#AtoZChallenge — Inpatient Therapy Memories

My husband and I had a bunch of errands to run today, and as we were driving all over the place, we had to drive past Silver Cross Hospital, which always sends us both into a weird mood as we go back to the month I spent there in August/September 2019 after the complications from my back surgery. What I think of varies as I pass the hospital. Here’s what I thought about tonight.

I thought about Jim telling me about how the employees at the little coffee shop at the entrance to the hospital would give him their employee discount because they all knew him because he was there so often. It’s nice but kind of sad, in a way.

I thought about my mornings there, how I would decide to get up and get started around 6 so I could be up and dressed when Jim would arrive in the morning before he would go to work. I would have to call a nurse to help me go to the bathroom, and then I would get help into my wheelchair so I could wash up, brush my teeth, and get dressed. I didn’t shower every day — which I absolutely hated. I used a dry, foaming shampoo on my hair to try to keep it clean and smelling okay. I actually have some of that dry shampoo still here at home, and every time I use it, I am immediately transported back to that hospital room bathroom, sitting in the wheelchair, using so much effort to go through my morning routine. Getting dressed was so hard, especially putting on my shoes and socks. I had an assistive tool to help me put on my socks, and I used an grabber kind of thing to help me put on my shoes. The first tome I had to do it on my own, it took me half an hour to put on my shoes and socks. I would cry regularly in the morning while working to get on my shoes and socks. It was very difficult.

I was always so tired in the morning because I couldn’t sleep at night, which is something else I thought about tonight as we passed the hospital. I would be so tired at night from lack of sleep and the effort of physical and occupational therapy I did every day. I would start the process of getting dressed for bed around 8:30 so I could be done by 9. Jim would always stay with me until I fell asleep, which was usually around 10 or so. Then he would go home. And pretty much every night I would be back up by 1 AM because I was so uncomfortable. I had to sleep on my back and I couldn’t turn at all in bed. I would be so uncomfortable and miserable. I would cry every night, and sometimes I was lucky enough to actually cry myself back to sleep. I would put the TV in my room on a classical music station to try to focus on that to help me fall back to sleep. I would count backwards from 100 with my breathing (a tip from my boxing instructor who said she often used this technique when she had a hard time falling asleep — it’s the equivalent of counting sheep).

I thought about the level of exhaustion I would feel after therapy each day. I had never felt that tired. It was like the exhaustion I felt after I did the marathon — only this was every single day. I understood what the phrase “bone tired” meant.

But I also thought about some really nice things that happened while I was there. I thought about all the people who came to visit me — people from work like people I work with, family, my boxing instructor and classmates from boxing. I remembered the dinners with my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. Those visits and those dinners really lifted my spirits, and I can see now how they helped me, even thought I didn’t realize at the time just how very important they were.

Driving by Silver Cross Hospital always dredges up memories, many negative, some positive. But I have come to accept those memories, even the unpleasant ones, as part of me and my life experience.

Part of the reason I was so miserable and couldn’t sleep was because I had to wear these bad boys to bed every night.
I would post my schedule on Facebook every day in case someone wanted to come visit. I loved the days where my OT was “shower and dress.” I will never, ever take a shower for granted again.

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#AtoZChallange — Howard Stern

I have been a fan of Howard Stern’s for many, many years. I can remember watching him on some second-rate late night TV show. He was crass, irreverent, offensive — and funny. I listen to him often on my satellite radio, and I enjoy some of his funny bits, and I enjoy the banter between him and his staff, mostly Robin. But what I really love about Howard Stern is his interviews.

He is one of the best interviewers I have ever listened to. I don’t care who he is interviewing, whether it is someone I am a fan of or not, I will listen to the interview. Stern seems to have a natural level of ease meeting with the people he interviews. He clearly does his research because he brings up all sorts of bits of trivia and history during the interview. He also gets to ask questions other people simply can’t ask — he is not afraid to ask people about their drug use, their sex lives, or their bathroom habits! These are all things that just can’t be discussed in any kind of detail on a mainstream channel! And what makes it even better is the the people he interviews get to be authentically themselves because they don’t have to worry about any kind of political correctness or check their language.

If you’re not a fan of Howard Stern, I understand. He’s certainly not everybody’s cup of tea. But you should really try to listen to some of his interviews to see if you enjoy them. Check out his website to see if you can find anything! Good luck!

