Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cautiously Optimistic

Like, no way, it's a hip/back update with a positive title. Waaaay!

It's been almost a month now since I began my backwards-to-go-forwards workout routine with my new physical therapist. Seems like a decent time-gap for a progress report.

Are you sitting down? The word progress appeared in a blog post about my hip and back. No way!? Waaaay.

Despite going backwards in the beginning, we have sped forwards every week since then. It's been nothing short of a-mazing. Just think, in early June, I was in so much pain I could barely get out of bed. My first week of exercises consisted of having almost my entire body touching the floor at all times. Now I'm back at the gym squatting and lunging and using weights. I'm blown away. Literally blown away.

Has the pain miraculously disappeared? Well, no. That would be nice and maybe it will happen but I can definitely say that the pain hasn't got worse, nor have I had any major flare-ups that coincide with the increased activity. I have taken a couple of painkillers on weekends but nothing like the daily NSAID as Pez-Dispenser I was using earlier this month. The best part is that, while feeling at the best end of my pain scale, I have a challenging workout routine that is building strength, balance, and stability. I feel the progress in my core - literally and figuratively.

I am having days without little-to-no pain, however. Still, my culprits are sitting at my desk too long and handling Daisy on weekends - both of which can leave me reaching for the ice-pack. It's a balance thing and not every day is balance-able.

So what is so different about PT #5? Attitude is one thing for sure. He never looked at me as a broken 35 year old who was on the wrong side of her physical best. He saw someone to be repaired. It just didn't seem to occur to him that I wouldn't get better. Equally, each week he has challenged me to do things that other PTs have told me I might never do again, at least not without inducing a major flare-up - jogging, squatting, lunging, for instance. The exercises are different too. No balls, which seem to be the crutch of most physical therapists, but lots of sports-specific-like training - I'm doing a lot of the same exercises (albeit with modifications) that I'm seeing the athletes who train there do. I'm being treated like an athlete with an injury not a couch-potato with a disability. It's awesome and energizing and hopeful.

This week I started back at the gym and it's just put me back in a whole different mind-set. Although most people would balk at the thought of getting up at 4:45am three days a week, I have been almost begging for that day to occur. It's awesome. Almost like the old me.

I've still got a long way to go yet, however. I'm pretty sore from the new exercises and have to be careful not to get slack and flare something up with poor posture or something. Hence, the cautious optimism.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Photo A Day: Tuesday June 29 2010

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Noooo, it's not upside down. It is indeed a dress tag and it does say size 6.

Somehow in the upside-down, completely screwed-up world of retail sizing, I am a size 6. I discovered this when I discovered a little black shift dress in my closet that I had never worn - presumably because I bought it shortly before I got knocked-up and then rapidly outsized it.

Of course, this is all actually a load of rubbish. I am not a size 6, as much as I would love to be. According to Old Navy, I am a size 10 pants. And I haven't just lost a load of weight because all my other clothes seem to fit me just the same.

Anyway, despite the fuzzy-logic of it all, I was proud enough to snap this photo, on my way out the door to a meeting.

Clearly, judging by the photos of the last couple of days, I'm clutching at straws, trying to find things (other than Daisy) to take photos of. Yeah, I don't get out much.

Honey my nuggets are foaming!

Further proof that U.S. food is full of more crap than any other country's.

This came up for us once before when we thought Hubby was gluten intolerant. We found, through our research, that a lot of the food in UK supermarkets was already gluten free by default. Whereas, in the U.S., you had to read down a list of 400 different ingredients to determine if food contained one of the many different gluten culprits, or go to a health food shop - three words that just send Hubby reaching for the puke bag.

For the most part, I don't eat this stuff a lot and, like my awareness that sausages are full of all kinds of stuff I would rather not know about, my attitude is usually: if it tastes good, who cares once in a while?

But I have to say that the anti-foaming agent got me. AN ANTI-FOAMING AGENT for chrissakes!? What the hell is that stuff, which is normally used in silly putty of all things, doing in food?

According to the golden arches, it's to avoid the nuggets splashing the workers when they're dropped in the boiling hot fat. They couldn't find gloves for that?

I for one am boycotting the McNugget from hereon out and I shan't be giving it to Daisy either. BLECH.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Photo A Day: Monday June 28, 2010

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It's HOT. Holy moly is it hot. 103 today, they're saying. Ugh, just walking outside is like opening an oven door. This is what I hate about Sacramento: one minute you're moaning becuase it's raining in June, the next you're fighting to breath in desert-like heat. It's weather whiplash.

Our hopelessly poor ducting system is doing it's best to push cool air through from the air conditioner but it's still steamy upstairs in our bedrooms. Hence, today's pic is of the fan in our master bedroom; the fan that will be working hard tonight to stop us from sweating our brains out.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Photo A Day: Saturday, June 26 2010

If you're a Facebook friend, then you're already privy to the chaos and destruction that little miss Daisy brought to our living room this baking Saturday afternoon.

If you're not, then I'll just call this one "Spot the baby" and leave it at that.

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Not my greatest work of art but sometimes I think that photography is as much about capturing the essence of the moment, as it is about having all the technical stuff sorted out.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Photo A Day: Wednesday, June 24 - a steal

Since my ultimate dream job would be to travel the world, meet interesting people, take pictures of them and write about them, it goes without saying that I am madly jealous of travel photographers or photo-journalists who travel the globe. So, I decided to cover my lack of a picture for Wednesday, with a steal and a link to a photographer's blog I found per-chance.

Sarah Elliott is a photojournalist with an amazing portfolio of pictures spanning multiple countries.

This particular image of hers was linked from the Medicins Sans Frontiers / Doctors Without Borders website.

See more of her work here:

I am in awe of her life and her talent. Her photos tell a story in a way that no words ever could.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Photo A Day: Tuesday June 22 2010

Tuesday June 22 2010ed

Today I am off into the office for our bi-monthly management team meeting. The above is a picture from the laundry-list of notes I made yesterday about things I want to discuss.

And off I go to discuss them... no time for thought-provoking reflections this a.m.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Photo A Day: Monday June 21

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Obviously it's Daisy in the bath but the rest requires explanation.

If you have kids, you've probably seen these foam letters at one point or another. You buy them in bags and, when they get wet, they stick on the wall. Since bath time is one of the rare moments where you have your little one's rapt attention in a confined space, you can then use the letters on the tiles around the bath to spell out new words.

Funny thing is, Hubby found out that the letters also stick to Daisy's skin when wet. So, we usually play games with her during bath time, throwing the foam letters at her and seeing which ones stick. She normally gets pretty mad after a few and pulls them off, scowling at us. It's more fun for us than her, hehe.

Last night, Hubby found out that the letters stuck to her head also. What was extra funny was that Daisy seemed to have no idea that they were up there (or didn't care) and so Hubby kept plopping them on her head, one after the other, to see how long it would take to piss her off. It never happened and so this picture did.

