The Best I Can Do

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Making Physical Therapy fun: I wanted the fake people to look like Star Trek characters. Is that Captain Kirk at the bottom? Why yes it is! 

Mom exercises every day. She’d wake up hurting and get ready to do her exercises. I thought she was crazy for years. Who thinks, Oh, I am in pain, I think I’ll exercise. It goes against all the logic I’d ever known. When you’re sick you lay in bed, right?  I’d say, “If you hurt why are you doing exercise?”  She would reply, “I have to exercise this morning or it will hurt more later.”

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My Momma: my eternal fitness hero

I didn’t really understand what she meant until I too developed Fibromyalgia. Now I am amazed at her resolve. Seriously. That woman is made of steel. The first couple years of Fibro kicked my ass. Waking up in pain is a buzz kill. Your whole day can be tainted. Waking up with fibromyalgia is like someone beat you with a baseball bat the night before and then you drank a liter of rum. Every morning you are sore and hung over. Mom woke up in that fog every day strapped on an exercise bra and just got to work. I bitch and wine like nobody’s business.

It seems like a weird idea, right? Think about waking up with the flu and being told the cure is exercise. Um…yeah, wouldn’t you think that’s bullshit? No, you would retreat to bed and not wake up until it ended. The sick part is, it never ends. You will wake up every day with the flu, and the only way to have the rest of the day is to exercise through it. Then the next day, start all over again.

When Mom told me she had to exercise I thought she was crazy. I didn’t understand then, what I know now: with Fibromyalgia exercise is essential. I told the doctor that I felt like a piece of machinery that rusts when it sleeps or sits too long. If I don’t stretch and move my joints, then I am in pain all day. It’s like I am lubing my muscles and joints. Once I have done that, then I can move onto my day.

My physical therapist, Melinda Gross, said that with Fibromyalgia you have to challenge the body regularly with controlled “stressors” in the form of exercise because it increases the body’s tolerance. So I have to increase walking, yoga, chores, strengthening exercise because it increases my baseline threshold for pain and stress.

Did anyone else’s dad ever make that joke? You know the one after you’ve been complaining your head hurts, and Dad offers to step on your toe to make your head hurt less. Turns out, that’s kind of a thing.

In other words, I have to put my body through a small amount of pain so that I am not in greater pain later. Also, if I put my body through more pain then what I have built up then I am in serious pain for days. So, I have to measure my activity every day. Once I painted a hutch and for the next three days the couch was my best friend.

When I think about it too closely, I get angry that I didn’t figure this out sooner. It is also very hard not to be angry that I can’t just wake up and be fine like a normal person. I get depressed at my pained muscles and stiff joints. It is easier to stay in bed. It is easier not to go to my twice a week doctor’s appointments. It would be easier if I could just take some pills to make the pain easier and just dribble into my pillow.

I was not happy when that’s all I could do, but it didn’t require much strength of will or physical strength. It was easier, but I wasn’t happy. My loved ones deserve much better than that, and so do I.

When I think about just sitting and sulking on the couch or skipping my doctor’s appointments I think about my husband. I am lucky, because he is the most patient and loving man. He is there every day telling me it is okay I am in pain and it isn’t my fault. He is my strength when I don’t have any. He deserves to have a wife that feels good about herself. I concentrate on that love when I am trying to get up to start my day. I concentrate on the love that I feel for my family and my friends. I concentrate on the fact that I want to soak up moments with them. If I am in pain, I will just be thinking about the pain.

I’m not perfect every day. I still have days it takes me a while to pull my head out of my ass and get moving. I was lamenting the fact that it takes me almost an hour and a half of exercising and icing to get me to feel normal/good. I did an unofficial Facebook poll of my friends and some of them exercise two hours a day. These are people I assume don’t have fibromyalgia, or any of my other health problems. So, I am not alone. They too use exercise to feel like themselves. I just have a large cattle prod getting me to the yoga mat.

Sadly, some days it still isn’t enough, but I am getting there one yoga work out at a time.

Crash Toone

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This was one of my very high pain days! 

About three weeks ago, I had an appointment with a genetic counselor. I didn’t want to go, but I saw it as a stepping stone to getting my hysterectomy. With my fibroids and supposed Endometriosis, I thought this might remove my pain. My doctor said that she wouldn’t take out my ovaries unless I was at great risk of cancer. I can’t tell you how much that ticked me off. I was under the impression my ovaries were causing me pain. So what? I am supposed to go to this appointment to find out that I am at great risk for cancer? Really?

