Monday, April 27, 2015

Thoughts and Prayers

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Nepal and the climbers on Everest.  It is horrifying to see the pictures and read of the disaster, both for the people and the historic monuments.

Touched by Mama's short descriptions of the disaster, the kids donated money from their reserves--all of their Chinese New Year money plus some.  So sweet and generous.  I was very proud of them.  We donated it to Save the Children.

More than any other natural disaster, earthquakes terrify me with their sudden, unpredictable occurrence and complete and total destruction--if you can't rely on the ground, what can you count on?  I laughingly joke that I won't go to California until after the "big one."  But I'm only sort of joking.

Purple Volunteers

I like that all of the plants that surprise us by popping up in the yard are purple!!
Glory of the Snow
Grape Hyacinths
Wild Violets

Our Wonderful Weekend

What a weekend!

I'll have to rest all week!  No harm done; feel pretty good, considering the level of activity--nothing a bunch of watching "Wolf Hall" and other things won't fix.

I hadn't been sure about this weekend.  With a church banquet to celebrate the buddy program (where adults and kids secretly exchanged treats), a play on Saturday, and the recital on Sunday, it was too much.  But I wanted to do it all.  Except I was nervous about doing any of it--long car rides, walking a lot, and, of course, playing "Finlandia."  So, we narrowed it down.  We skipped the banquet on Friday, sending a treat along in our stead, and made arrangements for Saturday and Sunday to be easier.  And in the end, it worked really well.  I'm so glad it it worked.

Saturday we went to see Camelot, in a touring production in Hartford.  I love Camelot.  I first saw it, with Gommie, around 1980, with Richard Harris in the lead.  It was my favorite musical as a child, at least before Phantom of the Opera came along.  I sang it for weeks afterwards and even decorated my room as Guinevere's!  I even hid my alarm clock, lamp, and stereo under cloths because, of course, there was no electricity in Camelot.  I saw it again in a high school production . . . and then I haven't seen it in 30+ years.  (Because I don't like the movie with Vanessa Redgrave.)  But I sing the songs weekly and it's still one of my top ten.

So I was so excited to hear it was touring, buying the tickets last fall.  And it was pretty good!  (Especially considering it was a touring, non-Equity performance.)  The actors were credible and strong singers (definitely stronger than those in Joseph), the staging had enough period flare, the costumes were rich, and I love the music--though, they cut my favorite song, "I Loved You Once in Silence."  The cast had been pared down so there wasn't the full stage during "Lusty Month of May," but I liked it all.  And so did the kids.  We even all (mostly) got teary at the rather depressing end.  Well worth the journey up.  And even though all I did the whole day was sit--in the car, in the theater seat, in the car again--I was tired.

A little bonus:  we picked up Tibetan food to take home for dinner!

And then Sunday.  Ah Sunday, the recital.  The recital I've been practicing for these last four months.  I was nervous and then I'd be okay, but at least all of the tiredness of Saturday had left me.  And so we went to the place where it would be.  I was playing fourth, behind one child and then my two.  Bud played "Gigue" and "Forth Eorlingas" (from LOTR) beautifully.  And Sis played "Grand Old Flag" and the theme from Star Wars better than ever--sounded wonderful!  Then it was my turn.  And, well, I never knew my hands could shake so hard.  After playing the first few bars just fine, I lost all control of my fingers and hit so many wrong notes.  We had practiced everything else, but I didn't know how to calm them down.  I barely made it through the piece, even dropping two bars in desperation.  It was awful!  But I didn't flap my arms or make bad faces (I think I made one, which a friend's husband noticed!) or squeal.  And everyone clapped when it was over and I got hugs from the kids.  I heard the rest of the marvelous pieces--the children of two other friends played their pieces beautifully and there were so many talented kids whom we've watched over the last few years.  A few even played complex pieces by the Piano Guys.  And all the while I listened and marveled at their skills and noticed that almost everyone made little mistakes, I thought about my performance.  And you know what?  It was okay.  Better than that, it was wonderful!  Not my piece, but that I did it under all these crazy circumstances.  And I was the only adult who played.  Well, there's always a first time and it's over.  Everyone was very gracious afterwards, saying how well I did, and maybe I covered my mistakes better than I thought, though I doubt it--maybe they don't know "Finlandia."  Sis presented me with flowers afterwards and I got a medal from the teacher.  It was a lovely, lovely day (made even more so with potato chips and Ben & Jerry's afterwards!)   But perhaps I'll leave recitals to the young from now on.  (Or not, because I could only get better from here!)

