Year In Review…Kinda

We don’t quite have one “lockdown now” date. View of Seattle Skyline

Hubs went to the Seattle Sounders Opening Day game on March 1, 2020, and the next home game on March 7, 2020.

The programmer (along with Microsoft, Amazon, and other tech employees in the area) started working from home March 4th, 2020.

Our last eating out day was March 8, 2020.

It’s been a long year.


I will preface this with: we had the 10% quarantine experience. Maybe even 5%.  We are doing fine, money-wise.  We have space. We’re in a suburban house, even, so we don’t have to worry about anti-maskers down the hall or sharing an elevator.


In everything else, my life isn’t what I expected. When I left Amazon in the summer of 2019, I figured I’d badger specialists, finish rehabbing from my pulmonary embolism, pitch articles, and be reborn as a freelance writer who doesn’t necessarily need a mobility scooter to go to the mall.

Of course it wasn’t that simple.

I did get some improved diagnosis and meds, which help! I am improving my stamina!  It’s just that 1) everything takes forever, 2) my body is like a Jenga pile at this point.

Going from 2 or 3 minutes on the treadmill to 10? Took months. I’m coming up on the 1-year anniversary of starting on the treadmill. And naturally, starting the treadmill made my back unhappy.  And my knees unhappy. Both of which I’ve whined about before, and know how to manage (other exercises) but it’s still there and not just FIXED.

Oh, and brain fog. When I started the treadmill would physically wipe me out for hours, and mentally I would have trouble playing solitaire after the treadmill. Solitaire!  It’s better now, but I tend to rest until I can complete a word search and not just solitaire.

More recently, I was sometimes getting dizzy when I’d stand up. Checked and my blood pressure was 100/60.  I’m TOLD this isn’t that low, but dizzy is bad, so we dropped one of the blood pressure meds.

In addition to all the physical stuff, I also can’t see friends. Go out to lunch. Browse at the bookstore.  Go to the farmer’s market.  Most festivals and cons are canceled. This is frustrating.

My health has improved over the last year, but slowly.  Walking in general is easier.  Strength training (for knees etc) is making moving around easier in general.  Able to discontinued one of my high blood pressure meds.

And yes, maybe I’ll start sending out pitches for articles again. But not tomorrow.

 

*Wordpress if the 4 periods in a row breaks you I’ll be unhappy.

Happy Saturday

In no particular order:

My household continues to abide without strife, hooray.

I appear to have hit on a balance for strength training and stretching that keeps my knees happy and doesn’t disappoint my back or hips or anything. else.  Yay.

My state, Washington, has decided to start vaccinating more non-frontline workers who are under 65, and even to count comorbidities, so I may be vaccinated sometime in April. Hooray.

Washington state is also reopening indoor dining again. This was greeted with sighs and “Again?” and “That’s dumb” in my household.

I acquired and read Seanan McGuire’s new InCryptid novel, Calculated Risks. Recommended but makes the most sense if you have read the other books.

We’ve been watching the Australian “Miss Fisher’s Mysteries” of late. I appreciate that the attention to detail includes 1928 laws regarding women, along with how nearly everyone 30 or above was affected by The War (or as we would call it, World War I).  I’ve also read a few more of the Phryne Fisher books by Kerry Greenwood.

Sadly, I am dealing with more acid reflux these days. I’m not sure if it’s stress or what, but I am making some changes as a result.

Who thought knees were a good idea?

You may remember that I can’t take NSAIDs anymore.

I’ve also written about knee issues, and that recently I wasn’t having them.

Apparently I tempted the fates or something, because last weekend I managed to do something to my left knee.

The good thing is that I have been able to treat it with using my cane more to reduce strain; elevation; an ice pack; and doing more of the exercises I learned in physical therapy.

I’m also very aware of how moving is affecting my my knee. Placing my foot in one direction or another can be painful or not. I’m more self-aware.

Would I like to take some ibuprofen occasionally? Yes! But I’m managing without, and with little pain.

Life Without Ibuprofen

I became aware of ibuprofen in high school, as a reliever for period pain. I used it with happy abandon for assorted cramps and pulled muscles. When my knees started hurting, I used ibuprofen. Headaches weren’t much helped by ibuprofen, but that’s what acetaminophen is for.

Eventually I had knee issues that ibuprofen didn’t handle, I added physical therapy exercises to ibuprofen. I didn’t stop taking it.

