Monday, December 31, 2012

I Feel Great!

There was a time in my life when I might have hesitated to publicly admit that I was home on New Years Eve.  BUT that was long before the back issues started, and in case I wasn't having enough fun, I came down with a cold Friday, so slept much of the weekend. 

Today, however, I felt like a human.  For the first time in about 6 weeks, my back barely hurt and I was able to do a full PT workout AND it didn't land me back in bed with a heating pad!!!!!!!!!  This is very exciting!  Just last week I was excited over lasting on Christmas until just when my parents were leaving, and it still put me flat in bed all the next day.  I have been up!  I have been human!  I have seen other rooms in our house besides the bedroom!  This is VERY exciting!

Of course, this also removes my excuse for the holiday letter STILL not being done, but as we call it a "holiday" letter, I'm thinking Martin Luther King Day is looking like a nice holiday.............

Monday, December 24, 2012

Not A Creature Was Stirring.......

Okay, maybe not exactly, but we are having our very first quiet Christmas.  Normally, Christmas is amazingly busy, which is fun.  We've spent most of our married Christmases traveling to see family, but a couple years ago I finally put my foot down and said we wanted to spend Christmas in our OWN home, and I have been a Christmas maniac for the last couple years--hosting friends on Christmas Eve, Christmas night--even one year throwing in a Christmas brunch as well.  It's tiring, but great fun.  But this year even I had to admit that my back was not going to be up to it.  I made it to a Christmas party Saturday night, but in order to get there I had to rest most of the day and not do too much physical therapy in order to get there, and I think I just need to be able to do what my back needs to have happen, so for the first time EVER, we're having frozen pizza and watching movies for Christmas Eve!  I don't think I'd want to do it very often but knowing it would be a quiet night, I could brave a rematch with my new toy this morning:
When I was in physical therapy, the "carrot" at the end of the session was called "e-stim," (presumably for electronic stimulation, but I wouldn't swear to it).  It sounded terrible, but was marvelous for pain control, and this summer when my back was starting to hurt more and more, a friend of mine who has chronic pain mentioned she had her OWN estim machine and could do it at home.

I had sort of wavered on the idea, but over the last month my back has gotten worse rather than better until I switched back to last year's exercises which are helping, but I am still very sore.  So, I decided it was worth a try and orderedthe one my friend recommended.

Saturday morning I had Andy help place the electrodes, plug in the wires, and I was ready to roll, so I flipped it to ON.  And this would be a good time to mention that if one is combining the "on" switch with the "intensity" setting, it might be best to make it not too sensitive.  Basically, I turned the knob FAR too much and tasered myself in the upper back.  To be fair, it probably gave those muscles quite a workout considering how sore they have been for the last couple days, but it made me a bit hesitant to try it again until I was sure that I could just rest the remainder of the day if I did it again.  Worst case scenario, it could be PJs and Valium by noon.

This morning went MUCH better, and even after zipping myself a bit when I was adjusting it, I was pain-free for hours.  And I'm feeling even more disinclined to steal cars than ever, so a win-win really...............

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On Being a Girl......

As a female, I really like having groups of close female friends.  Women are wonderful (which I can safely say now as I finally married in my mid-30s and my marry-extremely-early family can stop wondering if I am a lesbian--not that there's anything wrong with that........), and I actually feel sorry for American men that they just don't form the close friendship bonds that women do.  Only this week I met a girlfriend for coffee and it hasn't exactly been a great year for either of us, but just knowing that and still being able to pause for a bit to relax together makes it easier.  Another girlfriend and I were recently talking about the "yeah, whatever" approach to the holidays so many of us have had to take this year.  We each normally host Christmas parties, but this year she had surgery and I'm having back problems, so we each scrapped them.  The funny thing is we both have the reputation of "dropping" people from parties, so we were joking about ways to let people know that they had not been dropped and that there just wasn't a party without hurting the feelings of those who HAD been dropped but weren't aware of the fact.  Life has so many ups and downs, but when you have people to ride them with, it's much easier to just hang on.

My closest girlfriends locally are sort of in circles.  The oldest circle is my book club--because as a female I'm almost obligated to be IN a book club--and it's a lovely group of women and I enjoy it every time we're together.  The problem is: 

I do not have enough estrogen for chick-lit books.

