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So Maybe There’s Hope?

If you ever meet me in person, you’ll be disappointed.

When first meeting someone, I pretend to be a grown up.

I can even be a fake professional-type person for long periods of time, if I have to.

I’m also painfully shy around people until I get to know them.  (All hell breaks loose once I feel comfortable with you, though.)

Beautiful, little, flower – alone in the crowd.

A lot of people misunderstand shyness for aloofness.

The real me is right here, though.  Some people discover the real me faster than others.

(Like my New PT, for instance.)

It only took him about 60 minutes to encounter the real me.

At that point, he was laughing at/with me.  He seems to think I’m a bit … humorous?  Or odd?  Or both?

And yes, I did just call him “my” New PT.

I’m a possesive bitch, aren’t I?

Saying he is “my” New PT is my way of letting you know, I like the guy.

Heh … who knew?

Of course, he’s on probabtion for the first five years until we see how much pain he REALLY puts me in –

After all, The Torturer crashed and burned somewhere around the four year point.

The first visit with New PT went well though.

I won’t bore you by blogging every day about my pain/disability issues but …

I came away from my initial visit with this:

  • New PT is a nice guy.
  • New PT can probably help me.
  • A.R.T. / Active Release Technique does hurt (in an intense muscle burning type of way) while it’s being done, but it’s NOTHING compared to the pain I live with day to day.
  • I could move a lot better when I left his office than when I arrived.
  • The “stats” for my arm and shoulder (mobility and strength) have regressed significantly since I discontinued P.T. with The Torturer.
  • New PT did feel up my wires.  I think he was amazed by his first bionic woman.  (“Is that another wire?” he asked increduously, as he ran his hand over another of my sexy scars.)
  • New PT has, surprisingly, already read 24 and knows he’s at risk of being called a Fucked Up Nerve Specialist (or something similar) at some point in the future.
  • New PT appears to have a good sense of humor.  (Thank God!)
Other things to note,
New PT asked me what I did for cardio exercise prior to my visit, and was completely awed when I told him I had edited a few photos.
New PT is a big proponent of the “whole body” approach to managing pain.
Editing photos is such … good exercise?
I’m sure, with his help, I’ll be advancing to one-armed push-ups in no time.
My future’s looking brighter by the minute!
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Today’s the Day

My appointment with New Physical Therapist is today.

The first appointment is a consultation, but it will probably involve a mini-treatment also.

Of course, as soon as he touches me, my nerves will freak-the-hell out because that is what they do.

Touch me, and my nerves SCREAM for days on end.

Dr. Painless is the only person I know who has ever understood why my arm does this – and he really does understand what causes it.  (He’s even explained it to me.)  I suppose that’s why he went to 400 years of medical school.  He’s a Fucked-Up Nerve Specialist.  In fact, Dr. Painless rarely touches me – other than frequent (extremely careful) hugs which he doles out a lot.  He only touches my arm/shoulder if it’s absolutely necessary (sometimes it is) because he knows if he does I’ll be over the edge for days.

Thank goodness there’s at least one person who understands the nature of my Fucked-Up Nerves.

(Because, guess what?  No one else does.)

My damaged nerves would look sort of like this, if they were a tree.

I use bad language when I’m in a lot of pain.

Have you noticed?

(Hi Mom – thanks for mailing me home-baked Christmas cookies!  They arrived last night.  They were the nicest thing in my yesterday.  I promise I’ll try to clean up my language and be a lady next week!)

When we talked on the phone, New Physical Therapist was stunned when I answered his inquiry.

“EIGHT?  Did you say you’ve had EIGHT surgeries?”

He doesn’t even know I’m bionic yet.

Wait till I wow him with my several-foot-long wires, big honkin’ battery, metal plates, titanium screws, and electrodes.

He’ll be charmed, I’m sure.

What guy wouldn’t be?

Hey baby, run your hands up my waist and feel those wires under my skin!  

Wink!  Wink!

I’m supposed to wear a tank top to physical therapy.  (All the better to feel me up, right?)

