Archive for the ‘Self-work’ Category
I was hoping to have a dinner report about a new-to-us place that specializes in hand-pulled ramen and in soup dumplings, but that’s not really gonna happen tonight (although there may be a note on the order the roomie is bringing home for me).
At dinner last Friday, I was sitting next to one person who says she didn’t know she was getting the flu, which attacked her pretty violently Saturday morning. I didn’t know she was sick until two days ago. When I started getting sick on Tuesday, I just figuredit was stuck energy from all the internal growth work I’ve been doing. That happens, and you just get through it.
Wednesday, she sent me an email that she wasn’t joining us this week because she had awakened Saturday with the flu. Thursday, I had the electric blanket on “4”, which I never do, and it barely felt warm. Asked the roomie for the thermometer and, lo and behold, I had a temperature of 101.2. I called the woman and asked what the onset symptoms of her flu were, and they matched mine. Lovely. She kept insisting that I could not have gotten it from her and must have picked it up elsewhere. However, this chain of events is math that even a mathophobe like me can figure out.
Yes, I am sure that she did not intend for me to get sick. I really don’t think most people go around trying to make others lives miserable (well, except maybe my sister, who prides herself on doing just that). What is really annoying me, however, is her continued insistence that she could not have been the source of my flu.
I have an old friend, Naomi. We know each other since 1972, and have each done our share of stupid-ass things over the years, to which the other’s response has always been “I’m gonna kill you, then we’ll do lunch.” The reason this works is that both of us are willing to look at and own the stupid-ass stuff we do.
Anyway, the roomie is going to bring home some soup dumplings, some duck ramen with hand-pulled noodles, and some braised duck for me so I will be able to report on the food if nothing else.
In other news, I got a smaller rollator, and I fit into it! This new rollator weighs about 15 lbs. less than the old one. The roomie was able to carry the whole thing, in the box, from the front door to my room, and it does move easily between the rooms of the house. I gave the old one to a friend for his wife, as a backup.
So, whinge and flu aside, it’s been mostly a good week.
It’s been a pretty full few days.
I had a dinner group meeting at Teresa’s, a favorite Polish restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, on Friday, 3 February. Due to the cold, it was a small group, but a pleasant evening was had by all.
Tuesday, I got some real movement in taking back my life – both literally and figuratively. I already had a dentist appointment for mid-afternoon, due to a loose tooth (more about that later), so I did one of the scariest things I could think of…I scheduled a beginner ride at the Peloton Studio in Chelsea (140 West 23rd Street, between Sixth & Seventh Avenues). Mind, I had bought a Peloton bike a bit over a year ago but ended up being too sick to use it for more than one ride. Also, I was having trouble with getting the shoe clips into the pedals, even after I bought toe cups so I could use regular sneakers with the bike. Well, my neurosurgeon cleared me to use the bike last week, so I figured I should go to the studio and they could show me why I was having issues with the clips. While I was on the phone with them, I asked if they had any really gentle classes, and explained my situation. The young woman I spoke with noted that they had a beginner ride on Tuesday at 1:30, but that I should come earlier to set things up. I did so, with the roomie accompanying me to watch my stuff and to make sure I had help after the dentist if I needed it. I got to the studio, signed in, had a studio account set up for me so I could book rides there when I want to, and spoke with the manager, who had a few concerns about my condition, which I was able to allay. I also was able to show her that I was flexible enough to bend from the waist and touch my toes while standing — something I hadn’t tried doing since the surgery.
