Friday, August 22, 2014

Weekly Quotes Part 29

May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.  (134)

Ideally, we want to get all three components of metta practice working together:  words, feelings, and images.  (145)

At some point, the phrases will become empty or robotic.  Any object of attention is like that:  it loses its charge after sufficient repetition.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the words should be changed.  Instead, stay close to the wishing side of the practice rather than the feeling side.  Your core motivation is the energetic center of the practice.  Remind yourself why you’re meditating:  to be happy and free from suffering.  (146)

Be patient.  It’s not uncommon to spend the first 2 to 3 years of metta practice just learning to love yourself.  (149)

Love is a double-edged sword; it cuts away the pain in the present, but it also slices into the pain of the past!  (150)

Misquoting Jesus by Bart D Ehrman

To be sure, of all the hundreds of thousands of textual changes found among our manuscripts, most of them are completely insignificant, immaterial, of no real importance for anything other than showing that scribes could not spell or keep focused any better than the rest of us.  It would be wrong, however, to say—as people sometimes do—that the changes in our text have no real bearing on what the text mean or on the theological conclusion that one draws from them.  (207-208)

If texts could speak for themselves, then everyone honestly and openly reading a text would agree on what the text says.  But interpretations of texts abound, and people in fact do not agree on what the texts mean.  (216)

Letting people in is largely a matter of not expending the energy to keep them out.

Effortless posture is not holding my body in position, but being in position where I am not holding.

No one thing
is more profound
than anything else

and counting every sound
and seeing every stone
and letting in the wind
               and not having to be somebody

[T]he anti-Semitism that build the Nazi death camps was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity.  (42) 

Auschwitz, the Soviet gulags, and the killing fields of Cambodia are not examples of what happens to people when they become too reasonable.  To the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of political and racial dogmatism. . . .  The problem with religion—as with Nazism, Stalinism, or any other totalitarian mythology—is the problem of dogma itself.  I know of no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too desirous of evidence in support of their core beliefs.  (42-43)

Even if atheism led straight to moral chaos, this would not suggest that the doctrine of Christianity is true.  (46)

Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, “atheism is a term that should not even exist.  No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.”  (51)

Once you stop swaddling the reality of the world’s suffering in religious fantasies, you will feel in your bones just how precious life is—and indeed, how unfortunate it is that millions of human beings suffer the most harrowing abridgements of their happiness for no good reason at all.  (54)

The Art of Storytelling by John D Walsh

If you aren’t willing to tell stories poorly, you won’t tell them at all.  (139)

You have too much to offer to allow the attention of your audience to wander from what you are saying.  (154)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy 32nd to My Daughter

Somewhere along the way, my little girl, who used to love her birthday, turned into a woman who doesn’t.  I could go into the reasons I think she feels this way but the truth is it’s all conjecture.  If she has found a way to put her ambivalence into words, she has never expressed them to me.

That doesn’t change how I feel about her birthday, that for me this is a special, even a precious, day.  I haven’t said anything to her about my knee.  I don’t mean I haven’t told her what I found out yesterday.  I mean:  I haven’t told her anything.  I figured this Saturday she would come over with everyone else and we would all celebrate her birthday.  I’d tell her what’s going one and, by then, I’d even have more answers.

But then her brother couldn’t be here.  He went to a wedding last weekend and can’t take two weekend days off at his job.  Not back-to-back anyway. 

Then Rob got offered a gig to work at a venue he’s been itching to do.  And with MRI bills and such, he couldn’t really afford to turn down a gig. 

We figured we’d ask Matt if he could help out and we’d pay for his gas.  But Matt’s a teacher and, anyone who teaches knows, weekends are not free time.  He has papers to grade and such.

Which left us with Erin generously offering to drop Joe off at work and pick Shira up, bring her here, and then, when it was time to pick Joe up from work, they would take Shira home. 

