Monday, April 18, 2011
After spending my weekend writing in every spare moment, I almost let the world get by me. I took time off from my writing to go to the pool each day, to take my sons to the movies, to go to the grocery store, and to go to church. It is Holy Week and after our Palm Sunday processional, the blessing of the palms, beautiful music by the choir, the small children's choir singing and introducing instruments from the Philippines (whose name evades me), the reading of the Passion Story from the Gospel according to Matthew, and a private discussion with my pastor (whew--and I didn't even mention the sermon,) I realize that I need this week to give my spiritual cup a big boost. Micah had a lot of questions this year which means he is growing up and really starting to "get" this important part of our faith. Anyway, I hope that I have some time to meditate and pray with some depth this week.
The thing that amazes me is that although I am not unaware of the issues around here, that I hadn't paid attention to the realities. We were predicted to have the second worst flooding in recorded history this year. That made a good deal of sense to me given the fact that everyone had record snows, especially the people up north of us. The Mississippi River is a wild and untamable natural wonder. There were major efforts to get volunteers to sandbag about a month ago. Then, the thaw was slow and it seemed as if we were off the hook. However, spring rains are taking their toll (along with a serious snowfall on Saturday that didn't stick to the ground) and the water has been rising steadily. The Mississippi is due to crest today or tomorrow at 20-22 feet and our flood levels are 12-15 feet. Our area is quite a mess, especially the Iowa side of the Quad Cities. When I was in the 6th grade, the flood of 1965 scared the folks in IL really protected themselves and built flood walls at great expense which have saved us many times. They are getting weak though and will need a lot of attention. Some of them have broken through in neighboring small towns. The secondary Rock River is quite a trouble maker here because the Mississippi pushes some of its overflow into it and we have highways that aren't close to the river now covered with river water. If I don't get photos (and with my need to continue my writing, that is very possible,) I am sure that Davenport and/or Muscatine, Iowa will have photos shown nationally. The current levels are 13.36 feet and 18.66 feet, so things are moving the wrong way very quickly, with over a half a foot since yesterday.
I must get ready for work. It will be a short week for me with my medical appointments and our Good Friday holiday. I will try and share with you this week, but my writing comes first. I will definitely think of you, my spark friends who keep me going on a regular basis.
If you are of the Christian faith, this can be a troubling week. Our very wise minister often reminds us that without the Crucifixion, there would have been no Resurrection. We need the gift of Easter, but the cost was great--and this is the focus of my heart at this time.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
I have not been as "spark" focused as usual the past week or two. I have had a lot on my mind and with my focus filled with any number of things, there doesn't seem to be enough room in my head to stick with everything, so zap--my regular healthy eating and living have taken a bit of a back seat. Now, it hasn't been horrible--probably because I have enough quality habits in place that I don't have a lot of opportunities to stray, not because I am full of will power. However, I have eaten an extra serving of this or that and done more of that than I like this week.
My pain level continues to be high as does my stress. There have been a number of things taking place at work that shouldn't be--and I had to set my principal up for the several days I am going to be gone for the coming treatments on my back. Dealing with her and that sort of thing is always a worry, especially since they do not get a sub for me and I know that my students simply go without the service. There have been a few other things like my discovery of a staff list being distributed to parents that includes everyone who teaches in our building but me. I also had some rather nasty treatment from a colleague today because I questioned why her students have to miss an entire 40 minute lesson every Friday in order to "take a spelling test." That is 20% of my contact time with them and I don't think it is right for something that can easily be done at a different time or in a different way. She was quite difficult and ended the conversation by stomping off and yelling at me. (Oh well, her parting words were that the kids could come, so I guess the mess had the right outcome.)
Anyway, I received an email from a retired teacher who goes to our church. She was a JA rep who taught several of my classes some 10 years ago as well. We have been friends a long time and I am wondering if she knew that the email would fit my world in many ways. It was entitled "5 lessons we all need." The following is the little story that goes with one of them and fits my issues of the week--maybe it will fit yours as well.
Important Lesson. - The Obstacle in Our Path.
In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a Roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the King's' wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it... Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.
Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!
Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.
Obstacles have some value?? That is a really strange and novel idea to me--obstacles are a pain in the neck. However, it is what we do with them that really matters. They aren't necessarily permanent and if we "mess up," the choices don't have to be permanent either. I think there is a lot of wisdom in this little chunk of that email and I hope that it reaches out to some of you the same way that it did to me. I realize that I can get back on track right now or later and there isn't any permanent damage done. I also know that with the pressure of getting my writing done soon, that it may take me a while longer to get things as fine tuned as I had them--and maybe that's okay. I need to focus on my priorities which are my family and students as well as my project. I can do this all, but at what expense? So, if I only eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies and my exercise is a bit more routine rather than intense, I don't think my healthy efforts will disappear off of the face of the earth.
