Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shhhhh! The movie is ON!

Movies after Xmas are a holiday tradition in our family. This year was no exception, although we decided to change it up a bit. My son, his friend and my husband were off to see "Arthur's Christmas" and since I have already seen it, I decided to take some alone time and see "War Horse." I had read the reviews and knew it was going to be a sentimental film.  I am not one to shy away from Hollywood manipulating me now and again, plus I knew my husband had no interest in seeing it. So that worked out just fine for all of us.

I got my unbuttered popcorn and headed into the crowded but not overly filled theater. I quickly spotted my favorite seat open and headed over that way. I think we all gravitate toward our favorite places to sit in a theater. Some like to be up top, others dead center but I like to be just behind the handicapped railings. No one in front of you and a place to hang your coat!

Next to me one seat away, the typical spacing left by movie theater attendees, were two adorable older women in their mid to late 70's I would guess. They both had on hand knitted winter hats, Christmas decorated sweat shirts and were deeply engaged in conversation with one another. I hesitated a moment since I wondered if the talk would go on into the movie, but thought they would both settle in once the film started.

The previews started and Nana 1 and Nana 2 were still chuckling, giggling and chatting it up like two school girls on the playground at recess. Let it go, I thought, since surely it is only previews and they will quiet down once the film begins.

Film begins and for the next 146 minutes there was barely a lull in their constant chatter. Only now, rather then the talk being about family or food, they were both engaged in a running commentary of the film! I did try at one point to quiet them down by saying in a gentle way that I thought they were adorable but could they please be a bit quieter. Both of them were quite reticent and apologized profusely but the chatter resumed within minutes, and I expect my comments were long forgotten.

Luckily it was not a film heavy on intricate dialogue and twisting plot lines so I was able to keep up with the movie quite well. I also found that their running dialogue and comments were actually humorous if a bit redundant. I must have heard "Oh beautiful, beautiful horse!" over a hundred times. Another favorite line of theirs was to comment on the "pretty girl" the "handsome boy" the poor horse" and say "oh my" over and over. They were confused about what characters were where in the film, forgetting that the young boy who raised the horse was not in the film till much later, and thought a German soldier was indeed the one and the same boy! They wondered what was happening in many scenes and asked each other repeatedly what was going on. Once scene in particular they got so loud and effusive asking "what is it, what did she get, what is under the blanket!" so many times I just had to laugh to myself at their joyous confusion and excitement.

It was quite clear to me that these two ladies were probably having the most fun watching the film in the entire audience. It was really hard not to get caught up in their excitement at being so taken by a film. They were truly adorable and bubbly, which helped me to really have fun myself since the film was a tad on the boring side, and filled with the requisite tear-jerk scenes, which was indeed tempered by their running dialogue of "oh, that's sad, that's just too sad, pretty horse, handsome boy, beautiful girl, where are they, what is that, who is he, oh that is the same horse, right, is that him, wow, oh my, what did she get, can he see, what is happening, good film, beautiful movie."

What a gift these ladies gave to me this day! I am so glad I trusted my instincts to not move my seat and stay put because what I learned from them is infinitely more interesting then the film. I was utterly taken with the fact that these two were completely and totally in the moment, engaged in a what filmmakers want us to feel, that magic that encapsulates us in a darkened theater and makes us all 7 again, if only for a few hours or so.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Going Gray: My Way!

I had been reading an article recently that states out of the 1,000 or so hair dyes on the market today, only 51 of them are deemed low hazard. Many of the ingredients in hair dye have been linked to cancers, immunity disorders and more.

So why do it?

For me, it has been more a matter of color fun and hair thickening. I have always had fine, thin hair, although certainly not to the degree it is now as I near age 50. Color has always been a love of mine, probably the artist in me looking for a way of finding self expression! Never one to stick with one color for long, I crave change. In fact, I am always a bit mystified by those women who can keep their same hairstyle and color choice they have had for years on end, without change. How marvelous to not succumb to current trends. Bravo to you ladies for having that courage! I mean it.

We all know hair dye is not good for us, surely nothing new to you about that tidbit. In fact, I am quite sure I am not telling you anything you don't already know. I have known myself for some years and yet, made a calculated decision based on my research conducted after being diagnosed with cancer many years back. I simply decided that the risks were low and to keep it up,  just not as often.

Here is the kicker though, when you add in all the other chemicals, hormones, toxins and drugs we are exposed to daily in our food, beauty products, and surrounding environment, etc,  it all adds up.  It is all cumulative and our bodies can only take so much before things start to go a bit haywire.

This article was for me, the turning point. So, as of a few weeks a go I cut off my hair in order to not have a horizontal stripe of gray growing out on my head and have decided to let the silver shine on through! Will it be easy? Not sure. Will I like it? Who knows? And more importantly, will I be treated differently? Hmmmmm, that remains to be seen.

I have had a real mixed bag of reactions, from both men and women I have spoken to about my choice. Some men opened up and started comparing it to their own experience with hair loss and baldness. Some women looked at me with abject fear in their eyes as they projected my decision onto themselves and found the whole idea anxiety producing.

Does it bother me? Sure, but I am not going to let that stop me from following through on it. I want to see if I will miss the choices and fun I have had with coloring my hair. Not sure how this will all impact me, but the risks out weigh the benefits at this point in my life, so I am committed to making it a reality. 

I have always had great interest in social anthropology, and performance art is a wonderful way to share ones explorations in this particular arena. So I will combine the two and see where it leads me. I will be posting my project to a different site devoted to a myriad of art forms,  at a later date and look forward to you all joining me as I truly assess the experience from my perspective. Look for the link to be added at some point in the near future.

If anyone is interested the article I read was in: Taste For Life magazine, the December 2011 issue. The article was entitled "dye-ing to be noticed" and was compiled from several different sources, including EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database,

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Neti Pot Linked to Deaths

I have been washing out my sinuses since I was about 11 years of age. A wonderful Ear, Nose and Throat doctor in Princeton, NJ, who came highly recommended to us by my sister who at the time was the Director of the Speech and Hearing Division at the Princeton Medical Center, taught me how to do it. His technique was to use a small syringe, filled with warm salty water. Did I like it? NO! That warm blast of water up my nose was miserable. Did it work? YES! The amount of nasty looking mucous from my sinuses was proof positive it worked. Why did I need it? I was a constant ear infection kid. Tonsils and adenoids from repeated sore throat infections, were removed at age 2, and tubes in the ears (myringotomy) several times from age 7 and up. This led my parents to finding an ENT that understood that the prevention of the infection early was a clear path to reducing the number of times I had to be placed on antibiotics.

As an adult, I switched to a neti pot and LOVE it! But have to admit I have been a tap water user....not anymore! Distilled it shall be from this point forward. And from what I read, make sure those pots are cleaned out routinely as well. It was suggested that purchasing a new one every couple months is a good idea as well.

They are still not sure if the problem came from the water in the neti pot, or swimming in local ponds, but better to err on the side of caution. After all, no water treatment facility can remove every contaminant from our water. And well water is not as pure as many like to think it is. In fact if you have not done so recently, send away for a water test kit and do it yourself. Even if you have city water, a town well or well water, it is a good idea to check your water once every year or so. With the number of people using pesticides and fertilizers, rodent repellent products, weed killer and more on their shrubs, lawns, and flowers it all has to go somewhere. All this gets washed out by rain water and soaked into the ground water. Even if you are the green one in your neighborhood, using only the most organic of products on your lawn, many of your surrounding neighbors are not, so have it checked.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Relax, Breathe and feel Romantic?

My husband and I came to the realization this last summer that we need to make more time for us to plan and do more things as a couple. Like most families, we love doing things together but find it hard sometimes to make time for us beyond the occasional dinner or movie out. We decided much later in life then most to start a family, so consequently we had years of doing things as couple. Then, once our son came along, our lives took on a new rhythm and we love making it all about the three of us.  As time went on, and our son became more independent, we started to have random nights out to grab a dinner or movie or both sometimes. This was great, but in the last year or so we have been drifting into a pattern that many couples fall into whereby even going to a movie or dinner starts to seem like routine. So the time had come to shift our perspective, take an entire day and add some new things to the old routine.

