It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead

I don’t know what my problem is but I’m just not fun anymore. I used to want to go out for drinks, go dancing, let me hair doen, get my whoooooo out. You know, WHOOO HOOO!

Instead, everyday I feel and experience the intense preciousness of life. I feel like I’m living in the Pearl Jam song “Sirens.”

“It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead.
If I think too much I can get overwhelmed by the grace
By which we live our lives with death over our shoulder.”

Is this a characteristic of getting older? Feeling that life is so tenuous and precious? I suspect a lot of it results from my life last year, but even now, I am surrounded be people who are dueling with life and death. Losing parents, losing pets.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get back the foolishness of living life like there’s no end. I suspect now that I’ve danced too close to death there’s no going back to being that naive. But sometimes I wish for it, I truly do.

I guess the point is to focus on the grace, like Eddie says. Sounds so fucking cliche but every single day on this earth is a gift. It truly is. Every single hug from our kids, every single smile, every giggle shared. At the end of it all it is these things I will remember.

So I suppose maybe it’s okay not to be focused so much on the fun right now, but instead be soaking up each minute as my family gets older. Instead of soaking myself in cocktails, I’m soaking myself in them and I guess that’s okay by me.

Adventures in bleeding: How to keep your uterus from exploding

People, brace yourselves. This blog is not for the squeamish. You see, it’s about my lady parts. You know, my Baby Bed… My lady junk. My STUFF. If you are a man and the thought of blood and vaginal anything scares you, you should leave now. We’ll give you a minute. Go on now, git.

It’s all rather embarrassing. And that’s part of the problem. As women, we do not talk about this stuff. We find it gross or unladylike or just plain weird to talk to each other about it. Unforch, what happens is that we are all suffering similarly but in silence. And double-unforch, together we might be able to come up with better information and healthier solutions than those being offered by the medical establishment today.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good doctor. Doctors save lives. They are who you want in your corner when your life is threatened. But are they the best resource for figuring out the mysteries of your body? Are they the best healers? Doctors today have approximately 10 minutes to get your story and whip out a prognosis and treatment plan. Can we really expect them to get it right? I don’t think so. As patients, we are being treated by the numbers: What is most likely to be the cause, how most women respond to certain treatments, the results of studies conducted on college co-eds 20 years ago, and of course whatever is being sold by the drug companies.

Let me whip out a frightening fact for you: According to the CDC, women in the age group of 40 – 44 have the highest rate of hysterectomy. This age group is typically still years and years away from menopause. So why are so many women who should be feeling like 40 is the new 30 are instead having their lady parts removed? Two words: HORMONAL IMBALANCE.

It’s time for us to get our shit together ladies. Seriously. Unless you like being a passive passenger on this trip we call life, we need to start getting involved in our hormonal health.

Here’s my story and how I got to this place. This year has sucked big donkey balls for me. In April, I was in a rollover car accident that brought on a complete mental breakdown. In September, there was a tragic accident involving my favorite soul-mate dog and beloved brother and nephew which brought on mental breakdown #2. Finally, a big project at work brought on stress and more stress and of course I’m still aging… and viola! My hormones are completely f-ed up.

My problem is blood.

I am a walking Stephen King novel. I can bleed like nobody’s business. They should give me some kind of tiara for this shit. The best part is how unpredictable it is. Last week, on the busiest day of my work year  I am minding my own business, just sitting there blowing up balloons for this fair that I organize, when BAM! Spontaneous blood flood. I am super grateful for black skinny jeans because they soaked it up well so I didn’t drip the 200 yards to the bathroom and the blood didn’t show. The flow had made it almost down to my knees. I cleaned up as best I could in the restroom but obviously had to go home immediately for a shower and clothing change. I made it back to work with only minutes to spare before the fair was scheduled to start.

I wonder if Carrie had a hormonal imbalance too?

I’ve seen a doctor. And my sweet little 29 year old doc put me on birth control pills. Lucky for me I already had a clue that my issue was estrogen related (too much of it) so I asked for the progesterone only pill. She would’ve put me on the combo pill, however, which would have made the estrogen dominance even worse for sure. Since starting the pill, however, I’ve been spotting and have had a 13 day period. So I did some more research and discovered that since the progesterone only pill isn’t ACTUALLY progesterone (it’s progestin which is a chemical compound sort-of like progesterone) this kind of spotting and period changes are NORMAL. Yeah right.

