Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jeep on the Beach

This past Memorial Day weekend my husband, son and I took a trip down to Cape Cod. We left after dinner Thursday night to beat the rush of traffic that would ensue by Friday. Glad we did! Overheard the folks at the Birdwatcher General Store on Friday in Orleans (a wonderful place to shop for all my fellow bird lovers) mention that there was a nine mile back up on the Sagamore Bridge. A typical occurrence on holiday weekends, especially those forecast to be as lovely as this last one was to be.

We drove to our hotel tired, hungry and feeling as though perhaps we had made a mistake in coming. I had just gotten back from a 5 day silent retreat and was still feeling out of sorts from the reentry process. My husband was exhausted and tense from working daily, then taking care of our 7 year old son each night including a weekend.  Our son was feeling the effects of being without mom for 5 whole days and nights, while transitioning from one parent to another. All in all we are three people who do not transition as well as some people do to changes in our daily routine. The result can be a recipe for disaster. Even before we left we hit a few snags resulting in flares of temper and jangled nerves. My husband wanted to turn the Jeep around a few times to head home, but something in me just knew that this family needed some serious reconnection, so onward we proceeded.

Friday morning came with some early morning fog and the possibility of a few afternoon showers. So we decided to head to the Heritage Museum and Gardens located in Sandwich to see the newly opened exhibit of Norman Rockwell's paintings along with their photographic counterparts. The museum sits on some of the most lovely acreage on the Cape surrounded by lush flowers and wildlife. It is a gardeners paradise. Waterfalls, maze, labyrinth, windmill, fountains, herb garden, shrubs, trees and flowers abound. I have lived on the Cape, in Centerville, and Nantucket Island, plus vacationed here since a young child and never in all those years visited this gorgeous place. Words do not even begin to do it justice.

After enjoying the exhibit and the grounds we took a long car ride to our favorite area on Cape Cod: Orleans and the National Seashore to purchase our off road vehicle pass. Thankfully our overly tired son who transitions the worst of the 3 of us, fell fast asleep in the back of the car and slept for close to 2 hours. A much needed improvement to his disposition and stamina that greatly improved our outlook!

The next day dawned with bright blue skies and hardly a cloud to be seen. We ate breakfast at a local IHOP, delicious, and headed off to begin our jeep adventure on the beach.

Nauset Beach in Orleans has been a beloved place of my husband and mine since we were first dating. We both were excited about the prospect of taking our passion for beach and ocean life even further by letting the air out of of our tires and driving onto the soft, silky sand! It was pure joy.

The off road entrance to the beach is completely surrounded by an abundance of beach plum, pines and tall grasses. It has to be one of the prettiest off road access entrances we had ever seen, including Great Point on Nantucket Island. Both my husband and I have done our fair share of off roading on beaches with friends and family, but this was our first time in our own and not a rented or someone else's vehicle, so that made it even more special. Plus, my son who has been off-road with us before, was now at that age when the excitement of all the bounces and bumps only heightened his enjoyment.

The beach front for off-roading is long and stretches endlessly onto the horizon. We laughed as we bounced along, found our spot, sprayed our bodies with sunscreen, marked our territory with beach chairs and heard those most adored words of any sand loving child as our own is "Hey Dad can we go dig a hole now?" And indeed they did!

It was just what this family needed. We watched many groups of seals swim by us on the shore line, gathered shells and rocks galore, dug holes to hold back the advancing high tide, played beach tennis, ate, drank and reconnected to one another in a natural setting. I am not sure about anyone else, but I know how much my spirit settles down into a calm sense of self when I am surrounded by nature, but in particular the ocean. And it is the same for both my husband and son.

Other people may travel the world looking for new places to explore and/or adventures to satisfy their hearts desire, but give us a chair on the beach with the sound of the Atlantic surf and this family has found its own form of Nirvana. It is and always be an integral part of all our lives and one that I do hope we are able to enjoy for many years to come.

We left the Cape late Sunday night feeling somewhat sad to leave but knowing inside we were all better for the time away especially not having succumbed to ennui of daily routines run astray. We shared laughter, shed some tears and spent many hours just being with each other in that special way families have that make us feel supported, loved, and glad to have each other.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Retreat at IMS in Barre, MA

"Try to be mindful and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool. All kinds of wonderful, rare animals will come to drink at the pool, and you will clearly see the nature of all things. You will see many strange and wonderful things come and go, but you will be still. This is the happiness of the Buddha."
                                                                         Achaan Cha

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Silent Sit Meditation Manchester, NH


Tuesdays Starting May 8, 2012

5:45PM to 6:45PM

Full Spectrum Wellness  
55 South Commercial Street
Manchester, NH

All are welcome to attend who have some experience with a meditation or mindfulness practice.  $5.00 weekly participant fee.

There is such collective strength and serenity that comes from participating in a weekly group meditation, so we do hope you are able to join us.

