Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night

It has been a very good Thanksgiving and Christmas for us this year.  We have been able to spend time with family and those we love.  My back is so much better, and my return to work is imminent. 

We feel very blessed and fortunate.  Here are a few photos from our holidays.

 This was our tree this year.  I think it turned out especially well.  And, since Hobbes didn't try to climb it even one time, it stayed pretty throughout the whole Christmas season, which was a true gift.

Here's my favorite scene, a cozy fire in the fireplace and the lights on the tree offering the only other light in the room.  Ahh, peaceful! 

 I had to snap a pic of the reindeer resting on the bench outside a Barnes & Noble bookstore I went to a couple weeks before Christmas.

 This is my dearest and me, taken on the weekend before Christmas.
 Hobbes wishes everyone a Meowy Christmas!

Chance definitely believes in Santa Paws!

More later --

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's up, doc?

I saw my spine surgeon this morning.  Well, actually, I saw his nurse practitioner, Amy, who is wonderful.  This visit was mainly to get the doctor's signature on the paperwork proposing new seating equipment for me at work and also a proposed return to work schedule.  He signed off on everything, and now the Long Term Disability Insurance Carrier will order the new equipment I need.  Once it arrives and is installed I should be good to go.  So the clock is definitely ticking, and I should be back to work very soon.  I am happy and excited and nervous all at once.  I never could have guessed that I would have been off work for over seven months with my back fusion surgery.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and it will be a low-key celebration at our house.  I did go out and buy my own cake, because I wanted a good birthday cake this year and did not want to make my own.  So I got a carrot cake (yummy!) and can't wait to cut it tomorrow evening after dinner.  Speaking of dinner, Steve is going to pick up burgers on his way home from work.  I know....but what can I say...I love a good burger every once in a while, and it has been awhile.  It just sounded good.  Tomorrow is going to be a rainy, messy day and we're just going to stay in.   He was busy in the bedroom, door closed, with the gift wrapping supplies earlier this evening, so I will have some happy surprises I'm sure.  Then, Saturday, we're going out to a birthday lunch and a little shopping with our wonderful next-door neighbor, Pam.  I am very blessed.

For the first year in I can't remember how long, we will not be traveling at Thanksgiving.  Instead, we are hosting my family members here.  I'll be cooking, and we'll have a full house, and I'm really happy about that.  I've been planning meals and looking at recipes and making shopping lists and fluffing up the guest room and doing all the things you do when you're expecting company.  I've been trying not to overdo things with my back, and mostly succeeding, but not completely.  It's hard to know where the line is of what's okay and what is not so much...  Anyway, I'm learning as I go. 

I will leave you tonight with a picture of my baby in his "punkin" kerchief. 

More later --

Monday, November 11, 2013

It's the (truly) most wonderful time of the year

My favorite season is upon us.  Autumn is the most beautiful time of the year, to me.  And Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all.  It's a time for family and friends, for good food,  a time to stop and recognize all the good things we have, to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy.  In my immediate family, even after we were grown and had lives of our own, Thanksgiving was the one time of year when we all tried to get together, and, most years we were able to.  It will always hold special memories for me. 

Nowadays, all that are left in my immediate family are one sister, one brother (and his wife), and me.  But the exciting news is that we are all gathering at my house for Thanksgiving this year.  I am busy planning menus and want to make this a good time filled with some new (albeit different) fun memories we'll have for years to come.   

And now, at the risk of being too catty (me-ow) I have to share a big pet peeve.  Huge.  GI-NORMOUS.  I hate that people are already decorating for Christmas, putting up Christmas trees, wanting to play Christmas music.  I feel like Thanksgiving is not given its just due as the important and meaningful holiday it is.  Good grief, Halloween gets more attention than Thanksgiving.  It's just wrong.

There, I said it.  And yes, I feel better. 

So, back to all things Fall, with the cool weather comes fires in the fireplace and snuggling under blankets.  We've been doing our fair share of both around here.  Here are some pictures for show and tell. 

Hobbes and I share a mutual love for this one specific blanket.  It's pretty much a given that if I put it over me, he is soon to follow.  This is him on top of the blanket, on top of me. 

One last thing.  I know I'm prejudiced, but how many cats do you know who will let you flash a camera multiple times in their face and stay that sweet? 

