Sunday, March 31, 2019

Finishing the Second Third of My Life Strong

In September of last year I blogged about having a personal brand and how the ultimate goal of this blog and my social media posts is to build a following as a writer. I'm yet to publish anything other than this blog and a couple of things online, but my goal remains the same. I have two sets of hashtags that I started using to increase my followers. One set I use when it's mostly about me and another set that are about me as a mother. Both include the hashtag #4yearplan which refers to the fact that I have four years left with my two kids.

In a few short months my daughter is graduating from high school. We are in the home stretch having her prom dress altered, preparing for Senior Night at the last lacrosse season game, taking more senior photos with her brother, and graduation party. It's all so much!

But at the end of all of this she will have made a college decision and she will most likely be going away to school out of state. When she's gone I'll only have three years left with my son to do it all over again. I'll have to prepare him for college, get him to apply for scholarships, etc.

Three years. What will I do in those three years to prepare to be an empty-nester? It's definitely something I'm thinking about. I'm thinking about my health and how I have to get back in the saddle again. I've fallen off the Peloton horse for a few weeks now and I need to get back on. I know I will. I have a new goal to reach #200by1year. So there's that. I have goals I want to reach by 50, writing goals and goals I want to reach by the time my son is in college.

I'm sad but I'm also happy. I know that when they are both grown and on their own I'll feel a little sad but I'll also be so proud of them. I'll be a little sad for myself because that part of my life will be over but I'm also excited to start the last third of my life.

I see our lives in thirds, not in halves like most people say. The first third was my childhood and my single life, the second third was my married life and being a mother, my last third will be about me and finding myself again. I half joke with the kids that once they are in college I am done with them and if they need to live with someone after they they graduate, they will have to live with their dad.

It's hard to believe I'm planning for that time and that my children will be adults soon. One is an adult technically but I don't think it will really hit her until she's in college. The time got here way too fast and these three years will also fly by. I need to get on this #3yearplan with my vision board and a timeline. Let's finish this second third of my life strong so I can move on to the last third.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Menopause Is Not a Dirty Word, Neither is Period

I've asked the question before...Why is it so hard for everyone, especially men, to talk about periods? If it weren't for periods, humans wouldn't exist. It's an important part of the life cycle, yet most people are embarrassed to talk about it. That's why it was so awesome that a documentary, Period. End of Sentence won an Oscar at this last Academy Awards. It's about Indian women in a village coming together to find more affordable menstrual products.

The same way that nobody likes to talk about periods nobody likes to talk about when women stop having them. As if menopause and period are dirty words, which they aren't. It's society who has made both such a taboo subject, along with aging and so many other things that affect women.

Me after the Chicago show in NYC, March 2019, age 49
Like pretty much everybody else I only post flattering pictures of myself on social media. I usually delete the ones where I look older because of how tired I am, the angle or bad lighting. (laughing) All reasons that don't admit that I am actually getting older. Here is one that I didn't post when Miranda and I went to NY in early March. In a nutshell this picture looks very different from the one I used when I talked about aging last time in a 2017 blog post or even the one that I posted recently at the Rodeo. This is me in perimenopause.

The blog post in 2017 was also the last time I mentioned perimenopause. Since that blog was written a year and a half ago I have officially become a member of the club, vetted by my primary care physician and all. When I wrote the blog in 2017 I was having weird long periods and then skipping. Then in August of 2018 I had my last period. I had blood work done and my doctor confirmed that I was in fact in the throes of perimenopause. The interesting thing about menopause and the medical community is that they require a full 12 months without a period to consider you in actual menopause. Therefore I am still in perimenopause and every month I pray that I stay there until August of 2019. I'm halfway there!

I had one friend who went 10 months without a period and then had a huge one so her doctor said that she had to start the countdown all over again. Two months later she had another period and she's been so sad. I would feel the same way.

The thing is this. Once we are done with having children we don't need a period anymore. We're good and we wish our bodies knew this too. I am so thrilled at the prospect of never having a period again. However I also consider myself really lucky because I'm having a much easier time than some.

