Making itty bitty changes

I’ve been home a month now, and have figured out ways to do some things I didn’t know I could do. Take laundry, for example. It’s quite entertaining watching me move the dirty clothes from my bedroom, across the living room, into the other bedroom, and then into the bathroom where the stackable washer and dryer live. And of course, moving them back again when they’re clean. Standing up to move the clothes from washer to dryer and out again is a bit wobbly but that will be remedied this week when maintenance installs another grab bar next to the laundry closet. But even with that limit, I’m really happy that I can do my own laundry in my own place. It’s a step towards greater independence.

My aide is still coming to give me showers and wash my hair and I love that, really love that. But she’s away this week so I’m coming up with other options. I washed my hair in the kitchen sink today, standing on slightly wobbly legs and needing practice using the sprayer – but it’s clean and I did it. I think I know how I would give myself a shower but I’m not really ready to do that and definitely have promised NOT to try it without her there. Part of me doesn’t want to give up having her help but realistically, I may not need it for as long as I originally thought. Which is also a good thing and will save money, too.

I can also put my own shoes on! Well, not with the AFO braces in them, but still, having shoes is better than wearing fuzzy blue gripper socks all day. I have more stability and confidence when I stand and manouver around counters warily doing simple every day things. I’m not doing much walking right now because I’m not sure how stable the left foot is without the stupid AFO that keeps falling down; I’m not wearing it for that reason and the therapists know and understand. I see the surgeon on Wednesday of this week (delayed from last week) and we’ll have a chat. I suspect he will tell me to have therapy decide what I need, and therapy will tell me it’s the doctor. So I’m hoping to get a referral to an orthopod foot person who can direct that part of things. I definitely have significant foot drop in the right foot and know that one needs an AFO, but maybe the left doesn’t anymore.

One of my friends helped me with banking this week, which is another step. I haven’t been to a bank since before my move in August and although I’m not spending pots of cash, I do need some. Instead of doing “cash back” at the grocery store or using an ATM, my friend brought me cash from her bank and I wrote her a check for the same amount. Not ideal, but generous of her and it made things easier for me. At some point, I’ll be able to go out with people, but probably not until I can use the walker, which is a lot easier to fold up and transport than a wheelchair.

This is still a year of waiting. It’s been three months since surgery and I have another nine to go to wait out the healing process, at least that’s what the surgeon warned me. I need to give my body time and not get impatient. The e-stim we’re doing in therapy is really waking up the nerves in the right foot and leg, sometimes painfully, but any return of sensation is a good thing. Those really big steps of the first weeks of rehab were dramatic and scary and wonderful, but they aren’t the only kinds of progress. These teeny changes add up as well.

Image credit: Photo 47326021 © Nilanjan Bhattacharya |

Some good, some harder

The best part of today was getting an in-patient visit from my brilliant hair stylist for my first haircut in 12 weeks. It wasn’t possible to go purple again, though it would have been really fun, but oh, the relief of seeing my normal style again as wads of gray hair cluttered the floor. Would have loved the chance to rinse out all the little hairs but my shower day isn’t until Saturday. Alas, I will have to make do. It will be here soon and at least I look more like myself.

My PT rollator adventure was not uneventful. That thing really is fast, and I asked my PT if we could put a weight on the little seat to make it feel more stable until I get more used to how the handles work. That’s how I learned to walk with a regular walker, decreasing the weight until it was just the walker itself. I started on hardwood, moved to carpet, swung around a couch and came back to hardwood to get back to the wheelchair.

That’s when I got flummoxed. I turned the walker which went FAST and my right foot, which always feels heavy and clumsy, got tangled with the rear right roller, and I fell into my wheelchair. Not on my butt, but sort of my shoulder. The good news is I was wearing a gait belt and didn’t hurt myself, but it shook me. At least I didn’t have to do the bar standing leg exercises.

But I didn’t get out of doing them sitting down later during OT. Everyone always wants me to march in place and get those knees up. Except they don’t GO up, even when I’m squeezing and trying my damnedest. They’ve told me that I need to keep doing it to fire those muscles in hopes that they will decide to wake up and actually work. I watch other people easily raise their knees high and want to trade mine in for newer models but alas, I’m stuck with stupid knees that don’t get the message. I’ve been concerned because I don’t want my inability to march in place at will to be a reason I can’t go home. I know some things I need to be able to do but they are functional things like “put on shoes by myself” not exercise goals. Think I’ll ask about that tomorrow.

