Don’t Pave Over a Site and Drop a Big Box On It

“Burn down our cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.”
– Williams Jennings Bryan, lawyer, orator, three time candidate for president (1860-1925).

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Strawberry Moon Martini

I’m offering a recipe for what I think is one of many perfect martini recipes. Strawberry Moon in New England comes around the same time that locally grown strawberries are ready to pick. So, adhering to the idea of eating what’s in season and locally grown, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:
   One ripe locally grown strawberry
    One and a half ounces Hendricks gin
     Sugar as needed
Prep:
   Ice one small rocks glass in freezer for 15 minutes, then run the rim with the strawberry and dip in sugar as desired.
   Muddle the strawberry in the prepped glass.

Make:
   Put two ice cubes into the prepped glass and pour one and a half ounces of iced Hendricks gin over the ice.

Enjoy the fresh taste of NE strawberries and luscious Hendricks. As dessert to a strawberry, spinach, blueberry with feta salad? Impeccable.
Enjoy the warmth of the season.

Menopause Overture #7 or: “What Happened to My Eyelashes!?”

When I wore mascara a year ago or so I noticed my eyelashes weren’t normal. They used to bang up against my glasses when I put on mascara so I thought, “Hm. Old tube of mascara, better replace it.” Now, I don’t wear makeup that often…oh who am I kidding — ever…so it really has been about a year since I wore it.

Trust me when I tell you I bought the kind that was supposed to make my eyelashes look like they were the longest, lushest, most perfectly flared butterfly wing lashes that would send gale force winds across the room when I blinked my eyes!

And after applying it I thought, “Where in the heck did my EYElashes go?!!” I’ve written about hair and menopause before (insert link to that post) and I think that’s it. Hair I want is slowly thinning while hair I don’t want is showing up in random places!

In this case, it seems my lush eyelashes have migrated to my nostrils.

Seriously. How else do I explain the skimpy lashes coupled with the sudden sprouting of nose hair? That I can see without a magnifying mirror? Sound disgusting? Oh, yeah, and it’s not even happening to you.

Yet!

Soundtracks for Running

I wonder what people listen to while they’re running. I’m blessed to have access to hundreds of acres of undeveloped land in New Hampshire and have taken up running with my retired sled dog. When I say “running” I really mean a combination of easy lope, fast hiking, and power walking along trails of varied terrain.

My soundtrack is the susurrus of the wind in the trees, the jingling of Storm’s tags, our footfalls in the leaves, and the beating of my own heart. Shhhhhhh…

Can You Fall Out of Love with…Your Mother?

Mother’s Day. With mine gone since November of 1998, I don’t feel much about this day any more. Reading Facebook posts and other social media makes me think my feeling, or lack of, is odd.

But my relationship with my mother was contentious from the very beginning.

I went to the people I know as my parents initially to be a foster child. After 6 foster homes within the family in six months. To be sheltered until my first adoptive father could recover from the sudden death of the woman with whom he adopted  me.

At age 2, my first memory is of a woman in a Jackie Kennedy suit and pillbox hat trying to take my doll away as she sent me to bed for a nap. MY doll. One of the only things that had come with me through those six months of bouncing around. I was as determined not to give it up as she was to take it from me.

I don’t remember who “won” but this standoff set the tone for our relationship throughout our lives together.

And there was more. Abuse, “benign” neglect, rooted in the depths of what I’ve come to believe to be her own chronic, clinical depression.

All of this in hindsight. I couldn’t begin to come to grips with it as a young adult. I wrestled with the task of choosing a Mother’s Day card each year. Every one extolling the loving virtues of Mom. Patience, tolerance, caring, blahblahblah.

I started choosing pretty blank cards and writing a note because I felt a hypocrite doing anything else. I cared about my Mom, I think I remembered loving her but with all that had gone between us, I coudn’t go for the sappy greeting card stuff.

I’m writing this because my husband threw away some leftover Easter ham today. There’s some frozen and I thought maybe I could make ham hash. Which led me to thinking of the time my Mom tried to make some. She worked inside all day as the rest of us…Dad, my brother, and, my grandfather worked outside, smelling the luscious smells from the kitchen.

