Healing Power of Doing Nothing

I have done almost nothing over this 10-day recess break period, and this year especially it’s been a blessing I needed more than I knew.  Having this break is a major perk of working in academia. Some years I fly to Texas to be with family, but honestly, I miss them for about 30 min on Christmas morning and the rest of the time I’m happy on my own without the stress of holidays and expectations.

I slept until I woke up most days until I finally feel rested and my eyes look less bruised from lack of sleep.  My time was my own.  I did limited shopping, got a pedicure, had my hair cut and colored, and took Tessie to the vet.  I drove out to a consignment shop an hour away that I’ve wanted to go to for months, and did genealogy research for my 95-year-old neighbor. I bought furniture.

I went through drawers, boxes, closets and shelves to weed out what I don’t need/want to take to my new apartment, lugging bags and boxes to Goodwill – and even more bags to the dumpster or recycling bins.

But mostly I spent the time alone with Tessie and it was just what I needed.  I enjoy being with people but it tires me out, especially in the chaotic bustle of the holiday season.  I brought some work home but kept it in my bag without opening it – which made me really happy.  More to do when I get back tomorrow, but emptying my head of work was necessary.

I hope I can remember all the codes I need to know tomorrow.  But at least I will go in rested and ready to take it on.

2011: The Year in Review

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written here; interactive chat with friends has been more appealing than writing a blog post these days.  But I’m feeling delinquent and out of touch, especially with those of you I only see in blog-land.  Rather than try to catch up, here’s a sum up of 2011:

Year of Surgeries:

  • Surgery #1 on March 2:  elective plastic surgery to remove hanging belly skin and upper arm lifts.  I was out of work for 3 weeks and took another 4-5 before I was really feeling good.  The arms look amazing and I relished wearing sleeveless tops this summer.  However, I also had complications – abscesses along the lower suture line, and the discovery of a serious infection in my lapband port area.  The surgery wasn’t connected to the lapband at all, but the moved belly button was less than 2 inches from the port and, well, things happen.
  • Surgery # 2 on August 2:  removal of the infection, surrounding tissue, and the lapband port.  I had an open wound that is still not 100% healed up, tho it’s not a problem.  I ended up missing work time due to daily nurses for wound care.  Necessary but annoying.
  • Surgery #3 on Nov. 22:  Lapband port revision, aka putting in a new port to replace the one that was removed during the infection surgery.  Went extremely well and I’m now starting the process of getting fills to complete

Exercise:

This did not go well in 2011.  All the surgeries didn’t help, as my ability to exercise was limited for long chunks of time.  My personal trainer moved to a different gym 45 minutes away, which is just not convenient for me.  Rather than switch to a new trainer, I’ve decided to let it go for a year, save the money, and work on my own.  I know it’s not the best solution but for now, it’s my choice.  And $110/month adds up nicely.  I still have my gym membership, mind you – just gave up the training.

Weight:

I’ve been eating off-plan since the March surgery.  Major abdominal surgery will do that to you, especially with the fear of having to throw up under those conditions, but I continued to maintain the loss until my surgery in August, which removed all lapband restrictions.  They’re still not back and I can really see the difference.   I can and will improve my eating choices but this has really shown me how much it helps to have the band in place.  I have weight to lose again, and it WILL happen.

Family:

I visited my parents and brother and sister-in-law in October.  Everyone is doing well and staying busy.  My niece/goddaughter got engaged this year and is getting married next summer.  In Houston, in July.  Can we say hot?  Her brother, Football Nephew, is now a member of the Washington Redskins, and was promoted to the active 53-man roster from the practice squad two weeks ago.  We’re so very proud and happy for him.

Tessie and I celebrated our four-year anniversary last month, and I love her more every day.  She was a wonderful therapy cat when I was home recovering, and sticks close unless I’m vacuuming.

Home:

I’m moving!  Not far, just to a different building in my same complex.  I love where I am but will be happy to move to the 55+ building (most residents are retired so I will be the young one) where rent is almost $200 cheaper and I’ll have a walk-in shower, which my knee will love.  It’s the same layout as what I have now, but flipped and a tiny bit smaller – but still over 1100 square feet, so what’s not to like?  I’ll be on the second floor in the SW corner in an elevator building.  Yayyyy!

