Embracing the Journey: Navigating Perimenopause, Brain Fog, and Lifelong Learning at 59

The Daily Aches and Pains of Aging: Feeling 59 and Strong

Today, I am 59 years old. This past Thanksgiving weekend and part of last week — I had my period. I still get my period at 59 years of age. Sometimes, I feel every single day of all those years, with aches and pains that appear without rhyme or reason. These are the daily reminders of aging, and while I may not be as spry as I once was, I consider myself a healthy and strong woman for my age. Each day brings something new, although it’s not really new — nothing is new in this aging body.

By Kittiphan

The Assumption That Left Me Feeling Older: “You STILL Have Your Period?!”

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a younger member of my extended family. I mentioned having a headache due to my period, and I couldn’t help but notice the shocked look on her face. It seemed to scream, “You still have your period?! I assumed you were in menopause!” That moment left me feeling a bit older than I’d like.

It is important to challenge the assumption that a woman’s stage in life can be determined solely based on her age. I am 59 and have had my period regularly since I was 14 years old! I still have to worry about pregnancy – just like I did when I was a teenager. On the other hand, a younger woman may face menopause much earlier in life due to medical reasons, when most women are typically in the prime of their reproductive years. These instances highlight the need to consider individual circumstances rather than making assumptions based on age alone.

The Elusive End: When Will My Cycle Finally Stop?

Lingering questions continue to haunt me, especially as I approach the age of 59. Despite being in the throes of perimenopause for over a decade, I find myself knowing little more than I did when this journey began. It’s perplexing how elusive answers can be when it comes to such a natural phenomenon. In the past, there seemed to be a scarcity of articles to peruse, or perhaps I simply hadn’t discovered them.

However, it seems like a positive shift is underway, with more women beginning to openly share their experiences and engage in discussions about menopause. From hilarious videos that add a touch of humor to informative articles shedding light on the subject, there is a glimmer of hope. Perhaps in the near future, there will be an abundance of information available, ensuring that women no longer feel isolated in their unique situations.

The Night Sweats Saga: An Unexpected Introduction to Perimenopause

The onset of night sweats hit me like a tidal wave, and it just had to happen during a trip to sunny California with my kids as we embarked on the infamous college tour. I suddenly I wake up in the middle of the night, feeling like I was doused me with a bucket of water. I mean, seriously?! And to make matters worse, I hadn’t packed nearly enough nightshirts to combat this unexpected deluge.

My goal the next morning was to find suitable replacements, resulting in a collection of quirky t-shirts that became my unlikely sleepwear companions. With the sweat-soaked shirts piling up, I couldn’t help but find the whole situation hilariously. It was a memory that’s vividly etched in my mind, reminding me that life has a funny way of making even the most mundane moments memorable. Ah, the joys of parenting and personal climate control!

Denying the Sea of Perimenopause: Coping with the Unexpected Changes

At the time, I didn’t immediately recognize that these were night sweats and marked the beginning of perimenopause. Denial — forget the river — I was swimming in the Sea of Denial. It was hard to recognize because my periods were as regular as ever, coming like clockwork.

Stripping Down to Beat the Heat: Managing Night Sweats with a Sense of Humor

A few months later, it happened again, this time at home. Wet nightshirt — yuck! But finally, a lightbulb went off. Duh! You are going into menopause. I didn’t even know the word “perimenopause” until talking with my gynocologist at my yearly checkup.

That was over 12 years ago, and the night sweats have come and gone and come back. When they start, I swiftly rip my nightshirt off and sleep naked. I’ve read it’s the best way to combat night sweats, and it works for me. I can usually catch it before my nightgown is soaked. I sleep naked for a few nights afterward. Mark loves this, and I have to give him fair warning – “It’s not a sign. Sorry, sweetheart.” Well, it is just not the sign he was hoping for. Eventually, the nightshirt goes back on; after all, it’s New Hampshire, and it can get cold. Plus, we have dogs that jump on the bed and adult children who visit occasionally.

The Confounding Brain Fog: Menopause or Self-Inflicted?

Ah, the brain fog — it’s so hard for others to understand unless they’ve experienced it. It could explain a few things. But is it menopausal brain fog or something else? I listen when told or read something — only to forget shortly afterward. Mark gets frustrated with me because he knows he told me whatever it was — we even talked about it. Yet the next day or even later that same day — I will look at him like I have no idea what he is referring to. Weren’t we high when we were talking about that? By the way, where did I put my phone?

A Life Unfolded: Taking Responsibility

But maybe it’s just the culmination of decades of self-abuse to your body and mind catching up to you. A history of early drug abuse in high school and college + decades of continued marijuana smoking + overtiredness due to single parenting + stress + age + grief + the pressures of everyday life = brain fog. I take responsibility for my part in this demise.

The Path to Mindfulness: Nurturing Inner Peace Amidst the Fog

The challenges of perimenopause and the haze of brain fog have led me to explore a path of mindfulness. Over the years, I’ve delved into various practices, from Buddhism and Taoism to Transcendental Meditation, guided meditation, and mantras. Daily meditation has become a cherished ritual, providing me with a sanctuary to calm and focus my menopausal mind.