Enter blood thinners, to avoid another blood clot in my lungs.

You know what’s bad when you’re on blood thinners? Any other blood thinners. Like aspirin or naproxen or ibuprofen.

Seriously, that’s why older folks are often advised to take a low dose of aspirin a day – it’s a mild blood thinner, to avoid unneeded blood clots. But if you’re on specific medicine to make your clot less, then meds that adjust your clotting are bad.

Which means: I no longer take ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin. I can take acetominophen, but carefully, since my blood thinner med keeps my liver too busy to clear things like alcohol as fast as usual. Acetominophen goes through the liver, too, so I’m mindful about it. And, y’know, acetominophen didn’t really help with cramps anyway.

So here I am, in my mid-fifties, having to face arthritis, pulled muscles, and other ills without ibuprofen or naproxen. What to do?

  • I am more focused on strength training to support my knees and back.
  • I am more regular in stretching to prevent muscle cramps.
  • I am dealing with things like “sore neck and shoulder from sleeping wrong” with slow stretches and patience.

….and, if needed, I can drink. I just need to be aware it has stronger and more lasting effects than it used to have. :)

Hand Laundry Never Ends

As many women know, hand washing of bras is recommended to keep them in good condition.  This is not necessarily a huge burden!

Hand washing of pantyhose is also recommended. Thank heavens I don’t have to wear pantyhose.

And then came…compression stockings.

Compression stockings drying on towel rack

Compression stockings drying on towel bar

Compression stockings are often recommended for people who are on their feet all the time, who are flying, who have had lymph nodes removed, and to prevent blood clots.

In my case, I eventually realized that part of my left knee pain was actually located below my left knee.  Where there was also swelling, and which felt better if I wore tight leggings. My ARNP diagnosed likely blood flow issues and varicose veins, and referred me to a vascular specialist.

The vascular team did an ultrasound of the veins in my leg. Leg veins have one-way valves which supposed to keep the blood going up my leg, back to the heart. It was confirmed that my valves are not all working well. In particular, the one-way valve just below the knee on my left leg – where I had swelling and pain – wasn’t really one-way anymore.  Compression was recommended to reduce the swelling and help the vein to move the blood to the heart where it belongs.

I didn’t realize at the time that this would mean the hand wash only laundry would never end.

I was prescribed 20-30mmHg, knee-high stockings. The mmHg is “millimeters of mercury” pressure, and 20-30 is about middle of the range.  I did go to a medical supply store to get fitted. I recommend it since you can get some knowledgeable advice on fitting and how to put them on without putting a fingernail through them.  If you wear a common size you may be able to wear them home. My size 14-16 friend got fitted with thigh-highs after her cancer surgery and wore them home.

Initially I didn’t fit anything over-the-counter due to the swelling in my calves; after wearing leggings daily for a week, the swelling reduced enough that I could wear a standard size instead of custom made. I wear Juzo Max knee-high stockings, which have more of a flare at the top of the calf than the standard knee highs, and which wasn’t in stock but could be ordered. I also pop for the “silicone band” of little silicone beads to keep them up.

Pros:

  • No below-the-knee pain.
  • Much less swelling in calves.
  • Legs feel less tired.

Cons:

  • Stockings are expensive (mine are $78.39 per pair).
  • Stockings require hand washing.
  • Stockings need replacing every N months. Currently N is 2 or 3 months. I know folks who go 6 months, others who buy them monthly.
  • None of my leggings fit right anymore.

All that said, the compression stockings have been a really positive thing for me. The below-the-knee pain is gone.  Walking is more comfortable. I still elevate my feet whenever possible, but my legs and ankles aren’t swelling every evening. These are all terrific.

The Fat Life Isn’t

Internet is part of life, but it’s not all of life.

The people I know offline aren’t surprised that I am married, employed, and co-own a house.  The emails I get from this site often assume these aren’t possible, or that I must be some sort of exception.  There’s also am assumption that my fat is the biggest problem I have.

No.  So no.  A world of no.

This is a blog about fat acceptance and demystifying fat.  I write about fat, but it’s not the biggest thing.

In February my father went into hospice and my husband nearly died from an infection.  My father did die, barely a month later.

My fat is much smaller than that.