I move on Jan. 27th so am applying a Peter Walsh approach to looking at my stuff before packing.  Stuff is going to Goodwill or the trash so I can just pack up everything that’s left.

Work:

I’ve completed a full year in my current position, and love what I’m doing, aside from the concern of how to be sure there’s work for my staff on a consistent basis.  Preferably that doesn’t involve too much of my time to dream it up, document, train, produce “work from” lists, and then do clean up.

In July, I celebrated a wonderful annual meeting educational program for my national professional association, after months of work, worries, and details as chair of the program committee.  I also turned down the chance to run as vice-chair/chair-elect of one of our special interest sections.  I’m ready for the next generation to move up and am happy NOT to be in charge of anything.

Have a happy and healthy 2012.  Do the necessary things, but also do what brings you joy.

Steve Job’s Advice at Commencement 2005

From Steve Job’s 2005 commencement address at Stanford University:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

So honest, so clear, so intense, so hard to live.  But Steve Jobs did it and oh my, look at what he accomplished in his too-short life.

New York Resentment

I had no idea until I was reading some blog posts and articles written yesterday how much some (many? most?) New Yorkers resent that non-New Yorkers think they know what New York was going through in September 2001.  That it was their tragedy, their suffering, their pain – and God knows, their city endured physical and emotional things that the rest of us did not.   No, I wasn’t there, I didn’t lose friends and loved ones in the towers, I didn’t have my lungs and body destroyed by toxins.

New York suffered terribly.  You own a very different, deeper pain than the rest of the country.  The people at the Pentagon suffered – but not the way a whole city did.  The people on Flight 93 died, but the planes didn’t slam into building full of people in the heart of a city.

I get all that.  But I’m both hurt and resentful and then guilty for being mad at New Yorkers for believing this is theirs only.  I didn’t lose a spouse or parent or child.  But I know people who did lose them.  Many people in the northeast corridor know someone who suffered a loss or who came out to help with rescue efforts.  Or who knew someone on one of the planes.  I did.

But we are not New Yorkers.  Our home city wasn’t attacked.  We weren’t part of the group that banded together to get through the horrible time.  We were just people who saw the images on TV over and over, heard the words, grieved in our own ways, helped where we could.  The city of Boston grieved and had its own collective guilt because the planes had left from our airport.

New York had it the worst of all.  I get that.  I don’t want to horn in on your anger and loss and pain and solidarity and fortitude.  But please, New Yorkers, do not think that those of us beyond your boroughs don’t feel, don’t remember, don’t care.  We are Americans and we do, even if you resent us for doing so.

I’m so sorry for your loss of innocence and lives.   I’m so sorry for the destruction of the indestructible.  I’m so sorry for your pain and sadness and fear.

But I’m still routing for the Red Sox.

Gym & Remembrance

Today was my first day back at the gym since my infection surgery at the beginning of August – and I’d been away for most of the five months before that as I healed from the plastic surgery.  Although I’ve been walking, it hasn’t been much and certainly not up to pre-surgery activity.

So we started again, my trainer and I.   Because I still have the open wound (yes, after 7 weeks it is still open, though greatly healed), today was more about movement and not lots of weight or pulling motions such as lat pull downs which could pull on my wounded area.  I doubt I’ll be sore tomorrow, usually my clue about how well I worked my body, but it did feel good.

It’s scary to see how easy it is to gain weight back.  Oh, I’ve done it lots of times before (it’s my pattern) but I don’t like watching the scale and the way it has been nudging up a few pounds.  I know what to do to turn it around but have lacked the focus to actually do it – and all of this time away from regular exercise has not helped.  So it was particularly important that I had the appointment today, to get back on track.

On the other hand, it was definitely NOT good to be in the gym on 9/11 with memorials and interviews and related movies showing on every on-screen channel.  I was on the treadmill ten years ago in my Boston gym, watching as the planes hit the towers on one screen with Top Gun air fights on the next screen over.  It looked as though we were watching military scrambling to go after the people who struck the towers.  Unsettling and vivid.

