Saturday, October 18, 2014

It's All About the Balance . . .

I've been thinking about my own mortality lately.  I know, sounds morbid.  And yet . . .  there it is.  I'm closer to 60 than I am to 50, and I think that now is when the chickens of one's misspent youth might start to come home to roost.  Granted, I don't have that many, but . . .

About a month ago.  I came in to the office to find that everyone had gotten an email advising that a work colleague had passed away the night before.  She went to bed and didn't wake up.  She was 10 months older than I am.

Last week, my cousin's daughter (also my cousin :-D) had a beautiful baby girl.  I knit a bunch of stuff for her.  I even crocheted stuff for her (not my fiber art of choice).  And I realized that then when she is out of college, I will be an octogenarian.

Four days later, my cousins' dad passed away at the age of 78.  Not unexpected as he was in ill health and on hospice care, but sad nonetheless.

These things happen.  I mean death is a part of life - cue the Disney music.  But the death of my work colleague was sobering - someone I knew, and she was only a few months older than I am, and as far any anyone knew, there was nothing wrong with her.

My 40th high school reunion was about a month ago, and, as you can read below, I didn't go.  One of the few people I remain in touch with from those days did, however.  And she said that all the men looked frighteningly old.  Many of the woman did too, and of course there were those who were massively tan and had had far too much plastic surgery, but it was mainly the men who looked the worse for 40 years of wear.

And this week, one of my best friends has learned that the "heart palpitations" she has had off and on for a number of years have moved on to atrial fibrillation (the precursor to my mom's death).  

And so I've been thinking a lot about life - and death - and a really lot about my health.  Which, if you read this blog regularly generally always includes concern over the size of my ass, which is again looking kind of like Kansas, I'm afraid.

But you were eating so healthily last year, A.  Yeah, I was - but the draconian plan I was following (The Strict Program for Three Months) proved to not be sustainable over the long haul, and the dietitian left the practice before I could meet with her again and work on making the initial program livable for me.  Excuses.  I know.  My pipe teacher hates when I say "I know."  And yet, I do know.  These missteps and choices were my own and have brought me here - and so I have to learn - again - to get smaller and - hopefully this time stay smaller.  For as many times as my weight has gone down, it has always gone back up.  I know how to get smaller, but I haven't learned yet how to stay smaller.

Other than my lifelong struggle with the size of my ass, I've never had anything really wrong with me until all this inflammation crap started a few years ago - then early last year a minor cholesterol issue, which was corrected by diet and exercise (that would be the Strict Program for Three Months).  I have no idea what my cholesterol numbers are like at the moment and I don't want to know.  I did check my BP, though, as I used to do regularly. 

My mom developed high blood pressure in her 50s - after a life of low blood pressure (like me).  After my recent weight gain (yeah, it's bothersome . . . ) I've taken my BP at the Jewel a couple of times and not been happy with what I saw there.  I know that in my case, those machines are generally substantially higher than when a person takes my BP, but I'm looking at it as an early warning system.

I did contact my doctor about all of this - and I gotta say, I wasn't too happy with his response (or should I say lack of response), and I realized that I know what to do, I just have to do it.  Again.  And so, once more, it's all about the balance . . .

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

40 Years . . .

My 40 year high school reunion is in two weeks. There will be a gathering.  It's highly unlikely that I will attend.  High school . . .   I would not go back to that time for all the tea in China.

I made it through all four years, and I was a good student.  I sang all four years and got into the Concert Choir when I was still a Junior.  I solo'd in the V-Show (annual variety show) Junior and Senior years. I learned to speak French.  And I got to study photography Senior year - I entered two of my photos in a local show, and they were both accepted, winning a third place and an honorable mention (pretty thrilling back in the day - and no one else got two photos in the show  :-) ).  I had one date in high school, so not a popular girl. I never went to a dance or a prom.

When I say I made it through all four years, I mean that I was able to go to the same school.  We moved often as I was growing up.  We even moved once during high school, but it was only a block away, so I stayed in the same school district.

