Friday, June 26, 2015

Staying Active is the Goal

For the majority of my adult life, I have taken pride in the fact that I am physically active. I worked out throughout my two pregnancies and even made time for it when my children were young and I had to workout with them on top of me. During some of my worst rheumatoid arthritis days, I did what I could. Staying active was always the goal.  However, in the last few years, I've really struggled with motivation.  I feel strong when I complete the workouts that I once craved, but they just don't motivate me anymore.  At one time, carving out an hour of my day to workout excited me, now it feels like my time is being robbed.  I finally decided that I am tired of being angry with myself for not working out.  It was time to find out "why" I am not motivated.  The answer came last weekend.

Most likely the answer has been coming to me slowly, but it all made sense last week.  My husband and I took our bikes to a forest preserve that we ride in frequently.  It was crazy full of bike and running teams. We decided to skip this site and move on to a more remote bike path that we haven't ridden in for years.  I was in love.  I didn't want the ride to end.  We stopped and watched a deer for a while, and basically just took in the beauty all around us.  I was rather pleased with my endurance up the steep hills and loved the nature all around us. This is when the answer came to me.  I have entered a new phase of my life called midlife. My needs are different now. The reason I am not motivated to wake up early and get started on a workout routine is because it no longer meets my needs. I now need movement that also nourishes my relationships, my spirituality, or has a purpose.  For years I woke up early and participated in high paced workouts and loved them.  Now, I wake up and look forward to heading out for a long walk with my border collie no matter what the weather is like. I've realized over the years that I look forward to the sound of birds in the morning like some people do to the release of a new song. I laugh out loud some mornings as I watch two squirrels chase each other up and down trees. People are friendly in the morning and say "hi". I like that short interaction with my neighbors.  Before starting dinner, I head out again for a shorter walk.  This walk generally allows my mind to find calm from the day.  During the day, I like to do yoga type moves that allow me to focus on the needs of my body.  Lately, I've had stiff ankles that have required a little more attention.  I look forward to Fridays when I have the day off and mow our large yard. Afterwards, I spend time trimming branches and weeding. This type of exercise is something I can appreciate for the next few days as I look out my window. I'm one of those weird people that enjoy shoveling snow and raking leaves especially if it is with my husband or son. I like the rhythm of these jobs.  On the weekends, I want to get on my bike and ride side by side with my husband. This is when we have some of our very best conversations. At work,  I try to integrate exercise into my day. I walk the four flights of stairs every work day and often take a short stroll during break to get outside, clear my mind, and stretch my legs. I wear my Fitbit constantly and make sure I hit my goal every day. I use it as my guarantee I am not being a couch potato.    

When I take an honest look at what I am doing, I do indeed get exercise. Am I going to win any competitions with this type of exercise, look like a model, or achieve some out of the ordinary achievement? No, but I never was before either.  That has never been my goal. But, the exercise I am getting right now fits who I am right now and that is the best type of exercise. On the days I work, I work long hours on my feet engaging 100% with other people. For an introvert, this is highly exhausting. On my days off, I need activities that fill me with energy again and what I am doing accomplishes that. I don't want to say I am an old gal, but I do realize I am in a new phase of my life and with that comes changes that I want to embrace.  I now want the physical activity I participate in to be meaningful.  Doing a 45-60 minute exercise class no longer accomplishes that need.  Spending an hour or more mowing the lawn (I don't use a self-propelled mower) does. My needs have changed both physically and mentally with age.  I've been struggling with myself because I have been trying to get my body to fall back into workout routines that are outdated for me and no longer satisfy my needs. Staying active is still the goal, but now it requires the elements of spirituality and purpose to complement it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I Found the Person I was Looking For

Often I think back to an evening in 2004.  I finished teaching an evening class at 9:00, walked to my car, and received a call.  I sat in the parking lot absorbing the news from my primary care physician that I was officially diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  I'll forever be thankful to him for patiently explaining the findings from the rheumatologist I had recently visited.  He assured me that once I was on the right medications life would be fine again.

I don't know that I ever questioned my doc's supportive words that life would be okay again, but over the following years it didn't seem like it was in my future.  I was on meds for four years, got better, and then worse than ever. My rheumatoid arthritis went from mild to severe. Since the medications didn't seem to be working anyhow, I decided to take a two year break. It was the supportive words of my health professionals that lead me back to medications.  My naturopath had me take a good look at where I was and where I wanted to be and my primary care physician suggested I start fresh with a new rheumy.  The advice from the two of them was just what I needed.  I went to my first appointment with the new rheumy ready for change and a feeling of optimism.