Anyway, she decided to let me try the ride, and I’m thrilled that she did. I lasted for 15 of the 30 minutes, but I was able to raise the bike’s resistance from a start of 0 to 2, and get my cadence up to 85. I probably could have pushed through for the second half of the ride, but I had promised my surgeon that I would go slowly and not overdo it. Still, it felt so good to be back on a bike – even a stationary bike with my feet clipped in so I couldn’t fall off! I know I wasn’t going full bore, but it still felt like I was flying! Even better, I felt like me for the first time since before the heart issues happened! I would have even tried walking to the dentist (I had the rollator with me), but the roomie’s hip was so bad she was stopping every ten feet or so. When she apologized for holding me up, I just said to heck with it and flagged down a cab. It felt odd to be walking faster than her while using the rollator, but I think it means that I am making real progress to getting my walking back. Now if only they were not predicting heavy snow for tomorrow night into Friday…I would gladly try walking out for more than a couple of blocks. Oh well, I will get there in good time.
My Weight Watchers coach, the much-beloved Robert, recommended an app called Headspace to me a few weeks ago. I tried it, and love it. It’s a ten-minute-a-day mindfullness app. I highly recommend the free version to everyone. Further, if anyone does try it and likes it, feel free to add me as a buddy there.
Another free thing I came across in my Internet wandering is The Yoga Summit. One of the interviews there was by a woman named Danielle La Porte, who somehow resonated with me despite being about half my age. I checked out her website and blog, and decided that I wanted to try some of her methods.
So, things are starting to look positive again, for the first time in a very long time.
There is some very good news this week. I spoke to my surgeon, Dr. Soriaya Motivala, on Thursday. She says that I do not have to wear the bone-growth stimulator anymore and that I can start using my Peloton exercise bike again, so long as I go slowly and do not overreach.
In other good news, I dropped six pounds this week, so I am cautiously optimistic that I am getting back on track. Wednesday, I decided that on days that I’m not going out I will go back to tracking my food for a while. but may switch to “Simply Filling” on days that I am going out. (I did track last night’s dinner – it was pretty easy to do since I planned what I was going to order before I left the house.
Dinner last night was wonderful. We ate at an old favorite, El Gran Castillo de Jagua, at 355 Flatbush Avenue, which makes some of the best Dominican dishes around. I had the fillet of salmon with a side order of sweet plantains. I did sneak a bite of Marc Glasser’s mofongo with pork (mashed plantains, usually with some meat or fish added). For a change, I managed to get through dinner without ordering any soda. The attendees were Marc Glasser, Cyndi Cascanti, Joe Sullivan, Sue Levy (the roomie), Maury Kestenbaum, Chuck Hancock, Ariel Winterbreucke, Mark Blackman, and me. Joe was kind enough to drive Marc, Sue and me to Marc’s afterward
Okay, I promised I would post the carrot stew recipe. Let me start by posting what Lucy had to say about it that inspired me to make it:
“I’ve started adding what I call ‘carrot stew’ to my repertoire. The name comes from a picture book we had when our kids were small, The Tawny, Scrawny Lion, in which a hungry lion encounters a fat little rabbit, but before the lion can gobble him up, the rabbit invites the lion to come home with him and share a dinner of carrot stew with him and his five fat rabbit brothers and six fat rabbit sisters. So this lion goes home with him, thinking that 12 little fat rabbits will make a better meal than just one, and the rabbits throw carrots and onions and mushrooms and some other vegetables and some fish into a pot and when it’s cooked they share it with the lion and then serve bowls of berries for dessert. And afterward the lion walks home, whistling to himself in the moonlight.”
Lucy and Deb’s “Carrot Stew”
Frozen (pre-cut) or fresh veggies
(I used frozen spinach, 2 diced onions, a bag of baby carrots, a can of new potatoes, 2 ribs of celery, pre-cut bagged zucchini and butternut squash, and canned mushrooms)
1/2 cup pearl barley
2.4 lbs of salmon, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
tarragon, to taste
dill, to taste
Auntie Arwen’s Ultimate Garlic Insanity, to taste (Auntie Arwen has a shop on Etsy, and her spice blends are magnificent and reasonably priced.)
Water to cover
I swear this recipe is pretty much fool-proof. You just put all the ingredients into a large pot, cover, and simmer until the fish is cooked and the vegetables are tender. It is a very forgiving recipe. I made the whole recipe, without the mushrooms, then added them after Sue had taken her portion, then reheated it until the mushrooms were also warm. Cooking took about two hours, and the resulting stew is wonderful – even after being reheated four days later for today’s lunch.