What I like about this picture, aside from the obvious "moment" it represents, is that it sort of sums up toddlerhood for me. There are all these things - concepts, letters and almost words (see the word "bugs" has accidentally formed in the melee?) - jumbling around in Daisy's head but she hasn't quite figured out how to put it all together yet. This leaves us, as parents, trying to figure out what it all means. And like this picture, it's fun, funny, and confusing all at the same time.

Monday, June 21, 2010

How ever did I eat this crap?

In years past, in fact before I had Ms. Daisy, I used to exist almost entirely on frozen diet meals. It was easy to take them to work and throw them in the microwave in the middle of a busy day and I *knew* how many calories I was consuming, which enabled me to fit into all the cute outfits I used to wear to the office.

After I got pregnant, I swore off of these meals and ever since have been trying to keep as many pre-packaged foods out of my diets period.

This past couple of weeks, however, I've been extremely busy, so busy that I frequently find myself skipping meals and/or snacking at weird times. As I'm trying to keep within a certain number of Weight Watchers points, I went to the store to purchase just a few frozen meals for "emergencies" - you know, those days when 4 minutes of microwave time is all you have? Frozen diet meals all have those WW points right on the package, so I thought it would make things so much easier and avoid calorific pig-outs.

I bought several brands - Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, Smart Ones, and Safeway's own "Eating Right" brand - and over the past couple of weeks I have been attempting to eat them. I say attempting because two mouthfulls into almost every one of them, I quickly change my mind and throw them in the bin.

THESE THINGS ARE AWFUL on a level of awful that just makes me shake my head and wonder HOW THE HELL I ever put them in my mouth in the past.

Needless to say, I'm going back to tuna and chicken (snore).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Photo A Day: Saturday June 19 and Sunday June 20

Well, it looks like I'm not going to have a perfect record on this new project. They say new habits take 30 days or something, so these posts might be spotty for a month or so.

This weekend was freakin' busy, so there's plenty of pictures to share but, of course, I can only pick one for each day, that best summed up the day for me OR expresses something significant about that day.

Saturday, Hubby and I hosted a mega back yard play date with our friends who had kids about the same time as we had Daisy. Hence, our back yard turned into a creche, with 7 toddlers bouncing around from one activity to the next. Sand box, water table, paddling pool, swing, slide, food... This pic said it all for me, though: Mackenzie and Aaron, squealing with delight at the pool, water flying everywhere. I do so love our play dates and this one was especially fun because (aptly for Father's Day weekend) Dads were there also - it's so rare that we get the guys together too!

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Sunday was Father's Day itself and we zoomed up the hill early to see Grammie, so we could zoom back down again to have a late lunch/early dinner with Grandad and Nan (aka: my parents. Funny how life is expressed in Daisy terms these days.)

Although I have a TON of cute pics of Daisy from our day (when don't I take a ton of cute pics of her on weekends!?), I wanted to post this one as my picture of the day because it's of my Daddy. This is just the second Father's Day I've been able to spend with him in person in more than fifteen years and I feel so thankful for it. In this pic he is watching Daisy mess around in our back yard. It brings immeasurable joy to my life to share Daisy with him. I had a wonderfully close relationship with my maternal grandfather and I'm so glad that Daisy will have the same opportunity with my Dad.

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Happy Father's Day to my wonderful husband and Dad!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Photo A Day: Thursday June 17 2010

As you know, I am a bit of an amateur photographer, with the emphasis on the amateur. And so, for some time, I've been trying to think of something I can do to give me some practice using camera settings - and on subjects other than Daisy. Not that Daisy isn't the most fun subject for me but, you know, variety is the spice of life. Coinkidentally, I've also been trying to find ways to make this blog more interesting, with more frequent posts about things other than my stupid back and hip pain.

Hence and therefore and so, I have decided to take a photo a day that attempts to sum up something about that day. My goal, however, is not to create photographic art; heck, I don't have time for that right now - sometimes my day is less than artful. Occasionally, of course, that may very well be my goal but I don't want the pressure of having to turn each photo into a masterpiece or, quite frankly, I'll be so intimidated I'll never do it.

Today's photo, from yesterday (which is how this may occasionally run, depending on the day), is of my dreaded office chair (the one that has been so problematic with my back) with it's new double-pillow set-up. I spend a lot of time each day on this chair, so it makes sense it is the first star in my new project.

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Of course, I did play around with it a bit in Photoshop to make it a bit more interesting - it is, of course, a photo of a chair (yawn). Had no real agenda. Just left it in a place I personally sorta liked it more.

So, there you have it in all it's raw experimentation. The first of the daily photos...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Yeah, that's right... I'm jogging

Today was my weekly physical therapy appointment and today I JOGGED.

I looked at my PT cross-eyed when he suggested I jog across the room (it's a big room - a sports facility-sized room) and back again. "Jog?" I asked "You want me to JOG! Umm... ok."

To back up a bit, this all came about because he is impressed with my progress to-date. Although we have steadily upped my strength routines in the last few weeks, I have not had any major flare-ups. Well, nothing unusual - just the usual pain. Which is progress on it's own because more exercise usually equals more pain. More exercise with same pain is therefore super-fantastic.

So, he was feeling ambitious with me today. We did lots of butt exercises (I'm gonna have a nice touchey by the time I'm done with this guy) and lots of "Monster Walks" (walking like a zombie across the room with a resistance band around my knees - I know attractive!) and then he said the jog thing.

Now, I don't know how much you remember of my laundry-list of shouldn'ts and won'ts and cant-even-try-that's, but jogging of any sort has been on there for some time. Even attempting to get all ambitious with a quick sprint across the road usually results in me feeling as though my right femur is about to dislodge from the hip socket. I am not exaggerating here, by the way. I exaggerate with A LOT of things on this blog for dramatic effect and will happily cop to it as needed but, on this particular point, I am literally describing what it has felt like to break out of a walk. So, understandably, just the idea of jogging boggled my mind.

The catch was, he said, that I had to do it so that he could barely hear my feel make a sound on the floor, which elicited a major "huh?" from me. How do you run without making a sound? Who does that? Except, maybe, cat burglar - a hobby which, though my past has been ever-so glam and exciting, I have never indulged in. Anyway, I digress.

The point was that I had to somehow prance my flabby, post-baby body across the open gym - a gym full of testosterone-hyped, professional and high school athletes - without making a sound. I couldn't see it so I asked my PT for a demonstration. "And exactly how do YOU jog across the room without making a sound?" I asked him.

He did indeed show me how and, to my horror, prancing was involved - or at least my interpretation of it. It was sort of a torso-straight, slightly leaning forward, ball-of-foot-landing, well... prance. Just like a Lipizzaner Stallion. Soooooper. However, when I mimmicked it, I gotta admit, it felt different - good different and a hell of a lot better that whatever jog I was doing before. Most importantly, I made it across the room and back without my femur popping out of my hip socket. That in itself is a progress report. Even Mr. PT was impressed. Jogging was not something either of us had anticipated adding to the routine this early on - for me, ever!