One thing I always did for myself even during my darkest days of struggling to walk up the six stairs to my bedroom, needing my children to undress me, and finding everyday tasks like lifting my cup of tea to my mouth was to visualize myself well.  I could always see myself hugging my family without pain, skipping beside my children, bike riding with my husband, and walking my border collie with ease. I never let those scenes drift from my mind. When my new rheumy suggested a mixture of methotrexate and Enbrel, I accepted and for some reason knew as I was shooting myself with my first dose of Enbrel that things were going to be different this time with medications.

I was diagnosed in April 2004. From that time until August 2010 when I started on Enbrel, I searched high and low to find someone who was leading a fairly pain-free and active lifestyle. I had no luck.  I found person after person who dealt with the pain I did during my rough years and wondered if I would ever find someone who got better.  "Maybe people don't get better" was a thought I sometimes allowed myself to think. Then my optimism won over and I convinced myself that people do get better but stop sharing online because they are out enjoying life again. I had to believe my life wouldn't be one of constant pain and physical restrictions.

In the five years that I have been on my mix of Arava (went off methotrexate due to increased number of nodules) and Enbrel, I have finally found a person that leads a pretty much pain-free and active life.  She has flares off and on and has to watch her stress levels, the weather, food, and other conditions that contribute to the flares but overall leads a pretty good life.  She has answered "NO" to the following questions from her rheumatologist for some time. "Do you have morning stiffness?"  "Do you ever need to take pain medications?" "Do your flares last more than a few days?"  Who is this person that I finally found?  It's ME. I'm finally the person I searched for all those years.  I am the person who I dreamed about on my most difficult days. Will I always be this person?  I have no idea. What I do know is that at this time my rheumatoid arthritis is under control.  I searched too long and too hard to find the person I have become to worry about what "might" happen in the future. Now is the time to embrace life and be thankful that my visions of wellness came to be.  If it hasn't happened for you, please don't give up. Keep seeing yourself healthy. Know that it may take years for you to find the person you are searching for but that person is out there just waiting to be found.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Arthritis Awareness Month - Self Awareness

May is Arthritis Awareness month in the US and I  have a confession. Every year when Arthritis Awareness Month rolls around, I feel anxious. I feel like I am supposed to make all my friends and family aware of what is going on with my body and the bodies of all of us living with rheumatoid arthritis. This feels like a contradiction because I am also asking people to treat me as if I don't have RA. I want to be considered a very capable person, not announce I'm someone who may struggle to lift her cup of tea without notice. (This may also come from the fact that despite blogging about very personal things in my life, I am a private person.)  Plus, one thing I have become "aware" of over the years of living with rheumatoid arthritis is that the majority of my friends and family are going through their own daily life struggles. Announcing that I'd also like them to understand my life circumstances feels a little like when my mom made my siblings and I go door to door collecting for organizations close to her heart - INVASIVE.  What does make me excited about Arthritis Awareness is making sure that every person with an inflammatory arthritis diagnosis is aware of the numerous resources available to them and most importantly, to become aware of who I currently am as a person living with rhuematoid arthritis.  

The online support for those of us living with rheumatoid arthritis continues to grow.  When I started blogging in 2008, there were only a handful of us.  Now, it is hard to keep up with everyone. Social media has grown like crazy and it is easy to find a supporting friend day or night.  Resources like Health Central and Creaky Joints/Joint Decisions are allowing us to find resources on the numerous issues we deal with on a day to day basis. We live in a good time where we can get answers to things that our rheumatologist can't help us with in a 10-15 minute office visit and besides that, as my rheumy says about herself, "I don't have RA."  

An RA diagnosis has meant so much more to me than pain and swelling of joints.  It has meant becoming "aware" of who I am not only with RA, but who I am in general because the two go together.  The tricky part of this is that just when I think I know who I am, I change again. But since flares can come out of nowhere, it is important for me to make a conscious effort to find out who I am and what my needs are so that I can play my part in keeping flares at a distance.

