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The Year is Winding Down

My house is now FULL.

I can’t believe the year is winding down; the holidays are here already.

 The sun shining through the palms near my home.

It’s beautiful here now – clear and warm, pretty and bright.

For some of you that type of weather would not seem Christmas-y, but it’s what I grew up with – so for me, it is.

Usually, I post daily, but between now and New Years …

I’m just going to post as time allows.

Maybe that will be every day, and maybe it won’t.

I want to concentrate on my family.  I want to enjoy them without worrying about whether or not I’ve had time to publish something.

I know I’ll definitely be here many days, but most likely not every day.

My shopping is done.

I still have gifts to wrap and meals to prepare.

This is the fun part –

The relaxing part.

The time when memories are made.

I hope all of you,

Regardless of what holiday you celebrate,

Or who you’re with … (or not with) –

Find a way to make a memory this holiday season!

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A Very Different Physical Therapy Experience

I wasn’t going to write about my new physical therapy experience and/or therapist this soon, but I can’t help myself.

The whole experience, so far, is so completely different than what my concept of physical therapy has been since the accident.

And yet?

It already seems to be helping.

I’m not saying it’s a miracle-maker.

I’m just trying to take it one treatment at a time.

Will it improve my particular situation?  If so, how much?

In some ways, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the experience.

A rare, daytime, long exposure, of the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

First of all, the actual place of business for my new physical therapist could not be more different from where I’ve gone in the past.

My New PT (whom I’ve now named Mr. Confident) is in a non-fancy, very small, facility.  In fact, I would never have known it existed if I hadn’t been looking specifically for it.

Mr. Confident himself is very quiet, and therefore a bit difficult to read.

I know he’s married, has a baby, and is into nutrition and exercise.

I also know he’s one of only three A.R.T. certified physical therapists in Orange County.

(For those of you who are unfamiliar with this area, Orange County is home to over three million people and zillions of physical therapists.)

Mr. Confident considers himself a “scientist of motion.”

Mr. Confident doesn’t seem judgmental.

I was expecting him to say, “Your arm should have been chopped off for all the good it’s doing you.  Have you always been out of shape?  Blah, blah, blah.”

But?

He seems to get it, in a way some of my medical providers haven’t.

(Possibly because I was in so much pain on my first visit, I practically crawled in to his office?)

If you’re in horrible pain, you aren’t signing up for marathons.

If you’re living with severe pain, you’re just trying to hold on

And you’re grateful when you can – because holding on can be damned hard, day, after day, after day.

Mr. Confident doesn’t talk a whole lot.

(Except for the part where he told me, “I’m good and I know I’m good.”  Hence, Mr. Confident.)

He hurts me.

I say Holy Fuck! multiple times (which is what I almost nicknamed New PT, by the way.  Holy Fuck.)

Then, after awhile, he announces we’ve done enough because he doesn’t want my body to go into a more severe pain flare-up.

He asks me to show him how much movement I have,

And then he grins, in a rare show of emotion –

Because he can clearly see I’m better than when I walked in the door.

That’s it – we’re done for the day.

Very efficient.

No ice.

No heat.

No massages ….

Unless ripping the scar tissue out of my body with his bare hands is considered massage?

[Because that is what Active Release Technique (A.R.T.) does – rip out scar tissue.  And that is exactly what it feels like when it’s being done.]

The thing is ….?

I’m already in a lot less pain than when I walked into his facility a week ago.

When I showed up for my first appointment, I could barely move my neck because all the muscles in the upper right quadrant of my body were so spasmed.

My body is very efficient at making itself into a vice to protect my bum shoulder/arm.

The problem is –

A vice is a very bad thing – movement is good for me, and my arm.

My body tries to protect/guard my arm anyway.  My body is consistently very confused about this.

My Masochistic Self-Imposed Muscle Vice gets tighter and tighter until I’m in horrible pain and can’t move.

I’ve tried talking to my body about this, but it refuses to listen to me.  It thinks protecting my arm by building a vice with all my surrounding muscles is a good thing.

My neck is now moving again, and my pain – although not gone – has decreased more with each A.R.T. treatment.

Mr. Confident isn’t concerned with the broken mechanics of my arm or shoulder right now.

He’s de-vicing me instead.

(Sort of like de-icing a plane, but different.)

Sometimes he’ll make a comment about one of my hard-as-a-rock spasmed muscles, or a giant knot that he’ll initially think is a titanium electrode …

Only to find -no, it’s just a wad of sexy scar tissue.

“What is THIS?” he’ll ask, with a glint in his eye, as he presses on yet another hard lump under my skin.

And then he rips that shit right out of my body while I chant holy fuck, holy fuck, and try to remind myself to breathe.

