Category: Health

I have four 365 photos to post today which will “catch me up”.

Over the last two weeks I have been noticing some difficulty with left my wrist and hand. I’m not exactly sure when it began, but it appears to me and my amateur diagnosis to be a little carpel tunnel. I have been unsure as to how I got it, and my first thought was typing – as I spend a lot of time on the computer. However, I’m not so sure, although, at this point, typing can’t be helping it either. At this point, I think it’s from holding my camera so tightly — especially when I have my heavy 100-400 mm lens on – which I do so much of the time, as that is my main means of getting my wildlife shots. I believe that I hold my left hand under the lens to steady it in such a manner that it remains in a difficult “bent” or “twisted” position for too long. Plus — my muscles are held “taut” – also for way too long for it to be good for them.

It got worse the day after I returned from the Daufuskie Island trip, which was a “red flag” since I’d spent about 4 hours non stop with the camera. Since then I have tried to reduce the time with my camera. As you can imagine this is not easy for me, as I love photography. I now have a wrist / hand brace, which holds it steady so it won’t twist or bend, and I think that is going to help me so I can continue doing what I love, though I know I still must cut back. I have to work out a good way to hold the camera with it on, however. Today’s photos were taken with a much lighter lens, and have not experimented with larger lens yet. The pain is not awful, but I also don’t want it to GET awful!

I am not giving up my 365 project — With that in mind — these are the latest 365 photos:

365 photo # 109 — A house finch. And — I didn’t realize there was a second one there until I got this photo onto the computer!IMG_8655
365 photo #110 — We truly DO have a bluebird nest in our bluebird box in our back yard. This is Mrs. Bluebird bringing in a worm — probably for babies inside. After I snapped this photo, he went right in with the worm.

365 photo #111 — Mr. Cardinal in the grass in our back yard. I am watching the male cardinals being very feisty around each other. I think that is quite territorial when they are nesting. there are also some female cardinals around, too and I would love to get a another photo of the male feeding the female as I did a few years ago right on our patio with one of the seeds from our feeder!

365 photo #112 — Sego palm branch – a study in “green”. I know I have done this before, but each photo is unique in it’s own way. 🙂


Since I’ve been blogging, there is a “truth” about the process which has become very clear to me:  The longer you go without making an entry, the harder it is TO make an entry!  “Time” brings on “mind clutter”, and one has to wade through that in order to write something.  It’s my theory of chaos in all facets of life.  The more clutter there is, the easier it is to run – head firmly planted in the sand – away from that chaos which becomes increasingly hard to fathom.  And … so … with that in mind, I return again to this blog that clearly was in danger of being left for dead with resolve not to let the chaos overtake me.

I also believe that in the blogging world, there is very little tolerance for long term (or even short term!) “negativity”.  It’s ok to mention negative things, or have a “down” post once in a while.  However, ultimately a positive spin needs to be put on these things.  But a “negative blog” just doesn’t work.  When in the midst of situations like this, I become overwhelmed – almost “imprisoned – by the depressing mood of the moment – so much so that putting a positive spin on it when writing becomes difficult.  I need to work on seeing the larger picture – even when in the midst of difficult, negative life issues.

Which brings me to the issue of my silence….

It was a rough fall and early winter for me.   When I left you in mid October, things were going downhill.  After a power walk, motivated by my blog entry on my need to do something about my weight, I blew my knee out.  I wrote a few more entries after that, but my momentum was sorely lacking.

I quickly got an appointment with the orthopedist.  His diagnosis:  a torn meniscus – but not a serious one which would require surgery,  He recommended physical rehab.  For the month of October into November, I put my heart and soul into it, and my knee improved greatly.  I totally enjoyed rehab – but in all honesty, I do not know if the improvement was as a result of that.  It didn’t matter why it was better, as long as it was.  I looked forward to returning to the state where I would not have to think about my knee every step I took.  There was – and still is — the undercurrent of fear that I might injure my knee so that I’d lose forever the ability to do the activities I take for granted:  photography jaunts, golf, and just routine errand running!