So, we arranged a sitter and took off to have a day for us. But like most plans, life does not always plan for us the way we do for it, so the day started with me having a sinus headache! A cold front was moving in from the north and this typically will wreak havoc with my sensitive sinuses. I decided to press on and think positive, but it did impact the first few hours as I felt distracted by the pain. We did manage to get in some Santa shopping and a quick bite before our "main dish" of the day together took place.

We had made plans to attend a restorative, two hour yoga class. This class was packed to capacity, as a matter of fact, I had waited a tad long and noticed the class was filled when I went to sign us up online. Holidays are stressful for so many and I think  this class could not have come at a better time of year. I quickly emailed the instructor and she was able to add us, much to our delight!

Restorative yoga, for those that do not know, is a form of yoga established by B K S Iyengar years a go for people to gain the benefits of yoga without all the strain of holding positions. He added the use of props to deepen  poses that are often held for ten to 15 minutes at a time. These props help to support the body allowing for fuller response to the different body positions. We used bolsters, blankets, and pillows to achieve a much deeper form of relaxation then a typical yoga classes can produce. The effect was amazing.

My headache completely disappeared as my breathing and attention were shifted. Some poses made the pressure feel more intense so the instructor had me back off and we adjusted things so that I truly was able to let go. It was incredible! And my husband, who is a multi-tasking, sales executive bar none, found it to be just what was needed to calm the nervous system and let go of all his end of quarter, end of year tension. Both of us learned a lot and plan on incorporating the techniques learned into our life. 

After that, we took off for our next appointment, a couples massage. We arrived just in time as class had run a tad long, so we quickly changed into our thick terry robes and sandals and headed into our treatment room. It was once again, just what the doctor ordered! Our muscles were kneaded and rolled until our hour was quickly up and we both felt the full effects of this process. Massage is so good at releasing both tension and toxins long stored in muscles. It truly allows for the body to let go and heal in ways that can calm and relax.

Now for the interesting part, we were then told that the last hour of our treatment consisted of a steam shower, sugar scrub and mud treatment that we would apply ourselves from the neck down rinsing after each treatment in the multi-headed shower steam area. The room, as to be expected, was indeed HOT and the steam was flowing. Now, in case you do not know, while I am a sunshine lover, I am not a high heat lover. Oh don't get me wrong I love the summer, just at my age of hot flashes and off kilter body temps, this does not mix well with extremes of temperature, be it hot or cold. But once again in  the spirit of togetherness, I went along for the ride so to speak.

It was not until we had slathered the mud all over our bodies and were sitting on the tile bench, that yes, I have to admit thinking to myself "I do hope this seat is sanitary and how many other butts have sat upon it today?" It was at that moment of thought,  my husband looked at me and said "is this supposed to be romantic?" We both started to laugh so hard! I admitted the heat was a bit more then I could take. He tried to find the tiny switch that was hidden behind our robes to turn it off but with no success since the steam was making it almost impossible to see! We put the shower on a very cool setting, rinsed off and made our way over to our robes so we could dress in the locker rooms. We started to laugh yet again when we saw my robe was completely covered in muddy hand prints, that would lead one to believe there was far more going on in our shower room then two middle aged people having a steam!

It was fun! And we did enjoy ourselves. It was different, unexpected and both us realized just how much a day like this meant to us not only as a couple, but as a mom and dad. It was not a typical pattern for us and we made it all work somehow. Headaches and tension were relieved. We both were very much in the moment at many times during that day and it could not have been time better spent! Although both of us agreed the steam shower and body treatment was not one we wanted to repeat. Perhaps a sign of our age? Or maybe just the fact that mud, heat, steam, and dripping water are not as relaxing and romantic as one would think? OK, maybe at 30 it might have been different, I will concede this, although we both liked how soft our skin felt afterward.  ;  )

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Leadership at Age 7

My husband, son and I recently traveled to New Jersey for the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a trip I typically avoid at all costs due to the abundance of traffic that flows from New England down to the tri-state area at this festive time of year. If you have never been on the George Washington or the Tappanzee Bridges in a traffic jam then count yourself as most lucky! For those that know it, welcome to hell! Truly.

Anyway, we went to be with the entire clan to celebrate the holiday at my parents house. Something we have not done in many long years. In fact, I do not think my mother has had the entire family over since she lived in Trumbull, CT and that was close to 20 years a go! So it has been a long time indeed. My sisters and I took on the task of cleaning the house, preparing the food and getting the place ready for the feast. It was a lot of work and while it was very exhausting and most stressful, it was fun having us all together, including some new additions to the extended family. That just made it all the more special.

In the midst of preparing the meal and sweating buckets in my elderly parents already too warm house, made even hotter by dual ovens baking and stove burners blazing, my son came up to tell me he wanted to plan some fun activities for everyone to participate in after the dinner. In my distracted and steaming brain, I vaguely recall telling him it sounded great and no I could not help. He knew it was going to be up to him to to take on this responsibility, and without missing a beat in that positive, upbeat way kids have when all is right with the world, he said "OK I will!" I told him to ask his Dad for any help he might need and that was that!
Ty looking so proud of his accomplishments

As the morning progressed and the heat rose to almost 90 in the house, (I kid you not) my son continued to update me periodically on his ideas. I have to be honest and say here that I was so consumed by the heat and the need to get things moving along for the arrival of the guests that I truly was not listening to him fully in the moment. In addition, my sister and I were far more focused on opening the front door of the house to get a cross breeze blowing. Our meager attempt to cool us off in that ridiculously hot kitchen. I would then lookout for Dad, so I could rapidly close the door when he was spotted approaching. Talk abut being transported back to being a kid again! We felt like two little, naughty girls doing something "bad" behind our parents back, only it was way more fun! (Dad and Mom don't know this so help keep our secret, MUMS the word!)

After dinner, Ty came to me and asked me to announce that the activities were to begin. He gave me a handwritten sheet of paper on which he had carefully written the name of each activity and who was going to be in each station. There were four in all. A Turkey hunt all over the downstairs to search out 5 hand drawn turkey pictures that were hidden. A cut-out, craft project that my son was hosting in which each participant would trace their hand and footprints to construct a turkey. Then there was pop up card making station, in which two different card designs could be made, hosted by my sister, and finally a math game station that my husband was asked to host.

Everyone had a lot of fun, despite being stuffed and tired from all the food. There was a ton of shared laughter and good sportsmanship about participating. One nephew expressed his dislike of math, but his love of games won out, and he quickly discovered, much to my sons delight, that math can be fun!
Pop up card station participants

Aunt Terry hosting

Ty helping his grandmother trace her foot
It was not till long after the day was over and my tired brain was finally able to process the days events that I truly came to see what my little 7 year old had undertaken and achieved in so short a period of time. I was overcome with emotion as I realized that he not only had taken the opportunity to work independently to make sure everyone had a good time, but he taught me that he is indeed a "born" leader! Despite his youthfulness and years of growing up yet to do, there was a glimpse of the very capable and strong man that he is to become and I almost missed it happening due to my own distractedness that day.

He took the time to have his father tell him the names of everyone who was coming so he could divide us up into groups. Those groups were carefully thought out by him and were indeed ones that really worked well together. He taught all of his hosts what they need to do and set up the activity areas with all the necessary objects, such as pens, paper, game boards, scissors, tape, etc, to make it easy on the guests to participate. He thoughtfully selected locations for each station and made sure there were enough seats for each person. In short, he took the "bull by the horns" and 16 people had a blast!