In fact, I hate them.  So much so in fact that I will no longer borrow library books from unknown female authors unless I know that they've been dead at LEAST since before Bridget Jones was published.  Men can still be lousy authors, but mercifully they don't generally write about 30-somethings recently divorced, trying to put their lives back together, probably with a close group of friends--one of whom is almost certainly to be struck down by cancer.   Not that chick-lit is bad--it's just past my "girl" line.

With every circle of girlfriends I have, I always know there's a line where we don't connect--which we've sort of dubbed the Touchy-Feely line.  It's probably this line that one needs to cross in order to want children, or to have played with baby dolls as a child.  It's definitely the line one needs to cross for yoga.  I have tried it, but when everyone else is getting "in touch" with their center or whatever it's supposed to be, I am planning knitting projects or my mind decides to smack me with something hideous like a continual loop of "Copacabana" or the Gilligan's Island theme song.  If that is truly my "center," we're better off staying out of touch.  

So I am trying to figure out a way to remain in the book club without having to read any more chick-lit books AND without hurting anyone's feeling because I can't stand their book choices.  The back problems have sort of helped as I ended up being too sore to even attend last month and was saved from discussing a book I couldn't even stand to listen to, but it's not a long-term solution I like to contemplate.  I suppose it's too late to claim latent illiteracy problems...................

Friday, December 21, 2012

Whew!

So glad they were out of the Mayan calendar tablecloths when we went to Mexico for our honeymoon so we got the Aztec one instead:
because the Mayan one would have only good for 1500+ years before expiring today.......

Happy Not-The-End-Of-The-World-Day

Did anyone actually know people who believed the world would end today?
And why is it that I strongly suspect that the only people who honestly believed the Mayans correctly predicted the end of the world for today were the people least likely to know who the Mayans actually were?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Progress!

I spend most my days knitting right now.  This would be a more enjoyable state of affairs if it wasn't because my back is fried, but as weird as it sounds (considering I've spent most of the day laying flat), I think I'm finally on the mend.

What I have is called "sacroiliac joint dysfunction."  I'd provide a link to something helpful if I could, but while it is the first thing I've ever looked up on Web MD that didn't say death was likely or even eminent, I don't recognize anything they describe.  In layman's terms (and thank heavens I was referred to a specialist who speaks Layman fluently), this is the most common cause of back pain for women.  If you look at your pelvic bones (which is sort of impossible, I realize, so maybe visualizing the bones would be better) there's not really anything to hold them in place except muscle.  Because women often have children, our pelvic bones are designed to be more prone to movement.  It makes sense for childbirth, but doesn't always work for the rest of life.  They think that my problem probably dates back to my surgery 3 years ago, because it would be the best chance to have lost my core muscles, which would be the only thing holding my hips where they were supposed to be (which is contrary to the general female opinion that hips are SO wide that NOTHING could change them).  What happens is your pelvic bone (the big plate looking one that you can sort of feel) moves a bit, and your muscles very nicely compensate.  "Want to be here?  Fine!  We'll adjust accordingly," they cry.  Then it moves a bit more, and again--because they are just out to please--your muscles adjust again.  "More turning?  Even better!  We'll make it happen!"  This little routine goes on for a while, until either the turning is caught and stopped (smarter folks than me) or it goes all the way to the point where it can't go any farther, it has now made one leg shorter than the other, the little tiny gap that is supposed to be in your back has been squashed, and you take up fainting (the option I chose) and landing in the ER in crossword puzzle pjs.  For mild cases, there seems to be a belt that can hold your hip in place.  For severe cases, there are scary surgeries.  For people like me in the middle, there is physical therapy.