The number one thing I've learned in 10+ years of being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis is that stress is a definite contributor to flares.  Over the years, I've worked on figuring out what my stress triggers are and because of that, I have a whole new understanding of who I am.  In fact, I think I appreciate myself more than ever!  I am an introvert.  As an adult I have worked really hard to make conversation in social situations and for the most part I do okay, but it wipes me out. Because of this, I need to be more "aware" of my commitments so that my energy tanks don't run low. I also like to think through what's on my mind before talking about it.  I know it can be hurtful for friends and family to find out afterwards that I was in a terrible flare, but I really can't talk about it until it is over. This also means that I can't take on other people's struggles. I am a good listener, which often gets me in trouble because people like to share their frustrations in life, but often don't reciprocate. Sometimes I just have to distance people so that I can deal with my flare without anyone else's issues becoming the focus. I'm also someone who has a hard time asking for help. RA has helped a lot with this because when going through a tough flare, I don't have a choice.What I have become "aware" of is that people want to help.  It's one of the few ways they feel they can help relieve my pain.  I've learned to let go of a lot of worries.  The wonky fingers and feet used to scare the living heck out of me. Now, I look at the slight changes that have occurred and think of them as accomplishments, just as a I do the stretchmarks on my belly from giving birth.

I am not ashamed of my disease.  I am happy to discuss it (if I am not in a flare), but I don't want it to define me. Rheumatoid arthritis can easily become the focus of my life, but when things are calm, it is time to live life and enjoy all that has been given to me.  Overall, my own personal RA journey has given me the "awareness" of just how great my life is and I appreciate the people in my life who are ready to learn more about it, but definitely don't want it to be forced or untimely.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Healthline's Rheumatoid Arthriits Blogs of 2015

As I go through my struggle of figuring out my place in the rheumatoid arthritis community, I am honored to be named on this list along side such other inspirational bloggers.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Positive Discipline for Myself

When I was a young 5th grade teacher, I chose to base my classroom discipline on the positive rather than the negative.  I developed a program with two components. As a class, they could earn Class Coupons. Once they earned enough Class Coupons, we would have a party which generally consisted of watching a movie that went along with a book we were reading.  Students could also earn Individual Coupons.  I might pass out Individual Coupons for receiving a complement about the student, homework, answering difficult questions, or showing improvement. The Individual Coupons could be used at the party to buy treats: pop, candy, popcorn, etc. I wanted my discipline program to focus on the positive that my students were doing rather than the negative as that was the behavior I wanted to encourage.  For that reason, coupons could never be taken away.  A lot of surprises came from this program.  First, I had a lot of complements from other teachers which earned my class more coupons.  The teachers and principal commented often on how well my students behaved as a whole.  They motivated each other to do well.  Second, when it was party time, they shared their coupons. At first I wasn't sure this was a good idea, but what I found with a positive system is that students wanted to bring up those who were struggling and share in the overall glory.

Lately, I have been feeling like my life needs more discipline. With crazy work hours, I have found that besides walking, I don't regularly work out.  My weight is at an all time high and my joints are feeling more old age than rheumatoid arthritis. While in comparison to many, my processed food/sugar intake is still low, it is higher than I am comfortable with.  I want to be healthy and I want to have control over what my body is able to do and what I put into it. So, along with my sister, a new positive discipline plan was put into effect.

Here's how it works.  We have started rewarding ourselves for positive actions.  We have the potential of earning $1 per day for each action we feel is needed for the week.  This week I get a dollar for each of the following: meeting my Fitbit step count, working out,  avoiding sugar, and keeping wine to weekends only.  So, this could be a $4 a day week. Four dollars a day?  This might not sound like a big deal, but it is to me.  I keep my jar of money on the kitchen counter and it reminds me all day that my goal is health, much like the Class Coupons I gave and hung in the main section of the classroom reminded my students that our goal was to achieve respect and responsibility for our own actions. When I put my dollars in the jar at the end of the day, I feel like I have accomplished something big. And, over the course of three months, my money has the potential of growing and being used for something I want just as the Individual Coupons I gave my students gave them buying power on party day.

Focusing on the positive works for me.  It motivates me and it keeps me on track. Some days I am not able to accomplish all the goals I want to accomplish, but instead of focusing on what I didn't do, I like the idea of focusing on what I did do. Some days I am only able to put a dollar in the jar, but putting that dollar in the jar allows me a little time to savor the fact that I did accomplish something great during the day towards being the best me I can be. What about you?  How do you motivate yourself to be healthy?



Monday, March 30, 2015

Random Thoughts on Being Sick

While teaching Thursday night, I realized I had caught whatever has kept my daughter home all week.  By bedtime I had chills and by morning was running a fever and had body aches.  As of Monday morning, I'm still in bed.  Surprisingly, I haven't been sick much since starting Enbrel in 2010, despite working with about 75 students per semester all hacking and blowing during class, so I guess I am due.  As I lay in bed, I've had a few random thoughts on being sick I thought I'd share.