Two hip college students making turkey cut-outs
Dad leading the dudes in math games
I am so moved to be retelling the days events here because I know how difficult it can be as a parent to truly "see" it all. It is so easy to become caught up with our myriad of activities and routines, that we sometimes miss what is unfolding right before our very eyes.  So thank you to my little man who took so much upon his young shoulders and made the day even more special for a bunch of "grown-ups" who every now and then need to be reminded what it means to let go and be a kid! I am in awe of the man you are to become one day and no matter what your path or choice in life, know now that you are supported in all your future endeavors whatever those may be! 

After all, raising a child is about learning to let them go, even when the things they do make us want to hold on to them even tighter.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Techo phobic? ME? Hmmmmm....
After the Thanksgiving holiday, I was getting in the car to make the return 6 hour trip to New England while saying goodbye and chatting with my 19 year old nephew. I was gathering up all my entertainment devices from the back seat to pass the time and was unaware that he was watching me when I heard him ask with a note of incredulity in his voice "Is that a cassette player?"  It was at that moment the gap between my 49 and his youthfulness widened.  You would have thought I pulled out a gramophone, beta-max and 8 track tape player and to him it probably was just as ancient. We had a good laugh in that comfortable way we have with one another as I felt compelled to show him I indeed did have my iPod Nano with me too! As though that would make up for my electronic deficiencies in his techno youth oriented eyes. After the shared chuckle between us, and me thinking perhaps it was a good idea I hid the gramophone from sight, I thought to myself "maybe I do need need to step it up a notch or two!"

I wasn't doing this out of any need on my part to be rebellious, or out of some protest against the technology age, it was simply that at my age my memory is not what it used to be and when it comes to downloading my audiobooks and music on iTunes I am woefully out of practice. It, quite frankly, can take me an hour to do what my probably takes my young and hip nieces and nephews minutes, OK no, seconds to complete. I also do not always get it right the first time and have to really think long and hard sometimes about what it is I am trying to do.

Now, back in my early 30's when I was lucky enough to return to college to persue a second degree in fine art, I held tight to my conviction that print media, PHOTO print media was THE only way to go. I simply LOVED the smell, feel and experience of printing both color and black and white prints in a dark room environment. There was a wonderful camaraderie in a dark room that those who do it, understand what I mean. It never fails to make my heart beat faster in anticipation as you swish your recently exposed photo paper in the developer.  When the murky image starts to emerge you hold your breath expectantly waiting for the print you worked so hard on to appear before your very eyes.  Sure, there was TONS of disappointment concerning shots not captured or exposed incorrectly, but the feeling that comes over you when you get it just right is indeed indescribable. All your senses are engaged except for perhaps taste, although that is indeed subjective, as some of what came out of those dark room days were tasteless to be sure. : )

I finally succumbed to the digital age once I relocated to New England since I  no longer had access to a free print studio. When you add on the expense of paying for the pleasure to make your artistic inspirations come to life it can quickly add up. So I "went digital" and it came with a whole new set of frustration and disappointment. I had to rely on a computer now which  took out all the fun and frivolity of a dark room experience. Boring. You really have to be truly self motivated to sit on your butt and stare at a screen instead of moving around a darkroom going from wet print to finished product. Far more satisfying in my opinion.

While I have to admit liking the instant gratification of watching my recently taken images appear almost seconds after snapping the shutter release on the tiny display screen. That is fun and rewarding. But it can never truly replace the joy and pleasure of physically manipulating an image with your hands to make it completely your own. Computers just feel like a filter between you and the work and I am too tactile a person for that to truly satisfy my artistic aspirations.

My husband tells me my cell phone is out of date and needs updating. He has been telling me this for close to a year now. I tried to make the switch this summer with a PalmPre he had given me. I was overwhelmed at all the bells, whistles and features and had to beg him to switch me back to my old phone. I simply do not use a cell often enough to want all the latest features that so many others look for with covetous eyes. My needs are simple: with my aging eyes, I do like a large number pad to dial, and an equally large keyboard interface in which to text. I use the internet and email features occasionally and yes I am aware how slow my trusted phone truly is! He is pushing me to get an iPhone, so who knows where it will all lead? I will make the change, just has to be at my own pace, not one dictated by media release dates. There will always be something better, faster, and more powerful, but this does not mean I have to own it.  I am not so much  techno phobic, as just someone who gets set in her ways and prefers to feel comfortable with my knowledge base.

Oh, and to my nephew, you will be proud to note I downloaded all my media onto the computer recently, including the one cassette I was using since I oddly enough also had it on CD! I then transferred it onto my iPod Nano and am putting the CD and cassette player away in a bureau drawer. So perhaps one day it can be discovered after I am long gone and you can send me a cosmic chuckle when you recall only too vividly the time this "ol' lady" gave it up and stepped into the age of technology. Better late then never as the saying goes!

Monday, November 21, 2011

In Love and Gratitude

We are given many opportunities over our lifetime to say thank you to the people who have left their indelible mark in our lives, however we don't always take the time, however brief, to do it. Thanksgiving seems a good a time as any so here is my show of gratitude to those that are in my heart and will remain so for many years to come:

To Bob and Ty: Two people who mean more to me than life itself!!! Unconditional love, non judgemental and a total acceptance of who I am and what I am all about. This is the greatest gift a spouse and a son could possibly give to me. Bob, you have stood by me through many ups and downs and have shown an unwavering support of all this and more that is immeasurable! And to Ty....your light, laughter and love make me so grateful every day that I woke that freezing cold sub zero January morning over 8 years ago telling your Daddy, "this is the time to start our family and adopt our child" and without missing a beat he said "yes!" Love to you both forever.

To Mary and Angela: Two of the most incredible women who have meant more to me over the years then either of them can ever imagine. Both of you inspired me to do "great" things and to be as authentic and original as I can while staying true to myself as an artist, mother, friend and woman. It was not easy moving to NH and leaving behind all my open minded and free thinking friends for a climate and place that is more inward focused then outward as I am. But there is change on the horizon and I am finally showing my authentic self here and finding things ring much truer to me now then ever before. Thank you both for giving me that courage!

To Judy: A person who I recently reconnected with (much to my delight) but never lost sight of over all these years. You were there for me as my yoga teacher but became so much more after my cancer diagnosis many years past now. I recall you telling me once that I was your hero, and that felt so uncomfortable to me Judy. You see I was just a woman doing what any woman would do with a diagnosis of cancer: making it all work the best you can. And you gave me that courage Judy to face those dark places, so thank you for being there in so many ways. (See links for Mindful Meditation)

To Sandy: Words cannot begin to express the deep meaning you brought to my life and still continue to do so. Through your gentle, loving and committed friendship you helped me to process and release more garbage from my life then I even knew existed! You are a healer, teacher and friend extraordinaire and I consider myself most lucky to have you in my my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart center! (See links for Peaceable Pathways)

To Sean: Your kind and attentive care brought a peace and calm to my life that has meant  much to me over these few years we have known one another. Your skilled hand and mind as an acupuncturist and your gentle ways, have helped me to feel healthier and more centered then I have in many long years. I am happy to have found you at a time when I needed alternative care which has blossomed into a real friendship. Thank you Sean! (See links for Balance Point)

To Barbara: There is a special place that you and your husband created that is my "go to place" for good energy, conversation and  courage. The Quartz Source is just such place. I came there years a go looking for help and inspiration for my cancer battle and your love and friendship won me over. It was you that gave me the idea to bring into surgery the things that I felt were needed by side: my Buddhist prayer beads, some stones that held great meaning and a letter to myself, all nicely sealed in a plastic bag and laid by my head. Thank you Barbara for giving me a smile and connection that is life lasting. (See links for The Quartz Source)

To Bodhipaksa: When I was struggling this last summer with some health concerns and feeling as though that recent brutal New England winter had done me in for good, I happened upon a CD of yours on called Guided Meditations for Calmness, Awareness and Love. This became for me a beacon of light in a life that had long neglected a regular meditation practice. Feeling inspired, I knew I needed to find a place to meditate locally, much as I did in years long past at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. So I sign up for a class and SURPRISE you are the teacher! I had no idea you lived in NH much less were so close as your Scottish accent led me to believe you lived far and away. So fate played a hand and I thank you for having the foresight and business savvy to provide your work with meditation in so many varied formats with or without the dogma for one and all to enjoy: most wonderful. (See links for Wildmind Meditation and Aryaloka Buddhist Center)

To Michelle: For giving me some terrific aromatherapy care this past summer that helped me face the days and nights with a renewed sense of calm and relaxation. Thank you for listening to me and for being a true friend who really cares. One can never have enough of those in their life. (Good luck to you with the new business venture and once you have a link I will add it here!) 

