(Not so) briefly

It’s been awhile since I last wrote, and this morning seemed a perfect time to start a (not so) brief post.

Today is a Saturday (hooray!) and I slept in as much as I was allowed to (Hannah dog starts getting pretty insistent at a certain point) then had a cup of coffee and took the dog for a walk. That one line has three topics in it: sleep, coffee, and walking.

I have started the challenging part of perimenopause: hot flashes at night. I can’t say they are the most horrible thing ever. I don’t wake up drenched or anything like that, but I do wake up hot and slightly sweaty, and then have to try falling asleep again. Luckily I have a fan with a remote control which helps. So an evening may go like this: wake up flushed with heat, throw off covers, grab remote and turn on fan, lay there trying to ride it out, feel cool enough to cover up and sleep again. Repeat again at some point. One night I woke up like this every two hours. Ugh.

I don’t do well without adequate sleep, and this makes me cranky and less productive at work. Considering that the alarm goes off at 5 AM many days so I can get on phone calls by 5:30 AM (and I’m the type of person who really needs daylight to feel awake, so the 5 AM thing is already tough for me) any type of sleep disruption is horrible for me.

Next week I’m seeing a gynecologist recommended by one of the local women I’ve met to have a discussion about hormones. I’ve always had mixed feelings about taking hormones based on the potential side effects and my thoughts that eventually one has to get off the damn things so they could just be a delaying tactic. But I have some friends who swear by bio-identical hormones, and there’s a lot I don’t know, so I’ll see what the doctor says.

I’ve started down the path of coffee geekery and it is fun. Shortly before I left Chicago my trusty auto-drip coffee maker died. I decided to not replace it with another auto-drip maker since I was really the only coffee-drinker and I didn’t need to make a large amount of coffee every day. I instead did a bit of research and tried a smallish Chemex pot lent by a friend. I found out three things: first, my standard hot water kettle made pouring water over the grounds difficult (I understand why those gooseneck pots are preferred); second, because the grounds have to be a little larger for pour over, you just can’t pick up a bag of pre-ground beans; third, I really didn’t like standing there slowly pouring water over the grounds.

After a bit more research I decided to try a Clever dripper. I like the fact that I don’t have to stand over it slowly pouring water over the grounds, and that it combines the advantages of pour-over and the French press without the annoying grounds a French press usually leaves in your cup. A standard grind suitable for an auto-drip coffee maker works well, so it’s possible to be lazy about grinding your own at home or in the store. Since I can only make one cup of coffee a time it means I drink less coffee, too. I tend to make two 12-ounce cups of coffee over the course of a morning, using a mix of regular and decaffeinated beans.

My most recent foray into coffee geekiness is to replace the big and cumbersome electric kettle I had been using with a gooseneck electric kettle for more controlled pouring, and a burr coffee grinder. I had been buying beans at the grocery store and grinding them there, but the closest grocery store with a grinder had been having problems with their grinder and this has made grinding coffee a pain. I like having more control over the grind and pour, and my morning cups of coffee have been fun to make. (And, yes, I do have a scale that I usually make my coffee on, too.)

One of my goals in moving to California was to increase my walking. While my old neighborhood in Chicago was walkable, I often didn’t want to go out walking because it was too cold/icy/hot/rainy. The weather is more temperate all year ’round in northern California, making walking more pleasurable. I live in the area known as “Old Town” in Napa, which is within walking distance of downtown. I often walk to and from the library and post office. I take the dog out for walks twice a day, and I usually go to and from the river, which is a little over two miles round trip. I’ve also taken the dog to many of the parks in the town for walks, including a couple which are quite hilly.

I’ve also joined a couple of hiking groups through Meetup.com. (Meetups are very popular in the Bay Area; you can find a Meetup for just about anything.) One group meets in Sonoma and the other in Napa. I’ve been able to go on hikes on weekends in Sonoma, and one night a week in Napa. These aren’t leisurely strolls, but both groups also have hikers of various abilities which is what appeals to me. I had problems last year with both ankles (one was broken and the other sprained), so I knew I wasn’t going to be a fast hiker and didn’t want to be the lone person at the back of group.

Now that I’m walking and hiking so much, I decided to get a Fitbit to track my activity. I’ve only had it for three days now, but I’ve been hitting the target of 10,000 steps pretty easily. I’ve also been wearing it at night to monitor my sleep so I can see how it is recording the hot flash disruptions.

Errands, errands, errands
This is another good thing to do on Saturdays. I’m still “gearing up” and furnishing the house, so some of today’s errands involve purchasing yard furniture.

This month is the last one for my Discovercard spending challenge, which I’ve managed to meet every month so far. Even though I have been lacking some standard things (such as a table at which to eat meals), I found it difficult to keep spending every single month. It’s just not my usual approach.

