Climbing Mountains

My morning stretch.

My leg was stretched in the roll cradle when the Technical Manager came through the warehouse door.

“No problem here” he said. Not even questioning why a Human Resources Manager would be in the warehouse with her leg raised in the air.

He kept walking until he heard my tussling. “Do you need help?”

“Yeah, my foot is stuck.”

He walked back to me. Smiled. Lifted my foot from where it had gotten wedged into the crook of the iron.

“No problem here,” he said and continued on.

The next day, I was in the warehouse swinging my leg to reach an upright when the Maintenance Manager came by.

“Beth, don’t hurt yourself,” he said.

“You guys must have moved these uprights. I could reach them last week.” He chuckled.

I’m aging. I’ll be 60 years old next month. I still want to climb mountains.

My afternoon stretch.

I’m finding that I’m not as limber or flexible, and it’s harder to keep the weight off. At my last physical, I told the doctor that even though I’m biking every day, my weight is exactly the same.

“It doesn’t matter how much you bike,” she said. “At your age it’s about what you eat. You have to eat less.”

I paused for a moment. “Well, that’s not going to happen,” I said. “I like to eat.”

She finished injecting cortisone in my right knee. I have osteoarthritis in both knees. It is a degenerative “wear-and-tear” type of arthritis that occurs most often in people 50 years of age and older.

When I hear of someone who has had a knee replaced, my attention sharpens.

I’m afraid of not being able to climb mountains.

On the summit of the Upper Mayan Trail with our guide Alex.

I’m a 2nd Dan Tae Kwon Do Black Belt but haven’t been able to attend classes for a couple of years. I’ve run at least 7 marathons but haven’t run at all for at least a year. I believe I should do the things I can do. I can bike. I can stretch. I can climb mountains …. sometimes.

My goal on our Guatemala trip this June was to hike the Upper Mayan Trail, hiking from the shores of Lake Atilan to Solola. Close to 3000 ft. elevation gain in 4 miles. A very steep trail, with beautiful scenery, and several encounters with local Mayan carrying firewood on their back or working in the fields.

Jody and Crystel led the way, turning from time, encouraging me on. Juan Jose’ and our guide Alex were there with a helping hand. What a gift to have my son reach his hand out to take mine. And, a guide, our friend, who is such a wonderful role model for our children.

I’m aging. There is beauty and grace in that.

Note: the featured image is Juan Jose’, Alex, and Crystel standing on the precipice of the Upper Mayan Trail.

 

 

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Chemical Factory Body

Influenza B beat out my early season flu shot. The fourth day of a common cold morphed into a significant fever and body aches between morning coffee with a friend and dinner. The doctor’s nurse suggested I come in the next day to rule out a recurrence of walking pneumonia.

Results of a nasty nasal swab changed the visit to treatment planning for flu and asthma management. On the way home prescriptions were picked up at the drug store along with creature comforts such as soft tissues, flavored water and ice cream. Not many creature comforts because the cost of these meds, even with insurance, was triple our weekly grocery bill.

Instructions on the boxes for taking the medications are clear. The patient information booklets packed inside suggested I was doomed to suffer whether I used the meds or just muddled through the flu with the generic acetaminophen, cool drinks and a few good movies. With the expense of hundreds of dollars in meds on my conscience I behaved like a good patient.

It is now one in the morning. All the steroids in the asthma meds are doing a nice job of easing my breathing and the flu med must be starting its work. The garbage basket next to me is filling with used tissues; there are a number of empty water glasses or teacups on the bathroom counter. Unfortunately all these miracle cures list sleeplessness as a possible reaction and that is my fate.

Sleep is a treasured state because I’m not always successful in claiming six successive hours. An old IT band injury occasionally flares. I didn’t outgrow a childhood pattern of nightmares. My brain can get busy, but when do you need sleep more than when sick?

Which makes me think of how my brother and I would tease my parents that their teams of doctors kept them healthy by turning their bodies into perfect chemical factories. At one in the morning with two inhaled meds and four pills fighting the bad flu stuff I wonder how many nights they dealt with similar internal disruptions. The joke isn’t quite as light when the medical arsenal is lined up on your bedside table.

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Thanksgiving 2017

Family will fill the dining room Wednesday evening for Thanksgiving Dinner 2017. We’ve divvied up side dishes so everyone will be carrying something to the feast. It will be a grand gathering.

No holiday has morphed as often in our home as Thanksgiving dinner. Loved ones who shared the day have passed. Friends who joined us at various times left stories we share. Korean students we hosted carry memories of our pecan pie. Babies grew up. Family dogs endured ribbons or costumes with rewards of bits of our meal.

