Monday, June 24, 2019

Gavleston Oh Galveston!

Jeff's birthday was last Friday, and he had the day off, so we decided to take a day trip to Galveston, which is about a two and a half hour drive south.  We left around 8:00 am to avoid hitting the work commute traffic in Houston, and we did pretty well with that, arriving in Galveston about 10:45. 

First thing we did was to hit the Yesterday's Best Fiestaware store!  This store has a lot of the retired Fiesta colors and pieces, along with current colors.  I had a few items in mind that I was looking for, plus anything wonderful that I happened to see.  I got what I wanted, which I'll show on Friday's post.  Oh, I did happen upon something wonderful - a lilac mini pitcher.  The lilac colorway has been retired for over twenty years, plus it was only in production for two years, so it's pretty expensive when you find it.  The mini pitcher was $99.  Sold!  No, haha - it was so pretty but it was most definitely out of my price range.

Next we wandered around a bit:
This place caught my eye for the name, obviously.  But afterward when I was looking at all the pictures that I took, I had to laugh at the couple trying to figure out how to do the street pay-to-park because that was Jeff and I.  This made me feel better - I kept thinking that we were just country bumpkins who didn't know how to work these newfangled parking meters, LOL.

We ate lunch at the Sunflower Cafe, which was good, but saved room for the real treat later on:
LaKing's!  Home of the best ice cream and taffy made right in front of you!  We happened to arrive during one of the taffy pull times so that was fun to watch.
I got coffee chip (if there is a flavor with coffee in it, I will always order it) and Jeff got strawberry.  He said it was the best strawberry ice cream he'd ever had and if he wasn't so full he would have gone back in for another scoop!

We poked around in a few shops and art galleries - we are always looking for something to hang on the walls just outside of my office, but nothing that we could afford sparked joy.  Then we spied some graffiti walls and beelined over to them:
Jeff's workplace had a superhero summer camp last week so he loved this.
Another fun one!

We drove to the Seawall so I could revisit the place of my first half marathon.  I took a picture of this and sent it to my old running buddy Jenny, who I ran the race with:
She responded immediately with the laughing/crying emoji - we spent so much of that race just trying to make it to the next trash can!  You can read the story of the race and the trash cans here, if you're interested.

We decided to park and go to a restaurant/bar to sit outside facing the water:
...but first, a drink selfie, of course.  We were lucky that it was overcast most of the time - when the sun peeked out, it was hot.  We reapplied sunscreen liberally while we were sitting there.
Jeff with Pleasure Pier in the distance.  First, that name sounds a little dirty.  Second, they charge $10 per person just to walk around!  What the what??  I thought it would be like the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where it's always been free to wander around and if you wanted to go on rides, you would buy a ticket.  So this is as close as we got to Pleasure Pier.
I didn't connect the name of the restaurant/bar, Float, with a pool until we walked by one as we headed upstairs, but there you go - we could have worn our swim suits and had our drinks in the pool!  Next time...

We had enough of Galveston and left early to avoid most of the Houston commuter traffic.  We decided to head over to The Woodlands, where Jeff happily relaxed in a comfy chair at Nordstrom while I bought a lip crayon.  He was sitting in the shoe department and I pulled a pink sandal off the display to try on while he sat there - it was cute, I loved it, and he said "buy it - you can't wear your running shoes so this is a good replacement":
A quick picture while we drove home of my new Birkenstock Mayari sandals!

Oh - one last picture of Jeff with his birthday mudslide dessert (because you can never have too much ice cream on your birthday):
He shared - and it was yummy.  A nice way to cap off his birthday!

Friday, June 21, 2019

FMM - Fun Things I've Photographed #1

This could be an ongoing series of posts, hence the #1 in the title.  Or, I might forget that I started this series and it might be the only one.  Who knows?  I'm dealing with a double dose of brain fog between my everyday CRS* and now the drugs I'm taking for pain so it's a wonder I get anything accomplished.

Rainbow pins from my high school years.
Uncooperative Henry wearing his new pet tag. 
Dachshund key chain sent all the way from Germany!
Nap d├ętente.


