Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sticks and Stones...

In yesterday's post, I ranted a bit about all the tests one must endure after age 50.

But I neglected to mention one: a bone density test.

When I hit 50, my family doctor told me to undergo such a test. When I asked why, she said it was to get a baseline picture of how my bones were doing.

That way, as I aged, they would be able to measure if I were losing density.

OK, I thought. At this point in my life, I bet my bones are in great shape, I even predicted smugly.

I've been a big milk and cheese consumer all my life. And I've also done a lot of bone-strengthening exercise like running, too.

Well, surprise, surprise. I took the test. A few weeks later, my doctor called, and asked to see me about the results.

What on earth for, I wondered? Why would she need to see me in person to go over what were presumably ordinary  and average bone density readings for a woman of my age?

Well, you can guess the rest. I had terrible readings.  In fact, I had full-blown osteoporosis.

My doctor was shocked and said so. She's never seen such poor density in a woman my age. I was shocked, too, of course. What the heck was going on? My doctor didn't have a clue, so sent me off to see a specialist.

And you know what? The specialist didn't have a clue, either. She questioned me about my diet and exercise patterns. Other than the fact that I'd been a slim, petite person up to that point in time (which is somewhat of  a predictor for poor bone density), she couldn't figure out why I'd have such advanced osteoporosis.

We discussed milk. She admitted that the research around milk and bone density is controversial: in fact, it's looking more and more clear every day that dairy products aren't the great bone-savers that the dairy industy would have us believe.

She had no idea what to do with me. I was too young to go on drugs that help to halt bone deterioration (nothing cures osteoporosis, but these drugs can at least slow down the process). And I was already taking in enough daily calcium through diet.

She had nothing more in her arsenal of helpful advice, other than to suggest I take a daily Vitamin D supplement, and to come back and see her in one year, to be retested.

I have to tell you, I've been angry about the situation ever since.

I'd gulped more milk in my life, drinking it even when I didn't feel like it, all based on the assumption that what doctors told me was true: drink milk for strong bones.  Now, at this point in my life, doctors are starting to say OOPS! Maybe milk isn't particularly good for your bones. Maybe, even, too much milk can cause cancer: prostate cancer  in men and ovarian cancer in women.

What should I do about my children, I wondered? Studies are now linking consumption of milk in adolescent boys to prostate cancer later in life. And my daughter? She needs even more calcium than a boy, according to doctors. But how is she to get it? Too much dairy is no longer looking like a great idea, and calcium supplements in pill form are not proven to even work.

I have struggled with this dilemma ever since getting the test results. I've stopped drinking milk. I feel betrayed by years of misinformation from doctors and industry about milk. And if I have osteoporosis after a lifetime of milk consumption, stopping now can't do me much more harm, can it? That's my reasoning, anyway.

I've compromised with my kids about milk, telling them to drink it in strict moderation, while trying to eat other calcium-rich food sources as well. Beans and canned salmon are just two great sources for calcium that you never hear about...probably because the dairy industry is yelling so loudly about milk.

In many ways, I wish I hadn't had the test. I was going happily along in blissful ignorance. Now, I know how fragile my bones are, yet there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

And I think about my mother. At not-quite 94, she has never broken a bone in her life. She has never drunk milk, either.

She has fallen twice (that I know of) in the last couple of years. Still, no broken bones.

So what is one to make of it all?







Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mid-Life, or, So This is 50

I guess I'm middle-aged.

The way I feel lately, though, I think I'm more toward the end of mid-life and closer to the beginning of old-age, than the reverse.

I"m 52. My eye-sight is very poor, I have a chronically bothersome tooth (with cap on it), a bunion that has a life of its own, and 5-10 pounds of unwanted weight that just won't budge.

The thing is, these phenomena are fairly recent.

Until I was about 48, I felt great. I felt much like I always had, through adulthood.

