Monday, December 27, 2010

The Fourth Option

One of my gym teachers decided to riff as we were putting away the mats and chairs.  “Have you ever thought that Fight and Flight are not the only two options?”  He paused.  “There’s also hiding.”  

“Some people don’t need to hide,” I said.

“Camouflage is a choice,” he replied.

That wasn’t what I meant.  But at the time I couldn’t think of the words.

I didn’t think of them until later when my daughter decided to tell me how angry she is with me – basically for being me.

Then  I knew the word I meant was Compassion.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Pegleg Pirate Bends a Knee

Until this morning, when I got out of bed, or out of a chair, I walked like a pegleg pirate, my left hip and knee held stiff, for the first 20 steps or so.

So, I went to the web.  I found a certified Feldenkrais teacher downtown and sent him an email listing my body problems.  I figured I may as well do my best to scare him off in the beginning.

He wrote back – he thinks he can help me.

The first exercise he gave me didn’t have a name.  I’ll call it the rectangle wobble.

Stand with your feet about hip-distance apart.  Draw a rectangle from between your big toe and the 2nd toe on your left foot down to the center of the heel on your left foot, then across to the center of the heel on your right foot, up to the point between your big toe and 2nd toe on your right foot, and back again to the starting point on your left foot.

Now, stand vertically. Do not move your hips side to side. Do not bend your spine. Wobble side to side inside this rectangle. Start at the back of the heels and work forwards. Side to side, a little bit forwards, side to side, a little bit forwards, and so on. Work your way all the way to the front of the rectangle and back again several times.  It takes less than a minute.  And – ta-da – I can walk, almost as easily as before my injuries.

I just wanted to share this exercise with anybody who might be able to use it.  I feel like I’m exaggerating to call it an exercise. It’s a gentle wobble. It works!  Hurray!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Assorted Random Quotes of the Week

Action figures are boy dolls


A client 20 years older than I am wants to know where I get the courage to use a cane. She’s afraid of being seen as a weak old lady.


I asked a 9-year-old boy what he’s learning is school.


Do you mean Latin?”

“Roman numerals.”


Strike F1 to retry boot

That message appeared on a computer screen, instead of Welcome or Starting Windows.  What is the native language of the programmer?  Who says Strike in reference to a computer keyboard? Yes, the computer struck-out when attempting to boot. And pressing F1 did not successfully boot the computer. Striking the key on today’s modern fragile keyboards could easily break them. The computer already has a problem. Why break the keyboard and add to the trouble?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Learning Experience

I always thought that people who claimed unpleasant events were “learning experiences” were trying to put a nice face on pain.

But I’m experiencing that the slipped disc I got two weeks ago is indeed a “learning experience.”

My chiropractor has taught me some exercises that are helping me to walk with better balance. I’m learning that I have walked mostly on my right leg since getting hit by a car on while riding my bike.  The physical therapist told me that my right leg is stronger than my left leg, but he didn’t have any guesses why. I wasn’t complaining about my walking.  Now I feel like I’m learning to walk all over again.

I used to climb my stairs two-at-a-time.  I haven’t got the strength in either leg to do that right now. I’m healing.  But the thing is that when I walk, I feel like I’m leaning to the left.  But when I look in the mirror, I’m straight.  So, for the past 18 months, I’ve been leaning to the right when I walk, and not feeling off balance, when I was off balance.  It’s surprising I didn’t fall over before now.  

I don’t walk more than a few miles at a time. I usually ride my bike. But I walk to the grocery store. I live in a house with stairs. I need two strong legs.

It’s possible that my right leg did most of the work on my bike. I’m only pedaling the stationery bike at the gym since I got the slipped disc.  My chiropractor says that hitting a pothole would be painful and I want to avoid pain – there’s no way to avoid potholes in Philadelphia.

Once I learn to walk in balance again, I should be stronger than before the slipped disc.  That is a worthwhile learning experience.  Yes a slipped disc hurts.  I’m not putting a nice face on pain. I’m putting a nice face on learning how to avoid pain in the future. Better balance means less pain.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Who Wants a Happy Childhood?

I was flummoxed to read an advertisement in a home schooling magazine that said, “You can expect exceptional writing from happy students!”

Huh? Nobody in my experience had a happy childhood, and I know quite a few exceptional writers. Happy children would not have the memories necessary to create the conflicts that drive the plots of good fiction.  Happy children would only be able to write “nice things happen to nice people” stories that have no plots and that bore everybody.

I’ll go one further, having tried my best to encourage my children to have my idea of happy childhoods, and one of them is still in teenage rebellion mode, I don’t think it is possible to have a happy childhood. And that’s a good thing!

Happy children have no reason to develop compassion, or curiosity. They have no reason to explore the world and find out how other people think and live. If everything is completely satisfactory all the time, life would be boring.

I’m not an advocate of home schooling.  Based on what I read in this magazine, one of the goals of home schooling is parents’ ideas of creating  happy childhoods. The advertiser can’t be faulted for trying to reach these parents.  But their claim makes no sense.  Assuming it was possible to provide happy childhoods, what would  these blissful children write about?

“I had a good time today. My siblings and I played happily on our manicured lawn, listened to healthy birds warbling cheerfully to their mates, and ate delicious nutritious food. We mastered multiplication in base 2, and learned to make lanyards. My favorite colors are blue and turquoise and we had plenty of lanyard cord in both colors, so my lanyard is beautiful. I even got to use a pen with turquoise ink to write my times tables.”