I may start posting more about the non-fat parts of my life. Or not.  But no, me not posting as much here doesn’t mean I’m not fat anymore.  It can mean I’m preoccupied with estate stuff and new hire training and crunch mode and volunteering and and.

The disconnect may be that I announce my weight here. In real life people see it, but I don’t throw out the Big Scary Number.

PS leg lifts love me.   :)

A year ago: Exercise Progress

…I started a program of walking every day.   I didn’t keep up with it being a daily walk, but I did get consistent enough in walking and strength training that I did not have to use a cane since … last January?*

I’m considering this a victory.

Two things that helped:

1) Focusing on the exercises I thought would give me the most results. I had a low level of strength in my legs and walking was sometimes difficult, so I focused on strength training and small but consistent levels of walking.

2) Using the “Days Since” tracker on my iGoogle home page to track my activity. “Days Since” tracks how many days since I did something; clicking the green “rewind” button resets to zero.  It doesn’t keep a calendar of everything I’ve done, though it does maintain a running average of the interval for each item (and turns the text red if the number of “Days Since” is greater than that item’s average).   For me this is a good way to make sure I don’t put off something too long, without making me nuts if I get off a day on my routine.  A screenshot is below.

Sample of Days Since screen

Sample of Days Since screen

Once I got up to a basic level of ability, I did start to benefit from not needing to do as much to maintain my ability as to build new muscles.  There were weeks where I’d get maybe 1 walk and 1 round of leg lifts – but I did that minimal amount, and was able to do more the following week.

It also helped that I had a concrete reason to exercise: maintaining mobility and avoiding pain.  If I slacked on leg lifts for more than a week my knees would start to hurt.   I felt better when doing these exercises multiple times a week, which encouraged me to keep doing them.

This isn’t meant as a comment on anyone else.  I have some arthritis and a low fitness level, so I’m taking steps to improve for my own selfish reasons. Not everyone else has the same ability levels (or would make the same decisions and time investment even if they did).   But having posted here about this 2010 commitment, it made sense to report back on how it went.

*Edited to add: Did see a reference to using a cane in early January last year, so to be safe it’s been most of a year.

Thankful Thursday

[a not-always-weekly exercise in gratitude]

  1. Tomorrow is Friday.
  2. Tomorrow is FRIDAY.
  3. Tomorrow is Friday.
  4. I showed my dad the “chair squats” exercise on Sunday and he mentioned it would be easier if I lost 50lbs … and I stayed calm and “Every time I’ve lost weight I’ve regained it all plus more.  I decided to stop while I’m ahead.”   This probably says something about how I don’t expect acceptance from my dad (which I don’t) but I’m also glad it didn’t send me into a freakout.
  5. The weather is nicely ranging between the 70s and 80s in a not-crazy way.
  6. This weekend?  I have no plans.  I have nowhere I have to be.  I am pleased.
  7. I’m routinely doing twice the workout I did in November.
  8. Oh, and did I mention that tomorrow is Friday????

An “Oh!” Moment

Today I was reflecting on the history of my knee/leg problems, starting with injuring my right leg and knee when I started an exercise program in July of 07.  I attributed this to starting with a more strenuous program than I could handle.

Why did I start an exercise program in July of 07?  Because:

  • I’d started treatment for my exercise-induced asthma, which had been limiting my ability to exercise previously….
  • I’d started treatment for my vitamin B12 deficiency and was full of energy and wanted to MOVE and DO things.

Here’s where I usually add, “Unfortunately, my muscles weren’t up to handling what I was doing.”   I’d started walking a 1/2 mile a day, working up to a mile a day, and then a mile and a half  — but apparently that was too much.

I’d also recently looked up journal entries from when I’d gone on other exercise kicks, plus other vacations that involve a lot of walking.  In 06 I had noticed feeling fatigued, had mentioned it to my ARNP,* but I’d still had a several walk-heavy vacations without injury.  I wondered how my muscles had been so atrophied in a year, how I’d been so much more sedentary.  Yes, symptoms of b12 deficiency include fatigue, depression, and balance problems….

And weight loss and weakness.  That sounds like muscle loss.   What if I hadn’t lost weight, but what if I’d lost muscle?   That might explain it.  From my diary at the time, 6 days after starting b12 supplementation:

This is getting entirely too weird.

First, I’m nowhere near as interested in meat and eggs as I was. Especially for breakfast. Suddenly I’m eating a banana and yogurt for breakfast, and steaming veggies with garlic and a little chicken for lunch. I haven’t done this in years.