I was bullied in both junior high and high school.  We didn't call it bullying back then - bullies were big cowardly guys who used their fists.  No, it was more being made fun of.  So easy to do to the homely new girl who wore glasses and was not stick insect thin.  I wasn't a jock, I wasn't a nerd, I wasn't a greaser, I wasn't a stoner - I didn't have a clique to fit in with.  I was just an average kid - but a new kid.  I cannot imagine being in high school now - it was hard enough back in the 70s without texting or FaceBook.

The school I went to was huge - there were more than 1,000 people in my graduating class.  I didn't know most of them.  Most of the friends I made were through music, and through the youth group at church.  However, I had very little in common with most of the kids I went to school with, and most of their friendships had been forged in elementary school - kids who had known each other pretty much all their lives.  I think it's pretty telling that I have only one friend from those days with whom I remain in touch.  We are actually very dear friends and it is nice to have a friend who has known me for so long.

My mom was a single parent, and she worked.  This was not common in the affluent suburb in which we lived - where she had moved so I could go to a great school.  I had wanted to be in the annual school musical every year, but I never got in (and one year the school choir director told me not to bother because I was "too fat" for the bare midriff costumes)  - it was also very, very political, and the choir director at church (who was in the know about these things) told my mom that I never would be in the musical because my mom was not wealthy.  So, I had to be content with solos in the V-show.  I liked V-Show.  A lot.  :-)  The Thespian Society did a short play every year, and my Senior year they did Winnie the Pooh - it was presented at local grade schools.  I was Pooh.  That's the closest I ever got to any theater before I majored in it in college.

All told, high school is not something I have any interest in revisiting - no glory days on the athletic field, no wondering about old boyfriends.  I've never gone to a reunion.  I do like seeing photos, though - I confess that I take guilty pleasure in seeing how some of the classmates I recognize have aged . . . most of them didn't get the memo about good sunscreen and a hat  ;-)  Interestingly enough, I got the worst sunburn of my life on a youth group visit to the Michigan Dunes.  It was the 70s.  We were all trying to get tan.  Never mind that I was NEVER going to get tan.  Baby oil was the tanning accelerant of choice back then . . . my friends put a peace sign on my stomach with sunscreen . . . not only did I have second degree burns (with the blisters) over my entire body, I had a white peace sign for a really long time . . .  I'm lucky my face didn't scar.  My entire body peeled - I'm actually surprised I didn't have to go to the hospital.  I did have to spend the rest of the summer in jeans and long sleeved clothing, because just being in sunlight was painful - through my clothes.  I'm sure that little event will come home to roost at some point at a dermatologist visit, but I digress.

There is a small gathering of theatre people the same night as the reunion, in the same location.  I have been personally invited to that, and there is a part of me that is considering going.  But I probably won't.  A combination of wishing I looked better than I do (common, I believe  ;-) ) and the anxiousness of revisiting a time in my life that was supremely difficult. We'll see . . .

In a year that produced some truly awful music ("You're Having My Baby," by Paul Anka.  I rest my case.), 1974 gave us what is probably of my all-time favorites:

Enjoy.  And get up and dance, will you? :-)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cautiously Hopeful . . .

I went back to the special sleep dentist on Wednesday August 20th to pick up my newly adjusted dental appliance.  I was worried that it wasn't going to work.  But it is.

This time around, it was set to 4 instead of 6, and I was to wear it for a week without making any changes in the setting at all.  If you to go this page, you can see what my appliance looks like.  It's the Flex - the first one on the left.  You can see that there is a little metal gear box on the upper jaw piece - that's the part that is adjustable (on both sides).  You slowly move those gears to adjust the device.  Those fangs on the bottom jaw piece rest against the little gear box piece, and that's what keeps your jaw and tongue from falling backwards and obstructing your airway.

Like I said, I was worried that it wouldn't work.  The two weeks without it were worse than ever in terms of quality and quantity of sleep.  I asked the dentist about this and she advised that that was normal.  I'd had a taste of good sleep the first time around, and even though I was in pain, at least I was sleeping well.  Losing the appliance for two weeks was awful. 