Those little extra chemical thingies off the side are going to fuck you up.

I do not accept that. I do not accept that this is the best plan for me. Fuck that. (Sorry for the language but if you’ve read my blog before you know I have a potty mouth.)

So I started researching. I’ve spent every spare moment reading and researching. According to some great web sites and several informative books there are better ways to treat my hormonal imbalance. I also did some research on the best sources for natural progesterone and how to administer it and am now off of the pills and onto a bio-identical progesterone cream.

I won’t know for another few weeks if my plan is working. At least I am hopeful. And I’m talking about it. We need to talk about it. I know two women in my circle of acquaintances who have had hysterectomies this month. And while it is a solution, it brings with it instance menopause and hormonal imbalances of a different kind. I know of another friend with breast fibroids (also due to estrogen dominance) and more friends with bleeding problems. I am not a statistical corner case. This is happening to MOST OF US. And we owe it to each other to learn about it and talk about it.

So here’s my recommended reading list to get you started:

  • Dr. John R. Lee’s Hormone Balance Made Simple – Short and sweet, contains a list of symptoms and the hormonal causes. Great reference for personalizing hormonal treatments just for you.
  • What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause – Premenopause is the phase before perimenopause and spans the ages 30-50, generally. This book contains a ton of info about the different conditions women start to experience during this time of life and what to do about them.
  • The Perimenopause Blog – A great site put together by a woman named Magnolia Miller. She has experienced most of this first hand and also holds a professional certification as a healthcare consumer advocate in women’s health, and is currently conducting graduate research in the field of medical anthropology with a focus on women’s health issues in perimenopause, menopause & post menopause issues.
  • Taking Charge of Your Fertility – The definitive guide to learning about your cycle, the hormones involved, and how to read your own body. I used the knowledge I learned in this book as birth control for 10+ years so I know it works. It’s a great reference for finding out if you are ovulating, not-ovulating, or generally finding out what your lady parts are doing.

For my tech-savvy friends, I also recommend getting an app to track your cycles. I use an app that tracks my cycles, the days, my bleeding, as well as my basal body temperatures. There are tons of them in the App Store, so shop around and pick the one that you’re most comfortable with.

I’ll post more later as I discover how my plan is working. For today, I am very happy I have stopped bleeding.

I will also write a post soon about what I learned about nutrient and vitamin levels and how that contributes to our hormones. So much good information is out there. Educate yourself, m’ladies!

Death is breathing over my shoulder and he’s got halitosis

First of all, I do not have a sad, melancholy life.

I am generally a happy person and in fact usually quite giddy about life. I’ve been told by previous managers that I laugh and smile altogether too much and they are “important people” so they must know what they are saying. Also, I am healthy and have a great life in general (with the exception of the wacky bad events of this year).

So it is with some discomfort and a little bit of WTF that I feel like I am living in one of those movies where everything that can possibly go wrong is visualized in my head.

I am fairly certain that most people do not live this way.

You might see a kid crossing the street… I see how one careless driver making a wrong turn could make him fly through the air leaving his shoes behind.

Others see a dog on a leash… I see that leash having a manufacturing defect that allows the dog to break free and run into traffic.

You see a lovely tree to park under… I see how that big heavy branch with a little bit of dead leaves on it could suddenly heave its weight on top of my head.

It generally sucks to feel like death is breathing over your shoulder. I do NOT recommend it because the grim reaper eats pain and suffering for a living and needs some serious mouthwash.

SO how do I get back to that lovely state of oblivious happiness I had before? And better question still, can I?

My psychologist friends tell me trauma takes a while to get over. I am assuming I will also need a really long stretch of nothing going wrong to start to have faith in the general safety and goodness in life. I seriously hope that can happen.

I am worried that this state is the new normal. Maybe when you reach your 40s on top of everything sliding south (my face, my boobs… okay, my thighs too) you also encounter more in life that is tragically sad. Parents start to get sick, maybe they pass away. Pets that were babies when we were young are aging with us as well. Our kids grow up and start to take reckless and possibly life-threatening risks (not that this is happening… YET).

Oh, to go back to the delightful oblivion of no drama. Or where the only drama was whether or not my kid slept through the night or if they had a starring role in their first grade play.

