Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Hip Hurts

My left hip hurts. It hurt before I got hit by a car. It has hurt worse since.  I had an x-ray about 6 months before the accident.  The radiologist report said “mild arthritis.”  Everybody over 30 has arthritis. It didn’t seem important.  I got physical therapy. My hip was more comfortable. Which is one reason I was out biking to my yoga class the day I got hit.


In the hospital, before I woke up, they x-rayed everything. Again the radiologist report came back “mild arthritis.”  Again I went to physical therapy.  My PT told me to do the Egoscue exercises. If I do them daily (which I’ve only skipped once in the past year) I can walk. I can climb stairs. I can ride my bike.  But, I’ve been needing to put on more and more wintergreen cream.  And lately there have been days when I needed DMSO.


I went to see a Sports Doc.  I brought him the 19 month old x-rays from the hospital. He took one look at the hip x-ray and said I have “a lot of arthritis.”  He said I’m going to need a hip replacement within the decade.  And he’s sending me for an MRI next week to see what else might be going on.


Yipes!  I thought if you knew how to read an x-ray, it was like reading a book. Different people would still see the same thing.  Apparently not.  So, now I’ve gone from healthy exercise junky to impending disaster, all because of different readings of the same x-ray. 


The scary thing is that I suspect the disaster reading may be more accurate.  Okay – I admit it – I don’t feel old.  Health problems are for other people. I come from a family with longevity. I take care of other people when they are sick or hurt. Aging and its attendant problems were never on my list of how to spend my old age, any more than learning to play cards or watching soap operas.  I was going to get gray hair and wrinkles and one day I would not wake up.


I was upset enough about spending time in the hospital after being hit by a car – but that is not outside my view of life.  A hip replacement? Me?  Why not put my brain into a robot body and be done with it?  Okay, the technology for that doesn’t exist yet.  


I was upset about taking time to heal when I got mugged, but that is not outside my view of life.


To learn that my hip is going to quit on me. That I’m going to voluntarily go into a hospital and ask to be cut up – that is totally outside of anything I ever considered.  I need a whole new image of myself.  I am a mortal machine with replaceable parts? After all the time and energy I’ve put into maintaining the parts I have, this is going to be a difficult thing to wrap my mind around.  I don’t know if a decade is enough time. And I don’t know if I have a decade.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Geezer Weight-Lifting Class

The first time I attended a Geezer Weight-Lifting Class, it was my mom’s class. I was still in my 40's.  My girls had tried and had to leave before it was over.  So had their cousins.  When we were able to finish the class, everybody congratulated my husband, the alien.  He was the first man EVER to do all hour’s worth of weight lifting.  Nobody congratulated me.  Maybe that was because I said, “That is no old-lady weight-lifting class!”


I usually do 15 or 20 minute exercise videos.  Every 15 minutes like clockwork, I kept looking up at the clock, wondering when this class would be over.  I was glad I’d picked up 3-lb weight as well as my usual 5-lbs. I can only do so many lateral raises before my arms feel tired.


At that time, I didn’t belong to a gym. When I finally did join one, I tended to take the classes for younger women – 20's 30's, maybe 40's.  Let me tell you – these are easier classes, than my mom’s Geezer Weight-Lifting Class.


That was until the Pilates teacher decided to make the Saturday morning class into an expert workout.  For two weeks in a row, I ached for hours afterwards.  That is not what I work out for. I checked the schedule for other Saturday morning classes.  And, sure enough, there was Geezer Weight-Lifting.  Okay they don’t call it that, but there’s no mistaking the clientelle.


Again, I grabbed my regular 5 lbs and a set of fall-back 3-lbs.  Despite my years of weight lifting since my mom’s class, I needed those fall-back 3-lbs.  Arms to the sides, parallel to the floor. Bend the elbows bringing the forearms to right angles with the floor. Now rotate the shoulder joints bringing the elbows together, keeping the upper arms parallel to the floor and the forearms vertical.  Repeat 10 times.


“That was no old-lady weight-lifting class.”  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Forms of Creativity

Play with it. Vary it. Experiment.


I’ve heard that refrain all my life. I’ve even given that advice to others.  All in the realm of story-telling.  What if?  Then what? Make it more extreme.  Hand me a writing utensil (electronic or mechanical, keyboard or pencil) and I’m in my favorite playground.


