A New Skill

As someone who is notorious for countless ideas and novelty, I have finally started to practice a skill which has laid dormant since HS – consistency! For the last 2 weeks – ok, not long, I know, but it’s a start – I have consistently gone to yoga 3X a week, the gym 3X a week, practiced the harp, pursued my crafts (I really want to have an Etsy business) and gotten chores done.

It’s also now the 4 year anniversary of my 2 spinal surgeries. They happened 6 weeks apart. It took some kind of consistency (well, persistence actually) to get through the rehab, healing and more bad stuff that was piled on top. If not a consistent physical practice at least a mostly consistent spirit of, “I shall endure. I shall not give up”. That says a lot because for a period of time – I really wanted out. Not suicide exactly, but just OUT of the constant pain and bad stuff. Anyone reading this who needs encouragement, contact me. I’ll never fully know your experience but I bet our paths have some striking commonalities.

I would never have believed at the time that there IS a shore on the other side of wading through endless…dung. My life is good and happy. And I’ve given up the thought that I’m too old for things. I took up interpreting school at 36, snowboarding at 40, the harp and my first hostel stay at 53.  I’m weeding out what doesn’t work and keeping those friends and activities that are positive, supportive and present. Hoorah. Bring it on – consistently please 🙂

PS – I know many of my posts mention the “bad years” and how things are much better now. I don’t want it to be a constant referencing of the past but like a grief process, there are no sharp boundaries between states of being. There are: worse, better, the new normal, the former normal, the hope for continued improvement, etc. The only constant in life is change.

 

I asked for the smiley. Gotta have fun before getting sliced!

I asked for the smiley. Gotta have fun before getting sliced (2008)!

The morning after the 1st surgery. 10/2010. Hair got chopped because I didn't think I'd be able to wash it for quite a while.

The morning after the 1st spinal surgery. 10/2010. Hair got chopped because I didn’t think I’d be able to wash it for quite a while.

 

OY! A few hours after the 2nd surgery. 12/2010. Should have just shaved my head.

OY! A few hours after the 2nd surgery. 12/2010. Should have just shaved my head.

 

Flea collar court is now in session

Flea collar court is now in session

 

Let's just yank out some suspicious tonsils, shall we?

Let’s just yank out some suspicious tonsils, shall we? Or maybe this was the cantaloupe-sized abdominal tumor surgery. I lose track.

ENOUGH OF THAT. DONE!

PDX Half Marathon - 2014 - with the way oversized team shirt I got at the 11th hour.

PDX Half Marathon – 2014 – with the way oversized team shirt I got at the 11th hour.

 

New Crafts are Looming

Today, October 26th, is the 3rd anniversary of my 1st spinal surgery. To “celebrate”, I got a Zoom Loom. It has lots of Loom and not too much Zoom yet, until I know what I am doing. It took 3 times to finally get it set up without threads popping out all over the place.

Here is my completed 4 inch – wash rag for doll’s dishes? A potholder for lukewarm doll pots? Actually, if I can survive making a bunch of these cute little squares, they can be sewn together to make scarves and placemats. I’m looking forward to eventually moving up to a table loom.

This “carry it anywhere” Zoom Loom may not go over so well with the airlines though. There is a 6 inch needle (to poke my eyes out when I get too frustrated) and tons of spikes on the loom with which to poke out fellow passengers’ eyes. The airlines tend to frown upon such weaponry.

Loom avec Zoom

Loom avec Zoom

A woven....thing!

A woven….thing!

Woven things - with crochet.

Woven things – with crochet.

Up close and personal

Up close and personal

The “Challenging Years”

As a late bloomer, I am finally joining the world of Facebook. Several folks, with whom I have not chatted in ages, have asked me what I’ve been up to in the last few years. Here’s a (hopefully) quick synopsis. It is also meant as an outreach to anyone who is at the end of their rope. I’m not in that space anymore, but I’d like to tell you – I understand!!! If you need words of encouragement, let me know.

I worked as a sign language interpreter from June, 1999 until April, 2010. One year prior to my leaving my career, I had a life-altering car accident in April, 2009. From April, 2009 until April, 2010, I had massive, chronic pain, nerve tingling, vertigo, language processing problems, balance problems and memory problems. And those were on the good days. I finally was no longer able to do my work and had to leave the field altogether. Months of despair and feeling lost ensued until June – when things got worse.

