Monday, February 27, 2012

Aging: Menopause

Disclaimer: Men, move on….this is for the ladies.

Surely you knew that as we discussed aging issues that this one would come along! Actually I would love to have someone “respond” with a take on “male menopause” or whatever we are calling that, because I will never be a male.

Ok ladies, so we all went to the “class” in about the fifth grade, and if our mothers hadn’t properly explained things to us by then, we got the idea of what was coming. And at that point, it was going to impact us for “the rest of our lives.” So we thought….

We spend about 40 years dealing with the monthly “curse.” I always liked that term myself, it really was what it was to me. Others might be offended by my use of the word, but this is my blog.  I learned a few things later in life; that I had some issues with menstruation that were “cured” by pregnancy. Unfortunately that was only 21 months of my life (if you are doing the math, I had two miscarriages) so the rest of the time I was pretty much miserable. As a teen I took Darvon, which they have since removed from the market. Durn, I loved the stuff.

BUT, alas, at the age of 46 (there IS a GOD!) I went through menopause in three months! No kidding! Do you hate me yet? I took Prempro for the five years only that they recommend, and then went cold turkey without so much as a hiccup!

Well maybe. I have never truly had a hot flash that I can directly attribute to hormones. I have been hot. I have been cold. I have been embarrassed (another blog). I have had a fever with the flu. No “flashes” like I see happening to friends. None of that every other month for however many years and finally petering out stuff. Just done.

What is it about this “change” that makes women crazy though? I didn’t have what you medical people will call the “physical” symptoms, although I have had sleep disorders all my adult life and it has been intensified by menopause. Plain old fatigue can turn into all kinds of other problems in all kinds of areas. I am not going to talk about my sex life, but I am not the body I used to be!  I think I am mostly affected in the emotional sector of my life, but again, how do you separate menopausal symptoms from “other” things that are just going on—moving through the stages of life? I can't do that.

I have friends who share their experiences with me, and I don’t truly relate. It was quick, it was done, and the issues I was facing in life could certainly be attributed to something else. I began a job that quickly turned into something other than what I was hired for; and it caused great anxiety. We used to joke that no one in their right mind would plan the beginning of menopause and working for so-and-so at the same time. He was well-known, demanding, but mostly you never knew who was going to show up for work on any given day. Outside of the work setting, I actually learned to like him!

I guess overall I have been fortunate and I definitely feel it evened out. When you are in bed two days a month during your early years, you deserve an easy menopausal experience. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

If you don’t hate me, please comment.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Aging: Sleep Disorders

I was encouraged to write this entry by someone else. I begin by saying that this is my story and in no way am I saying people should not listen to their doctor, but be informed!

When did I start having sleep disorders? I don’t remember having any issue before I had my first child. She didn’t sleep well at all. We went from the not-filled-tummy issue, to the cutting-teeth issue, to the night-terrors issue, without any time in between it seemed. We had a dog that had to go to the bathroom during the night. Between Jerry getting up with the dog, me getting up with the baby (which I did combine with a bathroom break); I was awake at least twice a night.

It is no wonder we planned our children four years apart and God planned them five years apart, but I remember a slight reprieve. Maybe. My son slept better, but when he was 13 months old I cracked my elbow (that story is an entire blog which I will not write, it is not PG!), and after initial setting of the bones, I had 6 months in a “contraption” and was banned to the sleeper sofa because my left arm had to be straight out to my side at night. I didn’t sleep much then either.

I seemed to be able to deal with lack of sleep until I went back to work full-time in 1999. I couldn’t squeeze in the 15 minute naps that I used to, and being the conscientious employee that I was, I would lie awake at night thinking of what I had to do the next day. We hired a new employee that was very demanding, and I did not know from day to day who was going to show up for work. This created a lot of anxiety for me.

In 2000 I sought help from a medical professional, a psychiatrist, and was tested for all kinds of stuff, and he prescribed a medication that I take to this day.  It is an anti-anxiety med and what it did was help me go BACK to sleep when I would wake up at night. It worked pretty well and I was actually able to cut back eventually and then not take it at all for a period of time.

Then, about 2002 I started having issues again. I went back on the med. I struggled for several years and then my doctor referred me to an “expert.” I had a sleep study on one of the worst nights of my life in early 2007 (another blog which I would not write) and I was one over the number needed for a CPAP machine. Being diagnosed with sleep apnea was the biggest mistake of my life. The medical professionals pushed through the CPAP machine, promising me it would be paid for; but we paid $600 out of pocket. I used it for 10 months before it went to the basement. I simply did not sleep BETTER with it.

