Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Turning It Upside Down....

Once you have lost 80 pounds, you have a little....mmmm....slack.  Since I have about 20 more to lose to get anywhere close to a healthy weight, I have to live with this for the time being.  Dressing around this requires careful shopping and fitting, and if you all want to say you never noticed, well, then, I'm shopping pretty well, thanks.

But I'm enjoying this yoga thing, so I'm making a comittment in appropriate clothing.  I had pants, but they were purchased about 30 pounds ago.  Loose t-shirts do okay for cover up, but when you go into Downward Facing Dog, you get Upward Facing T-Shirt.  Not only can't you breathe, but everyone else gets a flashy show.  And the slack stuff?

Okay. Feel free to stop reading if you are faint of heart.  Or take a shot of whiskey or something.

It's bad enough that when I am moving quickly up a hill there are inexplicable squamous smackdown noises when my 'apron' meets my upper legs.  Turn that upside down and there's an almighty adipose avalance toward my ribcage.  To make things worse, I finally learned how to relax all my facial muscles when I'm upside down.  I'm thinking that perhaps Maybelle the hound-dog has been reincarnated in the result:  I can feel my jowls displace my cheeks, but that's okay because I think my cheeks have shoved my eyelids up to my hairline.  (Side note:  If I were truly intended to put my arse above my wrists, a merciful Father would not have let it get so big.)

Thank God for Old Navy.  They actually believe that Plus Size women exercise, and they make stuff that keeps your skin from sliding all over the damned place while you do it (well, except my face.  No fixing that in this life, I suppose), and shirts that stay DOWN without making you look like you are wrapped in an inner tube.  I wouldn't wear it to Walmart (although I've met people who would), but I'm okay for class.

So far this has had no measurable effect on headaches for either Babygirl or I, but I feel like my posture has improved, and I can tell my balance and upper body strength are better.  It's an easy place to meditate. And it seems nice to be in a 'sport' where the only competition is internal, and everyone cheers everyone on.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Downside of Fit....

Adding three 75-minute classes/week to a full schedule sucks some time out of your life, you know?  Not that the yoga hasn't had some very nice benefits.  Babygirl and I get to spend time together. We are getting in better shape.  We have some new life skills:  Breathe.  Be in your body.  Let your shoulders relax down your  back.

I no longer fall sideways everytime I stand on my left leg.  Babygirl is beginning shape up a nice plank.  Neither one of us has any real good news to report yet on headache improvement, but it's less than a month, so....

In other news:  Larry.  My sister-in-law (an animal savant if ever there was one) said, after one brief glimpse of Larry, "He's at least 10" despite the rescue's estimate that he was about 6.  Our vet saw him the other day, and she agrees with my SIL - he's probably about 10 years old.  Ah, well, we don't care, he's cute, and walking him has made him younger every day. Yesterday's walk had him leading ME the whole way.  He's so different from Maybelle. She selected a different route every day, and crossed the street as often as I would let her.  Larry is more predictable:  Go west until I won't go west anymore, then go north until I turn him toward home. Unless it's hot, then south to the river.  We've heard him bark only twice, once when another male dog tried to check out his sexuality and he let out a houndy, "Notgay!" and once in the middle of the night, when he bayed at SOMETHING outside the front window for long enough to wake us all up.

So life is pleasantly boring, but singularly lacking in free time.

Besides, it's summer. I have books to read, and grandkids to hang out with.


Sunday, June 12, 2016


Yesterday I went to a yoga class for the very first time.  Well, not counting some kind of yoga sort of thing that I went to once at our church where we lay down on the floor for an hour doing a progressive relaxation exercise in the dark for an hour (seriously - we never moved at all - it was a weird experience).  

To help you understand my experience a little, you need some background.

I grew up Baptist.  Now, I can't speak for all churches of this denomination, but I can tell you that I was taught that Satan had his hand in an awful lot of stuff.  Almost anything that came from anywhere outside of our home town was pretty suspicious, and a heck of a lot of what DID come from our home town was for sure hell-bound as well.  So the Catholics were doomed (they had statues in their churches, idols, doncha know! AND beer tents and BINGO!), and Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses for sure. The Methodists might make it even though they baptized BABIES for crying out loud, and the other Protestants might be okay.  I'd never even heard of a Muslim or a Buddist, honestly, but I knew that Hypnosis and Accupuncture and Iridology and Reflexology and most other non-traditional-medical-ologies were certainly dabbling in the Devil, and Yoga was certainly right up there as a doorway straight to Hades.  Namaste, y'all.

Clearly I had some things to work through in my medical training, as well as in my spiritual journey.

But Babygirl's new doctors have literally prescribed yoga three times weekly for her headaches.  So here we are, pushing through yet another rediculous cultural barrier leftover from childhood.  