I remember hearing my mother talking about "the change," "el cambio de la vida," in hushed tones with my aunt Lola. She was around my age. Then later as I got older she told me she had never had hot flashes or any of the symptoms she heard and read about.

It turns out I'm more like my mom than I thought. The change has been very subtle in some areas and not in others. I haven't had the horrible hot flashes like my sister, but I have had anxiety, forgetfulness and waking up in the middle of the night. I toss and turn and can't go back to sleep for at least an hour. Since my mother already had a bad temper I wonder if she realized that menopause could be making her more anxious. I remember being 10 years old and not wanting to tell her things or approaching her very cautiously because I didn't want her getting mad at me.

I do a serenity prayer in the morning when I'm pulling out of the driveway and I'm feeling anxious and overwhelmed. The other day when I did one my son asked how I could be feeling anxiety so early in the morning. That's when it hits me the hardest, in the mad rush of getting out of the house.

Unfortunately a lot of women suffer from everything, the hot flashes, the mood swings, the anxiety, the forgetfulness, the vaginal dryness and they don't know why. Because nobody really prepared them for all of this. Generation X has it worse because so many of us work and we carry so much more than previous generations. Some have kids while helping care for elderly parents, like I was a year and a half ago.

I read an article recently by Aileen Weintraub on Huffington Post about what nobody tells you about what happens to your body. I feel that the reason people don't talk about it more is because of this stigma that we've put on talking about periods and our bodies. There's an excellent piece called The New Midlife Crisis by Ada Calhoun on that also discusses perimenopause about halfway through it.

These are great pieces, and a start, but we have to do better. We have to stop hiding behind old-fashioned curtains and we have to get over the discomfort we feel when talking about our bodies. I tell my own kids, "Do not be embarrassed about talking about the human body. Humans exist because of periods." Yes, they've told me to stop and asked me why I'm so weird when I say things like this but I'm not going to stop and neither should any of us. We need to keep the discourse going, writing articles and making movies, until it's not something to be ashamed of, but something we can talk about to our sons and daughters so that they in turn can talk to future generations.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

I Love New York Once Again, for the Seventh Time

This was probably my seventh trip to New York. There was the first time when Miranda was a baby and I went alone for a conference. The second time I went it was with Rey and it was his first time there. I went for a conference and he had a blast exploring the city alone. I remember that as one of the best trips we ever took, when we had the most fun. There was the time we went when there wasn't a work conference but we did because we had a free stay at a hotel. I went for a conference again in 2008 and Rey went that time too. After my divorce I went with Vicki in 2012, also for a conference. Then the last time I was there I went with both kids. That was in 2013. This time I went with Miranda and we went up to visit Long Island University. This is one of the universities that has accepted her.

Here we are in Brooklyn, NY.
Every time I visit New York I feel like I belong there. It's funny that I do because I really do love Houston. I'm very proud of being from Texas. Part of me thinks I just feel that way because I'm visiting and I don't live there but I have felt that way every single time I'm there. I love the energy, I love taking the subways, I love the feeling of something exciting happening.

I had never been when it snowed! This visit there was a little bit of snow on the ground on Friday when we toured the university in Long Island. Then overnight it snowed and we woke up to snow everywhere, especially on our walk to the Brooklyn Museum. It was still snowing a little when we woke up and looked out the window. It was beautiful but hard to walk around.

We packed a lot into our short weekend trip. We arrived Friday morning and we went straight to LIU and spent the whole afternoon there. Miranda got to sit in on a nursing lab in their state of the art "hospital." They have an amazing setting for the kids to learn and they are going to build them an emergency room across the hall. So cool! LIU is offering her a very generous merit scholarship to attend the School of Health Science and to be a part of the Honors program. We just have to pay for room and board, which is going to be a stretch but we may be able to do it. I feel that if she attends LIU's Health Science program she will be more than prepared to take the MCAT and to apply for medical school.

She's also been accepted into the University of Houston and Sweet Briar but we are waiting to hear from around four more schools.

By the time we were finished at LIU we were tired and starving. We ate as soon as we arrived at Penn Station and then we went on to check into our hotel in the financial district. We'd been up since 3:30 am, with only a short nap on the plane, so we were ready to go to bed!