In the midst of this potential loss, another loss was looming:  Since November, 2008 we had been giving our sweet black cat, Shadow (that you see in the icon above) subcutaneous infusions as a result of kidney failure, which is common in older cats.  There is no cure for this, so the reality is that her condition would only worsen with time, but she did so well for little more than a year and a half.  During the summer – almost imperceptibly – she began her decline.  Her eating and activity level lessened.  She was slowly losing weight almost without notice.  I think it was the brutal heat we had over the summer, and without our house being air conditioned, it’s my opinion that this took a toll on her.   By September, it was clear she was not doing well.  She was lethargic – barely moving from one spot both day and night.  Watching this was like watching a slow death – and I knew this was what was happening.  The chronic sadness about this took it’s toll. 

We had to return to Hilton Head in late October for a few days, and we boarded her at the vets instead of getting a pet sitter so that she could be watched more carefully.  That was a tough decision because I didn’t know how well she’d thrive being cooped up in a cage in a strange place, but she did ok, and we brought her home – maybe a little better from that experience.  For the month of November her health remained constant, although I suspect that she was declining still – again imperceptibly.   Again we had to board her over Thanksgiving while we visited my family in PA, but this time she returned home clearly more sick.  She was barely eating – and was skin and bones – only 6 lbs. on her rather large kitty frame.

It was our plan to leave for Hilton Head for the winter about two days after returning from our Thanksgiving trip.  It had been our plan to take Shadow with us.  But – her condition was dire.

We had vowed that we would intervene in Shadow’s health only as long as she had “quality of life”.  After Thanksgiving, however, it slowly became clear that this had ended.  I wasn’t even sure she would survive the two day car trip to Hilton Head from Long Island.

Would we be putting Shadow down only for our convenience – so that we could go to Hilton Head at the time when we wanted to go?  Those few days after our Thanksgiving trip were dark ones for both my husband and I as we wrestled with the decision.

What to do?  What to do???

On December 1, we put Shadow down.  It was one of the saddest days for us.  But – in the end, both of us are convinced we made the right decision for her.  She had no quality of life, with little hope for it to return.  We loved her – and her brother, Phantom (who died in November, 2006 of an inner ear tumor), deeply.  They were our “dynamic duo” – so special in our lives.  No matter what other kitties would grace our household again, there would be no kitties like them ever again.  It was an end of a wonderful era….

The next day we left for Hilton Head …. cat-less.   It was hard to pack.  It was hard to go.  I wanted to curl up and mourn my sweet Shadow.  But … we left…

Emotionally I was “in limbo” during the month of December.  I was healing from the loss of Shadow – or trying to – by preparing for Christmas.  We decorated the house, shopped both online and in the stores, and prepared for a trip to PA on Christmas day until December 29th.  But in the midst of all that, my knee went “out” – yet again — during a photography walk on the beach in mid December.  Add to that – a rash I have been battling for the last two years flared up around Thanksgiving.  Let’s just say:  The itching was relentless until I got a “miracle cream” prescribed by a dermatologist whom I saw only days after arriving in Hilton Head.

My knee is better, but it’s now fragile in a way it was not before.  I do not know if surgery is in my future, but will be waiting until we go back north (where our health insurance is in effect) to have that evaluated again.  I am doing the exercises I learned in rehab, and wearing a brace when I walk.  There are good days and bad days, and do not know why my knee’s condition fluctuates so much.  I’m just relieved to be relatively mobile.

I know for a fact that my overall mood is rising.  On January 7th we went to the Hilton Head Humane Association and brought home two litter mate tuxedo kittens (one male, one female, about 6 months old) which we’ve named Felix and Misty.  What cuties they are, and to be honest, I knew I could fall in love again!  When I saw them lick each other after removing them from the cage in the Humane Association to see how they would react to each other, I was smitten and knew they would be my kitties!  After a month without a cat in our house, I have discovered that our house could never be a “home” without a cat (or cats) in it!  Kittens are a new experience after having elderly cats for so long – and they are into everything.  Fragile items have been put away.  Upholstered Furniture is vulnerable to kitty claws.  But – it’s all good!  They love each other – and us – and we love them.

And – I will leave you with a few pictures of the kitty loves of my life:

IMG_3299 IMG_3308

IMG_3205 IMG_3185

1.  Misty (no white on chin and a smaller kitty) and Felix (white on chin and a slightly larger kitty lying together.  Misty’s head is on Felix’s body.