Today is Jeff's birthday so we're off on a little adventure.  Oh - if you're still interested in buying one of the Nuu-Muu dresses using my $20 coupon code (FLOWERS), you only have a few days remaining - Sunday is the last day you can use it.  Click here for the dress in Jasmine, which is what I have, or click here for the same pattern in Orchid (pink).
I seriously love this dress.  Worn scandalously without capris or shirt underneath - but only in my backyard, haha.  It feels so cool as I sit outside each morning.

Have a great weekend!

*can't remember shit

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

WWU - My Life of (Ath)leisure

First up, the disclosure:  I was sent a dress from Nuu-Muu, but all opinions are my own.  I am also an affiliate and will receive a small commission if you purchase any dresses using my links.

That's right people, I am living the life of leisure now.  No running to make me sweaty.  No workouts to make my muscles twitch.  I'm just cruising through life, not needing to shower twice a day thanks to all that exercise.  Heck, I don't even have to change clothes three times a day!  I pick an outfit and stay in it all day long.  Ahhhh.  It sounds good, doesn't it?  Probably, if you aren't into exercising.

But you know me and you know I didn't choose this life of leisure.  I'd much rather be running and working out.  And you know I've been depressed about this.  Which is why, when I got a sweet email from Nuu-Muu offering me an athleisure dress to try, I teared up a bit.  I know, that sounds extreme, but in the email they acknowledged my plight and wanted to send me a dress anyway, to inspire restful healing.

I chose a dress, they quickly sent it to me, and when I tried it on, I felt good about myself for the first time in a long time.  I realize that sounds a bit silly, but after spending more than two months laying on the couch, all of the muscle tone that I've worked so hard to achieve is gone.  My body feels blobby and flabby.  And I can't do anything about it right now.  Plus I'd been wearing sweats and old race t-shirts during my months of agony which didn't help with my body image, but they were comfortable, so the trade-off was worth it.

I'm going on almost three weeks of feeling better thanks to the second epidural.  I've started sitting outside on our patio in the morning, and I've started wearing real clothes.  One morning I popped on my new Nuu-Muu dress and I have to tell you, I felt good.  I actually began planning some errands.  I liked how I looked and was ready to go out into the world beyond my house, looking cute in my athleisure-wear.  This dress is made for running, or running errands (hey now!), or even a casual event.
Jasmine Ruu-Muu
Dramatic recreation (because my photographer was at work when I had my errand epiphany) of sitting in the backyard while wearing my Nuu-Muu dress.

I usually don't like wearing dresses because my knees and thighs are where a lot of my fat accumulates, and dresses end right at the knees, showcasing them like a neon sign.  What I like about these dresses is that you are supposed to wear either capris or some long workout shorts underneath, which is perfect for me - my knees are covered yet I'm still able to wear a dress!
The dresses are all sleeveless but if I'm going out in public, I feel more comfortable with a shirt underneath.  

And so you can judge how the dress would fit, I am 5'2" and the dress hits me right at my knees.  According to the Nuu-Muu size chart, I would be a size large, which is the size I wear in most of my clothes, but I ordered an extra large because I didn't want the dress to be snug around my stomach.  It hangs nicely, so I'm glad I did that.

Jeff looked at the dress and commented that the fabric looked heavy and would make me hot.  Quite the opposite - it's technical fabric, but it feels silky, if that makes sense.  It's thin yet it doesn't show every bump and bulge, even with a bit of spandex.  And it's not see-through, even when wet.
I felt like this was the best picture of me wearing my dress but Jeff cut most of my head off.  I'm including it anyway - you know what I look like!

A little more about Nuu-Muu athleisure dresses:  They are made in the USA, come in sizes ranging from XS to 3XL, and they have little girl dresses as well.  Nuu-Muu's goal is to empower women to love themselves into action, be it running, tennis, walking, shopping, or lunch out with friends.  I appreciate their wide range of sizes and I have to say, their prints are super cute!  I had a hard time choosing which dress I wanted, but I ended up with Jasmine Ruu-Muu, which has a pocket on the back of the dress that could hold a phone, keys, credit card, etc.