If you have further questions or would like to know what other types of meditation, yoga or wellness classes/services are available, please call or visit us on the web at:
Please Note: Instructional meditation classes are held on Monday evenings. See web for details.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Menopause and Meeting with an Expert

Nine months ago I made an appointment while on vacation to see a female doctor who is also an expert on all things menopause. She works at a top Massachusetts hospital that I hold in high regard. I knew it was a long time to wait, but also knew by the time I went to see her I would have had a chance to put into practice a plethora of steps needed to get my perimenopause journey moving into a better place. Which it truly has, and you can read all my previous posts to see what has been working so far, although I have a few more to write on exercise, nutrition, acupuncture, and socialization. All this and more. It is a never ending journey as far as I am concerned.

But I wanted to jump ahead to talk about this appointment and what learned from it in the hopes that it might offer those of you some help.

I showed up for my appointment on time but found that I had to wait close to an hour and half until the doctor actually saw me. She brought me into small, but bright and cheerful office where lots of light filtered in through the floor to ceiling windows. We sat at a tiny, circular faux wooden conference table. She told me she had read my answers that I had graciously provided on a lengthy, but not overly long questionnaire. Her manner was practiced and kind in that way this particular hospital has of training its medical staff. I think you know what I mean, the doctors use just the right amount of eye contact, compliment the patient, smile, compliment the patient, seem approachable while maintaining expertise, compliment the patient. It is a well practiced dance routine common to the doctors at this hospital and probably at most major hospitals across this country. I am not entirely comfortable with this brand of patient/doctor relationship, it does seem a tad forced and off putting. I would prefer the comments and gestures be more spontaneous, but I totally get the fact that after seeing hundreds of clients, one can get a bit over rehearsed in their manner and it can come across rather fake.

If you are wondering why I am not revealing the name of this doctor it is two fold. First, once she heard that I was the author of a blog for women about menopause she graciously told me to print any of the handouts she gave me so that others may share in the knowledge. (I do want to mention here that all the handouts she gave me were provided to her by NAMS: The North American Menopause Society. She also told me that she is no longer accepting new patients as her practice is full. I can understand why as I think there are truly few doctors in this country who specialize in menopause and I am sure the wait list for them is exhaustively long. She asked that her name not be mentioned and out of respect to her full practice, I am agreeing not to reveal it here, in print.

I also want to say that while I did find much of what she said to be "old hat" to me by now, I did get the information I specifically came for which was to find out her perspective on breast cancer survivors and HRT (hormone replacement therapy.) She was not in favor, which came as no surprise to me, and even brought up, in a somewhat disparaging tone, that Suzanne Somers is misleading a lot of women and she hoped I was not buying into her thought process. Funny that she mention that name, because at that moment Suzanne Somers and her own experience with HRT or bioidenticals as she calls them were the furthest thing from my mind. But I realized she must hear it from her patients a lot and needed to get it out on the table to me before we preceded. I thought this was all rather humorous!

So, I listened and learned that it may not be such a bad thing for me to try Black Cohosh, an herb that does indeed help women with hot flashes. Although she did say my breast surgeon may not agree. And  since many of my symptoms have abated or been significantly improved this was one of the last ones that had been improved somewhat, but still prevalent. So I started Remifemin three weeks ago had have noticed a reduction in the number of nights I am awakened by heart palpitations and hot flashes. So I am pleased with the results so far.

A word of caution not all doctors like to see breast cancer survivors on this herb, so use your discretion. My breast cancer was DCIS, non invasive, microscopic and did not require chemo or radiation. So I feel as well as this doctor, that given this fact, that it is worth the slight increased risk to help me sleep better and be a better mom, wife and person in general. Every one comes to this from a different perspective, do what works for you!

Plus,  I DO NOT like the alternatives: conventional HRT is not something I want to utilize. Nor do I want to take off label drugs such as antidepressants or anti- seizure meds to help with hot flashes. I think the side effects and weaning off of both these types of drugs is not in my best interest. My depressed mood at times come more from lack of sleep, or from the drop in estrogen, not clinical depression. And I do not suffer from severe hot flashes, which is the reason why some doctors are prescribing gapapentin, an anti-seizure medication, to help women sleep at night.

There is a terrific book I mentioned previously: Mind Over Menopause by Leslee Kagan, MS, NP at Harvard Medical School. She goes into detail on all I mentioned here and more and is a great proponent of not using medication and HRT to ease one through menopause.

Plus,  I cannot overemphasize enough how a daily mindfulness/meditation practice, yoga and exercise program truly help to to reduce the frequency of hot flashes. There are numerous studies available on all this and more. Simple fact: it works!

So in conclusion: my visit to the expert was helpful to me in that it gave me another thing to add to my personal regime to help me cope. She was very generous with her information, and as I said you can find it all and more at the NAMS website on the link above.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Happy 50th and Happy 8th to T and ME!!!

My 50th luncheon and week long stay at the beach in NJ was a TON of fun. And even better, was the surprise my son got when we flipped things around and had a surprise party for his 8th birthday! He was so SURPRISED as he thought it was ALL for me. 