In the stillness, I have discovered the profound power of self-awareness and inner peace. Mindfulness has not only helped me to navigate the ups and downs of this transitional phase but has also enriched my life in unexpected ways. It’s a reminder even as I age, the journey inward continues to unfold with new insights and serenity.

By Nikki Zalewski

The Joy of Lifelong Learning: A Personal Revelation at 59

However, at the ripe age of 59, I’ve discovered a few things about myself. I love to learn, and I’ve made it a point to learn new things as I age. You’re never too old to learn something new, whether it’s acquiring a new language, taking a course in something that interests you, or simply reading books that entertain you. The brain needs to be exercised; learning is how you do that.

Recently, we have added 20 minutes of Tai Chi to our morning routine. It’s something that we have wanted to do for a while but for one reason or another never did it – until a couple of weeks ago.

Embracing the Journey: Aging with Resilience and a Sense of Adventure

My life at 59 may bring challenges, but it’s also an opportunity for self-discovery and growth. From perimenopause to brain fog, these are just chapters in the book of life, and the key is to navigate them with resilience, humor, and a thirst for lifelong learning. Embracing the aging journey, we find that each day holds the potential for new experiences and insights, making the road to 60 and beyond an exciting adventure.

10 Ways to Protect Your Health During Wildfire Season

Hey there, pack mates! The Earthy Alchemist, here to share some valuable insights with you. Today, I want to discuss something many of us face more often – the invisible menace lurking in the air during wildfires. Wildfire smoke is no trivial matter, but there are ways to stay safe and entertained indoors when the outside world is cloaked in haze.

Wildfires have become more frequent and intense as the seasons shift and climate change looms large. With them, a host of harmful pollutants fills the air, posing a severe health hazard to our precious pack members. We all have apps on our phones to track the Air Quality Index. Here in New Hampshire today, a thick haze again obscured my view of the lake and mountains.Across the world, I read about of wildfires in Loutraki, Greece – a neighborhood near where I have family, and although they are safe – thankfully – indeed, they are dealing with poor air quality. Ironically, despite having active fires nearby, their air quality Index reads 51 US AQI PM2.5 vs. my town’s current 117 US AQI PM2.5. What’s PM2.5 – it’s good to know what this means since it can affect your health. According to my Air Quality Index app – PM2.5 particles are floating particulate matter in the air measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less. That’s so small that it can be absorbed into your bloodstream upon inhalation. So, this pollutant is something to understand since it poses the most significant health threat.

Greek City Times

Between the smoke-filled, poor-air-quality days and the torrential downpours that make it impossible to be outside, I managed to steal a moment of bliss in my garden. Despite the haze of Canadian wildfire smoke, I nestled on my very uncomfortable porcelain ornate garden stool that could use a cushion. I weeded away, savoring the melodious words of my audiobook, Here’s to Us. I highly recommend listening to audiobooks while weeding – I find time flies when I am absorbed in a good listen. I feel a deep connection to the earth in precious minutes like these, as if our roots intertwine and whisper secrets. The scent of the rosemary and tomato plants, accompanied by the tender caress of the breeze and the songs of the birds, created a harmonious symphony that soothed my spirit. It’s one of my favorite feelings. I am grateful for these moments.

With an eye on the clock, I savored the time outdoors without overextending my stay. An hour it was, no more, as I listened to the audiobook’s tales of life, love, and resilience. Then, with gratitude in my heart for that serene escape, I returned to the safety of my den, where clean air embraced me like a warm hug – despite being cold from the air conditioner filtering the air. Ah, what a delicate balance it is – enjoying the wonders of nature while safeguarding our health in these challenging times. But with mindful actions and awareness, we can still bask in the wonders of the great outdoors, even as we cherish the comforts of our indoor adventures.

When the air quality takes a nosedive, it’s time to retreat indoors. Gather ’round, pack, and huddle in the safety of your den! Keep those windows and doors closed tight to keep the smoke at bay. If you’re lucky enough to have air conditioning, crank it up – it’s like having your very own air purification system!

Now let’s delve deeper into staying healthy amidst the smoky haze. Hydration, my friends, is a magical elixir that can work wonders in flushing out those pesky pollutants from our bodies. Breathing in polluted air can irritate our airways and lungs, causing discomfort like coughing and wheezing. But fear not, for staying hydrated helps to thin the mucus in our airways, making coughing up those bothersome particles easier. Not only that, but it keeps our airways moist, providing a protective shield against further irritation. So, let’s raise our metaphorical chalices and drink up – water, clear broth, unsweetened tea, whatever tickles your fancy – and keep ourselves refreshed and ready to howl with vitality.

When the air quality is poor, it’s essential to be mindful of our physical activities. You see, my active pack members, engaging in strenuous exercises can increase our breathing rate, exposing us to even more pollutants. But fret not, for we have a cunning plan. If you must be active, why not seek refuge indoors or find a spot with pristine air quality for your escapades? By doing so, you protect yourself from unnecessary exposure while still getting your much-needed dose of fun.