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#AtoZChallenge — Gait

It’s pure luck I had to wait this long to sit down to write my blog post for today, and my dear friend Jennifer suggested the topic.

One night I was doing some random internet surfing about foot drop and peripheral neuropathy, and I stumbled upon the website for the Turbomed Xtern. And I was intrigued. This looked like a revolutionary AFO — one that could possibly give me some stability and flexion back in my left ankle and enable me to walk better — and maybe even run. I decided to talk with my surgeon at my upcoming appointment.

Since my spinal surgery in August 2019, I have been battling with peripheral neuropathy in both feet, with the left foot being worse, resulting in a noticeable foot drop. I have AFOs (ankle foot orthotics) for both feet, and I readily acknowledge they help me walk and keep steady. But they’re uncomfortable, unattractive, and prohibitive in some ways. Because they are rigid, I did not have any flexion in my ankles so I could not do certain activities. I couldn’t do things like planks — my feet would pop out of my shoes. I also couldn’t run because I couldn’t do the heel to toe motion. I have not been using the AFOs for about a year now, and I can get along pretty well. I’m still a little limpy because of the foot drop, and I do get tired because it’s a bit of an effort to walk, but I can walk and do some things I couldn’t do when wearing the AFOs. But I still couldn’t run. And I kind of miss running.

I showed him the Turbomed Xtern and he immediately wrote me an order for the AFO and referred me to Rinella Prosthetics and Orthotics. Dan Rinella ordered me a Turbomed Xtern and put it on my new Hoka running shoe. Quick round of applause to Emily at Naperville Running Company who took her time with me and really worked with me thoughtfully to help me get in the best possible shoe for my condition and to work with the orthotic.

Tonight, I brought my orthotic home and put it on. My life changed.

With this orthotic, I can walk almost completely normally and with almost normal balance. On a typical night, I need to use a cane to help me get up the stairs because my foot drop just makes it challenging to navigate stairs. But with the Turbomed Xtern, I was able to walk up and down the stairs almost completely normally, as you can see in this (not flattering but damn impressive) video.

Tomorrow, I am going to wear it to the gym and do some walking on the treadmill to see how it feels. I’m also going to add a clip to the shoes I wear to boxing in hopes it will allow me to do some more exercises there by giving me more stability.

And maybe, just maybe, this will allow me to run again someday.

Stay tuned.

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#AtoZChallenge — Fahrenheit 451

My favorite book is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I love how it doesn’t tell the story in a traditional format. Instead, it takes the reader through the story as an experience which means you have to do quite a bit of inferring. But in the year 2021, the story is also a bit unsettling as it seems like we are creeping closer and closer to the dystopian and dysfunctional world in that novel. Read on to see my perspective, but this post may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t read the novel but plan to and don’t want parts of it ruined for you, then maybe stop here 🙂

  • Wall TVs: our TVs keep getting bigger and bigger; soon they will literally be as big as an entire wall.
  • Seashells: ear buds are very close to the seashells people use in the novel. Just take a look around the next time you are in public. People everywhere are plugged in to the ear buds, just like people in Fahrenheit 451.
  • Banning books: while books are not anywhere close to illegal in our current society, we have started to remove books that people find offensive. This is a hot button issue for sure. Take the Dr. Seuss brouhaha. Yes, the books in question had racist material. But does that mean it should be completely removed and unavailable? I don’t know. To me, it seems enough to call the books out for what they are, and then they can sit on library shelves, maybe never to be checked out again. But what if I wanted to read them? What if I wanted to look at them through a new lens, trying to make sense of the racist depictions? Is it fair that I can’t access the books? Ultimately, the removal of some books because of offensive content starts a trek down a potentially very slippery slope.
  • Cult mentality: just as people in the society of the novel seem to have a cult mentality, sticking to their misguided tenets, eschewing and actually turning in people who don’t follow those tenets, even people they love and care about. Politics over the past decade or so have cultivated a similar mindset, with people losing relationships with friends and family because of differences of opinions about politics and political figures.
  • Death rituals being abridged, even eliminated: COVID has caused many families to have to skip the traditional goodbye rituals to loved ones who pass away. In the novel, when someone dies, there is no mourning or service to bring closure. The deceased is simply taken away and life goes on.
  • Dependence on medication: so many people today are reliant on medication for stress, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, etc. People use medication like its candy in Fahrenheit 451, and medication is so commonly used that even when the protagonist’s wife overdoses, the technicians who help her aren’t the least bit phased by it. Mildred herself thinks it’s impossible that she took too much medication, she takes so much that she can’t even fathom how it’s possible she took too much.
  • Desensitization to death: there is a scene in the book where a car full of teens try to hit and kill the main character, Montag, with their car. Montag’s wife Mildred talks about how she goes out at night and drives her car fast, sometimes hitting and killing animals and how it makes her feel good to do that. We may not be having fun with killing (yet), but we sure seem accepting of it. Mass killings and school shootings are common place and don’t seem to be terribly shocking news and nobody seems interested in finding ways to make them stop.

