Like Fannie Flagg wrote, Towanda!

Towanda has two meanings ‘peaceful resting place’, ‘many waters’ or ‘rushing waters’. The latter water meaning is an Osage Indian word.  I use it as Fannie Flagg wrote it in Fried Green Tomatoes – as the battle cry of Idgie’s alter-ego, an Amazon woman.

This coming week has seven full days as do all weeks.  But this will be my first full normal week in a while.  I work all five days, I have yoga class, I have a friend’s housewarming open house, and I have some medical appointments to take my mother to. And writing group six of those mornings.  Blissful normalcy.

I am always ready for this week after the holidays.  In the weeks leading up to the festivities of yule, there are office parties, time off, usually a sick day, and a frenzy of work.  It’s stress added to an already stressful life, overwhelming.  The return to normalcy provokes a psychological ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I say normal week.  My normal and yours are probably different.  Yes, I still have no water.  Yes, I am still inordinately stressed, and yes, my to-do list is 9 miles long and growing but these are practically norms now.  I wrote earlier this week that I need routine in my life.  And, boy, do I ever this year. 

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The Revolt

Me at 13
The Revolt

My hands cramp, fingers arching backward.
Arthritis. Two Advil daily.

My lower back aches, stooping my spine.
My arches continue their path to flat.

It feels like betrayal this revolt.

I was supple and graceful once upon a time.
First a disco queen and then a yoga diva.

This revolt surprises me.
The me that was me that will always 
be me is still there.

But aging and menopause have not been kind to me.

I tell the young’uns not to get old ---
there’s no future in it.

My arm wattles jiggle when I do goddess pose.

Oh, how I wanted something to jiggle when I was 13.
Unnaturally thin for most of my life,
I longed for hips and breasts.  
I had neither until the hot flashes were spent.

This extra weight is foreign to me.
There doesn’t seem to be a map for this territory.

I am frequently besmirched by the 
indignities of old age.

The beginnings of incontinence,
dull dry brittle hair,
my oily skin suddenly flaky and wrinkled.
But the acne has persisted.

I buy moisturizer and acne remedies.

I’ve quit wearing eyeliner.
The crepe underneath my eyes
prevents a straight line.

My beloved shoes languish in the closet.
My balance precarious --
four-inch heels may be my past.

This menopause cleavage astounds me.

Oh, how I had longed for breasts and 
now am plagued by underwire.

This revolt aggravates me.

My visage in the mirror a shock.
Who is that woman?

I feel weighed down by this body in revolt, 
but I practice yoga and I continue to dance.

My spirit intact.  
The me that was me that will always be me 
is still there.  

In revolt against the revolt.

Every Body and a Lot of Things Took a Bath Sunday

bathingbeautyEvery Body and a Lot of Things Took a Bath Sunday

OK, that’s an exaggeration. The two cats did not have a bath though it may not be a bad idea.

The day started with Berry getting a bath. Early evening I had a long, luxurious soak. We’re wrapping up the evening with patio cushions soaking in the tub. In beween bathing events in the tub, there were laundry, dishes, more laundry, and another glorious day in the garden.

gruelLittle Berry Berry is still quite sick. Per the vet’s instructions, I have been feeding him extremely stinky critical care food watered down to the consistency of gruel via a syringe shoved into his mouth every two hours. It’s not pleasant for either of us, but he hasn’t eaten much at all for nearly 3 weeks. Critical care, indeed.

The good news is he seems a little better; the bad news is the gruesome gruel method of feeding provoked a bout of diarrhea this morning. And so we had Bath No. 1.

He was filthy before the attack of diarrhea, but it was harmless dirt. I didn’t want to bathe him given how sick he is and how cold it is. However, the stinky food excreted and soaked into his fur made a bath mandatory. He’s lost nearly 25% of his body weight over the past weeks and every lost ounce showed once he was soaked and lathered.

Poor little guy. We are not going to properly bond at this rate. The wet dog in the picture is Babette. Little Berry looked even more pitiful.

The diarrhea necessitated the washing of couch throws and pillows, my pajamas and the floor. All three probably needed cleaning anyway, but I really wanted to get into the garden. However, stinky critical care food excreted through the bowels of a sick dog left me no choice. I hate being a grownup pretty much all the time, but today especially so.

leafmulchingI did finally get into the garden. I managed to tame the leaves in the fenced part of the yard. The new little electric lawn mower is a peachy leaf mulcher and the old electric leaf blower is a champion mulch placement device. The garden beds giggled as I tucked them in with a couple inches of leafy blanket.

I do not understand why people wage such wars against leaves -war that involves raking and bagging or raking and burning. Chopped up leaves are a blessing and a boon to garden soil particularly that which tends toward clay. And mine doesn’t just tend; I could open a pottery studio. But over the years, leaf mulching has made it possible for me to plant daffodils like a normal gardener which means I don’t have to use the pick axe and auger.

meBy the time I was done, various body parts were complaining loudly. I crawled into the bathtub with Dr. Teal’s Chamomile Epson Salt Moisturizing Bubble Bath. Epsom salts are a gift! Sore muscles and menopause symptoms both will benefit from a long, leisurely soak in slickery, fragrant Epsom salts.

Following the bath, it was time for the next gruesome gruel feeding, but thankfully this one was uneventful. I was thus able to drag patio cushions upstairs to soak in a bath doctored with dishwashing soap and Oxyclean. After the wet summer, I’m afeared the mildew stains are permanent. I’ll probably ending up “dying” the cushions with house stain. I don’t really want dark brown cushions, but they’ll probably not show dirt like pale blue does.

bathingcushionsSo now I’m sitting here drinking wine from the Dollar General (no kidding – another blog post for another time) and thinking about the conversation I just had with Chef Boy ‘R Mine. Damn, I raised him well. (Connie preens and twirls.)

