“Better Than Before”

For Christmas I got Gretchen Ruben’s book “Better Than Before”. I was hoping it would help me with two habits: writing and eating (actually more like not eating).

I started strong with the writing and floundered with the eating. Six months later I am floundering with the writing and doing well with the eating. Kind of a surprise I must confess.

Today we will talk about my eating habits. Being a woman, ahem, of a certain age my weight was on the rise. Over the last few years I have read all about various eating schemes and how your body handles fat, sugar, carbohydrates, whole foods etc. One thing I read that has really stuck in my head is how we all think it is normal to gain weight as we age. But that is a relatively recent phenomenon. It used to be that as your metabolism slowed your appetite adjusted. But we have wrecked our regulating mechanism with vast quantities of sugar and processed foods.

I had fallen into the habit of eating all the time. A cookie here, a piece of dark chocolate there, a handful of almonds while cooking dinner. My meals were fairly healthy for the most part but my snacking was out of control. I knew snacking was what I was doing wrong, I just didn’t know how to stop it.

I sat down and had a think about my eating and decided my solution had to meet two criteria: it had to be easy and it had to make sense to me. From Ruben’s book I learned that I am a questioner. Things have to be logical for me. (And I thought I was an obliger until I took the test in the back, so take the test!)

Ruben went low carb (in the book at least) like magic. She read a book and poof she started eating low carb with no effort. (Am I the only one who read that and wanted to shove her face first into a donut?) I tried low carb but it didn’t make sense to me that apples and carrots were “bad” foods. And the minute I deny myself something I immediately start to crave it.

In the course of reading about low carb I stumbled on to Intermittent Fasting. Hmm. 1. It was easy enough. You just don’t eat for x number of hours each day. Doesn’t cost anything, you don’t have to track anything or look up values of foods. No issues with eating out and wondering what is legal for whatever your current scheme is. 2. It makes sense. You give your body a break from digesting foods and allow it access to your fat stores. Way back when people fasted all the time because they couldn’t find food. And fasting periods (and feasting periods) are something all the major religions have in common. Interesting.

I decided to give it a try. I started with 12 and 12 and worked my way up to 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of feasting. Turns out it wasn’t hard at all. The first few weeks I focused on the fasting hours. Whenever I ate last in the day I would wait sixteen hours until I ate again. I remained flexible with the times but eventually settled into last eating between 5:00p and 6:00p, sometimes earlier. I think eating earlier helps reduce the night sweats.

About a month into it I had lost 3 or 4 pounds. (I didn’t think to weigh myself that first day!) For me the most important part was how I felt. Literally with no effort my eating habits settled down. I am no longer craving or thinking about food all the time.

I typically eat two meals and somedays a snack or treat. But if I feel hungry I eat three meals. I eat whatever I want. I thought for sure I would binge on junk food but an odd thing happened, for the most part the urge for junk food has dissipated. I eat salads and apples with peanut butter and grilled salmon. Yes, I still eat a cookie or a brownie, but no more than one a day and they are homemade (individually wrapped and stowed in the freezer in the garage). And after I eat it I don’t desire more, I am satisfied.

I don’t wake up starving and often eat in a smaller window, many days I eat at 10:00a and 3:00p. But I don’t force it, I just let it happen naturally.

I am a little bummed I haven’t lost more weight but I am patient. I am now on week seven and have no problems sticking to a 6 hour eating window. Cravings are gone and really the best part is no longer thinking about food so much. I don’t snack anymore. I take it day by day and ask myself what I want to eat when I am hungry and then eat it. I am more mindful and focused when I eat and then I don’t think about food again until I am truly hungry.

The moral of the story is not that Intermittent Fasting works, but that it works for me. Each individual needs to keep trying different things until they find what works for them. So keep trying and good luck.

I’ll be taking a blogging break most of July. An unplugged vacation and then my surgery are on the agenda. Hope you enjoy this slice of summer!

I love how nice and cool this picture makes me feel.

Flash Fiction: Many Hands

My surgery is just over a month away. I keep telling myself not to start stressing over it yet, to wait until the week of my hysterectomy. But…I have never had surgery before. The only time I have been in the hospital was to have my son and that was in Montana. A much smaller, friendlier city than where I am now.

