Ethereal Amours Heating Up the Interwebs

Infernally Yours

Thou mak’st me hot, O swain of mine, afire with passion, sure,

and art my furnace, blazing beau, so flaming your allure;

What is it getteth in my groove that thou hast, O my heart?

How heat I up, so quickly broiled, as roasting from the start?

Mayhap, thou sneaky Devil, thou hast dropped affection’s bomb

When I misjudged it literal and went to Match.com!Photo: Infernally Yours

In a Very Hot Place

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Not to shed crocodile tears, but don’t you feel sorry for my pain?

In the humid human jungle, there is a rapacious beast that cheerily attacks and devours the happiness of many a poor body.

Menopause. Yessiree, I’m sufficiently past the mid-century mark to be personally acquainted with the joys of middle- and slightly past middle-age. I managed, thanks to magical genes or good luck or some jolly combination of the two, to enter into the mysterious temple of Menopause well ahead of the dull-normal average age of 51. I guess my body just couldn’t wait for the fun. Forty years old? Yay! Sure, I can go right ahead and get on that crazy train.

My doctor thought I might just be a fanciful young’un, imagining I was wandering into menopausal territory at the tender age of forty. Until I described my hot flashes. She already knew about my newly accomplished slide to the bottom of a depressive slope, a thing that (while it is seldom developed in complete isolation from other qualities or characteristics of health issues) can sometimes also be a symptom of menopause. She was not one of those dismissive, demeaning doctors who would’ve opted to imply that I was some kind of hysteric or stupid person. So she did a little checking into my state of being in other ways and lo, what I was experiencing was indeed early onset menopause. Or perimenopause, to be more medically precise.

Anyway, I’m now well past a dozen years of this fun and am still here to tell the tale. What’s particularly interesting to me is that it’s not wildly improbable that I’m, well, okay. I think I might’ve bought, at least a little, into the popular mythology that makes menopause universally into a horror of monstrous proportions. I will never minimize the true suffering that some women experience during menopause, a very real horror. But me, I’ve spent over a decade in the strange land of menopause, and I’m still ticking along.

One thing that I have working in my favor, besides that I have relatively few symptoms and lots of blessed good luck, is that I have great support. I have always existed in the midst of a family, friends and acquaintances where topics of real and everyday importance are generally discussed in real and everyday ways. No big deal. Imperfections, illness, death, human failings, and yeah, menopause. These are all realities and unavoidable. Sometimes painful, sometimes inexpressibly difficult, ugly, terrifying, awful. But in all of that, normal. So why would we be so foolish as to pretend otherwise, to let them loom, magnified, as the sort of thing we can never name, let alone discuss, with others who are statistically likely to have shared the experience and might even have wisdom to share in how to survive?

I’m trying to be smart about protecting myself from the bone density loss that is typical of many women in menopause, taking supplements and keeping active as my doctors have recommended. As an exercise hater, this one isn’t easy for me. I do keep current with monitoring and treating my depression so that I am sad only what seems to me a pretty normal amount and about pretty average things, not depressed in extreme and unhealthy and perniciously persistent ways as I was before I began finding the right health regimen of counseling and medication to keep me on a better path. I use extra skin moisturizer and the occasional application of hair creme rinse because despite having been an almost magically oily youth (and having had to battle high-grade acne as a result) I do find that in my advancing years I now have fairly dry skin and hair.

The big annoyance that remains for me is that my internal thermostat broke when I turned 40. My body forgot how to regulate its own temperature, so now I can go in a matter of seconds from the freezing Undead-body temp I was so long accustomed to experiencing in pre-menopausal years to the miracle of my torso becoming a microwave oven and right back again in a few minutes. Sometimes many times a day. This fun, for thirteen years and counting. And yet I am not a wreck.

The best defense I’ve found thus far is a simple little device that is a hybrid of that grand old invention, the hot water bottle, and the slightly newer iteration of the athlete’s curative bag of ice, a flat water-filled-sponge-containing rectangular envelope thingy that goes by the euphonious rapper-appropriate name of Chillow (trademark registered) and can be laid across my overheated midriff when I can’t seem to get my inner temperature moderated. It’s no cure, but it helps, and help is far better than misery. Even a good old fashioned accordion-folded fan fluttered southern belle-style beats undue discomfort.

I would never be so self-indulgent or ridiculous to call my sufferings massive or anything nearly as important as those of women who endure the real pain possible with menopause and its related conditions. That would be both silly and hypocritical. I’m average, plain and simple and normal, in this experience, even when I’m not exactly on the middle line of the statistical charts. But I can assure you that if you are heading into menopausal territory or someone you know is on her way, there is a path through this particular jungle and you need not be devoured by the beasts met along the way.

