Archive for the ‘taking my life back’ Category
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!
As most of you know, there are three measures by which I know I’ve taken back my life from the health issues of last year: walking, cooking, and blogging. Slowly – far too damned slowly – I am doing all three.
Yesterday, I went to a most excellent housefilk at the home of some friends. Not only was I able to sit up for the whole thing, but I was able to get the rollator up the front steps to their building by myself (normally, Sue or Marc drags it up the steps, while I use the banister to haul myself up)! I was also able to walk to the car after the housefilk, and survive the car rides to and from Josh and Lisa’s place. I was even able to walk around their apartment a little without using any support at all.
But that’s not today’s accomplishment. The roots for that actually go back to a job I had from 1977 to 1987. Back then, I worked for Rialto Management Company, a small real estate firm in midtown owned by Ruben Shulsky. One of the best parts of that job was the little kosher meat restaurant across 30th Street and halfway between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. It had no name, but had some of the best food I had ever eaten. One of my favorite dishes there was cholent – a beef/bean/barley stew. Cholent is one of those things observant Jews eat for Shabbos lunch, because it can be started on Friday before sundown and kept on the top of the stove over a very low heat until they can turn the light off after sundown on Saturday. Well, I loved that cholent, but not being an observant Jew, I didn’t know how to make it. Over the years, I asked observant friends and looked on the Internet for recipes – and there were some interesting ones – but they never quite tasted like the cholent from that restaurant. Cholent is one of those things where everyone has a slightly different recipe, usually learned from their mom.
A few months ago, an acquaintance of mine posted about cholent in an APA we both belong to (AWA, or A Women’s APA). I asked for her recipe, and she posted it in the following collation. I started it yesterday after we got home from the housefilk, and when I tried it for lunch today it was exactly the taste I remembered! I even put it into the Weight Watchers recipe calculator and discovered it’s 5 Points Plus per 1-cup serving, which is not bad for a meal! Without further ado, here is the recipe for Lucy Schmeidler’s cholent, as written in AWA:
Lucy Schmeidler’s Cholent
1 – 1 1/2 lbs lean beef, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium large Idaho (russet) potato, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 – 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
6 – 10 baby carrots
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 4-oz can mushrooms
1/2 cup pearl barley, soaked
1/2 cup navy or small white beans, soaked
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp minced garlic
Water to cover
3-qt heavy pot
Friday morning: Brown onions in oil. Add meat, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, celery and water to cover. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. (Deb’s note: We did this for about an hour. Also, since the roomie is allergic to mushrooms, we made it without, and when she had taken what she wanted, I added the mushrooms and reheated it thoroughly.) Add barley, beans, seasonings and more water to cover. Cook covered overnight over low heat without stirring. Serve for Shabbos lunch.
So, I want to thank Lucy for helping me solve a – to me – 35-year search!
In other “taking back my life” news, my surgeon says that I am doing amazingly well – far better than she had expected. I went to lunch with the roomie to a place we often order from over on Emmons Avenue, the Opera Cafe. The food was excellent, as always, and it was good to get out. I’ve also started up the fannish dinner group again, although we have been sticking to places in Brooklyn so far. Future plans include maybe doing a Monday night dinner so the Kosher Krew can join us, and possibly some weekend brunches. There are just too many great places to eat around New York City. (And if anyone reading this is in the area and wants onto the list for the dinners, please leave a comment, email, or otherwise message or call me. I’d be happy to add you to the list. Attendance is not mandatory at all; all I ask is if you are joining us on a given week, let me know in case the group for that week is big enough to need reservations.)
I mean that quite literally. I have been starting the process of taking my life back again, post surgery. Since Thanksgiving, I have managed to get out of the house at least once a week. This week, I actually managed a dinner with friends on Saturday night and some grocery shopping on Sunday, both of which the ex was willing to provide transportation for. I also did both with my cane, rather than with the rollator or walker, so I am proud of that accomplishment. Mind, going out two days in a row left me kind of wiped out on Monday, but that sort of thing should pass as I get about more. The first time I tried to get out my front door (one small step up), I was exhausted with the effort; now I pretty much just hop out, so things do get better the more I do them.
I committed to my Weight Watcher coach to walk a bit every day, even if only with the walker and in the house. I have been good about doing so, so I am pleased with that so far.
