Weighty Matters

31 10 2009

Fitness instructors, I’ve found, are a fairly flighty bunch.  I’ve had four teachers in four years.

The yoga lady lasted the longest, but she left because she hated the way the floor smelled in our new room.  The Pilates guy just disappeared.  Actually, I wasn’t sorry he left, because, though I’m sure it was all innocent enough, he was a little too “hands on” to suit me.  The body toning trainer, who worked for the census bureau, got busy gearing up for next year’s census and had to give up her evening job.

So now I’m on number four, also body toning.

Each instructor has emphasized: “Listen to your own body.”  “It’s not a competition.”  “Don’t compare yourself to others.”weights

Sounds okay in theory, but aren’t we all constantly evaluating other people?  Their appearance, their intelligence, their personality, their size—as in, what size weights they use?  Our class spans the interval from three to eight pounds.  I fall somewhere in the middle at five pounds.

When the teacher announced we’d be doing our exercises slowly at the next session, the gal next to me, a veteran, warned me to bring three-pound weights.  I heeded her advice, but as class started they felt like feathers in my fingers, and I anticipated the session would be a breeze.  Sixty minutes later I was sprawled out on the mat and my three-pound weights felt like they were bolted to the floor.  Going through the same exercises we do every week, but doing them very slowly, is a killer.

I went home and collapsed.





Formula for Success: Maximize Sleep, Minimize Stress

30 10 2009

I’m perched here on the brink of Halloween and it feels like the beginning of a roller coaster ride.  I’m locked into my seat and we’re at the top of that first big hill.  There’s no turning back.  One way or another, I’ll get through the whirlwind of activities that clog our calendar during the next two months.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve and Day.  Hay rides, food drives, office parties, cookie exchanges, winter concerts, secret Santas.  Theoretically, it would all be grand, except for my old friend, Ms. M.S. Fatigue.

One upside to the past year’s economic downturn is that it’s become fashionable to scale back.  That’s good news for my energy level.  And it enables me to act on my mantra, “Too much stress makes me a mess.”

Eating

For example, I’m not compelled to dig up the Bon Appetit recipe for the eleven ingredient Rustic Bread Stuffing with Red Mustard Greens (an oxymoron?), Currants, and Pine Nuts.  And forget the recipe for Roasted Winter Squash and Parsnips with Maple Syrup Glaze and Marcona Almonds, which requires you to combine, melt, whisk, add, transfer, cover, chill, unchill, bake, uncover and sprinkle.Grocery_items

Let’s face it.  Everybody loves Stovetop stuffing and green bean casserole with fried onions on top.  And with that simple substitution, I’ve got fewer groceries to shop for, less to lug home, and I can sleep an extra two hours Thanksgiving morning.

While we’re on the subject of food, are you tasked with bringing an appetizer to an office gathering?  If so, I’ve got one word for you—Velveeta.  In case you don’t already have a favorite hors d’oeuvre recipe based on this orange-yellow delicacy, check the Kraft Foods website.

Decorating

No jack-o-lantern carving for us.  We plan on making those pumpkins do double duty for Thanksgiving.  (Though I’m afraid some hungry-looking squirrels may have something else in mind.)

bowl_of_nutsInside the house, an attractive bowl of not-yet-shelled mixed nuts and a couple nutcrackers will decorate the coffee table all fall and on into the new year.  It provides tasty (and relatively healthy!) snacks.  Also, the shelling keeps guests occupied, so they’re not rifling through our personal papers looking for last year’s tax returns.

Why does the decorating ordeal have to be a one-woman-show?  I’m turning the endeavor into a team effort. The only way the Christmas village comes out of the boxes this year is if  my husband does it.  (I happen to know he secretly loves that snow-laden, brightly-glowing ceramic wonderland.)

Shopping

Gift_bagsPresents?  This is going to be the year of the wool socks.  I’m giving them to everybody on my list!  They’re warm.  They’re comfy.  They’re personal but not too personal.  They’re available in a limited selection of sizes and colors, an absolute must for the indecisive shopper that I am.  Perfect one-stop-shopping.  And so easy to wrap.  Stick in a bag; stick on a bow; you’re ready to go.

Holiday themed clothing has gotten out of hand. From Halloween socks to vests with an autumn harvest motif to the ubiquitous Christmas sweater or neck tie, the time has come to draw the line.  In the words of Nancy Reagan, “Just say no.”  (And if you wear any clothing that involves blinking lights, I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend therapy, but isn’t it time you step back and ask yourself, “What does this say about me?”)