Children
While our society likes to demonize teenagers, I've been so appreciative of mine.  They've both made runs to the store and took my spot in the dog walking rotation.  This morning I woke up to coffee, an emptied dishwasher, and one volunteering to walk the dog again.  Also appreciated is a sunny personality from both of them and more hugs than usual from my sick daughter.  I ❤️ hugs.

Netflix
My name is Cathy and I have a Netflix addiction.  However, when you're sick, you don't have to feel guilty for indulging in one series for hours upon hours.  Plus, having great shows to watch instead of randomly going through cable channels is the best.

Border collies
Border collies are known for their obsessive behavior.  My Izzy seems to have a built in alarm clock that wakes her up if I'm not awake at my usual time.  She "talks" to me until I get up and then she goes back to bed.  Cute, unless you were up the entire night blowing your nose and coughing.  She is a working dog at heart and does not give up easily on her job of caring for me.

Doctors
I don't generally take my family to the doctor when we have cold/flu symptoms, but since my daughter was missing so much school and not getting better, we decided to check things out.  Guess what?  Mom does know best.  The doctor's recommendations were the same as mine: Over the counter eye drops and warm wash cloth for pink eye along with time and patience.  Also happy to see that doctors in our practice seem to be steering away from handing out prescriptions for everything.  Sometimes when I take the kids in I just want reassurance that they are ok.  This doctor did not let me down.

Food
You know I'm sick when I can't finish even half of my Chipotle bowl. :(

Enbrel
Do you use Enbrel with you have cold/flu symptoms?  I feel like I received confusing advice from my rheumatologist.  I decided to skip this week.

Stress
I don't think being sick is the worst thing in life which is one reason I don't do flu shots.  I think our bodies are telling us something when we are sick and that is to slow down.  Being sick is a great way to let go of everything else happening in your life and focus solely on getting better.  I've been really stressed the last few months and catching a virus is not surprising.  In fact, I think it's just what I needed to take my mind away from all that is crazy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What Does It Mean to Leave an Online Community?

It turns out that leaving an online community that you have been a part of for almost seven years is more difficult than I imagined. I've had to ask myself many questions since posting "Letting Go" such as, "What exactly does leaving an online community mean?  Do I stop reading RA posts?  If I do read them, do I 'like' them since I claimed I was leaving the community? Can I share RA posts?"  I feel like I am walking in unknown territory. What's the protocol for leaving a community?  Now that I have publicly announced my leaving, is that really what I want?

In the last few weeks I've been pretty busy in conversation with myself.  Some of the conversations have been encouraging and others have left me frustrated and confused. On a positive note, my writer's block has disappeared since announcing my departure. I feel excited about writing again. Why?  I think sometimes I convince myself that I have to write exclusively about  RA or I will lose readers. This frustrates me because I find it difficult to write regularly about rheumatoid arthritis when it is no longer a day to day adventure for me. Plus, when I do feel good my mind needs to free itself of the concept of pain.

A conversation with my sister reminded me that when I started this blog it is was for me to put my thoughts about life into writing. Having others read it didn't really occur to me. But my conversations with myself have led me to recognize that I like having people read my stuff and I like reading their stuff.  My followers have helped me though some really tough days in ways that family and friends just couldn't. And when I have written about topics other than rheumatoid arthritis, they have always been met positively. My mind keeps asking, "What is really going on Cateepoo?"

With warmer weather and sunshine today, I feel a huge block of stress melting away and everything starting to make sense again.  I remembered back to 2010 when I chose to go back on meds after my two year strike. I was frustrated that I hadn't gotten to the root of what was causing my rheumatoid arthritis but at the same time was in so much pain. I felt trapped by the idea of having to take high risk medications the rest of my life. My naturopath suggested not thinking of it as "all or nothing".  Take the meds for now knowing the decision is always mine if I want to go off again. Blogging is the same.  It doesn't have to be all rheuamtoid arthritis or nothing. In fact, it never has been. I have always loved Pollyanna Penguin's description of me on her blog roll, "The Life & Adventures of Cateepoo (about life with a bit of RA thrown in.)"  She gets what my blog is about so why don't I?  When and why did I convince myself that it has to be all RA or nothing?