I have a coupon code if you're interested in purchasing a dress like I'm wearing.  It comes in blue - Jasmine, or pink - Orchid.  The code is FLOWERS and you will get $20 off either dress in those prints only, in any of their three styles.  The code is only good for a short time - today through Sunday, so don't delay if you want a dress.  Get the Jasmine and we can be twins!  Or get the Orchid - it's pretty cute and is tempting me!
Here's the Orchid Ruu-Muu, doing what I do while wearing my dress.
Another shot of Orchid, doing what I wish I could do.

It's funny how one thing, such as an athleisure dress, can make me feel so much better about my plight, but it has.  I'm going to be a fashionista in my Nuu-Muu dresses when I am able to walk for exercise, but in the meantime, I've got a pretty dress to wear this summer!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Get. Your. Mammogram. Do. Not. Delay.

Some of you might have caught me referring to both Diane and I dealing with some medical stuff recently.  You know mine; unfortunately Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer in early May. 

The reason for the title of this post is Diane's emphatic plea:  do not put off getting your yearly mammogram.  And when you get it, make sure to get it in 3D.  She really wants to get that across to everyone - get it done!

You see, she was at her family doctor for her yearly physical, and as he went over everything, he mentioned that he would put in a referral for a mammogram.  Nothing was bothering her - he was just getting all of the annual stuff set up.  She wasn't actually going to make the appointment for the mammogram until fall because she was busy with end of school year stuff (she works in the counselor's office at a high school), and then she always goes away to visit her family for over a month in the wasn't a priority.  But the mammography department always calls to schedule mammograms when they get referrals, and since they called, she figured what the heck, get it over with now.

Just a few months ago, the mammography department got a new 3D machine, and the tech doing Diane's mammo said it picks up everything.  But she wasn't worried as there is zero family history of breast cancer.  She had it done, left, and figured she'd get a letter in the mail a few days later, saying all was clear and to come back in a year.  Instead, she got a phone call wanting her to return for another mammogram and possibly an ultrasound.  She was concerned, of course, but breast cancer didn't run in her family so it must have been the super sensitive 3D machine, nothing to be really worried about.

On a Friday, she went in for the mammogram.  And then they did an ultrasound.  And then they did a biopsy.  Well.  That was a little more concerning.  OK a lot more.  When they were finished she came over to my house and we sat in stunned silence for a while.  When they do all of that it's not looking good, and words were hard to come by for a bit.  Emotions were all over the place - tears, anger, laughter - as she kept saying this wasn't supposed to happen.  She was just days away from the birth of her first grandchild - she was waiting to be a grandma, not have breast cancer!

By the end of the afternoon we'd made a plan for her to become my couch buddy if need be.  Hey, I have two full-sized couches, it could work!  Except that I didn't want her to become my couch buddy for THAT reason.

On Tuesday, she got a call to come in to her doctor's office, where she was given the news that she had breast cancer.  Also on that Tuesday?  Her grandson was born!  Talk about some pretty strong lows and highs, all on the same day.  She was so excited to become a grandma.  She didn't have time for this!  Luckily, the cancer was caught very early thanks to the super sensitive 3D mammogram.  And because she didn't put off the mammogram for six months like she'd planned, the cancer was small.  It was a horribly scary diagnosis to get, of course, but her doctor was very positive about treatment with a full recovery.

She had a lumpectomy a week later and that went well - the edges were clear and the pathology showed the lymph nodes were as well.  The surgeon was very optimistic that he'd gotten everything, and all that remained for Diane to do was to recover from the surgery, have some radiation, and then she'd be done.

After the surgery Diane said "I don't have cancer - they took it all" - and she's right.  She's already more than a quarter way through her radiation treatments.  She's set to finish on July 1 and has a plane ticket purchased for July 2 to fly to visit her family for the rest of the summer.  She does not mess around.  This is the Diane that I know - she has more energy than anybody, and she's got places to go, people to see, and things to do!  After all, this is the woman who ran a marathon in May, in Texas.  She's got this.

