Life in the Slow Lane

There’s not much new to report today. I go for my second follow up with the surgeon tomorrow, and I’ve got a busy week ahead as I get ready for my trip to Amsterdam (and I plan to take lots of photos, which I will share here). That quote from the Austin Powers movie (I think it was Goldmember) keeps running through my head about two things Austin’s father can’t stand — people who are insensitive to other cultures and the Dutch! I’m eager to see Amsterdam and what it has to offer, and maybe a few windmills. Maybe I’ll bring back some wooden shoes.

I got a letter from my insurance company about the astronomical bill I received last week. Apparently, the provider appealed their decision not to pay. I’m just hoping it doesn’t fall on me!

Since I haven’t been able to run, I’ve been going for walks in the evenings. There’s a walking path on our side of the townhome complex, and the evenings have actually been nice enough to spend outdoors. I never realized how many lizards we have! I haven’t talked much with the neighbors, but have noticed the same folks walking in the evenings, some with their dogs. A friend said I needed a dog to walk, and the idea appeals to me. But we really don’t have the room, and are not home enough. I would probably need to hire a dogsitter if I went that route.

Anyway, I’m eager to see what the surgeon has to say tomorrow, and to find out how much longer I’ll be doing the physical therapy exercises. I do need to ask him for a referral for some further treatment — my left IT band and hip flexor are bothering me, and I think I may have plantar’s. I think they are related to the back — I may have been compensating in other areas. So there will be more physical therapy exercises at home, and likely some more waiting. Just hopefully not too much more waiting! I’m ready to get out of the slow lane.

Stormy Weather

The stormy afternoon weather matches my mood perfectly today.

Before my surgery, I was told that I had met my deductible for the year, that all I would have to pay was a $300 deposit fee with the surgeon. After that, I didn’t hear anything else about any other bills. Since the surgery, I haven’t had a co-pay for other medical-related visits. I even got a nice refund back from the center that did my shot and through which I was doing a different round of physical therapy from the one now. I thought I was in the clear.

Yesterday, I received a letter that dispelled that notion. Apparently, the bill is from the anethesiologist (I’m guessing that’s it — it doesn’t really come out and say it). When I saw the amount, I did a double take, almost stopped breathing, and nearly dropped the letter. It’s not like we have sacks of money laying around (and who does, except Scrooge McDuck). The amount is way more than what’s in my savings account.

I enclosed a letter with the receipt in the return envelope, saying that there must be a mistake and referring them to my insurance company. My husband told me I shouldn’t worry about it, but I can’t help it! My fear is that it’s not a mistake, and of course, how on earth would I get the money? By robbing Scrooge McDuck?

I think the real reason it’s bothering me so much is that I’ve been wondering if the surgery was worth it. When will I be able to run again? Am I hoping for something that’s not to be? I’ve been stretching and doing my physical therapy exercises, and biding my time, waiting for that moment that I’ll feel fabulous again. I know that I’ve always tried to put on a brave face, especially for this blog. I want it to be about running and the positive steps I’m making to get back to running, not a never-ending pity party! But it’s hard to be brave all the time. And I’m thinking that the improvements will come gradually, not in one shining moment, like clouds suddenly parting in the sky. The changes may occur so subtly, they may not fully register.

Saturday mornings are still strange to me, with no long runs. I’ve been missing my running group, and missing out on a habit that has become a lifestyle to me. I find myself floundering at times. I have attempted to distract myself with things, but I’m still feeling the void left by not running. Yet it would be too easy to let myself get mired in the muck. So I persevere on, still stretching, still doing my exercises on the ball, and still waiting.

I’m also keyed up today because I’m doing the opening and closing remarks for a work event Tuesday morning. Now, I did volunteer for this, and I think it will be something that will benefit my career at my company. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I spent Saturday at my parents, rehearsing my speech, and going over YouTube videos to gather tips for public speaking. I feel like I’m prepared, though I do plan to run through it a few more times before Tuesday.

So I’ve got a lot on my mind, which has created for my stormy mood on a stormy day. But hopefully, the clouds will disappear soon.

