Monday, March 25, 2013

going dark

We're back from our lovely vacation with just a few days before we move!

In about 10 minutes I'm calling to cancel our cable and internet and I have to say, I'm a bit excited about  electronically going dark.

For the next week or so, we'll be playing music and packing and eating quick quiet meals and painting and eventually hosting easter dinner in our new place! It'll be busy but also kind of calming.

We have no idea when we'll get internet again but when we do, I'll be sure to post a picture of us sitting on our back porch with our feet up and a big smile.

Until then, I hope you all have a wonderful easter weekend! My wish is that you'll also find a good mix of hard work, and family, and peaceful quiet... only with less trips to Home Depot!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Self Imprisonment

Maybe I should be angry that our rascally dog keeps finding ways to eat inedible objects - a dvd, a shoe, a book, a sock, and most recently, a picture frame.

I call this puzzle reconstruction,
"How much can be missing before I seek medical help?"

OR maybe I should be thankful that he knows he's been bad, and he's directed his shame into self punishment... the open penalty box eye contact

...self imprisonment

note: these are from three (of many) separate occasions

Either way, I think the best (or worst. but maybe best) part of all this is his increased level of attachment after being willingly confined.

By "increased level of attachment" I mean, he just wont leave our sides

not for anything

I'm not kidding

Good thing you're so stinking cute Dixon.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Recovery Care Kit

I've had a bit of time and distance from that really tough recovery period, and now I feel I can organize my thoughts. I received so so so many wonderful things during this time and the gifts really helped with my health and spirit. I would be remiss if I didn't share these things with you. They're great ideas for anyone in recovery (they'd even work for all those new Mom's out there)!

FOOD: Initially I think of the delicious meals given to us (a lasagne that knocked my socks off, and a whole foods bounty that I devoured), but I also had some trouble with appetite at times. Here are some great alternatives to prepared meals...

- Fruit Baskets. Again, I didn't have much of an appetite. When I ate, I wanted it to be filling and healthy. Buying and preparing fruit can be a lot, so this gift was amazing. I could just reach into the fridge for already cut watermelon and then shuffle back to the couch.

- Hand Held Snacks. Food preparation was at the bottom of my list and when Neil went back to work I spent even less energy on feeding myself. The piles of cliff bars sent to us were like bars of gold!

- Restaurant/Grocery Gift Cards. I was eating like a bird and I didn't know when I would crave something. Having these were fantastic, especially when this vegetarian said "I don't know why, but the only thing I want right now is a steak. I need red meat!" It was even better for the restaurants that deliver! It felt like getting to eat out while I was stuck in bed, and we could eat well at the times it worked best for us.

- Poopin Mix. Lets just get real here. Narcotics can mess you up. I was in a bad place until I discovered this magic mixture.... equal parts apple sauce, prune juice, and fiber one cereal. Big shocker here - it actually tastes good! (all new moms out there: you're welcome)

HEALTH: Here are a few things that were so wonderful, I began to depend on them for my healing.

- Ice/Heat Pack. This reusable gem became my new best friend. So simple but so necessary!

- Healing Lotion. Years ago I discovered this Anti-Stress Massage Lotion that works wonders on sore muscles. It functions something like icy/hot but its all natural (and doesn't smell so strong). I would use it on my legs after a long run or my low back when I felt achy. After the surgery, rubbing this on my neck and shoulders was a highlight of my morning.

- Advice. I couldn't see my incision and Neil couldn't deal with the pressure of deciding what looked "ok" so having nursing friends available for simple questions and spot checks was great.

- Pillow. Before surgery, Neil had his favorite T-shirt made into a small pillow for me. It was the perfect size for bringing to the hospital. It was a great for additional neck support. Plus it was so perfectly sentimental (and I was a swooning sentimental mess at the time.)

CLOTHES: I would have never guessed getting clothes would be important in my recovery time but having that new comfy item to wear really did make me feel better.

- Sweats. The gold standard. My easy, cozy, all the time wardrobe. I got everyday gray pants and basic t-shirts and some thoughtful hooded shirts (to cover up my neck). I also got a blue zip-up made from Alternative Earth, the softest cotton material in this world. I wear it almost every single day (still).

- Robe. It was summer so getting a soft, breezy robe was perfect. I took this to the hospital and it appropriately covered my backside while I walked the halls. When I was home, I could wear this and look presentable for visitors, while still laying around.