More later --

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A big step

So, I met with some terrific people yesterday at my office.  We are all working hard on getting me back to work.  My part at this point still consists of doing what I know to do to help the nerves continue to heal as they should, so I'm doing my therapy exercises, walking, going to physical therapy, etc.  I've come a long way, but there is still a lot of healing that needs to take place.  The research that I've read indicates that nerve healing can continue for as long as two years.  At six months out, I know I'm still progressing, so I am encouraged that it's not finished yet.

But back to yesterday's meeting.  My employer's long-term disability carrier arranged for a local representative to meet with me and my supervisor, along with an occupational therapist/worksite consultant.  The purpose was to see how we could rework my existing workspace to make it more comfortable and not painful for me, so that my return to work will have every chance of success.  I have to say, after being off work for so long, my biggest fear is going back and having that horrible pain return, and then the nightmare of possible consequences.  But, I wonder if this is just a really unreasonable fear at this point which has almost become like a phobia...  And if so, I know I have come too far to give it this much power over me!

Anyway, the upshot is that we have a plan in place and hopefully I will be back at work soon on a gradually increasing schedule. 

In other news, we have some pretty fall colors around these days.  Here are a few shots I took the other day during my walk.

More later --

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Laundry day

I guess I just thought I was done with the laundry.  Looks like there's one more load. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday morning gift

This has been a very long, very hot (to this 53 year old female) summer, and I am OH, SO ready for fall.  Can I get an amen?  Can I get a witness??

At any rate, we were given a lovely gift this morning.  A beautiful, glorious morning with very low humidity, and temps in the 60s.  I got a little tingly just typing those words!  This truly is a noteworthy day, after so many sticky, oppressive, un-noteworthy days have come and gone.

So I got myself together this morning and headed out for a walk.  I love to walk when the weather is cool.  Heck, I love to walk when the weather is downright cold.  I just can't abide it when the humidity hits 70% or more and sweat is dripping off my appendages.  Again, just why is it that we live in Memphis, Tennessee?  Oh yeah, my husband reminds me...the barbecue.

I headed out on one of my favorite routes.  With my back and leg issues, I am so much slower than I used to be, even though I never was what you would call a Speed Walker.  But hey...even a turtle eventually crosses the road.  If he doesn't get run over in the process. 

If I am very fortunate, I can time my walk when all the neighborhood dogs are outside in their yards.  And wouldn't your know it, such was my fortune today.  I got serenaded all along my route.  There is one particular area that cracks me up because it's a concentration of different breeds and sizes of pooches.  First I come upon a medium sized dog who sets off the alarm that someone is encroaching upon their territory.  Then, there are a couple of little yappers in the next yard who pick up the battle cry.  Finally, this BIG dog with a deep booming voice will bark once or twice.  He's not really into it that much, but will play along just because he knows they all expect him to.  Doggie peer pressure is alive and well, folks.  Reminds me of the song "Daddy sang bass, mama sang tenor, me and little brother would join right in there........" and never fails to put a smile on my face.  Even when the day isn't as picture perfect as today. 

But today?  Today the smile was there already. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

Time for an update

I know, I know, it's actually way past time.  I've been putting it off, hoping for some better news to emerge on the back/leg situation, but unfortunately, I seem to be continuing with the "three steps forward/two steps back" form of recovery.  And the steps are not very big.  It is quite discouraging, and I have to admit, I sort of swing between a determined grit-my-teeth hopefulness that, "by-God, I'm going to get through this and to the other side if it kills me", and a "woe is me; I wish I'd never had the surgery; this is as good as it's ever going to get; I'm going to spend the rest of my life like this" and on and on ad nauseum.  And all shades of emotion in between.  Poor Steve.

To recap, I had two-level spinal fusion on 4/15/13.  Had complications during surgery in that the dura was nicked, and spinal fluid leaked out during surgery.  Ended up staying an extra 4 days in the hospital flat on my back due to headaches from the spinal fluid leak.  Also, and most importantly, I woke up from surgery with pain radiating down my right leg.  This is significant.  I did not have the pain before surgery.  I remember lying in the hospital bed with no pain from the 5-inch incision in my back, but burning pain going down the back of my right leg.  This pain has not ceased since that time.  It has gotten worse, gotten better, but it has never gone away.