Only Shira is super busy, getting ready for the end of con season, working on commissions, and she can’t really afford to spend all day Saturday here.  She was hoping to drop by for a few hours, have some pizza, some cake, open gifts, give kisses and hugs goodbye and be done with it.  Remember, she doesn’t like her birthday, so celebrating it is an arduous task.

I feel like I’ve been fighting so much lately.  I was fighting to get a job at the doctor’s office and now I’m back to fighting to find a job.  I’ve been in pain and fighting my way through weeks of physical therapy.  I’ve been fighting to not surrender to despair and seek ways that I can empower myself. 

And now I have to fight to get my loved ones together so we can share a celebration together?  Sheesh! 

Ahhhhh . . . but I shall not be defeated.  No way!  Rob and I threw our hands up in the air and surrendered.  I wrapped gifts while he made the batter.  He went out to run some quick errands while I made pudding and took a shower.   I dressed and we put the cake together. 

Nothing is going to stop me from showing someone I love how much I love them.  Nothing!  Not even the rain!!!

We packed up the things—gifts and cake—and we headed off to see my one and only darling daughter.  And yes, yes, yes, I am supposed to be taking it easy and not walking around outside the house because the ground is uneven and all but it wasn’t looking like Saturday was going to happen and, even if it did and could, it looked like I would have to go out anyway.  At least this way Rob would be with me to keep me from being too careless. 

We first took her to Mellow Mushroom but they are having a special and it was super crowded and noisy.  The wait to be seated was an hour.  There was just no way we were going to wait that long, not with my knee being painful and all.  So we headed to Blue Moon pizza.  What a brilliant idea.  Less noisy.  Less crowded.  And equally yummy.  Shira opened her gifts there and I had my first mojito.  It was good.  Sweet.  I can see why it’s so popular. 

After we ate an entire large pizza between the three of us, we headed back to Shira’s.  We left most of the cake with her, taking out a single slice. But it was a really big slice.  There won’t be any pictures of the cake, however, because it was a mess.  Easily the worst looking cake Rob and I have ever made.  But to be honest, I tasted it as I went along.  The butter pecan with apricot cake itself was delicious.  The flavor of the two fillings (vanilla pudding and apricot preserves) were delicious.  And then the vanilla frosting was delicious.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to make the apricot roses I had hoped to make, using dried apricots.  Oh well.  Even perfectly pretty apricot roses would not have made this cake look like anything but a mess. 
Messy it may have been but it is delicious.  Downright decadent. 

All in all, given how impromptu the whole evening was and how we had to shift gears from one place to another, we had a really good time with lots of laughter and love and even a few hugs.  Thirty-two amazing years.  I didn’t expect that she would continue to dazzle me as much as she did the first time the nurses put her into my arms.   

Someday I'll try to make sense of that.

In the meantime, I'll just let myself be dazzled.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Physical Therapist Is So Awesome (I Could Cry)

This is where I go for my physical therapy.

I won’t see the orthopedist for a couple of days (Thursday, to be precise) but I saw the physical therapist today and, when she heard that I’d had the MRI done (yesterday) she called over and asked them to fax over the results.
Now, if you’ve never had an MRI, here is how it goes.  You get shoved into a very noisy machine and for 30 minutes they take images and more images.  You have to lie perfectly still the entire time.  Depending on your condition, this is more or less easy to do.  When all is said and done, the technician tells you nothing.  A radiologist needs to look at the images before you will be told anything.  And usually the radiologist sends the results to your referring physician/specialist so you have to wait for an appointment to be told what the radiologist saw. 

When you’ve been in pain, limping and losing sleep, for nearly 8 weeks, you want answers sooner rather than later. 

Well, I have my answers now and it’s not good but knowledge is power.