Bottom line: I can’t undo what’s happened and I cannot un-see what I’ve seen. I just have to continue throwing good visuals in my head on top of the bad and hope eventually they out-weigh the bad.

Here’s my list of ideas (for October) to get death to back the hell off:

  • Celebrate Halloween. Ironic that a holiday that’s generally “dark” can make me so happy. Consider decorating (which could be epic) and definitely incorporate costumes.
  • Cook some Fall deliciousness. Pumpkin dessert anythings and chili cornbread loveliness. Whip that shit up pronto.
  • Watch my Fall favorites. I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me happier than watching the Harry Potter movies in the Fall. Throw in some Jane Austen films and I’m in heaven. Pride and Prejudice marathon… who’s with me!?
  • Gratefulness board. I want to get a lovely framed chalkboard situation and put a daily “what am I grateful for” message on it.

Do you have any other ideas? I’d love to hear them. As always, thanks for listening to my ramblingness.

There’s a reason Dog is God spelled backwards.

It’s been three weeks since Mojo died. In that time, we’ve grieved heartily and started on the path to loving our new puppy. We laugh, we cry, we cuddle Joey, we miss Mojo.

Through all of this, I can’t seem to stop thinking about what this experience is teaching me on a spiritual level.

Ohhhh religion, run for the hills!!!

I’m not going to talk about religion, people. I was raised in religion, steeped in it like a teen-aged-size tea bag. My mom was a pastor for a large portion of my life – so I get religion. I think I can say I’m beyond religion. And I’m not trying to upset any readers that might love their religion. To each his own, I say.

No, I’m talking about what I BELIEVE. Spiritually, ‘n stuff. I’ve always believed in God. Although this year has made me rework how God operates. When I was growing up, I thought that God was this single entity with a big director’s microphone, calling the shots. The longer I live and the more I see of tragedy and loss, I definitely don’t believe there is a deity up there directing anything.

Let’s face it. The concept of God is a human construct. And us humans, we are flawed, flawed, flawed. So I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with figuring out your own spiritual beliefs.

It’s not like you have to pick from one of the 52 flavors of religion and then live with it. You can MAKE. YOUR. OWN. Wow. Look at Scientology… Just sayin’.

After the events of this year, I truly believe in randomness as a universal principle. Bad shit happens. And sometimes more than once to the same person. There’s no reason behind it other than pure randomness. God is not directing this shit.

As far as God is concerned, I am starting to think that the only part of God we can understand is love. In our spirits’ pure form, we are all love. Love connects us in the form of compassion and caring. It connects us to our friends, our families, the earth, to animals, to everything. Love lives in us and lives on after we die.

Toward this idea, I believe that dogs are the embodiment of love. They are God manifest in animal helper form. (That’s not to say that I don’t acknowledge that there are some broken dogs out there who would chew off your face in trade for a lamb chop. But most of those dogs were broken by people.)

The experiences that people have with how their dogs love them is mind-boggling. You see it everywhere: from the dog who cried and cried upon his owner’s return from a tour of duty, to the posts of people who have lost their dogs and are as heartbroken as I was. Stories of dogs saving human lives, dogs savings other dogs, dogs nursing kittens and squirrels.

Let’s face it: Dogs are freakin’ amazing, people! (I had no idea, because I used to be a cat person.)

I’m thinking there’s a reason that Dog is God spelled backwards. I think that’s supposed to be a clue for us dumb humans.

Dogs are love, God is love, and when a dog passes away, they return to the love pool that is God. When you remember your sweet dogs that have passed away, I’m sure you can still feel the love. I know I can.

Before I came to this realization, my kids told me that they were praying to Mojo. Not praying FOR Mojo, but TO him. I wasn’t sure what to do with this except accept it. Maybe they know what they are talking about.

Now I find myself praying to Mojo too, every once in a while.

Dear Mojo, I miss you and love you. I feel you with me all the time. …. Amen.

Aging Well: How to grow old without sliding the slippery slope into sloth.

Oh aging. You do suck in so many ways. This week I’ve been worrying a lot about my aging parents. Helping my dad out with recovery from a recent surgery was very tough, especially seeing how weak he really is. Then this last weekend, my mom experienced such extreme dizziness and faintness that she called 911 and spent the weekend in the hospital. It’s frustrating watching them use the emergency room as their health care plan of choice. I’ve been talking with them about ways to improve their health yet, I know, just KNOW, that nothing will change for them.