June, 2010, I was in another car accident – with my daughter this time. (In both of my accidents, it was the other driver’s fault). The June accident totalled my van. We were hit with such an impact, from the rear, that the CDs in the front of the van were thrown all the way to the back. That’s a long way! The back fold-down seat, which is quite a ways in from the rear trunk lid, was so damaged it had to be replaced.

The very lowest point came when the totalled van was in the shop for 6 weeks, being rebuilt (yes, rebuilt!!). My husband was away on business travel often. On some days, my only social contact was watching the mailman drive up and down our street. I know that folks say “let me know if there’s anything I can do” but realistically, they have busy lives. This was the lowest point of hell where the daily pain, fear and isolation were so great that I often didn’t think I would make it through that.

I finally had a disc replacement surgery in October, 2010. The surgeon said that nerves are normally gray but mine were bright RED from having been smashed between vertebrae for 18 months. The surgery gave me instant relief from all the pain and tingling. I was on the road to recovery until…

The disc “failed”. One out of 100 of these surgeries fail and I was the lucky winner. My vertabrae had had keel channels drilled into them and the disc replacement had been literally hammered into place. When the prostethic fell out, it was stabbing me in the esophagus. It could have punctured that. It also theoretically could have gone backwards and sliced into my spinal cord. (So in other words, this metal prosthetic was not anchored between vertebrae anymore. It was “hanging loose” in my neck and could have caused huge damage.)

I was shocked and terrified to have to return to emergency surgery 6 weeks after the first one. Fortunately, I didn’t know what danger I was in by having that loose prosthetic in my neck for 3 days (over a weekend, of course). So, the surgeon once again cut all the way through my neck, from the front, to operate on the spine. There’s too much bone in the way to go in through the back. Do you have any idea how thick a neck is? That’s alot of territory to slice through.

Fast forward through a full year of what felt like very slow recovery. I was a marathoner in the past, so working my way up to 5 minute walks and then having to rest for the afternoon was excruciating on the patience front. On December 7th, 2011, Pete, Teresa and I (now very recovered) hiked a 4 hour, strenuous, muddy trail on the Napali coast in Kauai. I thought I had finally made it!!! Five days later, on December 12th, 2011, my oldest brother unexpectedly died (of natural causes).

Pete was out of town when Chris died. I was on the phone for 14 hours with family and friends all over the planet. I flew to Alabama solo, stifling crying between 2 strangers for the 10 hour trip home, and finally keeled over after having been up for 36 hours straight. My niece and I pulled the whole funeral together in 2 days and I was even crazy enough to play the flute at my brother’s funeral.

That Christmas and many months after were a total blur. I think I took on my first job, as an assistant to students with disabilities at the community college, 3 or 4 weeks after Chris died, but that too was a blur. I was finally so seized up in pain again that I had to once again leave THAT job, as a disabled person, in April, 2012.

More discouragement and restlessness and wondering if I would ever be well and a productive employee again ensued. I was also 50 at the time so I wasn’t holding out hope to even be a barista. Fast forward to the summer when my ENT doc said my tonsils looked “suspicious” (for possible cancer) and needed to come out. Holy cow. Never get your tonsils taken out if you are over the age of 10! That surgery was MUCH worse than the 2 neck surgeries. I was on Vicodin every 4 hours for 9 days straight.

The good news is that I finally, after many decades, am getting some sense of smell back. Apparently, those inflammed tonsils (and other sinus issues) blocked my sense of smell.

Since September, 2012, I *finally* have started getting my life back. Because of my age, occasional pain, and the sheer lack of use of my ASL/interpreting skills for 3 years, I had to make the difficult decision to not return to my work as a sign language interpreter. I am in the final stages of training now to become a Kindermusik teacher. (Update as of 04/2014 – this plan fell through because of some nasty dealings on the part of the company. Enough said. After a year of training, I had let go of this dream as well. As of October, 2013, my chronic pain finally came to an end. I still have flare-ups but the horrific 24/7 stuff is over – alleluia!!)

I am currently pursuing many different, mostly folk, instruments. I am a hallway musician at the local children’s hospitals. I play soothing flute music in the hospital lobby and then I am placed on one of the units with the sick children and their families. If my music brightens even one person’s day, that makes my heart sing.

Finally, I am crocheting for charity, attempting to write in my spare time, promoting my mom’s TWO books, and training for a half marathon that will take place on Oct. 5th, 2014.

Life is good. Recovery is (still) happening. Being once again engaged with the world in meaningful activities is absolutely priceless.