Ultimately, I don't know if I can or want to 100% leave the community.  I think my "Letting Go" post was my reaction wrapped up in a lot of feelings: restrictions I put on myself related to my blog, my father-in-law's death, a super busy semester, the need to rediscover myself and having absolutely no idea what that means yet, and just some general hurt feelings. Luckily, I have privately heard back from several people that my voice will be missed.  I really appreciate that.  Most importantly, my conversations have reminded me that I DO have rheumatoid arthritis. Karma rudely reminded me of that when I had a nasty flare right after announcing that my RA is in a good place. (Ha! Take that Cateepoo!) I DO need to know that I'm not alone and others are out there experiencing similar thoughts as me, and I need to let others know they are not alone.  Finally, I have a lot of good friends I have met through the years who I still have a lot to learn from.  They will be my friends either way, but being part of the community just strengthens those ties.

It's been a wild few weeks in my heart and mind.  Luckily, my heart always finds its way.  I just have to be patient and listen. My heart has always known I am more than rheumatoid arthritis and my blog is proof of that.  Why I let my mind think otherwise is beyond my energy levels. What I do know is that I am ready to explore new things in my life.  What those things are, I have no idea yet.  But finding a new path in my life does not mean I have to leave my old familiar one behind. I hope I can still play my part in bringing a positive voice to the rheumatoid arthritis community as my heart and mind feel the need.  Otherwise, I hope you enjoy my other posts reflecting on life.  

Monday, March 9, 2015

What's the Perfect Age?

My 16 year old daughter recently started working.  As we were walking through the mall last week she said, "Sometimes I come home from school, try to take a quick nap, and instead think about how I wish I didn't have to go to work."  My reply, "Welcome to the adult world."  She got a horrified look on her face and said, "This isn't what being an adult is, is it?  If so, why do people want to grow up?"  I of course laughed and let her know this is part of being an adult.  Our conversation then continued to a conversation we often have about growing up and the perfect age.  My daughter likes to ask the question, "Wouldn't you like to be 16 again?"  My answer is always the same, "NO WAY!".  She then quizzes me on whether or not being in my 20's again would be ideal.  "NO," I always answer.  She seems to be searching for that perfect age so that when it comes, she doesn't miss it.

The problem with trying to figure out the perfect age, at least for me, is that every age has been perfect.  I have been happy with each age because they have each brought something important to me.  My teens were about friendships and since I started working at 14, figuring out my work ethic. My 20's were about exploring my profession as a teacher, developing a solid marriage, and figuring out what values I held as an adult.  My 30's were all about being a momma and starting to figure out what life with rheumatoid arthritis meant for me. My 40's have been about rediscovering myself, my marriage, and my role as a momma.  It has also been a time to begin thinking about what else I want to do with my life. I can't imagine not having any one of these stages. Each one of them has been perfect and led me to where I am today.

What we did discuss about becoming an adult is that you have important decisions to make.  How do you want to spend your free time?  What is your passion?  How can you integrate your passion with your career? We talked about the struggles of being an adult, but how each struggle also comes with a reward.  Sure, you have to work, but you also have control over how you spend your time and money.  You get to decide if where you are in life is good or bad. Once you have that figured out, each age is beautiful and necessary.

What do you think?  Has there been a perfect age for you that you'd like to return to?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Bored and Brilliant Project

How often are you on your phone a day?  How many times a day do you pick it up?  Are you happy with your phone relationship?  If you are like me, and you feel like your phone often gets more attention in your life than anything else, you might be interested in signing up for New Tech City's Bored and Brilliant Project. The first step is to install Moment, the app for iPhone users and BreakFree for Android.  This app tracks how often you are on your phone and how many times you pick it up.

Back in January, after a month off work, I decided to participate as the project was launched. The idea is to get you off your phone and spend a little time bored.  Without boredom, we have a difficult time being brilliant.  With smartphones we are able to keep our minds busy 100% of the time and we are losing the wonderful luxury of being bored. For me, I often check my phone while watching TV, during my break at work, upon waking up and going to bed, sometimes even in the bathroom.  I pull it out when I am waiting anywhere and everywhere, even traffic lights.  A few times over the past few years I have been successful in letting my phone go for a weekend and always feel renewed, but the habit picks right back up on Monday.   I know I don't need constant information about interesting topics or even other people's lives all day every day.  I know that my mind needs more breaks than I give it. When I read about the Bored and Brilliant Project, I knew I was ready. I was ready to be more than my face planted in a cellphone for hours.