So, let’s sum up our master plan for days with less than stellar air quality: Stay hydrated like a true Earthy Alchemist, and drink plenty of fluids like water, clear broth, and unsweetened tea. Remember, sugary drinks won’t do the trick, so let’s leave those behind. Fill your plates with the bounty of fruits and veggies, with their high water content, to keep you refreshed and satisfied. And when you’re out and about, exercising and exploring, take those well-deserved breaks to rest and hydrate – after all, we’re in this adventure together!

With these tips, my dear pack, we can stay hydrated and vibrant, even amidst the haze of wildfire smoke. So let’s drink up, stay wise, and be ready for whatever this unpredictable wilderness throws our way!

Now, for our brave pack members who must work outside despite the smoke, fear not; there are things that you can do to protect yourself! Equip yourself with an N95 mask or respirator – your lungs will thank you. Take breaks often, dash back indoors to breathe clean air, and recharge when you can. If you labor in areas with heavy smoke, consider seeking refuge in well-ventilated buildings or using fans to keep the air circulating. And remember, always listen to your body – if you’re feeling unwell, take a break and prioritize your health.

But when the smoke gets unbearable, it’s time to find adventure within the cozy confines of your den! As a wolf with a love for exploration, I know that staying entertained indoors is crucial. But first, let’s talk about the importance of having the proper air filtration in our cozy dens. I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to keep the air we breathe pure and invigorating. With wildfire smoke and various pollutants floating about, having a reliable air purifier can be a lifesaver. These magical devices work tirelessly to filter out those pesky particles, ensuring that our den becomes a sanctuary of fresh, clean air. So, consider investing in a top-notch air filtration system – your lungs will thank you, and your pack will howl with joy at the difference it makes!

Instead of scrolling the hours away – use your time indoors productively.

There are always more than enough indoor chores that we put off – or at least I do. There are the financial things we could be more focused on – downloading and categorizing the monthly charges from the credit cards into a financial program or spreadsheet. Not so much fun to do but important. Again, I find that the time goes much faster when I am listening to a good book or podcast.

Then there are the “fun” things like going through closets and drawers to go through clothes to purge, donate, and keep. It’s always good to look around to see if there is anything that you can contribute to the local community thrift shop or church for others in need. Then you can always have the option to unleash your creativity! Embrace your inner artist and dabble in painting, drawing, writing, or crafting. The possibilities are endless, and creating something with your hands is genuinely fulfilling. Or perhaps you have a thirst for knowledge. Dive into the vast realm of online courses and tutorials, where you can learn anything from cooking delightful treats to mastering coding skills – talk about a howling good time! I take many classes online from teachers on Masterclass, BBC Maestro, and Patreon in various topics, including writing, drawing zen meditation, and cooking.

Games, anyone?

Howl excitedly as you gather your pack members for board, video, or thrilling card games. I have always loved playing games – board, dice, card, lawn games – you name it, I love playing them. The conversations, bonds, and memories formed over game sessions are unforgettable! When you have had enough bonding time and need to retreat for some private time, why not lose yourself in a captivating book? Reading is an excellent way to unwind and escape into other worlds, leaving the worries of wildfire smoke behind. And, of course, if you need help picking a book, check out my reviews on Goodreads for a selection of must-reads.

I live with a musician, so music is a part of my life. Mark is always playing his guitar, playing one tune or another. Let the soothing sounds of music fill your space as you relax and rejuvenate. Create a playlist for your commute to work or the trip you plan to take. Explore new genres – music has the power to heal our spirits. We tend to listen to the same old thing all the time – mix it up! You will be surprised at the music you might like. For instance, earlier today, Mark asked our Alexa AI to play something – I forget exactly what he wanted it to play, but what it played was a very catchy tune that made you want to dance. The song, according to our Alexa activity log, is Maahi Ve by Shankar Mahadevan, Sadhana Sargam, Udit Narayan, Sonu Nigam, Madhushtree, Loy Mendonsa, Ehsaan Noorani & Javed Akhtar. I guess they couldn’t decide on a band name. It was a fun song, and we will listen to it again sometime – it was happy music that made you want to move your body to it.

Remember the importance of spending quality time with your pack. Whether it’s playing games, listening to music, watching a movie, or simply sharing stories, cherish these moments of togetherness. And when cabin fever creeps in, take a break from the pack. Embrace some downtime by taking a nap, relaxing bath, or simply sitting in silence to reconnect with your inner wolf. Remember, the key is to find indoor activities that bring joy and fulfillment. And even indoors, make it a point to venture outside for fresh air and bask in the sunshine when the smoke clears.

So there you have it. Wildfire smoke may be a formidable foe, but we can protect our health, connect, and thrive amidst any challenge that comes our way. Stay safe and curious. Let’s continue to seize these precious moments, both inside and out, finding solace in creativity, knowledge, games, and togetherness. As the wildfire smoke dances in the distance, we’ll hold on to our strong bond and navigate this journey together. Here’s to us, my dear pack, facing each day with courage and wisdom. Embrace life, literature, and everything in between as we journey through the ever-changing wilderness of life. Inch by inch, step by step. Until we howl again, let’s keep thriving and howling with joy!