2.  Misty in the sisal “Cat Shack” we bought them

3.  Felix “birding” out the sliding glass door

4.  Kitty Kisses

Very soon I will be changing some pictures on my blog’s sidebar to reflect our new additions – but will always keep Shadow and Phantom not far from here, too.  (EDIT:  This has been done)  I also hope not to allow this much time to go by between entries.

Much ado about “My Knee”

I suppose I should update, as there is an “addendum” to the previous post.

After I’d written it, I realized that I didn’t want to simply go on my way as if I’d never written the entry.  What could I do – – AT THAT MOMENT – -  to enhance my health?  I wasn’t going to make any commitments or promises for future actions – but was only thinking of that moment – – “one day at a time”.

I noticed my never-worn Skechers which I’d purchased a month ago staring straight at me and knew that it was time for a walk – a power walk – and put them to good use.

So – off I went, and I walked about a mile + at a brisk pace. For the most part, it felt good, and I love the skechers, too!  I wasn’t winded, but knew that my legs were getting quite a work out, but I also knew my knee was – uh – not quite so good.

To backtrack, I’ve had knee issues since 2001, and probably prior to that from many years of skiing and wrenching it in various falls.  The knees are the joint that takes the most amount of abuse in that sport.  Anyway – during the fall of that 2001 I was golfing, and for an unknown reason, my knee “went out” while playing.  To this day, I do not know what I did to cause it – but suspect it was ready to go and it didn’t take much.  In retrospect, I remember that this knee had felt “strained” for a few months prior to that.

I saw a doctor, had an MRI, then saw an orthopedist and was given a prescription for some physical therapy.  I had torn  “something”, but at this point, I can’t remember exactly what that was.  I never did do that therapy, as we were headed to Hilton Head in only a month or so, and my insurance wouldn’t pay for it to be done away from my home base.  In the end, it solved itself over the course of the next few months with rest, and then increasing exercise.

Since then, I’ve had a few other setbacks, and my other knee went last year in the same way.  Each time it would get better over the course of a month or so with rest – then slowly increasing my exercise level.

The bottom line is that my knee went out due to yesterday’s walk.  I admit that it had been “fragile” for the last two weeks from a golf game, but I’d been keeping up with my normal activities – walking, climbing steps, etc.  But – this walk clearly took it over the edge.  I didn’t realize the extent of the pain at first, but once I’d sat for a while, the knee “set” – and it hurts – just like before.  I can walk “gently”, but ,like an “old lady”, I have to climb steps – one at a time.  😦

What *is* the universe trying to tell me in all of this?  I go back to my entry on "aging" and yesterday’s entry, as well, and the messages there.  Getting older is not for sissies, and to take for granted that body parts are going to automatically work is getting less sure the older I get.  I need to be grateful for what *is* working and take care of it.  And then – hopefully – when my knee feels better to cherish it’s working ability, and take care of it, too.  If you think about it, the many inner workings of our bodies – to keep us alive and functioning – are a miracle.  Unlike in my youth, my body isn’t always going to automatically “work”.  I realize that my body needs more intervention now, with a better diet and reasoned exercise.  And, maybe I need to see the doctor – again.  I don’t WANNA!!!  I dread the surgery that could possibly their suggestion at this point.  Also — if I do manage to make a commitment to weight loss – for now it has to be without the kind of exercise that will involve my knees.  And – maybe – most importantly – the universe is telling me, in it’s it’s unique and dramatic way, which may be the only way I can hear the message, of the importance of a commitment to my own health.

When I was a child, I thought very little about my body and how well it functioned.  It just “did”.  As long as it gave me no discomfort, I didn’t pay attention to it.  I took for granted that it worked well, I was healthy, nothing hurt, and my weight and height were in good proportion.  Honestly – I didn’t think twice about what I ate, and whether I was eating too many carbs, sweets, or not enough fruits and vegetables.  I “maintained”, so it was rarely in my consciousness. 