And lastly to all the teachers I have yet to meet or have met, to all the friends I have made along my way and to my sisters, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins and my grandmothers and grandfathers, in particular my Mother and Father for giving me this life to share with others, thank you from the very depth of my being.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Life Lessons From A Dogwood Tree

There is a flowering dogwood that stands close to the house that has been  both a delight and disappointment to me.  I was very excited at the prospect of seeing it come to life that first spring my husband, son and I moved into this home. Unfortunately,  the tree never bloomed to full capacity and in fact, never really has done so. Perhaps the limited sun exposure may be a factor. It grows in that slightly off balance, crooked way trees have when they are passionately trying to find and follow the light. It gets an abundance of early morning light, but as the day progresses and the shade marches outward from the house, you can sense each branch straining to catch every last bit of sunlight before it becomes a fading memory.

When the blooms eventually do come to burst open, they are amazing pink wonders of pure joy, and I find myself longing to see more of them but realize this may simply never happen.

Photo from

Sadly, last winter was one of the toughest on record for much of the Northeast, and living in New England as we do, ours was a doozy. We had so much ice and snow piled on the roof that we feared water entering the home. As a result, we hired a company to remove it all. In so doing they used long handled roof rakes to clear the snow and traditional hammers to break up the ice that in most places was over 10 inches thick and at least 2 feet high on the roof line. Crazy! They literally dumped all this accumulated winter off of the roof, over the side of the house onto the ground, deck and driveway. I was unaware of the damage that had been done to this precious dogwood of mine until after they had left. There were so many broken branches and fresh tears and cuts all over this tree that I truly felt it was never going to make it back from the shock. I sadly gathered up all the broken and severed tree limbs, tossing them over the side yard in order to remove them from my sight in the hope that this very act might enable the tree to recover.

When spring came, the tree, which is late bloomer anyway, looked positively dead. I was heartbroken and since the winter had taken its toll on me I felt my spirits plummet at the additional picture of sadness that this dogwood tree represented to me. It came to represent all that I felt in the last years as I struggled to find myself adrift and searching for meaning. I felt like a kindred spirit to that tree, aching to feel every last bit of sunshine on my face as I too attempted to grow beyond the constraints of my own life.

I had all but given up the tree for dead when by June it still looked every bit a goner. I despondently made plans in my head about what to put in its place, but had trouble as this tree had come to mean more to me then I could ever possibly imagine. Then a funny, wonderful thing happened, slowly, very slowly tiny leaves started to sprout on this tree sometime around the end of June. I was cautiously optimistic at this point and thought perhaps the tree was giving out one last effort to come back to life before all the energy left inside it was used up. A few very bedraggled and forlorn looking flowers popped out afterward, and  I thought to myself, this is it, the tree is saying goodbye. I decided at that point that I would just let the tree takes its own natural course and leave it alone. We left for a vacation on Nantucket Island soon after this and were gone for close to month.

When we returned I was moved beyond words to discover the dogwood had grown in leaps and bounds while we were away. There were so many branches and leaves that were growing so abundantly and the tree looked as though it had grown over a foot or more in our absence.

This dogwood tree suddenly became for me a solid and tangible representation of my own life. I too have felt slightly off kilter and out of place in New England and often find my sun loving nature staying outside long after dusk in an attempt to catch every last little bit of daylight. I was beaten and blue by the end of last winter and felt that the snow and ice had taken its toll on me too. I suffered terrible insomnia and battled the blues as result, which came from my desperation for winter to end and my endless craving for the smell and feel of spring to emerge. I went to Nantucket feeling exhausted and beaten by life from my severe perimenopausal symptoms of insomnia, depression and anxiety, which are all also symptomatic of my under producing thyroid as well.

A funny and wonderful thing happened to me too this past summer. The bright rays of summer sunshine, the love of my son, the comfort of my husband, the healing power of the ocean and my own inner resolve to not let life beat me down, or my own body get the better of me took over my senses. I healed in ways that were so good for my body, mind and spirit and when I returned home to see that dogwood come back to life in such  a glorious way I felt more connected to that tree then ever before. That dogwood became for me a symbol of all that I had come through in my life and that spoke to my heart in way that nothing else ever could.

Recently, we had a surprise snow storm that rocked New England into becomming the unwanted recipient of over 18 inches of some of the heaviest, wettest snow imaginable! Halloween was indeed cancelled much to the dismay of children everywhere who now had to wait another week to don those costumes and go foraging for candy!

Once again my dogwood is wounded from the weight and sheer volume of the snow that fell. Two huge fresh gashes adorn the location where two of its tallest limbs once were attached. And I felt my breath catch as I tossed those two severed branches over the side of our property yet again. But there was a slight difference to this act now, because I sensed that this scrappy, tough dogwood who refused to let life get in the way, would do whatever it took to come back again. And that is life lesson worth remembering!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thyroid Meds May NOT be for me

You may recall I had recently been given a therapeutic trial of Tirosint for my thyroid. I have come to the following conclusion after much careful thought and action: my system reacts in far too hyper a way to the drug, which my endocrinologist tells me, means my body is indeed converting my T4 to T3. He keeps lowering my dose, and I still keep feeling hyper, so much so that this last week I had 3 hours of sleep in 3 nights, NOT good for me or anyone.

What led me down this path in the first place was the fact that my TSH is normal, but my thyroid antibodies are high. This can be indicative of Hashimoto Thyroiditis. This theoretically means my antibodies are attacking my thyroid, which is still functioning, but at some point  may stop working. The theory with some doctors, is to allow patients such as myself, to try out thyroid medications on a trial basis in an attempt to see if they respond well to treatment. If they do, then this medication becomes part of a persons daily routine and it becomes a life choice at that point.

There were some days I felt incredibly good. There was this amazing sense of well being and calmness that was unlike any other I had ever felt. But, it came at a price of rapid heart beat, diarrhea, nausea, and some of the worst sleep I have had in months. Also, it made me feel many times like a person who drank too much coffee, on speed or simply too hyper to sit still for very long.

I have been recently reading Dr. John R. Lee's book and theories on women and menopause. He was the doctor who started the ground breaking practice of placing women on natural  progesterone therapy in order to balance out, women like me, who are estrogen dominant and progesterone deficient. Which happens to be most women at  this perimenopausal time of life. He has suggested that many women present a normal TSH but elevated antibodies as a direct result of progesterone deficiency. The body needs to make up for the loss somewhere so it takes from the thyroid and adrenal system.   So, in some cases, the thyroid and adrenal system are often impacted in such way that they overproduce some months and under produce at others causing women to feel at times hypo and hyper in terms of thyroid. 

I have decided to stop the therapeutic trial as I do not feel it is giving me a consistent enough feeling of well being to warrant going through more days of this adjustment process. What I am going to do is pursue the progesterone therapy in an effort to perhaps stave off the impending attack on my thyroid.

This is all so complex, and one that requires me to truly act as my own patient advocate. It is a bumpy road, but once again I am trusting my instincts on this one and giving the thyroid meds a break. Now, it may be that one day, I will in fact need to pursue this as part of my daily regime, but for right now I feel it best to do all I can to look for and assess the root cause of the inflammation first, then determine where to go from there.