I have to admit though –

I’m really scared to go to this appointment …

I’m afraid of more pain –

Is “more pain” even possible after the last week?

My past experience has taught me, physical therapy = more pain.

I’m also concerned about spending all of my life at physical therapy.

(I’ve already given four of the last five years to the Physical Therapy Gods … does it have to be a life sentence?)

I suppose, perhaps, it does.

Yesterday, I just fell apart for no reason.

(Well, to be honest, I’ve actually got several pretty damn good reasons.)

Those of you who know me, know I rarely cry.

It’s a big deal when I do.

I was just driving along and the pain was so bad –

I just can’t take it anymore flashed through my brain.

And then?

Tears!

The pain has been unrelenting for so many days now.

There’s been no break, no breathing room –

There’s only so much pain a person can take.

I guess I reached my breaking point.

When you feel like you’ll do anything to make pain stop … or even ease up –

Well, you WILL do anything.

And so today –

Today, I’ll go to my appointment even though I’m (really) afraid.

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Hawaii On My Mind

The above photo was taken in Napili, Maui, Hawaii.

I’ve had Hawaii on my mind lately.

Maybe it’s my brain’s way of escaping holiday stress.  (Or this horrible pain flare-up?)

When I was visiting Maui last summer, I made a decision to return to Hawaii within a year to photograph the island of Kauai.

Maui, Hawaii

For those of you who haven’t had an opportunity to visit Hawaii, Kauai is (to me) the most picturesque of the islands.  It also gets the most rain … so there’s a drawback.

One family I know saved vacation money for years to visit Kauai, only to have it pour all day, every day, during their visit.  (They visited during the month of December, but even for December that much rain is unusual.)

I’ve been visiting Kauai-related websites recently.

I’m making mental lists of what areas I want to photograph, what costs I’d incur, and whether or not I could hire a hawt local to haul my photography gear around for me.

Exploring Kauai involves a lot of hiking.  Hiking, with heavy photography gear and a useless arm, would cause problems for me.

(Of course, traveling around Kauai with a hawt photo assistant might cause problems for me too.)

I’ve been to Kauai before, but it’s been quite awhile.

I should be making lists of all the holiday related tasks I’m hopelessly behind on.

Instead, I’m sitting on my couch, in a pain med induced mental fog,

Dreaming of photographing another Hawaii sunset like this one:

Maui sunset.

 Have you ever visited Kauai?

If so, I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions!

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Active Release Technique(s)?

 

I’ve been staring at my laptop screen for thirty minutes, trying to come up with something happy (possibly humorous) to write.

I can’t even begin to fake it.

I’m lost in the worst pain flare-up I’ve had in … forever.

And I mean LOST.

Nothing I do is making a dent in the pain.

There are no words to describe anguish like this.

Breathtaking.

Excruciating.

Teeth clenching.

Awe inspiring.

Words can’t do this justice.

Everything I do, including breathing, is escalating the pain.

Everything I do is aggravating my already aggravated, damaged, body.

(Aggravating = take a knife and stab it into yourself repeatedly, then twist it, and then throw some lemon juice on the wounds for good measure.)

My nerves are firing pain signals as fast as they possibly can … as if someone gave the nerves themselves a shot of speed.

Each day I think the pain has to get better tomorrow –

Only to discover, the next day, the screaming of my nerves is somehow unfathomably worse.

I have an appointment to see a physical therapist (not The Torturer) on Thursday.

In addition to being a physical therapist, New Man In My Life (I don’t have a blog name for him yet) is also certified in A.R.T.

A.R.T. stands for Active Release Technique.

Two visits ago, Dr. Painless told me he thinks A.R.T. might help with some of the problems I have in the muscles/nerves surrounding my disabled arm.

It won’t fix my arm, but it could (possibly) help with some of the muscles and nerves nearby.

I thought I’d look into it after the first of the year, because omigod I’m so friggin’ busy right now.

Pain doesn’t care what else is going on in your life.

Pain can make you stop everything and listen.

And if you don’t?

Pain will get louder, and louder, and louder until you’re forced to listen.