The recipe is also incredibly Weight Watchers friendly: only 3 Points Plus for a one-cup serving.
Last week, I made a commitment to Robert, my WW coach, that I would meditate at least once a day. He suggested that I use the free trial at Headspace to get started. Even though I have done meditation many times in the past, I figured I’d give it a try, and I love their method, so I have added it to my routine (I don’t talk about this much, but I try to remember to meditate twice a day already). I actually like meditating; it’s refreshing to take a little time to not have my brain running around like a madwoman. I’ve also noticed that on days when I do take the time to meditate, I seem to have less trouble reacting to things that happen.
So that’s where things are today.See you all next time!
Sigh. I know, I know. It’s been way too damned long since I’ve even tried to write anything.
I do have a good excuse, though. I had spinal surgery (nerve decompression and laminectomy from L3 to S1) on 27 September, and sitting up to type has been more than I could do for a long time.
One of my conditions for letting the surgeon have at me was that my rehab would be at home; my six weeks in a rehab over the late spring/early summer convinced me that I never want to be in a rehab/nursing home again. Fortunately, my surgeon, the most excellent Soriaya Motivala, believes that you make more progress at home, and faster than in a rehab, so that was no problem. Once the infection was cleared up for good (I had to wait a month after the stint in the rehab to make sure it was all gone), everything – except me – moved pretty quickly. I saw Dr. Motivala in early September, and we set up the surgery date.However, her assistant, the otherwise wonderful Jennifer, forgot to tell me that now that I was a cardiac patient I would need more than just a clearance from my primary care guy. This meant that on the 16th I got a call from the hospital noting that none of my paperwork had come in. So, I then had to set up all of the clearances except my primary care guy (who I had seen the day before). Between Naomi Moslow and the roomie, I made all the clearances in time, which was amazing.
The surgery took place, as planned, and I’ve been recovering since. I was released from the hospital on 1 October – just in tie for the High Holy Days.
Unfortunately, due to the need for the surgery, I missed a lot of stuff during the summer/early fall, including a wedding, a funeral, and – most important to me – the dedication of the Torah that my cousin Mitch’s synagogue had commissioned in his memory. I’d really been looking forward to that, but it was two days before my surgery, and I realized that there was just no way I could do a ride up to Mount Kisco, sit through the ceremony and the meal after, and then ride back. Since I didn’t want to take attention from the ceremony, I stayed home, instead. This coming Monday, I will be missing the funeral of a fannish acquaintance for the same reason. I have spoken to one of the friend’s kids, and since he’s also had similar surgery to mine, he understands why I won’t be there.
I have to admit, the healing process has been much slower than I would like, which I attribute to my weight as well as my age. Let’s face it: you just don’t heal as easily at 64, while carrying a lot of extra weight, as you do at 24 while carrying much less extra weight. I have not given up on relosing the weight, however; to date, I have dropped 64 lbs. I still have a ways to go to reach my goal, but I will get there. It’s been an even more interesting journey this time, since I decided when I rejoined Weight Watchers, that when stuff came up, I would deal with it, rather than just brushing it aside for later. I also made a decision that seems, in retrospect, to be one of the smartest decisions I’ve made around weight – since I am not expending anywhere near the number of calories I used to when I could go walking every day, I cut down the amount of food I was eating proportionately.
I got a huge piece of the puzzle of me the other week, and I’m still processing how to deal with it. I had ordered a lamp, and it needed different bulbs than the lamp I was replacing. My ex went off to get the proper bulbs, and I was lying in bed crying. The roomie said to me, “Deb, it’s okay. It was just a stupid mistake.” My response, which I never expected, was, “But I’m not allowed to make mistakes.”