On sampling it, our eager facrs froze. It. Was. Terrible. We all kept eating until my brother took a taste, and lacking some social skills at his young age, spit it out with an exclamation of disgust.

At which point, we all laughed. We laughed at my Mom. Trying so hard, and failing depite her effort. And we laughed.

As I remember this today, I feel sad for her. She was laughed at as a child in school and here we were, her family, laughing at her, too.

I think I did fall out of love with my Mom some time in my adolescence. The abuse looms larger some days than others, along with the question “why?”

So I know it’s possible. To fall out of love with your Mother. But I feel sympathy and tenderness for her. For her own struggles, young and old. And I hope that’s enough for the path of our Souls for now.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

 

Life with a Working Sled Dog or: “What We Have Here is Culture Shock”

So two years ago we accidentally adopted a retired sled dog. You’d be right asking the obvious…perhaps “accidentally” isn’t the correct choice of adverb.

 

I’d seen a magnificent red Siberian/Malamute cross in a local shelter. I could tell by looking at him, and by the story the volunteers told about him, that he’d shown them all he was much smarter than they. In this type of breed, that spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e in a big way for someone who doesn’t know how to handle it. Not quite up to the challenge myself, I contacted a local sled dog kennel specializing in rescuing Northern breeds, like Rufus, to ask if they’d be interested in giving him a home…and the job he clearly needed!

 

They said no, they were at capacity, but they had several of their own recently retired working dogs needing homes, might we be interested?

 

Two visits, ten hours of drive time…keeping in mind that local means if you drive 250 miles north in NH you’re in another country…and several hours of discussion with my spouse later…including his dealing the coup de grace “if we don’t take him, who will?”:  Storm came home with us.

 

Before that he lived outside with several dozen other dogs, chained to his own little hut, bred and born to pull sleds of awestruck tourists across the breathtaking landscape of the frozen White Mountains. Nothing out of the ordinary for most any five year old Alaskan Husky bred by a musher to work or race in a sled dog team.

 

Then everything changed for him in an instant….his mushers were gone, his pack was gone, the routine of working was gone….and he was terrified. He shrank from our approach, cowered as we put on or took off his harness, leaped out of his skin if we scuffed a foot or kicked a stone while out on a hike. He quite simply had no idea who we were, why he was with us, or what it meant to be a companion dog rather than a working dog. We were as bewildered as he was afraid but we knew, no matter what, we were in for the long haul. .

This is Customer Service? or “Don’t Try Explaining Why My Complaint Isn’t Valid”

A simple, ” I’m sorry you had that experience.  Maybe  a reminder to really listen is a good idea.  I’ll bring it up…[insert whatever here]. ”  That’s all it takes, whether or not you mean it.

Instead, this sort of thing happens:

Being in the Over 50 Club means many things.  One of them is the opportunity for fun-filled medical screening procedures.  In this instance, a colonoscopy.  Yup, a truly invasive procedure.  Now, my husband had his several years ago and remembers not one single thing from start to finish.  In fact, he was a little “loopy” when he came out of the procedure, lucid but a bit more happy than is normal for him.

That’s the experience I was expecting today.  I told the nurse who did my intake that I did not want to be present for the procedure.  Told the nurse who said, “Watching on the monitor is pretty interesting, it looks like the inside of your mouth,”  “I have absolutely no interest in seeing it.”  The doctor said, “We’ll get you into the procedure room, sedate you, and get started.”  To which I replied, “That’s the most important part to me.  The sedation.  And the results.  Two things important to me, sedation and results.”

Once in the procedure room,  I again indicated to the doc that I wanted to be as oblivious as possible.  He said, “Oh, you’ll breeze right through this.”

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

I know my pain response, I know my body, and I know the medical things I’m willing….and unwilling….to endure.  Once the procedure started I could feel the advancing of the scope up my intestinal tract and I said, “No, no, stop, please, give me a minute….”  It hurt.  And they had to give me more sedation.