I have only watched one of the myriad 9/11 shows this week.  I overloaded on all the coverage 10 years ago and cannot watch now.  I remember it all without seeing it again.  The one I did see was about baseball and the role it played for New York in the days, weeks, and months after the towers fell.  HGTV has been playing most of this weekend when the TV has been on.

At least we had power.  After Irene came through, almost 70% of Connecticut was without power for at least some time, including many of my staff.  My director’s house had major structural damage from a big tree crashing into the roof.   Roads were closed from flooding all over the state.  Schools ended up using “snow days” before the doors even opened for the year, due to power outages, flooding, and/or damage.

But I was fine here, other than leaking windows and losing cable for 8 hours (and with it, my internet and phone).  I have a good supply of lanterns and batteries, and those will come in handy later in the year when the warning is to prepare for a blizzard.

Now the hurricane

West Coast folks laughed at us East Coasters with our earthquake earlier this week.  Lori felt it a great deal more than we did up here.  Being only 3 weeks before the 9/11 anniversary, people’s first thought here was that it was a bomb so a quake was actually a relief.

I’m very happy to share this weekend’s hurricane with them.   As I write, Irene has made landfall in NC and coastal regions along the Atlantic coast and low lying areas have evacuated in state after state.  She will show up here around 10pm, the northern sweep of the storm anyway.  The eye comes almost directly over New Haven on Sunday between noon and 2pm.  Right now we’re likely to get more wind (gusting up to 75-100 mph) than rain (4-8″ here, up to 15″ in the western part of the state – I so want to send it to Texas0.  We’ve been told it’s a matter of how long we’ll lose power, not whether it will happen.l

I’ve done as much prep as I can, or will have by early afternoon.  Already done:

  • Week’s worth of medications
  • Batteries, including the elusive D’s (shipped from Amazon!)
  • Lanterns
  • Flashlight
  • 30 bottles of water + all pitchers
  • Protein bars & canned food
  • Manual can opener
  • Cat food, treats, and catnip
  • Medical supplies to change my own dressings
  • Cash
  • Recyling dumped

To do today:

  • Wash clothes, sheets, towels
  • Charge phone, laptop, netbook, iPad, iTouch, Kindle, camera
  • Change litterbox
  • Trash dump
  • Move porch chair to the inside hallway (after I clean it in the bathtub)
  • Get a pedicure :)

I’m very happy that the extremely dead tree right outside my door was cut down two weeks ago.  All I have is a stump, which isn’t photogenic but also can’t come out to be a projectile and smash my windows.

Off to get busy.  Be safe.  In the words of Hill Street Blues‘ Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, “Let’s be careful out there.”

Image source: http://www.geofffox.com/MT/archives/2011/08/26/irene-is-a-serious-threat.php

What did you do with your wedding dress?

My mom in her wedding dress

Mom and I were talking tonight about her wedding dress.  My grandmother made it and my mom, her sister, and 3 other women of their generation all wore it.

My grandmother was a wonderful seamstress who actually took dressmaking courses at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn back in the 1920’s.  She made the girls’ clothes (and her own) for years, including this amazing dress.  It’s made of Chantilly lace as an over-dress that was worn over a satiny under-dress, and has dozens of little tiny satin covered buttons down the front and the sleeves.  She covered the buttons herself.

It hasn’t been worn in a very long time.  I obviously didn’t wear it, and my nieces wouldn’t fit into it.  But my mom has had it in a box for 60 years, and even has the dress pattern used to make it tucked inside the box.

My grandmother in her wedding dress

But what do we do with it now?  How to best preserve such a treasure?  Should it be donated somewhere, given away with an ad in Craigslist, taken to a consignment shop?  Maybe cut into pieces and framed?  I would love to have a pillow made of the lace with the buttons on it as a reminder of both my mom and my grandmother – but only if there isn’t a better use for the dress.

What did you do with yours?  What do you recommend for us?  I want to be respectful of the past but also realistic.

(I included my grandmother’s picture because she is totally gorgeous and I love this picture, not because we have her dress, too.)