The worst part is that I am now saddled with the diagnosis of apnea and I cannot get insurance. I have been turned down by the guys on TV from AARP that have an insurance product for those in their 50’s. My State Farm people tried to insure me, but they would not underwrite me, but in that process I did learn that I was mistakenly diagnosed as diabetic! (I do have to watch that, but when I asked my nurse practitioner, and she said yes it was in my chart, but my numbers did not support it. “Yeah, well do ya think we can change that?”)

My husband’s insurance has to take me with my preexisting condition, but they charge an obscene amount per month. It’s a house payment.

If you really have apnea, it could affect your breathing and you should see a professional about it. It can be a dangerous situation. But there is also the possibility of a diagnosis being “pushed” in order to sell a product. That’s what happened to me and it will cost me tens of thousands of dollars over the course of the rest of my life.  I am grateful someone will insure me!

Sleep disorders can be serious, and we are told how they affect other health issues. I think a person knows when they need help and I do recommend that. But….be informed at all steps, and if you have a sleep study on a terrible day just because it was scheduled that day, the results should be repeated.

I now sleep pretty well. I still take the anti-anxiety med, but I look toward the day when I can be weaned off it. Once I “retire,” I want to go off and let my body assume its natural rhythm. That will be the first step toward freedom.

Later: I ran into this story. I want to add this to the blog. It is a very interesting take on this subject. The Myth of the Eight Hour Sleep

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Aging: On Being Clumsy

Is it just me? I am in reasonably good health, so why am I bumping into things all the time, dropping things all the time, and generally living by the principles of Murphy’s Law or whatever that principal is where if you drop the peanut-buttered bread, it will land peanut-butter side down more than 50% of the time?

Long sentence, I know. My Fairborn High School English teachers taught me better. I remember in younger years, I was clumsy when I was pregnant and it was long before I gained any weight! I have gained weight, and few of those reading this blog weigh the same as they did in high school. The rest of us don’t like them much at all! But unless there is medication that causes the weight gain, most of us put it on gradually. For me there were two pregnancies, several bouts of plantar fasciitis, and although I would not call it depression technically, one period of time where I just didn’t give a rats’ behind! Can I get an “Amen?”

So I don’t think I can blame weight gain for the clumsiness, although it does affect my ability to bend over and pick up the things I have dropped, and clean in places I once could get to!

Why does my elbow hit every durn thing as I make my way through the day, knocking things off the counters, desks, end tables and so forth? I have given up on small motor skills such as needlework and putting in earrings is just a CHORE so more often than not you will see me without them or the same pair for a LONG time. It’s just too much trouble!

In 1996 I had carpel tunnel surgery (the disease of our generation) on my right hand, and although I do notice the beginnings of it with my left hand, I figure it’s not my dominant hand and I may even make it through the rest of my life just dealing with it. I type a lot, but other than that, I avoid all repetitive motions. I figure I got it originally counting money (not MINE! I worked in a bank for years) and I am not doing anything like that today. I find that I am doing far less handwriting, as little as I can get by with.

With the carpel tunnel syndrome, I notice things slipping out of my hands so much, and I compensate for that by grasping objects tighter and not taking risks with anything, the way I might have in the past. The computer I am typing this with is an example: in days past, I would have laid it down with one hand. I do not do that anymore, it will slip out and drop.

I do drop things for no reason. I wear athletic shoes as much as possible, because I have learned that I am clumsy of step. I roll my ankle for no reason at all. I slip on nothing, it would seem. I really don’t understand this. I never claimed to be an athlete, but I wasn’t a total klutz either.

I have a decent life and this seems like a small thing to whine about. Many have serious medical issues that I am not dealing with.  I just don’t get WHY? I would love to hear from others who are experiencing this, to know I am not alone.

Oh, and while I am writing this blog, an email comes in asking me if I want to participate in a high blood pressure survey! ~Sigh!~

Monday, February 13, 2012

Aging: How Valentine's Day Changes

In writing about aging issues, I got to thinking about Valentine’s Day and how it changes over the years as we age. 

