Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Tale of Three Mats

Photo Credit: someecards.com

Photo Credit: someecards.com

When our dog, Hooper, had knee surgery, we were told to keep him off of slick surfaces like hardwood floors to avoid him slipping and re-injuring his knee. Since our entire downstairs flooring is hardwood, sans two small rugs, this presented a significant problem. I started searching within our home for an inexpensive solution. SCORE! I found not 1, not 2 but 3 yoga mats in the process. We created a slip-free walkway leading from the back door to Hooper’s crate and to his “recovery” bed that we set up on the living room area rug. It was a perfect and economical solution albeit not a very attractive one.

My happiness at solving this dilemma was short-lived when I realized that having 3 yoga mats meant that I had the very good intention of developing a yoga practice at least 3 different times and never saw it through. Why?

I remember 10 years ago buying a yoga mat because my office was going to offer yoga classes during lunch once a week. I gladly signed up because I was interested in the practice and I desperately wanted to get in better shape for my wedding which was a year away. My instructor was amazing! She was patient, kind and taught yoga from both a physical and spiritual perspective. I enthusiastically looked forward to her classes each week. And then, unexpectedly, she moved away and my office never hired a replacement.

Several years later I saw an ad for yoga classes being held at my local recreation center. The price was inexpensive so I decided to give it a try. (I’m sure that’s when I bought the second mat, having long since forgotten where my first one was stored.) I wasn’t impressed with the instructors. It was a husband and wife team that would take turns teaching the classes. It was supposed to be a class for beginners but they moved so quickly from one position to the next that I got quickly frustrated. Their class was also missing the spiritual aspect that I desired. My beloved previous instructor would always begin class with a poignant story and end class with a beautiful meditation. This class just seemed cold and a little pretentious. Not what I was looking for.

I truly believe that “outer reflects inner”, and this situation was no exception. Even my clothes seemed to be repelled by this class. My shirt and glasses kept falling down while I was in the “Downward Dog” pose, my pants didn’t seem to fit right, and my hair kept slipping out of its pony tail. I was uncomfortable physically and emotionally—just all-around not a happy camper, so I quit after only a few classes. And I stayed away from yoga for years.

In the past year or two I have been thinking about yoga again. My intuitive mother-in-law gave me a yoga mat for Christmas to encourage me to take up the practice. In her mid 60s she is in much better physical shape than I am! I have seen her spring into a “Sun Salutation”, rapidly transitioning from one pose to another before comfortably resting with her legs in a pretzel and her back perfectly straight. She’s pretty amazing.

Two weeks ago I was ready to start trying my hand at yoga again. The mats spread across my living room floor are a daily reminder of this unfulfilled promise to myself. Unfortunately, I had an attack of vertigo that prevented me from starting. It’s a symptom of my Meniere’s Disease—an inner ear disorder that manifests itself with unannounced episodes of extreme vertigo, dizziness, nausea and exhaustion. The attack can lasts minutes or hours but the after effects lasts for days or weeks. There would definitely be no “Sun Salutations” for several days.

Photo Credit: The Big C

Photo Credit: The Big C

Last night I was watching an episode of “The Big C: Hereafter”. The main character, Cathy (Laura Linney) has been battling cancer for several seasons. Now, she is off chemotherapy and has moved into a hospice. He husband, Paul (Oliver Platt) has slipped into a deep depression causing him to stay in bed for days at a time eating nothing but Funyuns. When he finally makes it out of bed to visit his wife in hospice, she chastises him saying, “I can’t get out of bed, but you can, so you have to!” That one sentence struck a chord with me.

Now that I am feeling better and I can get out of bed, I have an obligation to do so. I may not be ready just yet to contort myself into crazy yoga positions but I can certainly stretch, walk and meditate. As they say, “it’s the journey not the destination”, and this journey starts with a single step and maybe a “Downward Dog” for Hooper’s amusement.

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The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Last week I found a photo on Facebook of the nun that taught (and terrorized) my grammar school. For years my husband had heard the legendary tales of Sr. Mary Margaret (name changed) and her ruler that had whacked my legs on more than one occasion for crossing my feet at the ankles while I was sitting in my desk in 6th grade.

To say she was “old school“ would be an understatement. I remember at the start of every nine weeks her ritual of rearranging the seating chart according to each child’s grade point average, which she announced to the entire class. Apparently, she felt that public humiliation was a good motivator. It worked on me. I had the highest GPA in the class, and I was perpetually terrified of her.

I did my best to please her. I volunteered to do the liturgical readings and bring up the offerings during Mass. I got to school early to say the Rosary with her and the rest of my petrified classmates seeking brownie points. And when she announced at the end of the school year that she would be leaving for Chile to become a missionary and hopefully a Martyr for Christ, I wished her good luck and much success! (My mom was mortified.)

But, I did learn a lot in her class. And in retrospect, I truly believe she was well-intentioned.