We have nothing big on the calendar for several weeks, if any, and so I'll rest, relax, and recuperate, with lovely memories and a real feeling of accomplishment.  Definitely adding this to my list of affirmations!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Affirmations

I posted a list of Affirmations I use to buck up my confidence back in March, actually a week before my surgery.  I realize I could add several things to it.  So, here we go, my recent list of accomplishments:

I can walk.
I can even walk around Target for a little bit.
I can ride in the car for awhile.
I can sit on the couch.
I can take a shower.
I can put on almost all my own clothes (socks are hard and I'm wearing slip-on shoes.)
I can unload the top rack of the dishwasher.
I can wash a few dishes.
I can help pack school lunches.
I can blog.
I can crochet.

I include my older list, with some edits, to keep me going:

I have not had severely debilitating back pain in almost 4 whole years.
Last Memorial Day 2014 when I had back pain, I still functioned and did things.
My surgery was four weeks ago and I am much better.
I can walk longer and faster than before (well, beforehand.)
I can drive longer than I have in years (I drove the furthest, 25 miles, the day before my emergency!)
I know how to cope with pain.
I know how to cope with fear.
I know there will be pain and fear and I am ready.
I can be calm in a crisis.
I can accept that I am not in control.
I have compassion for myself.
I have the tools I need--meds, heat pack, brace, stretches, rest.
I have great support and understanding in Mama and the kids, my parents and my sister.
I have the time and resources to take it easy.

I've survived and thrived:
  • On trips to
    • ENGLAND! and Cardiff!
    • Girl Scout overnight, on the floor, at Old Sturbridge Village!! (this one gets forgotten because it was three days before my emergency)
    • Disney World (even though EPCOT was hard, I got through it)
    • Washington DC
    • Boston
    • Philadelphia
    • Houston and environs
    • our nano-honeymoon in NYC (and all those stairs at the Merchant House)
  • Experiences such as
    • sitting at a hospital bedside and visiting for hours.
    • lighting a fire and cooking over it.
    • going swimming
    • taking GS outdoor class Food, Fire, & Fun.
    • taking archery and becoming certified as an instructor.
    • passing First Aid and CPR--I can give mouth-to-mouth and use an AED.
    • riding on parade floats and giving a lecture on costuming in full corseted costume.
    • sitting at the piano and play "Finlandia."
    • learning ASL
    • going on retreat by myself for two nights all alone--including sitting at length, creating art, taking yoga
    • winning 4 stars on Just Dance, dancing to "Bang, Bang."
    • playing basketball with the kids
    • playing water basketball with the kids at the Y
    • going to long movies
    • going to Lion KingPhantom of the Opera, Les Mis, Wicked, Vagina Monologues
    • wandering around museums
    • eating in restaurants at night
    • walking in the snow
    • making snow angels
    • going canoeing
  • I can do (before my surgery . . . and I will again!)
    • laundry
    • baking
    • unloading the dishwasher
    • walking on the treadmill
    • sitting on the floor with the cats
    • taking a real bath
I did all that.  I can do what comes next. 


Saw my doctor about my bloodclots today--all good on that front.  Will take the Xarelto for six months instead of four.  Fine.  He reassured me about some of the aches I've been having.  (Some days I feel like I could become quite the hypochondriac!  The days are long; the pangs are sharp sometimes.)  He was amazed at how much better I looked, said I was a totally different person.

My surgeon's appointment has been moved to Tuesday, but I'm not worried about anything.

Feeling pretty good, all things considered.

Yarn Therapy

Working something for me!  It's my favorite Lion Brand yarn, though I don't actually know it's name.  I lost the labels years ago (I thought it was Tudor, but it has too much of the whole rainbow in it perhaps; wonder if it is Pacifica or Ocean. )  I had made it into an awkwardly-shaped shawl, which really was going to be a small cat blanket, but I had more yarn than I thought and so it got bigger.  I didn't use it though, so I decided to make it into a blanket, not long and thin but more twin-bed shaped.  It won't be that big, though.  I love the colors, makes me happy just looking at it.  

