It Has Been A Funny Old Year

Greetings ~

2016  (not that it is over yet, but my head is full of Christmas bauble plans already, so it is fast heading that way) has been one to remember. At Bee HQ it has been a weird mixture of very good (moving to a new house/planning a new garden/discovering a new county/the addition of two kittens to the family) and very bad (family illness/Brexit/Trump/the zombie apocalypse – oh! no that hasn’t happened yet, but surely can only be just around the corner).

But as I get older, I am trying not to wish these times away. There is an art to taking the rough with the smooth, and although I am not known for my optimism, I am working on accepting things the way they are and not spending too much time worrying about either the past or the future, but just enjoying BEING.

If change makes you anxious, it can be a tough gig being a human being, and I am talking from my extremely warm and comfy house in rural Oxfordshire. This is hardly Aleppo; I am not a refugee fleeing my country for a better life. I am hugely privileged  and for that I am very grateful and thankful, every single day. Mr Bee and I have found ourselves custodians of a very beautiful old house and we often walk around, wide-eyed in wonder at the beauty and luck at finding ourselves the current owners. So any change in our lives tends to be the sort that many people the world over would jump at dealing with. But change is unsettling for some of us, and 2016 has brought on some big, big changes for many.

So let’s get back to baubles, where my muddy-menopause-mind is on safe ground.

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Christmas  has always been very special in my family. We take it pretty seriously. My dear Dad was a fiend at putting decorations everywhere he could get away with. Things dangled from ceilings and curtain rails and tinsel adorned every picture hanging on the wall. The tree often looked like the Christmas Fairy had thrown up on it – no colour co-ordination or ‘theme’ in the 1960s and ’70s. It didn’t matter what it looked like per se as long as all the decorations were up somewhere.

I am rather more fussy, but the same principle applies: Christmas is important and the tree (or trees – is one enough?), the lights, the colours, the food, the family, the warmth, is very special. This year it is going to mark the end of a strange 12 months for us, and many others too. xmas-decs-1

Perhaps the very fact that I am writing about the end of 2016 and it is still November suggests I am not quite there yet with the ‘living in the moment’ ideal I talk about. I prefer to think that maybe I just have a child-like enjoyment of Christmas and am not that good at mindfulness.

~ how soon in Dec can I get away with putting up the tree?

Annie Bee x

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Whiskers: mine and the cats’

Hello friends

I just googled “menopause whis” and didn’t have to type in the rest: up came Menopause whiskers on chin, for which there are over 22,000 search results. So it’s not just me then…..

A few alterations to the family bathroom have meant the addition of a fancy magnifying shaving mirror. On testing it out (it swivels and expands out into the room) I noticed I have slowly been turning into a hillbilly  – grey hair abounds, and (as the youth of today might say), WTF!!! a very black thick hair, at least an inch long, on my chin. I suppose I should be grateful it was just the one.

Menopause- chin hairs

A friend of mine of a similar age recently reported she found an eyebrow hair which had grown overnight in the middle of her forehead.  Another couple of friends (a bit younger, but there is seemingly no escape) regularly groom each other, checking for stray nose and chin hairs. This seems like an increasingly good plan. Please send your CV.

The menopause is truly the gift that keeps on giving. I must say, hormones are vastly over-rated.

On a more jolly note our kittens have arrived at Bee HQ. We are all in love!

Whiskers ~ here there and everywhere.

Annie Bee x

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Ciabatta Problems

Hello from a new Bee HQ – the Bees have moved west a couple of counties and we have emerged from under the packing boxes (some of us more successfully than others).

The Aga we have inherited is proving a challenge, both from a culinary point of view (no, there is no alternative oven) as well as a menopausal one. My kitchen is H.O.T. and I am sweltering.

Here is a picture showing the direct opposite of the look I am currently achieving.

Gorgeous Aga woman

My bestie told me once about “Ciabatta problems”. If you google those 2 words, you will find answers to actual ciabatta problems, courtesy of Jamie Oliver et al. I was given this alternative take:

Imagine a family of four around the kitchen table of an evening (Aga blasting away in the background perhaps – menopausal mother in her bikini) ~

Mother: “Your father and I have terribly bad news children.”