We ended the day's routine with more walking and some jogging, under supervision from his assistant, Dustin. That's where I got a lesson on walking. Apparently I've been doing it wrong for the last 35 years. DUH! I've been flapping the ball of my foot onto the floor like a duck and jerking my body up-and-down with each step in a way which Dustin very tactfully explained was not all that attractive to watch. (Gee, thanks. You think someone would have mentioned this before now!) Again I had to practice being almost soundless in my footfalls, which, for me, involved less worrying about my straight back, abs, knees, or legs, but more about my feet, rolling from heel through toe. Amazingly he also told me to widen my stride which, from my previous PT's advice, is something I have been trying to narrow for the past several months. (Let's hear it for another set of contradicting instructions.) By doing both I not only found that my walking felt less jerky but also more fluid. Also, according to Dustin, I looked a lot more graceful - BONUS!

What's crazy to me through all this learning to sit right, stand right, bend-over right, walk right and run right is that nobody ever teaches us this stuff as kids or young adults. While we're spending so much time nurturing our kids' minds and social skills we mostly forget to even concern ourselves with their physical development unless, of course, there is something grossly out-of-whack. If so many people are getting this stuff wrong, at it seems as though they may very well be from casual observation, and back pain is one of the most common causes of absence from work (which I believe it is) it seems to me that, as a society, we're missing something here.

Physically we're just sort of launched into the world with little more than instinct as our guide and it's little wonder that we injure ourselves repeatedly and, by the time we're in our 30s, wind up with chronic pain issues. Even when we try to do the right thing and head out to the gym to "feel the burn", we usually have no idea what we're doing, use poor form, and then injure ourselves again. For those of us who don't get to the gym, we let our core languish, forcing our backs to do more than the fair share of work, and further exacerbate our crappy body mechanics with basic muscle imbalances.

While everyone is looking at preventative lifestyle measures to reduce rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, maybe we should also be looking at ways to teach ourselves to use our bodies correctly, to avoid back pain, neck pain, hip pain, and headaches?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If I'm going to commit a crime, I'm going to Norway

Maybe we've been thinking about this whole crime prevention thing wrong.

At first I guffawed at the idea of inmates being treated like hotel guests but then I read on and thought about it some more. How would it be if we spent our time trying build our offenders into more well-balanced, valued members of society, rather than locking them up and, more likely than not, ensuring that neither their attitudes or actions change for the future?

It's the whole carrot or stick debate, I guess. I can't see this sort of thing going down well with the heavy-handed right (oh my gosh, can you just imagine the chorus of "bleeding heart liberal" comments that would ensue!?) but I wish Americans would be a little more open-minded about things like this, especially when it seems as though it might just work.

Norway Builds the World's Most Humane Prison

TIME: Monday, May. 10, 2010
By William Lee Adams

By the time the trumpets sound, the candles have been lit and the salmon platters garnished. Harald V, King of Norway, enters the room, and 200 guests stand to greet him. Then a chorus of 30 men and women, each wearing a blue police uniform, launches into a spirited rendition of "We Are the World." This isn't cabaret night at Oslo's Royal Palace. It's a gala to inaugurate Halden Fengsel, Norway's newest prison.

Ten years and 1.5 billion Norwegian kroner ($252 million) in the making, Halden is spread over 75 acres (30 hectares) of gently sloping forest in southeastern Norway. The facility boasts amenities like a sound studio, jogging trails and a freestanding two-bedroom house where inmates can host their families during overnight visits. Unlike many American prisons, the air isn't tinged with the smell of sweat and urine. Instead, the scent of orange sorbet emanates from the "kitchen laboratory" where inmates take cooking courses. "In the Norwegian prison system, there's a focus on human rights and respect," says Are Hoidal, the prison's governor. "We don't see any of this as unusual."

Halden, Norway's second largest prison, with a capacity of 252 inmates, opened on April 8. It embodies the guiding principles of the country's penal system: that repressive prisons do not work and that treating prisoners humanely boosts their chances of reintegrating into society. "When they arrive, many of them are in bad shape," Hoidal says, noting that Halden houses drug dealers, murderers and rapists, among others. "We want to build them up, give them confidence through education and work and have them leave as better people." Countries track recidivism rates differently, but even an imperfect comparison suggests the Norwegian model works. Within two years of their release, 20% of Norway's prisoners end up back in jail. In the U.K. and the U.S., the figure hovers between 50% and 60%. Of course, a low level of criminality gives Norway a massive advantage. Its prison roll lists a mere 3,300, or 69 per 100,000 people, compared with 2.3 million in the U.S., or 753 per 100,000 — the highest rate in the world.

Design plays a key role in Halden's rehabilitation efforts. "The most important thing is that the prison looks as much like the outside world as possible," says Hans Henrik Hoilund, one of the prison's architects. To avoid an institutional feel, exteriors are not concrete but made of bricks, galvanized steel and larch; the buildings seem to have grown organically from the woodlands. And while there is one obvious symbol of incarceration — a 20-ft. (6 m) concrete security wall along the prison's perimeter — trees obscure it, and its top has been rounded off, Hoilund says, "so it isn't too hostile."

The cells rival well-appointed college dorm rooms, with their flat-screen TVs and minifridges. Designers chose long vertical windows for the rooms because they let in more sunlight. There are no bars. Every 10 to 12 cells share a living room and kitchen. With their stainless-steel countertops, wraparound sofas and birch-colored coffee tables, they resemble Ikea showrooms.
Halden's greatest asset, though, may be the strong relationship between staff and inmates. Prison guards don't carry guns — that creates unnecessary intimidation and social distance — and they routinely eat meals and play sports with the inmates. "Many of the prisoners come from bad homes, so we wanted to create a sense of family," says architect Per Hojgaard Nielsen. Half the guards are women — Hoidal believes this decreases aggression — and prisoners receive questionnaires asking how their experience in prison can be improved.

There's plenty of enthusiasm for transforming lives. "None of us were forced to work here. We chose to," says Charlott-Renee Sandvik Clasen, a music teacher in the prison and a member of Halden's security-guard chorus. "Our goal is to give all the prisoners — we call them our pupils — a meaningful life inside these walls." It's warmth like that, not the expensive television sets, that will likely have the most lasting impact.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The positive post

The negative post has been done (see previous) and it's time for a positive post, I think.

Over this weekend, I took some time to look back over my previous posts. I like to do that from time to time because it provides me with a sense of perspective on how things are "now"; we tend to forget happiness or troubles of the past when we're kvetching on the present.

