Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Monday, October 23, 2017

Healing

I have never been one to be patient with my own illnesses.  I guess that is a result of having pretty decent general health.  If you don't have a lot of things to recover from (or live with chronically) you never learn the art of personal patience in healing.

My earliest memory of facing a serious illness was a breast lump I found 6 months after the birth of my first child.  I was 26 years old.  I remember looking in the bathroom mirror into the eyes of the new mother I was standing there and thinking ... This . Can . Not . Be!!   A visit to the doctor confirmed my deepest desire - you are so young, chances of this being cancer are slim, we will do a needle biopsy just to confirm that fact, nothing to worry about.  Driving home after that appointment I remember thinking ... he said the word 'cancer.'  I was stoic.  I was in control.  To the casual eye - that day looked no different than any other.  But I really didn't hear anything else he said. I just heard the word 'cancer.'  That night I crumbled under the possibilities as I told my husband.  As I reached the word cancer, I started to cry.

The needle biopsy was not definitive. I was scheduled for a lumpectomy.  I was admitted to the hospital - appearing calm and resolute.  The night before surgery I had to sign away my breast - consent to removal of all breast tissue and lymph nodes if cancer was confirmed - that step would be taken while I was still under general anesthesia (remember, this was 1974 when your options were limited.). The pre-op nurse arrived right before lights out and she asked me how I felt about the possibility of losing a breast.  In that split second my mantra of life erupted from me without a second thought:  "If it is cancer they can take the whole right side of my body - just as long as they get it all.  I have a son to raise."

It wasn't cancer.  I have never faced the possibility of a fatal illness since.  Oh, yes, I had a c-sections, gallbladder removed, tonsils removed at 30, and I had early onset cataracts in my 40s.  Thankfully I was born during a time when these things didn't result in death or disability.  And none of them made me feel fearful of dying or resulted in extended healing.  I have been blessed.

But I still remember that terrible feeling of wondering in the hospital the night before - maybe I won't recover if this is cancer!

Now at 70 I recognize that my future years may be filled with more physical ailments or illnesses that cannot be fixed or cured.  I can't use my default response to failing body parts -  "If you don't work properly - I will just have you cut out."  Ha!  That method worked quite well for a gallbladder and tonsils.

And so we come to the healing of my left knee - the reason I have told this story.  It goes without saying that if my knee wasn't fix-able - I wouldn't be able to just cut it out.  So I patiently did all the right stuff - doctor visits, tests, physical therapy - and STILL it didn't improve to normal.  A cane became my companion.  My former Tai Chi instructor calls walking with a cane - walking on 3 legs.  Nope!  That was not for me.  Surgery was the next step.

And surgery confirm my problem was very fixable AND that I had young knees and connective tissues for someone who is 70.

OK ... now we are talk'en!! Expectations rose to nose bleed heights!!

Now for the healing (and the patience) part of the story  I am now 6 weeks out from surgery.  I am ready to be done with the healing part.  I want to go out and do my regular stuff without pain.   I gave it 6 weeks.  This left knee should be as strong and flexible as my right knee by now.  I am DONE DONE DONE with this!  In fact, I find myself having occasional conversations with my left knee (don't judge ... ) that go something like:  "Get over yourself left knee.  Six whole weeks, for gosh sakes!!  You need to get stop with the complaining.  Just go ask the gallbladder and tonsils how I dealt with them. Oh wait, left knee ... you might notice they are both GONE!  Ha!  So stop the swelling.  Stop popping.  Stop aching.  Stop, stop, stop."  And then I share my frustration with my physical therapist - and she calmly and quietly reminds me - "Elaine it is only 6 weeks from surgery.  Be patient."  oh ...

See??  I have learned nothing about patience in healing over 70 years.  Nothing!!