Well, it didn’t turn out that way. I refused to take the blood test. I don’t want to know if I am at great risk of ovarian or breast cancer. I really don’t. I also don’t want my DNA on file with some lab for them to test. The counselor told me I shouldn’t do it if I felt uncomfortable. So I didn’t.

So I went back to the gynecologist, who is also a pain specialist, who told me that there was no reason to get my ovaries taken out because my ovaries are not causing the problem. She is now telling me that I may not have endometriosis, but too tight pelvic muscles, IBS, and too much stress. Since I have heard for years that this pain is part of my reproductive organs, and this doctor’s office agreed a couple weeks before, I had a hard time believing this new information. It took her the better part of an hour and an intense examination to, sort of, prove it to me. Rather, I should say to get me to shut up and go away dismayed and disillusioned.

I walked to meet a friend who was there for me because we both knew this appointment wouldn’t have definitive answers. She and I talked and she amazingly enough comforted me as much as you can a person who is overwhelmed with emotions, and hasn’t really processed something. On the way home after leaving her I fell in a rather dramatic fashion on thirteenth in the middle of two restaurants outdoor seating. I did a slight somersault and knocked over some chairs. It earned me the nickname Crash, which I have to say I am taking a liking to. Husband says it’s shocking someone hasn’t said that before. Not only because I am unbelievably clumsy at times, but because I like to attack problems and even social situations with all the subtlety of a hammer. I think it makes me sound like a superhero Crash Toone.

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Part of the damage from my fight with the pavement

That was about two weeks ago. Since then I have been processing all this information and I have started physical therapy for pelvic pain. I have also had two of the worst weeks of this pain I have ever experienced. I don’t know if that means it is working or not. I have been on my pain pills most of the time but when I wasn’t I was crying from a deep engulfing depression. It’s been overwhelming. It has been isolating so I haven’t just stopped blogging until now but also haven’t talked to a lot of family and friends. I just had to work this out of my system.

See this new diagnosis I am holding as tentative. It requires me to go to three different doctors several times and change my diet, my exercise program, and my schedule. It is also very expensive. I could go through all of it and still be in pain.

My homework from my first physical therapist appointment is that I have to do ten upward dogs every two hours, and for three days write down my food intake and my waste outtake. That’s uncomfortable. I still have to make some other appointments. I know I should have more done but I promise you that I have been going through the worst pain in my life so far, and hopefully forever.

Last night I finally put on my big girl panties and decided to do attack this with more vigor. I am not going to be grudgingly going to my doctor’s appointments. I am going to be CRASH TOONE, attacking the pain. I am going to plan and write down everything I eat, cut out everything I need to, and do all my physical therapy. I am researching everything I can about all of these diagnoses, and going above and beyond. If this doesn’t fix me I might just have to camp out at my Doctors office until I get an answer. Crash Toone is done playing around.

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Crash Toone: Because superheroes should always have a red lip. 

You Can Take the Girl out of Oklahoma…

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This was how Oklahoma welcomed me. 

 

About a month ago I went to visit my family in my native state of Oklahoma. I was inspired by my family to move more and to enjoy the simpler things that I sometimes ignore. My family is extraordinary and every time I am around them it is as if I have been given new life. Sometimes it reaffirms who I am. Being away from my home state for so long sometimes allows me to forget what I have inherited and how deep those Okie roots run: the laid back sense of humor, master story telling, and the vein of gumption that runs through all of us.

It’s that tenacity and live wire like energy that is contagious. Inspiration to move and accomplish the physical is everywhere.

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Going to the grocery store with Mom is like an aerobics work out. I was still getting out of the car and she had a cart inside already. 

In the mornings Mom and I would do our perspective exercises. She does a video by Gilad, a very handsome, bulging, swarthy man. She’s done various videos of his for years. I don’t enjoy the aerobic videos so I went over to the corner and played my Pandora music channel and did yoga. This concurrent clashing music didn’t even bother us. At one point we discussed how this could be a metaphor for our relationship.  I said it is funny how we clearly like different things but still hang out because we love each other so much.

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We are so proud of my beautiful, smart, strong sis.

I was encouraged to walk by my sister Katie because she walks everywhere. We trekked all over the OSU campus before I had to take my shoes off and sit until someone brought the car to me. My feet were done but she was still going. I feel after 40 you shouldn’t have to suck it up.

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Yep, we even fed a horse! These people live super special lives.

