The rewards are in the journey!

I only wish I would have known long before I did, that the more interesting life you lead, the more fun you will have remembering it in your 60s. To celebrate my birthday this year, I have decided to share with you a few of the crazy adventures I have had through the years. These are the things I enjoy thinking about today. Sometimes it feels a bit like reading someone else’s tales, but I’m not making any of this up!

Early in my time at Colorado College, a few of us decided to go backpacking in Canyonlands in southern Utah in August of 1973. BTW, it’s super hot and dry there in August! Showing further bad judgment, we decided to split up into three separate groups.

My friend Margie and I decided to follow a trail that led to Peek-a-boo Springs and near there we found a cave with some amazing artifacts in it! We camped there for a couple days and then headed back to meet up with the other two groups, but they never arrived. We decided to talk to the rangers who were quite concerned because of the heat and extreme lack of water at that time of year. We ended up flying over the entire Salt Creek Canyon in a helicopter searching for our friends. In the meantime, the rangers got confused and called my parents to report that I was lost in Canyonlands. It all ended up fine. The one friend ran into a rattlesnake and decided to turn around. The other two hiked the whole Salt Creek Canyon and came out the other end none too worse for wear.

Then there was the time a friend and I joined up with her boyfriend and another guy who said they were being paid to move a sailboat from the west end of Puerto Rico (Mayaguez) all the way to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. For future reference, this is NOT a good plan. We were going against the wind the whole time and only made it as far as Ponce before we decided it was basically an impossible task. But three of us still wanted to see Tortola so we took a flight there for a week. We stayed on Cane Garden Bay and loved every minute of it! There were very few tourists because Hurricane Hugo had come through in September 1989, so we had the place to ourselves.

To tell you the truth, building this rural passive solar home in southern Colorado was also more of an adventure than either Mike or I were looking for. Being new here, we had no idea what we were up against, like only one building inspector for the entire county, and it just went on and on with an amazing number of major obstacles and delays. Sometimes it felt like a hopeless battle just finishing it, because our builder kept putting us off. Finally we dead-lined him with, “We’re not paying you until it’s finished.” and “We need to move out of our rental the end of July.” Finally something worked!

All in all I feel super lucky with how my life has gone. So many of the circumstances seemed like that old Chinese tale about deciding too soon that an apparent misfortune is in fact a blessing in disguise. I loved all of my river trips, backpacking trips, adventures abroad, various chance meetings and romantic liaisons, because they led me to this exact moment in this tremendously beautiful place with the love of my life. I am quite content with that.

Shoot me an e-mail if you would like to learn more about our decision to move south and our experience with building a solar home west of Walsenburg. My book: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.

Contact me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Could I have insulin resistance? What is that?

Now that I am convinced that I am going to survive my most recent health emergency, a terrible case of anemia (I needed five iron infusions(!), I have decided to make an all-out effort to improve my health. BTW, I believe my anemia was cause by my statin drug. This is a rare side-effect of statins. As far as anemia goes, if you should notice an alarming amount of hair in your shower drain and a sudden, extreme loss of energy, get a blood test…now!

So I noticed an ad for GOLO.com, a supplement that promises weight loss for so many of us who are older, overweight and “insulin resistant.” Then I got to thinking, what’s that? Here’s what I found on a few medical sites:

The two main factors that seem to contribute to insulin resistance are excess body fat, especially around your belly, and a lack of physical activity. People who have prediabetes, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes usually have some level of insulin resistance.

  • Insulin resistance happens when the body doesn’t respond appropriately to insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels.
  • Insulin resistance can lead to chronic health conditions like diabetes, coronary artery disease, and metabolic syndrome, but it does not always cause symptoms.
  • Insulin resistance is reversible with exercise, diet, weight loss, and, if needed, medications.

Insulin resistance increases your risk of developing diabetes. You could be insulin resistant for years without knowing it. This condition typically does not trigger any noticeable symptoms, so it’s important to have a doctor regularly check your blood glucose levels.

Wow, this sounds serious. So I ordered the “release” supplement from GOLO and started taking it as directed. In the meantime I learned there are many different supplements that may increase insulin sensitivity, but chromium, berberine, magnesium, and resveratrol are backed by the most consistent evidence.

In the GOLO formula, each capsule contains 15 mg magnesium, 10 mg zinc, and 70 mcg chromium as well as a “proprietary blend” of Rhodiola extract, Inositol, Berberine extract, Gardenia extract, etc. These are taken 3 times per day with meals. I found similar supplements in Dr. Gundry’s Metabolic Advanced capsules, but they recommend 4 capsules per day. In the past I did lose some weight with Dr. Gundry’s formula.

First of all you should know that the only healthy way to combat insulin resistance is through increased exercise and diet change. From my experience of losing 50 pounds in my mid-50s, weight loss works best by cutting sugar, dairy, processed foods, and salt way back, then allowing yourself only two very small helpings of white starches (bread, potatoes, pasta, rice) per day. Fill up on vegetables with a small amount of fruit like apples or blueberries.

Steps to reverse insulin resistance and prevent type 2 diabetes:

  1. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity (like brisk walking) 5 or more days a week.
  2. Get to a healthy weight.
  3. Eat a healthy diet.