But I did learn a very important lesson when I was 26!  I won't die from this knee problem!  I will live to see and enjoy a new grandchild.   So I guess the most important lesson has been learned after all.  And knowing me - I am only good at one lesson in a lifetime! :-)

Healing just tests my patience.  I can live with that.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The RBG Workout

A new book hit the Amazon shelves this week - one that caught my eye over the summer while I was wallowing in self pity about my stupid knee.  I pre-ordered it and it showed up in my mail box yesterday.

The RBG Workout
 by Bryant Johnson

For readers who don't know who RBG is - she is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a US Supreme Court Justice.  She is 84 years old and a much admired woman in our country.

This very charming book was written by her personal trainer.  It is small but very inspiring.  The back cover says it all:

How does Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the Supreme Court's favorite octogenarians, stay so active and energetic?  She owes it in part to the twice-weekly workouts she does with her personal trainer, Bryant Johnson, a man she's called "the most important person" in her life (after her family, of course).  Now, with The RBG Workout, you can exercise alongside Justice Ginsburg and Bryant.  Whether you want to keep up with one of America's most admired women or just reach your own fitness goals, this book is for you.  Case closed.

The book holds no surprises or short cuts - many of the recommended exercises are ones recommended by my physical therapist.  And the exercises are graduated in difficulty as you would expect allowing reasonable start.  They are designed to fit within an hour.  It all seems like typical common sense stuff - stuff that you have heard before.

But stop for one moment and think about these facts ...
  • She is 84 years old!  I have known a number of folks in their 80s - and they aren't able to do even 25% of the simple exercises in this book.  After nursing a knee since May, I can't do most of them either!!  She is 84 - I am 70!  hmm ...  That fact alone makes my head spin.
  • This woman can do full push ups AND planks!!  Even SIDE PLANKS.  I bow to that achievement.
  • She wears a sweat shirt when she exercises that says "Super Diva!"  How can you not love some one their 80s - mid 80s!!! -  who struts a sweat shirt like that! 
  • If you think she has exercised all her life - you are wrong!  She began this program slowly in her 60s - after surviving a bout of colorectal cancer.  After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation her husband described her as looking like "Auschwitz survivor."  And now, folks, she can DO PLANKS!  
The illustrations are all drawn.  The exercises are well described with suggestions for frequency and repetition.  
She is proof positive that there is no bad time for taking control of your own life and making a difference.

I hope you will check out the small but powerful little volume that is dedicated to not giving up on yourself no matter what your age or condition. (Of course, checking with your physician is recommended before starting an new exercise program.)

These last 6 months have been frustrating for me ... limited by a lame leg despite weeks of PT and still walking with a cane.  And the journey to regaining 2 normal legs is not quite finished.  At 70 it doesn't take too many months of inactivity to reduce you to a person older than your biological age.  I feel that way everyday now.  But the words of her trainer in the Introduction rang out very true for me.  

"You may have an appointment to the most powerful job in the world, 
but your body will still have veto power over you.
  And you're the only one with jurisdiction over your body, 
so if you don't use it, you will lose it."

Thinking of putting that quote on my fridge!

One last observation - I received 2 copies of this book.  This was not intentional - I think my brain experienced a hiccup!  *sigh*  So many parts of my body need attention! :-)

Happy Thursday all!



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Hello Again

Without trying to sound trite, 
time just seems to fly past me.
October! 
 It is actually the middle of October!!

It feels like last week when I last wrote.  I opened the blog to find it was June!

It is about this time when I start thinking about how well the current year has gone.  And certainly the last 4 months have had ups and downs.

The stellar highlight of 2017 has to be the announcement that I will become a grandmother sometime in February 2018.  I sort of gave up entirely on that idea, as my 'children' lead successful happy lives with no indication of having children of their own.  Giving birth to a child is a very personal choice and the choice to not reproduce must be respected.  But I did hope one day have a grandchild of my own.  And that hope could only be made reality by one of my own children.