Again, this may all be anectodal in terms of theory, but it makes sense to at least try it. After all, taking thyroid meds for me right now is like adding fuel to a fire that is already stoked since my symptoms seem to be more hyper then hypo related. So lets see where this new path leads me. This is not an easy process and it took me this whole week to really anaylze and assess what my steps would be on this path to wellness.

I do encourage everyone to do what feels best for you in order to make your own assessments.  Sometimes all we can do is take it one step at a time in order to truly determine a course of treatment that works.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why Become A Parent?

Do you ever have those moments with your kids that are so pure, so spontaneous and so utterly engaging that you find yourself knowing exactly when and why you decided to start a family? Conversely, do you ever have those days when you wonder "just what was I thinking, was  I nuts and will I ever be able to walk across the family room floor without a Lego embedded in my foot!?!" HAHA, luckily I have more of the former then the latter but both are absolutely valid ways of thinking about parenthood and all the many joys and stresses it brings to your life.

There are days I feel so in tune with my 7 year old son that we just seem to "go with the flow" in a way that needs few words sometimes. Those are the days that being a parent is easy and all seems to follow a predetermined pattern that is so superfluous it needs no nudging or prodding to improve upon its rhythm.

Then, there are those days when the true meaning of being a parent and mother takes hold and you suddenly find yourself at odds with the world at large, questioning "is this the same child I lovingly snuggled with at bedtime?" Where even the simple words of "good morning" can turn a normally loving, laughter filled child into a moaning, angst ridden, petulant miserable person who suddenly blames you for every Lego creation that falls apart, every line in a picture that gets drawn incorrectly and basically every move you make as a gladiator about to do battle! GRRRRR!!!!

Yes indeed, those are times that being a parent is so challenging that it makes you wonder a tad more along the lines of the "what was I thinking" when I thought being a parent would be just the thing that was missing from my life. HA! It still is! Although, on those days you just might have to look a little harder to find the balance that makes it all end up OK! Easier said then done to be sure.

There is an insightful parenting book, written by Jon and Myla  Kabat- Zinn called Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. I discovered this book over the summer and have simply fallen in love with it. Jon Kabat-Zinn is  Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His wife Myla has worked as a childbirth educator and birthing assistant. At the time the book was printed in 1997 they had 3 children ranging from the ages of 22 to 14. So years of experience to guide them. I love the following passage from the book as it expresses so eloquently what I am trying to say on this post today: " When we become parents whether intentionally or by happenstance, our whole life is immediately different, although it may take some time to realize just how much. Being a parent compounds stress by orders of magnitude. It makes us vulnerable in ways we weren't before. It calls us to be responsible in ways we weren't before. It challenges us as never before, and takes our time and attention away from other things, including ourselves as never before. It creates chaos and disorder, feelings of inadequacy, occasions for arguments, struggles, irritation, noise, seemingly never-ending obligations and errands, and plenty of opportunities for getting stuck, angry, resentful, hurt, and for feeling overwhelmed, old and unimportant. And this can go on not only when the children are little, but even when they are full grown on their own. Having children is asking for trouble. So why do it? 

Children embody what is best in life. They live in the present moment. They are pure potentiality embodying vitality, emergence, renewal and hope. They are purely what they are. And they share that vital nature with us and call it out of us as well, if we can listen carefully to the calling."

So beautifully put and humbling for us all.

I had to close with this story: I met a woman the other day who told me about her stepson with whom she had a terrible time parenting throughout his childhood, teen and young adult life. He was angry and resentful of her involvement with him and never saw her as a mother figure. He was disobedient, disrespectful and made her question whether she was any good at this mothering thing. Life was so stressful that she thought many times if she had made the right choice to marry and take on this endless responsibility that never let up to give her a even a moment of peace. Through it all, she persevered with this child, teen, and man he eventually became although there were many days she felt useless and impotent as a parent.

Tears sprang into my eyes when she told me he called her not long after the birth of his first born child to apologize for all the years of pain and anguish he had put her through. He told her how sorry he was and that she had meant more to him then he could ever hope to express. What a testament to the mother she was and is, and the fact that as hard as it must have been, she never gave up, gave in or moved on. I am in awe of her fortitude and stamina and told her so! She truly was and is a mother who did indeed raise a wonderful son!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thyroid Balance and Menopause

You may recall from earlier posts of mine that I began taking thyroid meds in the last two or so weeks. Initially I was so "amped" up in that first 48 to 72 hours that I felt and acted like the energizer bunny on speed! Then on night 3 I started waking quite often all night long with a rapidly, pounding heart beat that left me tired and groggy the next day. Not fun! I spoke to the doctor who thought this might all be caused by my medication working against my dropping estradiol. Suffice it to say this is the drop in estrogen that begins to occur as menopause is advancing and frequently causes hot flashes and heart palpitations. He also noted that I tend to be hypersensive to any and all medications in my system, so he lowered my dose from:

25 mcg of Tirosint per day, to 25mcg for three days per week.

This slower approach would allow my body to adjust and regulate my thyroid without the initial charge of the the daily dose. He also had me stop the meds for a period of 3 days prior to starting at the lowered dose. This is the typical pattern suggested for patients when increasing or decreasing thyroids meds.

The Results: One week after starting the meds at the new lowered dose I am actually starting to feel, dare I say it, GOOD?

This is a new feeling for me because I have felt so "crappy," to put it bluntly, for so long, that I was not even sure what good meant, and would I even know it when I felt it? I know it sounds ridiculous, but trust me, those of you in the throes of hormonal imbalances in your own life know what I am referring to quite well!

This "good" feeling I have only just begun to experience has come with its share of side effects from the Tirosint such as nausea, diarrhea, increased heart rate/pulse, feeling really "up" for part of the day, then dropping off as the day goes on, sleep disturbances and/or night wakings and a mildly salty taste in my mouth at times.

All these are side effects of the thyroid regulating process. There is no exact science here and it can take weeks and months to balance you out. Once you are deemed "in balance" you will very likely need adjustments every so often annually, or more or less often depending on how you are feeling. A lot of endocrinologists and doctors use your TSH levels or numbers as the "gold standard" indicator for being "in balance" and use this as their sole guide. I have chosen to work with a more enlightened endocrinologist who bases his adjustment process on both your levels and on how you are feeling. He has been doing this for over 30 years and knows how beneficial this is to his patients.

The thyroid is a difficult glad to regulate. There are so many variables. A little to much of the meds and you are hyper and anxious, conversely, too little and your are lethargic and depressed. Oddly enough, these are the same symptoms for hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Also, there are many other factors that coexist to complicate matters. If you are like me and going through hormonal fluctuations due to perimenopause or menopause, it makes regulating the thyroid that much more trickier, which may at some point need to be supplemented with progesterone and estrogen to help smooth things out.

This is not an easy road by any stretch of the imagination. All I know is the doctor told me that the person I am today is going to be an even better version of me 6 months to one year from now and I have to trust my instinct on this one folks and say "bring it on!" The feeling of calm and focus that is slowly starting to creep back into my life is indication enough for me that my thyroid is waking up to regulate my metabolism. I had no idea how bad I really was feeling till these recent glimpses of "good" started appearing. WOW!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Blog Title

I removed the word mayhem from my Blog title as it did not ring true to who I am and what I am trying to accomplish on these pages. Mayhem connotes massacre, violence and chaos that sounds far more fitting for Attila the Hun then the change in a woman's life.  I also feel there are far too many negative words used to describe women and our emotions without giving it one more moniker that does not empower.

Yes, this time in our lives can be mercurial and frenetic, but it is also a time well earned in knowledge and experience. I would not trade any of it for anyone else's life, ever! Sure, I have had my share of ups and downs but it is a life well lived, and it took me a long time to get to this place so why waste time wishing it was something other then it is? Plus, I have had a ton of fun along the way and plan on a lot more mirth and merriment to guide me the rest of the way!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Flow or No Flow???