 

 

 

Music to My Ears

Given that I haven’t been running, I’ve found myself with lots of time on my hands. I’ve been walking and doing my physical therapy exercises, as well as gearing up for a busy time at work. It has been hard not running, especially yesterday morning, when the weather was so cool. I did sit outside with my coffee and enjoy the breeze, but it’s not the same as doing my weekly long run.

One way I’ve been filling my time is taking piano lessons again. I’ve played off and on over the years, but haven’t formally studied since college. While he was looking for a guitar teacher, my husband found a music school not too far from us that offers piano instruction. So on Sunday afternoons, I’ve been taking a half hour lesson with a teacher.

I thought I was going to be the oldest student, but I’m not (there are a few of us around, according to my teacher). My lesson is sandwiched in between younger students — it’s fun to see the little kids, lugging their violins and guitars in, parents trailing behind. Going to the studio brings back memories of when I was kid. I took piano lessons initially, then later flute lessons when I joined band in the sixth grade.I remember lugging my music books (and flute) to lessons, hoping that I’d practiced enough. Even when I did practice, I would get nervous sometimes and make mistakes (I’m still doing that — it’s funny how some things don’t change!)

While I miss running, it has been nice to indulge in the first passion of my life, music. I’ve been going through pieces that I’ve tried practicing on my own, but need help with. I may finally be able to play through my Charlie Brown Christmas book (jazz pieces give me a harder time than classical) this year!

The ‘cross training’ exercise has been fun, but trying to remember all my theory has been a little strenuous. During one lesson, I actually thought I was going to blow a fuse, trying to remember chords! I still love Chopin, and am still not a fan of Bach (I liken him to kale — something that’s supposed to be good for you, but I just can’t stomach). It’s been fun going through the stacks of music, playing through old movie soundtracks. It’s also like a diary — I associate pieces with particular times in my life. I can look at the songs I played in fourth grade (and see the stickers I got, signalling I had done a good job on a piece), or see what piece I played for my Christmas recital my junior year of high school. It’s fun to see where I started in terms of skill, and to see how far I’ve come and where I can still go.

Hearing that I can run again will definitely be music to my ears, but for now, this kind of music will have to suffice. But I can live with that for a while.

Cross Training

I had a great time in California this past weekend, catching up with my oldest and dearest friend and college roommate. Like we always do, we packed a ton of stuff into a long weekend — great food and wine, the Katy Perry concert, quality beach time, museum exhibits, grape stomping (which my friend says is how they cross train in California) and a movie.

My visit started with breakfast in Hermosa Beach (like we have the past few visits), and finished with me shaking sand from my feet before we left Zooma Beach in Malibu so she could drive me to the airport. I actually was wearing my swimsuit under my clothes for the flight home, but it was definitely worth it! I always take an extra day since I usually fly home late and need time to recover, but the marathon of fun is one race I’m always up for.

As promised, I have pictures! Here are a couple of my favorites — my first time every stomping grapes at Lorimar Winery in Temecula, California, and seeing the space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Museum.

Endeavour

Grape Stomping

We also caught up each other on our lives. I’ve gone to visit her every year since she moved to California eight years ago, and we always just pick right back up in terms of conversation. We can laugh and joke as we always have, and talk about everything. Or we’re fine just driving in the car, listening to our iPods. That’s the mark of a true friend — someone you can talk with about anything, but with whom you can also enjoy moments of silence.

She got engaged over the summer, so we talked about plans for her upcoming wedding (I’m one of her bridesmaids) and toured some wineries where she was thinking about holding an exchange of vows ceremony/reception. I talked with her about my recent major surgery, and about some major decisions I may have to make in the next few months.  In addition to getting married, she may have a major change on the horizon with her work later this year. So it was great to be able to speak with someone who’s also going through major changes.

It was good to vent, and it was just good to have fun — to stomp grapes, to go on a hayride, to watch Guardians of the Galaxy, to sample macaroons at Bottega Louie (apparently, they’re very well-known for their macaroons — even my co-worker said she wanted to visit them someday). I also got some Vitamin D and color at the beach — since I haven’t been running, I haven’t been out in the sun as much. It’s funny that I’m finally getting more of a tan with fall officially underway, but better late than never!