"Namaste" literally means "I bow" but implies "I bow to the divine in you" as a recognition of the spark of the divine dwelling in all people.  Taken from the narrowest view of my childhood I suppose it could be interpreted as "I worship the divine in you" which would, of course, put this greeting right up there in the 'idol worship' (go straight to Hell, do not pass Go) category.  Taken as my heart has come to understand Christ's call to us all, I would interpret it as, "I recognize that you, as I, are equally created in the image of God, and I honor that image."  

We are called to love others as ourselves.  We are all made in the image of God.  The fact that I was taught to distrust my own theology if it came in a foreign language doesn't change my theology. Namaste.

The class was an hour and a quarter.  I was, somehow, not expecting it to feel like exercise.  This, it turns out, was a serious error in judgement.  My legs are pretty good from all the walking.  My abs? Not so much.  I rehabilitated my right leg after a foot fracture a few years ago so my balance there isn't TOO bad, but the left?  Let's not talk about it.

Before the poses requiring us to stand on one leg, the instructor kindly told the class that we were all welcome to move to the wall if we needed support for balance.  It wasn't until today that it dawned on me that she was actually only talking to ME, the new, grey-haired lady with zero yoga experience.  

We both had some perceptions to work through.  I didn't fall over because of my grey hair, and lightning didn't strike me for growing up Baptist and attending yoga anyway.  I think we'll all be okay.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Going to Medical School.....

Dear Class of 2020:

I'd like to introduce you to one of your new teachers.

Jerry was born there in Buffalo in 1934.  He moved to the snow belt with his family, graduated high school and married my mom at 19. He worked his whole life at the Ford Stamping Plant, had three kids, and died of Parkinson's Disease and COPD last summer at the age of 80.  An ordinary life, but....

When we were kids, he and my mom packed us up in an old station wagon and went camping all the way accross the U.S. TWICE.  We saw mountainous sand dunes in Indiana, glaciers in Montana, boiling mud in Wyoming, and trees so huge they beggar imagination in California.  We stood on four states at one time.  We stood in a massive cavern in New Mexico when they turned out the lights and let us see what it was like to be truly blind.  We went white-water rafting in impossibly challenging waters.

He built a two-story cabin in the woods, by himself with his own two hands. He taught me to handle a gun, same as my brothers. He hiked two generations of Boy Scouts up Mount Marcy.  He had bright blue Paul Newman eyes. He was an extraordinary man.

When I was 20 I became my family's first college graduate, with an associates degree.  A year later, a Bachelor's.  After three years of cancer research at Roswell Park I called my Dad to have my weekly 'tea-by-phone' conversation with him.  "I'm thinking about going to medical school, Dad."  It was a low-key conversation, discussing pros and cons, expenses and logic and career paths without pressure or judgement.  He was kind and supportive. "Either way, honey."  Ten minutes after we finished talking, his sister from California called in a state of total excitement and exclaimed, "I hear you're going to be a DOCTOR!!"  He was THAT proud.

When I graduated from NYCOM in 1987, he was there.  The day before the ceremony we went to campus to look around, and he specifically wanted to see the anatomy lab.  It was a brand-new building, barely finished in time for us to use it.  I told him about our first day; how we were all nervous and trying to not show it.  About the moment of silence honoring the people before us who had volunteered to be there to be our teachers, and the somewhat useless reminder for us to be respectful and reverent.  We then met our cadaver.

There were four of us on the team, and it took all our strength to raise her to table height.  She was short, she was round, and she was HEFTY.  We named her Addy, because she was very Adipose. I told my dad about that first disection: To get to the chest wall, one must remove the breasts.  Some of the construction workers who had just finished the building had asked to observe, so when our forceps proved less than adequate for the amount of tissue involved and we lost our grip (slapping a large, wet breast back down onto the exposed chest wall with a room-stilling THWACK!), one of them offered us a pair of pliers from his tool belt.  That was the end of any solemnity we had left in us.  We laughed hysterically, completely DONE with nerves, finished the dissection like pros and ordered Chinese from the lab with the scent of formadehyde still strong on our hands.

My father found this story hilarious.  My mom found it nauseating.  Dad asked to see a cadaver.  Mom fled.

As we examined a fully-dissected body, Dad and I talked at length about how the cadavers had taught us much that we would never have learned in mere books.  And despite the appearance of disrespect, when I spoke of how emotionally challenging it was for me to perform Addy's facial dissection, he understood that there was, and remains, a deeper connection to humanity both because of and despite what many would see as a very dehumanizing process.

I suppose I wasn't too surprised, then, when I discovered that Dad had sent himself to medical school upon his death. His lack of education never reflected low intelligence but rather lack of opportunity, and he took his opportunities where he could find them.