Despite my admonishments to myself, once in awhile I start to wonder exactly what it is going to be like. I have to be there at 5:30am and I picture myself shivering with cold and fatigue and wandering around lost in a huge hospital. I have a terrible sense of direction under the best of circumstances and it would be foolish to think I am just going to waltz in the correct door and find my way without any issues. That isn’t how my life goes.

Oddly enough in my imagination I never get past the point of trying to find the admissions desk. I suppose wondering about the rest of the day will come later.

Today I am writing out my fears in this week’s flash fiction challenge from Carrot Ranch. The theme is about the works of many hands. There will be many people involved in my surgery, the list has already begun with the scheduling and insurance work done. I am thinking I want to try and keep count of people the day of. I am curious as to how many people I will actually interact with that day. It may also be a good distraction from my fears.

All that said, I hope this tale remains fictional! I had to make it a two-parter, my worries couldn’t be contained in a mere 99 words. I needed to see it through to the end, couldn’t leave myself stranded in an empty hallway.

“First Time Surgery”

PART I

First I couldn’t find the right entrance:

Emergency?  No.

Staff Only?  No.

A kindly passerby asks if I need help.

Yes.

The admission’s clerk hands over a stack of paperwork.  

“Take the elevators on your left to the 4thfloor and follow the blue signs.”

I turn around and take the elevators to the right (that are now on my left.)

Fourth floor, I see only orange and yellow signs.

I stand in the middle of the hallway bewildered.

Lost again. No help in sight. I shiver.

How many people does it take to help me find outpatient surgery?

PART II

A young woman touches my arm.  Do you need help?

Yes.

Go down this hall to the end, take a right and go across the walkway and follow the blue signs.

I see blue and green signs.  What color was I supposed to follow?

I am panicking, flustered, aware of the ticking clock.

A man in scrubs stops.  All my fears come bubbling out.

I cry and babble.  He takes my arm and leads me to the check-in desk.

A nurse looks up and nods to the man in scrubs and hands me a tissue, “You’ll be fine ma’am”.

May Madness: Money

My personal definition of financial success is being able to pay all my bills, save a decent amount, take a nice vacation once a year and buy whatever I want at the grocery store.

I have to confess I have never thought too much about money. I joined the Air Force at seventeen so I had a steady paycheck at a young age. I have always been excellent at living within my means. Every payday I sat down and paid all my bills, put money into savings and then could spend whatever was left.

Despite retiring, getting married and having a child I have been able to stick to my financial mantra. We save for things and then buy them. We pay off our credit cards in full every month. We never had student loans as the military paid for most of our college degrees. I handle all the finances in our house because my husband sucks with money. He literally brought none into our marriage and I kept all my pre-marriage accounts in my name only.

Looking ahead to my real retirement years (seven years from now) I decided to hire a financial planner. And for the first time I find myself really having to think about money.

On the first run through my Financial Planner made an error and had me broke before I was 80! Luckily I caught the error and pointed it out and after the correction found I am in good shape.

My retirement scenario is not typical. I am trying to figure out exactly where I am going to retire to and from there I will be able to make a more concrete budget. My biggest concern is buying a home. I already know my husband and I will be going our separate ways so all my planning is being done on my own savings and income alone.

Now that everything is set up with my financial planner I hope I can go back to not thinking about money for a few more years. I doubt I can go wrong with sticking to the plan that has worked so far.

Til tomorrow…

May Madness: Meditation

Last August (I think, I don’t really keep track) I started meditating. In the beginning I used the Insight App all the time. It helped me remember to do it and establish the habit. I set up the timer, sometimes changing the background sounds. Sometimes I follow a guided meditation and have some favorites bookmarked. I also do walking meditation on the treadmill which I really like and should do more often. (Note to self, remember this!)

Now I still use the app often but I don’t worry if I skip a day or meditate ‘au natural’. No not naked, I meant by just sitting quietly and focusing on my breathing.

The big question is, does it do anything for me? I think it does. While I am actually doing the meditation it just feels like hard work to quiet my mind over and over again. Some days are more successful than others. At the very least it gives me a pause before jumping into the to-do list for the day.

But over time I have noticed I seem to be able to control that initial negative reaction to certain situations better. I am able to take a breath, think, and then respond. Very helpful during the absence of estrogen. Crazy helpful with parenting.