It would seem since I first went public about my “menopausal” symptoms and long before I ever envisioned starting this blog, some women enjoyed sharing with me that they indeed are still in the flow so to speak and not menopausal. It was said often at times, with a certain air of girlish glee and a tossing of the head, as though this fact made them invincible to the tide of change that is coming for them all. And dare I say it; there was an air of female bravado…much like a younger male struts and puffs his chest in an attempt to show off his prowess and virility.

I am in what is called the Perimenopausal phase of a woman's menstrual cycle.This is the approximately ten year period leading up to the cessation of menstruation. It can last longer for some and shorter for others. Symptoms can be mild to severe. Most women tend to notice a disturbed sleeping pattern during this phase, which can be precipitated by hot flashes and/or heart palpitations.

Typically, most women follow a pattern during this time similar to that of their mother. This is not a hard and fast truth, but many of the experts agree, if your mother had a rough time with perimenopause than chances are you will too. Same with menopause. Also, you will typically stop your flow at approximately the same age she was, so if you wonder when that was, please ask her while you can, it is vital information for your personal health records. 

My mother was almost 54 when hers stopped and yes her hormones raged at just the time I was entering highschool. It was a challenging time for all of us as mom would rail on one minute in anger at the silliest of things, then look to be your best friend and confidant in the next moment.  Confusing, you bet, especially given my own cycle of hormonal ups and downs that all teens encounter!

I have literally read hundreds of books on the subject over the last 10 or more years. I am a voracious and insatiable  reader and think nothing of having a minimum of 5 to 10 books being read simultaneously, in fact, I prefer it! 

Two books I found quite useful were Dr. Christiane Northrup's book called The Wisdom of Menopause. You need to look past the new-agey type references which I did in some places, to fully appreciate the incredible wealth of information that is here. It is an invaluable resource from a woman who has been there in so many ways. Another book I thoroughly enjoyed for its very detailed and well researched biological and physiological explanation  of a woman's progression from infant to mature woman and more is The Female Brain written by Louann Brizendine MD.

In the meantime, if you seem to have a shorter fuse in the last few years or so and your memory is not what it used to be you could be starting down that path toward menopause. You might also find yourself having gaining some weight in the middle region that is much harder to lose then it was a few years or so ago. Or perhaps there is a dryness to your skin that is not just noticeable during the winter months. Or there may be slow decrease in energy, nothing too drastic, but noticeable. There might also be some clotty, heavy flows one month and a very spotty light flow the next, or a total increase or decrease in the number of days you actual menstruate. You may find yourself waking more frequently early in the morning and find it most difficult to fall back asleep. Or those night wakings may be preceded by a pounding heart or feelings of heat and/or sweating. These and more are just some of the many symptoms that we all get in the years leading up to menopause, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in some women these symptoms can contiunue for some years after cessation as well.
This is why it is so important to do what you can now to make this transition time as easy on yourself and your loved ones. Arm yourself with knowledge, don't bury your head in the sand wishing it will just go away. The earlier you catch things and make adjustments the easier perhaps this time will be for you!

Friday, October 28, 2011

You're gray WHERE?!?!?!

Today, as I was eating my scrumptious pumpkin pancake for breakfast,  I happened to flip open the pages of a magazine, and I kid you not the following question practically leaped off the page at me. Are you ready for this?

" Is it safe to color my graying pubic hair?"

I was so repelled, and yet much like the urge we sometimes get to peek at a car wreck on the highway, even though you know it might make you upset, you do it anyway. So I just had to read the answer. Apparently it is "safe" and there is a product called "Betty" that does the trick. Who knew?

Yikes.....are you kidding me?  (now this is the part where my attempts to be mindful might be stretched a tad!") Can it be that a woman needs to feel something is amiss in the lower 40 when the hair is graying?  Who is to blame for making someone even think to question this fact of life,  or more importantly, what possesses a company to produce a product that apparently does the job so well? Obviously there is a market for just such a product. Please forgive me as I do not mean to make anyone feel bad if you are reading this right now and using it. Let's just hope you are doing it for you and not to make someone think you are anything less then perfect as is! Could this be yet another attempt by a company to make us feel inadequate or less womanly since we are aging or growing old? Do you realize that most of the way a woman feels about her body, or a man for that matter, is due to images and stories that the media produces in order to make us all feel "less then" what we are at any given point in time?

Case in point: I was listening to XM radio several months a go, to a favorite talk show of mine that is no longer on air due to the host having a new gig in Chicago working for the big "O." I loved this show as it made me laugh out loud quite often at the hosts utter lack of artifice or attempts to be anything less then authentic (an aspect of people I find to be the most appealing). I would be in my car, visible to all around me yucking it up like some crazed loon. (My apologies to loons lovers everywhere!) Anywhoo.....there was a commercial that played repeatedly on this show that started out something like this:

"Are you tired of being embarrassed by your ugly brown age spots? If so blah blah blah.......

I would hear this commercial so often and every time it never failed to make me angry. Why? Not because I have age spots, which I am most proud to say I have earned every single one of them, but because this commercial was attempting to make me feel less then adequate for having a very naturally occurring pigmentation discoloration that occurs as we all age. And yes, they are related to all that luscious sun bathing I did in my youth, on the lounge chair in my back yard,  with Sun In (remember that one?) slathered on my hair and Coppertone Oil on my body as I prayed for the zit that popped out on my chin to recede before the days end!

I would be less then honest if I did not admit that initially, when I first heard the commercial I found myself starting to think, hmmmm maybe I should cover them up, maybe it is ugly, maybe I am less womanly as a result and then reality hit me! Wait just a minute, this is exactly what the advertisers are hoping! They paid someone a lot of money to use highly effective wording in order to make me feel exactly what they need me to feel so  perhaps I give in and try it for 30 days, risk free of course.

Advertising has gotten far more devious in their attempts to do this over the years using psychological trigger words to elicit a certain response and also by utilizing music and sound tracks that cause us to have auditory reactions that make us "feel" the way they want us to feel. So in a nut shell, we are being masterfully manipulated to think, feel and sense what ever they need us to think, feel or sense and buy the product! Sounds crazy, huh? But true! So we know all this and yet we still allow ourselves to be manipulated.

I am just as guilty with my arrays of creams, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, make up, vitamins, food products, clothing, etc that all in some way came to me a result of some very clever marketing designed to make me purchase it. I know it, and you know it and we all do it! No matter how green you are, healthy you are or how untouched you think you are by still are! OK, maybe if you are nun or a monk, I will let you slide on this one, although I have seen some pretty spiffy watch on monk's wrist recently! Gift perhaps? Things that make you go hmmmmmmm?

So, keep it "real" people and do what you must to make yourself feel good every day. All I ask is that you catch yourself now and again as you buy a product and say "am I doing this for me, or because some advertiser found a way to tap into my insecurities about who I  should be?" You might be very surprised what your answers are!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sometimes you HAVE to laugh!

I love the scene in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation movie where the parents and in-laws are arriving to spend time for the holidays at the Griswold household. There are lots of hugs, kisses and general pandemonium going on at the front door, as well as conversations ensuing concerning the various medical ailments afflicting them all at this stage in their lives. The scene is so vividly captured and acted so well, it is a funny and yet poignant reminder of real life for so many of us. I even recall traveling back and forth from Boston,  to visit my own parents some years ago when they lived in a lovely town called Trumbull, Connecticut. We would spend hours sitting around the kitchen table catching up, while Mom went through the littany of ailments and afflictions that were affecting my folks, who at that time, were in their early sixties and doing quite well for their age.