Second, I’m not crashing hard in the afternoon.

Third, I’m less tired in general.

And now … I’m not as interested in caffeine … ? Note, I haven’t stopped drinking it. But instead of a minimum of 7 cans/cups, today I had 2 cans of diet Pepsi and 1 cup of coffee.   I’m craving chocolate less too.

This is all within one week.

A week later:

I feel like I’m bursting with energy and want to move and dance all the time. In reality, I’m ready to sit down – or at least stretch a bit – after an hour. Sitting still and focusing on work? Er…NOT so good. Wanna play!

So…hm. Maybe it wasn’t just that I’d been a lump. By the time I was diagnosed the lab noticed my red blood cells were notably deformed and I was pretty anemic.  I was asked if I’d lost weight, and the answer was no…but that might not mean I hadn’t lost muscle.

At least I hadn’t developed dementia.


*As noted earlier, my former ARNP listened to my concerns, checked my thyroid function, and decided it could be my history of depression or that I was overweight and should consider WLS.   She also upped my Wellbutrin prescription.   The B12 deficiency wasn’t found until I changed healthcare providers.

What’s Up With You?

Hi y’all. Feel like it’s been a while since I had a real post. So.

  • Still here.
  • Still fat.

What’s changed:

Started walking again. The hip pain I referenced about 10 days ago?  Still here.  Still decreasing, thank heavens, but still here.  I took nearly two weeks off from walking every day.  I have begun doing very short walks again, and have continued to do leg lifts and extra stairs and other strength exercises.   Pro: Knees are fine, hip is improving, going for walks again.  Con: New Year’s resolution didn’t make it past 1 month.   Oh well :)

The music convention 2 weeks ago was notable for lack of knee pain and ease of walking (at least until the bed screwed up my hip).  I also realized, partway through Friday’s setup, that I hadn’t needed to use my inhaler Friday or during Thursday’s carry-lots-of-things mission. I took this to mean my current asthma preventive regime* is working well.   :)

We have decided to not renew our membership at Fitness World, mainly because we haven’t been using it much.  This is probably as much a factor of it’s location as anything else — I have been using the much smaller gym at work, which I think is telling.  The man of the house is both going for walks and walking more at his job (he’s in a hillier part of Seattle).

Spring appears to have come to Seattle.  The roses in our yard have new growth and the neighbor’s rhododendron is in full bloom.  Today the man of the house stooped down to the wildly blooming heather and admonished, “It’s February.”   I don’t think it cared.   Hence my updating the blog banner.

I’ve been getting new clothing catalogs and … I’m really glad I have plenty of clothing already.  How terrible is that?  I’m not seeing much that I would want to wear, much less buy.  (This IS great for my savings account.)  I’m also being a bit crafty — my pants tend to develop wear holes around the pockets first, so I’ve been mending them.

In other crafty news: I’m knitting a dark gray, nearly black, scarf.  The pattern isn’t much (knit first 2 stitches; knit 2 together, yarn over, repeat to 2 stitches from the end of the row; knit last 2 stitches) but I’m having fun.  An advantage to knitting it myself is that I can make it as long as I’d like, to fit my torso and frame. :)

Valentine’s Day was pretty low-key this year.  We went out for a nice seafood dinner (with appetizers and dessert sampler) Thursday, in part because Thursday tends to be a much-less-busy night for going out.   (Practicality wins.)  But we had a nice relaxed weekend, too.

I’ve started doing my taxes with TurboTax, but I’m a little nervous that I haven’t gotten a 1040 booklet in the mail.  Are they not sending them this year?

I routinely feel I’m not getting quite enough sleep during the week.  I’m starting to inch my bedtime earlier again.

How’s with you all?


*Current asthma routine: Advair 250/50 twice a day; Singulair once a day; Allegra once a day; Albuterol inhaler as needed.

Disney World

As hinted yesterday, my November vacation was Disney World! For a week! Yes, it was fantastic.  We stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter, visited in-laws, did Mission: Space, Soarin’, ate Moroccan food, laughed at Ellen & Bill Nye, geeked out at Spaceship Earth, loved Big Thunder Mountain and Test Track, enjoyed lunch with an Imagineer, and so on.  The man of the house got to ride the remade Space Mountain — unfortunately a warning light blipped and they closed it down right as I got to the head of the line.