My doctors and I finally seem to have adjusted my blood pressure meds properly. we removed one entirely and reduced a second by one-third. I am still hoping that when I reach my goal weight (currently around 160 lbs.) I will be able to reduce it some more. I have also decided that yoga is still a bit out of my physical reach, so I am looking for a tai chi class on the grounds that the movements are much more gentle.
I don’t really have the concentration to read right now, so I am slowly plugging away at Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, which is fascinating. I’ve always had a soft spot for books about history, and this one is very engaging. Chernow’s style is lively, and not at all “dry.” I can see why Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired to write Hamilton by reading it. And, speaking of Hamilton, next time my friend Chris recommends seeing a play while it’s still in previews and relatively unknown, I shall follow her advice.
One of my friends noted in her LiveJouranl that she had lost her MedicAlert bracelet and had to replace it. This led to a conversation with the roomie, and we decided it was time for me to get one. Since I am working at getting more mobile, I will probably not be in sight of the roomie, Naomi, or the ex at all times, so if anything happens while I am wandering about it could be useful. It’s taking me a while to get used to it, though. It’s not something I ever thought I would need. However, I have finally come to realize that taking care of myself is a Good and Useful Thing.
So that’s where things are at this week. It’s pretty good, although I am missing Dee this holiday season more than I have before. I miss hugs and cuddling, although right now I don’t want any hugs where hands travel below the waist, lest I rip the scar from the surgery open more. Still, I am alive and getting well, which is a lot to be grateful for right there.
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.
by Chris Squire
recorded by YES on their Tormato album
Contained in everything I do
There’s a love I feel for you
Proclaimed in everything I write
You’re the light, burning brightly
Onward through the night
Onward through the night
Onward through the night of my life
Displayed in all the things I see
There’s a love you show to me
Portrayed in all the things you say
You’re the day leading the way
Onward through the night
Onward through the night
Onward through the night of my life
Onward through the night
Onward through the night
Onward through the night of my life
This is the song that is going through my head after what can only be described as a day of being tested at every turn.
This entry is something of an update to the last one, as well as a note on yesterday.
On the 27th, I had a meeting with the heads of PT and Nursing, as well as my social worker. Found out a few things that the hospital hadn’t told me. One of those things was that at the end of my stay here I would not be sent back to the hospital for reassessment, as the hospital had told me, but would be sent home – with home care – for at least a few weeks so that they could make sure the infection is really gone for good. Not fun, and it means that my whole summer will probably be shot dealing with this. As I noted before, however, if it means getting real mobility back, it’s worth it.
I was also told that the reason the home care guy called the roomie and my medical executors is that he needs to talk with the folks who will be my main support system while I am at home. So I need to have them call him back, and soon.
I have been making progress, though. I can just about fully sit up off the left side of the bed, without using my cane to help. Not sure how far I can go on the right side yet, but I will keep working on it. I can also raise the head of the bed to almost vertical, and stay there for a bit before the pain sets in. This is important because I need to be able to stand before I go home, so I need to build those muscles up.
Things have also been coming to a head with a close friend who has been ignoring her own health issues. I spent much of the last two evenings trying to get her to see sense, and I am now leaving it in God’s hands. I love this friend dearly, but I need to take care of me now, so that I am able to care for others when needed.
Wednesday started with it taking almost two and a half hours to get someone to disconnect the IV, and rapidly continued downhill. My glasses frame broke (the roomie is bringing my spares when she comes today); meds were delivered late all through the day; friend who was supposed to bring dinner had neither shown up or called by 8:30 pm, so roomie went to the fast food place across the street for me; had a very rare (for me, anyway) attack of gas and diarrhea, the friend with dinner showed up about 11:45 pm; and – finally – when I picked up my beads for meditation, they broke in my hand. (I was able to recover all but one bead. Roomie is bringing a replacement bead, my needles, and some thread later, so I can fix it, and I’ve ordered a new one online.) This was about ten minutes after I had sent the friend home, so I had to try to find the beads while lying mostly flat. Found all but one, which was pretty good.
I am trying to look at this whole day as a day of being tested, rather than as a day filled with frustrations. It’s not the easiest switch in perception to make, but it is one of the things I am working on as part of my goal to getting back on my path. I may not be able to hold that perception for very long, but at least I am learning to try to make the distinction.
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!