So, how bad did the pain have to get before I called for an appointment?

Extremely bad.

I’m days, upon days, into this intense (getting more intense by the minute) flare-up …

Yesterday, I called to make an appointment with New Man In My Life.

After four years of physical therapy, I’ve been in no hurry to go back to it.

Just thinking about PT brings back bad memories – memories of unparalleled physical suffering, not to mention unexpected emotional pain.

If you’ve been reading along with my car accident journey, you know I can’t move my arm much.  (I only have about 20% use of my arm – possibly less.)

Not moving my arm, causes a lot of problems with all the surrounding muscles in my neck, back, and chest.  I need someone to move my arm for me.  My arm/shoulder/upper body hasn’t been cared for properly since The Torturer Debacle.

I do a handful of independent physical therapy exercises at home.  Clearly, it hasn’t been enough.  The neglect has now caught up with me in an evil, horrible, way.

(And with the worst possible timing – hello holidays!)

So forgive me if this post is written poorly –

I’m being tortured by damaged nerves.

I’m on drugs which fog up my brain, but can’t seem to dent the cruelty of severe pain.

And yet, I thought some of you might know …

Does Active Release Technique work?

Do you have any A.R.T. stories (good or bad) to share?

If you do …

I really hope you’ll share.

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Holiday Tips

Life gets hectic this time of year, doesn’t it?

There’s so much to do, and it all needs to be done on top of everything we normally do anyway.

Photo of our Christmas tree, still undecorated.

Every holiday season that goes by, I learn a few new things.

I thought I’d share a few of my Holiday Tips with you.

Maybe your life will run smoother as a result?

  • A major blog re-design and the launching of your new photography website should never be attempted within two months of the holidays.
  • Let me repeat:  Don’t screw with your blog (or your business) around the holidays.
  • Warm, melted, brie topped with a pecan/brown sugar/butter glaze and served with sliced fresh fruit makes an easy treat for guests.
  • After your dog acts ape-shit for a couple hours (causing you to lose your patience and tell him to SHUT UP), you’ll discover a mountain lion has come to visit your neighborhood for the holidays.
  • Apologizing to your dog proves you’re willing to acknowledge your mistakes.  (P.S.  He’ll still think you’re a good person.)
  • Apologizing to the mountain lion is not necessary.  He’s an uninvited guest.
  • The two lights on the hood of your stove will both burn out at the same time.  Replacing them will require the complete disassembly of the f*cking stove hood.
  • It takes several people to change a light bulb, in some situations.
  • Very ignorant people design stove hoods.
  • Those minor home electrical problems you’ve been ignoring?  They’ll explode (literally) when you plug in your outdoor Christmas lights.
  • A black-out due to said electrical problems might be “just one more thing” in a day filled with holiday mishaps.
  • Every gift you put off buying, will be out of stock by the time you try to find it.
  • Being handy with a computer is a good thing when it comes to making pretty “I.O.U.’s” to put in people’s stockings.
  • Getting your mail each day will create incredible guilt if you’ve decided not to send out holiday cards for the first time ever.
  • If you wait long enough to do your holiday decorating, you’ll do a lot less – because, why bother for just two weeks?
  • Your husband will be a grouch as a result of holiday related Honey-Dos.
  • Turning up the volume of Christmas carols on your stereo will drown out the sound of your husband’s complaints.
  • All those pain meds you hate to take – will be a very welcome thing when the pain you live with reaches staggering levels.
  • Staggering by definition means un-f*cking believable.
  • Never buy a REAL tall Christmas tree if you’re afraid of heights and/or ladders.
The ladder and the twelve foot tall, very fat, Christmas tree.
I hope the above tips help you to have a less stressful holiday season!
Lastly, I want to thank all of you for your patience as I continue to work out the kinks of my blog re-design.
I’m so grateful – I have the best readers in the universe!
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Ambien is Haunting Me?

If you’ve been reading Twenty Four At Heart for any length of time, you know I’ve tried to deal with the aftermath of my car accident with as few drugs as possible.

I’m now five and a half years, and eight surgeries, post car accident.