On the Facebook posting under her photo, were over 200 comments from former students ranting about the mental and physical horrors they survived under Sr. Mary Margaret. At first the comments were funny lighthearted jabs at a person who in her time (and even more so now) was almost a caricature of herself—an exaggerated distortion of the truth built over years of childhood fears and stories passed down from one grammar school class to the next.

Then, the comments turned ugly. Cringe-worthy ugly. And I thought, “Wow. Is this cyber-bullying? Cyber-bullying by middle-aged adults? Or is this more like a group online therapy session with people venting and commiserating? Or is this the equivalent to giving a retired teacher an extremely bad Yelp review? And if it is, why now? What’s the point?”

This lead me to rethink my feelings toward Facebook and social media in general. Here is my breakdown of the pros and cons of this particular form of social media:

Pro: Facebook is great for keeping in touch with old friends that would have otherwise fallen off your radar never to be heard from again.

Con: Facebook can become a trap from keeping you from moving forward in your life. Continually reliving the “glory days” from the past stops you from fully living in the present.

Pro: It’s an online record documenting the best parts of your life in photos and words.

Con: It’s not real. Most people only show the very best moments of their life online—overseas trips, fancy mansions and cars purchased, the gourmet meal they cooked from scratch, their perfect children’s brilliant achievements, etc. This skewed view of other’s lives can lead to a very depressing (and inaccurate) lifestyle comparison. “Do they have it better than me? Are they happier? Healthier? Having more fun?“

Pro: It can be a huge support system when needed. I’ve seen many prayer requests go out during difficult times and friends quickly rally to show their support.

Con: Facebook posts can be wielded as an abusive tool to cut down and humiliate others. And the reach is enormous. Fortunately, you can “de-friend” people who haven’t learned how to play nice with others.

I guess in the end, it all comes down to the individual.

As for “Sr. Mary Margaret”, while I still disagree that french kissing is a “Mortal Sin”, I whole-heartedly agree with the following Facebook post that came to your defense:

“She did have a message, not always perfectly delivered, but who among us is perfect. She was committed, and devoted, and carried a lot of lasting important ideas and approaches to living.“

Thank you for being my teacher. I wish you well.

It’s Getting Hot in Here

Sometimes doing the right thing can be a bit of a challenge.

I have a peanut allergy, so I have to carry around an Epi-Pen in my purse at all times in case someone tries to knock me off by slipping me a peanut. I’ve told my friends and family all about my peanut allergy and how the slightest bit ingested could land me in the hospital or worse. Even with this knowledge, you would be surprised at how many times my loving friends and family (even my mom!) have forgotten and offered me mixed nuts or a chocolate-peanut butter-fudge dessert. That’s why I carry the Epi-Pen with me at all times. It’s a syringe containing epinephrine that is big enough to administer through jeans and into my thigh to help treat anaphylaxis. Thankfully, I have never had to use it.

My Epi-Pen expired last week, so when I went to the pharmacy to pick up a new one I asked them if they could please dispose of the old one for me. They said no, and that I would have to go to the Police Department for proper disposal. So, being a good steward of the community I drove over to the Police Department. It was after five, but the Police Department never closes, right? Wrong.

The doors were locked, but there was a sign next to a phone telling me to pick up the receiver and dispatch would be at the other end. Sure enough, they were and they told me they would send someone down to meet me. Ten minutes later as I was pulling out of the parking lot a police officer appeared. I turned back around and explained that I was trying to properly dispose of my medicine. He told me that I would have to come back during business hours and fill out paperwork in order to turn my medicine in. He couldn’t take it from me. Really? At this point my desire to be a good citizen was seriously waning.

Today I drove over to the Police Department determined once again to safely dispose of my Epi-Pen. The little old lady speaking to me, through the second glass window that I was directed to, informs me that they can accept medicine but not syringes. She asked me if I could separate the two and I explained that I couldn’t—the medicine is loaded into the syringe. She told me that only the Fire Department can accept syringes and asked me if I needed directions.

After a two-minute rant by me on how the city makes it incredibly difficult to dispose of old medicine properly, and having the old woman belly laugh at my tirade, I slumped back into my car. An inner Good vs. Evil battle over whether or not I was going to drive the few blocks to the Fire Department ensued.

When I got to the Fire Department, I found another old lady behind a glass window eating her lunch. I explained the situation and she promptly came out from her glass enclosure and took my medicine. No forms. No fuss. Plus, as an added bonus, a super cute fireman worthy of a calendar spread was standing by the door smiling at me and ready to assist if needed. Eye candy in exchange for my old meds. An even trade indeed. Plus, I got the satisfaction of knowing I did the right thing. A small victory, but I’ll take it.

