Advance to Go

The task I set myself this week was continue with the Egoscue method of pain relief. I’m well into my third week of the routine and as now my pain has significantly reduced – by about 80% – I moved into the extra innings exercises. I have found almost immediate relief using this method and was wondering what would happen when I ‘Level Up’ to the additional ones. Would I be totally pain free? Would I be improved Bionic Woman style? Would I now be able to hoist a fallen tree off railroad tracks? As unlikely as that scenario might sound to you, it could happen. It could, I live in a very windy place. Only today a large branch broke off the tree in my back yard. It’s just lucky that there isn’t a metro line running through my back yard or I’d have been in big trouble! So, I got ready to complete a full set of e-cises and…..nothing. No magical improvement at all! I was somewhat disappointed and still not a superhero. I’ve been doing the deluxe version for five days and honestly I think the extra ones are redundant. I’m sure they aren’t really but they take sooo much longer than the first set. (Like 30 minutes more) and worst of all? They are dull! Three of the four are lying down with various legs supported by a chair. Lying down for 25 minutes – at the start of the day when I should be doing other stuff. I’m not much of a lying down kind of person and I suppose it shows how much I’ve improved if I’m itching to get up to do the ironing! There were whole weeks where the ironing never entered my head. Apparently it never entered anyone else’s either because when I finally got around to it yesterday the pile was around three feet tall and I am not exaggerating. It has taken me two mornings of hard labor to get it under control. And as anyone who has had a painful back knows, Ironing is tough on a spine. Oh, I see. Perhaps the ironing marathon has taken it’s toll? I had no idea we had so many clothes. And I don’t iron everything, only collared shirts, pants and the stuff that had been left in the dryer for a week. But perhaps if I continue the e-cises and don’t do four straight hours of twisting at waist level, two days in a row, I might get some better results. Ok. Let’s try that.

Also in the category of probably should have known better, my husband and I finally finished our drought tolerant back yard. Lots of digging (for him) lots of planting (for me) and lots of mulch later (both of us) we are done! This is a project we have been working on since late last year and it feels great to finally have it complete.

20140326-182516.jpg
My attempt at Native American art in our now completed drought tolerant back yard.

My next post will show the plants we chose.

The Penny Drops

I am starting my long journey back to health by actually listening to my body. It does a fantastic job of moving me where I want to go, doing what I ask it (generally) and asks for very little in return. As thanks for providing me with 46 years of pretty amazing service – it made a human! – I have treated it like crap. I have put poor quality fuel into it and neglected its service requirements. If it was an employee it would have quit a long time ago, probably changing the network passwords before it left for good measure. So, time to give it a bit of love I think, or a raise.

As my main problem has been back pain, I have taken this week to rest and move back into my family life and obligations slowly. My husband and (to a lesser extent teenage son) are still fetching and carrying for me but now I am up and about and moving much more than before I have resumed some tasks, like cooking (yay!) and laundry (bah!). I have stopped taking the medication, it’s there if I need it but I try my hardest to not take it. If my back hurts I want to know, not mask its message with addictive pills.

As part of getting back to normal I actually managed to find a taker for about a hundred old bricks we had lying around. We pulled up two old patios, the Ash tree in the back yard has grown so big it had done a good job itself of pulling it up on its own and they were pretty ugly. We put some raised vegetable beds there instead and I’m looking forward to planting in them soon.

The nice man who came to take the bricks suggested I read a book called Pain Free by Pete Egoscue. In a haze of muscle relaxants and vicodin I ordered it and when the haze cleared a couple of days later it arrived! Along with a foot peel called Baby Foot which must have been in my online cart and got ordered alongside it! Reading this book was like finding the missing puzzle piece to my problems. It made so much sense I couldn’t stand it! My problems, Mr Egoscue assures me is that I am using all the wrong muscles to stand/walk/bend/work out etc. OK there is much more to it than that but the key is to training the correct muscles to get their act together and give the poor overworked compensating muscles a damn rest. It solved a major question for me – which was how can I be so weak in some areas and still so strong in others? My arms and leg muscles are solid! I shifted 200 plus bags of gravel, I can walk for miles, I regularly hoist 25 pound bags of flour over my head (seriously!) But I’ve been doing it wrong for my entire life.

So I started the Pain Free program three days ago. The first day’s exercises, which are so simple I feel a bit guilty calling them exercises, I got my husband to eyeball what I was doing and point out when I wasn’t in the right position. A couple of the exercises were hard to complete because of the current back pain but I managed them all – there were only five and the total work-out took about 25 minutes. After I finished them I had this really weird feeling of my legs being a bit ‘wibbly wobbly’. Kind of like my hip joints were baggy. I know that sounds odd. I still had pain, even after the exercises but I figured one day isn’t going to do anything. The second day I re-read the exercises and realized I had done one of them incorrectly. Perhaps that is why I still had pain because the second and third day I had zero pain after completing the regimen. Zero pain is huge I tell ya! The pain came back later in the day. How tempting to do the work-out again? But the book specifically tells you not to do this, so I didn’t. I’m on day three now and it is definitely helping. I’ll keep up with it and report back on progress.