My brother and his wife have a handsome five year old son named Caleb and he inspired everyone to get physical. Katie and I even risked and failed at cartwheels. That family spends most evenings outside in the sun after dinner riding bikes or watching Caleb ride his big wheels up and down the driveway. I got to ride bikes, slide down slides, fight imaginary wolves and run through the park. Caleb and I even had a session of yoga together. That was so fun. There are these children’s yoga videos on YouTube, and he loves them. A fifteen minute video story of going to an amusement park with a Hispanic penguin had me sweating!

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First time on a bike in years, can you tell?

 

While some of these attempts didn’t work out so well (one slide left me with a swollen and bruised thumb, another with two skinned knees, the cartwheel left me with a slightly sprained ankle, and I also got kicked in the head more than once while rough housing,) the fun that I had was more than worth it. I will never forget this trip because I learned I miss being playful. It is absolutely the best exercise. I miss that idea that my body is here so I might as well see what it can do. Seeing what my body is capable of is an activity I have neglected and it is actually fun. My new fitness goals are: being able to perform a cartwheel, AND get enough arm strength to walk only on my hands while someone holds my feet by the time I go back to Oklahoma. We tried it this time. While I could hold my brothers legs while he walked the living room, I couldn’t quite walk on my hands. I will though mark my words. I am doing planks every day.  If I can walk on my hands then maybe there is even a handstand in my future! Now that is exciting! Won’t my nephew be so proud of Aunt Danielle?

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I felt like this was the appropriate image for a mic drop…

Getting back to Zen

I have a new life and need a new way of living it. I know I need a new tactic on how to approach life. I need to learn what I can handle and what I can’t, and what life is going to be like for me now. I expected life to be different since I have no job, and I am focusing on my health and my writing, but I didn’t have any idea what that would mean. I used to sit at my job and day dream about the time when my husband would be working and give me this opportunity. I thought of the recipes I’d make. I thought about the yoga I would do, and the time I would spend writing and editing my book. I didn’t think about the unpacking, laundry, or the finding my way around a new city. These have been the challenges. While I have powered through obstacles, I have also been a bit whiny about it.

This week I fulfilled one of those day dreams.  I painted a secretary desk white that I had bought on Craigslist. I only had one day to finish it, because my apartment is small and I had furniture coming the next day. I painted two coats and a coat of wax all in the eight hours my husband worked. Two things made this possible, the chalk paint, which dries very quickly, and I think I get into a trance some times. I focused and didn’t stop until a little after Brad got home. It was a beautiful piece of furniture when I got done, but the minute I put down the waxing cloth, I knew I had made a mistake. My back was instantly on fire. I had to lie on the floor until bed time and then had trouble falling asleep because of the pain. The next morning it felt better but my shoulder wouldn’t move and it was asleep. My husband massaged my shoulder but when the feeling came back, the feeling was of serious pain. The entire day I was on pain pills. It still hurt on the pain pills but at least I cared less. I was useless about two or three days. I am just now coming out of it.

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This is what it looked like before I painted it.

I have realized that a lot of my problem stems from not pacing myself.  I have read about being mindful before. I need to induce that awareness now. I need to realize everyday what my body can’t go through and what it can’t. I also need to figure it out before it is too late and I am relegated to the couch for three days. On those days I feel like the worst wife in the world. I know my husband doesn’t think so but I know there are other people who can relate to this. I have to pull my own weight in this relationship or I feel useless and feeble. I need to realize that my body won’t do the things I want it to yet. I can walk two to three miles but not seven. I can do one coat a day but not two and a waxing. It isn’t that I can’t do it really, it is I shouldn’t. I need to pay attention to when my body is wearing down. I have always been taught to push through the pain. No pain no gain, right? I don’t think that is always the truth. I think there is only so much I can do in one day in order to be able to do stuff the next day.

I am new to all this physical activity. I have to be able to walk before I can run, pun intended. I want to one day be someone who can walk seven or eight miles without having to take the day off the next day. I am again day dreaming. Day dreaming leads to accomplishing. I know that is true because I have lived it. I day dreamed of a day when my husband had a good job in an exciting city and I had time to write.  We got here, and now we are going to get better. We can only get better. With patience and pacing, I am going to slowly work my way into physical fitness and domestic bliss.

