The Grandmother Effect

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In the crusade to get my blood pressure back to a normal number, I have been having regular visits with my doctor.  During one of our discussions about why my numbers might be up, I disclosed a few things that have been making me feel anxious, things that never were even a blip on my radar a few years ago but now sound alarms like I am at Defcon 2.   I am nervous about driving at night.  I now take my dog to work as often as I can in the winter because I am paranoid about the heater in my basement catching fire and Callaway being trapped inside the house.  You get the idea.  My doctor merely smiled and nodded, leaned back, laced her fingers together and told me I was experiencing “The Grandmother Effect”.

Never having had children of my own, I was mildly perplexed as to why I would be showing symptoms of a phenomenon that I should not be experiencing.  She went on to tell me that “women of a certain age” begin to worry more about the things that had never bothered them before.  It comes part and parcel with the beginning stages of the dreaded menopause, or as a dear man in my life used to say, “the meno”.

Women’s bodies are finely tuned to develop certain idiosyncrasies as they reach certain ages and their minds are hard-wired to react to those stimuli.  I am certainly at an age where I could be a grandmother and, with an imagination like mine, I could begin to conjure up all kinds of horrific scenarios that may happen to the next generation of my family, had I had children.  Or perhaps I am projecting those fears in regards to my nephews and worrying about them as they navigate their way through this life.  As my doctor explained it further, I could truly comprehend why I was having these irrational feelings and worrying about things that had never bothered me in the past.

The “meno” is coming.  It is inevitable and a necessary step to get to the next plateau of my life.  I have experienced my first full-on hot flash in the middle of the night.  I can only say it was like being on fire but being soaking wet at the same time.  Sadly, the water didn’t extinguish the flames.  I have decided that, from now on, I will refer to any future hot flashes as ‘my personal summer’.

Knowing that my worries are explainable has helped to slightly ease the stress.  Now I can only peer into the opening of the “meno” tunnel and hope it is a quick trip to the other side.

 

 

Reducing stress = elevator music

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The term elevator music doesn’t get used much anymore which makes me think that I am older than I care to admit.  Too many people these days are plugged into too many devices, so the dulcet background tones in those confined spaces never have the chance to fall on ears that are close enough to hear them.

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For the last two days, I have been purposely subjecting myself to the calming sounds of that very music.  Stress is a very cunning adversary and I am using every trick in my arsenal to keep my worthy opponent at bay.  Between calming essential oils and the lulling sounds of piano and crashing ocean waves, I have been successfully keeping my blood pressure down while struggling to keep my eyelids up.

I am not a fan of taking medication, even if those tiny pills are relatively successful at keeping my numbers as healthy as they can be.  I have been following the DASH diet to ensure that my body has all of the proper nutrition to combat the high blood pressure and I have doubled the length of my daily walks, so my dog is absolutely thrilled.  Those things combined with my new home BP monitor seem to be giving me more encouraging numbers while giving me a much-needed sense of relief.

After learning all of the little tricks you are supposed to do before taking your reading, I am happy that my numbers are averaging in the comfortable to normal range, but tomorrow is anyone’s guess.  I have a follow-up appointment with my doctor and I’m sure all of my “happy” numbers will be cast aside and the “white coat” numbers will re-emerge.  Perhaps I should take some ear-buds with me tomorrow, plug them into my phone and let the smooth elevator music soothe my senses before the cuff tightens on my arm!

My soapbox is very small today

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I survived my doctor’s appointment with little concern for my safety.  After explaining my long-term relationship with my decongestant eye drops, my doctor was very understanding and said that many people have no idea about how much they can be affected by over-the-counter medication.  A friend of mine who is a nurse uttered the same sentiments.

While my post today may seem like a public service announcement, it is more of a message to all of you to be selective about the medication you purchase without a prescription and to ask the Pharmacist questions about how these easy-to-access medications could be potentially harmful to your health, especially if you are on prescription drugs.

The more I researched the side effects of my eye drops the more shocked I became.  Not only were the active ingredients in those drops enough to counteract my BP medication, they could also increase my blood pressure on their own.  And if the drops themselves weren’t bad enough, the way I had been putting them into the corner of my eye made them a bigger problem because they went directly into my tear ducts and straight into my bloodstream.

I will gracefully step down from my soapbox now with the hope that you will take a few moments to look at the chemicals in any over-the-counter medications you may have in your medicine cabinet and make sure they are the best choices for you to be taking.  Better to be safe than sorry.

My doctor took an oath to save lives, but she may kill me

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I have high blood pressure.  It is something I have lived with for a long time and something that runs in my family.  I take pills, I have check ups with my doctor and I am careful about the things I eat so I can moderate my intake of sodium.  So when I went to see my doctor last Friday, I was shocked and appalled by the number that she gave me as my BP reading.

She dutifully asked the questions she needed to ask about the obvious things that could be causing the spike in my blood pressure.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that part of the reading may be due to the fact that my appointment was for 9:45 am and I finally got in to see her at 11:07 am.  Then there is the “white-coat syndrome” that in itself raises the reading by a few points.  But I was truly perplexed.  Over the last 10 months, I have given up coffee, I have been eating a more plant-based vegetarian diet and I have been walking with my dog on a regular basis, so why the high reading?

Let me take you back a few years  to when I found myself in the same situation.  My reading had been high at a regular appointment and my doctor and I scrutinized my daily habits until we discovered one particular thing I had been doing that was the cause of my high reading – nasal spray.  Yes, a seemingly innocuous nasal spray to relieve my constant congestion was to blame for the spike in my numbers.  However, since that appointment, the nasal spray was discarded and I have learned to live with a stuffy nose.