In the process, I found a post from the beginning of this year, listing my New Year's Resolutions. Funny but I had all forgotten about then, so absorbed by the "current" and "now". What I am pleased to report, however, is that I have actually ticked a few of these off my list already this year. See the ones in BLUE, they are done. Woot! The ones in green are in positive progress. The rest... well... it's still only June ;o)

  1. That photography class - finally! Oh, and probably a Photoshop class too. I'd like to be taking my friends' family's holiday pics in October/November for some extra cash.
  2. Health for my hip - mission one is strengthen and prevent injury. First step: change doctors and medical groups. Get a different perspective. Watch this space.\
  3. Better health for my finances - sell the Altima, reduce my credit card debt, watch what I spend, go on mini-vacations instead of big ones in '10. Save.
  4. Sell more @ work. Move some mountains. Find the fire to reach my potential in my current job.
  5. Rebook my vacation to Jamaica and get the hell out of dodge. (This doesn't count against #3 because the money is already spent.)
  6. Work in the back yard with Hubby and make it a great play space for Daisy in 2010.
  7. Go through every room and every cupboard in the house and throw out unnecessary crap. Organize and declutter.
  8. Continue the weight loss process and focus more on strength/muscle-tone. Get bikini abs for #5.
  9. Enjoy Daisy. Love my husband. Spend time with my parents. Appreciate the ones I love.
So far, so good. I obviously still have work to do but, without even thinking about it, I have been pursuing my goals for 2010!

With #1, I've begun to experiment more with my camera and it's settings. This past weekend I ditched the stock lens that came with the camera and finally used the 50mm macro lens that hubby bought me for Christmas a couple of years ago (or was it last year? or three years ago? Ack, I have no idea!)

Anyway, I was pretty pleased with the results. I played around with some settings on Friday afternoon and then, on Friday evening, spent some time snapping Daisy in the yard and then some friends at a dinner party. I was particularly pleased with these shots:

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Shomeek, our host

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My beautiful friend, Kim, who hates having her picture taken

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Our gorgeous hostess, Mala.

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Mala's daugher Evani

And you know who this is by now...

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Anyway, I've got a long way to go before I'm at a professional standard but I was happy with the improvements I've made and the way I'm much more comfortable with my camera settings. I simply LOVE taking photos - it has become my main hobby and one that gives me so much joy - and so I would love to expand it, at some point and when the time is right, into a money-making venture. All volunteer models welcome...

The weekend pain report

It was a mixed bag this weekend.

Friday night we had dinner with friends and I was feeling great. No pain, I don't think, or if there was pain it wasn't so bad that I was aware of it. (That sounds crazy, right? But, honestly, sometimes I'll think I'm pain free and then I think about it for a second and realize that I am, in fact, in pain but it's low grade so I'm able to just ignore it because it's become the norm.)

But then most of the weekend I battled some kind of pain in my back and sacrum. The two main problems seemed to be my sciatic nerve on my right side, which makes it difficult to put foot to the floor, and just a general, underlying burning, tingling and soreness that radiated from my tailbone all the way down the backs of my thighs and to my feet. The best way I can explain it is that it's almost as if I sunburned the back of my legs and butt really bad. You know that feeling of general soreness and constant burning? That's what it feels like. Sometimes I can ignore it pretty good and power through, and sometimes it just gets too much. Like yesterday, when I ended up sitting most of the morning on my zero-gravity lounger in the back yard, with an ice-pack on my back. Eventually I gave in and took two mega pain-pills/NSAIDs, which killed the pain dead, because I'm just not the kind of girl who can sit around all day. (Plus, my daughter is not the kind of girl who wants to let me!) The success of the NSAIDS tells me the problem is nerve inflammation still. Boo, hiss.

Then there was my psoas playing up again, making it difficult to walk sometimes. When it pinches on my right side, putting my foot in front of me and bearing weight makes it feel like someone strummed the muscle like a guitar string.

As for what I did to deserve this... who knows? I haven't done a lick of housework and have been very careful not to overdo it in the walking, standing, or sitting department. I'm doing my utmost best to bend down exactly as I have been taught (as in never bend down - squat or lunge).

Yesterday I skipped my PT exercises, just to give myself a rest because the pain was gone and I had no intention of flaring it back up again. This morning I feel pretty good. No sciatic pain, a little burning in my sacrum, psoas so far quiet. Maybe I just needed a rest? Who knows? Either way, we power on through another week because there is no other option.

This weekend Hubby and I spent some time alone in the yard while Daisy napped and he decided to do some digging. We're slowly but surely getting some stuff done in our huge yard; it's full of potential but it's owners lack the time or money to devote to a full-on re-landscaping. Anyway, I was watching Hubby do his thing and remembered a time not so long ago when I would have been standing right next to him with a shovel in hand, holding my own. I used to be so fit and strong and had so much energy! I really hope I can get back to that person but I still don't have complete confidence it will ever happen. I remain hopeful but with a twinge of doubt.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Two pillows and a phone book

Yesterday I moved my computer set-up back to my desk.

I have one of those Ikea arm chairs in my office that I have been working from recently, using a little mobile laptop table but, as great as it is, it doesn't give me room to spread out work papers or really be productive. Plus the loungy-type position, while lovely for a while, starts to make me feel lethargic after too long. Then there is the fact that getting up and out of the seat is a little taxing sometimes too, so it discourages me from getting up more often. (Which, as we all know by now, is bad, bad, bad.)

In short, I needed to re-evaluate, especially since work is really busy and I need to put the zing back in my work day.

However, a full day at my desk sent me into the stratosphere with pain. I felt it coming on throughout the day but I was so busy that I pushed it to the back of my mind and ignored it - this is something I have a tendency to do and yes, I know I need to stop; it's not helping me.

My desk is too high off the ground (although it is a standard height) and to get my chair at the right height for me to be in the proper position for my computer, my feet end up off the ground, which puts pressure on my IT band. If I move the chair back down, then my upper back starts to hurt. The chair itself - which is not a cheap chair - just doesn't seem to fit me because no matter how I adjust it, my back feels like it's working too hard to keep me upright. After 20 minutes in it, I find myself in some kind of unhealthy spine position.

Yet, I was waaaay more productive yesterday and had way more energy throughout the day, than I've had in a long time.

By the end of the day I was feeling discouraged. I either was incredibly productive at work (which I so need right now) and in pain, or I was somewhat unproductive at work and relatively out of pain. (I say relatively because I would still sit for too long in the old chair.)

I've tried looking online for some desks that sit lower or are at least adjustable in height but they are priced way out of my league - $1,300++ - and that's just for the table. On my existing desk I have a hutch, two drawers, a filing cabinet, and a 2-shelf cupboard, all of which I would have to buy something else for. Then there is the chair itself - good chairs for people with back pain run at around $800+. Financially, it's not feasible. Ok, well maybe I could swing it, but there are like 1,000 other things I would rather spend $2k on - and not all of them are frivolous.

This morning I had my second physical therapy appointment with Kyle, my new PT and so I decided to address this with him along with the problems I'm having sitting on the floor with Daisy to play and read to her. Between my desk/working position and my play time with my daughter, I've been able to determine that these are the two biggest stressors on my back - stressors that are unavoidable and non-negotiable to an extent because I need to work (to pay for all the PT sessions!) and I need to spend time with my daughter.