With Bored and Brilliant  I received a daily email with a challenge such as a "No picture day."  Several came with a short podcast (LOVE podcasts but have reduced this obsession a lot since 2013.) to motivate me as I got started with my day.  They contained little nuggets of information from experts and the lovely host Manoush Zomorodi.  The hardest challenge for me was probably removing an app that I use a lot. At first I thought it would be Facebook, but after thinking about it a little more, I decided to remove my Fitbit app. Since upgrading my phone at Christmas, I have been OBSESSED with checking my daily steps.  It was amazing how that one little change kept me off my phone for longer periods of time.  Overall, the most effective challenge for me was Day 1:  As you move from place to place, keep your phone in your pocket. Or better yet, in your bag.  I just didn't realize how often my phone was popping out of my purse while I was in the car with my husband talking to me, or when I was driving alone and stopped at lights.  It was crazy. On my way to work in the morning, it can take up to 20 minutes to get two miles as I head to the highway. Generally, I look at my phone as I stop and go.  With it in my purse, I noticed a Jeep with a spare tire cover that says, "Life is good."  I see it almost daily now and it is a good reminder to me as I start my day.  How many other things am I missing while checking for new text messages.....again.

During the challenge and a few weeks afterwards, I stayed pretty lean on my phone time. However, when my father-in-law passed away this month, I found my time drastically increasing.  My phone is constantly out again.  Why?  I think I use it as a way to escape.  It's a way of filling up my brain with everything except what it really needs - quiet.  So, now that all of the craziness has calmed down, I owe it to my brain to have some quiet time, to be bored, and hopefully to be BRILLIANT.  I'm going to attempt to finish up this blog post, post-it, attend an online meeting later today, and then close things down.  I'm turning off my laptop, reserving my ipad for Downton Abbey, and keeping my phone in my purse throughout the weekend except to check text messages from students and my family.  I am also rereading a post I wrote in 2013 on infobesity and plan to take some ideas from it.   I'm looking forward to the time away.  See you next week.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Are You There God? It's Me, Cateepoo.

Do you remember reading "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret?" by Judy Blume?  I'm Margaret, only an adult version and instead of anxiously waiting for puberty, I often wonder if there are any "I must, I must, I must increase my bust" exercises I can do to hurry the menopause process along.

Now that I have found myself in one of the many stages of menopause, a memory from my first year of teaching elementary school keeps coming to mind.  The gal across the hall from me was my age now.  She'd often come over and say, "I had an accident.  Can you see anything on the back of my skirt?"  I was of course helpful, but in my 23 year old head I was saying, "Geez, at your age you would think you had the whole period thing figured out." HA!  Life has come to bite me in the butt.  What I am figuring out is that menopause is much like going through puberty all over again.  Your period chooses not to follow a predictable schedule, your physical body becomes unrecognizable, and your hormones have a life of their own. No matter what the temperature outside, I am always overheated in the morning.  I take my coat off in class, complain about how unbearably hot the classroom is, then remember to look up and see that most of my students are still in their coats bundled up.  Okay, it's me, not the heat.

Going through a major life change is not easy, that's for sure, but it's not all terrible. Once Margaret started her period she would automatically join "the group". Menopause is no different.  You instantly feel connected to the middle aged woman in a crowd who is also fanning herself non-stop.  While puberty left you feeling insecure about all your new feelings, the stages of menopause bring a certain calm.  You have "been there, done that" enough times that you know what you want and generally how to get it.  You have begun to enter the "bitchy old lady" stage (I often tease my mom that she is solidly in this stage) where you aren't afraid to go after what you want or tell people how you feel. You realize you don't have time for things in life that bog you down and zap your energy.  Perimenopause, which I guess technically is where I am right now,  is a very reflective stage.  You take time out of your day to appreciate the little things. You have satisfaction that your children are growing up well and you were a huge part of that process. You now have quiet nights alone with your husband which might be a little odd at first, but something you quickly grow to love.  So, maybe in the end, the benefits outweigh the annoyances and I just need to remember to go heavy on the deodorant and avoid buying the nice snugly sweaters and instead opt for cool breathable shirts.

*My mom bought me a box set of Judy Blume's books for Christmas one year.  I remember reading non-stop and feeling such a connection to the characters, even if their experiences were quite different than mine. In 6th grade, I read "Forever" and passed it around the classroom for others to read.  It was conficated and I never got it back. We used to joke that our strict elderly teacher was secretly reading it during recess.  Love my Blume year memories.