Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Little Libraries and Cemeteries Are Keeping Me Busy

I’m really excited about the projects I’m working on right now. I’ve decided to make Little Libraries in Laundromats an actual non-profit organization. I want to make early education its mission.
I want to speak to parents at under-served HISD elementary schools about the School Choice program to encourage them to identify if their children are gifted in some way. I feel like there are so many gifted children in HISD who fall through the cracks because nobody takes an interest in them or because their parents don’t know how to navigate the system. Those of us that take advantage of the magnet program are parents who know about it and it can even be challenging for us. Imagine how challenging it can be for a parent with very little education or who only speaks Spanish?
I’m passionate about this cause because I attended an under-served elementary school and I was introduced to the magnet programs when I was in middle school when I attended Hamilton Middle School. After that I was in the IB program at Waltrip High School. My kids are also graduates of the Vanguard program and attended DeBakey High School, one of the top magnet schools in the city and the state.
I’m going to expand my library locations soon and I’m going to move into the Eastex/Jensen area. This is the area where I grew up and I want to collaborate with an artist in that neighborhood. There are other projects I want to work on in the community.
I’m also excited with the momentum that we’ve gained with the Historic McDaniel Street Cemetery and I’m so proud to sit on the board of the Westcott Cemetery Association as secretary. (I’ve blogged about it as the Westcott Cemetery) The Westcott Cemetery Association has made so much progress with this initiative. We had a very successful event at the cemetery on Saturday, April 10 and we announced that the Fondren Foundation has awarded us a $45,000 challenge grant. If you would like to donate to this cause there are ways to donate on our website.
I have plenty to keep me busy this next year and a half until Seth graduates. I feel like I’m building a foundation now for where I want to go in the future and this brings me satisfaction.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

On the Cusp of Something Amazing

I’ve had an epiphany of sorts. I know I'm always writing about my weight, my health, working out, etc... I've also written about how I'm at this important point in my life. I’m only a few years from being an empty nester.
Once Seth is 18 and in college, the fall of 2022 I will be in a very different place in my life. I feel like once he’s an adult I can open myself up to more opportunities. • So back to the epiphany. It was this. You know how we all say, “Oh if I could only go back to this certain age knowing what I know now?” For me it would be the age of 23, right after I graduated from college and starting my career. I may not be 23 years old, with that youthful look and good health, but I am about to be in a very similar situation when the kids are both adults. Except this time I have 51 years of life experience under my belt. • Along with the experience, I’m also going in with a much more realistic expectation than I would have had at 23. At 23 I thought I had all the time in the world. I know now that time is fleeting. • I’m excited to see what comes next because I feel like I am on the cusp of something amazing.

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.