesdays and Thursday during the week as usual, I've added Mondays and Wednesdays into my week, with floor exercises, like Core, Pilates and Barre. It's been my goal to add in more core workouts  

The other way that it's been a game changer is that it's shifted the whole energy of my day and has given me back so much time and I need to appreciate that more. By this I mean that, when I work out in the morning, in the evenings I feel like I have so much time to do so many other things. This is what I need to appreciate more and I need to do something with that time, like writing or learning a new language. 

I only have a very short period of years left in this life. I want to make the best of those years and I want to have the time of my life. I can just see myself traveling around the country with the "sisters" in my little vintage trailer and visiting museums in every major city. My job from now until 2035 is to make sure I'm healthy, to stay alive, and to be ready for this last leg. 

Friday, December 04, 2020

Why We Should Be Talking About Menopause

I've been using the Period Tracker app for the last couple of years. Ever since I wanted to keep up with what months I was skipping and more importantly how many months in a row I went without a period. 

I blogged about menopause and periods and how they shouldn't be taboo subjects in March of 2019 because I hadn't had a period since August of 2018 and the very next month in April I had one. I like looking at the log charts on this app because it tells me exactly when I had a period and when it stopped and started again. It's a great tracker if you're trying to get pregnant and you want to know when you're ovulating, but it's also a great tracker when you're at the end of the road like I am.  I had my last period in October of 2019 and it took me a few months to realize it. 

After my toe surgery I started on my quest to reach 200 rides on my Peloton. I started a count-down on my Franklin Planner. When I got to October to add a 200 sticker to my target date I found a couple of stickers that said "Done!" and "This is big." I was confused because I thought they were in reference to my 200 Peloton rides. Then I realized that I had put those stickers there when I had an idea I would be reaching 12 months without a period by that date. I had put them there as a count-down to the end. You have to skip 12 consecutive months to be considered in menopause and I knew that October 30 was my goal date. 

A year and a half ago I also talked about the veil of secrecy around menopause. I thought it was really interesting that it is a taboo subject because it's related to periods and aging. How can talking about periods, the reason we are all alive, be shameful? I just don't understand why as a society we have created this.

I started doing research about it again for this blog and I found some really interesting articles that speak about the lack of conversation around menopause.  One article from the UK said that women even shy away from talking about it with their doctor. To their doctor! The one person we should feel completely comfortable talking to. In fact, an AARP study found that 42% of women surveyed did not discuss menopause with their healthcare provider. 

I went to my my well-woman exam on the anniversary of not having a period and I proudly told her I had reached the 12 month goal. The nurse looked at me enviously and said, "Wow! So lucky!" The funny thing is, that was it. She made note of it and there was no further discussion about it. I'm not going to lie, I was expecting a little more fanfare. Maybe a cake or balloons? She didn't ask me if I was experiencing side-effects, anxiety, memory loss, nothing... I'm the one that had to tell her that I felt my hair was thinning more than usual and she prescribed a scoop of collagen powder in my coffee every day. It's good for bone density too!

While doing research about why women don't talk about menopause I came across a great article in the Harvard Business Review, "It's Time to Start Talking About Menopause at Work." The article makes such a great point. It says that "menopause often intersects with a critical career stage." Most significantly it occurs at the time of a woman's life when she is most likely moving into a leadership position. The article points out that one of the reasons women don't want to discuss what they are experiencing is because of "ageism." In fact, this is the reason they should be talking about it. We should be helping women work through this difficult time so they can continue to be productive members of the organization. 

When I read about the anxiety, memory loss, fatigue, and depression caused by menopause, I immediately thought about how organizations are preaching about DEI awareness. If corporations and organizations are serious about DEI, ageism needs to be at the top of the list, next to sexism. This is a real issue that affects millions of women every year, possibly 50 million women in the U.S. in 2020.  As Jeneva Patterson points out in the her Harvard Business Review article, "We are learning to discuss race, gender, and generational differences more openly at work and we need to put menopause on the agenda."

The sad part is that there is so much misinformation about menopause. Diane Danzebrink in the UK has made it her mission to "normalize the conversation about a phase of life that every woman will experience at some point." She launched the #makemenopausematter campaign to provide menopause education in the workplace and for menopause to be taught in relationship and sex education classes in schools. 