First of all, I want to disclaim: I believe that this holiday is merchandise-driven, unlike others that have different origins but have BECOME merchandise-driven in our culture. To me personally, showing love is something that is not designated to a “day.” That said, how does Valentine’s Day change for us as we grow older?

It was so much fun as a child to have a party at school and give and receive valentines, which were stored in a decorated shoebox. The box was saved and poured over several different times. Friendships were special. As I grew, I “hoped” that certain boys might write a little something special to me. In the teen years, we outgrew the parties (darn!) and Valentine’s Day became another social measurement of popularity or acceptance. When you were dating someone, all was well. If not, it wasn’t so much fun. Once in awhile there was a “secret admirer.” J I never managed to figure all that out. Then there were my female friends who were still “encouragers” in the friendship department. How I appreciated that.

As a young adult, I don’t remember many Valentine’s Days. I had two with my husband before marriage. I am sure we went out to eat. After marriage and before children, we celebrated in various ways, which included going out to eat, flowers and perhaps a small gift. After children, when we had lower income, I went into creativity mode. Each year I made a heart-shaped pizza and a cherry chip heart-shaped cake.

I always felt “date nights” and “special weekends” were important; but the school year, and the schedule of possible “babysitters,” kept those from always happening in the middle of February. The important thing is that they “happened” sometime. As we raised children, and the middle of winter brought other expenses; sports supplies, school supplies and just the general costs of feeding and clothing a family, gift-giving and celebrating took a back seat. Almost every year though, we had the heart-shaped pizza and cake. I tried to keep that constant. Meanwhile, I was buying those little cards for little people too! And, there was always a shoebox. It was far more important to the female child than the male. At least I think that’s the case!

As we age, it’s not as important to buy on any given day. That goes also for most holidays. Today we make investments in big-ticket items; or memories, such as a vacation. These are more important than another trinket or “thing.” Shoot, I am trying to get rid of things!

I did look at the Valentine’s Day ads though. What used to be flowers and candy, along with a card of course, has morphed into electronic items which your sweetheart MUST have, sexy products (ok, that was always implied, but now it’s OUT THERE!) along with jewelry and clothing. The world would tell us that it’s not a successful day unless merchandising is a part of it.

I guess for me, aging means that the gifts given are not always visible. When younger, there was something to prove. That’s not necessary anymore. Valentine’s gifts are the unseen things, the serving each other in ways that are just between us. Stuff? If we want it bad enough, we go out and get it. I am a minimalist there, but I get what I need. We don’t need to “buy” for each other. We “buy” for us! This year? Our gift is an Alaskan cruise to celebrate our 35th anniversary.

This got a little sloppy. It
tasted fine.
Think there will be any left
over? Think again....
Oh, and I will make a heart-shaped pizza and a heart-shaped cake!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

First Anniversary of This Blog!

It's Hard to Believe!

I just want to interrupt this series of blogs to note that this is the ONE YEAR anniversary of my blog. It is so hard to believe that this is my 66th post! I don’t know what I was thinking when I started this, but I have learned much about myself and others in this process. Thank you to those who regularly follow me, or maybe not so regularly, but get to it eventually (maybe of a midnight when you can’t sleep!).

Much thought went into the naming of the blog and if I named names of those I talked to or wrote to, I am quite certain I would miss someone. I communicated with about 30 people. Sherm Patrick and I finally “hit” upon the title "Connection Intersection." If I were to consider renaming it now, it would have something to do with seasons of life. I know there are people who write more than one blog at a time on different subjects and that is too complicated for me! I have set up labels to further guide you into the subject matter.

Right now I am working on some issues regarding aging in general; and some other life situations have come up also, so I will be working on those. I usually have between 6-8 things going at once. This is my creative outlet; and just as all sewing projects are not the same, all paintings are not the same; all of these blogs are not the same. I have noticed some just grab readers and I really don’t know why—others are barely noticed, but might be returned to at another time by a reader.

All blogs are pre-approved by my husband. Although I have come to realize that it is MY story; he is obviously a big part of my story. However, these blogs are not designed to be about him; or my children or grandchildren. Big events: weddings and births will be noted. The “Christmas Letter” was an easy way to reach everyone this year. However, the day-to-day stories will not be about him. As I work on aging and health issues, they will not be about him. They are my observations and experiences of life. His privacy will be respected.

As always, I encourage responses by my readers. I don’t have all the answers, and my story is but one story! Please feel free to comment at any time. If you do not have a google account sign in as “anonymous,” but PLEASE leave your name! At least enough that I know who wrote.