Father: “It is truly upsetting and you will need to brace yourselves. We are here to support you through this difficult time.”

Child One: “Is it Granny?”

Child Two (now crying): “Is it the guinea pig?”

Mother: “Much worse. We are out of ciabatta.”

Ciabatta problems can loom large to those in privileged situations; I found myself worrying this morning that my two chooks, Alabama and Georgia, who have had to remain in a chicken hotel for a few weeks while I had a new secure fence put up here for them, have become broody. They are happiest sitting idly in their nesting box, presumably dreaming about babies. They did not take kindly to me unceremoniously dumping them out on the garden and I received a nasty peck from Alabama as a thank you. But this is a ciabatta problem, as is the question of when to start digging out the parterre, or quite where one of the antique iron planters has been put by the removal men. The truth is, we have arrived in our dream house, in an exquisite part of the British countryside, with enough garden to have chooks, broody or not. The vast majority of life’s problems, including having an Aga (which I am calling The Kraken), are very small indeed.

In other news, the Bees are also going to have 2 new Maine Coon kittens to add to the family. Huck and Hero arrive here next week, aged about 3 months. They are brother and sister; no doubt getting them settled into their new home will not be without some challenges but they too will be ciabatta problems.

Annie Bee with Alabama

Have a super Monday

Annie Bee x

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The Everlasting Menopause ~ Is There An Upside?

If, like me, you have been dealing with the menopause for absolutely ages (as my memory has been melted by the hot flushes, I am having to guess that I am now entering my 5th year) you might be wondering whether this mid-life cloud has a silver lining. My initial answer would be, ‘does it bollox’ but let’s see.

I turned to my Personal Assistant, Google, and asked the question.

First up is Web MD and a cheerful obs-gyny doctor from Maine who suggests that,

“The truth is that women over 50 are just hitting their stride,” she writes in the introduction of her new book, The Secret Pleasures of Menopause. 

So secret that they are certainly hidden from me. She goes on to say,

“You can turn yourself on. You can rewire your brain and your body to feel more pleasure. The brain is the biggest sex organ in the body.”

Hmmmm.

I must say there are plenty of listings on Google for what can improve the menopause (yoga, exercise, nitric oxide, acupuncture, hops, and a neck-cooler to mention a few) but not so many for the upside. I do eventually find some joker who says this,

“Menopause is a gift, a lantern lighting the way to significant transformation in all areas of your life………. menopause is not the wicked witch. She does not drain women of any vital function nor turn them old, weak, crotchety, or unattractive with a wave of her wand”.

As youngsters (for whom their 50s is light years away) might say: ~ LOL

There is some information out there which I do agree with: Yes, it is natural. Yes, it (eventually) means no more periods and contraception. But is it a stage during which, as this cheerful woman suggest,

“…. the door opens to receive the wisdom of our lineage”?

That may be a step too far, even for the most optimistic of us. I’m not sure I even know what it means.

My only hope is that it is nearing the end. I can’t say my symptoms (brain atrophy, hot flushes, poor sleep are the highlights) have left me feeling particularly cheery.

hot flushes

Menopausal rant over ~ I feel a lot better already and I haven’t even got my neck-cooler out.

Annie Bee x

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Monday Morning: Let’s Hear It For Teenagers

God love ’em! Teenagers! In the last few weeks there have been some notable teenager stories in the news, reminding us all that kids come in all shapes and sizes, all with different strengths and talents.