First, we knew I had some osteoarthritis.  She said it’s severe.  I have severe osteoarthritis.  My knee, according to her, looks like I was a long distance jumper or regularly do parkour and plyometrics.  As we know, my exercise routine consists of mostly walking and yoga.  But I’m “lucky” in that I have the joints of an athlete and, although I am only in my 50s, I have severe deterioration in my knees.  (So far the focus has been on my left knee because that’s the one that’s exacerbated at this time.  But the implication is that the damage is bilateral and I’m a test or two away from confirming this.)

This is what a normal knee
looks like. 
Second, I have torn meniscus.  This is what is actually causing the swelling.  Well, that and I have something else.  Anyway, the degenerative meniscus tear is being exacerbated by the osteoarthritis so something has to be done to make room for my knee to heal.  The meniscus tear and swelling go hand-in-hand so as the one is repaired the other will go away.

Third, there is a cyst.  This is not unusual and they typically go away on their own once the swelling goes down.  However, I have had not one, not two, not three, not even four, but five growths removed—cysts, lymph nodes, and benign tumors.  When it comes to things like cysts, my body doesn’t do anything typical and I can fully expect that this growth will have to be removed at some point.

So now what?

She said that, depending on the orthopedist’s approach to this diagnosis, I’ll be having an arthroscopy which takes 4-8 weeks to heal and will include more physical therapy, etc.  If he’s conservative, he’ll just drain the swelling to take some of the pressure off and give me an injection to help with the pain.  You know, kinda like what I expected/hoped the doctor would do last week.  Whatever the doctor may or may not want to immediately do, this is what I have on my immediate horizon.
1) I will get the injection and whatever procedure needs to be done to reduce the swelling short of an actual surgery because I don’t have time to heal from a surgery at this time.
2) I will likely wear a knee brace or something to help support my knee while I continue doing the physical therapy exercises I have been doing.  (My doctor did not call in a prescription for more, probably because she wants to see what the orthopedist has to say.)
3) I will schedule an arthroscopic procedure for some time in October.   Then 4-8 weeks of healing to follow and hopefully the doctor (whichever one) will refer me to the same physical therapist because she’s awesome!
4) Rob will bring my walker down from the attic because my physical therapist thinks it’s a good idea for me to get it ready.
I haven’t needed my walker since 2008.  I guess that streak is over.

So I am sad.  Very sad.  Here and now, sad.  And on Thursday I’ll talk with the orthopedist about my options, and, together, we’ll  put a plan of action into place.  And someday in my not-too-distant-future, I’ll be having knee replacement surgery because, yes, that is how severe the arthritis is even though I’m only 52-years-old. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Weekly Update: It's Been a Weighty Week

The exam room at
my new doctor's office.
This week there seems to have been a collective sadness that permeated so much and yet there are good things rippling throughout as well.  In the midst of the larger events in the Gaza Strip and Ferguson, Missouri, and the “smaller” events of suicide (Robin Williams) and death (Lauren Bacall), there is evidence of determination on my daughter’s part (preparing to quit a dead end job for brighter horizons), celebration in my son’s life (his wife’s high school friend marrying a high school sweetheart), and acceptance in my other son’s life (also moving away from a job with an eye to fulfilling more creative and scholarly goals).

Rob loves Burger King
but I don't.  I ordered
a mushroom Swiss with
no mayo.
Do you see any Swiss?  No
Do you see any mayo?  Yes
Double fail.
I want to point out the good things because my petty bad things are so small in comparison to the more global Things.  I gained 3 more pounds this week.  (1.4kg)  This puts me at nearly 15.5 lbs above my goal for the year.  And what am I supposed to do about it? 

I saw the physical therapist Tuesday and she wrote a letter for me to give to my new doctor (new insurance = new doctor) saying she thinks I need to have an MRI.  I don’t know if it is typical or not but, after three weeks of physical therapy, the exercises are either the same (the ones that didn’t really hurt still do not hurt and some that hurt still hurt as much as they ever did) or worse (while still others hurt even more than they did when I started all of this).  I am still using a cane.  I am still losing sleep because my knee wakes me up several times a night.