My mom was in charge of meals, so, in general, my diet was healthy.  I was forced to finish at least 1/2 of the particular – dreaded – vegetables or there would be no dessert!  I was rarely permitted more than 2 cookies at a time, and portions of other desserts always left with me “wanting more”.  Though there was usually “seconds” on the main course, “balance” in eating was enforced and modeled throughout my childhood.  However, my parents could not control what I did when I wasn’t home and when I had my own money to burn, and I remember a few “pig-outs” on candy.  The idea of “filling up with abandon” was a huge treat, and I didn’t think back then about the ramifications to my health, because my body didn’t rebel – probably because I didn’t get the opportunity to do it all that much. 

During my childhood, I also didn’t have to think about scheduling into my day a formal “exercise” plan.  In fact, “exercise”, per se, wasn’t part of my consciousness.  What I normally did during my day was sufficient.  Yes – we probably spent too much time watching TV, but many hours were also spent outside “running around”

Fast forward about 50 years, and things have surely changed.  My body frame is not as I’d like it.  Yep – I’m too heavy, and I know I don’t always eat correctly, nor exercise enough.  When I see the doctor, she seems to find small things going wrong – – beginnings of blood sugar issues, beginnings of higher blood pressure, bad knees…  Clearly my body isn’t “adjusting” in the same way it used to when I’d occasionally “abuse” it during my childhood.  It’s requiring more “TLC” from it’s “owner” – – me – – requiring me to actually *think* about how I care for it.  In other words, what has been unconscious – what I feed my body and how I exercise it – must be made conscious.  

All that I learned from my mother about “balance in eating”, I’ve kind of put on the back burner in favor of “eating with abandon” until I’m not just “full”, but over full.  I’ve lost all sense of portion control.  For the most part, with some exceptions, my food choices are *fairly* healthy, in that I make sure  vegetables, salads and fruits are in my diet.  But – it’s more about how MUCH I eat of these things – i.e. – portion control.  Besides that, my weakness is **pasta pasta pasta**, and too much cheese, either on the pasta or on Mexican dishes – or wherever!.  Oh how I love it!  This, in itself, and in healthy portions, is not unhealthy – but it’s where I lose the balance I was taught growing up.

I’m not the only one concerned about this, as I’ve watched friends take stock and begin diet and exercise programs.  In my private blogging group on Live Journal, I read about their daily concerns, and decisions and activities concerning this issue.  Two of my friends have begun public “diet / exercise” blogs to monitor their progress and to have a place to vent their feelings and frustrations – and successes – as they go about living a more healthy lifestyle.  Read!  They are great blogs!  🙂

But – – here I sit.  Doing nothing.  Feeling guilty.  But still doing nothing.  Tomorrow I’ll think about it.  The next day I’ll do it.  Next week.  Just – – Later.  *finding some sand to bury my head…*  But – the topic is gnawing at me – nudging me – reminding me of it’s vital importance – pulling my head out of the comfortable sand. 

WHAT is holding me back?  I suspect I could write an entire blog entry on this – but I think the bottom line is one word:  Addiction – – to food.  It’s also what “food” and “eating” means to me emotionally and psychologically – AND – what it’s replacing or “blotting out” in my life which I don’t want to see or confront.  It’s a way of hiding and “avoiding”.

Back in the mid 1970’s I’d also gained some weight.  However, at that time I dieted, and lost it, then maintained that weight loss for a few years until I got pregnant with my son.  I remember that dieting process, and the feelings of “hunger” that you just had to “live with” and “accept”.  I would figure out ways distract myself from those hunger pains.  I ask myself now:  was it true hunger, or “emotional hunger”?  I honestly can’t remember, but it probably was a combination of both.

After my son was born, I gained it all back.  All bets were off and I never dieted again.  I loved raising my son, but at the same time, I was lonely and starved for adult activities and companionship.  I know that food was a replacement for those empty feelings, and there was no distracting myself during those years.

I think about starting the program – and what it will mean to my life.  Only good things can happen if I choose this route – at least to my health.  But – emotionally, do I *want* to do this?  Can I handle life without this crutch?  Of course I *can* – but do I want to?   I can envision a sense of “loss” – of sadness – from not being able to ever “eat with abandon” again.  I will SO miss that.  Do I want to deal with those feelings?  “Balance” is so “boring”!  “Balance” doesn’t give you that “rush” or distraction from “emptiness”.