See you on the other side of the [very sweaty] swamp.

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If the jungle is ruled by a hippo, is it a hippocracy?

Be Cool, Man, be Cool

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Yep, it’s December. I know this from looking at the calendar, and various people have assured me of it as well. But the weather sure isn’t contributing any confirming info to the mix right now. It’s still been in the neighborhood of 80°F (26°C) nearly every day. This is December? My little old northern-born soul is mighty confused.

The garden is confused, too. It’s finally cool enough overnight that the tenderest greens have wilted back, but there are still roses blooming in the area, and the grass has only slowed its growth, not stopped. Even the migratory birds seem to dawdle in the air rather than hustling off to more southerly climes. Who needs to go to warmer places when it’s still warm here!

I suppose I should enjoy the option I still have to do things like garden without frying myself or paint the front door and know it’ll dry in a couple of hours easily. But what this old broad would really enjoy is getting back to weather that both keeps me from frying whether or not I garden and perhaps even lets me keep my cool indoors and while lounging around. Maybe I should just grab a popsicle, turn up the fan, and remember that life in Texas is a whole different universe of experience than any life I’ve had elsewhere. Not a bad thing in general, after all.photo

Wishful Gardening

 

photoIf you haven’t already guessed it, gardening in the temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest is a mixed blessing. Yes, you can battle long, murky, cool, overly rainy winters that seem to last seven months of the year, so the easiest things to grow are mold and mildew, possibly between your fingers and toes. You want a green roof? Get yourself a rooftop Japanese moss garden without even trying just by positioning your house close to any healthy shade tree. I can’t promise you’ll feel very Zen about it, because like the fiendish imported English ivy, such moss is mighty hard to stop let alone kill, and eats buildings faster than you can spell ‘plague’. Mud is perhaps a given, but so, in the territory of a once quite active volcano is the euphoniously named glacial till that means Rock Picking becomes a competitive sport among gardeners and anything larger than a teacup had better be excavated for with vigorous pickaxe action and the tenacity of a Welsh miner. Slugs grow to mythic size and are believed by small children to be capable of swallowing their pint-sized innocent selves without chewing.photoBut the mildness of temperature and plentiful rains also mean that one can practically put a piece of two-by-four in the ground and grow a tree, or at the very least, can make greenery and flora proliferate in an almost jungle-like exuberance. Heck, though outsiders might doubt it, you can grow big healthy palm trees and citrus and big fat figs right there next to the cold waters of the Puget Sound, mere crawl strokes away from the chilly dark not-really-Pacific Ocean. So the P-Patch allotments of Seattle are rich; why, even a parking strip along a city street can support a dandy raised-bed vegetable garden full of tempting green and vitamin-packed leafy goods.photoOne of the things I’ve missed greatly since leaving the west coast is an incongruously tough plant, one evolved to withstand the vagaries of coastal wind and salt and coastal dwellers’ neglect with remarkable stamina and glamor. The Ceanothus, sometimes known as Farmer’s Lilac, is one of my very favorite plants for this combination of ruggedly handsome looks and ease of care. I am fairly certain that an experiment with one or two of these heady-scented, blazingly blue delights is in my Texan future. They come in such a variety of heights and breadths, leaf sizes, shades of blue and purplish, and even both deciduous and evergreen types that there’s sure to be a sort that will withstand even north Texas trials. Now that I’ve been back amid them in full-blast bloom, I know I can’t keep going sans Ceanothus without giving them a good old Texas try.photoThe other thing I miss most, perhaps, about Northwest gardening will likely be much harder to replicate in my newer, ahem, digs: cottage gardens. Besides that native-born northwesterners are not much inclined toward formality, their access to easy growing conditions make them quite fond of that crowded, colorful and slightly overblown style of gardening, not least of all because it leaves less room for weeds, which of course also love the mild and friendly weather. But in hot and dry climes it can be a little too stressful on the water meter and long for greater shade than is easily procured by the average gardener. Clearly, it’ll take some tricky thinking to overcome those obstacles. Our recent negotiations with the fellow who will likely supervise our landscape overhaul when we can manage to do it have been a solid reminder not only of the limits of NTX nurseries and their resources but how much it’s going to cost us to do any adventuring in the fuller development of our patch of ground. Our recent house plumbing near-disaster and a couple of automotive ones, not to mention the trip we are making just now, all send pretty clear signals to our budgetary brains that it’s yet a while before we can tackle much renovation or revivification in our happy little greenbelt-hugging home zone. So for now it seems all the wiser to me to store up all of the brawny, brainy yet beautiful garden ideas I can and savor my short stay back in cottage-garden country to help me suss out just what I can do to bring a semblance of it back home with me when the bank account has been fattened up a bit more again.photophotophotophoto