- Travel Bag. Okay so this isn't technically clothes, but its pictured above and its worth a shout out. I got this incredible travel bag from my mom on my birthday (shortly before surgery). Her intent was for me to pack what I needed for the hospital stay - knowing that soon I'd feel better and I'd be packing this bag for weekend trips with Neil. We are headed to Louisville in a week and as I pull this out, it will feel so good to remember how far I've come (not to mention its a fabulous bag)! *note Lo and Sons is a family owned company, and when they heard my story, they gave my mom a discount on the bag along with a really sweet note! That's unheard of these days!!

- Dress Up. After spending all my days in sweats (again, thank God for those!), there were times when I wanted to look better than I felt. There were days of doctor follow-ups when I still wasn't ready for "society pants" that button, but I was in the mood to look nice. My two favorite things to wear were a long cotton skirt and an activewear dress. The skirt made me feel like I was still in sweat pants but look like I had my sh*t together. The dress, oh man the dress. The women in Neil's family got this Lole dress for me and it has become my staple. It is from this website - which boasts 'activewear' clothing (which means it can look fancy but can even be worn exercising). Its wrinkle resistant and incredibly comfortable. I wore it when stuck on the couch. I wore it when we went out to eat for the first time. I've worn it to birthday parties and baby showers. And it will be my standard traveling outfit forever more!

SPLURGES: Like the clothing, technically these things weren't necessary for my recovery, but they sure did make a girl feel great!

- iTunes Gift Card. When I would take my walks each day, I began wearing my ipod and the music helped me pass the time. Getting this gift card was so fun because I really got to treat myself. I would contemplate which album to buy next and the soundtracks now remind me of an important time in my life.

- American Express Gift Card. We were so thankful for this for similar reasons as the itunes card. After spending all day (and night) consumed by our needs (physical and otherwise), it was such a joy to discuss our wants. We used this card to gift ourselves with something we would have never bought on our own and it was a blast to decide what to buy. We ended up with a TV stand (which sounds boring, but if you saw the rickety coffee table that used to be our TV stand, you'd understand why it was so delightful to change things up).

- Porch Furniture and Pillows. This bonus gift ended up becoming a life saver. When I was tired after walks, I could sit down and recover. When I was sick of being inside, I could comfortably breathe fresh air. It was the perfect change of scenery for me and now that I feel better, I can't wait to spend healthy days on the porch with our dog.

- Books and Movies. My dear friends, who know me so well, lent me a ton of books over this time period. I loved these hand picked items. I loved taking quiet time to read (or, in the beginning, having Neil read to me). I loved feeling connected with friends. I especially loved the escape of a good book.

SUPPORT: this is by far the most important one.

- Cards. Notes. Email. Calls. Texts. Comments. I never appreciated the power of these things until I found I NEEDED them. I had more than one day that dissolved into tears where I would tell Neil "I honestly don't think I'm strong enough." and without fail, I would get a text or a card that suggested otherwise. Sometimes it was just a funny picture and sometimes it was a long written sentiment - every time it helped tremendously. I would read and re-read my cards every single day. Without fail, I would begin to cry with thankfulness and comfort and joy. I never felt so loved and so well cared for.

Here's a get well card from a group of prisoners who were praying for me.
(beyond amazing, right?)

So that's my comprehensive list. I'm sure I forgot some things. Feel free to add to this with your own recovery care kit items.

I hope you never find the need to get these things for your loved ones - but in case you do, I hope this post helps. At the very least, for those of you reading this that had such a big hand in my healing - I hope you know how grateful I am.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Madly Dashing

This past weekend a group of energetic and lovely people ran a race in North Park...

Every month we have the habit of meeting in early morning to run our butts off then eat pancakes. This month's venture was the "March Mad Dash" a 5k, 5 Mile, and 10 Mile race.

Last year I ran the 5 mile in 48:47 (and Neil placed). This year, I went with the 5K seeing as it was my first time racing since the surgery.

I had no idea what my speed would be. Every single run I take is with the dog, and stopping to sniff every tree really messes with one's sense of timing. I told Neil that I would aim for a 10 minute mile, but I felt nervous to meet even that goal. I felt especially nervous about how I would feel.

I set out and things were good. I slipped past person after person. I climbed hills and my head felt fine. In the absence of pain, I noticed my breathing and the course and the people around me. I didn't have to walk to bring my heart rate down and relieve pressure and I didn't have to spike with pain after a mile.

I would check my time and think "wow this is fast. I should slow down so I don't start to hurt," but the hurt never came. And friends, get this, I finished under my goal of 31 minutes. In fact, after well over a year of trying to break that 9 minute mile mark, I sailed across that too. 