I may start taking a selfie every day
I'm stuck in bed.
Me with no makeup.
Don't look too long.
You may go blind.
I was looking forward to seeing the doctor on Thursday, optimistic that she would suggest something for the pain, give me a cortisone shot, or prescribe something new (or even just renew my prescription).  Instead, she referred me to an orthopedist (good) and ordered the MRI (good) and a mammogram (good) and a PAP smear (???) and offered nothing to relieve my pain or reduce the swelling.  Intellectually I understand—she wants to see what the MRI reveals before moving forward with a treatment plan.  But when you’re in pain, it’s hard to just maintain the status quo until there are more answers.  And I’ve been dealing with this since the end of June so I am more than ready for answers and solutions and something that will actually work!

Book review coming.
So no answers.  No relief.  But at least the promise that maybe one or the other or both are coming my way.  In the meantime, I have been studying Italian (Io sono una donna.  Io leggo il libro.  Grazie.)  and reading some books that aren’t really doing it for me.  I think I need to read something lighter.   Not that I haven’t been enjoying what I’m reading.  In fact, I loved the novel I just finished.  But some of the characters were suicidal, depressed, and it was hard to read as things unraveled on the media.  Which is why, maybe I should try to find something a little less intense to read.  Something light and fun.  

Maybe something by Kafka . . . ?  No.  Wait.  That wouldn’t work, would it?  I really need to work on this.   

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Silently Sharing Satia #21

Normally I don't put captions on these pics.
By way of explanation, the cotton ball on the right
is the one I used first using Rimmel's eye make-up remover.
The one on the left is not their product and was used
after I had already tried to remove my makeup
with their product.
Needless to say, I won't be buying Rimmel again.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Weekly Update: Don't Nobody Bring Me

Bibi's Build-a-Bear Eli
This week in physical therapy was interesting.  On Tuesday, my regular therapist wasn’t there so I worked with someone new who added a couple of exercises to my routine and increased how long I would hold some of stretches longer than I had been.  On Thursday, my therapist was back and she told me that she was not happy with my progress.  Thank goodness, in the same breath she told me that it was not because I wasn’t trying.  Fact is, I did my physical therapy exercises every day with a dedication that surprises even me.

Okay.  I didn’t do them on Saturday.  I’ll explain that in a bit. 

When I see her next, on Tuesday, she’ll give me a letter for the doctor because she thinks more x-rays need to be done, or some other tests.  In any event, it sounds like, when I first went into urgent care and they saw osteoarthritis in my knee, they didn’t look any further.  They had found a problem and decided it was the diagnosis. Now my physical therapist thinks that there is something else involved, either as a complication of the arthritis or aside from it altogether. 

Bibi mimicking Snowdoll
I see the doctor on Thursday and we’ll see what happens next.

In the meantime, my using the bike has gone from using it once a day for 30 minutes to thrice a day for 10 minutes to twice a day for 15 minutes.  I wish I could say that using the bike has helped me lose weight.  Instead, I gained 2.5 lbs.   But still I exercise.  I do my physical therapy and use the bike.  I do crunches and curls.  I lift my free weights, use my exercise bands, my exercise tubes, to keep my arms from losing strength.  I stretch and flex and try to stop myself from gaining any more weight.

In other words, the physical therapy isn’t working to improve my knee and my exercising isn’t helping me lose weight.

In other news, I had a job interview last week.  This week I received the rejection:  thanks but we do not have a job that fits your skills at this time but we’ll keep your résumé on file.  The day after I received the email, the job position was re-posted.  I wish I could say that I just brushed it off.  Sure, I said that it didn’t matter. If they didn’t want me, it was just a poor fit.  I rationalized as best I could but my rational mind could not outweigh how I felt, how disappointed and discouraged I was because, in the past five weeks I’ve gone from walking out on a short-lived position where I was clearly not valued/appreciated, to being diagnosed with osteoarthritis, to being turned down for an administrative assistant position for which I was told I was not what they wanted in spite of my over a decade’s worth of experience.  That’s a lot of blows I’ve mentally taken so, even telling myself that I was “over qualified” holds no comfort whatsoever.