In short, I got caught up with some quality friend and vacation time. I’m still behind with other things (including getting my car inspected — I was driving home from church, and suddenly realized it expires on Tuesday), and October will be a busy month for work, but I definitely got a good dose of fun and relaxation. I’m back to my physical therapy and cross training, but it felt good to ‘cross train’ with some grape stomping and fun.

During one of our talks, as I wondered aloud about the choices I had made, I lamented the fact that I’m 41. But I loved the perspective she had to offer — sure, we’re in our early 40s, but we’re likely only about halfway through our lives. It made me hopeful for the future. That, and the fact that my back feels like it is slowly but surely healing, is making me confident that the second half of the marathon called life will be filled with good miles, good friends, and plenty more good times.

Building a Better Core

I’m in California this weekend, catching up with my dear friend and college roommate (and I’ll have pictures to post the next time I blog, I promise!). But I did meet with my physical therapist this past week and have started on the program of prescribed home exercises.

The routine includes stretches and exercises to strengthen my core and left hip. As part of this routine, I get to dust off the exercise ball in my home office for back and core work. I went through all the exercises on Wednesday night for the first time, and was sore today! But that’s to be expected.

In the past, I haven’t always been faithful with doing core work and other dreaded exercises (especially burpees). Why can’t I just run, I ask myself? And I should know the answer by now — it’s the core exercises and dreaded stuff like burpees that will keep me running. It’s easy sometimes to cut corners, especially during fall marathon training season. Some days, it’s a rush to get to the track, and by the time the track workout is done, I’m cold or starving and just want to get home. And I’ll tell myself that I’ll do core when I get home. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes not.

As part of this healing process, I’ve made up my mind to do things right. That includes making sure everything is healed and strengthened, especially the core. I definitely don’t want to be sidelined this long again!

Now, you’re probably asking, how is she doing all this while she’s in California? Well, the answer is that I’m doing some of the exercises, but not everything. I tried to pack light (since I have to be careful still with bending and lifting), and decided I wouldn’t have the space for the exercise ball in my bag. But I plan to hit the ball again once I return from my trip.

You may not think of visiting an old college friend as a core strengthening exercise, but it just dawned on me that it does count as core work, in its own way. I’ve gone to visit my friend every year for the past several years. By doing so, I’m maintaining the strength of our friendship, which will hopefully endure for the rest of our lives. It’s the same with going to church, spending time with friends and loved ones, taking the time for doctor’s visits or to prepare a healthy meal. Sleep is another way of building core (and it also allows the body to heal itself, according to my reading). It’s all about building a better core within ourselves, not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally.

During my hiatus from running, I’ve been looking at ways to build my core in other areas of my life. This includes working on my marriage, spending time with family and friends, and devoting time to things such as reading for pleasure. I love running, but it’s amazing how much time it can take, especially marathon training. And while I miss running, it’s nice that I can use this time to build a better core — in more ways than one.

A New Season

I returned to my home and to work this past week after being out for over two weeks for my surgery, most of which I spent at my parents. While I definitely needed the time to recover (and got some quality reading and family time), it felt good to get back to my life. And though I definitely enjoyed the time at my parents, the invalid’s life is definitely not for me – I’m much too independent! I was starting to chafe at the restrictions — like the kid who’s sick of being stuck at home sick, and who’s bored with TV and their crayons and wants to be out playing with their friends again.

My parents did a great job of taking care of me, but towards the end, I was definitely ready to start taking care of myself again. That realization came when my mother insisted on shaving my legs for me (so I wouldn’t have to bend) before we ventured out to walk around the local mall. I didn’t have any jeans with me, and I didn’t want to walk around with legs looking like bristly pipe cleaners. But that moment made me appreciate having the ability to do basic things for myself — things that I had taken for granted before.

I also was glad to get back to work — I didn’t realize how much I had missed it. It felt great to be welcomed back with hugs from several co-workers! I’m glad I went back at mid-week though, so I can ease back into my routine and sort through enormous pile of emails awaiting me in Outlook. It took me most of one day just on the email alone!