This might make a nice letter home to parents from summer camp, but it does not qualify as literature. The more I think about the downsides to a happy childhood, the more I’m glad such a thing is impossible. The mix of good and bad experiences, happiness and unhappiness, is what leads to exceptional writing.  A good writing program would help children learn to create plots from their problems, develop characters who deal with danger and adversity, who fail sometimes and who have flaws.

But that’s not a sound bite. And it’s not likely to sell many products. “You can expect exceptional writing from frustrated children, who want a better world.”


Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Wall is my Friend

In this blog, I write about my exercise program, most of which is successfully helping me recover my strength and balance after being hit by a car while biking.  It’s only fair that I report a set-back, too.

I usually do yoga standing poses against a wall. I’ve felt steady, and wobble-free for over a month now. So, I decided to try practicing standing poses in the middle of my living room. I rolled out my sticky mat. I got out my book and looked at the pictures and read the directions. I didn’t want any mistakes.  

I felt strong and coordinated.  Mountain was easy. So was standing with hands clasped, inverted, over head. So, was standing forward bend.  Then I decided to try triangle. I was careful to keep both sides of my trunk the same length as I leaned to the side. I pushed down on the four corners of both feet. I lost my balance.

It’s a short fall to the floor. My mat softened the fall. Nevertheless, I was in pain. A look in the mirror showed my hips markedly skewed to the right. And my cane was upstairs.

It took two days before I felt sturdy enough to walk to my chiropractor’s.  He said a disc between two of my vertebrae had slipped sideways.  He showed me exercises to help it slip back into place.  He also said a short fall like that only caused damage because my spine landed while twisted. He expects me to heal up quickly, since he knows I’ll do the exercises.

I’m getting there. And I don’t care how balanced I feel in the future. The wall is my friend. Or as my yoga teacher says, the wall is my guru. 

I’m also convinced that I need to spend more time doing Feldenkrais movements to strengthen and coordinate my muscles.  If I learn to coordinate the small movements, I should be able to detect when I’m losing my balance – long before I lose enough to fall over. And I shouldn’t forget to lean on my friend.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Family Science Projects

For family get-togethers, I’ve become the maven of low-cost entertainment.  This year, the big hit at Thanksgiving was the plastic spoon catapult.

All you need are some wood scraps (easily available from my neighborhood carpenter’s trashcan) push pins, rubber bands, and plastic spoons, plus marshmalllows for catapulting and a waste basket to serve as the target.

This year my grand children and their cousins all wanted to play.  That’s two 7-year-old girls and two 5-year-old boys.  I had brought a long list of activity ideas, most of which involved origami or beginning juggling lessons, and of course a short magic show.  The catapult kept them busy. I don’t think I needed to bring anything else.

But when I offered origami storytelling which involved making hats and boats, I did get an audience. I hadn’t brought waxed paper, so the boats weren’t seaworthy, but they were enough to impress the children.  

I’m not sure what the friendly term is for other grandmother.  If her son is my son-in-law, is she my cousin-in-law?  Anyway, she helped with the magic show and remembered to embellish the ending of my Rapunzel, the 2nd story with “And she lived happily ever after.”  She also helped make paper helicopters that really fly.

And I got them started on geometry by taping two plastic mirrors together on one side so they hinge like book.  I gave the children paper protractors so they could measure the angles and encouraged them to see how many reflections of a marshmallow they could make by placing the mirrors at different angles. The highest count I heard was seven.

Bottom line, the kids like science and I don’t think they can tell the difference between science and magic. That’s fun.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Strap Around My Hips in Yoga

My Sunday yoga teacher looks out for me.  It bothers her that I often leave class in pain.  No matter that I often arrive in pain – she says yoga should help me feel better.  My Sunday yoga teacher referred me to her yoga teacher, who has a beginning class on Tuesdays.  I already have two yoga teachers that I often go to on Tuesdays, but meeting my yoga teacher’s teacher had promise.

Sunday yoga teacher wrote to her teacher telling her to expect me.  

When I introduced myself, she responded, “broken collar bone.”  

“Yes, and ouchy hip.”

This got me a quizzical look.  

“Hit by a car, and arthritis.”

Next thing I knew, she was lowering loops of yoga straps over my head. These are the straps we use to hold our feet when we do stretches and aren’t flexible to reach our toes with our hands.

She cinched the loops around my hips at the height where the femur heads sit in the hip sockets.

“Do you mind if I ask what these do?”

Several of the other students laughed.

Most of the yoga was standing poses.  Standing poses are what send me home sore from yoga.

This time, when I took off the straps, I was barely sore at all.  Amazing.

The teacher said to wear a strap for 2 hours a day, daily and in a week, I’ll notice that I’m in less pain in general.  She also said to do standing poses every day, and to do the ones where the feet point in different directions with my legs on a diagonal.  The diagonal feet allow my pelvis to face forward instead of twisting.

Today I wore my yoga strap around my hips to Pilates class. I wore it when I walked to the grocery store.  I’ve been wearing it for over 2 hours.  The only trouble I’ve had is getting it up off my hips to use the toilet, and then getting it back in place. I’ll be sitting to do my work for the rest of the day, so there’s no point in wearing the strap now.  

I’ll put it on again to do standing yoga asanas this evening. This is a great invention.  Who knew?  A yoga strap as a garment to make hip arthritis more comfortable.  I already emailed my Sunday yoga teacher. Now she wants me to enroll in a class with her yoga teacher.  Seems like a good idea.