A less stellar event was my left knee.  One day in May I awoke to pain and swelling in that joint.  I got medical help, participated in 8 weeks of physical therapy only to discover that what I had was a torn meniscus and it would only be fixed by surgery.  Surgery in September followed by more PT through October brought me to this day - the knee is improved but still not as flexible or as strong as it needs to be.  I am forced to learn patience - my therapist reminds me frequently that healing a knee takes time because it is a joint that doesn't get much down time.

The condo was a great blessing to me during this last 6 months.  No stairs and a smaller home 'foot print' to maintain proved to be worth all the effort expended in 2016 to get there.  It took a full year but I have finally move away from thinking of my much loved townhouse as my home.  Now when I think about it, those 30 years and that townhouse seem just like a different stage of my life that I have moved past.  Which, in truth, it truly is.

I am eager to return to a more active life style after so much sedentary living since May.  A return to regular walking is eagerly desired.  And when I don't need to favor the healing in my knee, that exercise will be on my daily schedule.  I did drop The Y - membership.  I am very fortunate to live not too far from a fully equipped senior center that has a full exercise studio as well as a pool.  Of course, it also offers a huge range of other activities as well (book clubs, lectures, lunch service, located near a beautiful library with all their own offerings, etc.) All that for the cost of $75 a year vs $600 a year at The Y.  Hard to argue with those figures.

And my knitting life has been very very full.  I finished a shawl for my daughter, a shawl for my daughter-in-law, a sweater for my niece's new baby, and a baby blanket for my new granddaughter.  In the next month I need to finish a sweater for my granddaughter and a matching set of father-daughter hats in the Viking theme (a suggestion from the new dad.)  Yes, I have had a lot of forced sitting time.  The only thing that got a work out since May were my fingers.  Pictures of these project will follow.

After long breaks in blogging, I often wonder if anyone will return to read anything I write.  But if I really wrote for an audience, I would have stopped writing long ago.  Writing is something I do for me.  But if you did stop by and you read all the way to this point, I would be happy to hear from you.
Image result for fall leaf
Happy Fall Everyone!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Book of Questions - Question #005

Series: The Book of Questions by Gregory Stork, Ph.d

A brief reminder of the guidelines for responses to the questions.
  • The questions are about personal "values and beliefs."
  • There are no right or wrong answers ... "only honest or dishonest ones." 
  • "Accept that conditions are as the questions describe.  Suspend your disbelief if you can."
  • "Pay attention to which ones you're drawn to and which you shy away from.  ... a question you want to avoid might be the very one you should focus on.
Question 005
#005

Would you rather watch an Olympics that 
outlawed performance-enhancing drugs
or
one that embraced them and let athletes use medical pit crews
 to jack up their performances?


I am a big BIG supporter of the Olympics being free of performance-enhancing drugs.  This event should be a true expression of what human beings are capable of achieving based on training, self-discipline, goal setting, rising above limitations, desire,  and ... well, pure grit! Setting aside the health issues of tampering with our natural performance, how would we know the true limits of our God-given talents, if we muck about with human-made "performance-enhancing drugs?"

In fact, the words "pit crews to jack up their performances" sounds very negative to my ear.  In my heart I like to think of the Olympics as a demonstration of what lies within an individual - and not what can be done to an individual by external sources.

A very easy answer for me.

Waiting ... waiting ... waiting ...

No little voice to interfere with my choice??? 

THANK GOD.  I guess threats in my previous post made an impression!! Ha!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Book of Questions - Question #004

Series: The Book of Questions by Gregory Stork, Ph.d

I will include guidelines with each post ... the premise for this exercise.  Once we are further along in the 291 questions, we might forget the points in answering.  This is especially important for me when I answer and doesn't fit comfortably in my belief system (like question #003.)  Thank you to those who choose to join me in answering a question (which I sincerely hope you do.)
  • The questions are about personal "values and beliefs."
  • There are no right or wrong answers ... "only honest or dishonest ones." 
  • "Accept that conditions are as the questions describe.  Suspend your disbelief if you can."
  • "Pay attention to which ones you're drawn to and which you shy away from.  ... a question you want to avoid might be the very one you should focus on."
I accept these criteria and to keep me honest, I'll keep the numbering system.  No skipped questions. (I'll probably regret this decision.  Ha!)