My weight was steady, and I was slim; slim without thinking about it. I had no aches, from bunions, teeth or otherwise. And although I wore contact lenses to correct my vision, my eye-sight was still OK.

Then, I approached 50, went through menopause, and BANG. I was old.

I can barely see now, even with contacts. That's because I've become so far-sighted that I need to wear reading glasses, while wearing my contacts, in order to see anything close-up. Without contacts, I try wearing progressive-lens glasses, but they fail miserably.

One eye has marked astigmatism, only partially corrected by toric contact lenses, and the other is full of floaters that block my view. You can't do anything about floaters. And the older you get, the more likely you are to have them, little bits of inner eyeball floating around in the jelly of your eye. Whee.

My tooth cracked a few years ago, as I was chewing candy and waiting for a flight in the Kookytown airport. I ended up getting the tooth fixed while on vacation, but despite repeated tweaks by my dentist, it has never been the same. To wit, it hurts every time I bite down on it.

As you can imagine, it sucks to eat food when you also experience pain while eating. Despite this fact, I've gained weight over the last couple of years, and now am 10 pounds heavier than I ever was in the last 15 years.

In the past, if I gained a bit of weight, I'd lose it. Easily, immediately. I'd eat less, exercise a bit more and voila, off the excess weight would fly.

Not now. Now, I can starve and work out, starve and work out, only to see no results on the scale. It sticks like the proverbial glue.

The bunion has grown exponentially during the last few years. Although it doesn't hurt too much, it's causing difficulty in fitting shoes, and I no longer want to wear sandals in summer, due to its looming size.

At 50, the medical community starts running tests on you. One of the first is a demand that you undergo a colonoscopy.  I repeat, whee. Of course, as a female, I've been undergoing mammograms and pap tests for decades. These too, must continue. Various immunizations must be updated: polio, tetanus, etc. And new ones rear their heads:  have you heard about the new shot to protect against shingles, an apparently extremely painful condition that can surface in mid-life, if you've ever had chicken-pox?

And then there's energy. I don't have it. I can't concentrate and learn like I used to be able. While the fat sticks like glue to my body, very little sticks in my brain. A brain that used to be like a steel trap. It's just regular memory deterioration, but it, too, sucks. 

Come the evenings, I am so tired I don't want to go out. If we have evening outings, I try to sneak an afternoon nap in, so I can stay awake long enough to socialize.

I won't even begin to describe the insomnia that stalks me during the nights.

I guess what I'm trying to really say with all this, is that middle age is a definite condition, and I've hit it. And I didn't expect it. I really didn't understand that such noticeable, marked changes would happen over a relatively short time-frame, and that I would become someone I'd never been before, someone I don't recognize as the old me.

It sucks a bit, and I'm not liking it, and don't want to accept it.

But there's nothing to be done, except to try to continue to hold back the tide. So I try to eat well, and do my exercise to stay sort-of limber and ache-free.

What else can you do?

If I'd known this was coming, I'd have cherished more about my old life: my carefree, pain-free body and mind. So that's my advice to anyone younger than me.

Don't waste your youth obsessing about silly things. Work hard, play hard, don't sweat the small stuff.

You're going to have plenty of time to regret this-or-that, to think about what could-or-should-have been, when you can no longer breeze through the day. Enjoy! If you don't like something, try to fix it, and if you can't, ignore it!

And I mean that.





 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

So Put on a Happy Face

I wrote about the Blue Skies Music Festival three years ago. At that time, the labels I attached to the post included things like: "camping, exhaustion, magic and music."

All these labels still apply. At the festival, you camp on site (in rural Ontario) for  4 days and attend music-related workshops during the day, while listening to musicians perform at night.

Here's a shot of the main stage this year.

It is a pretty magical time. It is also very tiring. The bands are, well, loud, as bands should be. This year, they performed until 3 in the morning on some nights. You cannot sleep while this is going on. And of course, with at least 2000 people all camping quite closely together, you can't sleep in late, either. Babies start fussing at dawn, people stay up all night to jam around campfires, and teenagers run amok at just about any hour of the day or night.