I landed back in physical therapy this fall because I got my hip twisted back out of place this summer, then with all the stuff with my father and work, I didn't get back to the doctor for help until October.  By then I had managed to irritate the daylights out of my back muscles by exercising them while I was all out of whack.  One of the things the therapist I saw this time has tried to do (besides teach me "moderation"--I love her optimism) is to change some of the exercises to blend them in to real life a bit more for me.  This all makes sense, of course, but at least some of the new exercises seem dependent on me actually practicing moderation.  This of the woman who WALKS so aggressively that I threw out my darn hip walking to my car in the PT office's parking lot.  I try.  I really, honestly try, but if I truly understood "moderation" I wouldn't have 46,000 yards of lace weight yarn in the house.  I think the change she made to one of the exercises would work for most of the population, but my back has been getting more and more sore, which is worrying since there is technically nothing wrong with my back.  It's not my back's fault that it hurts when it gets squashed by my wonky hip.  I think the rest of me would hurt if squashed as well.  But it seems to have reached the end of it's rope last week, when I had done all my other exercises then decided to try the hard one again.  OH MY.  If you haven't experienced it, a back that has finally reached it's limit can swell quite substantially for a spot that looks completely devoid of muscle in the first place.  I'd have almost be impressed if it hadn't hurt so much.

I've been icing my back as much as I can stand, have been resting for several days--and REALLY resting, not just the sort of "not-really-doing-anything-of-the-kind" resting one would expect from me, and the muscles have calmed down a great deal.  In the mean time, I have gone back to the versions of the exercises from last year--just the ones at the very beginning--and have been building up muscle strength slowly and gently.  While it may sound daft to announce that I'm making anything even remotely resembling progress while I'm spending days flat on my back with regular icing events, I really feel like I finally am rebuilding the muscle strength to stabilize my hip and put an end to this once and for all.  And, how could I possibly not be getting better with my get-well kitty in constant attendance?
He makes it a bit hard to knit (or play on the computer but he's very firm about REST.  He's ambivalent about knitting unless he gets to play with the yarn, but there's even been some amazing sock progress:
I had hoped to try pool walking again today, but Theo found my lack of "moderation" completely appalling:
so I decided to wait a few days.  Who am I to question Get Well Kitty?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Language of Flowers

My book club is currently reading The Language of Flowers.  I've always found it interesting that Victorians used flowers and plants to convey secret messages--or maybe not so secret, depending on who saw your flowers, I suppose.  I'm not very far along in the book because I keep falling asleep while listening to it, but so far I have discovered:

*  Right now one is greeted at our front door by "refusal" and "resentment."  And there I was, just thrilled that some flowers were still alive

* "Innocence" is really prone to aphids

*  We have been overrun by "wisdom" and have been pawning it off on anyone who has come to our house recently

*  I felt stupid enough when I killed off an arborvitae shrub at my old house because they're so low-maintenance. Now that I know it stands for "everlasting friendship," I feel guilty as well

*  I lost "conviction" a few years ago because I forgot to dig it up at the end of summer

*  Our herb bed has been overrun by "suspicion."

*  Bringing someone a green salad might mean you're contributing to dinner OR it can mean "cold hearted." 

*  One probably had to hope that the object of one's message had the same flower dictionary you did.  Basil means "hate" in one, "love" in another--possibly depending on one's personal feelings regarding pesto........

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Random Update Thursday

*  When advice differs between last year's physical therapist and this year's, follow the advice that doesn't result in muscle inflammation.

*  It's a bad moment when your cat has been playing with a dead mouse by flinging it up in the air and catching it, and you turn around to find him looking up at the kitchen table.  Even when you know you're about to find a dead mouse on the kitchen table, that still doesn't mean you're prepared for it.

*  Just in case it takes me a while, I have started the January book for book club, The Language of Flowers. Victorians assigned every flower a "message," which is a cool idea, though knowing MY gardening luck, I'm probably about to find out that my front flower bed is shouting obscenities to the neighborhood......

*  Normally, I would be getting stressed about getting gifts mailed off on time right about now, but between knowing most people will understand, some of the gifts won't even generate a thank you note, and the rest are as far behind as I am really takes the pressure off.  

*  Recovering from an injury gives one lots of time to catch up on reading--often making one unable to do much else--but it doesn't work for all types of reading.  I had intended to listen to Little Women, which is one of the classics of literature I've never read, but it's really hard to be in pain, read about a bunch of girls sitting around complaining about not getting Christmas gifts, and thinking of them as anything but annoying whiners.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The King's Speech

I don't usually do book reviews, but this one I thought was special.
The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy
We saw the movie, of course, and I was rather doubtful about the book because
     1. it was written after the movie
     2. it was written by the grandson of the speech coach
     3. it has the idiotic subtitle of "How one man saved the British Monarchy."