I attempted to return to work part-time the week of 6/20/13 but could not, due to the pain in my right leg.  Sitting makes it much, much worse.  I've had physical therapy.  I'm now on my second round of therapy and am trying a different approach -- myofascial release therapy.  It seems to be helping, but the leg pain is stubborn and seems to be stronger than even the myofascial therapy at this point.

My latest victory is that finally, after months of me begging him, my surgeon has agreed to order an MRI for me.  I haven't had one since before the surgery, and it is a logical next step diagnostic tool to figure out what is going on with me.  I am anxious to see what it will show.  The surgeon warns me that now that I have hardware, it probably will cast shadows and make it difficult to get a good, clear scan.   Oh well.....I figure at this point, a shadowy scan beats no information at all.  I am relieved and hopeful it will show something, anything, to explain this debilitating leg pain.  And I am fearful of what it might show to explain this debilitating leg pain.  I know that sounds crazy.  Welcome to my world.

And just because I want to leave you with a smile, here are a couple snaps of my babies.

Friday, June 21, 2013


So, I attempted to go back to work this week, for four hours a day.  But unfortunately, the pain in my right leg increased exponentially with that schedule to the point where I wasn't functioning at all, and I was unable to finish out the week.  It has been such a disappointment.  I have worked from the time I was 16 years old and, truthfully, have always taken it for granted.  Now, I find myself frustrated beyond words, and frightened to tears over the unknown aspects of this horrible pain.  Up to this point, no one has been able to tell me what exactly is causing it, how long I will have it, and what can fix it.  Or even how to manage the pain. 

None of my pain meds relieve this pain.  The only thing that helps is anti-inflammatories, which are forbidden until my fusion is deemed complete (usually about three months after surgery).  So I find myself between the proverbial rock and hard place ... the hardest place I've ever been. 

For now, I am back out on medical leave and waiting until my next follow-up appointment with my surgeon to, hopefully, get some updated information and set some sort of plan of action in place.  Words cannot express how grateful I am to my employer for their understanding and compassion for my situation and willingness to work with me.  But I know I have to be able to tell them something soon. 

Unrelenting pain is hard.  It erodes who you are, because it changes your focus and twists it completely around.  Things you have always cared about, things you want to care about, sort of fade to black in the white hot intensity of the pain.  Nothing else matters.  I don't like who I am in the grip of this pain.   I don't like that I have to make a conscious effort to care about something, anything else. 

I don't know how people live with this kind of pain for years, and I hope to God I never have to find out.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A funny

So Steve was driving me to the surgeon's office the other day to get my nerve block.  On the way, we go down this r-e-a-l-l-y nice road with massive houses on huge lots.  We always slip into smart-aleck mode when we go this way, saying things like, that's a nice little cottage, and Honey, I'm home, and so on.  Steve points out one particularly grand abode and I say, "Good Lord, it's got a TURRET!"

After a little pause, "What does one do in a turret?"

Steve's reply:  "Whatever you want to, I guess."


turret photo: Sherbrooke-our room was in turret on left DSC03646_zps7b516005.jpg

Friday, June 14, 2013

International Market

There is a huge international farmer's market not far from our house, the operative word being "huge."  It's been there for quite awhile now and I've never gone inside.  Finally, today I took the plunge.

It's quite something.  The produce section is massive.  There are all the "regular" fruits and veggies you would expect to see:  melons, many varieties of apples, a plethora of citrus fruits, greens, potatoes of every kind.  Take tomatoes, for example.  They had at least a half dozen varieties, including these -- red Romas, green, and orange on the vine.

But then, there were all the exotic fruits and vegetables!  These were some of the melons.  The signs say Hami, Gaya, Canary, and Korean melons.   

Here are some brown and white coconuts.  I've never cracked one open, but I've always heard how hard they are to open.  I think I'll stick to the finished product on this particular item, thanks just the same.  I don't think I have the upper body strength.

How about some sauteed cactus for supper tonight, with a side of mashed yuca?

Besides all the fresh produce, this store had fresh fish and seafood.  Really fresh.

There were tons of organic and gluten-free products, different types of flours and meals, spices, oils, locally grown honey, nuts of every kind ... pretty much anything a recipe might call for.

Then, to satisfy that salty or sweet tooth, there were treats of every imaginable sort.

Yummy seaweed snack, anyone?

I didn't even cover half this store in my first visit.  I bought corn on the cob, a cantaloupe, a small seedless watermelon, some Vidalia onions, and two sweet potatoes (boring, huh?)   I'm looking forward to going again and picking something exotic to try ... maybe one of those melons.  With some sauteed cactus on the side.