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With this plan in place I intend to emerge from the next two months well-rested and de-stressed.  Energized and yet calm.  No exacerbations or relapses and minimal symptoms.  Check back in January.





Michael Stein, Mind Reader

28 10 2009

Grocery_aisleI decided to read The Lonely Patient when I noticed the author had the initials M.S.  Hey, it’s as good a reason as any!  He doesn’t write specifically about MS patients, but I was amazed by how well he put into words some experiences I’ve had.  Here’s a sample:

“When a person with chronic illness is out and about, no longer in the hospital or in bed…Signaturebut shopping for groceries, passing papers on a mortgage, or drinking coffee at the office, she is carrying a secret identity…Who knows about…the terror of the upcoming surgery, about the itchy scar under the blouse?  Who at work knows the inconveniences of her illness, the series of discomforts, each tolerable, but one after another allowing no rest?

CoffeeShe doesn’t “look” sick, so she must not be.  The fact that she can pass among strangers while holding this news close, revealing nothing to them, exacerbates the loneliness of her illness.  Somehow she manages the grind of daily life while illness looms over everything, shadowing, trivializing, obscuring what must be attended to.”

Michael Stein, The Lonely Patient





Contemplating Mortality

26 10 2009

Death confronted me three times this weekend.

The Perfect Storm

My husband and I visited my parents, who live about seven hours away.  As often occurs when we travel, we found ourselves with access to cable television, something we don’t have at home.  So I engaged in that mind numbing practice of flipping through endless channels.  One evening I stumbled across The Perfect Storm.  Don’t stop here, I thought.  Why would I want to watch this?  They all die.  We know they all die.  I hated it the first time I saw it.  Why would I watch it again?  Click.  Click.  On to more cheerful channels.  But an hour later, when the storm had reached its worst, there I was. Watching.  Couldn’t take my eyes off it.  Glued to the set.snapshot6

Grandpa’s Garden

My mother has a wonderful assortment of photos on her computer that cycle in an endless slide show.  The order is totally random, so you never know what little memory is going to get triggered next.  We were watching the pictures roll by when her dad—my grandpa—appeared on the screen, a delightful picture of him holding my childhood beagle.  snapshot1Mom commented how she loves that picture of her dad, made all the more special because she has few snapshots of him.  (You know the drill.  He took thousands of photos.  Always behind the camera.)  He passed away when I was in grade school, the first person I knew who died.  It was very sad.  And yet, in retrospect, he died while working in his garden, among the flowers that brought him endless pleasure.

What This Is Really All Aboutsnapshot3

My dad is in the Alzheimer’s wing now.  I don’t know whether it’s accurate to consider him as dying.  Maybe he’s only dying in the sense that all of us are dying.  His body continues to go about its business.  His heart keeps beating, the food gets digested, he breathes in and out.  But increasingly, he’s on auto pilot.  His legs should be able to walk, but his brain won’t tell them to go.  There’s no one in charge.

snapshot5I often read myself to sleep.  I reach a point where my mind is still processing the words, but I can’t hold my eyes open.  With dad, the experience is reversed.  His body is still chugging along, but his mind is checking out.

Of course, I don’t really know.  Mom doesn’t really know.  He seems peaceful enough.  I hope he is.  But it is hard as the dickens for the rest of us.  To watch.  And wonder.  And pray.

It’s a time when all that’s left is the love.





To Read or Not To Read: That Is the Question

22 10 2009

I’m a daily comic section reader.  Everybody has his own favorites.  For me, the ones I read enthusiastically and enjoy, or at least relate to, include Pickles, Red and Rover, Sally Forth, Zits, Baby Blues, Speed Bump, Frank and Ernest and Close to Home.

Comic SectionThere are some strips  that I’ve never even been tempted to read, mostly the serial ones like The Amazing Spiderman, Mark Trail, and Judge Parker.  Also Brewster Rockit: Space Guy.

Then there are the comics that the Post, in its infinite wisdom, stopped running so I don’t have a choice.  Things like Cathy, For Better or For Worse, Wizard of Id and B.C.