The weirdest thing?

I feel so much better when he’s done.

Obviously,

Because I’m not totally bat shit crazy –

Why would I keep returning if it wasn’t helping?

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Smart Car Meets Non-Smart Owner

I’m embarrassed to admit, my new car is smarter than I am.

I know I’ll figure out how it works (I hope) given a little time …

But, seriously?

Do I need a car to tell me I’m doing things wrong?

(As if a teenage son, two sort-of adult kids, and a husband aren’t bad enough?)

“You’re not making sense,” it informed me yesterday.

Excuse me??

“I’m not making sense?” I asked my car, hurt.

“Let me be more clear about your choices,” it explained.

Oh ….

I see.

I’m very happy to see some of its features though.

For instance, I was born with no sense of direction, whatsoever.

I know the beach is west, but if I can’t see the ocean …

Well, it’s not a pretty sight.

The beach is usually west here, but the California coast is crooked so NOT ALWAYS.

My new car is helpful for someone like me.

If I say “Home” it takes me home.

Apparently it was programmed to do amazing things like that (and given personal information about me – like where my home is) before I ever got it.

It’s like … magic?

I knew there was a lot of new technology put in cars lately, but (even so!) it keeps surprising me.

“Alternative Rock,” I told it yesterday.

That made it think for a minute.

“What is it you really want?” my car asked me.

“Alternative Rock,” I said again – trying to test out the “free” satellite radio that came with it for the first six months.

“Rock?” my car asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

Led Zeppelin blared out from the speakers a moment later.

I sighed.

Clearly, I’m not communicating as well as I should be.

(I’m sure it’s MY fault and not the car’s – because, naturally!)

It also yells at me when I park in our garage because (apparently) I park too close to an old filing cabinet we have stored nearby.

“STOP YOU’RE GOING TO HIT THE FILING CABINET!” it yells.

“I’VE PARKED HERE FOR MANY YEARS AND HAVE NOT HIT IT YET,” I yell back.

In time, a certain trust will develop.

At least, I hope it will.

We’re still in the getting to know each other phase.

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I Hear It’s The Holiday Season?

My extended family is a mix of everything (we’re all mutts!) so I’ve come to love all winter holidays.

We celebrate Christmas at my house, but if someone doesn’t stop by with latkes, tamales …

And/or wish me a happy Kwanzaa this time of year -

Well, it just doesn’t feel right.

Winter in Laguna Beach.

A lot has been, and will be, going on at the Twenty Four At Heart household this holiday season.

Yesterday, after PT, my brain began to emerge from the fog of the past few pain-filled weeks.

This is a look at some of the chaos going on in my personal life right now:

My youngest son, PR, is on winter break from high school for the next two weeks.  He likes to “make music.”

A lot.

And loudly.

He’s pretty good too, but did I mention LOUDLY?

My oldest son, RC,  is currently spending a week with Pretty’s family.

Remember Pretty?

She’s still (very) pretty.  Life is funny sometimes – the way it draws people together.

RC flies home tomorrow and he’ll be here for three weeks.  The minute he arrives our house will be flooded with all his friends.  They all “lived” at out our house while growing up too.  It’s like I gave birth to one kid, but got ten.  They’re a package deal.  (And they’re packaged at my house!)  Most of them are now over six feet tall.  They squish me with monster bear hugs, then hunt around in my pantry to see what I’ve bought to feed them.

TR also arrives home mid-week.  She’s moving back to California and will be living with us until she rents her own apartment.  She already has a job secured in Los Angeles.  And yes, it IS entertainment-industry related.  (Isn’t every job in Los Angeles?)  Orange County to L.A. is a nasty commute.  I’m sure she’ll get an apartment in record time to avoid hours upon hours of commuting.  (It will be SO nice to have her back in California.)

Briefcase has always traveled a lot, but I’ve barely seen him the last four months.  There have been Big.Business.Things going on with his company.  He’s taking a few days off around Christmas.  I might die from the shock of having everyone in my immediate family home at the same time.

I’ve been forced to take a lot of shortcuts with holiday-related things this year due to my Trip To Hell in recent weeks.

I’m not sending out a single greeting card this year.

I have way fewer outdoor and indoor holiday decorations up.  Briefcase even hung the stockings this year.  (He hung them backwards, but it’s the first time he’s hung them ever.)

I’m not doing any baking.  (I imagine my kids will, because they like to.)