Probably the best thing my pain management specialist has ever done for me, is prescribe Ambien.  (For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Ambien is a sleep “aid,” or what many of you would refer to as a sleeping pill.)

Yes, I’m saying I actually LIKE taking a drug.  (And no, Ambien is not sponsoring this post.)

I realize it’s healthier to not take medications than to take them.  I realize there are potential side effects with all drugs.  I also realize there are people who will be very happy to share with me their Ambien horror stories.  I’ve heard tales of people doing all sorts of odd Tiger Woods type of things while on Ambien.  I’m not endorsing Ambien for anyone, but myself.

When I had my first appointment with Dr. Painless (my pain specialist), I had not slept more than two hours at a time for four years.

I was living with unfathomable pain.

I now take Ambien.

I still wake up a few times each night due to pain but unlike before, I promptly fall back to sleep.

I get sleep.  (I can’t emphasize enough what a miracle this has been for me.)

When I’m awake, I’m rested and find it much easier to deal with the pain I live with every day.  I can function so much better having had sleep.

Luckily, I haven’t experienced any negative side effects from Ambien.  I take a pill, brush my teeth, go to bed – and fall right to sleep.

Except ….

In October I went to Boston to visit my daughter.  She lives in a studio apartment.  I opted to stay with her, on a fold-out couch, rather than at a hotel.  It was a flashback to slumber party days.  She’d climb into her bed, I’d snuggle about three feet away on her fold-out couch.  We’d chat in the dark and then both fall asleep.

One night, as we were getting ready for bed, her boyfriend called.  I wanted to give her some privacy to talk to him, but there’s really no place to go in a studio apartment.  I had already taken an Ambien.  I was ready for bed.

I decided to go in the bathroom and re-brush my teeth to give my daughter a few minutes alone.  I remember thinking I would not only re-brush my teeth, but I’d also try to take a long time doing it.

I don’t remember what happened next, but I’ve been told a short while later I burst out of the bathroom, stumbling a bit, and giggling.

“Did you know your bathroom is HAUNTED?” I asked my daughter, my eyes wide with wonder.

She was still talking on the phone to her boyfriend.  She told me she was initially alarmed by her stumbling, giggling, mother and my earnest talk of haunted bathrooms.  Her concern quickly turned to hilarity when I went on and on about the ghost by the towel rack.

I’m not a psychologist but if I had to speculate, I’d guess our day trip to Salem (the land of witches) was probably the cause of my drug-induced ghost hallucinations.

 Photo from the Salem, MA graveyard.

By the way,

I wasn’t frightened, I seemed to think it was very funny a ghost lived in her bathroom.

Still chatting about the haunted bathroom, I lay down on the couch, shut my eyes, and fell asleep in seconds.

I had no memory of the incident, whatsoever, the next morning.

About eight weeks have since gone by.

Last weekend, here at my own house in Orange County, I took an Ambien before bedtime.

I went upstairs, brushed my teeth, and then climbed into bed.

Briefcase started talking about something – I don’t remember what.

He tells me I was “talking normally,” and carrying on a conversation with him.

At some point, he decided I was so happy, he had a good chance of getting lucky.

We might have been mid-make-out when I suddenly stopped everything.

“Did I tell you about the ghost?” I asked, in astonished wonder.

“A ghost?” he asked, baffled (once again) by the woman he chose to marry.

“There’s a GHOST living in daughter’s bathroom,” I informed him with unadulterated joy.

“I think I would have remembered if anyone had told me,” he responded.

“It’s very exciting!!” I confided.

“Well, it was,” he answered, disappointment in his voice.

I smiled, closed my eyes, and promptly fell asleep.

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Holiday Stress?

Do you feel stressed this time of year?

And if so, what contributes the most to your stress?

Bokeh photo of holiday lights.

I  admit, I get stressed out every year around the holidays.

Yesterday, a friend mentioned Christmas is in “two weeks” and I gasped out loud.  I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed this year. I’m looking at my life, and my to-do list, and realizing things need to change.