Sources include:

The Only Constant is Change

It’s mid June and the summer will be officially beginning next week. It’s one of the subtler shifts of seasons. Spring to summer is not as dramatic as the other shifts in seasons. Summer’s shift into fall greets us with crisp cooling winds and the leaves shift from greens to reds, oranges, yellows and browns. We switch our wardrobes, putting away the spring/summer clothes and start bringing out the leather boots and suede jackets. From fall to winter the landscape features changes even more dramatically as the trees shed their leaves and we are left with their mere silhouettes. Our heavier wardrobe comes front and center – coats, gloves, hats and scarves. Mother Nature gessoes her canvas with snow and ice. Winter into spring is one of the most dramatic shifts as we all thaw and watch with amazement Mother Nature begin to paint the barren landscape with fresh colors of a new season.

As the days fly by, my body seems to constantly change. An old ache here, a new ache there. Last summer I dropped 20 pounds, only to gain it all back by the end of the year. I made the mistake of buying myself smaller pants as I was losing the weight, vowing that this would be the last time I was a size 14. I’m back in my size 14 pants. Buying the 12s was fine but I tempted the weighty gods too much when I bought myself the 10s.

I’m 57 and my body continues to change as I age. I’m not yet in menopause but I have been experiencing night sweats since July 2011. I remember it well since I away with my kids looking at colleges. I had borrowed a t-shirt from my then new boyfriend (we are still together 11 years later) to have with me while I was traveling that I used as a night shirt. I remember at first thinking it might be the shirt because it had a Bob Marley graphic on it and the plastic stuff that made of the graphic I thought might be causing me to sweat. No such luck, it wasn’t the shirt. Just the first of what would eventually be many nights I’d wake up in the middle of the night cold from the soaking wet front of the my nightshirt.

I understand that it maybe easier to regulate my body temperature if I slept in the nude. According to WellandGood.com “Sleeping naked can also be beneficial for women experiencing menopause. “Hot flashes and night sweats can [wake] women up several times a night,” says Jodie Horton, MD, chief wellness advisor for Love Wellness, a women’s wellness and personal care products brand. Sleeping naked can help alleviate the not-so-fun symptoms of hot flashes.”

I slept naked for a while (although Mark would say it was for just a little bit). When the kids would come to visit I would wear a nightshirt. I raised two kids by myself, a single mom doesn’t sleep naked. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of sleeping naked in winter when it’s freezing cold. It seemed ridiculous so I fell out of the habit. Now from time to to I think maybe I should try to give it another shot.

One of the big changes that I was able to make for myself was in creating a new habit. I am trying to be more mindful in every aspect of my life. To make something a habit, I have read that you need to do whatever it is that you are trying to make that new habit for three weeks straight, And then keep going. I have been mediating daily for over a year now. I has helped give me tools to use when I get anxious. That’s another change I have been facing more recently – increased anxiety.

My anxiety increased yesterday when we discovered Mark has COVID. SO now after being so cautious and careful for the last two years, it’s here in our house. I feel like I now waiting for it to be my turn. He arrived home from a weekend away for a family funeral which required him to have to fly to Chicago. Who knows if it was the plane rides, was it on the way out? on the way back? Was it while he was with his family? I will never know the answer to these questions and it doesn’t really matter at this point. If I am going to get it, I am going to get it. He came home Sunday and today is Friday and he just started feeling shitty yesterday. So if I am going to get it I guess I may present symptoms this weekend? Breathe and stay in the present moment Xine ! Don’t let your mind go wildly off into tangents that may freak you the fuck out but never happen. Breathe.

Thankfully he is feeling better today than he was yesterday. He never gets sick so seeing not feel well is tough. I pray each day he gets stronger and we can continue on with our summer. We don’t have any plans to speak of really. We just want to enjoy working in our gardens, playing with the dogs, puttering around on the boat and enjoying one another’s company. I am so thankful for his presence in my life and the life that we share together. I am truly blessed. Which is probably why I feel like something is going to go wrong, something is going to change.

The summer solstice is approaching, sunset is now as late as 8:31pm here where I live. The irises are all in bloom, the wind is blowing in from the south right now. It’s 79ºF at 6:18pm and the barometer is dropping like a stone. The weather is changing – again. What is they say about New England? If you don’t like the weather just wait 5 minutes. I think they say this about everywhere.

When it comes to changes I try to remind myself that change can be good. Things can get stale and stagnant when there is no change at all. We change as people, not just outwardly in our physical appearance as we age – although that’s a biggie. I find I am in a minority when it comes to women my age. Many people just assume that I have already gone into menopause and are shocked if they find out otherwise. My mother was 60, she told me when she finally had her final period. It caught her off guard since she hadn’t been bleeding regularly and it had been some time, enough time that she thought she was done. Of course she was out when it decided to show up for the party one last time. She had been wearing a yellow dress and was at my brother’s graduation. Ironically she had been wearing a yellow dress the first day she got her period too. A terrifying day for her since – she had literally no idea what had just happened. She was at school and had to wear a sweater tied around her waist for the rest of the day.

At the graduation, my mother had a backup of sorts. It was my skirt that I was wearing. We had driven up for the day so we had no luggage to dive into for spare clothing. So I had to wear a pair of my brother’s pants which I literally had to hold up with my hand because his belt didn’t fit me either. What can you do? You just have to go with the flow?