Kyle was awesome. He asked a ton of questions about my work station set-up and mocked it up in an office at his facility. Then he had me sit down and show him what I was currently doing. After reviewing my less-than-stellar sitch, he went off and grabbed two pillows and a phone book. He put one pillow behind my back and one under my elbows, then he placed the phone book under my feet. Hey presto! It felt good!

So now I'm sitting at my desk writing this, with bed pillows placed in various locations and foot stool under my feet. I don't think I've got it exactly right yet - some small adjustments still need to be made - but it already feels better. (And a ton cheaper than new office furniture.)

He also addressed the floor-sitting thing with Daisy and gave me some fixes, again with some bed pillows and a wall. So, if you see me running around the house with a bed pillow attached to me, you'll know why. Bed pillows are my newest BFFs.

Outside of this, my PT session went great. Kyle was impressed that the exercises he gave me had not made me sore (and I didn't miss a day of doing them - not one) and thought I was doing them well. He thought I showed good progress and good strength and expected me to be able to progress faster than his original estimations. Woot!

So, this week we got to add some REAL exercises to the mix - some rows using a band, some sumo squats, and some crunches.


Sorry, I was so excited when he said "squat" that I nearly fell over onto the mat. I almost said "Are you sure I should be doing this?" because everyone before Kyle has pretty much kept me on an exercise regimen fit for a 90 year old total hip replacement patient and had led me to believe that trying to achieve anything more was nothing more than me being in denial. So, I wanted to kiss him.

I also get to up my walking time to 25 minutes at a time AND, if I do well with the new, more aggressive exercises this week, I could even add in... GET THIS: strength training machines at the gym!

OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG. Strength training. At the gym! I can go to the gym!?

Yes, I know, calm down; I might pull something. Gotta get through this next week first.

The thing I really like about Kyle is that he's finickity for the details. He's constantly watching the finer points of my alignment and checking me. So, although he's proving to be more aggressive than previous PTs, he's also more precise. And that's what I need because, as I am beginning to realize more and more, the smallest change in posture or positioning can be the difference between getting better or inducing a flare-up. I need to learn that finickity-ness too.

So, for the first time I am adding "progress" as a label to my blog post today. How awesome is that!?

I am actually beginning to feel hope for getting better. I'm trying to keep the elation in check because I"m sure there will be slip-ups and bad days, but just to feel more positive feels good.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

I do not have a problem with rich people but I do have a problem with rich people buying votes

There. I said it.

Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina being on the other side of the political spectrum doesn't bother me. I don't agree with their stance on many things but that's ok - I don't agree with many people stance on many things. However, what irkles me no end, is the fact that they were able to buy votes in yesterday's primary election.

Arguably, you could say it was a middle-finger to traditional politicians and an embracing of corporate CEOs as the "solution" to the terrible mess we find California in. However, it is hard to argue with these numbers: MEG WHITMAN spent more than $71 million from her personal fortune to win votes and CARLY FIORINA spent $5 million, both women outspending their opponents by a margin that was beyond ridiculous.

Of course, you can't air radio and tv spots or organize a grass-roots effort without money but the whole concept of the political process is that spending is closely related to support via donations and is, therefore, somewhat an extension of the voting process itself.

What Whitman and Fiorina did was completely skip the grass-roots support completely and buy themselves exposure that had nothing to do with their ability to win hearts and minds. Meg in particular clogged up our TVs with a mud slinging campaign that made me sick to my stomach (egged on by her fellow-billionnaire opponent) and to the point where you could barely turn on a tv without being subjected to their torrent of insults. It was disgusting. I don't care what their politics are. And yet, by virtue of the fact that you just couldn't get away from her, she won votes. (I'm not saying some people didn't vote from an informed perspective but, hey, most of us can agree that's not the majority of the electorate.)

As for Carly, we all know that her votes came from being the "other" choice. She spent her millions just telling us that, if we didn't like the other guy, she was our only other option. When you can spend enough money to drown out all other voices, it's definitely easy to make it seem that way.

I used to like politics when I lived in England. Since I moved to the U.S.... notsomuch. It's a battle driven by personality, money and the deeds involved in getting it. Not that this isn't present in the UK at all but the political atmosphere is more driven by issues and money is not the deciding factor in any way, shape or form. (I could explain why but I won't bother you with a lesson on the British parliamentary system.)

At first when I moved out here, I couldn't understand the sense of apathy most people had to voting and the political process, or the disdain they had for politicians in general. Now I totally get it. After 15 years, I'm pretty sick of it myself. And if anyone thinks that corporate CEOs will be any less drawn into the political pitfalls that career politicians have been criticized for, they appear to be sorely mistaken. The recent cat fight played out on our TV sets makes that pretty clear.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

How about a Democratic ad... instead?

Today I checked my blog for comments (in the vain hope that there might be some) and, in the process, happened to see THIS monstrosity sitting on my side-bar, in the Google ads section.

Which presents somewhat of an ethical dilemma. There is no way in sweet hell that I want my blog to promote ANYTHING about Carly Whatsherfacearina. BUT, I have no control over what ads Google deems appropriate for my blog so, I'm assuming, my only choice is to remove Google Ads entirely from my blog if I don't like it?

You would think, however, in these days of advanced online information gathering, that Google's little spiders would have scanned my content and figured out that this blog was the last place that Carly would find supporters. But then it occurs to me that not all my friends are Democrats, so maybe Google is smarter than I thought. Stiil, it irkles me no end that my blog is being used as a Republican billboard.

While we're on the subject of the failed, ex-HP CEO (whose only political claim-to-fame is advising John McCain on economics during the 2008 Presidential Election - and look how well that went), Ms. Fiorina has the most ridiculous political tagline of this otherwise dirty-politics primary: "Vote Carly. Instead."

All this political slogan says to me is "I suck less" or "I'm the best of a bad bunch" or "If you don't like him, vote for me" which is on a par with a campaign for high school president, or whatever it is that they vote for in schools out here.

As a marketing and sales person her whole slogan bothers me. I would never advertise my company's product as something you might want to choose "instead". Where's the value statement? What does this tell someone about my product? That I'm not the other product. Great marketing. And this is the prior CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Instills confidence, doesn't it?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Living all weekend with the word "can't"

As you know, if you had the gumption to wade through the description of my last Physical Therapy session, I am on activity restrictions that rival those of a person who just had total limb replacement.

Yes, I have a flair for the dramatic but, honestly, that's how it felt this weekend, my first days with the new restrictions in place.

I tried, in vain, to hang with Daisy at the local My Gym class on Saturday morning. However, bending and lifting with correct form is not something fourteen month olds hang around for. Plus, there is the fact that part of the activities involve bouncing on a trampoline with your little one and rolling backwards on the floor as you spin them over your head. Yeah, I know, sounds like it fits in with the plan well, right?

For my pennance, I laid down three times during the day and iced my back. I wasn't in a ton of pain or anything but I had that twingy feeling before I go into an "episode" and I didn't want to go there so I was being a good little girl and putting preventative measures in place.