Are you a fan of Fahrenheit 451? If so, do you see things the way I do, and did I miss any parallels? Or am I way off base with a really crappy, pessimistic attitude? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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#AtoZChallenge — Empathy

My post for today is about empathy. I feel like empathy is one of my strongest personality traits. I think it’s one of the most important traits a person can have. I think it’s the trait people need most of all in this world, especially the way things are now. I also think it’s probably the hardest thing to teach people.

Empathy, simply put, is the ability to understand the way another person might feel. I didn’t realize empathy was a thing until I was an adult. I have always kind of been good at thinking about how other people feel. I just thought it was “romanticizing” or “dramatizing” the way other people might feel. Come to find out that the consideration I have for other people’s feelings is actually empathy.

If people would operate from a place of empathy, there would be so many different people in this world. There would be less bullying — both among kids and adults. There would be less name calling. There would be less selfishness. Social media would not be a cesspool. “Karens” and “Chads” would be few and far between. Crime would decrease.

Unfortunately, empathy is sorely lacking, and when people behave empathetically, they get made fun of. They get called snowflakes, triggered, soft, weak, and various other offensive names (many of which are misogynistic, but that’s a whole other post). Being empathetic is considered silly and laughable.

I have often said that part of the problem with the messaging about wearing masks is that we were told wearing a mask protects those around us. For a society that has a distinct lack of empathy, this message falls on deaf ears, so people get all pissy about “having their rights infringed” by having to wear a mask. What should have been said is that wearing a mask is 100% personal protection and will keep you safe from all the other germy folks out there. Appeal to peoples’ selfishness and they’ll do what needs to be done.

Ultimately, the people who lack empathy either don’t see it or simply don’t care, so trying to get people to be more empathetic is an exercise in futility. That won’t stop me from trying to continue being empathetic, no matter how much of a snowflake that makes me.

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#AtoZChallenge — Defending Jacob

My friend Janine suggested I read the novel Defending Jacob by William Landay. It was a fantastic read! When a teen is murdered, a local family has to deal with the possibility that their son Jacob is the murderer. It’s a nightmare scenario for every parent. If you are a parent reading this book, you will find yourself being able to identify with the parents in the story. No parent wants to believe their child could so something so disgustingly heinous. This book will take you on an emotional roller coaster right up until the very end, which has quite a plot twist that will leave you with your jaw on the floor and wondering if you would have done the same.

This story was turned into a limited series on Apple TV+. It was good, but doesn’t hold up to the novel, in my opinion. You can watch the trailer for the limited series below.

So if you’re looking for a book that will get you pretty emotionally invested, consider reading Defending Jacob.

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#AtoZChallenge — COVID Blessings

I know what you’re thinking…how original. A post about COVID for the letter C. Sorry I couldn’t be more imaginative 🙂 I am sure you’re also wondering how there could be any kind of blessing associated with COVID. Well, that might be more tricky, and I also know that many people don’t see any blessings at all, as they have become sick themselves, or have known people who became sick, or have even died. In those situations, blessings may be hard to find. I know that. But I have been incredibly fortunate during the past year, and I feel it would be wrong to acknowledge how lucky I have been.

Here is what I want to say about COVID. I have tried to focus on the blessings I have received during this time. Do I know people who did indeed get sick with COVID? Yes. Some of them even got really sick. But none of them had to be hospitalized, and none of them died. Those are blessings.

My husband actually got sick with COVID, although I really have no clue how he did that, as he never really left the house. But he had almost no symptoms whatsoever, and we managed to keep me from getting it despite living in the same house. That’s a blessing.