Returning to my daily life felt like emerging from a warm cocoon and walking on wobbly legs. I’ve actually been dealing with some calf cramping as a start walking more and going up and down stairs. I can tell it will take time to get my old stamina back even for work, not to mention any running or intense physical activity.

I got the all-clear from my surgeon to start increasing my activity level again, including physical therapy exercises. I can’t run yet, but I can walk, swim and do the elliptical. I will definitely be starting from scratch, which is bad and good. I miss being in the great shape I was in earlier this year, but starting from scratch does have it’s advantages, including the chance to rebuild myself in the best way possible and lay a firm foundation for the journey ahead.

I admit, seeing friends’ posts on Facebook are posting about their long runs is making me itch to run. The cooler temperatures this week — a sweet preview of fall weather that can’t come soon enough — also make me long to hit the running trail near my house again. But I keep reminding myself that slow and steady will ultimately win the race, and that I need to thoroughly heal.

It just struck me as appropriate that fall officially kicks off this coming weekend. Rebuilding myself will mark a new season in itself, and as the weather and leaves transform, I’m hopeful that I’ll start to see a transformation in myself as well.

You Can Go Home Again

I’m midway through my second week of recovery, and each day, I’ve noticed I’m feeling better and better. I’m definitely not ready to go out and do a triathlon — in fact, I won’t be able to run again for another month to six weeks following my back surgery. I still face a long road to recovery, but I feel like I’ve gotten the race towards good health off to a good start.

I have made significant progress over the past week and a half. I was very stiff and in a lot of pain during the drive home from the hospital to my parents’ house. Right after the surgery, I shuffled around the house in agony as the morphine I was given through IV at the hospital wore off and I waited for the prescription pain medication and muscle relaxer to take effect. I was not terribly coherent either. My mother offered me hot tea before realizing I was too out of it to hold the cup, so she sent me to bed instead.

A big factor in my recovery has been my parents, who have opened their home to me and have acted as nursemaids.  I think I underestimated how much time I would need off from work and how much help I would need after the surgery. I ended up taking all of this past week off in addition to the previous week (I had originally planned to go back this past Thursday – what was I thinking?). The doctor also said I could not bend over or lift anything heavy during the initial two week recovery period. I never realized how much bending I do on a daily basis, even to pick up a pencil dropped on the floor, or reaching down to pick up something from a low shelf.  I’ve been grateful for my parents’ presence in helping me walk around, handing me things so I wouldn’t have to bend or stoop. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the home-cooked meals (which have included plenty of protein per the doctor’s orders). I’ve enjoyed home spaghetti, steak, meat loaf, mounds of fluffy scrambled eggs, bacon and plenty of veggies. I finally got to try kale (which is supposed to be a very good food for runners) for the first time. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of it yet or not!

The best part of my recovery has been the time I’ve gotten to spend with my parents. My typical life is usually so busy with work, spending time with my husband and friends, and catching up with household chores,  it can be difficult sometimes to break away and drive up to my parents’ neck of the woods for a visit. We do talk on the phone during the week, but it’s never the same as spending one on one time with them.  As part of my recovery, I’ve been forced to slow down my pace and spend time at the pace at which my parents, who are both retired, live their lives. This pace has a less frantic rhythm than my typical life. During my time with them, I’ve played endless rounds of Yahtzee with my mother, and have discussed current affairs with my dad. My mother has introduced me to some new TV shows, and my dad has given me some books that he enjoys. They’ve also guided me through some bouts of post-operative depression. My father experienced this when he had both knees replaced. Immediately following his surgery, he was scared at times that he would never walk again without pain. But he mowed the lawn this afternoon and even climbed on the roof to blow pine needles off the top of their house! So obviously, his fear was wrong. I’m hopeful that my own doubts about being able to run long miles will turn out to be just doubts and not reality.

Just by being around each other all the time, we get to talk about things we might miss during our phone calls. It’s just like with my good running buddies — the more miles we run together (or more time we spend cross training together when unable to run), the deeper and more substantial the conversations get.

I’m writing this blog on the computer in my old bedroom, which is now my parents’ office. For a long time, it felt strange to come in here, knowing that the wallpaper I’ve had in here since high school is hidden by paint, and that the closet once filled with my clothes is now a huge filing cabinet.  Despite the cosmetic changes to the room, I’ve come to realize that I can go home again.