Chasing Rainbows

Yesterday evening, we rushed out of the house when we noticed the rain falling through the sunshine.  And look what we saw!  Of course, it's not the quadruple rainbow seen in NYC recently, but we always like finding a rainbow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Practicing to Fail

Perhaps I should say "practicing to falter."

I had one of the most interesting piano lessons yesterday.  As you know, my very first piano recital is on Sunday.  After seven months of lessons, having not been able to read much music or play more than "Good King Wenceslas" (the easy version) when I began in September, I had said I would play at the spring recital alongside all of the kiddos; I've been practicing my piece, "Finlandia," for three months.  And then, well, emergency.

I have debated whether I could play since having my surgery.  Everyone, family and piano teacher included, is encouraging and understanding--play if you can, don't if you can't, but don't stress about it.  I've practiced the transitions where I move my hands so that they are smoother; I've practiced the timing because sometimes my count is just a bit off.  I've even practiced in front of people--the kids, Mama, Gommie in-laws, friends--so I get used to playing for others. Some days, I get through my song just fine; other days, I hit so many wrong notes.  Pain and narcotics usage definitely has an effect.

So yesterday, my teacher and I practiced how to mess up.  No faces, no squeals, no waving my hands in frustration.  Play through.  Pretend you didn't mess up.  Slow down if it's a part that troubles you (or speed up right through it!)  If it's an egregious mistake (several wrong notes in a row), start the phrase over.  If it's the first few notes, start the whole song over.  She says that everyone messes up, that oftentimes only the players notice.  It's a very forgiving audience.

And you know what?  Recognizing that I knew how to fix a mistake--acknowledging that I was going to make a mistake and should therefore not aim for perfect (which, my teacher called a "crapshoot!")--freed up my playing immensely and I made fewer mistakes!  Some of the paralysis left.

So, for now, I'm definitely playing "Finlandia" on Sunday, mistakes and all.

(Because I know people like an update, yesterday was really good.  I stayed on top of my pain meds and had a good, useful, relaxing day.  I have follow-ups with cardiologist on Thurs and surgeon on Friday.  Expecting it all to be fine.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Purring Cat....

....heals all wounds.
My cats have been great company these last weeks.  Mojo, in the photo, sits with me in the middle of the day.  Hermione visits while I shower--she likes a svitz and even sits in the damp, warmed porcelain tub afterwards.  Albus meows constantly and follows me various times of day.  And Mr. P welcomes me with motor-like purrs and a warm belly when I venture downstairs. 
Who says cats aren't social?

Monday, April 20, 2015

How To Get Through Abdominal Surgery

A friend recently posted that she has to have laparoscopic abdominal surgery this summer and asked for advice.  I realized we've had some experience with this, from my c-section, to Mama's hysterectomy and complications, and then to my emergency small bowel obstruction and re-section.  Smaller than those procedures, we've also had a few D&Cs and two abdominal hernia repairs.  So, we've had some experience.  Which I thought I'd impart here.  But I will write that in no way does this post constitute medical advice.  You should listen to your doctor.

