Wednesday, August 29, 2018

There's Been Progress

Unattributed painting on a birthday card my brother said reminded him of my area
Today is the third day in a row we have found our air smokeless thanks to a cold front finally bringing some rain and a bit of wind to scour out the air. I've been gratefully back to taking my daily walks after about a month of daily air quality in the "unhealthy for sensitive groups" (that would be me) but mostly higher (red where most should stay in and a doom-like day of about as hazardous as it could get for everyone). I was stunned not long ago to pull up the smoke map and see this was affecting not just northern Idaho and part of eastern Washington but every monitoring station between here and the west coast, red dots even over Portland and Seattle which you would think would be clear so close to the ocean breezes. Turns out that at one point winds had shifted from their normal west to east to the exact opposite, pushing all of our smoke into western Washington and over the Cascades. Winds shifted again, this time from a more northerly direction which brought them smoke from the many fires burning in British Columbia. Just nowhere in a 4 state region (northern California has also been burning  up with terrible air quality) to escape. We just all hunkered down and spent as little time as we could out in it. No wonder we have been jumping for joy as the air has cleared, at least for now. Real progress!

Another birthday card that looks like a scene from city beach

There's even progress on my shoulder pain front. The physical therapist hit upon another possible source of my shoulder pain and tried some different things, sending me home with a set of exercises to do daily. They have really helped, and every day I realized there are more things I can do, ways I can sit or lie that I couldn't before. Not totally out of the woods yet - I sense there is much more work to be done - but even he is excited to see real change. Not ready to hop on a boat and sail away yet, but feel I'm closer to getting back to my weekly yoga class, and perhaps an easier hike along the lake shore. Can I sit at the sewing machine yet? Haven't tried but don't think so, I'm just excited that I can spend a little time sitting and typing rather than standing at my laptop. And that the numbness is starting to go away in my first two fingers. Tricky trying to pick small things up off the table, I noticed, and wondered how it would be to hold a needle for handwork.

Not much progress though on the recycle bookbinding challenge. I did get some more text copied onto the teabag spreads, using different types of pens in different colors and finding some don't work like I thought they would. And then I just kind of stalled out, knowing that I needed to add more things to the pages and try to make those additions make sense with the theme, but drawing a blank as I stared at what was before me. I think the aching shoulder became the brain's priority and it could care less about those pages. As the pain has lessened, I catch myself having little lightbulb thoughts, remembering things I thought I might do, but knowing some of them might aggravate things, even in short shifts. It will come when it comes.

Really good German Chocolate cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
I did have a birthday over the weekend, but between the smoke and the shoulder pain, I had no desire to do anything remotely exciting. It was enough to enjoy the German Chocolate cake I whipped up, have a long phone conversation with one of my brothers, watch motorcycle racing and drink in the well-wishes that came my way. 

One of my dear Wisconsin friends sent me a note with the Thoreau quotation which served as a little shot in the arm. Such good advice (I should, I WILL!). And so appropriate were several lines from a longer blessing she included with the card, not knowing how much I needed to hear them as I work through this current physical challenge:

May you discover kernels of wisdom
hidden in unwanted experience.

May you find comfort and consolation
when you are hurting.

May you know the protection
and guidance of your angels.
---Joyce Rupp

With the cooler temps and even a maple tree down the street starting to turn color before August is even over, it's hard not to think we were cheated out of summer. With Thoreau on my mind, I was slightly amused to run across another quotation from him echoing this melancholy mood a lot of us are experiencing as our year gets away from us, this recorded August 21, 1852:

"The sound of crickets gradually prevails more and more. I hear the year falling asleep."

Yeah, I too have noticed a change in nature's sounds, and two rather aggressive squirrels have been chasing after birds who might be trying to steal any seeds or nuts they are finding in my lawn. A year later, Thoreau comes across even more morose, though I find his thoughts not unlike my own at times:

"What means this sense of lateness that so comes over one now,—as if the rest of the year were down-hill, and if we had not performed anything before, we should not now? The season of flowers or of promise may be said to be over, and now is the season of fruits; but where is our fruit? The night of the year is approaching. What have we done with our talent? All nature prompts and reproves us. How early in the year it begins to be late! It matters not by how little we have fallen behind; it seems irretrievably late. The year is full of warnings of its shortness, as is life."

Thank goodness I entered  this last near-half of the year in a freer mindset than I usually do. Otherwise, this being benched by a cranky shoulder would surely depress me in like manner to Thoreau! Yes, I have that 5 page list mostly languishing, but really, that was just an exercise to purge my mind of all the things that generally clutter it and cause a bit of a panic. Something about relegating it to paper helps me let go of it so it doesn't keep spinning in my head like a gerbil in a wheel, and it's a quick reference for those times I'm standing there wondering just what were all those things I wanted to do. Or, in my current situation, what I might be able to handle as I slowly progress in my recovery. Amazing how easy it is for me to draw a blank or jump from one idea to another and another if it's just in my head. I'm such a visual person. It's easy to scan the list and see how much on there can wait, and what small little thing might be doable. Am staying open to those "kernels of wisdom", some "comfort and consolation" from unexpected places. There's still plenty of year left to enjoy and "produce some fruit". 