Turkey always appears but side dishes reflect the times. My father’s sausage dressing gave way for my mother-in-law’s oyster stuffing. A former son-in-law only liked a five-minute version made out of a box. For years I rehydrated and doctored up packaged stuffing mixes. Now it is made from scratch. Green bean casserole has given way to Brussels sprouts. Homemade applesauce and cranberry relish still claim menu priority.

Tears accompanied some transition years. Significant tears cried about an empty chair. Exhausted red eyes when traditions overwhelmed my ability to deliver. A parent’s sadness as children are absent a first time. Happy wet eyes when the stories begin flowing among those who are present and it is no longer important that we are gathering on Wednesday night for the whole deal or on Friday for turkey tetrazzini and leftovers.

Wishing all of you a moment of comfort however you spend the coming holiday.

Crossing Over to the Other Side

crutches-350x350[1]I blamed Tae Kwon Do for the broken foot and bum knee. I told myself I’d be all right If I did an alternate exercise.

Not so.

I’ve learned that I’ve reached the age where you don’t fight through pain. You respect it. Pain means I stop what I’m doing and alter my workout. If not, I’m likely to be using crutches.

A couple of weeks ago, I could feel a twinge in my knee every time I took a step. It wasn’t from Tae Kwon Do. I hadn’t returned to Tae Kwon Do since I broke my foot last year. I thought I could walk myself right through the pain and come out the other side where it would feel better and I would be the stronger for it.

Yeah, right.

By the end of my workday, I could barely hobble to my car.

At home, Jody got me a broom to use as a crutch. The thought of walking upstairs or downstairs was too much. I wanted to fly up those steps. You miss being healthy the most when you’re not healthy.

182[1]Saturday morning, I was TRIA’s first customer. I told Jody I could drive myself. I knew once the receptionist saw me coming in the door that I’d be placed in a wheelchair. I put the broom in the back seat of the car just in case I needed it to get from the car to the door of the clinic.

A knee brace, steroid shot, and a pair of crutches later, I shuffled out of TRIA.

Lesson learned. It wasn’t Tae Kwon Do. It wasn’t the Boot Camp at YMCA. It was me who had crossed over to where the truism, “No Pain, No Gain” wasn’t true anymore.

I’m still learning lessons. I went to the YMCA to see what I could do with my newfound knowledge of respecting pain. I went from machine to machine. If it hurt, then I tried something else. Finally, I found what I was looking for—a cardio machine that is similar to skating and skiing that allows you to prepare for all sports that require lateral movement in your legs. I would have been okay had I stopped there. There was a diagram on the machine that showed how you could do squats at the same time as your lateral movement.

The next day, I felt as if I was kicked in the side by a horse. Now, I limped and I couldn’t straighten up.

You don’t miss health as much as when you don’t have it.

Well, there’s swimming. If I don’t drown.

My MCL Sprain is Trying to Age Me

Years ago before I was a black belt and the children were young

Years ago before I was a black belt and before the children were 2nd Dan

It’s become this independent burning sensation on the inner part of my knee.
Oh, there it is, I’ll say, when I feel it. Then I’ll take an ibuprofen.
I’ve Googled, What is that burning? Does that mean my MCL is healing? Or, that it’s getting worse? An MCL sprain is a nag.
I didn’t listen to the nag in Tae Kwon Do even though I felt a twinge in my knee that told me to take it easy. I’m not that old, I said to myself. I’ll kick my way through it. And, besides, at that point it was just a minor annoyance. I didn’t ice my knee after class because my knee would be okay the next day just like it always was.

My former self.

My former self with Jody.

The next morning, I almost fell getting out of bed. I couldn’t bear my weight. Without warning I was transported to my chronological age of 56 year(s), 6 month(s), and 2 day(s).
I hobbled for weeks before I went to the doctor.
I wanted to know if I was injuring myself beyond repair for not listening to the nag and I wanted the medical term for what was badgering me.
An MCL injury is a sprain or tear to the medial collateral ligament. The MCL is a band of tissue on the inside of your knee.
I refuse to let my MCL age me.
11034339_10205241803538815_4078779682495764301_oI’ve continued to kick at Tae Kwon Do (just maybe a little slower, a little lower and a little more carefully).

I stood all night long as a Police Reserve Officer at a middle school dance (well, maybe I sat for a moment on the bleachers in the darkened gym).

I still walked 3 miles at lunch time, (okay, a few times I turned around because I didn’t think that I could walk through the pain).
Sometimes, I don’t appreciate my health until it diminishes. Then all I want is to be returned to my former self. And then I read a Facebook post about someone who has it a lot worse than me. That is where I presently am. Feeling the burn, taking ibuprofen. Putting it into perspective.