Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

My Mom is now 88 and still energetic and thriving! Perhaps some of you read this post from five years ago. If not, let’s celebrate our Moms together this weekend!

Mom with my niece Justine. She has always loved kids! She taught elementary school for years.

Meet My Amazing Mom!

On the occasion of my Mom’s 83rd birthday, I would like to introduce you to my mother. Born around Kansas City after her mother had had trouble conceiving, my Mom ended up being the eldest of four children. She had her rebellious moments in high school and then met my Dad on a blind date in 1950. He was soon sent to Virginia by the army, but they corresponded for a short period and then they married in 1951. She was only 19 when she got on a train to join him.

She lived in a time when being your husband’s best help mate was what women did. She had kids while also helping her husband advance his career. It was such a struggle in their early lives together. Mom worked to support the family, and had three kids by 1955, while my father finished his PhD in botany at University of Iowa.

College teachers didn’t make much money back then, and they had to move every few years if they weren’t on tenure-track, so we moved around a lot in my early years, but my Mom always kept it together, even when my Dad decided he wanted to go to India for a summer when we kids were quite small. She was supportive of Dad no matter what! That is how she saw herself.

Eventually Mom started taking college classes and received a B.A. from Colorado College the year my eldest sister graduated from high school. Then she started teaching elementary school for the next 20 years. So many of her students remember her as a caring, encouraging teacher.

In the early 1990s my parents ‘retired’ to southern New Mexico, but they kept working hard to produce botany books all the same. My Mom got really good at Photoshop and photography to provide great photos for my Dad’s books. Has anybody heard of Trees and Shrubs of Colorado or Common Southwestern Native Plants? Those are a few of the books my parents produced together after ‘retirement.’

Now their lives have settled down quite a bit (my Dad died in 2020), but Mom still worries about all of us and our families. She has done a bang up job of helping others her whole life.

Mom:   You are my HERO!

Spring Gardening in the Colorado Foothills

I truly do pity those who don’t have a garden to observe in the spring! Every new day is an adventure out there. I put in new perennials every year and so I must then remember where I put what, and go out and see what made it through the winter. Sometimes very subtle signs at first!

My earliest bloomer this spring were some miniature irises. Regular irises to bloom later in May or early June…

The irises even beat the tiny creeping thyme flowers (Turkish Veronica) this year!

We had a small but wonderful rain last night and so all the plants look refreshed and ready to thrive...

…and the rain also cleared the smoke out of our skies for a lovely view of the Sangre de Cristos this morning!

Mike’s been busy with his new welder too. He made a cute, little wiener dog puppy for me yesterday!

Aging, Imaginary Friends & Transcendence

I mean, what could be more natural? Throughout human history and certainly since each of us first started attempting to create ‘relationships’, we have naturally projected our own needs, desires, and preferences onto anyone around we found handy and appealing. But reality can be so harsh. If we spend time to get to know our latest “possible friend material”, it’s always disappointing. “Oh no, this is just one more flawed, imperfect, lost soul. Damn, I thought I’d found someone more together than me.”

Then AI comes along and before long we had some fascinating new ways of (mis)communicating. Artificial-intelligence gone wild! Spring break for cheaters! Open season on imagining anything or anyone and then hoping for the best!

Databases like Facebook and most dating sites made it much easier to imagine others’ lives instead of bothering to get to know them… at all! Imagine projecting across the globe and so easily. It may well bring one of our worst traits to the surface, and then convince us that we have scads of imaginary friends. Oh well. I guess that beats no friends at all 😦

I marvel at the apparent power of Facebook. After decades of wondering (or not) we connect to a few we just barely recognized in high school, but back then most of us were too scared, self-conscious or self-absorbed to get to know anyone else. Or maybe just too high… I remember my high school self as a unique combination of shrinking violet and wallflower with just a hint of enforced invisibility. For me, being in public was painful, unless I was ice skating.

Don’t worry, high school was just the pupa stage. We got much better!

Sometimes I like to compare our lifecycle to that of the butterfly. One of the reasons I enjoy this image is that it means that we were only pupa in high school and college, coming out of our pupa in midlife, and we’re now moving into our full butterfly stage, as free and beautiful as we will ever be! One thing is for sure, we are just about as authentic as we are ever going to be now.

I find that transcendent…

Such a refreshing perspective!
“I had to go through so much just to be here now.
That makes me feel so proud of myself!
I can’t believe I made it so far!”

Postscript: Perhaps death is such a relief because there is truly nothing else to go wrong.

The worst case scenario just arrived!

Aging & Accepting New Limits…

I am ever amazed at the distance between knowing how much my health has changed and accepting those new limits. In the past seven years I have gone from a healthy 60-year-old to one who needs supplemental oxygen to breath and help with balance and stability while walking. My highest priority now is to not fall again and suffer another head injury. I’ve already had one traumatic brain injury and several serious concussions.

Acceptance releases everything to be what it already is.

On my birthday this year I learned in no uncertain terms that I cannot walk more than a few blocks, and that is with balance assistance at all times. I have been an avid walker my whole life. I would love to know how many miles I have walked in my 65+ years. I was inspired by Thoreau’s essay on “The fine art of sauntering.”

Walking was always my best way to contemplate my doubts and troubles. If I was upset I would go for a long walk along the Big Thompson River in Loveland, or around my neighborhood in Fort Collins. There I worked things out in my mind.

This is not an option now. I fell down in my garden a couple years ago and split my upper lip badly. Even short walks are out of the question, even if Mike is there to help. I am depressed and frustrated with this change in my lifestyle, and acceptance has never been my forte. I am one stubborn person!

However, I heard something the other day which stuck with me. It was about how we may decide to focus and go deeper into our spirituality when our physical abilities wane. This has already happened to some extent, because I’m that kind of person and I am stuck inside most of the time.

Luckily I have a phenomenal view from my bed, an 180 degree view of the Sangre de Cristos!

OK, I guess I can live with this.

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.