Dealing with my current obstacles will come to an end in a couple of weeks. I can do anything for a couple of weeks, but it will be okay in the end. I have my first injection scheduled for Thursday--which is tweaking my nerves right now. My new doctor is so kind and respectful that I am sure it will be as good as it can. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are this week and the enormity of these days in my faith walk will add commitment to my life as well as reflection on the greatest promise ever made.
Eating an extra Atkins cookie or 100 calorie pack, or only 5 servings of produce a day will not hurt me. Difficult people are a part of life, and those in my work place will have to manage their own issues--anger is frequently a sign of ownership of a problem. I always do a reasonably good job with my own children and their needs and if I am not on my A-game for a while neither they nor my health will be lost permanently. I am making progress on my National Boards--but I am not where I had planned to be today. The videos are taking me longer to organize to burn than I expected. We are having some financial issues this month due to some expensive computer repairs, our regular need for new tires for the car, an issue that one of the kids had, taxes...the list goes on, but things will settle back into a more normal range in another couple of weeks.
This may be a month of obstacles and I may just come out of this with a stronger character. I will move the obstacles out of my road just like the peasant in the story. I CAN do this, as I remind the members on my spark teams frequently when things are difficult.
Thanks for sharing this with me--if you have some obstacles right now, I hope that you found some reassurance as well.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I stayed home from work on Tuesday because of medical appointments. I had an 8:30 appointment at the "Spine Clinic" with my new doctor. Wow, is she a keeper!! I walked in just on time and within 5 minutes, I was in the back with a nurse. The nurse walked out of the room and Dr. Miller walked into my room--there was no long waiting. We were together from about 8:45 until 10:00. She was absolutely amazing to me.
First of all, she had already combed through all of my records and tests from the other doctor and she had been through my history packet. (It was about ten pages long and had taken me a few days to fill out.) She already "knew" me before we started. We spent over half of the time talking and she asked for more information about how different things had worked for me. She was very positive about the meds I currently take--in particular the ones from my rheumy and my pain doc. She told me that two of my meds (gabapentin and savella) were typical doses for treating fibromyalgia, but after explaining to me how they work in treating nerve damage and pain, she also told me that both of them could be taken in bigger doses for my issues. She explained a variety of causes of pain and how I have several different types. Anyway, one of these meds works on nerve pain at the location and the other works on nerve pain at the brain, between them, they can control pain in a positive way. She simply believes that because of the damage in my back that I need a (much) stronger dose. We are starting with the gabapentin and over the next few days, I am moving from 600mg three times a day (a total of 1800) to 900mg 4 times a day (the maximum dose of 2700.)
She was very kind and explained why I have so much pain and she said that her approach will be to work at reducing pain 10% here and 10% there until we can make it a manageable piece. She was surprised that nobody had ever prescribed any compound creams to rub into my back. She ordered a cream that has to be made by a chemist/pharmacist who creates compounds. There are only 3 such pharmacies in our area and it takes 24-48 hours to make these. Two of them will take insurance, so I went with the one closest to home. This cream will contain a base and three meds--again one of them being gabapentin to deal with the nerve pain. She explained how the two surgeries I had, as with any surgery, has created scar tissue pain, pain from the nerves that get severed during any surgical procedure, pain from the work that was done, etc... She said that one of the things I need is treatment of all of these things in order to get relief from what I live with all of the time. She also kept notes during our conversation and when we finished, she gave me a copy of those notes with the immediate things we are doing highlighted, so that if I have any questions or problems, I can call her right away and we can refer to what we said.
Next, she gave me a physical exam. She actually looked at my back. Nobody ever has done that, except my rheumy. She examined the scar and told me that there were pockets of swelling around it that indicated inflammation and that there was severe dimpling around the scar which indicated massive scar tissue that most likely involved multiple kinds of tissue and bone. She checked my range of motion which was severely limited not only due to the fusion, but more than she would have anticipated. She ordered physical therapy (which is what I was hoping for.) She ordered 4-8 weeks to basically help me to get new activities for my home/ daily exercise plan for strengthening and endurance. She was very happy about the daily work I do at the pool and because I already exercise, she said that she also wanted to prescribe a brace for me to use, especially at work. This won't be a big bulky thing like after my surgery, but something that I can manage on my own and will help support me and my posture. My posture is something that I have wanted help with for a long time, but when I have asked what could be done to help me to stand up straight more consistently, I have basically been told that I have to work on that myself--My problem with that is that I don't generally realize how bent over I am unless I see myself in a mirror and then when I try to correct it, I cannot get straight enough.