Two days ago I finally bought a small kitchen/dining table and two chairs. I had been thinking I was going to have to drive all the way to Ikea in Emeryville for a small table, but during one of my activities this week (an hour of cycling, followed by a burger and beer special at a local hangout) a neighbor mentioned this furniture store in town that I hadn’t tried because I had been focusing on going to consignment and thrift stores. The furniture store had exactly what I needed and they delivered it to my house 30 minutes later. Considering that I didn’t have to drive an hour each way, pay a bridge toll, load and unload myself, and then put it together myself, I think the price was fair. Today I’m getting some outdoor chairs to go around a small outdoor table I bought at Target last month, and a patio umbrella.

This final push to get the house furnished is also partially driven by an upcoming visit from my mother and sister. When sister and her guy visited with me in February, we had to use a small desk as our dining table. Since I only had two folding chairs and there were three people, one person had to use the exercise ball as a dining chair, too. That wasn’t going to work with my nearly 75 year-old mother. Today I’m also looking at hand-held showers since I think that will help during mom’s visit, too.

After breakfast this morning I pulled out the bike and accomplished a few other errands around town:

  • Make photocopies of receipts at the library (and I also picked up a book and some music CDs)
  • Get coffee beans at the local coffee shop (I’m trying a new blend of regular and decaf)
  • Stop at tourist info office to get activity ideas for mom’s visit (since she will not be able to walk far, we have to think through the activities)
  • Pick up a wood fire roasted chicken at the local Mexican market (only available on weekends, but so delicious!)

So far, it’s been a good Saturday. Now, onwards to more errands so I can enjoy some TV time tonight!


6 thoughts on “(Not so) briefly

  1. It was snowing here on Easter…and we went skiing. Lemonade out of lemons I say…but this winter is enough to make anyone want to move somewhere south.

    Sounds like you are settling in well and have found companionship quickly which is good. Do you miss the chooks?


    • I used to joke that in Chicago we rarely had snow for Christmas, but often had snow for Easter. It has been a hard winter for the Northeast! You’ve either got a very strong back or a very good snow thrower to dig yourself out so often.

      I do miss the chickens…somewhat. I don’t miss the extra hassle of trying to find someone to care for them when I need to be away, but I do miss watching their funny antics and getting fresh eggs every day. The neighbors directly behind me have hens, and I can hear happy chicken noises daily (plus the occasional, loud “egg song”) so it helps me feel more at home. I had to take one business trip last month and it was stressful enough trying to find a good place to take Hannah dog; I have no idea what I would have done with hens to worry about.


  2. I’ve tried to sleep with fevers, which means waking up sweaty. Then finding a new, cooler spot. It’s miserable. I know some mattress toppers having cooling pads.

    The worst was when the first week I was in the hospital. My autonomic something-or-other went crazy, and my temperature kept shooting up. I was breaking out in heat rashes.

    My mom had to keep rags soaked in ice water in a cooler and lay them on my bare skin. It still took awhile to cool down. (Even though I was sitting in front of a fan going full blast.) I imagine it won’t be quite as bad during menopause, but I’m still dreading it.


    • I bought some fancy sheets at Kohl’s that are supposed to be temperature regulating. Not so much. At least I like the color and the feel of them.

      The night sweats aren’t really terrible, it’s just the repeated waking up that is the problem. I saw the doc, had a blood draw for my hormone levels, and am going back next week. In the meantime, I’m also upping my magnesium intake in the evenings. She suggested I take 500 mg of magnesium, so I’ve been doing that for the past few nights. I’m still waking up, but not as often.


  3. The hot flashes eventually go away. Ignore them.

    Here’s something I learned via two docs, internist + cardiologist:
    1. a hot flash is a cardiovascular event; and
    2. cardiovascular events such as heart palpitations (oh, yah…ANOTHER menopausal phenomenon) can be controlled with exercise, such as a couple of miles/day of brisk walking, jogging, or running.

    It stands to reason that if palps can be made to go away with exercise, flashes will also be susceptible to that strategy.

    A spray bottle full of cold, clean water is handy. Just squirt yourself in the face when you feel a flash coming on. Or when you wake up in the middle of the accursed night with one of them.

    Funny about Money
    Who truly hates WP.com’s habit of not letting you post as yourself!


    • Interesting suggestions, FaM. About three weeks ago I got a Fitbit tracker with a heart rate monitor on it so I could get some data on my exercise habits, heart rate, and sleep habits. (It helps that my work pays for half the cost, too.) Since I’ve moved to CA, I’ve been walking a lot more than I did in Chicago, but I wanted to quantify it. Now I know that I average nearly 15,000 steps a day (that’s roughly 7.5 miles a day), and I can check my heart rate at any time. Just now, I was sitting here feeling a hot flash, checked my heart rate, and it was at 60. So, while I will continue to do lots of walking/hiking for other reasons, I don’t know how that would affect my hot flashes.

      I’m keeping a fan with a remote control in the bedroom and using it every night. When I get too hot, I can turn it on or adjust the position and strength without getting out of bed. (Hooray!)

      I’m really glad I went to the doctor and got my hormone levels checked because it’s revealed some interesting stuff. In fact, I have to go in for another test today which should provide more of an explanation for what’s been going on.


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