Beforehand (*if you know, of course!)
  • Sleeping Arrangements:  Figure out where you're going to sleep in the days after surgery.  Stairs can be a challenge; couches might not allow real rest.  I have found it easier and better, for me, to climb to my bed and stay on the second floor for a few days.
  • Ativan:  if you are at all prone to nerves, ask for a prescription for Ativan or the like for the night before and drive to the hospital.  It just dulls some of the often considerable anxiety.
  • Groceries:  Depending on doctor's orders, you might have a special diet.  We always have easy snacks on hand because sometimes your appetite is small and it's easier to eat lots of little things.  Crackers, granola, bananas, peanut butter, white bread for toast.  I also like to have my favorites on hand to tempt me--I like Cream of Wheat when I don't feel well.  And eggs over rice with soy sauce.  And marmalade on toast.  Also, drinks.  I like iced tea, homemade or other, also coconut water.  Kefir and yogurt are also good for the probiotics.  We keep some of these in the bedroom, especially the high-protein ones, to go with medication or late-night snack needs.  See Eileen Behan, Cooking Well for the Unwell, for recipes and ideas about nutrition--protein seems to be very important to healing.
  • Prescriptions:  Some doctors give you your pain meds Rx beforehand so no one has to rush out to fill it right after surgery.  Ours never did.  It would have been helpful, though.
  • Medical supplies:  
    • Because you'll do wound care at home, it's good to have supplies of gauze, paper tape, bandages, whatever, plus an antibiotic cream, if suggested.  Follow your doctor's orders for how to take are of it (mine wants me to use baby soap to shower!)  
    • If the surgery is gynecological in nature, you might need extra-absorbent pads.  The ones from the hospital are super bulky and don't stick well.  Have a supply of your favorite brand at the ready.
    • The hospital will give you a surgical binder; if not, Amazon sells them.  It helps to have two, for washing.  
    • You'll want pillows:  to hold onto when you sit or sleep, to give pressure, especially if you cough or sneeze (oh, awful.)  Also protects you from overly excited pets and little people.   A small stuffed animal would work as well--and be cuter!  (Like the lop-eared bunny ISMITE that my family brought.)
    • From my back injury, I love my little bed rail, which helps me turn over at night and get up in the morning.  Probably not necessary for a single surgery, depending.  But I LOVE mine.   
    • I also have a temporary suction handrail in the shower, which helps me stay balanced and get in and out.  You can get these at Bed, Bath & Beyond.  It's more for peace of mind.  And again, with my back injury, my healing was long and slow and these things were necessary.  Now that we have them in the house, I find they are doubly helpful post-surgery.  I'm not sure I would have bought them just for surgery.  Well, maybe the shower rail.  
  • Clothing:  Check your wardrobe for loose, baggy clothes that won't bind in the days and weeks afterwards.  I wear yoga pants and men's pajama bottoms with ties that can be tightened or loosened.  I also wear layers because my sense of temperature changes.  I also like having pockets.  Wear what is most comfortable to you.  
  • "Phone Tree":  Choose someone to be your point of contact to get the word out to loved ones when you're ok.  Cell phones and FB/email really speed this along.
  • Other helpful ideas:  
    • a tray table:  for eating on the couch or in bed; also very useful to protect your abdomen from pets while you're lying in bed.  The cats so love to sleep on Mama that she slept under the tray table for weeks to keep them from jumping on her tummy.  
    • a box or basket:  we both were always losing the telephone, cell phone, tv remotes, pens, etc in the bedcovers.  A little basket or box helped us keep track of things.
    • drinking cup with straw:  it helps to have a spill-proof cup with a straw, especially when you're still in bed.

What to Expect in the Hospital
Depending on the doctor and hospital procedures, your experience might be very different.  Of course, do what your doctor and hospital staff say.  In planned surgeries, there is usually a pre-admission appointment, with blood tests, maybe heart checks.  Often, you're assigned a day but not a time; you often get the time the day or two before . . . and even then there will almost always be delays.  You go, check in, and eventually they take you back.  Sometimes your partner can go with you; sometimes they have the partner wait until you are enrobed and on your gurney.  In the ER, Mama and I were only separated during my x-rays and my CT-scan.  There is always a lot of waiting and time moves so oddly in the hospital.  Eventually, they'll start an IV and then you're off.  For my recent surgery, I was unconscious before the gurney left my room to go down the hall (or at least that's how I remember it; Mama says I'm missing parts of my timeline.)  And then at some point, you'll wake up in recovery.  Often they don't have your partner with you until after you wake up.  I think I woke up and fell back asleep a few times in recovery--I don't even remember being transferred to my room.  But eventually you'll be transferred to your room.

Depending, you'll be on a catheter for a day or so, with an IV.  I wasn't allowed anything by mouth, but Mama was allowed liquids almost right away.  Liquids includes jello, broth, juice, etc.  You'll then progress to regular food.  Best. Meals. Ever.  Order whatever you like from the menu.  I always seem to crave the roast turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans or corn, and a roll, with chocolate pudding or rice or tapioca, and hot tea and gingerale.  That's two hospital stays now . . . but then, it's hard to mess that up.  Mama herself had a dozen or so meals of baked potatoes!!