But when my physical therapist told me the same things about exercise – play with it, vary it, experiment – I was at a loss.  How do you vary a sit-up or a push-up or a lunge?  How do I vary my walking – speed, length of stride, width of stride – then I’m stumped.  My PT had no trouble. He came up with dance-like moves, diagonals, heel raises.  I could copy him.  But my creativity does not extend into the physical realm.  I can make combinations of what I know, but new moves? They never occur to me.  


My talents do not extend to music – not to playing or to composing, and certainly not to singing.


I’m no artist.  I can follow techniques, combine colors – but create my own style? Convey my own message?  My brain doesn’t work that way.


I always thought I was creative.  But my creativity only plays in the realm of words and ideas.
Writerly creativity comes so easily to me that I thought it could be taught, inspired, cajoled, teased out in others.  I thought perhaps people who claimed not to be creative were simply afraid to try something new. And with a little encouragement, they too could enjoy one of my favorite activities.


I do think that everybody has creativity. But maybe their does not work in the world of language. Perhaps it is in dance, or art, or some field I haven’t even thought of.


There are far more things to be creative about than dreamt of in the mind of a writer.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thirteenth Aniversary of the Tree Octopus



What does it take to get readers to suspect a hoax?


As a computer tech, I get emails from clients all the time, warning me about butt-biting spiders hidden under airport seats, or AIDS infected hypodermic needles in coin return slots on pay phones (as if there are payphones any more).


Most recently I received an email complaining about the Tree Octopus website posted by Lyle Zapato in 1998.  My correspondent was upset that students were being shown this site:
http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/


and being asked “Is the tree octopus real or fake?”


The website that says the Tree Octopus is endangered because Sasquach are major predators, a claim that tree octopi were once popular hat ornaments, and a suggestion that readers can raise awareness of the plight of the tree octopus if they “Participate in tree octopus awareness marches. You can demonstrate their plight during the march by having your friends dress up as tree octopuses while you attack them in a lumber jack costume.” 


What more do they need in the way of a hint?


But students often come to the conclusion that the tree octopus is real and is really endangered.
Like my clients who never ask if butt biting spiders really lurk in airport restrooms, students don’t ask if this website makes a convincing case. Even after they are told that the site is a hoax, some students continue to believe in tree octopi.


This reminds me of all the people who still think Iran was behind the Sept 11, 2001 plane hijackings.


What’s going on here?  Why don’t people question statements made by seeming authorities?


If a Tree Octopus endangered by sasquach and hat-makers won’t do it, what will spark curiosity? Doubt? The spirit of adventure?  Even if students did at first believe that Tree Octopus was real, why didn’t they look for other websites to learn more? 


I’m stumped.

Thirteenth Aniversary of the Tree Octopus

What does it take to get readers to suspect a hoax?


As a computer tech, I get emails from clients all the time, warning me about butt-biting spiders hidden under airport seats, or AIDS infected hypodermic needles in coin return slots on pay phones (as if there are payphones any more).


Most recently I received an email complaining about the Tree Octopus website posted by Lyle Zapato in 1998.  My correspondent was upset that students were being shown this site:
http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/


and being asked “Is the tree octopus real or fake?”


The website that says the Tree Octopus is endangered because Sasquach are major predators, a claim that tree octopi were once popular hat ornaments, and a suggestion that readers can raise awareness of the plight of the tree octopus if they “Participate in tree octopus awareness marches. You can demonstrate their plight during the march by having your friends dress up as tree octopuses while you attack them in a lumber jack costume.” 


What more do they need in the way of a hint?


But students often come to the conclusion that the tree octopus is real and is really endangered.
Like my clients who never ask if butt biting spiders really lurk in airport restrooms, students don’t ask if this website makes a convincing case. Even after they are told that the site is a hoax, some students continue to believe in tree octopi.


This reminds me of all the people who still think Iran was behind the Sept 11, 2001 plane hijackings.


What’s going on here?  Why don’t people question statements made by seeming authorities?


If a Tree Octopus endangered by sasquach and hat-makers won’t do it, what will spark curiosity? Doubt? The spirit of adventure?  Even if students did at first believe that Tree Octopus was real, why didn’t they look for other websites to learn more? 


I’m stumped.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Meditating on Sensation



Usually, at my Feldenkrais lessons, my teacher has me work with body movements and ways to vary them. The goal is to help me figure out more efficient and comfortable ways to move.


At my last session he asked me to sit in a chair and tell him the sensations I was experiencing.
I pay good money for these sessions and I want to be rid of my pain.  But I wasn’t going to sit there and pretend that the only sensation I experience is pain.  I have 5 senses, and the pain doesn’t really fit into any of them.  It’s internal, in my hip joint.