One last change: Mark’s fever is back up

The Importance of Soil

This past year, as part of our journey into meditation and living a more mindful life, Mark and I began listening to talks and lectures covering topics about Buddhism, Taoism, spirituality… The app Insight Timer which is our go-to app for all things mediations also has a number of courses and talks. The talks vary in length depending on topic and teachers- some as short as 4 minutes long, others over an hour.

One of the teachers we follow is Sadhguru. Sadhguru and the Isha Foundation are dedicated to raising human consciousness and fostering global harmony through individual transformation. Sadhguru (Jagadish “Jaggi” Vasudev) started teaching yoga in southern India in 1982. He established the Isha Foundation ten years later. According to their website as part of their mission, “the foundation offers a variety of programs that provide methods for anyone to attain physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Its offerings allow participants to deepen their experience of life, and reach their ultimate potential.”

Sadhguru gives great talks – he has a wonderful sense of humor which you don’t expect from an Indian yogi. “Stop Limiting Life’s Possibility”, A Crash Course to Become More Receptive”, Enjoy the Creation” and “Inner Engineering” are just a few of the wonderful talks he has on Insight Timer. It was Mark who always does the deep diving and found Sadhguru’s website which introduced us to the Isha Foundation and his other projects.

Specifically, my ears perked up when I started to hear him discuss the importance of soil. I was a research analyst who covered the agribusiness and water sectors in another lifetime. During this time, I first learned about the importance of our soil and how our global soil is in trouble. Soil degradation is not just a problem that Americans face but also a worldwide issue.  So when I heard Sadhguru talking about it, I was intrigued.

Save Soil – Conscious Planet is a global movement launched by Sadhguru to save soil from extinction, and bring the necessary policies to address the catastrophic issue facing humanity.

This movement has garnered support from global leaders including Marc Benioff, Jane Goodall, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and institutions such as United Nations – Convention to Combat Desertification, World Economic Forum, World Food Programme, Food & Agriculture Organization of United Nations.”


Yesterday was the first day of spring! A day that everybody starts to look at the ground more in anticipation of the arrival of the beautiful colorful flowers which grace our earth. Others are testing their soil and preparing their beds for planting.

Sadhguru began a quest to bring more awareness to people about the importance of our earth’s soil. Yesterday he embarked on a 100-day journey from the United Kingdom to India. 26 countries, 30,000 kilometers on his motorcycle. Sadhguru has worked for two decades to bring awareness to this soil crisis.

In 2004 he started the Project GreenHands initiative which resulted in 35 million saplings being planted over the years. They even hold the Guinness World Record for most saplings planted in a day. 6,284 trees were planted across 27 districts in Tamil Nadu, India in 2006. During the three day event, 852,587 trees were planted.

Too many people don’t fully comprehend why it is imperative to focus our attention on the global soil crisis. Sadhguru continues his mission to raise conscious awareness of the importance of our soil so that there will be nutritional soil to grow food for generations to come.

He has asked people to help him raise awareness about the soil crisis by talking about it or with your friends and family in person or on social media. I join this him in this mission – I have understood the importance of our soil for decades and have been frustrated with how our world seems to take it for granted.

When Mark and I ran our business, Homegrown Harvest, we started it to help to make it easier for people to grow some of their own food. We taught people about the quality of their soil and how commercial agriculture has decimated our farmlands with chemicals, over-fertilization, mono-cropping, and destroying the microbial organisms with heavy machinery.

I gave many talks at local libraries and clubs to help educate people about the degradation of our farmlands, encouraging people to grow some of their own food so that they will be able to increase the nutritional quality of what they eat by planting in healthy soil.

We also made it a point to teach people to be gentler with their soil and not use root-tillers that destroy the microbial organisms which are so important to good soil.

Awareness is just one step in the right direction; however, I feel that everyone can make an effort towards saving our soil each day, simply by composting their food waste. Landfills are one of the largest anthropogenic sources of the methane gas produced by this world. Food waste is about 22% of what ends up in landfills and it can not organically decompose which results in the output of methane gas. Composting food waste would keep food waste out of landfills and would nutritionally benefit the environment’s soil.

Another way that people can make a difference is by helping to plant more trees. Today is International Day of Forests, a day in which we should reflect on the importance of our global forests. Trees are a crucial ingredient in helping our lands maintain healthy soil. Their roots help maintain the soil structure, helping to reduce erosion. Check out the National Wildlife Federation’s article How Trees Make A Difference to learn more.

A Year of Mindfulness and Meditation

A little over a year ago my mother died and about a year ago I started a new habit of daily meditation. After my mother’s death, I felt untethered and my mind was overwhelmed with emotions, feeling, questions and thoughts. I needed to regain some control. There are so many things in life that we can’t control. When I get upset, I clean. It’s the one thing I can control when things seem to be spiraling out of control.

