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May Mixed Bag: Memories

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the author Carrie Powell with her mother

May is literally a mixed bag for me. On one hand my kids are headed home from school and summer is near. The sun is out more frequently and baseball is in full swing. The days are long and I feel really productive and energized. On the other May is the month of missing my mom, who died 6 years ago. In addition to the obvious hurdle of Mother’s Day, May is also the month my mom was born as well as the month she passed away so I’m literally swimming in a sea of memories. This week I’m offering Mother’s Day gift ideas, exploring why photos are so meaningful to memories and recognizing a couple of good wins in my menopause journey. Welcome to this month’s Mixed Bag!

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mother's Day Memories

My Mother’s Day experience has evolved over the years. It used to be a crap shoot, with some some good years when Jay really nailed it. But more often my expectations did not align favorably with the outcome. Those were the years that I was expecting him to read my mind and figure out what I wanted. I eventually learned that the best way to have a great Mother’s Day was to advocate for my expectations – and now every Mother’s Day is great! Below are some things I’m advocating for between Mother’s Day and my birthday, which is next month. As usual, my list includes things that make my life better in some way (easier, healthier, more beautiful, etc.) Here’s to happy Mother’s Day memories!

I know that the Stanley is the hot tumbler right now but I prefer Hydroflask’s version. Their color palette is fire; my chosen color is Cactus.

My kids have been harassing me forever to get an Air Fryer and I’ve resisted because I’m so loath to add more appliances to my kitchen.  But in reviewing my current appliance roster I found one that can go (spiralizer) and another that can move to occasional-use land (waffle iron) and that should give me enough room for this beauty (Wirecutter’s Air Fryer pick)

Kitchen Aid mixers are so bulky and often have to live on a countertop because of their height and weight. It’s a good thing they are so nice looking and come in a rainbow of gorgeous colors! Mine recently died and I need a new one and of course I chose Matcha (are you picking up on my love of green?)

My family is big into gift lists and I like to include some affordable options for the young people. This Baggu Pouch Set is great.  I need lots of pouches in my life to keep things organized.  These are nice looking, come in multiple patterns and will last a long time.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about using rucksacks to build strength while walking. I walk a TON so I’m putting this weighted vest on my list. It may slow my pace a bit but anything I can seamlessly add to my strength habits is a big win.

Photos Help Your Brain

photos help your memory

I’ve always wondered why I have such a strong connection to photos. Ever since I was a kid I loved to pour through albums and take pictures of friends and family. After learning about some recent studies the role photos play in memories and other activities in the brain, I’m now convinced that those photos have been a significant contributor to my life’s happiness.

Research suggests that capturing, displaying or revisiting family photos has a powerful effect on the brain. Photos capture memories of past experiences. While they are stored in our brains, revisiting them strengthens their representation by our neurons, which makes total sense to me.

Acting as a glue, photos can bind families and trigger conversations. Looking at them can have a positive psychological effect: children laugh when looking at old pictures of themselves. I experienced this myself as a child and have witnessed the same with my own kids. Neuroimaging research shows looking at photos of our loved ones slows down the stress centers in our brains.

One of the joys of May for me is reviewing and selecting photos of my mom for my Mother’s Day social posts. As the years since she died tick away, the pictures help keep her present for me and preserve my memories of her life. It sounds silly but I swear it keeps most of the feelings that surface this month positive instead of sad. My advice is to preserve, back up and enjoy your photos, it’s literally good for your brain!

Menopause Wins

I’m so glad people are finally paying attention to this menopause situation and actually studying it (novel idea!)  My dad is a retired physician with medical advice to offer on everything and has nothing to contribute when I complain about symptoms.  Not his fault (also, I should add he was a Pediatrician!) because in his day they spent no medical school time learning about menopause and I’m not confident they do enough even today!

My two main symptoms have been hot flashes (mostly at night interrupting my sleep) and weight gain (mostly my belly area.)  I’ve been trying lots of different things to combat both and while the belly fat remains stubborn I have had some recent successes that I’m excited about.

I began Intermittent Fasting last summer, practicing 16 hours of fasting and an 8 hour eating window. Of all the diet-related things I’ve tried, this has been the easiest to implement and the most effective for the weight gain. The belly fat remains stubborn but I did manage to lose most of what I suddenly gained last spring with no warning or change to my eating/exercise habits. My eating hours are usually 10am to 6pm, sometimes skewing later if I’m busy in the morning. The only time I don’t do it is if I’m on vacation and breakfast is part of our itinerary. Big Win – I highly recommend!

The second win is Hormone Replacement Therapy, which has addressed the hot flashes.  I began taking Estrogen about a month ago and almost immediately the hot flashes went away. Which means I’m having a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed instead of exhausted. The good sleep then has a ripple effect, helping with energy levels, strength and brain fog. I feel like my own morning-person self again after over a year of terrible sleep.

I’m sharing because there may be things happening with your body that you don’t even realize are connected to menopause. While there is not one silver-bullet solution and every person is different there are more resources, studies and information popping up all the time now. Sharing our experiences builds community and collective wisdom. If you’re struggling with peri-menopause/menopause symptoms right now, I see you! Dr. Mary Claire Haver is a physician, author and advocate for menopausal women. I read her first book, The Galveston Diet and just ordered her new book, The New Menopause. She’s a great resource!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothering folks out there, they come in all forms! In addition to Mother’s Day, I will be celebrating the Month of Maureen and my memories of her all May.

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