And here is my message to you:  I want you to know that Jerry knows you are going to laugh at the things you find as you dissect him, and both of us are okay with that. His pacemaker IS on the wrong side (he's a left-handed redneck - putting it on the correct side would have interfered with his shootin' arm). Lord knows, he has a million scars and they each have a story (the chain-saw wound on his thigh, the toe amputation due a run-in with the lawn mower, the extra belly-button-like mark from a power drill?  Feel free to make up a story.  I guarantee the real tale is funnier).  But I love that battle-scarred old guy, and I miss him, and I want you to remember he is there because even after a life well lived, he still had it in him to want to teach YOU.

Respect that.


Friday, June 3, 2016

A Day at the Beach.....

Sometimes you just have to call it a day after a million doctors' visits.  We are 90 minutes from the Jersey shore here, and despite a less-than-stellar shore weather report, we decided that today was a good day to play hooky, and instead of coming straight home, we loaded up a cousin and went to the beach.

The temperature was 68 degrees, and the sun, nowhere to be seen.  

It didn't stop people from being out and about, and it didn't stop the beach from being the beach.

We managed to keep my flip-flops from floating off to Florida. The sweatshirt did eventually come off and swimming did finally happen. 

And we ate good food!

(And, to be honest, some bad food - one cannot be on a boardwalk for six hours without eating a few fried goodies LOL.)

We had our hair styled bye the salt wind. (Mine never quite comes out this well.)

And we found peace.



Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wilmington Adventures....

Today's appointments were with our newest doctors at Numours DuPont Pediatric Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware.  Now, before you all get your knickers in a twist, this hospital is just 20 miles past CHOP, so it's not such a stretch for us to get there.

We came down late last night to our home-away-from-home, and left at about 10:30 AM for a 1 PM appointment.  Good idea, actually, since despite the distance being only about 40 miles, we arrived at 11:45.

The new neurologist did a couple of new things:  She shifted Babygirls's current migraine prevention medication from once daily short acting to a 24-hour formulation at a higher dose, and she put her foot down and insisted that Babygirl become religious about her fluid intake, and begin yoga three times weekly.

The pain management specialist did an evaluation, including the now-familiar depression and anxiety screening.  Then we spent nearly two hours with a pain management occupational therapy specialist, who assessed Babygirl's general coping strategies, posture, and overall levels of satifaction/frustration with her life/pain.

Then we drove 'home' through rush hour traffic through Wilmington and Philadelphia.

It was, in total, exhausting.

The only simple thing was the parking.  And lunch. Lunch was easy.

We aren't sure what the next step will be.  For sure we will be going back in August for another round of Botox. The neurologist feels there is benefit in continuing even in the face of failure thus far. She feels that relieving the ongoing secondary muscle stress that must necessarily be occuring as a result of Babygirl's daily pain is still of some benefit even if there is no obvious relief of the headaches.  The team will determine if we need to come down for weekly/biweekly sessions for pain management training or whether that could be done somewhere closer or not. Once we have some information about follow up we will schedule Nephrology at CHOP.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

He DOES Have a Pulse.....

When my baby brother first met Larry, he asked, "Does that dog even HAVE a pulse??"

Yeah, he's pretty laid back.  And the first couple of weeks, he moved like an old man, stiff of hip and slow of step.  He just generally didn't have a f..., well, any energy, to give.

He was stressed.  He was mourning.  He'd lost everything, twice over:  His name, his surroundings, and most of all, his person.

I'm pretty sure it was just one person, and I think it was probably an old guy.  Larry perks up every time a slow-moving old guy with a cane and a baseball cap comes by, and moves a bit faster to check him out if possible.  With Maybelle we were able to keep her name.  With Larry, we only knew that the rescue had been calling him HotDog for a couple of weeks, and they didn't know his original name.

Camping this weekend loosened him up.  He knows how to work a zipper (but you have to watch - he likes to take the slider off - we have a couple of sweatshirts that don't zip anymore) so he could get into the tent anytime.  And even though he could have left the tent without assistance, he woke me up for permission when he needed to go out in the night.

The fenced dog park let him do what he likes:  Monitor the perimeter.  And once that was done, he RAN.  It was amazing to see a dog that only a few days earlier required dragging to move, run.

This mornings' walk got even more interesting.  Larry got a squirrel by the tail.  Yes, Dave, yes, he did. There were a few factors in this.

1) City squirrels are oblivious little gits.  They apparently assume they are pretty safe.
2) Larry has some pretty impressive sneak skills for a big dog.  He drops low, the tags stop jingling, and he moves in careful.
3) When he shifts from stalk to strike he SHIFTS FAST.
4) Squirrels, when in a panic, underestimate the size of their squirrely butts in relation to the openings of chain link fences.  It was a nearly fatal slowdown.

In the end, the squirrel's tail was missing a good bit of fur, and Larry was wearing his finest Stoner Smirk.

He's becoming quite the family man. If you don't go to him, he'll come to you.  Yes, the boy has a pulse.