It’s also about living my life consciously – making daily, healthy choices for it when I might otherwise not want to do those things, but doing them anyway.  I just want to EAT and enjoy, without all that discernment, which feels like it’ll ruin the experience for me.

In reading some of the blogs on this, I realize that when one begins new healthy habits, the thrill of success erodes the desire for that old behavior, and you are energized by the motivation from this.  I sort of remember this from that one successful weight loss program prior to my pregnancy.

Then there’s exercise.  Why – when it was just a part of my daily life as a child has it become boring and arduous now?  When I was a child, I used to get all “sweaty” and run around until I was out of breath, and it was ok and even fun!  But now it’s the last thing I want.  At various times over my adult life I’ve started walking programs, only to end them when I’d “had it” (or it got too hot, too cold, I was bored, it was just plain “inconvenient”, and / or it was “no fun” anymore)  I fear commitment to these kinds of things, for fear of failing in that resolve.   (But – I know the response to this:  the bottom line is that I’ve already failed by not starting to at all!)

So – – here I am – – yet again, talking about it but not doing.  We’ll see what transpires.  A commitment has not yet been made, but the healthy part of me hopes it will.  I just have to bring around the “other” side of me….!

As a child, I couldn’t wait to get older.  As I reached each age milestone, more privileges were granted and I’d be more independent.  My older brother would be allowed to “do more things”, but when I asked to do that same thing (like stay up later), I was told I was “too little”.  It made me think – at times – that being a child was a “lower life form” that I’d hopefully “outgrow” when I grew up.  So – when I was asked what my age was, I’d say “8 1/2” rather than “8” just to increase my age closer to the next higher digit – and maybe I’d be granted that privilege sooner.  It’s no different in college when kids count the days until they turn 21 where even more “adult privileges” are extended.

Yet – there was a dichotomy going on at the same time.  When I was about 13 years old – I can’t remember for sure – I remember my mother talking to an elderly lady after church one Sunday.  All four of us kids were hanging there, too – waiting to be taken home.  The woman was grouchy, negative, and spent the entire conversation – – if you could call it that (she monopolized it) – – complaining about “young people today”, their bad morals, their rudeness and bad manners, and on and on.  It was clear that this woman wanted my mom’s ear, hoping that Mom would instill these values she thought were so lacking into the four of us.  But – we were standing around, listening, too – a captive audience – and I think this elderly woman wanted that, as well.   However, we were probably too impatient to listen all that intently.  Through some well placed, though subtle, eye rolls (yep – probably bad manners!), we begged my mom to “wrap it up”, so we didn’t “lock up the church” (be the last ones to leave) for yet another Sunday.  Finally we got to leave, and I realized later that even my mom felt worn down by the negativity of the conversation.

This woman was dowdy.  It was probably the early 1960’s, but her dark, drab colored dress was more than likely something that was in fashion in the 1940’s.  She wore a black Sunday hat – one that had this black lace thingie that shielded her eyes from direct view.  Her black laced up heels were even more dowdy and very clunky long before that became fashionable (or fashionable again?).

On that day, I vowed that when I got “old”, I’d never be like that.  I told myself I’d not remain stuck in the clothing styles of the “older generation”.  I’d work hard to refrain from negativity about the younger generation, and, even if I didn’t like it, I’d try to understand how they viewed the world.  I never wanted be “stuck” in a previous generation.  This experience has remained with me since the day it happened.

I wanted to “grow up”, but I never wanted to be “old”.

Fast forward to early adulthood.  Even in my 20’s, I felt like a teenager, but loved being an adult.  Age 30 rolled around and I think it was then when I realized that I was an adult, WITH adult responsibilities.  Our son was born when I was 29, and I had to put aside the belief that I could be a perpetual teenager.  It was kind of sad, though joyous, too.

Each decade milestone brought more realizations that the world was getting younger, and I was only aging.  I had fewer problems with the actual decade birthdays (30, 40, 50), and more trouble with the midway points.  Somehow they reminded me that the next decade was not too far away, and I’d have to “prepare”.  How I prepared – I do not know.  I guess it’s just an acceptance that would happen.  Yet – I wonder if I have spent many years burying my head in the sand because I am now age 60, and it has hit me like a ton of bricks that somehow my young adult and middle age years have quickly slipped by, and I am now in the last third of my life – that is – if all goes as planned as far as age projections.