My nifty device to hold my shoe in place arrived today. I’m not sure how it works yet but I’ll try it tomorrow – and will bring it to OT in the afternoon if I can’t figure it out myself. I also got two new pairs of ugly super wide diabetic shoes (the ones I’ve been wearing are old and stretched out) and a new folding walker that’s the same model I used at the Olympic Center. It’s a wee bit wider than the standard one but not as large as bariatric models, and I liked it. My room looks like a medical supply room, with the AFO’s, wheelchair, two walkers, orthopedic shoes, and AFO shoe device, plus my blue leg lifter, a reacher tool, sock aid, and a clever toileting aid. Don’t ask about that.

Therapy Notes – Friday, 8/27/21

Susan washed my hair today. It felt amazing, after three weeks, to have water on the scalp and fingers washing away grime. I’ve never appreciated a shampoo as much. It was the last part of my OT time today, after doing the arm bike and weights, and a round of practicing transfer from the wheelchair to a shower chair so I can have a shower next week. I still have trepidation about how it will work in practice, but at least I’ve practiced it twice. With practice comes more confidence. At least that’s the plan.

Yesterday in PT, Veronica had me practice standing with the parallel bars and letting go with one hand at a time. Today I had a chance to actually use that when getting dressed, standing in the walker and holding on with one hand and using the other hand to help pull up my clothes. I don’t think I would have been brave enough to risk doing it otherwise.

Today we started PT by walking with the walker. I did 30 feet on my first try and 35 feet on my second, to the applause of one of the other patients and her therapist. The rest of our time, I worked on transfers (again) and on how to get my legs up on the bed by myself. Yeah, easier to say than to do. And rolling. I kept trying to figure out how to apply this info to my own house, which is going to need to have some furniture rearrangement – and the bed is entirely the wrong height. Not sure how that is going to work. I miss my bed but I admit I love having something adjustable. Maybe Sleep Number has a good option for me but I’m not sure what I’ll do.

I had a little pity party on the table, trying to get my legs off the floor by myself. A wave of “Why do I have to deal with this? Why is this happening to me?” Tears and sniffles. I’ve mostly stuffed all that down because it keeps me in a pit instead of working to getting out of it. Whatever the reason, this is my reality now. I don’t have to like it, but I do have to accept it and learn work arounds for things that used to be so easy to do. I’m very grateful for my friends who are taking care of the kitties, and house things, keeping in touch with cards, texts, and Facebook. But it’s lonely here. We spend a lot of time alone, resting and recovering. I miss seeing people in person, and getting hugs. And I miss my kitty girls so much. I hope they will remember me.

Practicing Self Care

My goal for the next few weeks is to practice self-care. It’s a lot easier to just sit around and complain about the knee and the back and how they’re holding me back. Which they are. But in the meantime, there are things I can do and work on.

Sleep: I haven’t been sleeping well or enough. Whatever the reason, I wake up tired and stay that way for much of the day, which could mean a bunch of things: sick, allergies, staying up too late, uncomfortable bed, stress. But what I think it means is that my CPAP is set too low, meaning I don’t get enough oxygen. Back in July at my annual visit with the sleep doctor, my air pressure rate was decreased from 13 to 11. We thought that, with the weight loss and sinus surgery, it was too high. I think we pushed it too low. So I made an appointment to consult again and have it adjusted.

I also spend too much time reading after I get to bed, and get up at 5am to give myself time to wake up. Maybe I need that because, duh, I’m not getting enough sleep. So I’m making a commitment to turn off the light at 9:30 p.m. and to add 15-30 minutes to my alarm so I get a little more sleep at that end, too. I’m also considering putting coffee back on my food plan. I stopped drinking it when I got on Noom because I didn’t like using that many calories on creamer and didn’t like the coffee without creamer. But they are my calories and I can do what I want with them, and I miss the taste and the ritual of coffee – with creamer.

Cleaning. I hate cleaning. I like having things BE clean, just not doing it myself. I had a house cleaner who came every 2 weeks until just before Covid when she had a double knee replacement and then retired. I’ve been doing my own cleaning since then and I still hate it. Today I called The Cheerful Cleaning Company again and am trying to set up a regular cleaning schedule. They did my post-construction deep clean and were amazing. It’s not cheap and it’s actually a luxury, but I need this.