But my problem comes with stuff I’m in the habit of reading but really don’t enjoy.  Such as Garfield, Mother Goose and Grim, Beetle Bailey, and Sherman’s Lagoon.  I can’t remember the last time any of those had what I considered to be a clever, humorous, witty, or innovative thought.  And yet, as I scan the page, I can’t force myself to skip over them, lest I miss the one installation that’s finally going to be funny.  My mind tells me it’s just 10, maybe 15 seconds per strip.  I’d be crazy not to invest the time.  So on I go,  reading the drivel, hoping to be entertained. Over a lifetime, how much time have I wasted?

Old habits die hard.





I Need a Book on Conquering Addictions

20 10 2009

I wouldn’t call it a full blown addiction.  I’m not hiding boxes of shoes in the back of my closet, waiting for a better moment to mention them to my husband.  I’m not driving home from KFC with a bucket of chicken, ostensibly bought for my children, sitting on my lap, scarfing down a leg of original recipe as the grease oozes down my chin.  I’m not sneaking into bars in the middle of the afternoon or hitting the gambling websites at 3:00 a.m.

I like books as well as the next guy, maybe a little more than some.  As a child most of my reading came from the library…what a great idea!  Books, like television programs, were made to be enjoyed but then you moved on.  There was generally no reason to actually own them.

But in recent years I’ve discovered easy access to really cheap books and now I find myself inundated.  First I stumbled upon the twice yearly book sales at the libraries.  For best selection, be there when it opens on the first day.  For better bargains but less selection, go during “half price Sunday.”  We have a book section at the Restore that occasionally turns up some interesting volumes.  And it’s always in need of straightening up, which provides plenty of time to peruse.  When one library branch was relocating, they sold off a LOT of their books, and if you hit it on a day when a subject matter you liked went up for grabs, it was like Christmas.

stack_of_booksI came to the realization that my book collection was becoming unwieldy.  Fiction, non-fiction, reference, hard cover, paperback, coffee table, best seller, cooking, crafting, architecture, humor, devotional, self-help.  It was getting out of control.

To get a handle on the situation, I purposefully didn’t attend the library book sale last weekend.  And I was brutal about gathering up a substantial number of my collection to donate when I stopped by the library yesterday.

But when I approached the book donation box, I found a sign that announced the leftovers from the weekend’s sale were free for the taking at another entrance to the library.

Boy, did I fall off the wagon.  At first, trying to maintain my decorum, I casually mosied on over to the site.  But after my first armload of books, I moved my car to be closer to the source.  I started eying my fellow scavengers to see what they were finding.  I even helped myself to a stack of old records which I have no way to play!  (Got any decorating ideas for the album covers?)

The surest sign of a hoarder:  When I got home, I stashed the majority of my take in the spare bedroom, so I wouldn’t have to do any ‘splaining to my husband.  My take for the day?  Sixty-eight books and 19 records.

Maybe it is a full blown addiction.





Information Found on Internet Forums

19 10 2009

#1  How much do you love your neuro?

Many people travel great distances to get to their neurologist’s office.  Driving three hours or more is common.  My neurologist’s office is five minutes from my house, though I have to add in an extra 20 minutes to find parking.  In a pinch, I could walk there (though it would be a pedestrian nightmare.)

#2  What’s your favorite holiday?

Lots of people take injection holidays, some with their doctor’s blessings.  I don’t, either because it’s a slippery slope and I’m afraid to go there, or I’m just too much of a rule follower.

#3  Where to poke today?

People have a variety of schemes for rotating injection sites.  My routine is an adaptation of the following:  Left side of the calendar (Sun, Mon, Tue), left side of the body (arm, thigh, rear). Middle of the week (Wednesday), middle of the body (stomach).  Right side of the calendar (Thurs, Fri, Sat), right side of the body (arm, thigh, rear).

Weekly variations within those sites:  High on the calendar, high on the site.  Low on the calendar, low on the site.  I liked this because it I didn’t have to remember anything from one day to the next.  I just have to know where I am on the calendar.

My least favorite suggestion: Get out your Sharpie fine point marker.  Wrap a piece of foam around the appropriate body part and mark the specific site with a circle and a date. Avoid that spot till the foam is full.

THINGS I HAVEN’T LEARNED FROM INTERNET MS FORUMS:

What percentage of people have what they believe to be a valid MS diagnosis and choose to use no DMD (disease modifying drug) at all?

Of those using a DMD, what percentage is on each of the following: Betaseron, Rebif, Avonex, Copaxone, and Tysabri?