Hit play button above to see a tiny (haha!) video of some snaps from the days festivities. Look closely, apparently Ben Franklin wielding a light saber showed up as well! Those JOISEY people! U SO CRAZY!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tick Alert!

There are some things about a mild winter that are not welcome and that is the simple fact that ticks are even more fierce then usual in the spring, summer and fall months that follow. Already we have spotted ticks on my son when he rolled on the front lawn playing badminton recently, on our clothes after we pruned some shrubs, and on our jackets after playing at a local playground. We have also heard from several friends about ticks that were on and imbedded in their children after brief outdoor play activity. WOW!

Recently, I had one such very unwelcome traveler attach itself to my thigh on our vacation last week.  I actually felt the moment of impact when a sharp pain shot up my leg and felt itchy in the area immediately. I began to scratch at the site furiously through my jeans only to feel something unexpected and I knew instinctively what it was: a tick! YUCK. Sorry, I am truly a tad grossed out by all things tick related especially given the fact that I know so many people who truly suffer ongoing flare ups from Lyme disease caused by these tiny creatures of havoc.

This particular tick was imbedded in the back of my thigh and not going anywhere soon. As my sister tugged on the tweezers, pain shot up my leg. This tick was clamped down and not about to let go without a fight. After some time, and several body segments later, it was finally removed. It was most unpleasant and not the way I would have like to start a vacation, but what can you do?

Since all this transpired, I did some reading up on ticks and learned quite a bit in the process. So I wanted to pass along some truly great information in the hopes that it will help all of you when and if the time comes to remove these vampiric arachnids from yourself, or worse, your loved ones!

There are many varieties of ticks and each tick has a varying degree of shape and size depending on where is is in its  growth cycle. Deer tick are so tiny, even as adults, which is what makes them so hard to spot on clothing and skin areas. They don't jump out at you like the large one I had chomp into my thigh. (BTW, ticks don't actually chomp, they secrete a type of novacaine-like fluid from their mouth area that, in theory, should make you unaware of their entry into your skin. Most people are not allergic, but some are, as I must have been when the tick clamped into me causing immediate pain and itching.)

Ticks mouth parts perform just  like barbed wire in skin which is why they are able to hang on and not fall off easy. I just read recently of a dog that was lost for 6 weeks in our local area. After it was found it had 100 ticks alone on just its face! That did not include the rest of this poor creatures body. Let's hope that dog recovers from the fact that surely at least one of those ticks was indeed infected with Lyme or some other bacteria.

When you are removing a tick:

1. DO NOT TWIST, but place the tweezers up against the skin and the head of the tick and firmly clamp down on the tweezers and pull straight out. 

2. DO NOT put Vaseline, oil or any other liquid matter on the tick prior to removal. It does NOT help in fact, it makes the situation worse as the tick becomes stressed and releases the toxins from its mouth into your skin. This GREATLY increases the risk of infection.

3. DO SAVE the tick in a baggie upon removal to show to your doctor, and YES call the doctor after you remove one.  If your doctor suspects infection, especially if the person bitten gets any flu like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or heart palpitations, the tick can be sent to a lab to be analyzed to determine the type of bacteria in order to select the appropriate method of antibiotics to pursue.

The sad, but true fact is that ticks can infect you with not just Lyme, but Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Encephalitis, and a host of other illnesses that can indeed be life threatening. And it is not just deer tick that are infected! So do not assume anything where a tick is concerned. The younger or earlier the tick is in its growth cycle the less chance it has of carrying infection. A hard to tell truth which makes it even more important to SAVE the tick in case symptoms occur.

IMPORTANT FACT: NOT ALL INFECTED TICKS LEAVE A TELL-TALE BULL'S EYE RING on the skin! In fact, many do not. Also, the bulls eye ring may not show up for one to two weeks after a tick bite has occurred.

I have known too many people who found out they have contracted Lyme Disease AFTER the fact. The best chance of prevention is antibiotic treatment as soon as possible. Years ago, I worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and was able to help a colleague.  She had spent the weekend removing brush from her property and mentioned that she seemed to have gotten a rash from some plant.  Looking at her upper arm, it had the classic bull's eye mark: distinct and clear as a bell. I told her she needed to get that looked at right a way by a doctor. She did, and in so doing learned that indeed she had most likely been bitten by a Lyme ridden tick and she was immediately placed on antibiotics. I am happy to report she is doing well 10 or so years after the fact. PHEW!

Here are two helpful sites regarding ticks:

Both are filled with vital information about these tiny arachnids that survived our mild winter and will be out in full force. These sites discuss prevention as well as proper tick removal.

As for me, I went to an ER walk in clinic the day after my attack (HA, HA) and was placed on an antibiotic as a precautionary measure. Fine with me. All I know is that this particular tick hurt upon entry and removal.  I am also lucky that my body felt and reacted to the bite, otherwise who knows how long this uninvited and most unwelcome guest may have snacked on me! Double YUCK!!! This is tick number 3 in my life time. I hope to KEEP it that way!!!