The catalyst for these feelings has not only been reaching a certain age, but the events of our life that have transpired during this last decade.

First of all, Ray retired in 2001, so we have left the work world.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s nice – but it’s also a reminder that we’ve entered the next stage of our lives  Our son is also on his own, is married and we are often the last on his list of persons to talk with or visit.  It’s what 20 and 30-somethings often do, as they forage their own lives.  I admit – I did that, too….  I did not see, nor understand the feelings our parents may have had about us “leaving the nest”.  Yet – I am also truly enjoying the freedoms and new opportunities that come from the empty nest.  Our snowbird lifestyle is possible because we have the freedom one doesn’t have when there are children to raise.

Also – little medical things have crept into our lives:  Ray’s kidney stones, my “bad knee”, and diverticulitis. When I was young, I used to go to the doctor, and was quickly in and out.  I expected them to find nothing wrong – and they didn’t.  I can’t now, though…  Each time I have a doctor’s appointment, I am beginning to expect they’ll find something:  high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol.  I’ve had debilitating rashes, and my heart has been checked because they thought they noticed “something” (thankfully it was nothing).  I used to take my health for granted and assumed my body would not fail me.  Now it’s not a sure thing.

On top if this, Ray and I have watched our parents’ decline.  In particular, watching my inlaws “slow deaths” was one of the most difficult experiences we have had.  Dementia, hearing loss, blindness, physical impairments, and inability to get around, nor take care of simple life’s functions slowly engulfed their lives from about 2002 until their deaths in 2008 and 2009.  Each spent a total of 3 years in a nursing home with 3 more years with home-health aides.  I remember visiting them in the nursing home, and, even though this was a good facility, I was always relived to be able to walk out, get in my car and go home.  Yet, I’d then be overwhelmed with sadness that they couldn’t leave.  They were trapped there, and this would be their home for the rest of their lives. 

Is this how the end will be for me?  Who can say for sure, but it does end that way for many.  Lately we are hearing of some of our contemporaries who have passed away – or have become quite ill.  My inlaws were a little less than 30 years older than I am, and that really isn’t so far away.   Time “shortens up” as you get older!  I admit it – – I dread – and fear – those upcoming years.

Maybe it was these worries that consumed that elderly lady in the dowdy clothes that burned my mom’s ear about the “younger generation”.  Maybe she was simply jealous of our family – of Mom — and of our youth.

I do know that it is time to seize the day — “Carpe Diem”!  When “time” suddenly is seen as “finite”, it is a message for me to embrace “living” like I’ve never done before, because there will come a time when there won’t be that opportunity.  I admit – I am not quite sure how I want to do that.  There is my music – my photography – but how I may choose to use those interests of mine is not yet formulated.   But, I know I cannot stall for too much longer.  Time is of the essence.  One never knows!

I continue to vow that I will work to understand the younger generation and not stay stuck in old ideas.  I realize that the complaints about “kids” are the same from every older generation – concerns about morals, rudeness, bad manners, etc.  Nothing is new under the sun.  I have confidence that each generation ultimately grows up and works through these issues in their own way.  They thrive, too, just as we have.  Yet, as I age, I see how easy it is remain in a “comfy cocoon” with “the familiar”.  I admit I now “get” the mentality of that dowdy woman from church – that sometimes the past has wisdom.  Change is clearly more difficult the older I get.  However, – I am aware of this, and try to resist the temptation.  And, as far as how I dress, I work to remain relatively current, despite being a bit overweight.  No – I will not dress like the teenagers, but I will not dress like I am back in the 1960’s, either.

And – I am letting my hair grow long.  I want it long enough to put in a pony tail and it’s almost there.  It’s a “young” style, and an odd way of burying my head in the sand about my age.  Some say it looks “wrong” on my slowly aging face.  But – it’s my last shot, and Ray likes it!  I’m loving it, too – and suspect I’ll keep it that way.

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