They'll wake you up in the night to check blood pressure and temperature.  This is when people complain about not getting any rest at the hospital.  I didn't mind the visits, maybe because I always fell back asleep.

TV in the hospital is an odd thing.  I kept it on all the time, day and night, as did Mama (though, not when we had the babies.)  It is distracting background noise so you can't hear other people and all the beeping machines.  It's company when you're alone.  It keeps your mind off pain and worry.  I think it even helped me keep track of time--I could mark that an hour had gone by.  I always seem to watch the stupidest stuff that I'd never watch at home (and I definitely can't watch cooking shows in the hospital.)  Mama watched "Deadliest Catch," "World's Most Dangerous Roads," "Ice Road Truckers," something about Arctic gold, pawn shop stars, was there storage locker wars?  I watched "Ancient Aliens," "Swamp People," and others.  And there's always the Weather Channel!

I was shocked at how quickly they got Mama up and about after her robotic hysterectomy--that night, even (but only once the catheter is out.) Anyway, don't be surprised if they are constantly encouraging you to get up and walk, sit in the chair, even shower, pretty soon afterwards.  And the walking, while slow and painful at first, even with the binder, is so important, especially to getting your bowels working again and also to help break up gas pain, which can be very uncomfortable.  You'll need to either pass gas or have a bowel movement for them to discharge you--apparently, the colon is the last part of the body to wake up, so it's function proves that you are healing relatively normally.  No doubt they'll be giving you a stool softener and fiber in the hospital, with instructions for more at home.  Suffice it to say, the first few bowel movements are difficult, regardless.  But you'll get through them.

A note about nurses:  BE NICE.  I'm always confused about the hierarchy (tech, RN, APN, nurse manager, charge nurse, and others) of nursing staff in hospitals and the shift changes, even who is in charge of me; it's all made harder by narcotics!  Recently, our hospital has put up these great white boards where your tech and nurse sign in so you know their names.  Use their names.  They are people, taking care of you at one of your darker hours; they have to stick you and wake you up, even stick an NG tube down your throat, not because they want to but because you need it and it's their job to do it.  They have amazing resources--compassion and knowledge--that most will willingly demonstrate.  But if you are mean, rude, or even indifferent--trust me, because I see it weekly in nursing homes--your care will be less . . . careful.  I don't accuse nurses of hurting or punishing people who aren't nice--they're professionals after all--just that, well, trust me, you'll feel better if you're nice.

While they'll have so much of what you need at the hospital, including toothbrush and paste, soap, shampoo, and towels, you might be more comfortable with some of your own things.  When Mama was in surgery, I had her overnight bag in the car and I fetched it before I could go see her, after she was in recovery.  When I had surgery, she rushed home in the wee hours of the morning to throw some things in a bag, though I didn't need them until much later.  Some things we liked to have:
  • robe, for walking the corridors in comfort
  • slippers or shoes, also for walking the corridors.  Slip-on Merrills were great--supportive and non-slip, also easy to get on without bending over.
  • extra pillow (see above) for coughing and support, etc.  
  • cellphone and charger (longer cords that reach the bed are great, at hospital or at home!)
  • a set of clothes to wear home, plus extra underwear and socks
  • deodorant--there are always your own bodily smells in hospitals (earthy, sick, unfamiliar, distressing smells) and I like to lessen some of it
  • hand lotion and lip cream--it can get so dry in hospitals and I like the scents of my own products sometimes (funny, I didn't need my own soap and shampoo, though.)
  • if you have long hair, consider a scrunchy or hair band to hold it back.  

  • Mama was wonderful to bring me pens and notecards so that the kids had something to do while they visited.  Then we decorated my wall with them.  Goo also brought me a notebook to write in when I couldn't comfortable talk with the NG tube in.
  • I usually leave behind whatever flowers I receive with reception on my ward, a small thank you.  The kids also brought a big plate of Italian cookies as a thank you to the staff (I think I brought cookies to Mama's ward, too.)  And we had filled out numerous positive comment cards.  
  • There is just no predicting when doctors make rounds, though it can be really early.  I missed them on many of Mama's days and vice versa.  But they often answered our pages quickly, when we had questions.  It's amazing what the staff can do with email these days.  