The rest of the weekend mostly passed in a haze of sloth. I hate lying around but, quite honestly, I couldn't think what else to do with myself. Usually I avoid the back-killing activity of sitting on the floor and playing with Daisy, by heading out on an excursion with her. But then I also wasn't supposed to be lifting her in and out of the car, certainly couldn't lift the stroller in and out of the car, wasn't allowed to walk for more than ten minutes at a time when I got wherever I was going to, was faced with 90 degree heat outside anyway, and could only think of shopping as an appropriate distraction (which meant medicating with money vs. pills.)  If you have kids, you'll understand how crippling these restrictions are. If you don't, you may think I'm over-exaggerating or just not trying hard enough - once upon a time I would have too - but the reality is that, unless you have someone else around (and then even if you do) it is virtually IMPOSSIBLE to adhere to these rules when you have a toddler to care for all day. Yes, I said impossible and I AM NOT exaggerating here.

Normally if I do stay home for most of the day, I pick up around the house, clean the toilets, vacuum the floor, polish the surfaces, do the laundry. Unfortunately only polishing was on the cards, although I did try to vacuum the family room because the vacuum was already in there and didn't require lifting or bending. It did require moving back and forth, back and forth, however, and that didn't seem to be hitting the right spot, so I stopped that too.

Sunday was a little easier with Hubby around to pick up some slack but that only made me more miserable because, here I was, sitting around useless as he vacuumed, laundered, and picked up Daisy. He only gets one day off a week as it is and now he had to spend that day picking up my slack, so there was also the guilt.

Then everything we could think of to do involved some kind of activity and so we managed to drag each other down all day, trying to list some kind of something that we would both enjoy and that would not violate my physical restrictions. We kept coming up cold and so laid on the couch watching TV as Daisy napped, drifting in and out of sleep and feeling sorry for ourselves.

To many of you, sitting around all day doing pretty much nothing, might sound splendid. Unfortunately, for me and my personality... notsomuch. As in, not at all. As in, a quick trip to depressedville.

We did finally get out for some lunch, where I managed to violate my diet and our budget instead. Afterwards, we headed to a park where they have a water playground (aka: sprayground) and I got to push my physical limits again, bending down to take pictures of Daisy getting soaked. Seriously, MOVING felt great, so whatever.

Do I sound bitter? Yes. Because I am. Five days a week of sitting around like a 90 year old while someone else watches your kid, is one thing. Spending all weekend acting like an invalid, is quite something else. I sure hope these limitations are EXTREMELY short term because I think I'll need a Prozac AND a narcotic to get through too many more.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The most bizarre phone call ever

Transcript from a voicemail I received yesterday afternoon.

"Hello Mrs. Carter my name is Michael X and I'm calling from the Department of INS. I'm located in Southern California. We have a question regarding your marriage, immigration status from approximately fifteen years ago. So, we need you to give us a call back. It's very important but it's not an emergency. So... uh, give us a uh, give us call back during lunch or whenever you can. Uh... we have a local number, we're actually down in the Federal Building in San Diego. That number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. I look forward to hearing from you soon. If not, then we need a way to contact you via address. Thank You."

This had hoax written all over it, of course.

First of all, the guy was clearly out of breath. It sounded as though he had just finished a marathon and was catching his breath after every third word or that he was on crack or something. Secondly, he sounded like a surfer-dude, totally not federal government material - unless he was deep undercover. Third, I am not "Mrs. Carter". Fourth, although there is an immigration review center in San Diego it is downtown with a 619 area code, not an 858 area code, which is slightly north of San Diego city limits. Finally, there is no INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) any more. After 9/11 and the subsequent inter-agency reordering, immigration duties were transferred to the newly-created department of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

And then, there was something about his voice that was familiar... it was a passing, fleeting thought. Maybe this was someone who knew me, since I did used to spend a lot of time in San Diego about ten years ago and I was moving to the U.S. fifteen years ago? I could think of one person but quickly dismissed it. More likely someone trying to snag my social security number and steal my identity.

Then, as I was listening to the voicemail today and decided to blog it, I thought wouldn't it make a better blog post if I actually called the number back and confronted the fraud? And that's right where this blog got me in trouble. The things we do for content!

Yes, I called it, blocking my number. First I just listened to see if I recognized the voice, while keeping my phone on mute. Guy picks up and answers "hello?". First big giveaway that this wasn't an official number (not that I ever thought it was) but also a huge clue that whoever it was didn't exactly have a stealth operation. I didn't recognize the voice immediately. I put down the phone and then called back several minutes later. Guy picks up and answers "US Immigration" this time. (Pah!) I told him I was responding to a voicemail about my immigration status. He asked who this was. I responded and said I wanted to know who he was first and what this was all about. That's when I heard the laugh and he said "It's me! Rick James!" (Not his real name.) Which was when I said "What THE HELL, man!?" and he laughed "I knew you wouldn't fall for it!"

Now we pause for a brief history lesson. Rick was a blast from the past. Not really an ex boyfriend, we worked together for a while and hooked-up once, while drunk. (I know, one of my prouder accomplishments.) We were in our mid twenties and he was very cute and very full of himself - you know the type. In many ways, my contact with Rick changed the trajectory of my life. He was the one who got me into lifting weights heavily and eating well after writing a nutrition plan on the back of a bar coaster one night. And, well, some other things besides.... there are some things one doesn't need to include on the blog. Suffice to say, the impact my contact with him had on me at that time of my life was more significant than any relationship we did or did not have. He stopped working for the same company I did around twelve years ago and we lost touch after that aside from one phone call a year or so later when Hubby and I called him to see if he could do some work for us. The project didn't ultimately happen and I haven't spoken to him since.

So, you can imagine, it was a big surprise to have him on the end of the phone after twelve years and rather bizarre to have the contact made in such a ... strange way.

What followed was, without a doubt, one of the strangest phone conversations of my entire life. It got so strange that, at one point I opened a word document on my laptop and started writing random notes, lest I forget the wacky things he was saying. Then, when I couldn't bear the craziness of it alone any more, I called up Hubby on the home phone (who, as I said, knew him also from back when) and held the two phones together so that he could hear him talking (or, more accurately, rambling breathlessly at speed.) I honestly thought he would think I was exaggerating if I tried to explain it to him afterward without first-hand proof.

First he started by talking about some friend who he had scammed with a similar phone call in the past. I lost the gist of it about one minute in because he was talking so fast and all over the place and was only half listening because I just wanted him to get to the punchline - what the hell this had to do with me. Anyway, it was something about him pretending to be with the U.S. Marines and them falling for it or something. Apparently I wasn't so dumb. (Well, I did call him back so maybe I'll retract that.)

Like an idiot, when he finished his ten minute story without stopping for a break, I asked how he had been. BIG MISTAKE. Here we go, as briefly as possible (recognize I am synopsizing; this phone call lasted almost an hour and he was talking at lightening speed without almost any interaction needed!)