My first thought was that my teacher was off-topic.  Perhaps I’m an off-topic person myself, but I indulged him.  The first thing I said was, “My nose is wet and runny. I just came in from the cold.”


He said, “cold and runny are sensations. ‘I just came in from the cold” is narrative. I only want to know the sensations you are feeling.”  I interrupted him to ask for a tissue. He provided one.


I mentioned the stripes of light coming in from the window blinds. The stripes I felt on my back (which I later discovered were slats comprising the chair back). The furry feel of my sweater on my arms. This went on for about half an hour.  These sessions only last an hour.  I couldn’t see how this was helping me.  Then I decided to check in with the hip pain.  It was duller than it had been when I arrived.


My teacher commented that the inner world of sensation is just as rich and varied as the outer world. It just seems to take longer to contact it.


After a while I commented that I was feeling itching at lots of parts of my body.  “Excellent,” said my teacher.  I laughed. His remark seemed incongrous.  Since when is feeling itching excellent?


He said that when the mind shifts to noticing inner sensations a person often feels itching or starts to yawn.  I mentioned the pulse I felt in my fingers. The feeling of my rib cage expanding and sinking in.


We finally got around to doing some physical work.  I felt like I had wasted half the session.


But then I noticed that the breathing pattern for observing inner sensations is the same as the breathing pattern for meditation.  But in meditation the goal is to let the thoughts go.  In sensation observation, the goal is to explore them.


And exploring them helps dull the pain.  Yay!

Meditating on Sensation

Usually, at my Feldenkrais lessons, my teacher has me work with body movements and ways to vary them. The goal is to help me figure out more efficient and comfortable ways to move.

At my last session he asked me to sit in a chair and tell him the sensations I was experiencing.
I pay good money for these sessions and I want to be rid of my pain.  But I wasn’t going to sit there and pretend that the only sensation I experience is pain.  I have 5 senses, and the pain doesn’t really fit into any of them.  It’s internal, in my hip joint.

My first thought was that my teacher was off-topic.  Perhaps I’m an off-topic person myself, but I indulged him.  The first thing I said was, “My nose is wet and runny. I just came in from the cold.”

He said, “cold and runny are sensations. ‘I just came in from the cold” is narrative. I only want to know the sensations you are feeling.”  I interrupted him to ask for a tissue. He provided one.

I mentioned the stripes of light coming in from the window blinds. The stripes I felt on my back (which I later discovered were slats comprising the chair back). The furry feel of my sweater on my arms. This went on for about half an hour.  These sessions only last an hour.  I couldn’t see how this was helping me.  Then I decided to check in with the hip pain.  It was duller than it had been when I arrived.

My teacher commented that the inner world of sensation is just as rich and varied as the outer world. It just seems to take longer to contact it.

After a while I commented that I was feeling itching at lots of parts of my body.  “Excellent,” said my teacher.  I laughed. His remark seemed incongrous.  Since when is feeling itching excellent?

He said that when the mind shifts to noticing inner sensations a person often feels itching or starts to yawn.  I mentioned the pulse I felt in my fingers. The feeling of my rib cage expanding and sinking in.

We finally got around to doing some physical work.  I felt like I had wasted half the session.

But then I noticed that the breathing pattern for observing inner sensations is the same as the breathing pattern for meditation.  But in meditation the goal is to let the thoughts go.  In sensation observation, the goal is to explore them.

And exploring them helps dull the pain.  Yay!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Teaching My Clients to Save Money

I pick up pennies from the sidewalk. I eat this week’s specials at the grocery store. I stockpile toilet paper when the multi-packs go on sale. And I surf the web for bargains on everything my clients want or need.


I don’t have much trouble convincing them that they can get used books for less than the price of new ones.  I send them to www.fetchbook.info and in moments, they’ve saved half or more on the price of a new book.  If you are a book junky, like me, a computer can pay for itself in the price of used books alone.


But where I meet resistance is on the price of new electronics.  A client needed a new printer. We surfed the review pages and picked out a black and white laser printer that will do what she needs.  The price at a local office supply store is $150.  My client thought that was okay, but she wanted it delivered so she wouldn’t have to carry it over the icy sidewalks.  Not a problem. We found a free delivery coupon she could use.  


Then I showed her how to use pricegrabber.com and google’s shopping menu.  We found the same printer for $97 including shipping.  She was sure there was something wrong with the printer. It couldn’t be the same model. Maybe it was a rehab or a return or a different model entirely.  