Here's Diane holding her one-day-old grandson:
Grandma Diane and Oliver James!

And here she is holding one-month-old Oliver:
Oliver is so cute all snuggled in his grandma's arms!

Once again, get your mammogram.  Get it in 3D if possible.  Don't put it off.

Friday, June 14, 2019

FMM - Starring All of the Usual Characters

I haven't shown the Renegade toddlers in a while - they are both growing so much and are so dang cute!  Here's Mason, with his distinct way of eating a cutie:
When I went over to take a picture of how he was eating, he immediately stopped, said cheese, and smiled - LOL!
 OK now we're getting down to it - he eats it like you'd eat an apple!
See the bite taken out?  I just cracked up - never thought of eating a cutie or an orange like that but I think Mason might just be onto something!

Next we have Logan, with his distinct way of eating a bagel with cream cheese:
Logan just dives right into the cream cheese, which is something I've thought of doing after a long run when I'm particularly hangry.  Messy face?  No worries!
Also, toddler pumpkin muffin still loves pumpkin only now it's a piece of pumpkin bread.
In pumpkin bread bliss, as one would's that good.


The weather here this week has been unusually cool, especially in the mornings.  Because I pretty much missed most of the good spring weather, I've been going out in the backyard with my morning drinks to enjoy it:
Espresso and orange juice.  OOH, in this picture you can sort of see our new patio chair.  We finally got rid of our old gross plastic chairs and bought two new chairs.  Jeff also spray painted the little table to bring it back to black and it's like new again!
Paco stayed nearby, of course.  I made myself stay out for a couple of hours each morning, alternately reading on my iPad and just taking in my surroundings, trying to relax now that I can sit and do that.
Henry hung around as well, in his new favorite spot, the bench.  Last year it was under the Sago palm but he's moved on.
Eventually this is what I kept seeing - although he had a bed and me, Paco tired of being outside and stared me in.  He has a powerful stare and knows how to use it!


Have a great weekend - Jeff and I will hit our 35th wedding anniversary on Sunday, can you believe it?  I can't!  That sure went by fast.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

WWW - In Which I Go To Physical Therapy

I finally started physical therapy last week - Thursday, to be exact.  The reason why it took a while to get started was the therapist that I chose:  she is the owner of the practice and is the only physical therapist that patients see; as you might imagine, that appeals to a lot of people so she books up fast.  With an injury as complex as a herniated disc, I didn't want to be just another cog in the machine at a large physical therapy clinic, seeing whoever was open at my appointment time - I wanted a therapist who I could trust implicitly, and that is Amanda Lightsey.

I first met her about 15 years ago when I worked as a service associate at the physical therapy clinic of the local healthcare center - she was fairly new in her field but I saw how invested she was with each patient and I could tell she did good work.  Then several years ago while I was running one of our regular Saturday routes I passed a storefront with her name on it - she'd started her own practice!  I was really pleased to see that and tucked the info away in case I ever needed to go to physical therapy.  Boy howdy did that come true.  After the first session I knew I was right to wait to get into her practice - I left with a lot of hope for a full recovery from the herniated disc without having surgery.  Here's a picture of us after the second session:
Amanda and I - don't you love our matching pink sneakers?  If I hadn't known her for so long I would call her Dr. Lightsey, but she's still Amanda to me.

My first visit consisted of an evaluation, both physical, with Amanda taking measurements of how far I could move my legs in different ways, and practical, with questions on limitations that I was experiencing, etc.  Also there were tears when she asked how my injury had affected my social life.  Luckily she had Kleenex nearby.  She said it was quite normal for patients who had been active to go into a depression when everything is taken away, and through my tears I felt better knowing that this was a normal reaction to having your life turn to crap.

After the evaluation it was time to get down to business.  She showed me three different exercises to do, isolating certain areas as I did them.  One was to do a bridge using only your glutes to rise up, with no involvement of the abs.  Isolating just the one muscle group was hard, physically and mentally.  I have never had to use my brain so much to work out, but to quote Ralph Wiggum, I'm learning!