In the spirit of not completely giving in to a set back, I made the teenager of the house an offer he couldn’t refuse. Dig the remaining beds in the back yard for money! Now I know that this is probably bad parenting, he should offer to do it for the good of the family, right? Yeah I know and he does do chores (admittedly half heartedly sometimes) but this was a lot of garden and I would have to pay someone to do it, so I just sort of gave him first refusal. He roped in a really industrious friend and they spent almost the whole day digging. It was funny to see him organizing the work party. Another, less industrious friend, had agreed to come too, then at the last minute got a better offer of hanging out at the mall. Round here we call that a flake! His mall plans were then cancelled so he asked if he could come and work. The two boys already literally digging in decided no, they would be better without someone so unreliable, plus they would get less money. Real life work decisions in action!

While they were doing that I was grilling ribs for lunch, making potato salad, corn on the cob, lemonade etc. It was 80 degrees, and it so felt like summer. The boys did a fantastic job and the two beds are pretty much ready to be planted. Just got to buy the plants and mulch oh and provide my husband with all the porter he can drink (which these days sad to say is about two!) Well, at least he’s cheaper than the 14 year olds and he won’t want to listen to dub step while he’s working. He’s more of a Billy Bragg fan.

20140317-180852.jpg

I know it’s sideways, I just can’t figure out how to rotate. Story of my life really.

Better Than Awful

It’s been over a week since I updated my blog and it’s really been a roller coaster of a week. I really thought that after ending up in the hospital with severe back pain my week couldn’t get much worse, silly me. My adorable dog Panini also ended up in hospital – she got bitten by something (probably an ant, they are ferocious here) and licked the bite until it got infected. I tried some antibacterial cream but no luck. So my poor husband, as well as looking after me, doing all the housework, shopping, cooking and looking after our teenager had to take her to a vet. Turns out she also had a tooth infection. Over $400 later she’s on more meds than me, hating having to wear a cone of shame and is the very definition of hang dog.

Oh, and we got a leak in the shower, seeping onto our bedroom carpet.

The worst of it is that these are all things I would usually handle, but I’ve had to step back and let my poor frazzled husband deal with crisis after crisis. I hate being incapacitated! But it did clarify a number of things for me.

Firstly, we are a great team, my hubby and me. Together we Get Stuff Done. We divide and conquer the jobs that need doing and if I work hard during my day at home, I know he works just as hard at work (and then has a horrible commute home on what are officially the worst roads in the country). We kill it during the week so we can relax at the weekend. Our system, while so hopelessly out of date to the feminist in me, works for our family.

His employer, and specifically his boss, are worth their weight in gold. Having someone say, during a crisis, “family first, stay off as long as you need.” and actually mean it, is a benefit that is priceless, and not taxable!

Buying a house on one level was a stroke of genius.

There are some things, like digging the garden, that it is ultimately cheaper to pay someone to do than do myself and end up in this much pain and with these many bills. My health is important to this family too and constantly putting myself last is reckless, and counterproductive. I am dreading getting the bills for my trip to the ER, admittance into the hospital and the tests I underwent while there. We have good insurance through the fantastic employer but still our deductible is $5,000 and I fully expect to meet it in this visit. Although I have had a vulnerable back all my adult life, I have known that there are things I should do to avoid a crisis like this (lose weight and strengthen stomach muscles) but I have neglected to do them in the guise of putting others before myself. False economy!

The good news is that I don’t have a tumor, ruptured discs or bone issues (thank you CT scan). I also don’t have ovarian cancer (thank you ultrasound) or gallstones (thank you blood tests) although I do have more ovarian cysts and for some reason a lung that doesn’t fully inflate. Who knew? Might explain the hatred of exercise or why I am so bad at swimming.

So, for the foreseeable future exercise is out. When I’m no longer in pain I will start the core exercises but until then will concentrate on losing weight.

I had started last year using the free MyFitnessPal app. and I lost 23 pounds. Unfortunately I slipped off the wagon and put 5 back on. I was expecting more, so far off the wagon had I slipped (hello toast with butter and marmite). So, although gaining was bad it was better than the awful I expected when I weighed myself this morning. It had been several months since I weighed myself and getting on the scales this morning was easy once I acknowledged the points in this blog.

The app I use is great, it’s really a fancy food journal but with some great added features. I love it and it really helps me plan and control my food intake. So my goal for this week is to use MyFitnessPal every day and not go over my calorie goal.

Sounds easy, right? Right?

Panini in her cone of shame, normally I would bend down to take the picture but, well you know, agonizing pain and all that, so you get a lovely picture of my feet too, and those slippers are comfy OK? Don’t judge me.

20140310-101553.jpg

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:

20140301-021430.jpg

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.

20140301-021623.jpg

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

20140301-030255.jpg

My drought tolerant plants have cheared me up no end!

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.

20140213-093014.jpg

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.

IMG_1770

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