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The after

In an effort to listen to my body more, I am getting back into my yoga practice. I am meditating and trying to listen to my breath and how it feels in my body. Not only will this help me to listen to my body but it will also help me slow down and pace myself. Perhaps it will help me eat in moderation. Any other suggestions on how I can pay better attention to how my body feels and what it can take I would appreciate.

The Best Advice is the One You Can Take or Leave

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My glorious and wise “Glamma”

I like reading. Magazines are my guilty pleasure. One of my favorite things to do is to lounge on the couch watching a TV show maybe even a marathon and read magazine after magazine. I read everything: Shape, Self, Eating Well, Cooking Light, Marie Claire, Better Homes and Gardens, and many more. I have a subscription where I get a hundred magazines a month and I sometimes even read Consumer Reports. Better Homes and Gardens will tell you how you can make your back porch look luxurious on little money. Some mags will tell you the best food to eat when you’re on your period.

The last couple months, I’ve been seeing the same article in many magazines. These articles say that you should keep your razor somewhere else other than your bathroom. Now, that makes no sense. Something about how the moisture wears the razor down easy and there’s bacteria in the bathroom. I was very small when I started shaving. I matured super early, my black leg hairs sprouting, around second grade. I have been keeping my razor in the bathtub vicinity since then. I have had no problems. My momma and her momma did the same thing. I know because I used Grandma’s to shave off the paint surrounding the tub.

Picture me lathering up my legs in a full bathtub figuring out I left my razor in the living room. Okay, not the most practical place to keep a razor but if not in the bathroom where would I keep a razor- maybe in the bedroom on the dresser? Either way, I would have to get out of the tub and go find a razor because there’s no way after 30 some years of shaving my legs I’m going to remember it is stored somewhere else. I’m just not going to.
What I am figuring out is that even though many educated scholars and doctors contribute to these magazines not all of their advice is for me. In fact, I find some of it to be pretty ludicrous. Maybe they just don’t shave their legs.

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My sister, the summer beauty

My Grandma, my sister Katie and I were at the lake the year before Katie graduated from college. Katie was telling Grandma every piece of advice she had gotten about what degree and school she should was considering. Grandma very gingerly patted her on the arm and said, “You know you don’t have to do any of that right?” Katie looked at her quizzically, her golden hair glistening in the sun. Grandma smiled patiently and said, “It’s just advice. No one knows what you want but you.” While I was a bit perturbed by Glamma’s wisdom there because I had been trying to talk sister into coming to live with me and go to Boise State, I realized what Grandma was saying was the best thing you could say to a young twenty something. Really, it shocked me so much, the simplicity of the statement, that it really hit home with me. It’s just advice.

Shrugging my shoulders, trying to affect a laissez faire look on my face, I say it again: It’s just advice. How freeing is that? Right now, I can go onto the internet, turn the TV to a certain channel, or open a magazine and get loads of advice. Personally I always want to improve myself: my weight, my reading list, my home, and love looking at recipes. Even though I know all advice is subjective and not always for me, it can still feel like I can’t keep up with all the advice. I still don’t have any art over the couch in my apartment I have lived in for over a year. I can’t cook chard to save my life. I will never get to finish all the books from Oprah’s book club. Don’t tease. They pick out really good books.

I have been hired as exercise’s PR representative

I am lying face down on the itchy carpet in my apartment wondering if they have replaced it since Clinton was in office. Brad is gasping and grunting trying to move himself into the next position. No this isn’t coitus on the floor. We are going through a series of stretches every morning and evening in order to decrease the muscle pain I have been going through. Right now it is an amalgamation of all the stretching we did in high school and some of the yoga moves I did in first year stage movement. We are stiff and breathing heavy. I have problems when trying to stretch my arms and shoulders. My shoulder s pop and resist. Husband has resistance when doing the bend and hang stretch. It isn’t glamorous or easy for us. We are just trying to get started. The TV is primed for the show we are going to watch after and the only sounds are my breathing heavy and Brads exertion grunts. Not exactly the most restful environment. I think we need to change that.

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What my husband affectionately calls the stretching and farting pallet.

When I was in grade school I had a brilliant second grade teacher, Mrs. Goodness. She was as good as the name implies. Everyday we would start in the morning with singing and dancing. At the time we thought she was the most magical and indulgent teacher. Now I know she was wearing our little bodies out, expending childhood energy in order to calm our minds to better focus.