I started taking my GOLO capsules a week ago and changing my diet to consume much fewer calories with less salt and sugar. One of the side effects I am pleased to report is how much water weight I have lost. I have been retaining water, especially in my lower legs and feet forever, so much so that it was hard to wiggle my toes sometimes. I knew this wasn’t healthy and so I asked a number of MDs why I am so swollen. None could offer any useful answers. Now I know what I can do about it!

As far as the loss of actual pounds, I have decided not to focus on that for a while. As long as I keep feeling better I will take that as my reward. I learned from my last weight-loss experience that checking the scale constantly is no way to change habits. Losing weight is not a proper goal. For me, a permanent sustainable change in my eating habits, health and a feeling of well-being is my lifelong goal.

Find A Healing Environment For Retirement

In my last post I wrote about healing relationships, relationships that truly saved my life. But I have not yet shared one of the most important transitions I have gone through in the past eight years. I hear so much these days about Boomers who are trying to find the best place to retire. Of course, that will be different for each of us, but for me, retiring as close to nature as possible has transformed me. And the irony is that I was not certain at all whether I wanted to come here in the first place.

Eight years ago at this time, Mike and I was crazy busy preparing to sell our beautiful home in the Fort Collins suburbs so we could build a passive solar home on three acres west of Walsenburg, Colorado. Mike was always convinced that this was his ideal retirement plan. I was not so sure. Still surprised that I would even be able to retire by age 60, our options still hadn’t struck me. Then, after we moved into a rundown old miner’s home in town while we built our new home 13 miles west of there, I became really worried. I could not figure out where I was for a while. You try moving from a big cosmopolitan city to a tired old town of less than 3,000 souls, then you tell me if you don’t feel a whole lot of culture shock.

Our first year down here was difficult. So many disappointments and worker slow downs in construction, not to mention health concerns. But we did prevail and moved into our brand new home a little over one year later…

Oh, did I mention the view of the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Range from our new home?

When we first moved in, nothing seemed real. I felt like I had moved into a fancy foothills resort and the management would be coming soon to kick us out. After living in cities and suburbia for most of my life, this felt a bit like make-believe. To finally live in a naturally warm, energy-saving home that we had designed specifically for our needs and up to our standards with a view like that? Wow! But the best was yet to come.

The escape from the frenetic energy of cities was the best! I don’t know that I can properly describe exactly how peaceful this place felt after living with all of that crowding and traffic my whole life. The silence was astounding! I loved to go out in the morning, sit down and just soak it all in; the sunrises, the bird songs, the trees, the mountains. How did I end up here?

In the years since, my love of this place has grown and grown along with my sky garden, dedicated to my brother. How was I ever so lucky? With many new health challenges including head injuries and the need for permanent supplemental oxygen, I still feel so content to watch the sunrise each morning and look out over that tremendous view, knowing that I have finally found the place I belong.

In June 2014 we packed up or got rid of most of our worldly goods, sold our home in Fort Collins, and took off for an ancient rental in Walsenburg, Colorado. It was then we named ourselves the “NEW Old Farts” because we were barely 60 years old. I have been sharing our retirement story here on this blog since October 2014; the year long passive solar construction wins and losses, the big move in and our gradual adjustment to life in rural Colorado. We have fallen in love with living in tune with the sun and seasons, waking up each day amazed to find ourselves in such a beautiful, quiet, natural place. Good luck choosing the perfect place to make your own retirement dreams come true!

Please contact me at MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com to purchase copies of any of my books. Thanks!

The Power of Healing Relationships

In my past work, many asked me if I believed that we can change emotionally or are we just stuck with our upbringing and personality traits. Can we change? Yes, but two factors were essential. The feeling of hitting bottom with little left to lose, and access to healing relationships.

I have been lucky in my adult life. I have had a number of positive experiences with truly healing relationships. The first came in my early thirties when I finally met a therapist I could learn to trust and rely on to have my best interests at heart. I know now that I would have had a very different life if I had not met this woman when I did. It took a few years, but I eventually found her completely trustworthy. I let her re-parent me in a caring, loving way, showing me that some people are worth trusting. Later I learned that she had taught me quite a lot about providing my own self-counseling in difficult situations by teaching skills of self-analysis and motive.

A few years later I studied for a M.A. degree in counseling psychology where I learned even more about trusting the wisdom of my own intuition. Your gut has decades of experience in choosing what is good for you and those ideas and people to avoid. Trust it.

All of these tools are not useful, however, if you are still second-guessing yourself, like I did with my first marriage. I knew marrying that man was a mistake, but I did it anyway. Of course, that did not end well, so by the time I hit 49 I was divorced, jobless and depressed as hell. Living on unemployment and severance provided the time and space I needed to re-imagine and re-frame my life. I spent months writing, reading my old journals and other books on self-esteem. What was next for me?

I decided that the only thing that meant anything to me at that point was to find love. Unless there was a loyal, trustworthy, generous love for me in this world, I wasn’t sure if I was interested in living the rest of my life. My priorities were clear. I started my own local, non-internet-based dating service to prove to myself and others that love was an “intriguing possibility” for all of us, even over age 50 or 60. Thus began my own proof of something I completely believe in:

“What you focus on grows!”