First we had the (alleged) teenage hacker who rummaged around in Talk Talk’s drawers, causing a media storm and much angst. Teenage hackers have been round since the beginning of the internet, and school-aged computer whizzes have not been able to stop themselves from hacking the CIA, the Pentagon, the NHS, Scotland Yard, Interpol, Sony and Apple to name but a few. A number of them have gone on to be employed by some very impressed tech giants, and some have ended up behind bars. All of them have hopefully highlighted security gaps which the adults, arguably, should have been on top of in the first place. Teenage hacker

At the same time, some other teenagers came onto my radar, this time for designing an app to promote healthy living. In light of the massive amount of bad press given over to social media and the effects it has on our kids, a pharma company (Astellas) put out a call to all 14-16 years olds in the UK. The winners were a group of five 15-year-olds from St Paul’s Catholic College in Burgess Hill, Sussex – Sacha Botting, Dominique Froud, Jack Gumm, Gemma Kelly and Zuzia O’Donoghue – who drew on their own experiences of the pressures of school, friendships, home life and social media to come up with the idea. Essentially the app, which is called Memory Star (already available here), is a ‘virtual memory jar’ – a place where youngsters can keep their memories (photos, messages etc) but not share themAnd that is the kicker: whereas so much of their lives is now out there for anyone to see, this is completely private.

O’Donoghue said: “There’s so much pressure to present a very happy image on social media. There’s something very competitive about it. Who can get the most likes? Who has the nicest life? You have this sort of perfect persona that you’re putting forward of yourself, but you don’t always feel like that”.

I for one would not go back to being a teenager for anything. Being one is difficult. Having them is arguably worse, and, while in my day (the 1870s – just kidding) there was a great deal of pressure to be popular, pretty, clever and have the ‘right’ shoes, today those pressures are undoubtedly worse. The burden is two-fold (playground and social media) and the bullies find it easier to be nasty from behind a smart phone.

So let’s hear it for the young ~ and while being in your 50s has its troubles (the everlasting-menopause is pushing my sense of humour to its very limits), the vast majority of teenagers go on to be delightful adults.

The Memory Star app could be a lovely Christmas present for a teenager too. teenage quote

Nora Ephron

Have a good week

Annie Bee x

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It’s An Age Thing

I was out the other day with one of my very oldest of friends – we have been buddies for nearly 4 decades. During the course of our ramblings we covered mothers, losing our fathers, marriage, grief, gardening, diet, exercise, ex-boyfriends, schools, grey hair, children, health, money, the menopause, work, holidays: in 2 hours we touched on pretty much everything. Nothing is off limits.

Several times I heard myself saying, “well, it’s our age”.

“Isn’t it hilarious how we both love gardening?”

“Well, it’s our age”.

Our interest in healthy eating: – it’s our age. Our newfound specialist knowledge about dementia: – it’s our age. Sore knees after exercising? – yes, you’ve got it.

Our friendship has spanned forty years and we have changed, moved, made mistakes, lost touch and survived some ups and downs. At any point on that path, so much of what we did, decisions we made, things we said, places we went and people we shared our lives with were quite simply down to our age. In our teens we both did some mad things, as all youngsters do. But we did what seemed completely right at any given time.

Things may not be 100% perfect for either of us, but we are healthy and happy and getting on with what life is currently throwing at us. We still feel young, we ARE young! Long may that last.

It’s a funny old life. Old age quote

Annie Bee x

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…….. Said No Woman Ever

I took a brisk walk into town this morning to fulfil my duties as The Fridge Fairy. On my way I passed a man who was leaning up against a wall, talking on his mobile.  In tracksuit bottoms, he (and I cannot think of a pleasant way of putting this) was idly playing with what I believe is called “his junk” while (on the other hand/with the other hand ?) cancelling his bank cards. It made me think of a recent quote I saw on twitter which went something like this :

 I can’t wait to marry the man who just wolf-whistled me from his car ~ said no woman ever.

Same goes double for this morning’s guy:

I am cheered up immensely to see you play with your balls as I walk past and you chat on your phone ~ said no woman ever.

Even more …Said No Woman Ever  quotes can be found here. A couple of my favourites are

Let me know if you have got any you particularly like. Annie Bee x Annie Bee signature

The Joys Of Being A 50+ Woman

When my friends and I turned 40, there was a spate of lovely girlfriend birthday parties and one favoured present was a packet of Tena incontinence pads. How we roared. Not so funny now we have hit 50, is it ladies? Things have started to – I am trying to think of a nice word here – loosen and slacken, droop and fall. Externally and (more alarmingly) internally. Chin hairs sprout overnight; if you are lucky you can plait them, put a scrunchy on them which matches that day’s outfit and go about your business.