He said that, several years back, he had not been sleeping well - only one hour a day, every other day - and got addicted to prescription narcotics. He listed at least fifteen of them, all at the speed of an pharmaceutical auctioneer - I only remember percoset, vicodin, diladed .He said he was working in sales for a telecommunications company and making a ton of money but, because he couldn't sleep, was losing his mind (ahem), having almost schizophrenic-like episodes. He lost friends. He couldn't work well. Then he found out that he had fibromyalgia after going to a sleep specialist in Birmingham, AL, who was a psychiatrist to NASA. (K, you're beginning to understand why the word doc, yes?)

Then he started talking like he was applying for a job, a sort of verbal resume or self-directed character reference, saying that he wasn't in any trouble with the police, didn't have a criminal record, and had an excellent rental history. Of course, he'd had the money to buy a house out-right several years ago - $500k he said - but he didn't want the burden or financial responsibility, which was good because now the house would only be worth $200k and so it was a good decision and all. He'd had a lot of jobs over the years and had made a "shit load of money" and that he had been selfish in the past but now he was all about helping other people, that was his passion in life. Now he didn't care about the money so much any more. But he was thinking about going back to Medical School, or maybe even Law School. Maybe he would get an MBA, maybe a doctorate. He had lots of options. Uh-huh, he was doing well. Doing great now.

He asked if I was still with Hubby and I said yes, emphatically; we were married with a kid. I was happy. He said he had only had two long-term girlfriends in the last several years and that they had both had kids and that he had insisted he go to parenting classes and that they had really taught him a lot about being a parent and would I like him to give me the name of the guy who teaches the class in Sacramento?

Uh, no.

Then, out of nowhere, he began to refer to the night of the "hook up", which is where I started getting uncomfortable; he remembered too much about it. For some reason, I don't picture guys like him remembering much about such events. Maybe I'm wrong there but still, it seemed odd to me. He talked about how had been a bit of a player back then (I'm editorializing and... you're welcome) and that I had been different. (Yeah, I know, this is creepy.) He remembered missing an "opportunity" with me in a different hotel room later (it was a work thing) and said that he wishes he would have seized the.. um... day back then.

Then he remembered the beer coasters that he wrote my nutrition plan on and was I still in shape and eating good? Again, something that had been important to me at the time but not something I would have expected him to remember ten years later. I told him that I was still trying to get back in shape after the baby but that life was busy and it was hard work. Which was when he said he would write a new diet plan for me and that he would even go to the same restaurant, pick up beer coasters, write it on the back, and mail it to me. (I mentally decided to avoid giving him my address at all costs.) And, get this, he didn't want anything for it. Nothing. Although, if I wanted to, I could come down to where he lived and we could have a re-do of the missed opportunity in the hotel room. (You saw that coming too, huh?)

Silence from me.

But, of course, he was only joking, because he did that now, a lot. He used to be so laid back and serious but not any more, now he was a joker and much more into life. I told him I was glad he was joking and left it at that.

Next proceeded a conversation (albeit one-sided) about how he doesn't lift weights any more but that he was in the "best shape of his life", more "ripped" than he had ever been, closely followed by a chronological history lesson of his personal fitness achievements and challenges.

Finally, he ended with the bomb that he would be up in our area (where he was originally born - GROAN!) next week and would LOVE to get together with me and Hubby. And could he get my email address to send the beer coaster tips to? Time to end our conversation, I thought, so I told him to text me on both accounts (since he already had my cell phone#) without making any promises or commitments.

I still don't know exactly why he called, although it seems there was some underlying desire to perhaps "hook up" again (although he did know that Hubby and I were together.) But why me? Why after twelve years? It's not like I'm the girlfriend who got away. Was he just going through his sexual history and Googling all the girls he'd hooked-up with once upon a time to see if he could get some? Possible, I guess.

What's in no doubt is the fact that he clearly not OFF the narcotics or ... whatever. The guy needs some help. Back in the day when I knew him, he had that slow California surfer drawl. Like I said, he was smart but arrogant and laid back, a man of few words. This Rick was talking at a hundred miles a minute, coming up for air in gasps, going off in tangents, not even understandable at times. I felt sorry for him yet, at the same time, a little concerned for myself as I got off the phone. Hopefully it was one of those random "buzzed" connections that come and go and are best forgotten and that he doesn't show up on our doorstep one day, or start stalking me. Fingers crossed.

The newest PT

Today was my appointment with my newest Physical Therapist, remember the guy I talked about in a previous entry, Back on the Bandwagon?

After evaluating all the usual stuff - strength, flexibility, range-of-motion, and stability - he told me that I have 3 out of the 4 licked already. As we already knew, my flexibility and range of motion are above average. What's missing is is stability, particularly in my pelvis and SI. (Go figure.) The simplest explanation is usually the best one and I like the way he made it sound. Logical. And it explains why I'm so frustrated: I'm 75% there but trying to achieve that last 25% is killing me!

Now, this may not sound any different from the previous diagnosis from the last *new* physical therapist and, in many ways, it's not. But there is a difference to me and it's subtle. The previous PT addressed my issues as a disability that I have to live with and mind. New Guy addressed my issues as a problem with a solution and an action plan to return to fitness. It probably comes as no surprise to you if you know anything about me, that this approach suits me much better.

This doesn't mean that I'm off to train with Olympians next week or anything. Far from it. In fact, New Guy is actually approaching my problems even more conservatively than the previous PT, to begin with. To move forward I am actually going to move back. Waaaaay back.

Up until now, my PT exercises consisted of core and trunk stability on an exercise ball. All the right prescription in essence but New Guy reckons that part of the problem is that, if we're on a 10 step program, she started me off on step #2 or #3. On New Guy's plan there is no ball and no balancing for me, not even sitting or kneeling or even really coming up off the floor. All my exercises are floor exercises with minimal range of motion and 90% of my body in contact with the floor at all times.

So it seems the reason why I was only feeling a 30% benefit from the old plan was because I had actually started to run before I could walk, or more aptly for my current situation, stand before I could kneel. I was kinda doing the right things but my body wasn't really ready for them yet, resulting in me fighting with my instability and having continued flare-ups each time I tried to step-up the routine.

While we're working on stabilizing my hyper-flexible pelvic girdle, I have to wear an SI belt almost 24/7. He has one on order so I'm not exactly sure what it's going to be like but I did a quick Google search and found this: So I'm guessing it's going to be something similar - SEXY! In the meantime, he showed me how to use my yoga strap to achieve something approximating the same thing.

We also addressed the fact that I have a 20lbs (almost) 14 month old. This is a problem. Picking up Missy and doing all those mommy-type things is my biggest stressor and, he thinks, one of the biggest reasons why I'm not getting better faster. Whenever possible, I have to avoid picking her up. (Can I get a "Yeah, right!" from all the mothers out there?) When I do pick her up I have to do it in a certain way, with multiple steps and a conscious set of movements and contractions. He knows this isn't always practical and that I'm going to slip up. The realistic goal is to lessen the amount of stressing actions.