She also found issues in my hips like my rheumy mentioned. She said that she was surprised that I wasn't experiencing far more pain in them than I do, but that that is probably because I both ignore it and it is masked by the pain in my back. She suspects as we get the back pain more and more under control that I am going to notice my hips more and more, especially the one on the right. She is going to do three trigger point injections in my back in three areas to deal with the swelling around my spine. Then on my future plans, she may do some special injections in my hips because she said that there is a good deal of bursitis that is evident, especially in the right one and that might be adding to my overall discomfort.
Finally, we discussed elements of my daily life and my job and she talked about what I shouldn't be doing. She wrote a note for my employer that is both specific and restrictive. I am not to lift over 5 pounds and I am not to move furniture. I am not to do repetitive movements that involve bending and twisting at the waist with things like small chairs to be avoided. She suggested a good chair on wheels with back support to be part of what I need and that when I am doing things like working with first graders at computers, I should be able to roll around the table and be at their level rather than what I have been struggling to do all along.
She "knew" things about me like my sleep issues and my morning difficulties with out me telling her--she simply commented about them and asked for my confirmation. She understood my frustration with what I can do in the pool and what I cannot duplicate on land and explained why that was so--and it might not ever transfer over, but we are going to try. I have 5 more appointments for injections, the brace, and the first follow-up and will be missing time from work, but this is so worth it. She was so different that my former doc--who barely gave me two minutes of his time. She acknowledged from the get-go that I have multiple issues and that they make my life difficult and she was kind and respectful. She also told me that she believes there is always something else we can try if one thing doesn't work. I left with a plan, a back-up plan and a good deal of information that we discussed. I also left with HOPE, and that is not something I have had about my back in years.
Taking meds around the clock will take some getting used to, but if I am going to be awake from pain, swallowing my late night dose won't be too much to do. I am almost hoping that my new problem will be that I sleep through it and will have to use an alarm to wake up to take it. The dose in the night should give me more flexibility in the morning and starting my day with less stiffness and pain will be something I haven't experienced in well over a decade.
This was the most worthwhile time I have spent with a doctor in a long time. She was friendly and personable--and mostly she acknowledged the many issues I have without the skepticism or rudeness I have experienced with a certain doctor in the past. She didn't try to tell me that I was "normal" or "fine" and didn't call my issues "back pain" like it was what all people deal with. I am on my way to a better quality of life and do have a future that doesn't include the constant pain, fatigue, and depression that not being able to do simple things like walking sets up. I am so glad that I went with the new doctor who hadn't any preconceived ideas about who I am and what I need.
Life is good and I am giving thanks!!
Sunday, April 10, 2011
I spent Friday night working on my writing for National Boards component 1 until I left at 7 for the fitness center. I worked on it again on Saturday for several hours. Today, I spent 3 hours learning how to create a video clip, edit it, and burn a DVD before I spent two more hours revising the revision I finished Friday. Tomorrow I will take that revision, remove the "questions" that I included so that I would not miss out on answering them completely--and then I will most likely need to delete part before I determine it is done.
On Tuesday, between doctor appointments, I will finalize those videoclips and get them burned. By the weekend, I will have completed the written work that goes with them and share them with my friends who are helping me to edit. Next week, I will do the reflection and then, I will revise the videoclip writing while my friends are editing the reflection. I should get this all in the mail by 25th, which is a few days before the deadline.
Forgive me for not being around a lot right now, but this is one of my goals and I knew it was coming.
Other updates... Miles had his surgery on Tuesday as planned and things went well. He is sporting a big, thick post-op bandage that he must wear until his visit to the surgeon on the 18th.... Micah had a really good week last week at school, only one report of making noises (beeping sounds in social studies class.) He is kind of sad that he isn't getting to laugh with his friends and make the noises--my youngest just doesn't understand that several of those kids were laughing at him rather than with him. I am thinking that I don't have to share that bit of wisdom with him right now (if ever.)
Right now, we are in the midst of a pretty nasty storm--I just heard on the weather channel that the folks in Wisconsin were getting it hard and that we will have it hard here for the next hour at least. Rain, hail, thunder, lightning, high winds, and possible tornadoes--what a great show of natural power in a very unwelcome manner.