I write in a journal on a daily basis and have for well over a decade and have diaries that date back to 1980! Writing is a form of meditation for me – a download of thoughts and emotions. I found this to be incredibly helpful for me to proceed with my days having dumped out whatever was on my mind earlier that morning on paper. Unlike right now where I am typing this article directly into my computer; my diary is handwritten. I love the feeling of pen to paper. I find that therapeutic in of itself. However, I needed some tools in my tool belt to be able to help calm me down sometimes for when sitting down with pen and paper is not an option.

Many years ago when my life was spiraling out of control, I started having panic attacks. So I turned to meditation. I started a little each morning here and there. That was about 7 years ago now. I had been meditating on and off for many years but never every day as I have in the last 346 consecutive days (and counting). I have meditated 577 days using my Insight Timer app over the course of all those years.

I like the Insight Timer app since you can learn to meditate through the app which offers a wide range of guided meditations of varying lengths and focuses. I have listened to a number of talks and lectures about Buddhism, Taoism and more. I have used their app at bedtime at times when I need a guided meditation to help me drop off to sleep. They even have bedtime tales you can choose from – one night I fell asleep to The Velveteen Rabbit read to me. By the way, I don’t get anything from them to talk about them. I just really have enjoyed using their app.

I enjoy the way Insight Timer is set up allowing for searching by topics such as Affirmations, Chakras, Mantra, Mindfulness, Pranayama, Vipassana, Walking Mediations and Zen. Both Zazen and Kōan. If you want to use their timer feature to create your own customized meditation timer with the ability to use starting, interim and ending bells, chimes, gongs, or nothing at all. You can set background music or sounds or mediate in silence. You set the time and can save your presets. They make everything quite easy for you.

You can also save your favorites and can follow teachers that you like. They encourage you to donate to the teachers and make that easy for you to do charging it to your Apple Pay account. The teachers are from all over the world.

After so long by far one of our favorite teachers has become DavidJi from Los Angeles, CA. He offers a number of courses and we have taken three of the four of them that he offers on the Insight Timer. Mark and I dove into The 40 Days of Transformation where he guided us through meditations, intention setting, yoga philosophy, pranayama and so much more.

We were hooked after completing the forty days and followed it up with his course 30 Day Journey to Rebirth. We have also done his Awaken The Sacred Power of Shakti this year and plan on taking The Healing Sessions: Freeing Your Soul Through The Second Meditation of the Day.

Early on, we took the Masterclass –Mindfulness and Meditation with Jon Kabat-Zinn. This was an extremely helpful class to take which broke down a lot of questions that we had about mediation and ways to do it, what it was all about, etc… Soon after finishing that class I bought Mark and I both proper mediation cushions and pillows to ensure that, as David Ji says “Comfort is Queen and feather your nest” so that you can be still during your mediation practice. It’s amazing the difference the right set up can make which will allow me to sit still and “drop in” to meditation for 30 minutes or more. Sometimes without moving at all. Other times, I may have to stretch a leg to regain circulation.

I have found that this new habit is addictive and I will do what I need to protect my precious time to sit on the cushion, although sometimes I will be laying down, using on my acupressure mat or on some ice packs for the time. It has opened a door up to so many other doors. Mark and I find ourselves exploring Buddhism, Taoism, Collective Consciousness just to begin with.

I have learned a few things about myself and what I am capable of. I have found that I have a calmness within that I am able to tap into when things around me start to get crazy. Mark and I have started to introduce Tai Chi into our lives. Although it is not a daily practice yet but that is our goal to incorporate it into our daily practice. I look forward to this continued journey of discovery.



For the last five years or so, we have been trying to get in the habit of mediating. We’d be on a roll for a while and then something would interrupt our flow and we wouldn’t mediate, then we’d try again but never been able to make it stick.

This year has been different, in more ways than one. We’ve been meditating on a fairly regular basis this year. The quarantine kicked it into high gear, and we are on a regular roll. I found mediating particularly helpful in early March when the shit was hitting the fan for our family in more ways than the lockdown and COVID19. Our family was dealing with some personal stuff which highlighted to me how life continued despite the quarantine. I found that there were more moments where I started to feel panicky, the anxiety levels were entering uncharted territory. Mark and I weren’t able to be together for three weeks (one week away, two weeks in quarantine) – away from me and the kids. He’d been out in the Petri dish, we had to be cautious.

It was during this time that I clung to my meditation sessions although I had altered when I did them. Mark and I always start our day out with mediation but during that time we were separated I needed to mediate at night when I was alone in our bed. I never have trouble sleeping – it drives Mark insane since I can fall asleep in the midsentence while talking to him in bed at night. He needs to read and unwind. My head hits the pillow and I’m out cold. By 8pm. I wake anytime between 4am and 5am usually though.

But in mid-March when everything was so uncertain, I needed help falling asleep as my mind would race with all sorts of thoughts. I turned to my mediation app which I knew had nighttime, help you fall asleep mediations. I need guidance to help settle my mind.

The app we use, Insight Timer has all sorts of meditations that you can easily filter the length of time, whether you want background music or not, whether you prefer a male or a female voice, the benefits you seek, etc…They also offer courses and after over a year of using the app, we have decided to give a try. Later this morning we will do Day 8 of our 10-day course, each day has been building upon the next; teaching us how to body scan and different visualization techniques. It also keeps track of how much we’ve mediated and rewards us with milestones that help encourage you on your progress. Since using the app, I’ve meditated for a total of 2.5k minutes and reached 7 milestones. One of which is 128 days with at least one session and another being that I have meditated 23 consecutive days. I believe that is a record for me. As I said doing it everyday in the beginning was the challenge as we worked towards working it into our routine.