Obviously, this also counts out 90% of housework right now. No vacuuming, no making the bed, picking things up off the floor is now a 5-step process (and so tidying up is an ordeal that will take 10x as long as normal). There is also no walking any more than ten minutes at a time, no yoga, no other physical activities other than the exercises he has provided.

Yikes, I know, it's a lot of limitations. BUT he said that he expects me to do well, to progress and to be able to return to an active lifestyle IF I follow his directions diligently (which I plan to do.)

Long term prognosis: Walking will be a YES; Strength training will be a YES; Hiking will be a YES; Biking will be a YES; Swimming will be a YES. Yoga, unfortunately, will be a maybe. Best case scenario, it will be the last thing we add back into my routine because of the stretching and the twisting and the balancing. Many people who have SI joint issues are tight and/or stuck, so yoga can be just the thing for helping them regain mobility in the joint. However my problem is the complete opposite, so yoga only exacerbates it. Finally, running is a no-no forever. Not that I ever was a fan of running to begin with. I'm sure I'll be able to chase Daisy around recreationally but jumping on a treadmill or deciding to add jogging into my fitness routine are off the cards, which is ok with me; just as long as I can avoid being hit by a car if I need to make it to the other side of the street in a hurry.

In the short term, I'm going to have to ask for and accept help. Hubby has to help more around the house and with Daisy, not that he doesn't already but the "It's ok, I've got it" comment needs to leave my vocabulary for now and I'll just have to accept that certain things won't get done (not like they really are right now anyway) because there are only 24 hours a day and Hubby works ten of them already. Bottom line, I want this to work. I want to get better. If that means some short-term limitations, then so be it.

Stay tuned...

On a somewhat separate note: Have you noticed that the #1 post topic on the right there is "pain"? That's pretty sad. Hopefully, in a few months from now, something more positive will take its place. I vote for: PROGRESS.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


23 of them to be precise, inserted into my lower back and buttocks yesterday afternoon and that stayed there for 30 minutes, vibrating with electrical waves.

No, I was not abducted by aliens. I finally went to an acupuncture appointment.

One of the things that I've realized since being in chronic pain, is that certain things that used to bother me, are now no big deal. When you deal with varying levels of pain every day and have to get up and get on with your day, your life, despite it, it gives you a whole new outlook on life and a whole new ability to shut out pain. With a greater appreciation for the good days also comes a more balanced perspective on short-term pain itself, especially when that pain or discomfort is directed at healing you. So, from this place I was able to get through 23 needles being inserted into my flesh with no more than a rush of adrenaline and some sweaty palms.

It started with the acupuncturist listening to my twenty minute story of pain, injury, failed treatments and symptoms. It's quite a discussion and when I sit down and actually go through it chronologically for people, they're actually quite taken aback. I mean, I walk into the room like any other person, I'm not in a wheelchair and I'm fairly well turned-out and so some people, I wouldn't mind betting, actually think my problems are exaggerated or that I'm some kind of hypochondriac. As I go down the list of 'stuff', you can see their eyebrows raise, then furrow, their mouth twitch and twist.

This time was no different and the acupuncturist scribbled notes furiously as I talked. Then she stopped, put down her pencil, and told me that acupuncture could only really deal with the pain and neurological symptoms (something which I already knew) and that she felt it would be best to start in my SI joint area, since this was the most chronic of the conditions (even though the most acute is my back right now.) And so we did.

How did it feel? Exactly as you would think it would feel. Pricking and stinging, on a similar pain level as when you pluck your eyebrows, except, of course, in your butt. I am still yet to have the magical experience that some nutty people report when they say they "don't feel" needles (whether through acupuncture, blood drawing, or vaccinations). I think these people are lacking some nerve endings because it's a frickin' needle and it's going into your skin - it's your body's natural reaction to feel it. So, it was a bit painful but nothing unbearable. Bearability is the yardstick these days.

Then, once the electrical stimulus thingumy was attached to the needles and started pulsing away, it was kind of like having a tens unit on your back, which I've had used a number of times. After which I got to lay on the table in the dark, face-down for thirty minutes, as the needles went to work.

All very ho-hum at the end of the day except that, when I got up, I'd had my head resting on the massage table for so long that my right eye was blurry. I could barely see through it for the first ten minutes and had to sit in the car and wait for some vision to return before I could pull away. The blurriness lasted for about an hour before I was back to normal and so I was kinda freaked out about that for a while. Not digging the loss of vision at all.

And how do I feel this morning? Well, no different, quite honestly. I wasn't in much pain, if any, yesterday to begin with, so there wasn't anything to immediately relieve. This morning I went back to the gym after a week off, where I did my PT exercises, 10 minutes on the arm-bike, 10 minute on the reclining bike, and 10 minutes of walking and now my SI joint is acting up again. So nothing too strenuous, you would think. Yet I've got that tingling and burning in my sacrum and going down my legs. The minute I even TRY to do any kind of physical activity it gets mad and I can not stress enough how careful and cautious I am in every movement. Sucks.

The acupuncturist would like to see me every week but, at $75 a time, I'm going to stretch that out a bit more. I don't know what I should have been expecting after my first treatment but I'm not feeling any immediate benefit. She did say I should be feeling great this morning but I woke up feeling the same as normal (when I'm not injured or in the middle of a flare-up, normal) so on that measurement it didn't do squat. Maybe a couple more sessions will tell me more, maybe not. I'm impassive about the whole thing, honestly. If there is a placebo effect I think I'll be immune to it. I'm neither convinced acupuncture can help me nor certain that it won't. It's one of those "leave no stone unturned" type efforts for me.

One thing the acupuncturist did say when examining me is that I have some compressed lower vertebrae - something nobody has told me before. Neither has there ever been an x-ray or MRI on my back. All the focus up until this point has been on my hips. So, I'm going to mention this to my doctor today when I see him and see if we can get me in for an x-ray. I'm still convinced that there is some underlying, root cause of all this pain and discomfort, that there is some other problem that is causing all these others, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that it has something to do with my back.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Warning: not for the feint of heart, squeamish, or bashful

I found this today on a blog I often read, The Friendly Atheist, and had to share because it is so ridiculous and vile that there was no way I could not.

This is a video of a Ugandan pastor, Martin Ssempa, preaching on homosexuality. Mr. Ssempa is leading the fight for an anti-homosexuality bill in his home country, a bill which would result in "convicted" homosexuals being sentenced to death. (Yes, nice man.)

There's not much to laugh at in this clip because Ssempa is clearly a lunatic who needs a sentencing of his own but what really got me was the juncture at which he considered it necessary for children to leave the room. For some reason he considered the verbal description of anal licking, eating "poo-poo" and fisting as kid-appropriate but the photographic evidence as not.

So, in short, look for this kind of craziness to infiltrate the American-born, right-wing, tin-foil-hat, religious nut-bag vernacular soon. At least you'll know they didn't come up with it on their own.
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