I’m doing a lot … but I feel like I’m doing everything half-assed.  I’m stretching myself way too thin (and yet, I’m fat!).

For several years, post car accident, I tried to prove to myself “nothing is going to change.”  My goal was to still make perfect, Norman Rockwell, holidays for my family in spite of my suffering, and with one working arm.

Guess what?

I can’t do it anymore.

I’m in a lot of pain, and I have been since Thanksgiving.  I’m “behind” on everything holiday related and every day my stress level, and pain level, increases.

I’ve finally accepted I can’t do it all.  Not only that, I no longer WANT to do it all.  I find myself dreading everything holiday-related because dammit, it hurts!

I’ve been talking to a lot of friends and I’ve realized not everyone has huge major-production holidays the way we do.  I grew up with Martha Stewart as my mom, and I think I’ve always felt like I have to do it all, and do it perfectly.  (Homemade greeting cards, baking for days, gourmet meals, etc., etc.)

Recently, I commented to Nike how CALM she is this time of year.  The way Nike’s family celebrates the holidays is so different than how I grew up – but just as special.

Our Christmas tree was delivered a week ago – all twelve feet of it.

It’s standing in our living room, undecorated.  I know tree decorating will send me into a terrible downward spiral of pain.

And so it sits.

My older kids won’t arrive home until a couple days before Christmas.  Maybe they can decorate the tree when they get home?

I bought a few gifts Thanksgiving weekend, and I’ve done nothing since.  I have out-of-state relatives I need to purchase gifts for and mail.  I’m trying to come up with ideas I can order and ship online.  What should I send to people who are impossible to buy for?

I’ve decided not to (painstakingly) make or send out 200 photo greeting cards this year.  (Why does that make me feel so guilty?)

I’ve been looking online for recipes which don’t involve much chopping or lifting.

Do I worry about disappointing my family, particularly my kids?

Yes, I do.

I feel very guilty, as a matter of fact.

But then I flash back to my appointment with the pain specialist this week who told me, out-right, I need to STOP.

I think about the stress I feel, the pain I’m in …

The holidays are supposed to be fun – not something I dread.

I think it’s taken me five years post-accident to realize things aren’t the same and never will be.  I’ve been trying so hard, fighting so hard, to maintain what used to be.

I’ve been trying to prove to everyone (especially myself) I can do everything I used to.

I can’t.

I think it’s time to make new traditions.

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Testing Blog Re-Design … 1, 2, 3?

Well, if all goes as planned, this will be my first post on my redesigned blog.

If you’re a Twenty Four At Heart subscriber, I hope you’ll click through your reader to see what’s new!

I also hope you’ll be patient with me as I learn how things work in my new digs.  (It turns out, there are a lot of new things for me to learn!)

So, what’s new?

 Photo of Laguna Beach, taken this week.

Well, my new blog banner will be rotating various photos I’ve taken.

Hopefully this exciting new change will keep us all from being bored.  (I’ve been very, very, bored with my blog header.  I also don’t have the patience to make new ones, so this solves that problem!)

I still have some work to do on my sidebar, but you don’t mind if those changes happen gradually – do you?

It’s now easier to peruse photos by clicking on the “Photography” tab in the navigation bar.  By clicking on the Photography tab, you get to see a page of photo thumbnails.  If a photo piques your curiousity, you can click on it and it will take you right back to the post it was originally in.  It makes for a fun and convenient way to get caught up if you’ve missed a post.

For those of you who like to purchase photos (or just like to view them in a cool gallery), you can now click Purchase Photos (the curled page corner).  It’s located on the top right hand corner of the blog.  Clicking on Purchase Photos will take you right into my new photo site.  And no, clicking that tab does not obligate you to buy anything.  You can just look.  (Sort of like window shopping?)  The galleries allow you to view my more popular photos in a larger format.

Pretty convenient, easy, and much nicer for image viewing too!

As I learn what I’m doing, I’m sure there will be other minor changes too.

I feel like a baby learning to walk . . .

One step at a time, right?

Thank you for your patience –

I really hope you like my new “home.”