Anyway, I was cautious.  The first night went OK.  My SnoreLab score dropped immediately from the 40s-70's down to 12.  That was encouraging.  By Friday morning I was still fine.  No headache.  No earache.  This was the point the first time where I was already in substantial pain, so I was further encouraged.  I made it through the first week without incident, and my SnoreLab score stayed in the 10-12 range.  I did an email check in with the sleep dentist and told her that unless she objected, I was going to make two turns on the device and see how it went.  She said that was fine.

So, I made two turns on each side, and hoped for the best.  Four days later, I made two more.  And with that second set of adjustments, I really began to feel the effects of better sleep.  :-)  I saw my regular dentist on September 3rd for a cleaning, and then had another follow up visit with the special sleep dentist the following day. 

I have not had the headache this time, and although I have had a small amount of sensitivity in my right ear, it's minor and not a patch on what was happening at the initial setting.

To get back to the initial setting I started with on the device, it will take 14-15 turns on each side, and where before she wanted me to make 3-4 turns every 3-4 days, this time we're going for 1 turn every 4 days.  This is much less aggressive, and so far, it's working really well.  I learned a little more about the device and how to take the best daily care of it - there's a lot to learn all at once  :-)  and now I also have a special toothpaste that I have to use at night that helps keep my teeth strong being covered by the appliance all night now. 

So - no headache, only occasional and very minor ear sensitivity, and my lower jaw is moving back into position in the mornings much more easily, which means that the inflammation is at bay.

The only downside to all this is that I felt so much better after a couple of weeks of better sleep that I had enough energy to start walking again in the mornings.  Why is this a bad thing?  Well, I got on the treadmill for 40 minutes.  I know I should have done 15 or 20 at the most.  But I did 40.  And it caused a flare up of plantar fasciitis in my left foot. 


That happened this past Wednesday.  I knew what it was right away this time, and started on my anti-inflammatory and iced it.  I did cancel a trip to Colorado this weekend because I knew I wasn't going to be able to be as mobile as I had planned, so that sucked, but I can tell that I caught it right away this time.  The pain is gone, and the majority of the swelling has gone done, but I can tell it's not 100% so I'm taking it very easy. 

Walking outside or on a track - way better than the treadmill that keeps me at a constant steady pace, forcing a repetitive motion and heel strike that just isn't ok for me.  I'm hoping to find a way around that at some point, but for now, while it's still nice out, I'll be walking in the great outdoors or at the club on the track. 

So, I'm cautiously hopeful about pretty much everything today  :-)

And I'm going to leave you with some Bowie today - one of my favorites of his catalog.  We are our own heroes . . . (and in case you don't know, the wall he refers to was the Berlin Wall . . .)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Festivals and Fairs and Friends . . .

In the Midwest, August appears to be Fiber Month  :-D

This year, due to havng its date yanked, the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair was the first weekend in August instead of the last weekend in June as it has traditionally been.  That meant that Midwest, Stitches, and the Michigan Fiber Festival happened one after the other in quick succession.

I had plans only to go to Michigan, but ended up hitting all three markets!  (Are you really surprised? :-D)

First was Midwest - it was noticeably smaller this year, and I believe this was very much about the date change.  I am a charter member of The Flock for this event - I think it's really important to support local events of this sort, and it's really the only game in town for the Chicagoland area - as far as I know, there is no other event like this one in this area.  I ended up running up there on Sunday.  I'd never been to the Fair on Sunday before and I loved it!  No crowds, a very relaxed vibe, and I won a door prize!  Plus, I got to spend the morning with my friend, M, and that was great as we hadn't had the chance to catch up in some time.

Here's the haul  :-)  I won the kit in the pink bag.  It's from The Knitting Goddess!  It's a scarf kit and I like it!  The yarn is Classic Elite's Posh, which has been discontinued.  It's 70/30 Silk/Cashmere, and Toni from The Fold had it on sale for half price.  I have no guilt for purchasing it at that price!  The book is Annie Modesitt's new one, and I got a free fingerless mitts pattern with it!