I did a couple other exercises including the log roll and the triangle tilt.  Even with the handouts she gave me, I was a little confused once I tried them at home, so I did my best but I was glad my second appointment was just a few days away.  Turns out I was nearly correct with the log roll, but the I needed a new tutorial with the triangle tilt.  I appreciated that Amanda had a different way to approach that one, and once she had me practice that way, I felt more confident with it.  I had her take some pictures of me doing it the right way so when I lost my bearings at home with it, I had a point of reference:
Everything begins with the glutes.

At my second visit not only did we take pictures, but she demonstrated two of the new exercises while I videoed them and that was super helpful later on at home - I'd watch the video to review, then do the exercise with more confidence.  The new exercises were Chaplins, sit and tilt (I've named that one, it had a four word name that was cumbersome and hard to say so sit and tilt it is, LOL), and the table top.  I was sweaty and my left leg was shaking like Jello when I finished that session.  I also felt so good!  I haven't been able to really move like that in a long time and I daresay I had the tiniest bit of endorphins kick in.

I'm to do my exercises 2 - 3 times a day, stopping each one when I'm fatigued.  At that point the form is lost and it's time to give my body a rest.  My left leg knee was pretty sore yesterday, in an area that is different from my normal nerve pain, so that's interesting and if it keeps up I'll email her to see if I should change things up, plus  all the muscles were sore in both legs.  I really got a work out!

After Monday's session I went directly to Starbucks and got an iced coffee:
Vanilla sweet cream cold brew - a nice treat after my intense PT session!  

I was surprised to receive a Starbucks gift card in my email shortly after Monday's post went live, with a nice note of encouragement from one of my readers, Karen R.  It made my day that someone who I've never met did something so nice for me.  Thanks again, Karen!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Herniated Disc Update - #2

It's been a while since my last post about my herniated disc, so I thought I'd update you guys with what's been happening.  When I last left you, I had been given my first epidural steroid injection and was waiting for the steroid to kick in and relieve me of some of the nerve pain.  It never did, which was incredibly disheartening.  So except for the change in pain meds to a Butrans patch that I wore on my arm for a week at a time, nothing was different, including my pain levels.  We went to North Carolina as planned because I was tired of this injury stopping me from doing everything, and while I had some good distraction by being with Sam and my parents, I was hurting really bad and was taking Motrin all the time. 

On the drive back, I was at a 9.5 on the pain scale, and feeling despair at ever getting better because the first epidural injection didn't work, the pain meds were barely helping, and I'd read a lot of stories online about other people living like this for years.  YEARS.  In tears (there's been a lot of tears since this happened), I called my pain management doctor's office and asked if I could get some prescription-strength ibuprofen.  Kristen, the PA, called me back said if I was needing to take that much Motrin, we needed to change the pain meds.  Luckily it was only changing the Butrans patch from 5mg to 10mg - nothing new since all of the previous pain meds I'd tried had made me incredibly nauseous, and increasing the dosage on Gabapentin, which is my nerve pain medicine.  Plus she told me to stop taking the Motrin altogether and take Aleve instead - two tablets every twelve hours.  I'm not sure what helped, or maybe it was everything, but I did get some relief and stopped wanting to throw myself out of the moving car.  

While I was on the phone with Kristen I told her that I was worried about getting another epidural since the first one didn't work.  She went over my MRI again while talking to me, and said that there was more than one way to do the injection to get the steroid in the right spot, and she'd get with the doctor about me.  She was very reassuring and I had a glimmer of hope after talking with her, like maybe, just maybe, I might stop hurting so bad...most days my pain seesawed between a 7 - 8 on a scale of 10, with jabs of 9+ occasionally.

I still had about two and a half weeks to go until my second injection, so back to the couch for me for most of my day.  I still couldn't sit in a chair for more than a few minutes, if at all - there were many times when I'd sit down for dinner only to immediately stand up and I would have to eat my dinner while standing.  I also couldn't really drive because I couldn't sit upright in a car seat.  Oh and there was that whole brain fog from the pain meds thing, too - I couldn't concentrate enough to read a page from a book, or knit, or watch a movie.  I could make it through a short sitcom sometimes, but that was about it.  So mostly I was doing nothing.