Today is the first day of summer vacation. Unfortunately I woke up only ten minutes later than normal. But then I decided this might be a good thing. I did my yoga stretches and then sat and meditated in the quiet morning. It was lovely to be able to just sit and not worry about the clock. I listened to the birds outside the window (what were they talking about?). I breathed in kindness towards myself and breathed out peace towards the world. Hopefully I will embrace the day gracefully, no matter what the universe sends my way!

Til tomorrow…

May Madness: Moon

There was a full moon last night, the Flower Moon. I love watching the phases of the moon. I love seeing the moon during the day. I love planning night swims under the moon. But man does that full moon mess with my sleep!

My bedroom faces south so this time of year the moon shines right in my window. Even with my room darkening lined curtains I need to wear a sleep mask.

I’ve noticed these last few years that my monthly cycle seems to have synched up with moon. I am sure there is some sort of scientific explanation for this but to me it feels quite mystical.

Now with both my period and the moon on the wane I am hoping to get back to sleeping through the night. I haven’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep in more than two weeks. I am so tired of being tired.

May Madness: Molars

Molars, as in “my back molars are feeling exceptionally clean today”. Why is that you ask? Because I got a new toothbrush for Mother’s Day. Obviously not just any run of the mill toothbrush. This toothbrush is like the Ferrari of toothbrushes!

My old Phillips Sonicare toothbrush still worked but it was falling apart. The grippy piece was flaking off, shedding shards of lime green all over my hand and the sink. So I asked for a new one for Mother’s Day. And my son upscaled me to a Sonicare 5100 model (it was on sale I think). It is the sleekest thing I have ever owned. All black and svelte it belongs in a New York city apartment.

Two minutes with this baby and my teeth feel like I just walked out of the dentist’s office.

Til tomorrow…

May Madness: Monday

Lots of people aren’t thrilled about Mondays. Back to work, back to school, back to the being responsible routine. I, on the other hand, actually like Mondays. After having small child and spouse underfoot for two days I am ready for some quiet solitude. For a few hours of not hearing demands for food and where is…

Already this morning I have hung the first load of laundry out to dry and put a second load in the washer. And I cleaned the family room carpet and the kitchen floor. I was going to clean the rest of the floor downstairs next but I am thinking maybe I will wait until tomorrow. The dirt certainly isn’t going anywhere and I am feeling low on estrogen. I need to make sure I take some ‘me’ time today. Do something relaxing. Which I can do because it is Monday!

Happy Monday! 🌈

May Madness: Morning

This whole writing a blog post everyday seemed like a great idea….back in April! Of course today I don’t feel like writing. So typical. When I was thinking about the logistics of May my first thought was to write my post right after I delivered small child to school. But of course I couldn’t do that today as I had a 9:30a appointment and then wanted to run a few errands while it was still relatively cool out.

And then there is the fact that I am not a morning person. Never have been. During my career I worked nights whenever I could. My motto was: “It’s easier to stay up until 5:00a then get up at 5:00a.” I sleep so much better during the day. I was thinking that at 1:30a this morning when I couldn’t get back to sleep. And then I started wondering if I would go back to being a night owl when my full time parenting duties are done. Hmmm.

Anyway, my other thing is not wanting to fall into a rut. So while I do a lot of the same things each day, a routine of habits if you will, I vary what order I do things in.

So I guess what I am saying is you and I will get to be surprised together about when I post each day.

Til tomorrow…

A morning shot of our saguaro blooming.


May Madness

As happens sometimes I have decided to shake things up a bit. I have been disappointed in myself with my writing of late. Worry over my menopausal issues, the transition to summer heat and greater demands on my parenting patience and energy and have left me feeling quite apathetic. I feel the need of a challenge. A challenge all my own. And so “May Madness” has been invented. I will write everyday this month. First opportunity I have each morning. In an added burst of insanity I have decided to only address topics that begin with the letter “M”. Why? Cause alliteration is cool? Because I am weird? To up the challenge a bit? Yeah, that last one sounds good. 🙃

In mid-April this seemed like a great idea. And then I wondered what to do about a photo. My site is set up in such a way I really do need a featured image. What to do? Learn something new! I spent an afternoon listening to Cubs baseball (a win!) and creating powerpoint slides, saving them as a jpeg and then adding them to my media library. I decided to keep it simple with clipart flowers. Flowers suit the month of May. I could have used my own flower photos but for whatever reason I felt like using drawings.