Many of the challenges faced by the over 50s woman are linked to the menopause and the accompanying dwindling amount of oestrogen in your body, but as we are all living longer, we do need to learn to love this post-menopausal life, wrinkles and all. The average age in the UK when menopause hits is 51 and sadly there is very little scientific evidence to support complimentary therapies if you decide, like me, that HRT is not an option. Exercise and relaxation (yoga, mindfulness) are recommended as being helpful though. British women can expect to live more than 30 years post-menopause, so we do need to understand it and get help if we need to.

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Two Professors at The Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London are currently doing research into the effects of the menopause on work performance. Like many women, I don’t work in the traditional office-based, 9 to 5 manner, but I certainly do have a huge amount of sympathy for those who are making critical business decisions, managing the P&L, and being responsible for other people’s careers, if they fall into the category of the 25% of women who have troublesome menopausal symptoms. Poor concentration, tiredness, poor memory and lowered confidence can all impact on your ability to perform in the workplace.

Interestingly attitudes to the menopause, and (surprisingly) symptoms, seem to vary around the world. If you want to read some in-depth info, this is a good source: http://www.menopausemgmt.com/cultural-differences-in-symptoms-and-attitudes-toward-menopause/

So what is the upside for us?

You can reinvent yourself in your 50s – you can wear what you like, be as quirky as you like, and you have probably settled into a very individual style of your own. You may not give a monkeys any more about what people think – you have opinions based on decades of wisdom and experience and you are probably not afraid to share them. Chances are your kids have just about flown the nest. Maybe it is time to take up pottery, change career path, start knitting, write a book, launch a new business, spend more time going to the theatre, take surfing lessons, train for a 5k run or learn how to upholster chairs. I hadn’t realised this, but you can join U3A (University of the Third Age) http://www.u3a.org.uk/ at any time you like.  Benefits galore.

elderly women going surfing in Oz

Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear from you.

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Annie Bee x

The Menopause Can Last HOW LONG?

The menopause is the gift that just keeps on giving. I do remember vast swathes of the 1970’s taken up by my Mum talking about how awful it was, but I was too young and selfish to care. How that smile has been wiped off my face. A friend of mine recently announced, at an otherwise very nice lunch, that her menopause had so far lasted 7 years. You could have stabbed the rest of us with our dinner forks and put us out of our misery right there. Seven years? How is that possible?

When mine first started I admit to finding the hot flushes quite interesting – how is it that my body is managing to do this spectacularly weird thing? By the way, on this side of the pond, we refer to them (hot flushes) in that slightly quiet, polite British manner; in the US they call them “hot flashes” which seems about right if, like me, when you are in the throes of one, you literally strip off layers of clothing without a thought for your whereabouts (the fruit and veg aisle at the supermarket, or – worse – driving along a motorway at speed). It didn’t take long for that initial wonderment to wear off. Here I am several years later, still lurching from interrupted sleep to stripping off in front of astonished strangers to asking the GP whether I have early onset dementia. My metabolism is slower than Titanic swerving round the iceberg, and I put on weight just at the mention of the word ‘menu’.

The list of symptoms women can suffer from is long and does not make happy reading. This is from the NHS website:

  • hot flushes and night sweats
  • loss of libido (sex drive)
  • vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
  • palpitations (heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable)
  • headaches
  • mood changes, such as depression, anxiety or tiredness
  • sleeping problems, such as insomnia
  • urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Is that all? Any more you want to throw at us?

I can have no symptoms at all for several months, and I start to congratulate myself on getting to the end of the menopause in such a stylish and graceful manner. Next minute it’s back with a vengeance and I am shattered from lack of sleep and googling whether taking soy supplements could possibly help.

Most of the treatments on offer fall into two camps: firstly, taking medicines (one of which is  HRT) and secondly, ‘self-help’ which is essentially eating healthily and exercising. The third option is Suck It Up. I favour this but also occasionally enjoy a good moan about yet another reason why being a woman can be rather difficult. Is there an upside? Let me think …………

No

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Annie Bee x

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