When it was over, I was angry.  I was angry that no one listened to me.  I was angry that I’d been hurt.  And I made a call to make a complaint.  Not about the nurses, they were great, helpful and compassionate for the most part, as nurses are.

The response to my complaint was an explanation that “…90% of the people are just fine with a low level of sedation and there are people who even go through it with no sedation at all.  That they begin with a little and see how it goes.”  I told her that I know my own pain response and I’d TOLD them I did NOT want to be aware at all during this procedure.  That it hurt and that was unnecessary.  I got the “explanation” again.  She asked if I wanted to speak to the doctor and have him explain how it might have been that I had “some discomfort.”

At this point, I felt as if yet another person wasn’t listening to me.  It wasn’t “some discomfort.”  It hurt.  And I’d told them from the beginning that I didn’t want any awareness of the procedure at all.   In my view, the reason I had the experience was they didn’t listen to me from the start.  Not that 90% of people blahblahblah…NO ONE listened to the patient who knows her body best.   I told her talking to the doctor wouldn’t change the experience I had and thank you for taking my call, have a nice day…and at this point I was crying.

She rushed to keep me on the line.  “I’m really sorry you had that experience.  What do you think could have been different?”  I sobbed out, “Just LISTEN to your patient.  That’s all.  Just listen to them.”

The conversation yielded some good information, though.  The nurse manager told me that the facility where my husband had his procedure uses a “deeper sedation.”

Now I know, and I share it with you:  This is a truly invasive procedure and facilities use different types and “depths” of sedation.   Make sure you know the level of sedation you want, and make sure the caregivers at the facility are willing to provide it from the start.   You have a right not to suffer!

Just as important to me? You have a right to be heard.  So does your complaint, if you need to make one.

Menopause Overture #6 or “Can You Have PMS Without the M?”

I was sitting in dispatch this morning and a firefighter let the door slam. Now, the door slams whenever it’s let go. It slams a half dozen times a day. And it usually takes me until about the seventh slam before I want to yell, “MUST you SLAM the DOOR?!” This morning it was one slam and I’d…had…it. Done. Wanted to lock them all out of the building, never mind dispatch. It occurred to me I’d been neglecting my self-appointed role as Menopause Mentor and this was a subject worth approaching.

The short answer to the question “Can you have PMS without the m” is “Heck, yeah!” But being a good Menopause Mentor means giving you more than the short answer so buckle up, here it comes.

First, let me explain that I never had PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) symptoms until I was nearly 50. I honestly had no idea what was happening to me. I felt alternately hyper-weepy or hyper-aggravated and both those states of being were on a hair-trigger. It took me a few months to figure out that it was a cyclical thing. And, coming to that conclusion, no time at all to which cycle it was related! I was still menstruating, then, and fairly regularly so when the symptoms showed up I did a little math and thought, “OK, this will pass in a day or two.”

I apologize to all of you who suffer much more with PMS. I’ve read enough to understand I’ve got off lightly in this area.

Then I looked up, around age 53 or so and realized I hadn’t had a period in I-couldn’t-remember-how-long, at least as long as right after the previous year’s annual GYN visit. Hmm. Twelve consecutive months…BINGO! I was in menopause. Cool. I was ready.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself all hyper-weepy over some movie or other I’d seen umpteen times without crying openly about it. Or, ready to go top-story-road-rage on the very first, and only, person tailgating me in the slow lane. I did the math. I was perplexed because I knew I wasn’t going to menstruate any time soon but there it was. I was in the part of my cycle, if I was still having a cycle, that would be the PM part. Interesting.

I don’t believe I’m the only woman to experience this. Certainly not the only woman who figured it out. But did anyone ever tell me? Stupid question. No one told me anything, ever! So, did anyone ever tell you?

If they didn’t, the good news is, you’re not necessarily going crazy. The bad news is, near as I can tell, there’s still enough hormone load cycling around that a woman can have PMS without the M.

Depending on where you are in your cycle? Don’t shoot me, I’m just the Menopause Mentor delivering the message.