Afterwards at Home
  • Discharge instructions:  Discharge always takes longer than you think it will, to get the doctor's sign off that you can leave and then have the right person come and give you instructions.  I was surprised that I could walk out of the hospital if I wanted to, but since it was a long walk, I opted for the wheelchair.  It reminded me of being wheeled out with the twins--I told them how two people handed me money for them ($20 and $50, I think it was) and wished us luck.  Mama took down my bag and fetched the car, while the kids walked beside me in the wheelchair (which they thought was odd.)
  • Walking (or that uncomfortable discussion of bowels!):  If you're home, your bowels have returned somewhat to normal.  But it doesn't really feel normal, especially after bowel surgery.  I'm sticking to a bland diet, no raw stuff (to avoid food poisoning and excess gas, which is awful), no gassy stuff even well cooked (cabbage, broccoli, beans), no oily or fried things which also cause gas, and food only from people or places I trust--I can't even bear the thought of food poisoning.   I have also found that several small meals are better than three regular ones, if only because a full stomach presses in odd places.  I also try to have yogurt or probiotics everyday, to repopulate my gut well.  But when I chose poorly or ate too much and didn't feel well, walking was my lifesaver.  Walk, walk, walk.  It moves things along, keeps me from being too sedentary, keeps a few muscles going, gets me outside in the sunshine, even helps me be social with neighbors.  Walking has been really really helpful.  Yes, I started slowly--just around my room, then once around the hall, until I could do 3-4 circuits of our ward.  Now I do 15-30 minutes up and down the driveway or sidewalk near the house (so I don't get too far from home) at least three to five times a day.  Not fast--I call it my "surgical shuffle"--just one foot in front of the other (I always carry my cellphone in my pocket, outside or even in the house, just in case . . . . )  I didn't do it enough after my c-section and Mama didn't do it enough after her surgery, but oh, it is such a help.   Both the nurses on my ward and even my surgeon commented how well I was doing with walking. Not just for bowels, but for everything.  I would say it's my number one recovery advice.  
  • Reflux:  speaking of food, it's good to have some kind of treatment for indigestion, especially in the beginning where I'd be napping or lying down after eating, which contributes to reflux.  Now I try to sit up for an hour or so after eating and not eat too close to my afternoon nap or bedtime.  
  • Pain meds:  I'm a firm believer in pain meds, in staying on top of the pain.  I don't worry about addiction, but then that's never been one of my challenges (my addictions are digital and edible, separately of course.)  I've been told that if you really need the pain meds, you can't become addicted, but I don't know.  I find it's best to keep a list of the times I take pills; otherwise, day in and day out, I forget when and what I took (I also sometimes just email Mama so that we're both keeping track.)  In the beginning, I took them as often as I could.  Then, I got the heavy dosage of Percocet down and switched to something less powerful, Vicodin (which I didn't know was less potent than Perc.)  Right now I'm on one a day, midday, when I'm tired and achy, to get me through the evening hours with the family so I don't hibernate upstairs in pain.  When the Vicodin is too much, I'll move to Tramodol or Tylenol with codeine.  Interestingly, I don't always recognize that I am hurting; I do notice that I get grumpy or snippy or sad or anxious, and THEN I notice that I've been hurting.  I try to take the minimal number of painkillers I need to stay comfortable, but sometimes I figure incorrectly (take too few) and hurt anyway.  It takes a lot of awareness.  I find I move more and do more when I'm properly medicated so it really is a major part of my recovery.  (When I was under-medicated for my back pain, I didn't/couldn't move much at all and that was a disaster.)
  • Meditative Tools:  To supplement painkillers, utilize your own familiar, personal technique for relaxing, being mindful, etc., be it a "happy place," meditation, or the like.  I found Toni Bernhard's How to Be Sick to be the most helpful thing I've ever read regarding pain management and mindfulness.  (See also here.)  Counting my breaths, acknowledging that all things change, focusing on the present and not worrying about the future, have gotten me through so much pain and, I truly believe, actually lessened my experience of the pain because I've minimized the suffering.  (Pain being the physical sensations, suffering being the mental thoughts about pain.  But others explain it better than I do.)  When I am not mindful, my mind goes to my deepest fears and anxieties about loss, illness, and death.  It is best to stay in the present.  But it takes practice and you will have days where it is hard to stay present (I'm having one of those days today, hence posting on my blog!)
  • Meals and errands:  Some people find it very hard to ask for help.  I've gotten better at it over the years and realize how much it really does make a difference.  I cannot begin to tell you how helpful it is to have people bring meals.  We have been on the receiving end of meals now maybe six times, beginning with the birth of the babies, and it is amazing.  Not only is it physically nurturing, it is emotionally uplifting to be embraced and enveloped by generous friends.  Even if you get a lot of pasta!  Besides, pasta is versatile, easy to reheat, and almost everyone eats it.  I've organized meals for others several dozen times, first using clumsy old email lists and now beautifully streamlined with my favorite site, Food Tidings.  There are other sites, some that even do errands and such, but I like this one, probably mostly because of my familiarity with it over dozens of uses.  But I have already written about organizing meals.  Being on the receiving end just helps immensely.   
  • Distractions:  Books might be too heavy or require too much concentration, though the heft  problem can be fixed with an e-reader or magazines.  I had fun going to the store to choose magazines for Mama before her surgery--lots of different titles she would otherwise never have read--civil war history, photography, cats, British travel, etc.   I also opt for constant internet contact--I can lose myself in Facebook and Pinterest for hours--as well as television.  Nothing like bingeing on Netflix.
  • Visitors:  Long recoveries reveal some uncomfortable truths:  some people just are not comfortable with illness or injury.  I won't say I've lost a friend over my back injuries or surgery; I've just noticed which ones aren't bothered by it and which ones are.  I like to have visitors and am thrilled that I can sit downstairs and receive friends.  It helps when I can be honest with them, if I need to keep it short or need to lie down in the middle or run to the restroom.  I'm usually tired afterwards, but with spirits lifted, it is worth it.  Friends make getting better so much easier.
That's all I can think of now, but I will add to it as more comes to me.  If you face similar circumstances, I wish you the best of luck, with quick and gentle healing.  Get well soon!