This experience got me to thinking. This isn’t the first time the universe has made it challenging for me to do the right thing. It seems that every time I try to make some lifestyle improvements the universe decides to throw a barrage of obstacles in my way. Whether it’s fulfilling the dream of writing and publishing children’s books, eating a “clean and low salt” diet, or developing a daily exercise practice, something always seems to discourage me from succeeding.

My husband says that it’s the universe testing our convictions. The theory is that if we want something badly enough, nothing will stop us. Once the universe sees that you are serious, it will help you achieve your dreams by sending helpful people and resources your way.

And sometimes you even get a really hot fireman as a bonus. That’s encouragement enough for me to keep trying.

Photo Credit: alanjohnson.deviantart.com

Photo Credit: Hunky Fireman by alanjohnson.deviantart.com

Grace Under Pressure

Hooper 3 days post TPLO surgery

Hooper 3 days post TPLO surgery

The last couple of weeks have been particularly challenging.

It began with my dog having TPLO surgery (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) for a torn ACL. I’m not sure which was more troubling, the $4,000 hospital bill or the news that our overly active dog needed to avoid all exercise for 14 weeks. Strong sedatives were prescribed for the dog but they refused to prescribe some for me. I guess they thought I was joking when I requested them. I wasn’t.

After a week-and-a-half of playing nursemaid to Hooper 24/7, I got an unexpected early morning phone call from my mom. She was calling to let me know that my 87 year-old dad had fallen and broken his hip. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning. The typical “mad scramble“ ensued, with arrangements being made to kennel the cat and the recuperating dog. While my husband was negotiating taking off of work so we could make the 10 hour trip to be with my family, I was busy washing underwear, socks and jeans which I determined were the most important clothing items to have clean and packed. I also decided that the next most important to-do item was to get waxed in case things took a turn for the worse. I didn’t want to potentially look like a gorilla if I had to attend my dad’s funeral. Apparently, fear and anxiety do NOT trump vanity.

During the long drive to New Orleans, we received a call from my husband’s dad informing us that my mother-in-law had also been hospitalized and required surgery. She was in a different hospital than my dad on the opposite side of the river. Looks like we would be hospital-hopping over the weekend. We used to go bar-hopping in college, but hospital-hopping would prove to not be nearly as fun. The only similarity between bar-hopping and hospital-hopping is that you feel equally tired and sick after both. Particularly on this trip, since I managed to acquire a nasty stomach malady of an unknown origin.

But this post isn’t supposed to be about me. It’s about family.

Today, a friend posted the following quote on Facebook by Andy Griffith:

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I started to look for the gifts of grace, strength and peace of mind that had been bestowed upon my family members during this difficult time. I didn’t have to look very hard, as it was easy to spot.

Strength: My mom had been praying for months for God to keep daddy healthy until she was able to better care for him. She had been recovering from a series of major health issues of her own including multiple eye surgeries and a hip replacement. She just recently got the “all-clear“ from her doctors to begin driving again, which has allowed her to resume visiting my father in the nursing home and now to care from him in the hospital. Had my dad fallen a few weeks earlier, this wouldn’t have been possible.

Peace of Mind: My husband and I recently made the difficult decision to close my struggling business. As a result, we got a nice tax refund this year which allowed us to pay for our dog’s surgery, some needed car repairs and funded the emergency trip back home to be with our family during this difficult time. It also gave me the confirmation I needed that closing the business was the right decision. I am now free to leave at a moment’s notice to be with my family when they need me.

Grace: My father, besides having a broken hip, also has advanced Parkinson’s Disease, Congestive Heart Failure and Dementia. On his “good days” which are occurring less frequently, he believes that his dreams and memories from the past are happening in the present.

Some people say that before you die your life flashes before your eyes. I believe, that for my dad, he is experiencing the highlights of his life in sequential order every time he sleeps or day dreams.

Two years ago he was speaking as if he was still living in his childhood home with his parents and siblings. Last year he was talking as if he was a young bachelor just starting his engineering career and enjoying being a Navy man. Two days ago he was speaking as if he was a middle-aged husband and father. He’s getting closer to the end. While it makes me very sad at times, I think it’s been an odd comfort to my dad and me. He gets to experience all of the best parts of his life again—filled with excitement, laughter and joy. He is reconciling his life in preparation of saying goodbye.

Strength, Grace, and Peace of Mind: My mother-in-law was very fortunate that her emergency surgery occurred when her sister was in town visiting. Aunt Sandra has been the most gentle and attentive caregiver ever. She has slept at the hospital for days, and is always at the ready to jump up and attend to her sister’s needs or simply offer soothing words and a loving hand squeeze. Knowing that she is at my mother-in-law’s side has been an enormous comfort to all of us. I believe in my heart, that although traumatic, this experience has brought an odd sense of peace to my mother-in-law. She now knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that she will never have to go through difficult times alone. Her sister, children, ex-husband, best friends and daughter-in-law will be there for her. Always.

Thank you God for my wonderful family and for all your blessings.