I didn’t encounter any overt weight restrictions. The only ride I considered that I couldn’t ride was a Raytheon item in Innoventions where you could plan your own thrill ride and then ride it in a simulator.  I was not able to fit in the simulator seats.  (The man of the house could and setup a ride based on a plane flight, complete with a loop.)

I also didn’t get to try the Space Mountain capsules, though the man of the house thinks (based on how well he fit) I would have been fine.

Ah, you may be wondering – how did I handle the walking?  Um.  I didn’t.  I had planned to build up my walking ability before the trip but ran into problems.  By the time I was getting on the plane, I was using a cane.

Getting around

Disney World, if you’ve never been, is very much A Land of Much Walking.   Especially spread-out is Epcot, my favorite part of Disney World.   Just walking from my room to the resort’s bus stop was a quarter mile; at the parks it would routinely be a quarter- to half-mile walk from the bus to the actual park entrance.  Now, I could do a quarter or half-mile with my cane, but then I’d be done walking for a while.  What to do?

Well – I was fortunate:  I was able to throw money at the problem.   Continue reading

One Little Commitment

Just one.  I’m not a person for New Year’s Resolutions, and yet … I seem to have made a commitment to myself.  And to my knees.  It’s just one thing, it only takes about 30-60 minutes a day, and yet it seems to have completely eaten my brain.

What is it?

Going.  For a walk.  Every.  Day.

Not “Eh, most days.”  Not intending to take a walk daily.  Not “I’ll try.”   Doing it.

I don’t know how long it’ll be.  At the moment I’m not walking far; sometimes a half mile, sometimes a little less, sometimes on the treadmill, sometimes outside.   Usually it’s 15 minutes or so of actual walking.  But it seems to be taking a lot of my attention to not forget, to not put it off too long, to get it done.

It is very much a pianissimo approach to my knee problems.  I could probably walk further if I took an occasional day off.  But that’s also the problem; days I don’t walk I get a bit stiffer and the muscles and joints don’t flow as easily.   I’m walking fast enough to get into the “aerobic range” for someone my age, and I don’t mind it, but that’s not my focus either.

I don’t push for longer.  I just push for doing it every day.

Okay, there’s a part 2.  Part 2 is: some sort of strength training for my legs.  Most nights it’s chair squats or leg lifts*, but one night I did some yoga poses.    Oddly enough, this has been the easier part.  It generally takes between 10 and 30 minutes.

Why am I doing this?  Because I’m tired of limping and pain and not being able to keep up with the man of the house, and because less consistent approaches to my knee problems haven’t worked.  So right now I’m focusing on consistency.

I don’t know how long this will last.  Part of me doesn’t really care.  I do know I’ve got 11 days right now, and right now, that’s good enough for me.

*Since I often get asked: Single-leg raisesseated leg extensionsside leg lifts.

Thankful Thursday

1) Walking is much better; been leaving the cane in the car most of the time.

2) Fun evening exploring Microsoft’s private “mall” one afternoon with a friend.

3) Getting better at prioritizing and being gentle with myself.

4) My office seems much warmer since I got back from vacation.  It’s nice not to HAVE to bundle up in multiple layers every day!   If this keeps up I’ll have less laundry each week, too!

5)  The man of the house, who put up with being dragged to a crowded pub to meet a friend after I’d offered to cook.  (Altho the venison skewers the pub serves may have helped with his attitude…  :)

Thankful Thursday

[a not-always-weekly exercise in gratitude]

1) Able to slowly and gently dance around the living room this week :)

2) Life expectancy keeps going up.

3) Enjoyable walk today despite the sometimes-rain sometimes-drizzle.  (I picked a shopping area, so I could spend a lot of time inside or under eaves.)

4) How cleaning my bedroom and CPAP mask/hose can make me feel so much better when I wake up.  Yes, my allergies do include dust …

5) Long, warm hugs from the man of the house at the end of a stressful workday.  Or any other time, really :)

Thankful Thursday

[a not-always-weekly exercise in gratitude]

1) Getting a bonus at work this year :)

2) Laughing at this post from Men-in-Full.  “Someplace happier” indeed.

3) Being able to get around without the cane most of the time.

4) Nifty lycra-spandex leggings.  They’re not just comfy for exercise, they also make great long underwear!

5) The man of the house, who brought me dinner tonight :)