Since Mark has been out of quarantine, we have gone back to our usual morning sessions. My daughter would join us in the mornings when she was here – sometimes coming downstairs to sit with us in the family room while we meditated, other times simply joining in from her bedroom upstairs as she would sometimes wake up to our sessions. I’d love to get my son more involved as I know it would be a good habit for him to get into. He was usually sound asleep when we meditated. We have found our sweet spot to be around 7am before 8am when the phone starts to ring and we start off our work day. We work from home, so we have control over the schedule but have found it best to get things started earlier than latter here in the homestead.

Life is always about having to deal with unknowns, they just aren’t usually on the intensity level that they have been recently. Life will always throw you curve balls and you just try to deal with them a pitch at a time. The mediation sessions have helped me deal with each pitch, by helping me to take a step back, take a deep breath and calm my mind and my body which has allowed me to take on the challenges of life a little more effectively.

Concussed Again

I can’t focus on my work right now, focus on what I should be doing which is writing about gardening or photography for one of my blogs or writing another chapter of the book I’m working on. There are plenty of things I need to be focusing on, but I can’t focus.

She can’t focus on anything because her head still hurts from the fall she took snowboarding last weekend. She hit her head, not once but twice – on two separate but consecutive days. She is my daughter, a young single woman living with her mini aussie shepherd, Blue — two hours away from me. She now has sustained her third lifetime concussion equaling the amount her brother has had in his lifetime as well.

My Grand Dog, Blue – @adventures_of_blue

You may be thinking my kids are klutzy. They are not. They are athletic and coordinated, albeit probably a little less so now. You may be thinking who gets so many concussions, sure possibly a professional boxer or football players but neither of my children are either one of these. Actually, it isn’t uncommon at all to receive another concussion after you have sustained your first.

March is Brain Injury or Concussion Awareness Month. I was made very aware of concussions and the chaos that can ensue as a result of this seemingly invisible injury.

My daughter was in high school when she got her first concussion. A varsity lacrosse goalie, starting on the team in the 8th grade – she defended against girls initially much bigger than herself but was always up for the challenge. She was fierce in the net, she wasn’t afraid to take a hit.

Unfortunately when you get hit in the head, contrary what one might think, you don’t always know you took a hit to the head. She didn’t know that she took a hit to the head until a few days later when she was found “lost” in the hallway at school by a teacher and she had no idea where she was or where she should be. We had to circle back to her teammates to find out if anyone saw something. Someone did but didn’t know to say something. I also found out that at half time my daughter took some Advil because she was complaining about having a headache. Again no one thought – hmm, the goalie has a headache – did any one see her get hit? I was not at the game that day, so I didn’t see the hit either. You shouldn’t take and aspirin or ibuprofen if you suspect a concussion as they increase your risk of bleeding.

A few days later while trying to rest she smacked the back of her head on the windowsill while trying to lay down on her bed which it was pushed up against. BONK! Remember your are 3x more likely to get another hit to the head after a concussion since you’re foggy and you’re reaction time has slowed. Your vision may be a little off to and you misjudge the distance between your head and the windowsill. Her headache returned that day but luckily her symptoms left after a week of staying quiet. and she was able to return to school and the net without incident.

People who have been fortunate enough to never deal with concussions, have no idea that even the small taps to the head can cause damage. You don’t need to lose consciousness to experience a concussion. Although when that happens, you know the blow happened at such a force that it was lights out for even a few seconds.

TBI word cloud on a white background.

The doctors describe to you what happened to your son or daughter’s brain when it takes an impact like this: picture your brain is a fragile egg inside your skull. You take a hit from the left side and what happens is that your brain takes that hit on the left side and then moves slightly and bangs up against the right side of your skull now causing some damage to the right side too.

My son’s second lifetime concussion I watched from behind my video camera get hit – he never saw it coming – he had his eye on the ball arching his way in the clear blue sky. Lacrosse again – a helmeted sport, thank God. Except for girls’ lacrosse only the goalies where full helmets, but even helmets don’t keep you from getting a concussion.

My son was unconscious for 9 seconds, 9 of the longest seconds of my life. They suggested I take him to the ER right away. We sat and waited in the ER for hours for the doctor to simply say “He has a concussion. Go home and rest”. He told us about other concussion symptoms which may arise like nausea and vomiting. This is all they told us back then in spring 2010. Three days later, my son was puking all other and his head was pounding. Three days later all the symptoms the ER doctor told us to look out for presented themselves. There was no question – concussion.

For a couple of weeks, he “rested” but to no avail – the headache wouldn’t stop and he was feeling very foggy. Somehow, and I don’t remember how exactly I found a doctor in the county that specialized in treating patients with concussions. Dr. Michael Lee of Southport, CT would become an integral part of taking over treating my son’s concussion. He administered an ImPact test which is an FDA approved medical test to help access and manage concussions. I’d never heard of it before but would become very familiar with ImPact testing between the two kids during their high school years.