Now I know that sounds ridiculous, but my father used to beat the mess out of my sister and me if we made mistakes, no matter how small, so I had apparently internalized this, and carried it with me for my whole life. Now that I know it’s there, though, I can work on reminding myself that I AM allowed t make mistakes. I can also give thanks that while I carried this around for most of my 64 years, I don’t have to carry it around for my 65th year.
In other medical news, and this relates back to the weight a bit, my doctors have finally adjusted my blood pressure meds to reflect the weight loss. The industrial amount of diuretics they had been giving me were so extreme that I was totally dehydrated, no matter how much liquid I drank. For a while, the doctors were so pleased with my readings that they were weaning me off the drugs at the rate of one per visit, but when it took the cardiologist three tries to even find my blood pressure, they decided to cut all but one of the blood pressure meds. We are all still watching my readings (my cousin the doctor suggested I get a home monitor, so I could take morning and evening readings and show them to my primary care guy), but so far everything seems to be okay. As I rehydrated, I gained a little weight, but my legs now look like legs instead of bones covered with skin.
So, on the whole, things are improving – even if it’s not as fast as I would have it happen.On the other tentacle, one thing I learned after my heart surgery in 2014 is that it remains important to be kind to myself. In this case, that means listening to my body and doing things when it is ready to do them, rather than trying to hurry things up.
I will try to write more regularly again, but I am making no promises at this point. I am hoping to write at least once a week, but it depends on how well sitting up goes on any particular day.
Yeah, I know – it’s been way too damned long since I’ve posted. Life does that sometimes.
Somewhere around March, I realized that I had fallen into a pretty bad depression. The weight gain, the impaired mobility, the inability to get the MRI I needed, the loss of several relatives and friends all served to hit me pretty hard. I started working my way out from under, and have been coming along slowly but surely.
One thing that helped is that I have been getting more social again. That started with the 25th anniversary party for two close friends. Two adventures lie therein, btw. The first was finding an appropriate gift for our friends, which entailed a trip to Eichlers, a Judaica store on Coney Island Avenue. Being a Sunday, parking was a pain, and we ended up parking around the block from the store. The Ex held my arm as we walked there, and the kind store staff found me a chair to sit on so I could catch my breath. We got the couple a lovely Havdallah set. The second was the saga of the lock. The morning of the party, I got up, got dressed (a beautiful long dress from Holy Clothing), and was checking my email when the Roomie came in and told me she couldn’t unlock the front door. I went up front to check, and sure enough, it wouldn’t unlock. Called the Landlady, who was in the Poconos. She called her dad and sent him over, so we cleared enough space by the front window to hand out our keys so he could try to open the door from the outside. No luck there. Next step was that we removed the doorknobs so we could try to manipulate the mechanism from the inside. That didn’t work.I was beginning to think I’d have to climb out the front window to get to the party. Called the Ex, who was also going to the party, and he came by. We got the Landlord’s dad to open the side gate, and the Ex came to the back door to try to push my bed forward by pushing the door open. To do this successfully, I had to try to move the 140 lb. Peloton exercise bike that sits in front of my bed. Not fun, but somehow I managed to do it. Marc got the door open enough that I could climb over the bed and out of the apartment.Then it was down some stairs, up the alleyway, then up a bunch of stairs. We got to the venue, and it was down some more stairs, which was a bit much, but I made it. The party was lovely, and while I was out the Roomie called a locksmith, and had the lock replaced properly. So we now have a properly working lock.
Since then, I have been out on several Friday dinner missions, a Saturday mission that included a book party, then a walk of about three blocks (2 half-avenue blocks and one street block) to a local ramen place we like and knew could hold a large group, and a Passover Seder that included a climb up stairs and down the same stairs. Pretty good for a mobility-impaired person who also has sciatica. In fact, these days, the sciatica is more of a problem than the heart is.