Question 004
#004


Ignoring all financial considerations, would you rather
spend the next 5 years confined to an urban mecca like New York City,
or
a beautiful, isolated town on the California coast?

Ahhhh!    Finally.  A simple question for me.

No equivocation.  No expanded explanations in an effort to make my final answer more acceptable - in my eyes, at least.  If you are confused by what I am saying ... check out the previous posting when I attempted to answer question #003.  (Gosh, that was a hard one but it did spark a few good comments.  Thank you to those who responded.)

So here is my answer to #004.

I choose, hands down, "a beautiful, isolated town on the California coast."   I love the peace and quiet of town life - "beautiful" town would be an added benefit.  And "on the coast" would make it heaven for me.  I don't get much "coast" time now.  And "isolation" is a HUGE plus for me.  I often prefer my own company to that of others.  No negatives.  Easy-peasy.  End of discussion.

(little voice rising to the surface)

But I am 70 now.  What about health care, what about access to a good quality hospital, what about the ability to seek out social stimulation when I want it, what about .... what about .... what about ....   Isn't the word "isolated" the limiting factor?  I could be within a few years of not driving.  Then what?  How much public transportation does this "isolated town" have?  I bet not much.  And my family and friends ... where are they?  I live in Maryland now.  They live in Maryland now.  The question only offered California, not isolated small towns like in California.    Yikes!!!  What about my grand dogs - how would I see them???   You can't scratch a Skype dog image behind their ears!

Shouldn't I provide a more responsible grown up answer that shows I recognize my current life needs and limitations?

Crap!  This was supposed to be an easy answer.

Think, think, think.

Ok - this still is my answer.  It is only for 5 years.  I would only be 75 at the end of that time - a 'spring chicken' really.'  :-)   My children could visit me - drive across the country with their dogs!!   Monthly!!!  Ok, maybe not monthly - quarterly would do.  They would do that if they REALLY loved me.  And all those "what abouts" are important - can be very important at times.  But when I try to picture myself living in an "urban mecca like New York City" ... No.  Never.  I am not a city girl in the slightest.  I wouldn't live another 5 years even with quality health care if I had to live in any big city!  I would HATE it.

My decision for  "beautiful, isolated town on the California coast" still stands!

*Sigh*
Aren't there ANY easy questions in this book???
Glad I don't have to really make this choice!

Just for the record ... I have peaked ahead at question #005.  It looks like an easy answer!   Famous last words. :-)

If I can silence that (little voice rising to the surface) with a hammer, (jump up and down on it a few hundred times) ... (shoot it from head to foot with a machine gun and bury 1000 feet down) ...  (cover it with gasoline and then light a match) ... THEN it might be easy.  


Which would be your favorite place to spend the next 5 years. 
 I would really like to know.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Island



As most of you know, I am a knitter.  Knitting is my passion.

Last year I saw the cutest crochet pattern called The Island Playset.  I fell in love with it.  The design was charming because around the far edge of the ocean is threaded a ribbon that can be pulled together to contain all the little animals and the island into a self contained bag.

But it was crochet and I didn't have any children in my life to make it for.  And I hadn't done crochet in such a long long time.  And I didn't know where my crochet hooks were and I didn't have the right yarn - and on and on!  So I saved the pattern - but never forgot about it.

Then it happened.  This year my niece is pregnant and I whipped out that pattern again.

The self talk began.
     Me 1 - "Hmmm, I could make this."
     Me 2 - "Nooo, it is crochet."
     Me 1 - "But you saved this pattern for a year."
     Me 2 - "I know, but ... "
     Me 1 - "Oh for heavens sake - get a grip!  You want to make this pattern."
     Me 2 - "Well .... maybe just a little bit."

     Me 3 - (Yes, I have a split personality.) "Me 1 and Me 2!!!  Shut up!  Both of you go find the
                 crochet hooks and get hooking."  Or whatever they call it.