Dr.Lee also introduced us to the ‘dark room’, the place where you stay in bed in the dark for days on end hopefully sleeping. Sleep as much as possible. No stimulation from the outside world at all. My son was in his dark room for weeks before we could slowly start to introduce outside stimulation. Shutting your brain down is extremely difficult.

When he finally returned to school after missing three weeks – teachers didn’t understand that he was still injured. He looked fine, he could laugh with his friends after all. But as soon as he tried to focus or read, it would be difficult to impossible and headaches would return. There’s no bandage that they wrap your head in that announces to the world I HAVE A BRAIN INJURY HERE PEOPLE! It wouldn’t be for another 5 months before the November 10th, 2010 Sports Illustrated’s cover article discussed concussions in football and made the the world aware of the damage concussions a.k.a. traumatic brain injuries were doing to our NFL athletes. This was just the tip of the iceberg.

I want to bubble wrap my children but they aren’t kids anymore but full fledged adults, albeit young adults in their mid twenties. I still want to bubble wrap them both.

My daughter recently started a new job and has had to miss work already because of her injury. She’s scared she’ll lose her new job. She worried they may not understand- most people don’t unless they’ve had a concussion themselves or have a close family member who has had a concussion.

When my son suffers his third concussion he was a freshman in college. A ski accident which left him with a partially punctured lung and a night in the hospital. Three days later he was driving when he skidded his car on ice, bumping his head when the car hit the curb. Your reflexes are slower when you have a concussion. He shouldn’t have been driving. He was concussed but his symptoms hadn’t presented themselves yet. He was lucky nothing worse happened. He ended up taking a medical leave of absence for the rest of the semester. He returned a year later to be sure his brain could take the strain of studying. We were thankful to have the option of a medical leave and we thought it best to take it since you have no idea how long it will take to heal. And it takes longer to heal when you have a history of previous concussions.

The concussions have left behind in their wake problems with sleep and depression. He struggles with staying focused more often than he used to too. He’s done biofeedback and neurofeedback therapy to help him with some of the problems that he struggled with after his concussions. It helped a little. He’s sleeping better but we have also started using CBD along with the melatonin the neurologist recommended he start using while he was still in recovery.

Now my daughter, an adult has her third concussion and is trying desperately to shut down her brain. Her place in Maine is bright and sunny despite blinds being drawn. Dark it is not. She tacked up a blanket over the window but it still looked pretty bright in her bedroom from the photo she shared with me. I’m frustrated that there’s nothing I can do to help her heal faster. When you have a concussion you can feel foggy and very unclear. Dr. Lee used to liken it to having a computer virus which makes your computer run slow and improperly. You need to shut down everything so that you can reboot.

In today’s high tech world where we are all in front of some kind of screen – and things seem to happen quicker than they used to – disengaging from stimulus is challenging. My daughter is a freelance graphic designer who uses her computer all the time. Her part time job has her up and down and can’t be on the more physical side. Plus she coaches girls’ lacrosse. So all I can do is hope and pray- doesn’t seem like much of a strategy – that she will be able to return to her normal activities soon – after she’s given herself time to rest.

Links to some of the resources we’ve used:

Dr. Roseann

Management Recommendation Report by Dr. Micheel Lee

Weight blanket to help sleeping issues

Sweet Mutiny

Things are going to be a little less sweet in the mornings… The cries for better nutrition and less sugary breakfast cereals could possibly send Captain Crunch into retirement soon. The good ole’ sugary sweetness that has kick started so many kids, myself included, has fallen from no.1 to obscurity. Shamed for having being too sugary and therefore the cause of every obese kid or adult out there.  In the 12 gram of sugar category, you have in the line up famous tasty morning treats such as Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops. General Mills is a little sweeter in this category with their menu of Trix, Cookie Crisps and Lucky Charms. Yeah, they’re magically delicious – 13grams of yummy sugar goodness.  One of my absolute favorite Kellogg’s Apple Jacks weighs in at 15g of sugar!  Explains why switching to Cheerios at 1g of sugar made them taste like cardboard circles at first. In the 15g group Apple Jacks sits next to Corn Pops and Smacks, all of which are Kellogg’s products. Smacks, btw, used to be called Sugar Smacks, but this obviously is no longer politically correct so they simply tossed the word sugar but didn’t bother to lower the sugar content.  Smacks sounds stupid to me. I’m sorry, I’m old school – give me my Sugar Smacks and Saturday Morning Cartoons!!

But if you take a very close look at the various ready-to-eat cereals, you’ll notice something very disturbing – many so called newer ‘healthy’ cereals out there and that is they have shit load of sugar in them!  Again, I’m not talking about the old school guys like Quaker Oats Cheerios (1g), Kellogg’s Corn Chex (3g), or General Mills’ Wheaties (4g). I’m referring to Muesli, dried fruit & nuts which has a whopping 26g of sugar! Wheaties Raisin Bran has 18g! Frosted Cheerios 13g – see it takes at least 12 grams of sugar to make those little round things taste good!