So for days after my last appointment, I closely examined the things in my life that may be contributing to this high and disturbing number.  It was not my food choices, it was not my exercise habits and it was not my stress level.  As I leaned back one morning to drop my allergy eye drops into the corners of my eyes for the first of many daily doses, I put my cheaters on and looked a little more closely at the label on those drops.  The saving grace for my red, itchy, allergen-filled eyes was a decongestant.  In the world of people with high blood pressure, this is also called a No-No.  Decongestants not only have the potential to increase blood pressure, they prevent the medication I take each morning from doing its job.   DUH!!

So, this coming Friday I will, once again, sit in the waiting room of my doctor’s office to see if I get in on time for my appointment.  I have not been using my eye drops since Tuesday morning, so I will wait to see what my reading is to see if those drops are the cause of my high numbers.

As I await my fate, I urge you all to carefully check the labels of any over-the-counter medications you may be using and ask questions about the long-term effects they may have on your body.  You just never know.

I usually hate it when he’s right, but not this time

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I have a great friend who is sometimes is too smart for his own good.  But his advice is sage, his common sense is welcomed and his support is evident.  The combination of those things has recently led me to draft a couple of letters to companies that have been manufacturing the products I have been using for the venture I began for our local Food Bank.

I penned a few well-constructed emails today to let the companies know how integral their products have been to the success of our Freezer Crockpot meals.  In a world so full of negativity, it’s nice to be able to spread a modicum of happiness.  In those letters I did nothing more than tell the truth about how much of a difference this project has made to our small community and how much their product has helped with that success.

chopfest-hamburger-soup

In a few short hours, I had my first email response.  Nowhere in my email did I ask for anything but, after being so impressed with the project and inspired by our story, this company immediately offered to send us some complimentary products to “help continue our excellent work”.

For those of you who know me, or follow my blog on a regular basis, you will know that some tears were shed after I read that email.  And I’m not completely sure if the tears were of pure joy because this company didn’t hesitate to help or because my friend was right….again.  Regardless of their cause, my cheeks welcomed the emotion.

This Food Bank project has been a labor of love since the beginning and the more time I spend organizing, shopping and setting up the volunteers, the more I know this is not just a one-shot deal.  This enterprise has become a part of my life, and one I hope to continue for a long time.  And now that I know even more support is out there, more home-cooked meals will make it into deserving homes during their tough times.

 

 

 

 

To Paleo, or not to Paleo….that is the question

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Along with aging comes change…..in everything!  Some of that change is welcomed, like a new sense of self and not being concerned with what others think.  And some is not so well-received, like white hair, bags under the eyes and the digestive system constantly changing the rules for our metabolism on a daily basis.

I never had a care in the world when it came to food.  I suffered no allergies.  I was not a victim to food sensitivities.  I had absolute freedom in my culinary world.

But something has drastically shifted over the last couple of years.  I have heard of this phenomenon but never thought I would have become a statistic in this game of “what do we cut out of the daily diet today”.   Choosing what to eat has become more like Russian Roulette.  One misfire and that bullet of discomfort is going to rocket through my intestines.

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I’ve been looking at the Paleo Diet and it seems to cut out all the components that could potentially cause inflammation or general malaise without necessarily cutting out the options for a very tasty selection of meals.  I have already become the person who puts beets and turmeric in my breakfast smoothies, so I think I’ve pretty much taken the first step in admitting that I’m not the girl who is able to eat what she wants anymore.   And that recipe in the photo looks delicious!   Wish me luck…..I’m goin’ in.

 

 

The Church of the Fish

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Times have certainly changed.   When I began my career in the hospitality industry, food allergies were not even a blip on the culinary radar.  The kitchen was, for a Chef, a playground with no rules.   But all of that has changed.

These days, I make a point of asking each person making a reservation at the lodge if anyone in the family has any food allergies or food restrictions that we should be made aware of before their arrival.  The answers always weigh more heavily on the ‘yes’ than the ‘no’.  And although some of the guidelines we are made to adhere to are more preference than necessity, the kitchen now has to deal with a list of these instructions for each week of our summer season.

Now, while I completely comprehend the severity of an ingested or inhaled allergic reaction to a food, it does not negate the fact that I am more than moderately amused by the inability of our Sous Chef to pronounce one of the more prevalent choices in the current realm of dietary options.  A Pescatarian is a person who does not eat meat but will eat fish.  And each time I have the opportunity to add that choice to our “allergy” list for the week, my smile cannot be missed.   As I walk into the kitchen with that list, I calmly await the moment that she will read the list aloud and say the word “Pescabyterian”.

church of the loaves and fishes

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According to Karina, somewhere there is a church for vegetarians who occasionally eat fish.  And that latest hotel guest, that new addition to our list of dietary anomalies, is a member of its congregation.  Each time she reads the list aloud, the words Pescatarian and Presbyterian become intertwined and I am reduced to a public school version of myself, unintentionally (not really) laughing at the combination of the two expressions.

Pescabyterian – a member of the religion of vegetarians who consciously choose to eat fish.

It may be juvenile, but this marriage of words helps alleviate some of the stress in our summer.  It gives us the freedom to laugh at the increased amount of tension in an already volatile environment.  And it allows a break for laughter in a scene that is meant more for drama, creating an oasis of calm in a sea of chaos.

One simple word, whether Webster chooses to recognize it or not, has the power to change the trajectory of our day.   Let’s hear it for the Pescabyterians!