Let the Healing Begin (Hopefully)

This week’s blog post will be short. I just wanted to let everyone know that I made it through the surgery okay.  The surgeon said it was a success, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will fix things and this blog will really be about running in the future! All I’ve written about are injuries; one of my friends joked that I should have replaced the pictures of medals on my website with photos of bandages or crutches.

I’m more than ready to go, but I suspect the surgery is just a step (although a major step) on the road to recovery. I do admit, I have been thinking about what races I might like to run in 2015 (knock on wood that this will happen)!  I’ve been trying to stay positive, and have been feeling relatively good except for today. I’ve been walking around the house, and I’ve used the time to catch up on my list for the reading challenge I’m participating in, but I think I still need to be careful not to do too much. It’s hard when I used to being so busy!

I thought I might have to stay two nights, but was discharged on Thursday, thanks goodness. I don’t think I could have spent another night sleeping in that uncomfortable hospital bed, hooked up to all sorts of monitor and drips. I also had compression socks on, and then plastic cases around my calves that would squeeze them every so often to keep circulation going. I even had to call the nurse in the middle of the night to come unhook me so I could go to the bathroom. It was a big change from being able to move around freely by myself. (I did get the nurse to take the calf clamps off, and I pulled off the socks and blood pressure monitor when she left. I was then finally able to sleep!).

As you can imagine, it’s a big relief to be recuperating at my parents house, enjoying good food, reading, playing Yahtzee with mom, pampering from my parents, coloring with crayons (which has been really fun) and enjoying pain medications. I also had a couple of good friends come visit me in the hospital and at home — one is a friend from high school with whom I reconnected with on Facebook, the other is a good running buddy. My office also sent flowers to the hospital. I was really touched to receive the flowers flowers, gifts and good wishes.

I am moving around more easily, but the incision area is still sore and I’m still having some aches. I guess it will take some time. My follow up with the doctor is next month, and I’ll move forward from there.  I’m signing off for now, but will be posting again next Sunday as usual. Hope everyone is having a Happy Labor Day!

The Big Day

The monthlong wait for my surgery will end early tomorrow morning. I’ve already filled out my paperwork (and even got my patient ID tag when I went for my pre-op appointment last week). I’m off all this week so I can take care of errands, pack for my extended stay with my parents (who are looking after me after the surgery) and see my eye doctor for my annual appointment.

I’m looking forward to hopefully feeling better, but not wanting to get my hopes up too much like I did when I had the shot. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than suffer another disappointment.

Going for pre-op last week definitely made the surgery more real for me. On Friday, they took a blood sample so they could cross-type it against their blood supplies to make sure they had mine in stock (hopefully, I’ll finally find out what type I am – for some reason, nobody ever told me!) They said it was unlikely that anything would happen, and the procedure itself is one done routinely, but that .9 in the 99.9 percent odds gave me a momentary pause. And for some reason, I keep seeing the Operation board game and the patient’s red nose lighting up.

I knew they would be drawing blood at the appointment, but I started feeling weak when they tied the plastic tube around my upper left arm and told me to make a fist. The nurse commented that I was trembling, and afterwards, gave me some juice because she was afraid I would pass out. I’ve never been good with needles, but the thought of having blood drawn again, not having a doctor tinker with my spine, is making me nauseous!

I haven’t been outwardly nervous in the month leading up to the surgery – I’ve deliberately not thought about the details too much. When my mother and mother-in-law were asking me about the surgery this past weekend, I found myself forced to think about the details of the procedure. And then the anxiety began to kick in a little.

My husband has been trying to cheer me up the past few days, joking with me that I should make the surgeon play the Operation game before the surgery – if he made the red light go off one too many times, he couldn’t operate on me! My husband will stay with me overnight at the hospital Wednesday, and hopefully, I’ll be able to go home with my parents Thursday and not Friday. My plan is to stay with them a few days. My husband has to work, and I thought it would be easier to let my parents play nursemaid. If I need something, they can get it for me, and though I’ll probably spend a lot of time reading, it will be nice to visit with my parents and play endless rounds of Yahtzee with my mom.