Have a great week--I'll stop by as I can.
Monday, April 04, 2011
I spent a few hours working on the videos we have taken for my National Boards Renewal last evening. I want to let everyone know that this is due by the end of the month and that this is not negotiable, so my time here is likely to be limited. I need my time at the pool and gym more than anything, so I have priorities. It is an interesting thing, but when I went through the National Board certification process ten years ago, I was finished a month early. I don't even have my first drafts completed on about half of this. The difference between now and then is easy for me to determine. I had my first two knee surgeries while I was working on this process and although my children were all 10 years younger than now, I also had a babysitter. Since then, I have had some 40 surgeries with over a fourth of them being big ticket procedures as an inpatient. The majority of these have been related to my arthritis--and that certainly was exaggerated by my life as an overweight/ obese person. The good news for me is that I finally found out why I needed to live far more healthy--but I may have helped delay some of these inevitable issues if I had "gotten my spark" sooner. Genetics has played a major role in my condition, but the weight has added so much pressure to my joints and skeletal system. I deal with a level of pain every day that most people can't hope to understand, and it makes me frustrated and angry from time to time--but I am doing all I can to help myself and I am proud of my efforts. I do think that this is part of why my writing is taking more time for my renewal than it did at first. I have looked at my videos from ten years ago--and I look so much better than I did then. I am wearing a boot on my broken foot in some of them and am on crutches during most of them as well. However, here I am with my walker--and I weigh over 100 pounds less than I did ten years ago. I am a different person, no doubt about it.
On a similar note, a lady came to me while I was working out at the pool yesterday. She wanted to let me know that she has been around and noticed me working out for over a year. She told me that I look like a different person now, that I seem to have more energy and just look younger than I used to. I thanked her for her comments and couldn't help smiling. I believe it is the time I spend working out that has made such a difference for me. The soothing water in the pool allows me mobility that I don't have. I love to "aqua jog" and I get my cardio going every day by "running" through the water. I never expected to be a runner of any kind after a life time of avoiding this kind of activity. I find unsolicited compliments to be motivating and I am glad that that lady took her time to talk with me. I am not sure who she is, but I will watch for her and let her know that she was helpful and kind.
I bounced around between being ill with this tummy upset yesterday and being okay. It was a Communion Sunday for us, and those days always help me to focus on all that is good in my world. A high school student did a lovely French horn solo during the service which brought a lot of memories out. Mitchell played the French horn in high school and college, and this young man goes to school with Marissa. They share many of the same music activities and they are working together on their current musical. (I think it is called "In the Woods." Marissa plays someone's mother and she "dies" in the play. She spent over half of her spring break at school working on this with the choreographer and on rehearsals.) She is always happiest when she is working on music performances. I sure hope that she finds a way to incorporate this into her future career.
Miles is a bit subdued and I think nervous about his surgery tomorrow. I know he regrets the accident with his pellet gun and that he has been teased a great deal about "shooting himself." He is learning a few important lessons about not being able to turn back the clock and possibly needing to take his medication. Since he graduated from high school, he hasn't taken his meds and he gives me no valid reason for this choice. ("I just don't take them." isn't valid. When I ask if they make him feel badly or nervous or whatever, he always answers "No.") I have videotaping scheduled for Tuesday and was going to cancel that, but my husband says he can be with Miles and that I should go forward with my schedule. This is a hard decision for me to agree with because I feel like I should be there with him when he has this surgery. It will be similar to the procedure in which I had the bone removed from my hand or my DeQuervain's release. They tell you that you will be awake, but I slept through all 3 of those procedures because of the medicine to "relax" me. They give you an IV in one arm and then they apply a tourniquet to the arm that needs surgery along with a second IV. For my son, who hasn't had any medical procedures since he had tubes in his ears as a 3 year old, this is an incredibly big deal. I am thinking that I could use some of this time to do my writing and that it might be a good day to miss work and be a mother. (I guess I'll figure it out today...)
I have a lot to accomplish today--my lesson plans are jammed full of good work for my kids. We are going through our data folders and setting our goals for the rest of the year. We are doing phonics lessons today and we will also work on sight words and independent reading. I think I will be tired before all is done and I will be looking forward to that pool tonight. (It was interesting that the sauna was up and running on Sunday even though there were signs up all over saying that the women's sauna and the steam room weren't working.) I hope that things are good tonight too. It is the night for one of the better life guards as well, so it will be a good workout in peaceful conditions.
I'm looking forward to today!!
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