One is lucky to get 3-4 hours of straight sleep at any time.

Kathleen and Alex love Blue Skies. That's why Anthony and I go...to allow the kids to enjoy the experience.

But Anthony and I have grown too old for camping. We hate it. It's noisy, cold, dirty and we always seem to get damp right through, especially when it pelts rain all night, as it did this year.

So we decided this year was to be our last camping experience. Next year, Alex will be 18, and thus old enough to camp on his own. I will gladly drop him off at Blue Skies and let him stay for the long weekend, probably with some buddies to camp along with.

Kathleen can go during the day, on a day pass, and hang around with her brother and his friends. Again, I'll gladly pick her up at the end of each day, then drive a few short miles to a HOTEL, where I will sleep on a real bed, then arise, refreshed, to take a hot shower and eat a breakfast cooked and served by others.

Yay!

So that's our plan, and we'll stick to it if we can.

Blue Skies is looking fun again, seen from that perspective :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Blue Skies

It's still early August, but feeling a bit like fall, what with some cold overnight temperatures and brisk daytime winds, coupled with the first brown leaves beginning to twirl to earth.

I spent a few hours doing yard work yesterday, and noticed a million Maple "keys" already on the ground, just waiting to be tracked into my house.

But still, it's blue skies all around. I mean that literally and figuratively. The weather, at the very least, has been sunny lately, with little or no humidity, a blessing. I can look at those blue skies and feel that life is indeed worth living.

My life, these days, is quite miraculous, when I think closely about it, which I try not to. Too much introspection, I have found, leads inevitably to the rise of narcissism, and worse, a tendency to feelings of "poor me," no matter how ridiculous a notion that may be, in the grand scheme of things.

But still, no matter how you look at it, my life, it's miraculous. I have gone through an adventurous life, had a million ups-and-downs, switched careers more than a few times, and have weathered some serious issues that put me down for months and years at a time.

But here I am. Right now: I live with a man who I can get along with, and who isn't too difficult to look at. I always laugh to myself when I hear others yearn for perfect, fairytale marriages. Such things are rare. If you live in a fairytale marriage, you are one-in-a-million, let me tell you.

A close friend of mine, the only other woman I know who has also been married three times, and is still standing, told me a few years ago what you need for a marriage: "Delia, you just have to find someone you can sort-of get along with, and who isn't too hard to look at." Case closed.

Right now: I live with a man who gets along with my two children. What's that, you say? Shouldn't that be a given? Um. No. If you have ever attempted to remarry and mix kids into the situation, you know of what I speak.

It's incredibly difficult to make second marriages with children from first marriages, work. Most of such marriages fail. And I have no trouble guessing why. It's impossibly difficult, stressful, conflicting, to have to blend families. Case closed.

Of course, Anthony had no kids of his own. So we aren't really blending families to that extent. But still, Anthony, for a man who's never fathered his own kids, does an admirable job. He's easy-going, helpful, patient, kind and generous with my two offspring. Can't ask for much more.

And then there are said offspring. Alex and Kathleen, 17 and 15. As a mother, there is no bigger joy than to see one's children thrive. And they are. They are healthy, trim, active, over-run with friends, and doing incredibly well in school.

Alex has his life planned. First: engineering, then a law degree. Followed by a prosperous and happy career practicing patent law. Can you believe this kid? I can't. Where did he come from?

Kathleen, at 15, isn't quite so focused on the future. But she is thriving. And she can write a song like no musician I know. Cool! Blue skies.

Me: health is still fairly good. A lovely home, some freelance work that I enjoy, travel from time-to-time, enough money to pretty much do as I please, in a responsible way.

That's it for now. Tomorrow, I'll continue the Blue Skies lecture ;)






Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pepper the Pooch

I just noticed that I had listed Pepper, our dog, as a "zany puppy" in the description of this blog's cast of characters.