So tomorrow the potentially maddening mission begins.

More on the Rock

I think menopause is like childbirth. Once you are on the other side all the gory details quickly recede from memory.” – Tracey: April 17, 2019

So I had my follow up appointment with my doctor and it went very well. For one thing she explained about how in the last appointment she could really only do the pap smear because the insurance company won’t let you schedule one appointment for two things, like talk about menopause and a pap smear.

So we had a good talk about all my symptoms (which I had written down and she made a copy of) and she did the biopsy and scheduled me for an ultrasound later in the week. And she said we will see a lot of each other until we get things figured out.

ONE WEEK LATER

I get my results back from various tests:

  1. My FSH level is now 12. (Up from 6.7 last time, down from 22 two years ago.)
  2. My ultrasound showed three fibroids.
  3. My ultrasound also showed a 7mm thick lining of the uterus indicating I am not in menopause.
  4. My biopsy showed polyp cells.

MY INITIAL REACTIONS

  1. Considering how bitchy I feel right now I am sure another FSH test today would be back in the 20’s.
  2. Oh, these must be the culprits of all my woes!
  3. What? I never thought I was in menopause.
  4. What? I thought I was being tested for endometrial cancer.

REACTIONS AFTER SOME THINKING AND A BIT MORE RESEARCH

  1. FSH is not rational. And how does one manage Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) if your levels are all over the place?*
  2. Something like 70% of women have fibroids and mine seem pretty small (if I remember correctly) so probably not an issue.*
  3. Ah, I think the doctor was making sure I wasn’t in menopause and all the bleeding was caused by polyps/fibroids. It would be pretty funny (not) if I actually was in menopause already and just didn’t know it.
  4. Well, maybe I was tested for cancer too but she was looking for polyps which she found. Am I the only one who hears biopsy and thinks cancer? *

I am writing down all my questions so I don’t forget anything.*

From the on-line ‘Sketchbook Revival’ I am participating in.

ONE WEEK BEFORE THE NEXT APPOINTMENT

I must confess I think I am secretly hoping she says, yup, you need a hysterectomy. How does May 20th sound? (After bowling season ends and just before school lets out.) Perfect. And then we’ll set you up with HRT and by Flag Day (June 14th) you’ll be right as rain. But I am pretty sure major surgery is not going to be the first option.

My biggest fear is that I will spend months/years being miserable while various drugs and uncomfortable procedures are carried out and in the end I end up getting a hysterectomy anyway.

In the meantime I am surviving one day at a time. I’ll watch “Poirot” and work in my sketchbook and listen to Cubs baseball.

AFTER THE APPOINTMENT

It was a good visit despite being 30 minutes late. My doctor had two patients in labor so I didn’t get upset. Even crazy hormonal me can’t be mad at tiny babies trying to be born. And once the appointment started she was very focused and explained everything. I got all my questions answered and we have decided on a course of treatment: I am getting a hysterectomy!

I have a large polyp in a bad place and something about a clearly visible blood vessel feeder. So that is why I am having such long/heavy bleeding. I could just have the polyp removed but then I couldn’t have HRT and there is a chance I would just get another polyp. I can’t have HRT because of the fibroids. They are small now but HRT may make them grow and then they would cause bleeding.

By having the hysterectomy I can have HRT for my other symptoms. I won’t have to worry about uterine cancer (another potential HRT risk), fibroids or polyps and no more periods!

Once the insurance company gives the okay I will schedule the operation. It is done robotically, four small incisions, one night in the hospital and about 2 weeks recovery time. I won’t be able to drive for a week or two or swim for four to six weeks. I am dithering between before or after our planned summer vacation.

After the surgery my doctor and I can figure out the HRT. Apparently the FSH level is ignored and she goes strictly by symptoms. So it sounds like there may be some trial and error there.

There is a plan, an end in sight. I am sure once I schedule the surgery and it gets closer other feelings will be generated but for now I will enjoy my feeling of relief.

I don’t know why but I am absurdly happy with this sketch.