Even More Disaster

Thinking that my bad back was on the mend I had spent last week back on my feet, still not lifting anything if at all possible but getting on with anything at waist level or above that I could. I decided to concentrate on creativity and decided to rescue an office chair we have had outside since we moved 3 years ago. It was peeling varnish, dog knawed foot bits and covered in dust, dirt and cobwebs. Here’s a pict of before:

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So I cleaned it up, sanded it and painted it. It took me a couple of house to sand it and give it it’s first coat of paint. Several layers of paint later I have a great office chair and the dining room chair can go back into. the dining room.

Cost of project: $16 for the cushion. Everything else we had in our garage
It’s not perfect but I think it looks better.

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So after the weekend I had a productive week until yesterday. My back felt better enough to do a small amount of housework, hemming jeans, doing the ironing etc. I had gotten back to walking the hell hounds every day and finished with my son’s grounding.

Early in the morning, doing nothing but standing still I had a back spasm out of the blue. A big one serious enough to make me think about gathering things to the couch and getting re-started on one of my Mum’s cross stitches and resting for the rest of the day. This I did.

All went well until I started with more and more muscle spasms during the afternoon. Now I should point out that I am in the British mould -tough it out, stiff upper lip, “is it broken or bleeding? No? Shake it off! But after a couple of hours the spasms started getting worse and worse until I was actually screaming in pain. The pain would come at random and I came to be able to feel when they were about to hit and meditate through it sometimes but towards the end even the slightest noise, the dog barking or door opening made me spasm.

My husband came home early and called the doctor who was great and sent a prescription for a muscle relaxant. It didn’t work though and after seeing two spasms (and me screaming through them) he called an ambulance.

Getting onto the gurney was the most excruciating pain I have ever been through (and I gave birth once!). My BP was up around 175/110 and thankfully the paramedics gave me a small shot of morphine to take the edge off the pain. It did help some but only a little.

So I spent yesterday in the ER on shed loads of morphine, carisoprodol, Vicodin, dramadol, and a host of other stuff. After some serious tests (CT scan, ultrasound, blood work) was diagnosed with severe muscle spasms.
After a night in the hospital with wonderful staff and a cocktail of drugs, I was discharged on Friday afternoon.

So here I am, in bed counting the hours until the next pain pill. The spasms are less frequent and weaker so I can move somewhat. But the drugs are making me sleepy again so time to stop for now.

I will not let this totally derail me

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My drought tolerant plants have cheared me up no end!

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Breaking the Cycle

This week I have been focusing myself on my back garden. It has been an ongoing project for the last two years or so but late last year my family and I spent serious time improving it. We pretty much gave up our Christmas/New Year break to re-landscape it into a water-wise garden. Our area is having severe water shortages – there has been hardly any rain since we moved here almost three years ago – so we decided to remove our back lawn and put down gravel. Any rain will soak through the gravel and landscape fabric underneath it, plus it looks much nicer than the weedy dust bowl that was there before. The turf had long since gone when we moved in and when I realized I was watering a large expanse of weeds I stopped, they died off and our garden reverted to the desert it is. As I like to line dry my clothes it has been especially annoying as either our clothes have to be dried in the dryer (expensive) or we look like extras from Ice Cold in Alex. The gravel and laying out of new beds made a huge improvement but now it is warming up a bit it is time to plant!

I spent a couple of days raking leaves up from the gravel, filling up our green waste bin quickly, and digging the remnants of weed grass out of the first bed. A couple of days ago I decided to buy plants and had a happy hour choosing drought tolerant plants and arranging them in their pots where I wanted them to go. Sticking to my one hour max was hard but I managed it. But then yesterday – disaster. After popping out to buy mulch and some potting compost I overdid the final bit of digging and strained my back. So here I am, able to stand (for a while), and walk slowly but absolutely no bending at all. Argh! I was doing so well. I had continued with the yoga and dog walking and was feeling great. The dogs were happier too.

Now my old habit would be to give up everything until my back was better. No exercise at all, eating poorly and generally wallowing in self pity in my PJs. This time however, I have decided not to follow that pattern. Ok the yoga will have to wait, I will do some very gentle stretching in place until I can get back to it (could be a couple of weeks but I’m hoping sooner), walking the dogs is just not possible as the slightest pull forward sends my back into spasm, uneven ground is a killer too and as I look like a little hunched old lady I am a bit embarrassed, especially when crossing the road. Drivers can be so impatient! But there are some gardening tasks I can still do, I have some plants to put into containers if my 14 year old will be my substitute spine and lift them down when they’re done. I suspect he will as the parole board (me and my husband) met last week and granted him early conditional release from his grounding starting the week after next.