The most miraculous thing she did was make reading a treat. After song and dance time, with such standard fair as “the ants go marching one by one,” we would hit the work of the day and then reading hour in which we could spread out on pillows or in corners of the room and read whatever we want. The treat was, if you were the most well behaved and the best in the class that day, you got to read in a place of honor. Mrs. Goodness had a platform in the middle of the room that held a large claw foot bathtub with pillows inside. I have never worked so hard to accomplish a goal. I was a spazz. I mean my mom set up the original embargo on soda, necessitated by her sheer exhaustion. It was not easy for me to be calm, quiet, and outwardly studious. I think I only made it into the tub once maybe twice. Certainly, all those other days I envied the people in that tub.

How remarkable to make reading a reward. So many times reading is the thing you do to get pizza or some other prize. Mrs. Goodness made the act of reading alluring. There is no power in the verse like a teacher, right?

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Pretty light…also helps with the aforementioned farting.

I want to do this same thing to exercise in my mind. I want to rebrand it for myself. Why can’t I make exercise indulgent? I don’t know how many times that I have rolled my eyes when some starlet or actress says something about how exercise is a meditation, me time, or energizes them. I have never felt that. Exercise makes me tired, sweaty, and cranky. I feel put out and resentful.

There are people who feel this way about reading, and I always look at them like they are crazy, just like some people reading this are thinking I am crazy. Maybe like Mrs. Goodness did with books, I need to rebrand exercise for myself. Those stretching sessions with lovely husband need some fine tuning to be the energizing, relaxing experience everyone recommends. So I am going to get some blankets to make the ground softer, pillows to relax on in between sessions, and have my husband create a relaxing play list. He is good at that. Maybe I will even go all hippy and burn some relaxing candles in the back ground. (We know from watching Scifi that all true meditation needs candles. How else can you accomplish a successful Kelno’reem? What would Vulcans or even Klingons do without a Pier One?) Maybe the full spa experience will turn my head around to exercise. Maybe I will crave it like a good book, or maybe I will go with the sex on the floor idea.

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Kelno’reem

 

Envy as Motivation

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See, beautiful and a beautiful Christmas dinner

I have this gorgeous Aunt Nicole that I idolize. She is a lean, curvaceous redhead with spunk and charisma. She is one of those women who you wish you could hate because she does everything perfectly. She is a sharp dresser, maintains a beautiful home, and is so good at cooking that she is a caterer. Her fluency in the kitchen I totally envy. A normal dinner at Nicole’s is like spending time with a confident beautiful chef. She times the meals perfectly and only serves the most fresh and desirable food. She does all this while making sure your glass is full and effortlessly entertaining her guests with jokes and stories. She accomplishes all of this without breaking a sweat. When all is said and done, the kitchen is clean, she kicks her feet up, and still has the same make up on that she started with and not one hair out of place. See what I mean? If she wasn’t so nice, loving, funny and congenial, we would all hate her.

While I am not too shabby at making certain meals people rave about, dining at my house is an experience of a different color. You may be met at the door by my husband or me, or you might just hear a panicked “COME IN!” When you make your way to my kitchen you will see me running around frantically opening and closing the oven, or dumping pasta, and all while trying to get drinks all at once. The entire time I am sweating, breathing heavy, and my hair (that I perfectly curled only an hour before) is pasted to my forehead. I rarely entertain anymore because I just don’t seem to pull it off without being a puddle of a human before I have even laid the dishes on the table.

Red faced, clammy and slightly smelly, I sit down to a meal with my guests and try to catch my breath. Mostly the conversation is held by my guests with only an occasional word from me, and there is no doing the dishes while I talk to other people. That would turn into a wet t-shirt contest.

One morning I managed to pull off a beautiful breakfast for my writing group. I made pancakes and eggs. They were the whole wheat kind, some with blueberries. The coffee and tea flowed. I even managed to fill people’s glasses as soon as they were done, and hopped to it in order to bring my guests warm flapjacks when their plate was empty. I was calm, cool and collected. This meal was so unusual that I remember it seven years later. We joke that I was channeling Aunt Nicole that day. We believe that at some point in the morning she must have fallen asleep because that is when I accidentally spilled hot tea all over myself.

I want to lose this weight so that I can entertain without melting down. I want to be able to cook and entertain while being effortlessly pretty. This cause can only be helped by losing weight and getting in shape. I think exercising is the only way to improve my coordination, agility, and my ability to be cool under pressure. I want to glide into my dining room with beautiful food and laugh and gab with my friends. I want people to say, the way I remark on my aunt, “How does she make it all look so effortless?

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Nicole and I at my wedding, which see catered! It was so delicious