This is a very isolating injury.  I went from going to BCS Fitness three times a week, and running three times a week - always with either a group at my workouts or with Jeff, Diane, and the Renegades - to nothing.  I was hurting too much to go out, and I couldn't drive, so I was home alone, miserable, and alternating between losing hope that I'd ever be without this excruciating pain to being optimistic that maybe my upcoming injection would work.  But mostly I was depressed.  I have gone through a lot of Kleenex since this happened.  Thankfully Diane came over just about every day after work and sat with me for a couple of hours, otherwise the only person I would see was Jeff.  I have a couple friends who check on me via text which is really nice.  But being cut off from about 98% of my social group contributed to my feeling of depression.

I'm not saying all of this to make you guys feel bad for me.  I'm documenting my experience with a herniated disc in case another sufferer comes across my blog; maybe they will feel a kinship with what I'm going through and maybe they won't feel so alone.  And maybe they'll get some hope from my treatment plan.

So.  That was the dark side of having a herniated disc.  I am now standing - no wait...SITTING - on the sunny side.  I had my second steroid epidural 11 days ago as of today and it has helped tremendously.  My team (PA and doctor) were hoping for 60% reduction in pain.  I would say I've gotten more like 80% and I am so relieved!  Not only for the pain mostly being gone, but because my doctor said that the MRI showed a fragment of the herniated disc had broken off and was pressing against the nerve right at L3, and if that injection didn't work, we would need to discuss getting with a neurosurgeon to remove the fragment and part of the disc. 

The reason why this injection worked is because my doctor went in lower than the previous time.  This go-round he was right at the bottom of the L3 area, and kind of curved the needle around to right where the disc fragment was.  He touched the nerve a few times while making sure he was getting to the right spot and my leg zinged when that happened.  This took a little longer than the first injection but I didn't care as long as it worked.  And it did!  He does this under a live X-ray so he can see the needle and move it into position, injecting dye to check.  This is a picture of my spine with the needle in place, with the dye:
The injection sweet spot!

And now, I'm paranoid.  So many people have said that their injection only worked for a week, or two, or three, and then the pain came back.  Every time I sit down I wait for the familiar sharp pain to hit.  So far it's been good - none of that pain.  My thigh will still throb at times and my knee hurts, but nothing like before.  The only addition I've had is that when I stand up after I've been sitting, I get pins and needles from my knee down for a few minutes.  This happens every time I sit.  It's annoying but I'm used to it. 

When an injection works, the next one will help even more - it's a cumulative effect.  I am scheduled for another injection in early July and am hoping to get one more before September 1, when our year begins again with insurance.  And then I don't think I will need any more injections for a while, which would be fine with me.

I have to be very careful with my spine, even though it never hurt and still doesn't.  But the point of these injections is to get some of the swelling down from the herniated disc to take the pressure off the nerve root.  I'm not to lift anything above my head, or bend forward too much, or lift much of anything at all.  It's hard to remember to be cautious sometimes because it's automatic with me to do normal things like bending down to unload the dishwasher and taking out several heavy Fiestaware plates to put in the cupboard.  So even though I'm feeling better, most of the housework is still on Jeff.

I had my first physical therapy appointment last week and my second one is later on this morning.  I'll write more about that on Wednesday.

So...after two and a half months of pure hell, I finally got some relief from the pain.  I credit having a doctor who is a working anesthesiologist and has the knowledge to do the injection a different way, and for the skill to move that needle around to just the right spot.  This is why I chose him when I was first diagnosed with a herniated disc - I checked out all of the pain management places in town and I liked the idea that he was still working at hospitals, helping patients with different needs, and not just running a pain clinic. 

Thanks for sticking with me over the last few months - I am hoping SO MUCH that the second injection is signaling the beginning of the end of this nightmare.  Nerve pain is unbearable and I would not wish it on anyone.  Now, please keep your fingers crossed for me that the injection lasts for the entire six weeks.  
Look at me, sitting and blogging like a normal person!