I have some stuff in the garden to freecycle so I can arrange that. I can also still cook. So I am spending the day (slowly but doggedly) filling up the freezer. I make all our bread. It’s a no knead recipe luckily as I tried kneading briefly and paid the price (which is why I am sitting down typing this now). I started doing it a couple of years ago and now hate having to buy it. My bread costs under $1 a loaf and tastes so much nicer than the stuff at the supermarket. I know what’s in it too. I usually make it fresh every couple of days but it freezes well and the way I see it, it will save me time next week. More time for rehabilitation.

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Drought tolerant plants waiting for their permanent home.

Deadly Yoga

This week has been a week full of calm and relaxation. I started my health focused week enthusiastically. My 14 year old son is currently grounded which means as a punishment I walk him to school every morning and walk him home every afternoon. Mortifying for him, edifying for me.

I don’t usually get outside so early and apart from the crazy car situation outside the school, which we tend to avoid because for some reason my son has decided he likes to be in school really early and go in through the back gate (I wonder why?), it is very peaceful to be outside so early. It is cold too, which for our location (low desert) where the temperature often climbs into the hundreds it is a refreshing change. My early morning walk is also peaceful because my dogs, unlike every other dog I know, just refuse to get up before 9:30am. They look at me with, “Nope, not happening.” eyes and go back into their cozy beds.

A little later in the morning I settle down to do my yoga practice. I have found a lovely lady online, Ester Ekhart, whose calm and peaceful Swedish (I think but as I don’t know any Swedish people I could be way off) accent gently encourages me into the strangest positions I can imagine. They all have unpronounceable yoga names and wonderfully descriptive english translations. The half moon pose, the staff pose, mountain pose and so on. There was one Ester only described in yoga-ese which was my favorite. Lying on the floor, legs down, arms at the side, thinking about your breath. I looked it up. My favorite yoga pose is The Corpse Pose? Really? My idea of exercise is dying. How appropriate.

Moving on from the fact that I am enthusiastically imitating a dead body every morning my daily yoga practice has definitely been beneficial. I find myself doing mountain pose when I brush my teeth, standing firmer and straighter. My flexibility, long a problem because of a compromised disc in my spine, is improving dramatically.  Yoga gives me energy for the rest of the day, I am far more likely to fix that blind in my son’s bedroom or take the dogs for a longer walk before we pick up my naughty offspring. But it is a calm energy. I’m not manically running round hurrying to get stuff done. I move from one thing, to completion and then take a breath before moving on. That is a huge change for me. It makes me feel less like I’m forgetting something which is my usual brain pattern.

The dogs are also benefitting from daily walks. Being so small it is easy to forget that they need to walk outside their usual habitat to exercise their brains. They are definitely less bouncy and yippy after a consistent week of daily walks. I would love to take them twice a day but they are agreed that that won’t be necessary thank you very much. I think they held a meeting under the Ash tree in the back yard because they are surprisingly and unusually united in this.

My dilema will be what to do when the parole board meets to discuss my son’s pending release. I don’t want to stop my early morning walks but will have no reason to get outside. As I am one half of that parole board I should probably recuse myself. I’ll take it under advisement.

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Panini: Wake me at 10:00am with a latte and biscotti.

Yoga Bear

This week of living changerously I am focusing on health. I have a number of health issues that have necessitated several changes already, which I mostly stick to. For example I don’t drink cows milk, I switched to almond milk. I also eat only organic meat and eggs and because it is so expensive we don’t eat it every night. I’m not scared of vegetables. I know what do to with a butternut squash and a rutabager (that’s a swede to us Brits). Of course I also know how to make brownies and killer cupcakes but this week isn’t about food. It’s about my bête noir – the dreaded E word. Exercise.