Well, I've probably overdone it on the keyboard. Time to settle in with some heat on that shoulder!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Update on Progress

Thought I should check in and let you know how things are progressing. I've had more PT sessions and the last one made a marked difference. However, I still find it difficult to find a painfree position for sleeping, and sitting can still make things hurt worse. I was able to run through my entire home yoga routine for the first time today so perhaps I can venture back to my class this week. No progress on getting the numbness out of my fingers but every little bit of improvement helps. Have ditched the muscle relaxants and pain pills - Advil seems to work just as well. I had an MRI of my neck on Friday and will find out tomorrow if it shows anything helpful when I have another session with the PT. I'm really enjoying the work he's doing to loosen up my neck and that machine that gently stimulates and warms the muscles over that shoulder blade.

As for my recycle bookbinding challenge, it too is showing slow progress. I've filled the lined pages with information, lore and poetry about dragonflies and cut and pasted in the images onto the facing handmade paper pages. All taking a lot longer than I expected it would. I have quotations and some images left over that I will add to the spreads with the teabags and am contemplating what I might be able to add by drawing. So much for a quick project I thought I could whip out in a few days! Actually, I could have put it together that quickly if I hadn't realized it would be difficult to work on the pages once they are sewn into the accordion folds of the spine. All the additions really must be made while the papers are still loose. I know at the time I thought all of that would come later after the book was all together. Yes, I'm learning as I go which is good.

There's not much escaping the smoke from the fires which continue to keep me inside (except for one brief afternoon when it cleared enough for a short walk). And I am certainly not alone, as your comments and the smoke maps plainly show. A good time to be laid up. And a good time for a little distraction from the local wildlife. This little cutie showed up one evening, looking all in the world like it had managed to get away from mom when she wasn't looking to venture out in the world and frolic behind my place.

The next evening, mom was along and this cutie was still full of energy and wanting to play. Not so much poor mom.

So when it couldn't get her to play along, it ran back and forth at top speed until it wore itself out. Entertaining indeed!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Finding What Is Doable

Reinforcing delicate catalog pages
The human body is a marvel of design that connects and holds together its myriad parts, and those connections are sometimes surprising. During my assessment with the physical therapist yesterday, it would appear that my shoulder pain actually originates in my neck where I have no pain at all except if I tip my head back past a certain point. He wants a look at my spine before he gets too crazy with his therapy plan but in the meantime there are things he can do to help with the spasming at several trigger points that are causing my pain and limiting what I can do. I especially enjoyed the treatment with a machine that caused gentle tingling and heat over that whole shoulder blade area, a step up from the heat pack I've been using at home.

I didn't come away pain free but I could feel a difference, especially later in the day as I stood at my work table. I'd been thinking about what I could work on in my partly incapacitated state and hit upon this recycle bookbinding challenge I started at the end of April (yes, it's on that 5 page master to do list). I may not be able to type long at the keyboard or use the mouse except in my left hand (which I'm getting pretty good at), but as I mentioned before, writing with a pen isn't a problem. Nor is pasting down and cutting out the images of dragonflies I've been collecting out of magazines and catalogues, as long as I stand at my elevated table to do so. So that is what I'm working on this weekend, between sessions with the heat pack and watching motorcycle races on tv. I've tracked down quite a bit of info as well as poems on dragonflies to fill those pages stamped with lines. Still not sure what will go on the spreads with the teabags. But it is a good stress-free project for this awkward healing time. 

I'm pretty much housebound anyway because we are inundated with smoke once again from the many forest fires in our corner of the U.S. I took this picture a few days ago when the air quality rating was at the first level above good. A pretty effect until you realize it is not romantic haze like in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. No, that haze is real smoke and much thicker today in spite of the cold front that's pushing winds into the area that we thought would clear some of it out. Instead, I noted this afternoon we've actually jumped two levels up to red which is a warning for more than just those of us with breathing issues. Well, I'm not too sad about curtailing my daily walks as it has been record breaking hot too. All this too shall pass, and I always have plenty to keep me entertained inside.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Laid Up

My apologies for not acknowledging the much appreciated comments on my last few posts. I'm experiencing shoulder pain (the aftermath of a mega muscle spasm) that is worse when I sit and excruciating when I try to type on the keyboard or use the mouse. It's a little better working at my laptop since moving it onto my elevated work table where I can stand to scroll and type, but not for very long. What little I am doing is mostly accomplished one handed. Oddly enough, there ARE things I can do without increasing the pain like write with a pen and use scissors so I've gotten my documentation files all caught up.

I have muscle relaxants to tide me over & help me sleep until I can get into physical therapy which unfortunately isn't until Friday. That will be two weeks since this started and I am gritting my teeth and sleeping a lot and catching up on recorded tv programs, whatever I discover I can manage without setting things off while I wait for the clinic to get back to full staff. Funny how people want to take vacation this time of year. ;-) I'm just assuming sitting at the sewing machine is out of the question but if I can write, maybe I can sketch? I'm just thankful this happened after I finished those last exhibit pieces. Nothing important looming on the horizon, no commitments needing to be met. It's something to be thankful for.