So I spent most of the week refusing to participate in a pity party to which I was the only invitee and was also the hostess.

Then came the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Thursday Rob had to go out of town because he had a gig in Florida.  We reached out to everyone we could, trying to find someone, anyone, to be here to help me with the dogs.  I wasn’t too worried but my physical therapist, who had given me permission to not be on full bed rest anymore and said I should walk around the house occasionally, still didn’t want me to walk on uneven ground.  In other words, taking the dogs out back was not recommended.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anyone to help me from Thursday to Friday evening.  To add insult to injury (no pun intended), my mother called Thursday to tell me that she was sending an overnight package to us for which someone would have to sign on Friday.

Good thing my physical therapist said that walking around the house was okay, right?  Right!

So when there was a knock at the door, naturally I thought, “Package from my mother.”  The dogs thought, “Oh boy, someone’s here to see us.”  We were all mistaken because there, at my door, were two Jehovah’s Witnesses and, as I tried to stop the dogs from going out to say hello to them, Holly first slammed into my leg, and then I was forced to wedge her between my legs.   Needless to say, she slammed into my bad leg and I wanted to kill the two women on the other side of the door I slammed in their faces.

I was close to tears in pain and had no choice but to return to bed.  After all, my physical therapist had told me sharp/stabbing pain due to movement is to be expected; if I was experiencing any aching or throbbing pain I needed to get back into bed. 

Thankfully, Matt came here Friday evening.  I fed him some spaghetti and meatballs and he took care of the dogs, taking them out whenever they needed to be let loose.  I did my utmost to take care of my knee. 

One of the exercises from
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
includes drawing a picture upside down
Saturday, the day I did not do my physical therapy, was crazy.  Matt didn’t get up early but, before Rob left, he had bought a lead for our back yard.  Holly still needs to be restrained and, because I could not take her on the leash, this was the best compromise we could make.  I still had to go out into the back yard, down a few steps, but I wouldn’t have to worry about being pulled or tugged incidentally by an eager Siberian Husky.  By the time Matt emerged from the guest room to help me with things, Joe & Co were here.  The plan was for them to spend the night Saturday.  Because Joe had to work, it would be mostly me and Erin and Bibi.  So they were here to relieve Matt from puppy duty.

He was still here when Kanika arrived.  I hadn’t seen Kanika in weeks!  The last time I saw her is when we took the aqua exercise class together.  So we had a lot of catching up to do.  I’d missed her July 4th party.  She’d missed Erin passing her GED.  Just lots of stuff happening and we spent a good two hours together.  I sat with her in the living room, my leg propped up as best it could be.

Matt left shortly after Kanika.  It was surprisingly late.  We ordered pizza for dinner because I needed some vermouth for a recipe I wanted to make and Rob hadn’t bought any before he left.  (He picked up grenadine by mistake.)  I had asked Matt to pick some up if he went out but he didn’t.  So I gave Joe some money to bring some home with him, which he most graciously did.  I guess third time’s the charm.  LOL!  Still, the pizza was good.  

All in all, it was a good end to a not so great week.  I hope next week is better but I’m anxious about the doctor appointment and verdict.  I didn’t do much of anything by way of reading and such.  That’s why I am going to seriously commit to the drawing and learning Italian and other things I can do without hurting myself, positive things to fill my days so I won’t feel quite so dull.  My goal is to make this week and better one so that whatever occurs when I see the doctor, it won’t define the whole week’s experience.

PS:  The carrot cake we made last week was amazing.  Absolutely the best carrot cake recipe I've found since I lost the one I used to make when my children were little.