The next weekend was Stitches - again, no plan to go, but I had the opportunity to run up on Sunday and catch up with two of my friends, KniftyRed and Knitterary, who has a new blog called My Empty Wardrobe.  Knitterary has shrunk so much that I didn't recognize her, and KniftyRed is also look very healthy!  Wow - I should be able to get some inspiration back from these two!  Here is the haul from Stitches:

The yarn is Neighborhood Fiber Co., one of my favorites that is now available here in Chicagoland from Windy Knitty!  They are located up in Andersonville - I need to get up there and check out the shop!!  There are buttons for a Baby Surprise Jacket, and a small nostepinne, two spools of trim from the notions lady (she sold her business and is moving to Mexico), some silk top from a new place called Swan Hollow Studio.  They don't have a website up yet, but this silk was pretty amazing and I was thinking to blend it with some merino top to make an Aran weight yarn for the inside of a collar on a sweater jacket I want to knit out of an itchy longwool.  And I bought patterns.  The Rhinebeck Sweater book, which I have been looking for for awhile, a MaggiKnits book (#2) - I like a lot of her wild stuff, and a Raumagarn garter stitch, lightly felted hoodie.

Are you guys proud of me yet?  ;-)

Last but certainly not least - in fact, Michigan Fiber Festival is really my favorite event - I love it and I haven't gone for a couple of years.  I convinced Tammy, of Proverbial Knitter fame, Christa, and a bunch of other friends (six of us in all!) to come for the weekend and we blasted up to Allegan to enjoy the Festival!  For various reasons some old favorites were not there this year (Miss Babs, The Fold and Gale's Art), but some new ones were, and I got to say hello to some folks I only see once a year  :-)  Tammy and Christa  both entered the skein competition and both did very well!  Tammy took two seconds and a third, and Christa took a first!!  Wow!!  And of course, we shopped  :-)  Here's the haul from Michigan:

Well, I FOUND some Aran weight silk and it's a perfect seafoam green for me AND it was 20 or 30% off, so that will be the inside of the sweater collar!  Yay!  You should be able to click to biggify this photo - in the center is an absolutely stunning ceramic button made by Jarita Thompson from A Mystical Farm.  She has an Etsy shop, but she's currently on hiatus there.  Her stuff was really amazing and very unique.  I hope she will be back at Michigan next year because I really liked a lot of her larger pieces, too.  I picked up the first two issues of the new Chicago Knits magazine for less than cover price (they are a new quarterly - I like to support local merchants), a Kate Wright pattern called Greta Cardigan, a little soap/sachet kit from the Raumagarn booth (the last one they had!), and a wooden yarn bowl from Indian Lake Artisans.  I really love it - it looks like a corral and I just see it being used for a lot more than just yarn.  It was the largest purchase of the day for me.  The guy had me try their hexagonal needles, but they were way too pointy for this knitter.  He did offer to sand them down for me, but I don't need any needles right now.  Oh - I also got a jar of raspberry cream honey (which is not pictured).

So.  Three major fiber events, and I came home with a total of 10 skeins of yarn.  Really, I think you should be having a big brass band in my honor!  :-D   I have been doing well in the not buying a ton of stuff that I end up selling later for not as much as I paid for it. . . I've followed through pretty well knitting from stash this year and not buying a lot of yarn.  So, Yay Me!!  :-D

Now we are heading toward fall - we've had a couple of very cool days here, even as this week has been warmer than most all summer so far!  It will be Labor Day soon - and I know I say this every year, but that school year calendar still sticks with me.  Labor Day always feels like the New Year for me.  I got a lot of patterns in August - I'm hoping to start pounding through all the sweater quantities of yarn that I have stashed away.  Wish me luck . . .  :-)

Friday, August 22, 2014

It's Getting Better . . .

Where was I?

Oh yeah, eyeballs popping from the pain . . .  I went back to the special sleep dentist on Wednesday, August 6th.

The first thing she did was to apologize that I had been told to keep wearing the appliance when I first rang on August 1st.  Unfortunately for me and my body's propensity toward inflammation, wearing the appliance in the - for me - extreme position it was in caused all the jaw muscles to become inflamed.  It was really the No-Fun Plan.  My lower jaw was not readily moving back into place in the morning, my head was killing me, my ear hurt, and my eyeballs felt like they were going to explode.