My goal was to finish it in time for the baby shower which happened last weekend - which I did.  Sadly I had to  miss that joyful event, because that was also the day my Max died.  My daughter delivered the Island Play set on my behalf - with 3 little summer outfits (for next year), a dapper  little man sun hat, sun glasses, a fishing pole and magnetic fish,  and some plastic sea creature that squirt bath water - all in a white basket.

The picture above was taken by my sister who reported the Island Playset was a big hit.  I meant to take my own pictures - but picture taking was the last thing on my mind that weekend.  Thankfully I do have a picture to share however.

And now I can tuck away Me 1, 2, and 3 until the next time I dither about something.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Book of Questions - #003

Series: The Book of Questions by Gregory Stork, Ph.d

Question 003
#003
If you had to be obsessed with money, sex, sports, 
religion, or food,
which one would you choose?


You know, I look at these questions and I almost always think, "Oh this question isn't too hard."  And then I try to answer and I realize - not so easy!

I spent a few minutes trying to pick one I would be happily obsessed with.  My eyes kept scanning the short list discarding one after another looking for ... I am not sure what!  AMAZINGLY - knitting wasn't on this list. Go figure!  :-)

Since once again I seem to struggle for an answer, we will start with the ones I wouldn't pick.

Sports - Last Place
The only time I am only remotely interested in sports is during the Olympics and when the home team is playing in some sort of final competition - like King of the Sports World.  Nope, not sports!

Sex - Very Near Last Place
Holy cow, when I think of someone who is 'obsessed with sex,' I think of someone who has a mental illness.  No, and why would anyone choose to be obsessed with an illness.

Religion - In the middle of the pack 
(remember, this is my personal position and the question asked for total honesty.)
Religion placed low on my list because they included the word 'obsessed' in the question.  Really ... being obsessed with religion has gotten the world into more trouble than any other thing.  History is littered with folks who were obsessed with religion and caused great havoc and sadness to the human race.  I truly believe that even God doesn't want man to be obsessed with Religion - especially organized religion - ANY organized religion.  I think God is obsessed with people living a good life - no matter what your religion.  

Doesn't sound hard, does it.  Only humans make things so darn hard.

You might ask ...with that opinion why isn't Religion in last place.  For me religion implies an organized way of thinking about the Creator - a way to structure the unknowable.  Not a bad thing.  Raised Catholic my belief structure leans that way.  But I have grown to be more spiritual than traditionally Catholic. I don't support 'the one true faith' theory.  If there is a heaven, it will be filled with all who have lived a good life.  Yes, I check the Catholic box when asked for my religious preference (it is what I know best), I occasionally find comfort in entering a church (an empty church is best) but I can get that same feeling by walking in a forest, and I firmly believe there is a God and that thought gives me comfort especially for all the family and pets who have passed from my life.  I want to experience them again in whatever passes for an after life.  

But does that count as obsessed with religion?  God help me - that would be my idea of a nightmare.

Food
Well ... I hate to cook.  And the question didn't say anything about eating food.  I love to eat.  Really, 'food' is pretty vague.  I suppose a chef could be described as 'obsessed with food.'  But it might be argued that a chef is obsessed with the process of food preparation and presentation.  They probably enjoy eating their creations, but obsessed with eating food?  No, it must be the act of cooking.

Regardless - food keeps me alive.  But it can't be in the top spot. 

Money - the winner by process of elimination
Boy, having Money in the top spot sounds so ... so ... shallow!

Why couldn't they have included knitting!!!  :-)

This choice, money, is the one I am most comfortable.  Obsession with money sounds harsh but when I think about that choice - I also think about what money can provide.  Beyond the basics of a comfortable life for myself, money can make a huge difference to family and friends, charities and scientific research, education and third world countries.  The list is endless.

So 'money' wins.  (Hopefully spending it wisely redeems me.)

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE
 to hear your choice and why you picked it.