Onward and upward. I don’t plan to quit until I run out of inspiration!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Aging: Together and Separately

Disclaimer: My niece Kris inspired me to discuss the topic of doing things "separately" as we age. She has been married 25 years and has 7 children ranging from 22 to just under 3. She also has a baby boy in heaven. Even with heavy family responsibilities; she is thinking about this issue. I would imagine others are also. We are working on it.....

I stand on the cusp of the "empty nest." I do not have anxiety about this. (1) I have raised my children and they are well equipped to be on their own. (2) Both have them have chosen mates that I love almost as much as my kids! (3) With this last child, he has done this gradually, so it's just a natural course of events. I am beginning to think about redecorating his room.

Even as we have a year-long preparation for a wedding; little by little we are all being weaned. It is fun, but I have to ask myself: now what?

The seasons of life are so unique and I believe that certain seasons ARE for the young. I married later than some of my friends and did not start a family for 6 years. That first season was one of work and other activities. I was very close to my co-workers; I didn't realize how much at the time. Upon marriage, we developed friendships among other teachers, neighbors and those life put in our path. I have only lived in three houses in my married life; and only two when I was growing up (several apartments strewn in there during the college years) and I have ALWAYS had wonderful neighbors.

I decided that I wanted to raise my children. That was my job for my next season of life. I would not change a thing. It was exhausting; I was in my thirties. My energy was thrown into taking care of them; but I knew that it was just as important for me to have other interests.

The first year was lonely. I hadn't met other stay-at-home moms. At about her first birthday, I joined a Bible study at the church I attended with women of differing ages and that became my network. When Jess learned to talk, we called it "Going to study Bible." 

I soon saw that the questions of a two-year-old were wearing me out, and I needed “me” time. As she was turning three, I put her in the church preschool. Later, I became the business manager of this preschool, which was NEVER in my life plan! My line was to parents, "You only think preschool is for the child; It is really for the parents!" Her first year was MWF mornings and I went to exercise on MW and "study Bible" on Friday. These were the things I needed and she learned a few things too.

That was the fall of 1986 and I worked with First Baptist WEE School for ten school years. Our school grew from 24 to 108. I had a baby; seriously, I did the books from the hospital room. This job worked for me and for raising my kids. It was my "professional" and social outlet; it was my family. These were people who shared my values and there was no concern about what anyone said or did to my child. Joel never knew a "first day of school."  Later in life, I had a man tell me that WEE School contributed to the overall “great start” that his (very) bright son received in his education. I considered this the highest of compliments; and perhaps as I look back when I am 80-something, those were the years when I was able to impact the most lives.

It was the season of life of young children. Jerry was off summers, and I was definitely "part-time" during the summer, although some administration still needed to take place. Our family gelled during these years, and our activity centered around our pool much of the time. That, and listening to “Marty and Joe on the radio.”

Life changed when we moved in 1993; our new neighborhood, our new community. Our jobs remained constant, but our lives were focused on the rearing of the children. That is where our energy went; which for us was mostly sports. That was good since it was community-based and we weren't travelling the country and spending a lot of money. It helped us develop some of the closest relationships of our lives, outside of our families. The next fourteen years was beyond busy and once in awhile we came up for air. Since we were older parents, we really did tire more easily, but after an injury to one of Joel's teammates in the 7th grade, we agreed that one of us would be at everything, if it meant splitting up, or even taking vacation time. One of us would be in the stands. Joel played so hard, something was going to happen someday!

I knew these years would pass quickly, and I did continue to pursue other interests and I had more than one job, so there was professional development as well. I had to give up music in 2002 but I knew in the fall of 2007 I would be back! I took classes for professional growth, and study groups for personal growth. I continued work on my class reunions, although I took 2006 off.

I have never let my mind grow stagnant, and I always had friends. GOOD friends!

So now, we are at that "empty nest" stage where I still want to do more stuff than my husband does. This is where friends become so important, and we do the dance of how much is just right to maintain a good home life. I am blessed that Jerry encourages me to do things without him.

It's important to do things together, yet we realize that our interests change over time. Some of these interests are developed, some fall into our paths, some are thrust upon us with life circumstances, and some are responsibilities which we must keep.

I think I have said this in other blogs; but it bears repeating in this context; everything in balance. Growing older will be all right.