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Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Kingdom for a Mech Suit (or, the Saga of Abby's Gardening)

Recently a particularly windy night reminded me through the screeching and scratching of bushes on my windows of exactly how little yard work I've done since my injury.
Theme music:  Autolux's "Robots in the Garden"

When we first moved into this house - which Andrew's mother was nice enough to let us rent while we stayed in Santa Barbara raising Sadie - the yard was full of possibilities.  Sure, it was big and full of plants, but I was excited about the idea of making the yard into a place I enjoyed.  Andrew's mom warned me that even when she had her family of 4 living here and they all worked on it every week it still never was quite "tamed," but in my mind the fantasy of Abby, Gardener Extraordinaire was standing behind his mom while she said this, shaking her head and smirking.  "Oh Abby, you know you can do this.  Don't listen to her."  HA!  

When I was 8 months pregnant with Sadie I ripped up almost all of our front yard, pulling out weeds and leveling out the gopher holes so that we could plant grass there.  (I saw "almost all" because when Andrew came home and found me working on it he got mad at me for doing so much work while pregnant and made me go inside while he finished it up.)  We planted grass, watered it twice a day, and right before we went to the hospital to evict her there was a decent layer of baby grass starting.  I was so excited.  Then we ended up in the hospital for a full week trying to get her out of me - 41 hours of labor and a c-section somehow made me forget about my poor baby grass.  When we finally came home, it was little more than a brownish layer of stubble on the ground, and in the sleep-deprived haze of having a newborn I found that I didn't give a crap anymore.  

The next Spring I had finally gotten some sleep and began my quest to tame the yard again - I weeded the flower boxes and planted new stuff, and we had all our local friends over for a "Gardening Party" where we basically bribed everyone with pizza and beer to help us weed and chop and churn and plant.  (I made the fatal mistake of feeding everyone only 2 hours into the project, though, which I should have realized would make it all grind to a halt...)  We managed to get a small veggie garden box planted and half of our yard was actually looking pretty decent after that.  I even managed to maintain it decently that summer, too.  

Then my arm rebelled.
I injured my neck in late April 2010 - a few weeks after the planting all happened - and I now know that my arm's rebellion 4 months later was probably the result of the overcompensation I did with the arm muscles in trying to keep strain away from the bulging discs.  After over a year of mis-diagnosis and bad treatment prescriptions, my stupid right arm is still grumpy and my yard looks like crap.  

Last week I saw an orthopedic surgeon who diagnosed my arm with two things: chronic elbow tendinitis and ulnar neuritis.   Which rings true for me in a way that previous diagnoses that assume my bulging discs are to blame have not.  But the doctor emphasized to me very strongly that rest was the only way to treat the neuritis (which is the reason my hand goes numb and I can't grip things very well anymore) and that I need to bring the amount of elbow-bending I do to an absolute minimum if I want it to recover without surgery.  He also told me that because my tendinitis has continued for so long that my body has probably stopped trying to heal the tears in the tendon and that he has only one more type of injections he can try on it before he decides surgery is necessary if it's ever going to recover.  

sad face Pictures, Images and Photos
My reaction to this news looked something like this

So now, here I am: staring at a yard full of weeds and overgrown plants, with a boyfriend whose solution to it all is to "just salt the earth" (and I really, really wish I was kidding about that statement), and zero money to hire someone to come help tame it.

♫♪I've got first-world problems...♪♫

The very windy day I posted on Facebook about how the wind was reminding me how little yard work I'd done, and I had two long-time friends post replies that basically suggested that if I wanted to fix the problem I could.  Which, yes, is true: if I really wanted to prune back that bush, I could do it.  I wouldn't be able to type or open jars for probably two days afterward, but I could do it.  I did my best to not reply to them in the knee-jerk pouty way that I wanted to, because I realize that most of the world doesn't understand what it's like to not be able to use your dominant hand.  They don't know how hard it is to brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand or to use scissors with it or to try and carry your toddler around with one arm.  And I have to try and remember that they don't understand because what my instinct is is to scream, "STOP JUDGING ME, I KNOW MY YARD LOOKS LIKE SHIT AND MY HOUSE HASN'T BEEN SCRUBBED PROPERLY!" at them.  I have a serious lack of elbow-grease going on here.  And I have to work on allowing myself to be ok with this and realize that my true friends won't judge me for the fact that I have an overgrown yard and hard-water build-up in my bathtub.  (I'll admit, I've never been a particularly clean person, but becoming a mother has made me want to be one.  There are days when I genuinely wantt o scrub the crap out of my bathtub and realize that I really can't.)