More later --

Friday, June 7, 2013

My favorite part of the day

I was up fairly early this morning and outside for my walk.  We are enjoying a little respite from the typical Memphis heat and humidity and I am enjoying being able to walk outside.  So this morning, once I got off the main thoroughfares, I chose a route down a couple of streets with no sidewalks.  There was very little traffic.  Actually, I only saw one car (which was pulling a big yellow and white ski boat, lucky guy) and one other walker (who was accompanied by two beautiful yellow labs).  I did, however, see a lot of birds and squirrels, and a couple chipmunks. 

I love that route because it is so quiet and peaceful.  Once I get on those side streets, I can hear the birds.  In fact, sometimes the birds are really loud!  This morning I heard a mourning dove ... beautiful.  I can hear my steps, my breathing.  Things just seem to be clearer, more in focus.  I feel centered, alive.  It's the best part of my day. 

Oh, I saw one other memorable thing on my walk this morning, besides the squirrels, birds, ski boat and dogs.  I saw the sign that never fails to make me chuckle, "Please Leave Your Address So My Dog Can Poop On Your Lawn."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Nerve block number two

Actually, it's nerve block number three hundred and forty six, but since my spine surgery this will be nerve block number two.

I had a meltdown on the phone yesterday with the nurse practitioner at my surgeon's office.  I mean, an honest to God sobbing-so-hard-you-almost-can't-speak meltdown.  Amy, of course, was kind, patient, understanding -- everything you could ever want on the other end of the phone when you're falling apart.

I apologized repeatedly and she was so nice about it.  It actually took me by surprise, the depth and breadth of it.  I had called with my list of questions (you do know I'm a list maker, right?) and concerns, and somewhere in the middle, it all fell apart.

I am in such an odd place right now.  I totally feel like the back surgery will be, eventually, successful.  The problem that has plagued me for years -- the incessant tingling and numbness down both legs -- is much improved and is getting better all the time.  I just finished a .96 mile walk in our neighborhood this morning.  I walked down my favorite street past my favorite houses -- something that at one time (and not that long ago) I truly thought I would never be able to do again.  So, yes, the surgery must be a success, right?

But ... how can it be that I traded one big trouble for another big trouble?  The constant pain that now goes from my right hip down the leg to my foot ranges from nagging to almost more than I can bear.  The only relief I can find is while sleeping and occasionally while walking.  Otherwise, it is always with me.  Nothing relieves it - no medication, no change of position -- but sitting upright in a chair definitely aggravates it to the point where it feels like an electric shock going down my leg.  The scary thing is, my job involves me sitting upright in a desk chair.

Nerve pain is a strange thing.  The places I feel the pain worst -- my ankle, the back of my knee, my calf -- are not really what is hurting.  The pain is originating from the base of my spine.  The nerve root has to heal.  Amy said that sometimes the nerve needs more steroid than can be given in one dose, so she is hopeful that this second shot will work much better.  I hope so.  I truly hope so. Surely this isn't a permanent thing, right?  It's not a permanent problem. 

On a related note, I started on a new drug this week to try to treat the nerve pain.  It was not created for that purpose; it's actually a seizure drug.  But it has been found to be effective in treating nerve pain for some people.  Please ... let me be one of those people.  And let me escape the weird side effects ...  The last drug I tried made my appetite go crazy, which is a deal breaker for me.  It wasn't working for the nerve pain anyway.  So fingers crossed on this one.

Finally, just because I need to smile (and you too, if you've suffered through reading this tale of woe), I'm putting a picture of my baby here ... just to make us all feel better. 

Tell me ... how can you look at a face like that and not smile?

More later --

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hobbes and the mouse

We have a desperate hunter in this house.  His prey is a sisal mouse on a string.  He stalks that poor mouse and, eventually, captures it.  Every time.

Mission accomplished.  Now, for a snack and a nap. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday morning musings

It has been almost seven weeks since my spinal fusion surgery.  My back feels much better, much stronger than before the surgery.  The numbness and tingling down both legs are still present, but usually to a much lesser extent than before, and I can stand for a longer time before they occur.  My doctor has told me that this will probably be the last symptom to disappear, because nerves just heal at a much slower pace than bones, muscles, tendons, etc. 