That "extreme position," was apparently not extreme to anyone except me (Delicate Flower that I am . . . ).  The sleep dentist took some more measurements.  Another impression was taken.  She also checked all over my head and neck and even inside my mouth for sore muscles.  I was surprised to realize that I was in pain even inside my mouth -  I mean I don't generally poke my fingers around inside my mouth, so I never would have known that even those muscles were inflamed . . .

 . . . And the appliance went back to the lab to be readjusted from 6 to 4.   Whatever that means - and I was to take three Advil every six hours to help the headache and inflammation dissipate.

I had an earache from July 31st to August 11th, and a headache from July 31st to August 17th.

Yes, really.

They said that it would about two more weeks for the appliance to come back from the lab, and really, it was a rough two weeks in terms of sleep.  In fact it was awful in terms of sleep.  Apparently, getting those few nights of uninterrupted sleep (even though I was in pain) made me truly realize just how tired and sleep deprived I have been.  My SnoreLab score jumped right back up to the high 40's (occasionally up in the high 70s), and I muddled along as best I could.  It helped a lot once the earache was gone.

Last weekend I had a house full of my friends - here to journey to the Michigan Fiber Festival (Big Fun!!) and I had a hard time. My poor friends - I was tired, not able to keep up well with hostessing, not quick on the uptake (although I suppose it could be argued that I'm never very quick on the uptake  ;-)), and I looked like death. It's like these two weeks had magnified all the worst symptoms.  I was falling asleep in the chair, I fell asleep in the minivan both to and from the Festival, and I had to go to bed early every night, not to mention that I "looked tired" all weekend long.  If you watch The Proverbial Knitter podcast, you can actually see how awful I look right now . . . not only exhausted, but large (unfortunately . . . ). 

Lack of sleep is a contributing factor to so many things, including being overweight.  Add that to the micro-arousals shooting adrenalin into my body at regular intervals when I'm supposed to be sleeping - you can already see where this is going, can't you?  It is my sincere hope that once I am sleeping normally again, that it's going to become much easier to get back to a healthier weight and stay there.

On Monday, August 18th, I got the call that my appliance was ready, and made an appointment for Wednesday the 20th to pick it up . . . and start over.

More on that next time, but for now, I can just tell you that it's getting better  ;-)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ten on Tuesday - Giving it a Try

I have wanted to do this for awhile.  Crazy Knitting Fool does this, and she said it comes from the Carole Knits blog.  I attempted to sign up for the weekly email, but it wouldn't let me . . . and from what I can tell on the Carole Knits blog, she's on vacation for two weeks.  So, I decided to do last week's this week, and see what happens next time  :-D  Maybe I will be able to get on the list when Carole returns from vacation.

The topic for last Tuesday was:

10 Things I Only Do Once A Year But I Wish You Could Do Them More Often

  1. Michigan Fiber Festival -  I really like to go, but I suppose going more often would make it not quite so special.
  2. Birthday Lunch with my friend R - we actually do a lunch twice a year, but only one is for our birthdays, which are a week apart.  I guess there's no reason we couldn't do this more often!
  3. A Date - actually, since I haven't had one for a few years, it would be quite nice to have one again.  At least I think it would be :-D
  4. Read a Book - Yeah, that's kinda scary.  I used to be a prolific reader but I rarely seem to find time to read.  I confess I have read a couple of fluff books recently, so obviously I do this more than once a year, but it's something that's very much on my list to do more of.
  5. Finish Knitting a Sweater - Geez . . . I have two on the needles, both of which have been resting for more than a year.  I'd like to finish at least one of them this year.
  6. Sing in the Choir at Christmas - I haven't actually done this for a few years now.  I do miss it, but my life seems to just be so crazy that giving up every Thursday night seems like more than I can stand - so maybe this shouldn't be on the list . . .
  7. Get a Massage - I used to be better at this, but I just don't make the time or spend the money anymore.  :-(
  8. Take a Day Off - yeah, you know, a real day off.  Not for a vacation or because I have to go somewhere or wait for a tradesman or I'm sick.  Just a day off.  
  9. Sleep Well - OK, this just has to happen more than once a year, and I'm hoping it's going to start happening regularly again soon, but right now, it feels like for fricking ever since I have had a good night's sleep.
  10. Have a Goal - again, this one is within my control . . . I've been rudderless for awhile now.  Probably time to be doing some personal work and figuring out my path, which has become muddy and unclear.