This is a great start, but European countries are often ahead of the U.S. in discussing human sexuality. We need these same kind of movements in the U.S. We need for menopause to become part of the conversation in the OBGYN office, in the workplace, in the press, and online. 

We need to normalize conversations about reproduction, the fact that periods lead to all of us being alive, and that there is an end to this cycle in life. Women should not feel ashamed to talk openly about menopause and they shouldn't feel ashamed or feel "old" because of menopause. We all need to be talking about it, in our homes, in the media and in the workplace. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

One Hundred and Eighty-Five Peloton Rides

Today as I completed my 185th Peloton ride I was amazed at how far I've come. I'm not a super athlete. I wasn't even athletic or in shape when I bought the bike. I'm still not. I'm fifty pounds from my ideal weight, mine, not even the one on the chart for my height and age. According to that one I'm about 80 pounds overweight. My point is, you don't have to be super athletic to have a Peloton and to get active.

It has taken me two years to get here, with a lot of hurdles along the way. But I'm here and I was killing that 30 minute pop ride with Robin Arzon today, and that's all that matters. 

I've also completed 173 strength workouts. The bulk of those have been arm workouts. Most of them are 10 minutes high rep workouts with 3 pound weights, but I recently added 20 minute workouts with heavier weights. That is also an example of how far I've come. 

My original plan was to complete my 200 rides by Halloween, but things haven't really worked out that way and now some unexpected plans came up for that weekend.  I've set a new goal to get to 200 by October 28. That means I will have to average one ride per night this month. 

I am going to take this moment to feel proud of myself because as Robin says, "If nobody's clapping for you, clap for your own damn self."

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Caring For Myself

I read a wonderful quote today on someone's Instagram page. "Caring for yourself is not self-indulgence, it's self-preservation." - Audre Lorde

My temporary #9 tattoo that I'm testing. Wrist or arm, where I had the picc line inserted?

This quote is so significant for a number of reasons! 

First let's start with the fact that it's a quote by Audre Lorde, a feminist icon. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know who she was. My 19 year old daughter who is a sophomore pre-med student and wants to be an OBGYN, and who is also taking feminist classes in college, had to tell me she is a feminist icon. 

Second. I recently joined a book club, which in itself was self-indulgent and amazing. I love that it has me reading on a regular basis again and that it has me reading outside of my comfort zone. I prefer fiction, but this has me reading non-fiction and graphic novels. I don't think I would have ever read a graphic novel, if it weren't for this book club. I'm so happy I found it. Reading again, regularly, is a big part of caring for myself. Feeding my brain is one of the things that is the most important in my life. 

Third. I found this quote on the page of another Peloton member. I LOVE that the main admin of our page, Working Moms of Peloton, asks us periodically to share our Instagram pages and to support one another. I've followed numerous fellow members and I have 30+ new followers today because of her last post. I feel like these type of followers are the MOST legit because they are people who I have a lot in common with. I love that! So when I saw this quote on one of the mom's pages I thought it was just perfect.

Fourth. The words of my 5th grade teacher, Ms. Lula Rivers, will forever play in my head. I was passing out pencils for a test and I forgot to give myself a pencil first. She shook her head and told me, "You should have given yourself a pencil first. Self-preservation." I was 11 years old and I will never forget that lesson. We have to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. 

Working out and taking care of yourself IS NOT self-indulgent. It is definitely self-preservation. Life is not a dress rehearsal, it's the real thing. We only get one shot at it and we have to do it right. Or if you got started wrong, like I did, you have to re-commit and get it right. Our health is a big part of this because that's what decides if you will have a long life or a short life. 

I had blood work done for my annual physical this past week and I was so happy with the results. All my hard work this past year was worth it! I brought down my A1c  (my hemoglobin) level almost TWO whole points. That's epic! I also brought down my cholesterol and my doctor said that my liver and kidneys looked great. 

This made me feel so much closer to my goals. I still have a lot of weight and sizes to go, but knowing that I'm doing all the right things to make sure that the inside is doing good makes it so much more valuable than what I look like on the outside. 

Take care of yourself, do the things that matter to you first. Make sure you have a plan and that you're working that plan. My plan is to know what I'm doing every evening, instead of just playing it by ear.  I have days for writing and reading and I have days for doing the Peloton and studying Italian. A schedule keeps me on track and so much happier. I hope that you can find a schedule that works for you.