A New Class

It's time for another Heather Bruggeman class:  Whole Food Kitchen!  Yes, I've taken it before, plus several of her other ones, including Vegan Workshop, Hibernate, and summer camp.  But the activities and ideas vary, as does the community that gathers around her.  While I am not doing any cooking or shopping right now because of my surgery, the class will be an inspiration.  And a distraction.

And when it's all over, I'll have some new recipes to try!

Monday Blues

It's chilly and blustery here, pouring rain, more like New England spring than yesterday's 70F.  But we need the rain.

I also think of it as the weather sympathizing with the kids being back in school!

I'm home, my first full day at home alone, though I had practice doing several hours alone already.  Fighting some mental boogeymen today.  When I start to have normal aches and pains that come and go, I begin to worry that something bad is happening all over again, though I don't meet any of the criteria set forth by the doctor:  no vomiting, no nausea, no fever, no pain (meaning persistent or unresponsive to meds), no lack of gas or bowel movement.  I'm healing, doing well. Even the infection is drying up. But I still feel relatively mediocre, some days more than others, depending.  I think I've been undermedicating.  I was trying not to need pain pills--perhaps proof that I was healing--when instead it just overwhelmed me to be uncomfortable.  So I'm going to be more diligent about them, to recognize when my body is tired.  And, no, Lambeth, I'm not overdoing it.  No carrying, just walking, can't bend to pick stuff up, no cleaning, no cooking, no chores.  But, even so, it was major surgery and I still hurt sometimes.

It takes some getting used to.

And sometimes, like today, it taps into my deepest fears and anxieties.  Then I have to use all my mindfulness training not to fret about an unknown future, to stay in the present . . . . and sometimes I'm better at it than others.  Which is why I watch a lot of tv!  (Right now, AMC's Revolutionary War show, "Turn.")

"Keep calm and carry on," one breath at a time.