And, sure enough, I soon met the partner I had always dreamt of, except he certainly didn’t come in the package I had imagined! Mike was an engineer and electrical technician, not a university type at all. He wanted to learn how everything worked and fix it, plus he was also a sculptor and artist. On paper we did not match at all, but in real life we were so well-matched and happy!

After our marriage at age 50, he subsidized my search for an alternative career and then supported my new work as a free-lance writer. He gave me what we all need at some point in our lives, someone who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. Believing in myself as a writer was difficult for me in spite of fact that I had always been an avid reader and writer. I had been a university librarian for decades with three M.A. degrees at that point, and yet I needed a lot of support to become a research writer.

One factor which I’m sure has played an important role in our relationship over the years is that both of us have suffered from chronic illnesses, him when I met him, and me recently. This experience teaches us compassion for self and others, because that is the only way to survive the daily challenges of an illness that others can’t understand or cure. I often think now about how easy it used to be to walk everywhere without supplemental oxygen, and go just about anywhere I wanted to. Remember, your health will not last forever.

Since we met, over seventeen years ago, Mike has played a gigantic role in my own self-love and self-healing process. I am so grateful for his love. He shows me everyday how smart, strong and worthy of love I am. He is my best cheerleader.

To me, now, that is just about as much as we can ask from life or love!

Father-Daughter Relationships: What I learned after the death of my father

It is now two years since my father’s death. He died one week before the Covid-19 pandemic struck our country. I was watching an interview with Will Smith the other day, where he spoke about his alcoholic father and his death. The interviewer said, “You rarely say anything about your father,” and Will responded with, “He was never there, so what can I say.” About his father’s death Will said, “The death of my father started a new phase in my life.” I have to say I agree to some extent with both of these observations as they relate to my own life.

An older friend said to me in the past year or so, that after our parents die we may finally feel more comfortable being honest with ourselves about our relationships with them. That has been my process in the past two years. Yes, I’ve had lots of counseling, in fact the first time I went in was to discuss my problems with my father and how he couldn’t seem to be there for me. Yes, I agree that we would best get past our fixations with our parents’ behavior towards us. But I enjoy understanding my past and how that explains my behavior in the years following my childhood.

Human behavior fascinates me!

Suddenly, in the past week or so, I saw this simple quote and it blew my mind! As strange as it may seem, I was constantly seeking appreciation and approval from most males in my life after my father tended to ignore me most of my childhood. I never felt truly appreciated by him. The exchanges I remember with him were observations like, “You have all A’s on your report card except for this one B+. What happened there?” Yes, I turned to my father for criticism and judgment, and I usually got it. (Interestingly, my brother dropped out of high school and ran away instead of taking this criticism day after day!)

So then men became those whom I would always try harder to please.

WOW, am I slow in figuring these things out! I called my first marriage ‘criticism central.’ I could do nothing right around my “was-band.” And it wasn’t until my divorce in my late 40s that I figured out what I was doing and decided to do things differently. When I first met Mike, who seemed genuinely caring and loving towards me, I was always suspicious, waiting for him to reveal his true feelings and change into my super critic. We even had a joke between us about this, where he would say: “We’re married now ###. Things are going to change around here!”

In retrospect, I would say most of the friends I’ve known weren’t grateful to have me in their life. My first husband, a wealthy man, bargained with me on how much it would take to make me go away. When we arrived at a number, he asked me to sign a contract written on a napkin so that number couldn’t go up. Yep, I could certainly pick ’em! That is why it took me so long to truly trust Mike.

Why does it take us so long to learn these lessons? Because they were our first experiences in the world. My father represented the way men act towards me and I knew I wanted him to love me so I kept trying harder. I mean how many people do you know who have three Masters degrees?

Along the way I learned that those who are heartlessly critical of others are also boundlessly insecure within themselves, not good company for anyone…

Return to the big cities up north!

We went up north again this past weekend to spend time with old friends, checkout a boat and the scene around Fort Collins. After leaving over seven years ago, I must say we are so pleased to not live there anymore! One of Mike’s friends bought a new home out east in Severance a couple years ago, so we stayed there. East of I-25 it’s non-stop construction… it appears they are building another city just east of the city!

The drive up was so stress-producing for us, after living twenty minutes outside of a one-stop-light town for so long. Colorado Springs-Denver-Fort Collins seem almost like one gigantic city now. And by the time we got to our friend’s house we were beat. Hours of intense traffic is hell on the human body! Our friend Rad has chosen to install the most ‘wired’ home I have ever seen. The security system actually chirps at you as you walk up to the front door, to tell you that you are being filmed. Rasta had to pee in the middle of the night and I had to get everyone up to turn off the alarm before I could open the back door. Convenient or inconvenient?

It’s like another world up there and everyone we know now works from home much of the time. Mike and I were jealous. There is no way we could have worked from home as a solar design engineer and a reference librarian back in the day. So glad we got out when we did!

The world is changing fast and we are not. That works for us 🙂