I have a love hate relationship with exercise. I hate doing it, I hate getting wheezy and feeling sick. But I love the way it feels afterwards. I feel bouncy and energetic and righteous. But after a while I get injured – I have joint issues in my back and feet – and so I have to take a break. A break which is usually filled with TV and vanilla bean scones. So although I have to exercise, it just can’t be anything too rigorous. I also am not a good swimmer, meaning I could stop myself from drowning in a pinch but haven’t got the technique or stamina to go lap swimming. I am the only person I know who got injured at Aquafit. I was the youngest there by at least two decades and damned if I was going to let the oldies beat me. I pushed it too far and strained my back meaning extremely limited movement for the next three weeks or so. Oh the shame. I also get a wee bit competitive with absolutely no skills or coordination to back it up. When aerobics instructors yell out, “Go at your own pace!” They are almost always looking at me. Thing is my pace is either red faced brute forcing my way through yet another grapevine until I’m broken or vanilla bean scones and Downton Abbey, which is handy because that’s almost always where I end up.

So, no aerobics, no long running classes, no gym membership (me: “How much a month? Really, people pay that?”), no swimming pool and I never learned how to ride a bike. I am left with dog walking and Yoga. Dog walking and Yoga it is.

Now, when I say dog walking I should point out that I have two of the smallest dogs in the world. A Chihuhua – short of leg but a bladder that can cover every and I do mean every, post, tree, stump, tire, small child, wall or leaf it travels past. I swear Cesar takes our walks with the dedication of an Olympic athlete. An athlete with one leg permanently off the floor. Panini is a Yorkshire Terrier mixed with a Maltese. Her superpower is her nose, she walks wherever her nose tells her to, often the wrong way round a tree or into someone else’s front yard, preferably under a fence. Occasionally just up a tree. So my walks with them are often just me standing still, retrieving one or other of them from something, untangling leashes and apologizing to my neighbors, and their small urinated on offspring. I don’t usually get a sweat up, unless it’s stress sweat, which doesn’t count. So although I will be walking my lovable rascals, or mangy curs, if you speak to my husband, I will supplement with yoga. On a mat in my nice organized office no dogs allowed.

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I pee because I claim everything in the world for yoooooou Suzie.

The Big Reveal!

So, the week has come and gone and I have been diligent in my efforts to keep at my goal of improving my habitat and thereby my life.

Taking on organization first was a stroke of genius because a) I don’t have to think too hard about it. Having worked in finance and admin for many years I am educated to the use of a good filing system, and b) it has meant that my bills got paid on time this month and my tax returns  filed (refund, yay!). What I didn’t anticipate was that it would throw up a whole host of new projects. For example by going through files that I don’t usually pick up I noticed that my husband’s passport is almost expired. Not good when all our family live overseas. I also came across pictures which needed to be framed, or hung, or mended then framed then hung or … well you get my drift. I also came across many many old and dried up pens. Of every variety, with logos for companies I have never heard of. “Where do these all come from?”, I kept finding myself muttering, while tossing them into the bin (US translation: trash).

after this happening to my shredder several times I sent the rest to work with the husband
Shredder issues above: after this happening several times I gave up and sent the rest to work with my husband. I have no idea what he did with them. They could be propping up his desk but I hope they made it into the secure shredding bin.

But the real breakthrough came on day four. I was sorting through another mound of dried up pens and musing to myself, “Why do I have more than one spare wireless mouse, and what exactly is the plural for a wireless mouse? Mice? Mouses? Meece?” and I had a lightbulb moment. I am great at this! I am great at change, I love it. I like transformations, the drama of them. I leave my hair until it is half way down my back before I get it cut. I haven’t had a trim in 25 years. I love spring cleaning, but hate sweeping the floor. When I worked outside the home I would go into an office, put in procedures, get everything ordered and optimized and then move on. It’s my MO. I am a job hopper, I am a yo-yo dieter.  I have never been able to maintain a healthy weight. I love hgtv for those reveals. I’m addicted to reveals! I love creating order out of chaos but do I create chaos so I can have the payoff of the transformation? Yikes! Heavy stuff to come from some dried up old pens.

The next few days I spent being mindful of my habit of ignoring maintenance tasks. I ended up getting so much accomplished. Just knowing that leaving the breakfast dishes was a conscious decision to create a tiny makeover later made me stop and do it. My mother loved an old saying, any saying really she wasn’t particular. But the one which has been with me this week is: “A stitch in time saves nine.” I’ve heard it so many times it sort of lost its meaning but it is true. By staying on top of the routine you create less drama in your life and leave time for much more interesting things than sifting through 42 pens which don’t work to find a stamp.

I’ll just have to find my drama another way.

Next week’s topic: health.