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful book.  I borrowed the audio book from the library so I got to hear King George VI's actual speeches, and knowing everything he went through just to give them made them especially touching.  Personally, I think everyone should read this book--not necessarily because it is great literature or that everyone should care about the British Monarchy--but because it is a great portrayal of a man struggling with the most public speech impediment of all time.

Perhaps I identify with him more than most, because I have a slight speech impediment involving the letter "s," and could readily identify with the humiliation he experienced.  I can only imagine what the future king went through before finding Logue because one is always surrounded by the well-meaning but horrible "helpful" people just waiting to correct your speech, showing you how to to it "right" without caring at all if it embarrassed you at all.  Imagine trying to just talk and having people constantly interrupting and pointing out what you're doing wrong--one of the reasons I never correct anyone's grammar or spelling unless they ask.  Nagging might boost the ego of the person doing it, but it doesn't help anyone else, and only makes them self-conscious/angry/hurt or rebellious.  In my case, out of self defense I started avoiding any words likely to be problematic--a habit I continue to this day.  I was fascinated to discover that one of the ways the King and Logue dealt with the speeches and radio broadcasts was to scan the speech ahead of time for similar "problem" areas.  It  reinforced to me that no one ever "cures" a speech problem--one just learns to work with it or around it.   For me, any string of words with too many "s" sounds can be hard, especially if I am tired.  It got better when I got braces because it was partly a tooth alignment issue, but has never truly gone away.  When I worked for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, we were actually supposed to answer the phone as "Cystic Fibrosis Foundation," which I could do early in the day or if there weren't too many phone calls or if I wasn't tired or if I hadn't been speaking a lot already.  But I often resorted to just "CF Foundation," for which I was always yelled at by my supervisor, but since she was pretty much just a viper anyway and would have had something to be mad at, I just let her yell than explain.  One is hardly likely to admit something that makes one self-conscious to someone like that.

One of the reasons I've been thinking about this book since listening to it last month is the "War on Christmas" rhetoric that we go through every year.  Besides there being more than one religion in the world, lots of holidays this time of year, and even the most extreme "Christian" must recognize that there are THREE federal holidays in the span of 6 weeks and that makes "Happy Holidays" far more appropriate simply for the fact of it being plural, "Merry Christmas" is fairly hard for some of us to say.  Not quite as horrific as "Season's Greetings," but the girl going through speech therapy with me who had a MUCH bigger problem than I do, couldn't pronounce the letter "r."  As her family moved away, I have no idea how far she got with her speech therapy, but if she did get it under control, it was with a LOT of hard work, and things like "Happy Holidays" would be a good cover-up for her as well.  So in addition to being just pompous and bigoted, the arrogant souls going around insisting that "Merry Christmas" could be making a lot of people even more self-conscious about what they're already self-conscious about to begin with.

So, with all that said, if I could have my own personal Christmas wishes this year, they would be:

1.  Don't nag anyone about anything.  Nag them to exercise and they won't.  Nag them about their weight and you'll make the problem worse.  Nag them about their speech and you'll make something humiliating even worse.  No one is on this earth to go around "correcting" everyone else, and no one will ever thank you for it.  Just give them kindness.

2.  Don't make assumptions.  People may not be doing things for the reason you think they are doing them.

3.  Be joyous.  If anyone wishes you a happy or merry ANYTHING, take it in good spirit.  I may struggle with "Merry Christmas" at times, but I could say "F--- you" without difficulty.  Accept kindness as it is offered and let it go at that. 
A kind wish in any wording is still a kind wish...........

Saturday, December 1, 2012

And Today............

In today's spam filter: 
       a senior citizen dating site
       a viagra ad
       and a life insurance come-on. 

 I think my spam folder has been taken over by the ghost of Anna Nicole Smith.........................

The Look

Anyone who thinks cats can't learn things hasn't lived with one. It took Theo maybe a month into his diet to figure out that I can...