I've changed that to "our standard poodle," because Peps is no longer a puppy, although she is definitely still zany.

Here she is, in all her fuzzy wuzzy glory.

Pepper will be two years old soon, which means she's just about grown out of teenager-dom, in dog terms. Phew!

Dog ownership is a world unto itself, as any dog owner will tell you. So is cat ownership...and I imagine owning something like a rabbit entails some work and adaptation, as well. Now hamsters....they just don't have much impact on one's life. I speak from experience.

Not like dogs and cats do anyway, for sure. Peps is high energy, highly intelligent (in dog IQ) and high-and-mighty. She's the queen-in-waiting around here, and knows it. By that, I don't mean she's the dominant pack leader of the house. That's me.

But she is coddled and loved and petted and cared for to first-world standards, and she seems to know it. What a princess. She will jump through a hoop, sit, shake a paw, lie down, roll over and stay. But will she eat her dry dog food?

Will she tolerate her minions when they attempt to bathe her?

Will she refrain from terrorizing the neighbor's cats?

No. These are her royal rights.

What a gal.

I exercise Peps every day, off leash, so that she can run and jump and hunt squirrels and hop in the lake/river and roll in the green, green grass: in other words, do all the things that first world dogs expect to do.

She's in way better shape than either Anthony or me, as befits the athletic critter that she is. Poodles were originally bred as hunting, herding and retrieving dogs. Peps shows all those keen instincts and would retrieve a ball smartly almost before she could untangle her puppy paws to chase after it. She attempts to herd anything moving, including me, resulting in a lot of tripping and swearing.

And she has a pronounced, quite vicious prey drive. Thus I fear for our neighbor's cats, who seem to have lost any inborn instincts around their own vulnerabilities. They prance across our lawn, just begging for Peps to scoop them up with her gleaming fangs and eat them.

Anthony has had to forcibly pull Pepper off one of these felines when it strolled into our backyard while the princess was loose.

Anyway, I just thought I'd update you about the 5th member of our current household configuration. Puppy she is no more. Big trouble...yes, that's more like it.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

25

I just attended a 25-year reunion with one of my university graduating classes.

I had maintained friendships with several of those classmates, even though we have lived in different cities for pretty much the entire intervening 25 years.

Others, I hadn't seen since our last day of classes, 25 years ago. Some of them even live right here in Kookytown, and one is just a few blocks away!

It was very nice and interesting to see the attendees, and hear about their lives and experiences over the last two-and-a-half decades.

And it made me realize, once again, that it's important to not sweat the small stuff, and to even not necessarily sweat the somewhat-larger stuff.

The majority of the class have led adventurous, well-employed lives. Some have succeeded spectacularly in their careers, but not so well in their personal lives, and of course, others are in the opposite situation. The very lucky seemed to have lived charmed lives, seemingly succeeding at everything they attempted, and turning to gold everything they touched.

But those types are rare. Most of us have just done relatively well, more-or-less.

A few have faced serious health challenges and luckily surmounted them.

Like I say: the important thing is to maintain your health, and your happiness. The last part, I remain convinced, is by not sweating over every little detail, and just enjoying the journey that is life.

In the end, looking back over the last 25 years, all the worrying, planning and hoping I've subjected myself to could have been eliminated. I would have arrived here, almost right where I am today, I think, anyway.

Monday, July 8, 2013

17-1/2

My son Alex is 17-1/2 and it's summer.

It occurred to me last night as I lay sleepless in a too-warm bed with too many tangled sheets twisted like confounding ropes, that I was 17-1/2, and it was summer too, when my father died.

That was in 1978, and it's become a faded dream, that summer. I can't remember the sound of my dad's voice, not really, because it's been 35 years since last I heard it.

It seems bizarre to contemplate either of my children losing a parent at the age I did. I've become used to thinking about how my life unfolded in those terms, but am startled thinking about such a thing in the context of Alex and Kathleen.