Wow, this was definitely harder than I thought it would be, and I'm not sure I did it right because I'm feeling sort of sad about my list.  But is there a right?   I'm not so sure that there is.  In any case, it has made me think, which - I think - is the entire point  ;-)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

To Sleep . . . Perchance to Dream . . .

So - spendy dental appliance . . .

One other tool that I have been using is an iPad app called SnoreLab.  As mentioned already, I don't really snore, but I breathe out quite loudly, with the occasional snuffly snorty snore.  This is actually a pretty cool app and I think it's relatively accurate.  It's at least interesting to see my score every night, which is usually anywhere from 28 to 50, but most often in the high 40s.

After working with the positional therapies, I realized that I apparently have to sleep on my back for REM sleep.  That meant either a CPAP or a dental appliance, and since I don't need the CPAP, the dental appliance won the draw.  A second visit to the special sleep dentist.  More measurements.  Multiple molds taken of my mouth.  Big money spent . . .

Because Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a medical diagnosis, my medical insurance covers it - and the dentist I went to is considered a preferred provider.  Still, my portion  of the device was in the high three figures.  Oh, joy . . .  But I ponied up the money on June 26th because I was so close to really sleeping again and this was really the only thing that would allow me to sleep on my back but still breath properly.  

My appliance was ready by the last week of July, and I went in on Wednesday, July 30th to pick it up and learn about how to wear it and how to care for it.  It was quite a lengthy process.  

What the appliance does is push my lower jaw forward to help keep my tongue from falling backwards and obstructing my airway.  The dentist said it was set for about halfway to where they eventually wanted to get my jaw while I'm sleeping.  This was our first disagreement.  I feel very strongly that if something works at 50%, there is no reason to move it further.  The dentist disagreed, but since I wasn't supposed to adjust it at all during the first week of wear, I figured we would have another discussion about it at some point.  Plus, I emailed my own doc about it - and he agreed with me and offered to speak to the dentist for me if necessary. 

Anyway - I left the office with a bag with all the molds and the appliance (which I have to bring with me every time I go there), and an exerciser to use every morning to force my jaw back into its normal position - this is important.  I had to wait a half an hour after removing the device, and then use the little exerciser (which is just a small little molded dealy of my natural bite), and clear instructions that if I developed a headache or an earache that required Advil, I was to call the office right away.  I toddled on home with a lighter wallet and dreams of dreaming again dancing in my head.  Oh - that's another symptom of chronic sleep deprivation - not dreaming.  I couldn't really remember the last time I dreamed.  Probably because I never was in REM sleep long enough to actually have a dream . . . 

Alrighty then . . . one of my personal jokes is that I often refer to myself as "a delicate flower."  This is funny because I'm kind of round, pretty tall, and really quite sturdy (you know, sturdy Irish stock :-) ).  So, in essence I crack this joke at my own expense - except that it's true.  I really am a delicate flower!  I'm extremely sensitive and I believe I have a much higher degree of cognizance of my body than most people do.  I'm very aware when something is "off" or out of balance in my body.

By Friday, August 1st, after only two nights, I had both a headache and an earache, so I rang the office and was advised that it was likely just my body taking a little time to get used to the device  . . .   I was to keep wearing it and call back if the pain didn't go away or if it got worse.  My SnoreLab score had been zero since starting with the appliance, so I knew it was working - and even though my head and ear hurt, I realized I was getting better sleep because I had begun to feel better and have more energy after only a few days!  Wow!

I made it four more nights, and rang the office again on Tuesday, August 5th.  This time I was instructed to not wear the appliance and was given an appointment to see the dentist the next day.

By then, I thought my eyeballs were going to pop from the pain in my head, my ear hurt inside all the way down my neck, and Advil wasn't touching it at all.  I hadn't been able to tolerate the positional therapies, and now it was looking like I wasn't going to be able to tolerate this one either . . .