Today was my three-month cardiologist checkup. He was delighted with my blood pressure (132/80), and even more delighted to find my heart murmur has gotten a bit softer. Best of all, at some point – about three weeks ago – my ankles stopped looking like grapefruit and have started looking like ankles again. My left ankle is totally unswollen at this point, and the right one is so slightly swollen that you have to really look to see it. The legs are unswollen, too, which is nice. I also had a bit of a walk – the car service missed the turn at East 27th Street, so I had him drop me at the corner of my block, and walked the one-third of a block to my house.
I’ve been doing the Weight Watchers Simply Filling plan since the end of March and have lost 20 lbs. so far. I still have a long way to go, and I’m still annoyed that I have to do this all over again, but I can be annoyed and be working on it or I can be annoyed and doing nothing about it…I’d rather be the former, so that it gets done. I am taking advantage of their coaching program, since I was able to book my coaching sessions with my favorite lecturer. At some point, I will be able to get around enough to go to meetings, but for now, this is working, so I am happy about that.
Anyway, that’s about where things are for the moment, so I’ll be heading off to eat breakfast. Talk with everyone again soon!
…or so Mira, the Cardiac Therapist tells me.
I need to get a new set of resistance bands, since mine have long vanished. Mira wants me to use the green one to exercise with, the goal being to stretch my sternum without breaking it. She is quite pleased with me, as am I.
I really have been taking Meryl and Maks as my role models for recovery. Today I did 2 sets of 20 minutes on the recumbent cross-trainer, the first at a workload of 4, the second at 3 (my legs were starting to tire). I did 2 minutes on the treadmill; not my best, but I had doubled my time on the bike from 5 to 10 minutes, and my legs were getting tired. I also did the SciFit Pro 1000 Upper Body machine for 8 minutes (4 one way, 4 the other) instead of 6 minutes. Unlike a regular gym, however, I get my blood pressure and O2 level checked after each exercise, and a large part of Mira’s job is to talk me out of doing more than I realistically can, although I keep surprising her with just how much I can do. Hell, I keep surprising me with how much I can do. Hard to believe that just over two months ago I was lying on a table with someone’s hands in my heart, cutting away at one wall of it.
Tonight, I’m going to dinner with some of the usual Friday group. We are hitting e-Sushi, a lovely sushi place on Flatbush Avenue near Quentin Road. Their all-you-can-eat deal is a very good one, with kitchen items as well as the sushi and sashimi. There will be some faces in the group that I have not seen for far too long, so this makes me very happy.
In other news I have started taking on a few small projects, as my energy allows. I hate not being able to contribute to the household, so it feels good to be able to cover at least some of what I normally do. I am, as always, very grateful to have friends who are willing to step up and help me through. My sister and her lovely friend, H, kept me busy walking a bit last weekend, as did my friend, Naomi.
Speaking of walking — if anyone wants to go walking, bearing in mind that my energy does still crash out suddenly, and that I do need a few more rest stops than I used to, I would love to hear from you to set up some walking dates. I spoke to Mira today, and she agrees with me that being able to walk from my house to my doctor and my cardiologist (four blocks from my home) by June 18 is a very doable goal. We also are starting to discuss moving me to three sessions a week after next week’s two sessions. This pleases me greatly. It occurs to me that I should talk with her about whether I can use my little one-pound weights for anything at the moment. I’m reading the book that came with my therapeutic yoga kit, and working on yoga breathing, which I learned long ago at Integral Yoga, on 13th Street in Manhattan. They are the best place I know to do yoga, and I will be getting myself to their therapeutic and chair yoga classes once I am a bit more able to travel on my own.
My Medicaid case manager called me this morning, and says that I am doing well enough that she no longer feels the need to check in with me every week, but that I should call her if I need anything, and she will let me know what hoops need to be jumped through in order to make it happen. I thanked her for her help, and told her I would miss hearing from her.
The roomie and I have hired a woman to come in every other week to do some light cleaning since I can’t do it myself at this point, but I got spoiled when I had the Home Health Aide helping me out. We agreed that it was an expense that made sense for right now.
There has been enough humidity in the air that I had the air conditioner running for the last two days. It often seems to be more humid in the apartment than outside, and this week has been no exception.