She read the web page carefully.  It said nothing about open box, or rehab, or without warranty.  In fact the webpage said the item was new and in a sealed box with a 1 year warranty.  My client agreed to order that one – on the condition that I’ll deal with it if there is anything wrong with it.  I don’t donate my time easily, and I have years of experience with this particular vendor, so I agreed.  She didn’t understand how anybody could undersell the local office supply shop.


She doesn’t have trouble understanding sales in the newspaper ads. Or buying store label instead of brand name. As a teacher, she buys toys from the Dollar Shops that are just as much fun to play with as the ones from toy stores.


But the idea that the same item could cost different prices at different stores floored her.   It reminded me of my trip to Russia about 20 years ago, during which I had to explain over and over that prices vary from store to store.  And I had gifts for Russians that I’d gotten for boxtops.  A Mickey Mouse watch that had cost 6 film box tops.  A wiggle picture that had come inside a box of cereal.

Today it’s hard to find freebies like those. But there are plenty of other methods for saving money. You can put the webstore into a search engine followed by the word coupon and usually get a discount or free shipping.  You can look at consumer reviews of a type of item (printers, CD players, clothing) and find a brand you never heard of but that has good reviews and a lower price.  One client was amazed to find that if you buy a pack of 1000 CD envelopes, that the price is barely more than the price for 100.

There is no need to pay retail.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thank You Notes




Writing thank you notes has always been hard. It started when I first learned to write and I was expected to send thank you notes to relatives who sent me gifts, whether I liked them or not. And since I wrote on full sized pieces of lined paper, I couldn't get away with a one-sentence note, like I can with email today. I had to think of enough words to fill that page.


I received gifts like outgrown swimsuits from my male cousins. Or lacy underpants that needed to be hand-washed from my grandmother. I thought it was bad enough that my mother made me wear the boys' trunks in the wading pool in our yard. It was unfair that I had to write a thank you note for this embarrassing ugly suit that my cousins had probably peed in. And as far as the lacy underwear goes – I don't like lace, especially where it itches. And who likes to hand wash? Especially underwear?


So, I would write very thing-oriented notes. "Thank you for the swim suit. I like to play in the wading pool and run in the sprinklers. I hope we have sunny days soon. I like the color blue."


My mom always censored my letters, so I couldn't write things like – I'm a girl. I want to wear girl swim suits like the other girls. You could send me t-shirts or shorts, but please not things you wear on your naked bottom.


Finally one year I did manage to tell my grandmother that I hate hand washing. And she never sent me anything that needed to be hand-washed again. She did care about what I wanted, but she never asked.


I liked knowing I had relatives who thought about me. But why didn't they have to write a full page letter to me? I'd rather have had that than any of their gifts.




As I got older, I was supposed to write about feelings. Some people got around that problem by buying cards at the store. But cards never say what I feel or think. I think in terms of stories. Only stories bring out emotions for me – not words like "You are so dear to me," or "Hugging you is like a sunshiny day." Besides my relatives lived thousands of miles way. I rarely saw or hugged them. They were photos, and every few years we might visit them or they might visit us. We always got a flat tire if we went to visit them and my father would swear and blame the flat on my mother. One of us always got sick, but that never prevented the road trips.


I was never satisfied with my thank-you notes. I would put them in a drawer. Unless my mother nagged me for them, they didn't get mailed. Somehow I thought that writing them would communicate through the ether and my relatives would get the message. Writing thank you letters was kind of like the mail system in Dr. Doolittle. In that book people wrote letters. They put them in mail boxes, but nobody picked them up. There was a disconnect between wanting to communicate and actually communicating. Even if the letters got mailed, I didn't feel I had communicated.




I've come to the conclusion that the words do not exist that will express my emotions.


A friend wrote today that she's got a rash all over as a side-effect from prescription medicine she took. Now I know that not only is my friend sick, but she's feeling worse than before she went to the doctor. I want to fix her health problems. I want to send energy from my body and thoughts to her so she'll feel better. There is no picture of flowers or rhyming couplet that will adequately tell her my wishes for her health and comfort, plus my selfish thoughts that she can't participate fully in our communication until she feels better. It's like a flat. Except that our bodies aren't mechanical and we can't just change the tire and continue on our journey. So even my analogy doesn't work. As I started to say – the words do not exist.


Thank you is the most ineffable feeling of all. Thank you for thinking of me. Thank you for giving me something you hope will be useful or pleasing. Thank you for being part of my life. Thank you for clicking with me.


That sensation of clicking is what I really value. And frankly – thank you for clicking doesn't say it at all.