Those were relatively mild things mom chatted about at our kitchen table talks,  especially compared to what life is like for my Mother today. She has COPD and congestive heat failure, on top of a myriad of other conditions stemming from these two diseases. An oxygen tank was just brought to the house Monday night and Mom is now permanently attached to those tubes and tank. A handicap ramp was installed (at great expense) from the driveway to their sun porch in order to accommodate her wheelchair. She has two walkers and a special medical chair/recliner that does double duty as her bed. There are toilet assisting devices, potties in the family room,  and chairs propped up all over the house for my mother to sit in and take a rest after walking 4 or more steps, sometimes less, when she feels able to make it to the bathroom. Two entire shelves of her antique hutch in the kitchen are covered with her AM, PM and the "as needed" meds. A large antique crock on the dining room floor is filled to the brim with former medications that are no longer being used. The dining room table, that holds memories of all our past holiday meals as kids,  is barely visible from the array of medical supplies either in use, yet to be used or never to be used again. (My mom is very much a child of the depression and nothing is ever thrown out that might serve a useful purpose yet again!) Home health aides visit a few times a week along with physical therapists and a nurse every now and then who supervises them all. This is only a smattering of the things that have come to pass since Mom first went into the hospital in May of 2010.

Things got really tense recently when mom came home from the hospital after two very long months. She was in her wheelchair, out of breath from the exertion of leaving the car and attempted to climb the 3 short stairs in to the house from the garage. She raised one foot and quickly realized she was not going to be able to do this on her own. Sensing the fear and frustration coming from her and all of us,  I quickly recalled something rather unique about their garage. It had been used as an office for the builder when the homes were first going up and it was completely insulated, plumbed and heated. I said at that moment, sensing a need for lightness, that mom need go no further, all we needed was a little sheet rock tacked up on some two by fours,  a throw rug or two scattered about, and a large flat screen TV hung on the wall and she had no need to enter the house again. Everyone relaxed, laughed and suddenly what could have been an overwhelmingly sad moment turned into all of us trying to out do one another on what could be done to "spiff" up moms garage hang out!

Now I could also wax on about the evils of smoking, but that would be pointless and not really productive to do at this time. My Grandmother on my Mom's side lived to be just over 90 and smoked every day of her life never visiting or needing a doctor.....ever! As did my fathers dad as well. Conversely, I have known people to die of lung cancer who never smoked a day in their life, and many women with breast cancer who I have met who are some of the healthiest living people on the planet. Now, I am not advocating a Woody Allen "Sleeper" movie view of life. Although that was so incredibly funny to envision a world, when he wakes up all those years later, that believes smoking and high fat food are now considered healthy, so everyone eats and smokes to their hearts content!

As my husband left for work at 7:20 this AM he mentioned his MRI appointment for his knee? Shoulder? Or some other nefarious body part? It is not that I am not interested, it is just that in the scheme of things it is inevitable that the body starts reminding us of expiration dates felt, but not known. We are all trying to do whatever we can in this life to prevent the inevitable decline that is coming. And rather then wallow in its embrace, I find it far more fun to just take it as it comes and try to laugh more often. I know it truly sounds so cliche, so please indulge me,  but laughter is good medicine, and even at my lowest points in life I always found a way to laugh. It does make everything seem a bit more bearable and a lot more "real!" So, lighten up if you can and do yourself some good. Smile more often and read the book "If I had to live my life all over, I would have picked more daises!" It is a wonderful read and gentle reminder of the things that truly matter in this life as told by women in their prime.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sympathy, Empathy, or Feeling Sorry?

Definition of Sympathy: harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another.
Definition of Empathy: the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

There is a vast difference between feeling sorry for a person and feeling sympathetic and/or empathetic toward them. Sympathy gives us the ability to express our like minded feelings no matter what the cause or condition. Empathy allows us to feel and innately understand through our words and actions what another is experiencing. Through both, we are afforded an opportunity to feel a connection to another fellow human being and what could be better then that? We might not know precisely how or what someone is feeling, nor have we  perhaps experienced the exact same circumstances, but we have an inexplicable need to say or do things that demonstrate our understanding.
Now, "feeling sorry" on the other hand is counter productive and makes vast assumptions about the other person. What I mean by this is, it could make you feel "better " or "superior" to the other person simply by thinking "wow, that must be awful, glad I am not going through that." A very real and very human response to others ups and downs in life. I think we have all felt this way at times, I know I have caught myself doing it.

No one really likes it when people feel sorry for them. I know I don't since there is nothing in this life I am not up to the challenge of changing or improving. Life may knock me down or throw me off kilter, but I try my absolute best to stay on course. My whole life has been about change and reinventing myself over and over and over again. Complacency is not for me and chances are it may not be for you too. I am a doer, and a seeker continuously looking for ways to better not just my life but that of others. My methods may not be so obvious, but they are nevertheless there.
Let me explain, back when I was going through my breast cancer options I was very expressive about my personal decisions as a means to both gain strength from the sharing of information, and to help other women realize that it could just as easily be them and not me. But more importantly to let others know that early detection works! My cancer diagnosis was caught so early it was not staged, and was very treatable. I chose a more radical approach (although more and more women are choosing to do this given the statistics on recurrence and personal history of breast cancer in families) then a breast conserving lumpectomy.

It entailed a good deal of courage and strength to make the decision I made as it would not be one I could reverse later on. I am a very determined and intelligent woman who makes choices based on both research and my own personal insight. Once a decision is made I follow through and try not to look back. Not always an easy thing to do, I can assure you, but second guessing choices is a dead end street that gets you no where quickly. You simply make a choice and you move forward. There is no right or wrong choice, there is simply your ability to decide a plan of action that feels right to you and only to you. We can take into consideration the thoughts of others but ultimately in order to grow as a person we need to make that decision for ourselves. To do anyhting less  defeats our purpose and might make us second guess our actions for the rest of our lives. Not a very useful process.

Some people felt empathetic toward my choice as they too had been there themselves or with family members, some people were sympathetic knowing how tough a process it was but understanding my need to take control of my life. But then there were those that just plain felt sorry for me and those were the hard. Those were the people who kept asking "are you OK?" and "is everything all right?" almost daily or when ever I encountered them. I saw in their eyes a lot of fear and pity, and a total inability to relate to me as a person and not a disease.

For me personally, writing about my life's experiences in so open a format is my way of saying we all feel pain, we all feel joy, and we feel what ever we need to feel. Our life is so enriched when we discover that we are all more alike then we think. It is not about wanting others to feel sorry for us. In this life it is about recognizing that we all have "pain" of some sort be it physical, psychologial or spiritual in nature and we all want the same thing: to live in a realtively peaceful way free from as many of the painful realities of life as possible.

So, the next time you feel a reaction toward someone who has shared with you something that is effecting their lives, stop and ask yourself before you speak  "am I feeling sorry for this person or am I feeling a sense of empathy and/or sympathy?" And chose your words with care. Sometimes saying nothing is the greatest gift we can give someone. Just knowing you are there in any capacity for a person is simply enough for many to know and appreciate.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thyroid Roller Coaster

Started my thyroid meds as of last Thursday and boy does it feel like a roller coaster ride! I was so amped up the first two days I cleaned and did things around the house that would have ordinarily taken me days to complete! Now, while in theory that sounds great it felt like I had to stay in perpetual motion and not by choice. I have to admit though that I felt much clearer and focused and my mood was elevated as well. And that felt very good indeed. Then Sunday night came crashing in with heart palpitations and constant night wakings from the pounding of my chest. Whoopee! That was nuts, but a calm center, deep breathing and a healthy dose of meditation got me through that rough patch. Spoke to the doctor last night and he is lowering my dose as my system is so hypersensitive. I have been that way since I was a kid and even vitamins and aspirin can throw me for a loop. Advil makes me feel drugged and loopy so I avoid it and only use it as a last resort.

Last night was better, had frequent wakings but no pounding heart and my pulse feels rather normal right now. WOW! I had no idea thyroid meds can rev up your body in such a crazy way. I had heard about it from friends and read about it online, but it is so amazing to go through it yourself. Wheee!!!!

Plugging along.....