My father wasn't happy all that summer, as I recall. He was a quiet man to begin with, and he was particularly withdrawn, yet testy and jittery at the same time, in the summer of '78.

We were at our cottage in Manitoba, and I had a job at a pizza joint in a nearby town. My nephew and niece spent that summer with us because my brother, their father, was going through a divorce and had custody of them but nowhere to stash them for the summer months. So they came to us from their broken home in Montreal, and there we were.

You'd think it would have been pleasant. The lake was gorgeous: clean, cool and welcoming. I liked my nephew and niece, enjoyed my job and had friends to swim and suntan with. But somehow it wasn't pleasant.

We could see how tightly wound my father was, unhappy with every little thing. My mother would complain in private to me about him, not a good thing to do by a long shot.

"We have to walk on eggshells around him," she'd sniff, and though it was true, I gained no solace from gossiping about my dad behind his back. It only made me irritated with her.

By the end of August, my reticent father had quietly slipped over the edge. He exploded one day, drove off in a cloud of dust with our only vehicle (and we had no phone at that cottage), and left us adrift. I couldn't get to my shifts at the pizza joint, located in a town seven miles away. So I walked a mile in the opposite direction, down dirt-rimed country roads, trying to ignore the heat and flies, arriving in the nearest hamlet from where I called my employer.

Yes, it's true. There were no cell phones back then. 

I can still clearly conjure up the Manitoba Telephone System public pay phone that stood literally in the middle of a field of grass in front of the local candy store. But I cannot remember what lie I told my boss, to gently let him know I wouldn't be coming in for any more shifts that week. He was kind and understanding.

Dog-days dawned and went by, bathing us in blistering, dry heat, the kind the prairies serve up with such mastery. We didn't know where my father'd gone, but assumed he was at our house in Winnipeg. Because of the uneasy relationship my parents enjoyed, I didn't think it strange at all that my mom didn't make the same march I had down the dust-choked road to call from the MTS phone booth and locate him.

Then one day, my brother-in-law, my sister's husband, pulled up behind our cottage. He strode past me into the building, and a minute later, I heard my mother scream.

I ran in and with no ado, no preparation, no "Maybe you better sit down Delia," my mother shrieked out: "Dad's killed himself."

And that was that. Possibly the most distinct sensation I still retain from the week following on that, is of the heat. The funeral took place right after the Labour Day weekend, and that entire week was a scorcher in Manitoba.

My mother and I couldn't return to our house until the brains and blood had been cleaned up. It's pretty amazing that there are services to do this type of thing.

So we stayed at my sister's house, sleeping on a mattress in the basement, which was not the hoity-toitiest accommodation, but was thankfully a cool place in which to get away from the stifling miasma of over-heated air and emotions.

Did I mention that no one had air-conditioned homes back then?

My nephew and niece were bundled onto a plane back to their unhappy home in Quebec, and the funeral took place, a miserable, sweaty affair at which I spent most of the time trying not to cry, but failing spectacularly.

This summer, my son will not work at a pizza joint, or anywhere, because for the second year in a row, he hasn't been able to find even a part-time job. I am given to understand this is fairly common these days with youth unemployment so high.

He won't spend endless sun-kissed days hanging around his family cottage because I too, am divorced, and do not own a cottage. My mother sold the cottage of my childhood two decades after my father passed.

So instead, Alex will experience a patch-work quilt of this-and-that: a weekend in Lake Placid with his father, cycling and camping; another week with us at a cottage I have rented which is very nice, but not as nice as the one in my memories; another weekend camping with his best buddy and their family, etc.

To all our chagrin, he'll have to endure the removal of his wisdom teeth toward the end of August, a week before he returns for grade 12 at Kookytown High.

He'll earn no money, but have fun, get tanned and fit, and experience a radically different type of 17-1/2 than I did. That, I think you'll agree, is probably a very, very good thing.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Medically Speaking...