All month, I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster that’s slowly been climbing a hill of death-defying height before plunging back down to earth. My stomach is churning with anxiety, I know my heart will feel like it wants to push past my lungs on the way down, but I’m making myself yell and smile and wave my hands over my head and try enjoy the ride.

I will give an update of how things go on Wednesday. See you then!

 

 

 

 

 

My Real Masterpiece

A friend posted this Huffington Post blog article on Facebook this past week, and it really struck a chord with me. I turned it over in my mind as I finished up the workweek and while I lounged on the couch Saturday morning, enjoying coffee and bingewatching the finals of American Ninja Warrior (I had no idea it would be so addictive!)

The blog, Your Body is Not Your Masterpiece, urges women to stop obsessing over perfecting their bodies, and that our bodies are not projects, but paintbrushes we use to create real art, whether it be through our spirituality, our relationships or our work.

Over the years, I’ve struggled with accepting my body for what it is. I’ve gone through periods of being chunky (like when I first went away to college and didn’t have mom’s cooking or her watchful eye against junk food) and out of shape (like recently). Around ages seven to nine, I also went through a chubby phase, and I think that my mother worried that I would grow up to be fat. She enrolled me one summer in aerobics, which I hated. I felt humiliated to have to leave my friends and playtime to go sweat it out with a bunch of middle age ladies (who seemed ancient to me at the time). I also remember how hurt I was when the girl down the street called me fat and told me I needed to lose weight. I remember not being able to wear the designer jeans that other kids wore, or not being able to have certain foods that my friends could eat (most types of cereal were off the menu, except for Cheerios – when I saw the cereal bar at the college cafeteria, it was like dying and going to heaven!)

Once I turned 10, I grew out of my chubbiness. Today, I look at pictures of me in junior and senior high school, and I see what looks like a normal, healthy, sometimes pretty girl. But in the back of my mind, I saw myself as not thin enough, and therefore not good enough. Problems with acne, haircuts and clothes that I deemed not cool enough compared with others, and self-esteem issues due to the cruelty and indifference of so-called friends just exacerbated my negative feelings towards myself.

I’m not saying this to hurt my mother — like all of us, she did the best she could, and I wouldn’t trade her for the world. And I know that I’m not the only woman who feels this way (given the dozens of diet programs and pills advertised on TV that promise to deliver amazing results, the plethora of exercise programs out there, as well as plastic surgery and other beauty enhancements available.) Combine these with the magazines that feature models with figures the majority of women will never have (and the airbrushing of photos to make these women even more perfect), and clothes in a number of stores that seem to be made for women with no curves at all, and it’s no surprise that women today have body issues. Even when I’m shape, I never feel like my thighs are thin enough (and trust me, running doesn’t make cellulite go away. I’ve tried!).

For a long time, running and exercising were a way for me not only to mold my body, but a way of addressing the insecurities I felt about myself. Like I’ve mentioned before, being sidelined with an injury has given me time to examine other areas of my life, and I realized that I was so focused on running, I had neglected other areas of my life, such as a deeper relationship with my husband and friends, as well as nurturing other areas of interest. The idea that I should stop obsessing over the shape of my paintbrush (my body), but what I paint (the relationships I build, the work I do, my spiritual life and other interests), really hit home with me. I also realized that I’ve spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME obsessing over what my body should be, and not what it is, and learning to love what I have.

It’s ironic that I was thinking about all this while watching American Ninja Warrior, a show about people who push their bodies to the limit to do incredible things – run, climb, jump, and crawl up tower walls like a spider. They’ve made the bodies and their athletic abilities projects — one contestant even quit his job to focus on training for the American Nina Warrior finals in Las Vegas! I found myself really getting into the show, cheering, yelling, knee bouncing with anxiety as I watched people struggle on the course. I don’t see myself actually competing on the show, but would love to be in the shape that some of the contestants are. But the article made me realize that my body is not the ultimate project, nor my hopeful future marathon times, but what I give to others and to the world in other areas of my life. And that is the real masterpiece that I can contribute.