My parent are in their early 70s but live a lifestyle like they are closer to 80 (super sedentary, meh diets). And while I don’t see that they have any of the major health concerns of the elderly (cancer, stroke, heart disease) they do seem to be failing in health purely due to the simple act of not caring enough about diet, exercise, and lifestyle. They have been scholars their entire lives. Sitting in chairs for the majority of the day has served their minds well, but done absolutely nothing for their bodies. And now they are paying the price. It breaks my heart.

All of this has made me realize that while I can’t change them, I can change ME. I can choose how to age.

I’m in my 40s and there is still plenty of time for me to build up the habits and reserves I need to continue to be active in my 70s and 80s. And for the record, I plan on living into my 90s and dying suddenly while gardening. Face plant in the dirt with the smell of flowers and grass as my last memories. Sounds pretty good to me.

So it is with renewed focus and purpose that I am getting back on the Paleo bandwagon. I’m reading a fabulous book by Barry Sears called “The Anti-Inflammation Zone” which has a lot of great information about how to fine-tune the Paleo life-style for maximum health. I’m also going to take this time of working at home (due to my new puppy) to put a jump-start plan into place.

For the next four weeks, I am launching myself on a new regime. Here’s the details, in case you want to follow along:

  • Diet: Zone diet, paleo basics, 1200 calories
  • Exercise: Cardio (moderate eliptical) – 30 minutes/6 days a week; Strength exercises – 10 minutes/4 days a week; Walking the dogs – 20 minutes/7 days a week
  • Back care – (Yes, I have back problems, thanks to a roll-over car accident): Stretching every hour; chiropractic 2x a month; thinking about joining a yoga class
  • Sleep – in bed, trying to sleep by 10 pm, up at 6:30 am in order to work out
  • Nutrients – that’s probably a entirely separate post, but just because you are eating doesn’t mean you are getting all of the vitamin and minerals you need. So I’m going to make more of an effort to make my diet COUNT and to supplement where it cannot.

I’m not as concerned about losing weight as much as I am about not crapping out when I’m old. After all, HALF of our lives could be spent in this time of our lives called old age (depending on if you think 40s is old). I’m not going to waste any more time. I love this life and have seen twice this year how quickly it can/could be taken from me. I’m going to make it count.

Choosing life: a new puppy to honor our late dog Mojo

The death of Mojo has been very hard. But in the midst of all the sadness I am incredibly grateful for the lessons and graces that have popped up all over the place.

First, my relationship with my boyfriend has had some definite ups and some serious downs. I’ve never really been sure that he could be there for me when the going got tough. The death of Mojo rocked both of us to the core. Seeing Mike crying his heart out, while holding me, and then following it up with honest and loving conversations has brought our relationship to a new level of lovingness. I know now without a doubt when the going gets tough Mike will be 150% by my side, saying and doing the right things. He is an honorable, gentle, loving man. I feel like love is Mojo’s legacy.

Toward that end, we decided to honor the love and sweet energy Mojo brought us by getting another puppy. After searching the entire state of California for a mixed pug puppy, we finally found one in Bakersfield through Central Coast Pug Rescue.  It’s pretty hard to find true puppies these days unless you go to a breeder and we did not want to support that process. We were so very lucky that a rescue organization had puppies and had them in a mix, not the pure breed. It was meant to be.

Bakersfield is about a four hour drive from San Jose, but we gassed up the car, stopped briefly only at the rest stops and made it there in record time. There was a PetSmart and a Subway near where we were meeting the rescue lady Marsha so we were able to stock up on supplies for humans and puppy alike.

The puppy was so tiny! He could fit in the palm of my hand.

Joey is super tiny as you can see

The puppy is super small as you can see

Naming him has been tough. We have very strict criteria:

  • The name has to be able to end in a Y sound: such as Binky or Timmy
  • The name must have a one syllable version: such as Boo for Boomer
  • The name must have a variable that can be repeated: such as CeCe for Celeste

Most names can’t stand up to such stringent rules. I think we’ve settle on the name Joey (Joe, JoJo, Little Jo) even though I dated a guy named Joey once and I think that unsettles Mike a little. 😉  The name Joey feels right though. After all, it is the second half of Mojo’s name but a totally different name at the same time.