Anyway, I should get going so that I am ready when Marc gets here to pick up Sue and me. Have a good evening and a great weekend!
NYC, including Brooklyn, is caught in this Polar Vortex that the weather forecasters are talking about. What this means in real life is that we are in one of the worst cold snaps in a while. For folks like me, with heart issues, this means we should stay inside as much as humanly possible, lest we add stress to our already compromised systems. F), or once, I am actually taking their cautions seriously. Being 61, and wanting to make it to at least 62, I figure caution and treating myself kindly are pretty important right now.
I did go out – briefly – on Monday. Had an appointment with my internist. While I won’t mention names online, if any of you in Brooklyn are looking for a great practice (two really great doctors, and a third one who is more than competent, but a bit on the arrogant side), catch me privately and I will give you the info. And believe, me I don’t say “great” for nothing; my doctor has saved my life twice, my ex’s life once, and my roommate’s life once.
Anyway, I discussed the situation with my internist, and he agrees with me that a pacemaker would be totally uncalled for in this case. He also let me know that he plans to speak to my cardiologist and make sure that I get a referral to a surgeon, so I can at least discuss what I would need to do (besides the obvious losing weight) to become a viable candidate for the surgery that I need to repair the heart defect. Since my main issue was that I was being rejected by these surgeons without their even meeting me to discuss the situation, the risks, the possible complications, the possible outcomes, etc., this feels like an important step to me.
I have also been dealing with grieving over having to cut a very toxic family member out of my life. This process has been made a lot more tolerable by all the friends, both online and in RL, who have shown themselves willing to step up and fill various parts of that person’s shoes. I have three good friends who are willing to be my medical executors.
And I really got humbled by my friends. Monday, my RL friend C offered to be a designated blood donor for me. We are different blood types, so that won’t work, but instead, she offered to donate a pint in my name, which is superb, because her blood type is one of the rare ones they *always* need. I mentioned this on Facebook, and the next thing I knew, I had a list of ten people, some of which only know me from a Facebook game or two, who were willing to either be a designated donor or donate a pint in my name.
I also just got a phone call from my oldest friend, MK. We met back in sophomore year of high school, and – while our lives have diverged, we manage to find each other again and again. She is a nurse, and did some research last night (she said she couldn’t sleep, so she figured it might be useful) and has found two doctors who specialize in the specific kind of surgery I need. She also found out that I really need to have this done by a specialist, which may be rough to do given that I am on Medicaid. I will see who my internist recommends that I see – perhaps it will be one of these doctors. If not, I will see whoever he recommends first, then call these two doctors. One of them works out of New York Presbyterian. The other works out of St. Lukes. I can live with either of those.
Another thing MK told me to check, which I will, is whether or not my insurance will be accepted if I have to go out of state. This is something that, always having had private insurance before, I never would have even had to ask. Once again, I am humbled that the people who have the knowledge I need are so willing to provide it. She also spent an hour on the phone with me last night, explaining some of the things I will need to discuss with the surgeons when I do see them. These are things that, as a layperson, I would not necessarily thought of on my own, so I am doubly glad for her help.
And other friends have stepped up from all over the place to talk to me at night when things get hairy, to call me during the day to remind me I matter to them, and generally to help however they are able to.
Further, I am grateful today to God who gave me the most useful power of all for this kind of thing: While I damned sure don’t have the answers to much of this stuff, I seem to be able to find the people who can help me get them. This is something I’ve always been able to do, and it has kept my head above water more times than I can think of.
And, just to remind me to lighten up: the roomie just walked in with a big box that the mailman brought. It’s a box of yarn from a dear friend who is an author, including some very beautiful, soft yarn that will eventually be a scarf for me. It’s hard to forget the good things in the world when people are so going out of their way to make sure I remember them.
Anyway, I have some work to do today, so I should get to it.
No matter how I know you, please accept my thanks for bolstering me up through this journey.