Medical/dental appointments for which I am responsible to deliver my mother to, in the month of February, 2013 (and then get her home from, obviously):

(1) Feb. 4 - deliver mom to see her doctor for a 6-month review of all her medications.

(2) Feb. 14 -deliver her to the dentist for a filling. This follows on an appointment in January that I took her to...during which the cavity was discovered. She sees her dentist every three months for cleaning.

(3) Feb. 19 - deliver her to the podiatrist for her monthly toe nail clipping.

(4) Feb. 28 - deliver my mother back to her doctor, for memory testing. I hope I can also get her blood work done at that time, or I'll have to take her for a separate visit to get that done.

I myself have to see the dentist on Feb. 27th for an evaluation for a new retainer. I'll have to return at least two times after that, for molds and fitting.

Much of this will repeat throughout March, as you can see by the schedule she's on. Moreover, I see a doctor, along with my son Alex, at the beginning of every month, for our allergy shots. 

I am sick to death of seeing medical and dental professionals so often, which is rather ironic, don't you think?




Sunday, January 27, 2013

So What Have You Done for me Lately?

Long time no write. And I still don't have any time to write...but I'll give you 5 minutes, cause honestly, life is a blur...

So: Sally, my mom: in the home, doesn't remember where she lives, really (when we bring her here, she goes up to her old room to go to bed, then evinces surprise that there's no bed), and when we remind her where she lives, she says she has no recollection of that. Can't remember what her room looks like in the place she currently lives. Can't remember nothing, baby.

Anthony's mother Doris: really just doesn't remember anything at this point. Anthony goes to visit her and she doesn't know who he is, that he's her son. She asks who he is, and when he tells her, she just morphs into deciding that he's her brother...from way back into her childhood. And they sit and chat about little things she did with her brother when she was 10.

My son, Alex: just turned 17. We all went to celebrate his milestone at my mother's place last Friday. We arrived around 4:30 and my mother was already seated in the dining room there, ready to eat, having totally forgotten that we were all supposed to eat together in the "private" dining room they have, which is used for just such family celebrations.

So luckily we stopped her from filling her face (which, unfortunately, we were not able to do on her birthday recently, and by the time we arrived at 5pm then to take her out for dinner to celebrate her 93rd, she'd not only already eaten her fill,, but was long done and looking for seconds. We took her out for a big glass of wine, anyway).

So last Friday, we ate dinner -  her, me, Anthony, my 17-year-old son and my 14-year-old daughter, just picture it. The kids are extremely polite, but spent some time peeking at their smart phones under the table, and please realize that everything  we utter is unintelligible to my mother (you have to yell for her to hear you), so she asks us to repeat virtually every word we speak. And if we tell her she doesn't know the people we are talking about, it doesn't matter. She insistently wants to know what we said. We tell her (yelling). And then she says: "Oh. I don't know who you are talking about."

Just picture it.

And then Alex opened the gift "from her." I bought it, wrapped it, and gave her the card to sign, five minutes before dinner. All on her instructions, and believe you me, I got those instructions a hundred times.

Watching this, after signing the card, and having asked at least the hundred times in the preceding week whether I'd bought the gift and wrapped it on her behalf, my mother announced: "who's birthday is it?"

Alex looked at her, and bless his heart, paused for only a second and then told her it was his, and thanks for the gift.

Over the next ten minutes of dessert, this scene repeated over and over. She wanted to know how old he was turning (17, every time), what he got from her (well, look grannie, I'm wearing it, it's a hockey jersey!) and oops, when she looked away for a sec to get another cup of coffee...... it started all over.

"So. Alex, you are turning 16 today!" she would crow.

"Seventeen, granny," he'd gently remind her.

"He's getting so tall," she'd announce to me. "What did I get him?"

"This hockey jersey," Alex would intone.

Repeat. Over and over, and over.

So, that's it for now. Thankfully, for all of us.