Joey already loves his daddy.

Joey already loves his daddy.

I surprised my kids by putting Joey into my purse when I picked them up from school. I didn’t say anything about the puppy head that kept popping out of my bag. It took quite a while for them to notice what was happening and then pure puppy joy erupted. I thought my daughter Lucy was going to pee her pants for sure.

Driving home from Bakersfield.

Driving home from Bakersfield.

Joey is a super sweet little guy. And he is doing what we had hoped: bringing joy to our souls.

Grieving Mojo

I am heartbroken. Earlier this week, my favorite dog Mojo was run over by a car and killed.

Me and Mo

Me and Mo when he was a puppy

I loved (no LOVE) this dog like nobody’s business, he was my fur baby… always at my side… my guardian, my guide to the bathroom, my lap warmer, my bed snuggler, my main fur man. He loved me so much that I even had a special voice for imitating him as if he could talk and tell me how much he adored me, “You are my master and I will love you and follow you where ever you go.” Sounds just like Dug from Up, and is much better in person, I promise.

Anyway, I hope you understand that this dog was special. In truth, he was everyone’s favorite. He didn’t bark, he was plain adorable, had the best smile and personality. He was truly one of a kind.

Picture 873

Mojo looked just like Scrappy Doo, I swear.

He’s gone now, due to a really stupid mistake and I am doing the best to forgive myself and others who played a part in his passing. Mostly, I am just trying to keep breathing because there are times when it hurts so much my chest feels like caving in. It hurts so much that I don’t want to think or be, I just want to disappear. That’s just the grief talking, so don’t get too worried about that statement folks.

Here’s what I’ve learned about grieving in this short time (I’m only on day three so be patient):

  • Uncontrollable sadness comes in waves, so stick close to home the first few days/weeks.
  • Wear the same clothes day after day if you want to. No one who loves you really cares how you smell.
  • Accept that grief feels a lot like the stomach flu topped with a ton of sadness and crying.
  • It’s okay not to eat, or to only eat the things that you can choke down, even if those things are ice cream and half and half.
  • Be mad, really mad, if the situation requires it. The anger is a feeling and it won’t last forever.
  • Protect yourself. If the situation involved boundaries being broken, you might need to establish some protection for yourself and your family, mentally or physically.
  • Cry and cry as much as you need to. And talk to people while crying. I’ve made several phone calls this week where all I did was gulp and sob to the people on the other end. It’s okay, the vet/your parents/best friends/boyfriend/brother understands.
  • When you are feeling up to it, eat on your very best gold-rimmed china to remind yourself that life is for living.
  • Shower attention/much snuggling on the other living things in your household out of desperation. They might even like it.
  • Stick together. If you have other people feeling the same grief, spend time comforting each other. It will bring you closer together and help the healing.
  • Sleep with a stuffed animal and possibly carry one in your car for protection. I recommend: Boo the dog.
  • Feel scared because life suddenly feels very dangerous/tenuous. You’ll feel safer in a week/month/year.
  • Try not to focus on the death event itself. Understand what happened, yes, but replaying it over and over in your mind might not be super helpful (more gut-wrenching, likely).
  • Remember the good times with your love. Create a way to remember them that makes you feel better.
  • Stay in the here and now. Time cannot be rewound. Events cannot be undone.
  • Focus on your healing. No one else can determine how bad you feel. Stand up for what you need to take care of yourself.
  • Find people to talk to. This might be tough if you hate crying in front of people. Get over it, you will feel so much better talking to someone who understands what you are going through.
  • Let people help you, let them in. I tend to want to shut people out and deal with my pain privately. But there will be people who want to help and understand what you are going through, open the door and let them in. Plus, they may be bringing chocolate or ice cream (see fourth bullet).

In the end, the only thing that really seems to help is time. Try to remember that each day you wake up is another day closer to feeling like life is worth living again. Hopefully you have the support you need to get through this process. I am very lucky that I have an incredible boyfriend, wonderful friends and family plus some kick ass coworkers to help me through it. Nothing will bring Mojo back (and that just kills me). But maybe someone can find solace in the points above. I’ve got to try and make something good come from this pain.

Sweet sweet Mojo, how I miss you.

Sweet sweet Mojo, how I miss you.