My mom and dad, both of whom have health issues, did not get COVID. That’s a blessing.

During lockdown, my husband and I were both still able to work from home. We did not have any real disruption in how we live our lives outside of being at home and not going out anywhere. That’s a really big blessing.

My workplace, a school district, was able to open this school year for in person instruction. I honestly figured we would be closed again by Labor Day weekend, but here we are, in April, and still open. We have had cases of COVID, both staff and students, but it was never rampant. I call that a blessing — including for the students in my school district.

Finally, many of my friends and family, including myself, have been able to be vaccinated. That is an incredible blessing.

My sincere hope is that everyone who wants a vaccine is able to get it as soon as they possibly can. I want people to be able to do things they want to and need to do — travel to see dear friends and family, enjoy meals together, hug each other, know they’re safe.

COVID has been awful for so many people in so many ways. I am grateful that my experience has not been as tragic as others, and I wish I could do something to make it better for those who did have to face nightmare scenarios.

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#AtoZChallenge — Beer

I like beer. I’m not a beer connoisseur by any stretch, but I know what I like.

A rare moment, drinking a Corona.

I didn’t always like beer. What I have discovered is that I seem to prefer beer that doesn’t taste like beer. You won’t likely find me drinking a Budweiser, Coors Light, or Miller. Maybe a very occasional Corona (because I like the lime), but generally speaking, not a beer-flavored beer drinker!

Enjoying my “comfort beer,” a Guinness.

I learned that there were beers that had actual flavors from my friends Steven and Brian, who actually opened and ran their own brewery for a few years. (Brian has since moved on to working for a beer distributor in the Florida keys, using his extensive beer knowledge and reputation to make a name for himself on the beer world. Steven is a brewer and part owner at a local brewery near where I live, so I still get to drink his beer, and it makes me happy!) My very favorite beer in the world is actually one Steven brewed at home and also ended up brewing when he was in business with his brother. It was called Stick to the Nuts (many of their beers had a hockey slant, as their business was named SlapShot Brewing. Stick to the Nuts had peanut butter in it, and it was just so tasty! But since I can’t enjoy Stick to the Nuts anymore, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites:

  • Guinness, especially if it’s a nitro (I do love a good stout, and Guinness is just a comfort beer for me)
  • Wells Banana Bread
  • Abita Purple Haze
  • Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
  • Left Hand Milk Stout
  • Hailstorm Hotel Life (this is one of the beers Steven brews)
  • 3 Floyds Zombie Dust
  • Pollyanna Fun Size
  • New Glarus Spotted Cow
  • Saugatuck Neapolitan Milk Stout
Wearing a Guinness shirt I literally charmed off the back of a man in Key West!
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Blogging A to Z — Adopt, Don’t Shop

I have 2 dogs — Blanca and Zoey. They’re both chihuahuas. Zoey is 12; Blanca is 14. Zoey was adopted from someone I knew whose dog had puppies. But Blanca, she’s a different story. One I want to share.

I wanted a chihuahua. I knew I wanted one that was solid, light colored. I did not do any legwork or research and assumed I would not find one anywhere except from a breeder or a shop. I ended up finding her at a pet store, and I won’t disclose what I paid for my dog, but it was A LOT.

Since getting her, I have done a lot of learning, and I discovered that puppy mills exist. I didn’t really know anything about them 14 years ago, but I soon came to learn the horrors of them. If you’re an animal lover. then the details about puppy mills will make you absolutely sick to your stomach. I also learned that many pet stores are notorious for acquiring dogs from puppy mills, and I am fairly certain that my Blanca was probably the product of a puppy mill, and I unwittingly contributed to that practice continuing by buying her at a pet store.

If I had to do it all again, I would reach out to rescues specifically for chihuahuas to see if I could find the kind of pup I wanted. I would go to a shelter to see if they had a dog I wanted. I would NOT go to a breeder (not for a house pet; that’s a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a dog I’m not going to do anything with except feed and love on). I would NOT go to a pet shop. I would adopt. That’s what I would encourage anyone to do for any kind of pet. There are far too many unwanted animals out there that need a home; there is no need to pay big bucks for a house pet. Period.