One-Five-Nine (No Kidding)

You've got to be kidding me.

About 15 years ago, I went to my doctor and complained bitterly about brain fog, fatigue and general malaise. I was sure it was my thyroid. And sure enough it was.

As a child, I had been hyper-thyroid. Apparently, children as young as I was don’t develop thyroid problems at the age of 9. They’re either born with them (and often die before diagnosed) or it just doesn’t happen until later in life. Not only was I hyperthyroid, I was extremely so and had a goiter big enough to double as a softball. I’m in medical journals. There was no real protocol for treating children and I was a research hospital’s guinea pig. They did not want to remove the thyroid for a host of reasons. I endured weekly (and sometimes twice weekly) medical appointments and testing for the better part of two years.

The treatment was successful, but my parents were warned that I may never undergo puberty and might never have children. Well. I did undergo puberty – in spades – though I attribute my lack of cleavage to after-effects of massive doses of thyroid hormones. [Every woman on both sides of my family is very well-endowed to the point where breast reduction surgery is often undertaken. I’m a standout oddity.] I also have Chef Boy ‘R Mine as witness to my childbearing abilities.

I’d been complaining, 20 years ago, that something wasn’t right with my thyroid. For the first time in my life, I could pinch an inch. I couldn’t get enough sleep, etc. etc. I kept testing in the normal range. I tried to explain to them that although I wasn’t medicated, I had been somewhat hyperthyroid since I quit taking the meds when I was 10. I was on a downward slope, but I had no street cred with the docs and they couldn’t have cared less what I thought. Low normal was still normal – never mind that I’d been slightly hyper for years.

Fifteen years ago, I persuaded them to do the full thyroid panel and sure enough I was hypothyroid.

The full panel of thyroid tests reveals all sorts of things, but for people with my diagnosis – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – the TSH number is the important one. 3.0 is considered the upper range of normal. Most docs don’t like for folks to get below 0.5 to 1.0 or above 5.0. I don’t recall what that first TSH number was – pretty big. I TOLD them I felt awful; I still don’t know why they were so surprised.

So. That was my second real indication that I’m pretty in tune with my body – the first was sensing that Chef Boy ‘R Mine was fixin’ to be a miscarriage before there were any real signs. I know when things are wrong.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid. A simple explanation is that my thyroid thinks it is allergic to itself and keeps trying to commit suicide. Even missing my meds for just a day can provoke mayhem and carnage. Even medicated, periodic adjustments are required. A few years ago, I felt like crap and developed a goiter. I called the doc. My TSH was 39 –yes 39. Thirty-nine times the upper range of normal. He was astonished. I’d only missed three or four days of my meds.

The amount of Synthroid I take boggles the mind of my hypothyroid friends. Hypothyroidism is epidemic among women in this country. The last I heard, it was estimated that 40% of American women are hypothyroid with most of them undiagnosed. Since Oprah got diagnosed, I imagine that a few more are insisting their doctors run the thyroid panel. But regular hypothyroidism is not the same as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Look at it like this – there’s the common cold and then there’s bronchitis.

So, over the years, my thyroid acts up, I feel like crap, and I call the doctor. I’m always right and they no longer argue with me. We run the tests, we up the Synthroid, and off I go on my merry way.

Tired? I should be comatose.

I’ve been sleeping a lot lately, but I haven’t had brain fog and I don’t have a goiter. It’s been a cold, yucky winter and my stress levels are THIS HIGH. [Connie holds her hand two feet above her head.] I’m very in tune with my body and nothing was on my radar.

The family practitioner insisted we run a thyroid panel. I was opposed. I thought it unnecessary testing that would end up costing me a couple hundred dollars. We argued, she won. She also ran my cholesterol.

Well. My cholesterol is in the “needs medication” column and my TSH is, no shit, ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-NINE. One Five Nine. That’s 5300% higher than it should be.

Well, shit-fire, no wonder I’m tired. I should be near comatose based on past experience.

I’m inclined to think something went awry with this test. With a TSH of 39, I could barely get out of bed, every spot of arthritis in my body was screaming, my skin was so dry I was a cloud of dead skin cells, and I was thoroughly miserable. I was also unable to remember anything. At a 39 TSH, my world was wallpapered with sticky notes lest I forget something. No kidding, I had sticky notes to remind me to do stuff you wouldn’t think needed reminders. I had “brush teeth” on the medicine cabinet and “go to work” on the steering wheel of the car. I would forget what I was doing in the middle of doing it.

It was awful. If I do, in fact, have a TSH of 159, I should be too bumfuzzled and confoozled to type this much less actually awake at 8 p.m. The only hesitation with dismissing it out of hand is that my cholesterol is high. Traditionally, my cholesterol numbers are good when my thyroid is functioning well. Hypothyroidism correlates with high cholesterol. Many folk find that when they’re properly medicated for thyroid problems, high cholesterol problems go away.

So. Today I read that menopause is suspected to interfere with the body’s ability to process Synthroid. Upon reading that, I threw up my hands and ran amok in the hallways for awhile. Menopause’s unbloody hands appear to affect every facet of my life. I’m tired of it. And I’m tired. And I have a TSH of 159.

I’m still functioning and for that I’m grateful. I’m much too busy to crawl into bed for the 4-6 weeks it will take to get things up to speed.

If you know a woman who’s tired of being tired, suggest she get her thyroid checked. There’s no need to be miserable. Until they figure out why all of us womenfolk are having this problem, there’s not much to be done for it other than get a diagnosis and some prescriptions. (And if you have been diagnosed and medicated, but still feel like crap, get your B12 serum levels checked – B12 deficiency goes hand-in-hand with thyroid problems.)