Each of my three kids is being (or already has been) given a small “clothes budget.”  It’s a Christmas gift, but to be spent only on clothes (which they’re old enough to pick out for themselves).  This is an attempt to save my arm from hours of additional shopping.  It also provides guaranteed benefits – what they pick out they’ll like, will fit, and won’t need to be exchanged.  It might not be as “fun” as waking up Christmas morning to discover I bought them a purple polka dot sweater – but this year, it will have to do.  (They’ll get some non-clothes gifts too.  I’m not making them buy themselves every gift.)

I’ve cut way back on WHO is getting gifts this year, and also the number of gifts people will be getting.  (Sorry if you got dropped off the list – I’ve been busy with my Trip to Hell.)

I’ve ordered a prime rib to cook for Christmas dinner – but I’ve not yet given the side dishes a thought.

I’ll cook a turkey too, sometime in the days following Christmas.  (They’re great to fix when there are a lot of people in the house … leftovers!)

Oh, at some point in the next ten days I also have to get a car since the lease is up on my current one.

Just for fun,

I’m squeezing in several PT appointments as fast as New PT can book them.

They really aren’t optional in my current state.

Besides,

I don’t have enough going on ….

P.S.  Scratch my comment about the car.  Briefcase just came home with a car he bought me for Christmas.  I’m pretty sure it’s smarter than I am.  Wow!!

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What’s New Around Here?

I wanted to bring you up to date on a few things.

First of all, I’ve been working out the kinks on my (pretty!) redesigned website.

(Except for my footer which seems to have a mind of its own.  Maybe it’s been possessed by The Ghost?)

This place is feeling more and more like home every day.  I sure hope you like my new digs as much as I do.

If you’ve had any trouble finding Twenty Four At Heart since I migrated, and/or gotten error messages when visiting, or anything weird –

Try re-entering/saving/bookmarking/subscribing at TwentyFourAtHeart.com.  I know there have been a few glitches – I’ve seen a lot of error reports show up.  I think it’s impossible to migrate so much data, redesign it, move it to a new hosting platform, etc., etc. without a few kinks.   I’m hoping those error messages are winding down … but please let me know if you’re having any problems.

Second, I’m horrible about answering comments even though I always have the VERY BEST of intentions to do so.  (I do read every single comment and they mean the world to me.)

I can’t promise miracles, but I’m now making a very concentrated effort to answer your comments right in my comment section.

If you stop by and ask a question, or leave a comment –

You will (hopefully) find I’ve answered/responded if you check back in that same post’s comment section the next day.

In fact, if you’ve commented on my last few posts you’ll see I’ve responded right under the comment you left.

Let’s be realistic – if I’m in a bad pain flare-up, I have house guests, I’m traveling, or other such things –

I might not get a chance to respond to every comment.

I’m going to really try though – I promise.

My new blog design makes it MUCH easier.

You can also now subscribe to comments so you can keep up to date with the conversation.  (You’ll see the option to subscribe to comments when you leave a comment.)

Third, if you like to stalk me on Twitter, and I know some of you do, you can now see a running scroll of my recent tweets right in my sidebar.  As long as this smart little scrolling box doesn’t screw up my blog, I intend to keep it.  I know some of you don’t have a Twitter account.  The new Twitter box should make it easier to keep up with my smart ass remarks.  (It’s a special treat just for stalkers!)

Fourth, at the bottom of each posts you’ll find some “buttons.”  The buttons make it easy to share Twenty Four At Heart posts/info with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, email, and other social sites.  There’s even a button to help you print out a post since I often blog about information you want to hold onto for life.  (What?  Why are you laughing?)

I do love to see people share.  If a particular post is funny or interesting to you, I hope you’ll use the (very conveniently located!) buttons to forward it to your friends.  You can even share pretty photos with them!

Fifth, the Photography tab in my top navigation bar now links you directly to my photography website.  There seemed to be some confusion the way it was set up before.  If you’re looking to purchase a photo you can now click on the Photography tab in the navigation bar, OR click on the haunted footer at the bottom of the page, OR click on the page curl in the top right hand corner of the blog where it says (surprise!) Purchase Prints.  I hope these recent changes clear-up any confusion.  Based on the feedback I received, I think it will.

OK, I think that’s it for blog-related updates.

I know it isn’t exciting to talk about all the bloggy-type stuff, but I wanted to let you know the latest and greatest.

P.S.  Thank you so much to everyone who’s been concerned about my physical well being.  The past few weeks have been some of the toughest I’ve had pain-wise in a long, long, time.  I’m certainly not “over” this flare-up, but I’ve been improving a little each day since New PT entered my life.

P.P.S.  (I have got to come up with a blog name for him!)

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Kayakers at Sunset

I get spoiled, year-round, with beautiful sunsets.

Still, there are a few that will stay in my memory forever.

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Berries

Look what’s growing in my backyard:

Some type of berry-ish looking plant!

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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!