And while I am on my soap box, please also do not bring a pet into your home unless you plan to keep it for the rest of its life. Pets are not disposable. You do not get to just get rid of it when it becomes an inconvenience. Blanca, being up in years, can’t hold her peeing and pooping as long as she used to be able to, so she does end up having accidents in the house. It’s a pain, and it’s gross. But I will NOT get rid of her because of it. Instead, we use puppy pads in areas where she is prone to making a mess, and we clean floors, throw rugs, and carpets where she has accidents. We invested in a good carpet cleaner, and we have plenty of cleaning supplies. THAT’S what need to be done, not throw her away because she got old.

So the next time you are looking for a new fur baby, please adopt, don’t shop!

P.S. Thanks to my friend Sheila for suggesting I write on this topic. She is a fierce advocate for all things furry!

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Year in Review 2020 — The Year of Silver Linings

I think everyone agrees — 2020 sucked! It was the hottest mess of hot messes of a year. So why is this post subtitled, “The Year of Silver Linings”? Because as I reflected on the year and what I wanted to write about, I realized that pretty much every gray cloud of 2020 had a silver lining.

Let’s start with the obvious: COVID-19.

Gray cloud: schools closed. Clearly unprecedented. Something I surely never, ever expected to happen in the course of my career. When schools closed in March, my mind was simply reeling. It was surreal, working from home every day. When we had the chance to get back into the schools near the end of the school year to close up our spaces, it was eerie, with everything having been frozen in time. Dates written on whiteboards, supplies left on desks, decorations on walls and doors. Having the pick up day at the end of the year with kids in cars with their parents was so strange and sad somehow. It was like all of us in education couldn’t believe this was our current reality.

Silver lining: the camaraderie I felt with my colleagues. It was comforting knowing there was a group of people I could bond with, who could understand exactly how difficult trying to teach kids from home actually was. We were all united in our efforts to do right by our kids, and we all were able to laugh and cry together, even if it was virtually. I am still so incredibly proud of the extraordinary work my colleagues did (and are actually still doing) to ensure the students in our district had the best possible experience, both educationally and socially.

Silver lining: the comforts of home. While working from home, I got to be with my dogs and my husband. I got to sleep a little bit later. I got to wear super comfy clothes each day.

Gray cloud: my husband, my daughter, and my future son-in-law got COVID. Becky and Ben came down with it pretty much at the exact same time. Jim came down with it, too. We are all pretty sure we knew where Becky and Ben got it, but no clue where Jim picked it up.

Silver lining: none of them had a serious case. Becky and Ben never had anything more serious than some body aches; Jim never had anything more than a stuffy nose. And I have also managed to avoid getting it (unless I have had it and have been asymptomatic). Hearing about how many people have had serious cases of COVID and how many people have actually died from it makes me grateful beyond measure that my family was fortunate enough to have mild cases.

Gray cloud: quarantining. Stay-at-home orders and voluntarily avoiding being around people has meant I don’t get to see some people, like my mom or my brother and his family. In fact, I have not hugged my mom since March. It can be pretty emotionally draining to be away from those you love.

Silver lining: quality time with the hubs. We have enjoyed binge watching TV shows together and playing cards as well as doing some cleaning projects around the house.

On to other gray clouds and their silver linings:

Gray cloud: Larry and Cathy leave me. My dearest friends moved to Key West this year. These are people I love like family, and their moving has left a hole in my heart. I miss them so much every damn day.

Silver lining: travel. Jim and I have managed to get 3 trips this year to visit them in Key West. We have a reason to get there as often as possible now, and because they live there, they show us all sorts of great new places to visit, places we would have never thought about if not for their experience. Plus they are happy, so I am happy for them.

Gray cloud: neuropathy. I still have pretty significant numbness, especially in my left foot. I really thought I would be back to 100% this year, but alas, I am not.

Silver lining: lots of normalcy. I am now able to drive normally — no hand controls. I don’t have to wear leg braces. I don’t have to use a walker or a cane. I go to the gym and go to boxing, and I can do most of the things I want to do to be active.

2020 is ending, and I am so glad for that! I am very much looking forward to 2021. The biggest event is my daughter’s wedding. I am also looking forward to getting a COVID vaccine as soon as I can, taking more tripe to Key West, and continuing to work on my recovery.

Happy New Year, my friends!

via Wintershall Dea on GIPHY

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