Church. I work in a church that I no longer attend for worship, having joined a local Episcopal Church a few months ago. My problem has been actually getting there in person because I found myself doing tech support for Work Church on Sunday morning, which is now doing Facebook Live as well as Zoom for streaming Bible Study. I’ve reserved a spot for in-person church at Worship Church only to not actually go. This week I delayed making a reservation until today. I’m going to the 11:00 a.m. service this Sunday, which means I can be home while Work Church is doing technical things in case there’s a call, but I can still get to my own Worship Church. I need it for grounding and learning my new community.

Hair and Toes. I put these in the same category because I try to “do” them on the same schedule. I love getting a pedicure because I sit in that fancy massage spa chair for an hour with little kneading action on the back. Plus someone else spends a lot of time working on my feet and then they feel better and look beautiful. I’m currently out of whack on my “doing them on the same schedule” plan but am going this afternoon for a haircut. Toes were done last week.

Massage. I have two gift certificates for a body massage but have been holding off because of covid concerns. It’s been 9 months since I’ve had one and that’s a very long time for me to go. My body is off balance because of the back and knee problems on the right side and my muscles are tight knots strung together like beads on a chain. This week I’m calling both places to find out their cleaning procedures to see how safe they feel, and if they are acceptable (and I’m picky), I will make an appointment. By the end of the week.

Weight loss – yeah, I know, I shouldn’t have put this last. No one can do it for me and it’s important. But it can’t be the only thing in my life. I’ve spent too much time obsessed with food, diets, eating plans, calories, counting, tracking, measuring, etc. I’ve really enjoyed just being essentially in one place for almost 2 months. I don’t want to stay here, but right now it feels good. When I’m ready to buckle down, I will. As long as I don’t forget how I got here.

Actually, looking at this list shows that my idea of self care is mostly having someone else do things for me. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But there are things I can and need to do for myself. My big one is to remember my goal of preparing, compiling, and publishing genealogy books for each grandparent’s line that include full size images of original records such as census pages and church documents. The book I did for my brother 2 years ago omitted these because no one really cared except me. But as a research tool, something that is a “brain and record dump” of my genealogy program, this is a huge goal. I’ve been working on the family lines for 50 years and know that it may be a long time, if ever, before anyone else in the family is interested in picking it up. So I want to get as much out of my head and my computer into a printed form. It will not be finished by the end of December, but I’m again making progress.

On Vacation on a Quiet Monday

Here I sit on a quiet Monday morning, Sipping coffee with my wet hair wrapped up in a Turbie-twist (these things are awesome and have freed me from that heavy towel wrapped around my head that kept falling off).  I’m on vacation for the next 10 days and love days when I don’t have a race from task to task to keep on a work-day schedule.  Of course, Tessie is there to remind me that, “yo mama, give me crunchies” comes early whether I think I can sleep in or not.

Today’s agenda is finding a swim cap (hoping that drug stores have them because I don’t want one of those racing caps that squeeze your brains out), getting my hair colored and cut, going to the gym for an hour pool workout with my personal trainer (hence the need for a swim cap with newly colored hair).  My outside stuff finishes up with a fresh pedicure.  Then it’s time to actually think about what to pack because tomorrow morning I head to Texas for a week’s visit with my family.

Left to my own devices I wouldn’t go to Texas at the end of June.  Do you know how hot it is there??  I am a New England girl now and don’t have a high tolerance for heat.  Plus I’m shifting sizes again so who knows what will fit and be appropriate for the weather.  The trip was originally timed so I could go to my nephew’s wedding next weekend, but it was called off and the engagement ended (by the bride) so there is no wedding.  But my aunt and I had non-refundable tickets, and we hadn’t seen the Texas fam in quite a while, so we’re making this a mini-family reunion.

Lapband update – my doctor told me he did NOT think I needed a fill, especially with two trips coming up.  He reminded me that as I get smaller, the weight will come off more slowly, and that 5 lbs a month is a good rate.  I’ve now lost 108 lbs and am 3 lbs away from breaking 200 for the first time in over 30 years.  Believe me, I’ll keep you posted on that.

Since I’m going away for a week, naturally I needed to clean this weekend.  Ever since I spent a summer as a hotel maid, I’ve hated cleaning.  I know how to do it, I just hate doing it and procrastinate amazingly well.  Yesterday, though, I vacuumed up enough cat hair to make a kitten for Tessie to play with, scrubbed the bathroom, cleaned the stove and sink, and did 3 loads of laundry.  I still have to dust and finish cleaning the kitchen.  I always forget how much nicer it looks after I do this.  Maybe I should do it more often 🙂