What continues to concern me is the pain going down my right leg.  This was not present before surgery, and it was present immediately after surgery - even in the hospital while lying in bed.  It significantly worsens with sitting.  Now - while I am still on leave from my job - I deal with it by getting up very, very often and walking around the house and by doing my longer daily walks.  When it gets really bad, I lie down for awhile to "stretch it out" and that eventually relieves it. 

I wonder how I'll do when I return to work, since the vast majority of my job is done while sitting.  I have to say, this weighs heavily on my mind every day.  What I don't want to do --- can't afford to do --- is injure myself or hinder the healing process.  I had a nerve block done last week, which offered absolute pain relief for one day.  For one glorious day, I was completely free of pain, from head to toe.  I can't even begin to remember how many years it has been since that happened.  But then, much to my disappointment, the leg pain returned the very next day. Maybe I did too much on the day when I felt so good.  Which brings me to another thing I hate about this whole process:  I'm constantly second guessing myself and wondering if I'm doing enough, if I'm doing too much, ad nauseum

The doctor has offered to do another nerve block, and I think I will do that before I go back to work a week from Monday.  I am also going to talk to the doctor about what, if any, damage I could do by sitting for an hour or more while experiencing worsening leg pain.  I just feel like I have gone through too much to do something now that will mess me up.  I do not want to extend my time off.  I worry about creating a hardship for my co-workers, who have to do their job and mine while I'm off, plus I am just ready to get back to real life and to doing something more challenging with my brain than crosswords and reading who-done-its.  And, I miss the social aspect of my job and seeing my co-workers and friends. 

Wouldn't it be nice to have a crystal ball and be able to see exactly what you should do to give you the best outcome? 

Maybe I am just worrying too much.  It sure wouldn't be the first time. 

Oh well.  It is Saturday morning and there is 85% humidity outside, so I am off to the lovely treadmill, to do my morning walk!  Can't wait for cooler weather where I can breathe again outside. 

More later --

Friday, May 31, 2013

This and that

Our a/c unit has been on the fritz since Tuesday afternoon.  The part had to be ordered (of course).  Anyway, the repairman came back this morning with the part and fixed it.  It is a lovely 72 degrees in my den as I sit here, lights ablazing, as I type.  Is "ablazing" a word?  I had kept the blinds and curtains tightly closed and all the lights off to try to keep it as cool as possible in here.  Now I can actually SEE what I'm typing.  Always a plus.

*        *        *

I'm just finishing up an Ann Rule book called Dead By Sunset - Perfect Husband, Perfect Killer?  She does true crime stuff better than almost anyone, and this has been her typical, comprehensive, leave-no-stone-unturned story of a murderer, his victims, and the people who brought him to justice.  This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for years, just waiting for me to pick it up.  And I'm glad I did.  Good stuff.

*        *        *

It has been so muggy.  I know, I know ... I live in Memphis and it is, after all, nearly June.  But still ... I hate it.  I have had to resort to walking on my treadmill instead of outside, which takes a distant second in my book.  I would so much rather THIS be my view than whatever's on the television.

I got up very early yesterday morning, thinking it would be much cooler and easier to walk, and I was out the door before 7:00 a.m.  The temperature was only 75, which I thought was quite doable.  What I did not check was the humidity, which was at 74%.  I walked a little over a mile and, honestly, thought about calling myself a taxi to pick me up and take me home.  I just can't breathe in that kind of humidity and heat.  It's no better today, so I just finished a mile on the treadmill.  You gotta do what you gotta do, right?

 *        *        *

I've been noticing, and photographing, mailboxes in our neighborhood.  Ours is sort of nondescript, made from the same brick as the house.  I would like to plant something to climb one side of it and give it some pizzazz,  Or, if not pizzazz, at least some interest. 

This one has a baby something planted, and a cute little trellis for it to climb on.  I'll have to check back later in the summer and see if the mystery plant has grown much.

This one has quite a bit going on, maybe a bit too much.

I know this is a light pole and not a mailbox, but the clematis is beautiful just the same.

This one has nothing planted, but isn't the little hole for the newspaper cute?  We need one of those.

This one is actually a little frightening.  Can you even see the mailbox?  There, in the middle! Sure hope their mail carrier is not allergic to honeysuckle.  Although it does smell divine walking past it.  

Anyway, the jury is still out on what we might do to dress our mailbox up. 

More later --