Friday, October 21, 2011

Doctor Visit

Yesterday, I had my first appointment with a Dr Kenneth Blanchard in Newton, MA. He is the author of the book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Hypothyroidism. Quirky, knowledgeable and utterly delightful, this Endocrinologist has been a trend setter and rebel in the field of Hypothyroidism for over 30 years. While there are some doctors who are starting to pick up cues from Dr. Blanchard, most still follow protocols and outdated practices regarding thyroid disease that focus more on aligning your "numbers" to standards of normalcy rather then taking into account the physiologic aspects of this disease and working with patient one on one, in constant contact to achieve a feeling of balance. I cannot tell you how many women I have encountered since speaking out about my diagnosis who tell me they saw little to no change on their meds or are either way too hyper or depressed, both signs of inadequate or overmedication. But their doctors tell them, "your numbers are within normal." Well, normal for who? Our bodies tell us far more then a number and that is what truly matters.

Now, I am new to this, so I have much to learn. I was put on on new drug called Tirosint a gel form of Levothyroxine that is completely free of any additives, dyes or fillers that caused a good deal of allergic reactions in the older, more established thyroid meds. Also there were problems with absorption for many people who take the other more commonly prescribed pills.

My first night? First, I felt really tired and wanted to go to sleep, but then I  became really jazzed up after trying to sleep for a few hours and found myself awake. I reasoned that my body did not like taking it at dinner, so I switched to AM today and am going to keep on that schedule for my two week trial and see how it goes.  The doctor wanted me to try evenings at first since a lot of his patients find it very soothing, but I am that one patient in 1,000 who is so super sentisive to any changes to my body that even vitamins can throw me for a loop! So I listen to my body and will just wait and watch see how it goes with the AM.

I have felt the way I feel for so many years now, I am not really sure what "good" feels like anymore and frankly that even scares me a little! I know this sounds absurd but it is true. The only me I know is the one who has struggled with finding answers and there is a part of myself that still thinks "is this yet another blind alley toward optimal health? This may not be the panacea I am looking for, but I hope it allows for an improved way of life so that my change of life is not so dramatic as it has been or so that I can cope better with the fall out from menopause. Thyroid disease can and does wreak havoc with the ups and downs of this time of life, so I do hope I will weather the storm better!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Did you realize that women were institutionalized not so long a go in history, for expressing or exhibiting symptoms of thyroid disease, perimenopause, PMS and menopause? And can you blame them...only kidding!!!

Truly, how shameful to think that doctors viewed most of what went on with a woman's reproductive and endocrine system as a never ending source of mystery and had an almost total disregard to learn more since females were considered to be so inferior. Terms were used to define a woman's unease as the vapors, nervous dispositions, hysteria, and in some cases, insanity. These esteemed physicians of the Victorian era often left women with little to no relief of any sort and families often placed these poor "creatures" who deserved more, in mental institutions. A sad reflection of how far we have come, yet how much further we have to go toward understanding the delicate balance of hormones provided by the thyroid, adrenals and the myriad of other glands that make up our endocrine system.

So if you feel on some days like my pumpkin friend above, rest easy, you are not alone.

Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that can greatly effect us all in so many ways. Do not be afraid to push your doctors toward going beyond the standard TSH tests, especially if your tests comes back normal as mine always did for years. If I had known then what I have learned in these last few weeks since my diagnosis, I would not have been so complacent to think it was all related to my "change of life." We have much to blame in our current health care system for the total lack of time doctors give to each patient. So a quick and often times, inaccurate diagnosis is often made in order to make our symptoms fit the coding on the doctors  inusrance billing sheet. Yet another sad but true fact. Health care has come a long way from our Victorian sisters barbaric care, but we still have long way to go toward  opening the door to care that combines traditional treatment options along with integrative practices, that allow time for true one on one care.

You have to play an active role in your health care, another fact that is hard for people to manage or control due to time constraints of their own. As a result, there is new, burgeoning career field  for personal health care advocates. These are people hired by you to get the very best care possible. They manage your insurance, doctors and medications and make sure you get what you need to be the best you can be. But of course, this comes at a price and there is a very limited number of people working in this field as it  requires a certain amount of medical training along with extensive insurance billing experience.

So, do what you can and learn what you must, but trust your instincts and go beyond the obvious. You and I have a right to feel as good as we can in this life!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Breast Cancer

I cannot let the month of October go by without an homage of sorts to Breast Cancer, especially given that we see the pink shirts, ribbons and the awareness campaigns everywhere. As someone who knows what it is like to be diagnosed with breast cancer firsthand, I feel best able to speak from a place of knowledge and experience.

It was not a shock to hear the words from my Radiologist those 8 long years a go, that I had cancer, I simply knew already. Like many women and men diagnosed with cancer, I had a dream months before my actual diagnosis. I saw a wonderful, caring surgeon with blood on her hands look at me with soulful eyes and tell me I had cancer. Do you ever have dreams in which you are sobbing so hard that you wake with tears in your eyes? I do on occasion, and have always felt that a good deal of my insight about my life comes from moments like these. We all have this ability to tap into this part of ourselves. It is just that so many of us are caught up in the flow of life and tend to ignore the signs that tell us what we instinctively know, but are doing our best to avoid.

This dream was so vivid and came LONG before I had even been to doctor or had a biopsy. So when I woke and told my husband that I had cancer he said what any loving, caring person would say, "it was just a dream....let it go." And while for his sake and mine too, I tried, I knew deep down inside that the dream was my body's way of letting me know something was indeed wrong. 6 months and a mastectomy later I was indeed a firm believer in the power of intuition and insight.

You see, we lost my sister-in-law, my husband's sister to breast cancer 4 or so years prior to my diagnosis. She had 3 children all under 10 and I am forever grateful to her for her unbelievable strength and courage in the face of what must have been a devastating diagnosis of Stage IV cancer. Mine was not staged as it was DCIS and so microscopic in size that someone once told me it was smaller then the width of human hair. I opted for a radical procedure for my type of diagnosis. I made my decision after much careful research and consults with my doctors. Perhaps that fateful dream guided my hand in my decision. If it did, I was not conscious of this fact. All I knew was that I can live without my breast, what I cannot live with is the thought that I might not trust my instinct to know that having this procedure was right for me.

On the day of my mastectomy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan, (the absolute best place to be for cancer care in the country, in my biased opinion of course) I was sitting in the pre surgical waiting room with another woman who was also waiting to be escorted to her surgery. (MSK has an empowering practice in their breast cancer division, that you WALK into the surgical room, not get wheeled, as a way to make you feel in control of your surgery. I loved this fact but it is not for everyone.) This woman started talking to me and I vividly recall my first thought was "oh no, I hope she does not say anything to make me second guess what I was doing." She went on to say she was 78 and this was her 4th operation for a lumpectomy, a procedure typically done for women in my situation with DCIS. She asked me why I was here and when I told her my decison, she looked me straight in the eye and said : "I wish I had done what you are brave enough to do now and at your age."

She told me that 4 operations in 30 plus years is 4 too many and that if she had it do do all over, she would have done what I was doing now. I was forever grateful to her for saying so since she so aptly voiced what I felt played into my own decision. Soon after an orderly came in calling out my first name and looking at the two of us expectantly, unsure who was his next patient. We both answered "yes?," and started to laugh when we suddenly realized we had the same name! That does not happen often as our name is one that was never in popularity nor very common. I will never forget that moment and noted it as further proof that I made the right decison and have never looked back. Ever!

Words of advice: "Do not assume since you have no personal history of breast cancer in your family that you are "safe." 80 to 90 percent of the breast cancer diagnosed comes with no formal medical history of breast cancer in the family. We had no history of breast cancer in my family. A lot of women do understand that a history of breast cancer puts you at a higher risk, but not having a history just makes you only slightly less at risk. So get those mammograms! Do not put them off.

In closing, I had wonderful woman in a cancer support group tell me years ago that "knowing you have cancer is like having the radio on all the time. Sometimes the volume is loud and sometimes it plays softer, but never the less, it is always on." And that is indeed how it is to me. I know it's on, but I don't need to listen to it all the time. That's called choice, along with lots of meditation and a healthy dose of hutzpah!