 Unless someone wants to buy me one of those awesome mech suits that Sigourney Weaver wore while battling Aliens...  

In which case I will be more than happy to come do yard work for you.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Zombie Training - Part I

So I'm running again.
Cue theme music:

For the first time in what I figured out was almost 5 years.  I seriously cannot believe how long ago that was.  When I was in college I would ride my bike to the nearby beach, run for a while, then ride back home all before I went to my morning classes.

Not for all of college, mind you, just my single times.  For whatever reason having a boyfriend makes me insanely lazy.  But still, I ran for a good amount of time in 2005-2007 until I got into a bike accident and messed up my knee (which then required surgery after 6 months of unsuccessful physical therapy).  There have been several false starts to this "get back into running" shtick, but now after over a month of actually going at least 3 times a week I can officially say I'm doing it.  

WOO-HOO!  I'M DOING IT!
After being as out-of-shape as I have been with the whole neck/arm injury thing I was shocked to find that it was not as difficult as I thought it would be to get some distance going - I had started the Couch-to-5k program using a widget on my phone, but I found quickly that it was holding me back and I did much longer distances if I wasn't constantly waiting for the time to change so I could do the walking interval or something like that.  It's like when I get injections or needle-stabbed for any reason - I HATE when people count it down.  Knowing that there's a timer going on something makes the anticipation a million times harder for me and I get mentally a lot more wound-up if I know it's coming.  So I opted to quit that program and just go to the beach and run at my own pace for as long as I could stand and gave myself permission to walk when I needed to.  (I also have given myself permission on a few occasions to wipe my snotty nose on my shirt while I run.  As long as my toddler doesn't see and no one else witnesses it I would rather have a snotty shirt than a sniffly nose while I run.  I know, I know: gross.)

Once I changed my mentality about how I was going to start running again, and got into the routine of just going to the beach straight after work for a run I surprised myself by running a mile without stopping almost a week later.  Now I'm up to about 2.5 miles without stopping (at around a 12-minute mile which is scoff-worthy if you run marathons, but if you're a chubby post-injury-post-baby woman who hasn't run in 5 years it's fucking AWESOME.)

The issue now is that my feet keep falling asleep when I hit the 1.75 mile mark.  And I have no clue why.
I know what you're going to say and let me tell you now, my shoes are not too tight. I've run barefoot and had the same issue.

I read on a forum somewhere that tightening of my "piriformis" muscles in my butt might be to blame.  If this is the cause, apparently the next step for me is to get a deep-tissue massage of my butt.

*cue awkward, frightened look on my face*

I tend to think about things related to zombie survival when I'm running in order to keep me motivated.  I'm absolutely determined to do this Run For Your Lives 5k in October - swarms of "zombies" chase you through an obstacle course, creating what is definitely the best zombie-apocalypse training possibility I will ever get.  But the question in my mind is, in an end-of-the-world scenario where I'm being chased by zombies, will I need to be fast, or go the distance?  I tend to think that speed is important to have in short-bursts, but if I'm outrunning the zombies I might need to be able to maintain a decent speed for quite a while.  And, given my location, I'll need to be able to do it with hills involved too.

Hell, given my life situation, I'm going to need to be able to run quickly up a hill while carrying a 30-something-pound child.  But I can't let myself think that far ahead because my stupid arm is still having tendonitis/bursitis issues and gets easily aggravated.  And thinking about what I can't do yet is not the mentality I need right now - I need to set myself easy, do-able goals every month so that I can think about the bigger picture later on.

So this month the goal is to run 5k at at least 5 m.p.h. without stopping.  And to figure out how to do that without my feet falling asleep.  And you know, if that means paying someone to dig their fingers into my butt-muscles, so be it.  I will conquer this issue.  I will not let the lazy, grumpiness in my body win.