Saturday we went to the Brooklyn Museum to the see the Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving exhibit. It was an amazing exhibit that brought together all the different exhibits I've even seen in my life but it was the first time Miranda saw any of it.

I've been a Frida fan since the early 90s so I've seen a lot of her art. Somewhere between 1995 and 1996 I saw an exhibit of her father's photography in Salamanca, Spain. That was a rare and unexpected treat. In another exhibit I saw in the last 25 years I've seen photography by some of her friends, like Tina Modotti. In 1995 I traveled to Mexico City and went to visit Frida's house, the Caza Azul. I definitely did not see as much as her clothes and personal items on that trip. That was because a lot of the personal items in this exhibit were just brought out of storage in 2004.

This exhibit was more about all of those items that are finally out on display. We got to see her clothing, her jewelry and her make-up. We saw her abdominal casts that she wore, with all her artwork on them. They had her prosthetic legs and her custom made shoes. There was some art, but if you are going to see her artwork you'll be disappointed, there is less about her paintings and a lot more about her life, her personal items and many photographs of her. So many photographers were in love with her and wanted to take pictures of her.

After the museum we took the subway up to the upper west side of Manhattan to Zabar's, one of my very favorite places in the world. If I ever live in NY I'm going there every single week. After Zabar's we went back to the hotel to rest and for Miranda to do homework. After that we headed out to see Chicago, Miranda's first musical experience.

After the show we walked to Gray's Papaya and had hot dogs. Miranda took this picture of me in front, to recreate the photo on my blog from 2005, fourteen years ago!

Sunday morning we woke up early and after breakfast we headed to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. I've been visiting New York since 2003 and each visit I've watched the progress. In 2013 when the kids and I were there the two pools were finished. It was definitely an experience to walk through the now finished museum and to hear so many of the heart-wrenching stories again.

I came home and my love for New York was just solidified. I want to live in New York in a tiny apartment like Carrie Bradshaw's. I know that's just a fantasy, especially at my age, but you never know. Seth is still in high school for three more years and we'll see where he ends up for college. Then we will see where I end up.

I want for Miranda to go to the best school who makes her the best offer. I want the best opportunity for her. But I'm not going to lie, if she ends up in New York I will be thrilled. I can live vicariously through her and I can visit her every year.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

See Yourself Like Your Kids See You, With Eyes of Love

A few weeks ago I went to the Rodeo for the first time in a really long time and I went twice, back to back. On the second night there I wore these beautiful earrings that my sister gave me for my birthday, so I asked this woman I hardly know, a friend of a friend, to take a picture of me. You couldn't see the earrings in the first picture so she arranged them and took the picture again. What resulted were these two photos of me that sparked so many likes and comments on social media.

Friends commented that I looked beautiful and I commented that it was just the angle or the lighting, etc.. One friend chastised me to accept the compliments, something I always tell people myself, but then don't follow.

At home I told my daughter about this and she held my face in her hands and told me, "That's how you look. You look just like that right now. You look like that all the time."

Part of me thought that it was my daughter just being nice because I'm her mom and she loves me, but then I stopped. I can't think that way. I need to see myself in those same eyes of love.

Yeah, sometimes photos aren't going to be flattering. Sometimes you can see the wrinkles, the bags under my eyes look bigger than usual because maybe I'm tired. Or the angle shows off my double chin more than usual. When we see photos like that of ourselves we tend to think that's how we always look, but it's not true. We have to stop that negative self-talk.

For some reason we've been led to believe that thinking we are beautiful is narcissistic and vain. Women are criticized for posting selfies of themselves.

When I hear that criticism I always go back to the poem "Ode to the Selfie," by Megan Falley and Olivia Gatwood.

The last half of the last stanza is amazing.

"Today millions of girls loved themselves
in the face of a world who tells them not to.
And isn’t that small revolution enough?
And isn’t that the greatest revolution of all?"

Why does it have to be such a revolutionary idea to love ourselves? It shouldn't be.

This week I will make it an exercise to see myself like my kids see me, with eyes of love, and to believe that I am just as beautiful as I look in these photos. Will you join me in thinking the same about yourself?