My final time was 27:02! (which calculates to an 8:42 min/mile)

I dashed across the finish and lept and hooted and hollered and even then I felt no pain. I wanted to kiss everyone on the face. So often I've heard of a 'runner's high', and now that's finally making sense. It must sound like I'm going on and on about this but I just can't express in enough ways how amazing it is to put in training miles and get subsequent results. Its so incredible for a race to feel fun and easy and not crippling. It's beyond my wildest dreams to end a race without the things going dark in my peripheral and my temples stabbing. After what felt like such an uphill struggle with everything running, on Saturday, I coasted down hill.

I even finished fast enough to watch Neil cross the finish line of his 5 mile at 35:05 (that's like a 7 minute mile folks!)

Despite his great time, he was even more happy for me. This joy might be rooted in the fact that I didn't snap at him during the early morning car ride, and I didn't cry at the finish, and I didn't make him escort me out of the noise and chaos to a place where I'd likely snap at him again. Nope, we both were happy and fine!

Is this how other people feel when they run? Is this what we have to look forward to? I could have never envisioned how madly great this would all be! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


My life has recently been full of any activities in which I can do somethings with my motor skills, but I have an unoccupied mind. So in the midst of cooking, packing, cleaning, and running - I'm happy to devote tons of time to podcasts. And I have to confess that the one I discovered just before surgery, has recently become an obsession:

Stuff You Should Know

This podcast is absolutely fascinating. It's funny and captivating and full of crazy facts. Actually, let me backtrack and explain it. Stuff You Should Know (SYSK, if you're feeling friendly) is a twice-weekly podcast that explores any topic in our universe. The hosts, Josh and Chuck, explain complex and odd things with surprising clarity and humor. Actually, let me just direct you to the website.

You can pick up any of the hundreds (actually over 500) of podcasts for free (free!!) on itunes. Or I just use the free podcast app on my phone.

Of course I'm drawn to "How Pizza Works", "How Beer Works", and "Coffee: The World's Drug of Choice" right off the bat.

But there are others that I didn't think would interest me, which have been so so good, like: "How Jet Lag Works", "How Meth Works", "How Daylight Savings Works", "How Cremation Works", "How McCarthyism Works", "What is Mountain Top Removal Mining", and "How Grow Houses Work", "

"How the Donner Party Worked" and "Why Ticks Suck" are both terrifying.

The one on hiccups is my favorite.

Lately, I find myself trying to divert conversation to accommodate my new knowledge. Its hard to work tips on outrunning an alligator into everyday discussions. Mostly I just want everyone to become as hooked on theses as I am and then we can get together and talk about flesh eating bacteria.

I should mention that SYSK is part of a larger program called "How Stuff Works" and within that there are many other informative podcast shows. The episodes from "Stuff You Should Have Learned in History Class" on Edgar Allen Poe and Van Gough are great.

Okay. that's my PSA. Do you already know and love SYSK? If so what are your favorites?

That's all. Now, I'm going to go back to learning about Saunas while I put picture frames into boxes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Big Announcement!

We've been keeping it somewhat of a secret but now it's officially official....we have a new addition to our family

ITS A...


Born: 1901
Size: 3 bedrooms
Weight: a lot

We did the very scary steps of signing our initials to the bottom of a quart of a million pages and we took a deep breath as our savings (which was built for this purpose) depleted. We felt the butterflies of making offers and countering and walking through a home inspection. We felt the joy of holding the paper in our arms.

Now, with the help of dear family, we can say we have a house. It feels both very real and very abstract. We don't actually move until the end of this month, but in every sense, its ours! From the roof shingles right down to the Pittsburgh Potty...

So I'll take just a second to gush about this property, since it's all I can think about. There's a front AND back porch! There's a fenced in yard (which means everything to me these cold mornings when I bundle up to take the dog out). There's a full basement - with a washer and dryer (what! no more laundrymat!?!?) There's a finished third floor. There's a big open kitchen. There's some minor face lift projects (hellooo wood panelling and drop ceiling) but we love that with a few upgrades, we can make it our own.

This is a house in a neighborhood we adore. We're blocks from our favorite people. We're next door to a library! We're super close to some of our favorite restaurants and coffee shops. Plus, Neil's bike to work is even easier.

More than anything, this is our place. For years moving was off the table for us, and now its as simple as a signature. We are literally building a future for ourselves that's brighter than we could have imagined.

I think its fitting that we move easter weekend. Its truly symbolic of our new start. I can't wait to pick up our keys and spend that first night in our new home (sleeping bags, dog bed, and a toothbrush). I can't wait to paint some cabinets and arrange some furniture and then have all of you (yes, all of you!) over to celebrate!!