Last year, I walked home from work most days. It's about three miles from my office to home, and up some terrific hills. I could get home in about 45 minutes, unless I stopped for groceries or something along the way.
Last week, I decided it was time to start walking again. Getting all the way home isn't possible yet, but I figured I could walk part way and then get on the bus. Last Thursday, it took me 19:45 to walk nine-tenths of a mile. And I was exhausted and out of breath by the time I reached the bus stop.
Yesterday, with a significant headwind (the wind here is ridiculous lately), I made it to the same bus stop in 18:11, and was then able to make it down that hill and most of the way up the next one, for a total of 1.27 miles in about 26 minutes. And I felt really good.
My goal for Thursday is to tack on two or three additional blocks, to get to the top of the next hill before getting on the bus. And then, in June, I hope to tackle California St. But I'm happy with the little hills right now.
I've finally gained back all the weight I lost in January, plus a few pounds. This is great, except that now some of my pants are a little snug, and they're pressing on my still swollen spleen. My available outfits are quickly dwindling, and I'm cursing an office that requires actual professional attire. And I can't do crunches yet, so I think I'm doomed to a shopping trip. But at least I have the energy to shop.
I wanted to get back in the pool last week. I held my bathing suit in one hand and flip flops in the other and thought about a nice little swim. And I chickened out. I know all my aching muscles would feel so much better. I know I can slowly swim a few hundred meters and call it a day. I know how fabulous the hot tub will feel when I get out of the pool. I know how well I'll sleep at night. And yet I can't get myself in the water. So I set a new goal, and intend to be back in the water by Saturday. Even if I just stand in the slow lane until I start to shiver. Even if I doggie paddle one lap and quit. Now will somebody please hold me accountable to that.
I walked more than two miles yesterday, not all at once and not very quickly, but it felt really good to get moving. And I could get up the hill while talking without too much gasping for air. This is a huge victory!
I saw this guy last night. He was chatting up an acquaintance. I hope he gets her name right.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, (or maybe just in September, but it feels like another lifetime) I went with some friends to New York. And it was awesome. Eventually, I'll get to all the photos. Here's a glimpse.
I went to the doctor today, and I received an almost-clean bill of health. In a few months, I should be feeling fabulous. Right now, I feel pretty terrific. I'm no longer on restrictions, and I can finally resume my normal life. Within reason, of course, because I don't want to get sick now that I've gotten well. And sit-ups are still off limits because my spleen gets cranky. And I can't participate in any contact sports for awhile, but that's OK. I didn't have any plans for wrestling or rugby this year anyway.
I think this calls for a little celebrating, don't you?
At this time four years ago, I was recovering from a vicious bout of the flu. I had just taken my comprehensive exams to finish my masters degree, and, the day I found out I passed, I celebrated by breaking up with my boyfriend. Or maybe we went out to celebrate together, and after he spent a few hours telling me my education didn't mean anything, I dumped him.
It was one of my finest hours, really. We were sitting at the end of my favorite bar, surrounded by the regulars I'd become friends with over the past years. He'd had way too many whiskeys to safely drive. He was really nasty and argumentative that night. And then he announced he'd drive me home. We'd been arguing all night, and I told him to go to hell, that I'd take the streetcar because he wasn't risking my life. And I walked out of the bar.
I've seen him once since, at a funeral later that year. I thought I was him at church a few times, and around that time, about two years ago, I got the strangest email from him apologizing for how he'd treated me. I'm pretty sure that email was part of making amends to a lot of people, but I didn't really want to know. Any opportunity for apology had long since passed, and that email reminded me how far I'd moved on with my life. And how grateful I am for everything that has happened to me as a result of ending that relationship. I also felt an email was a cheap and cowardly way of dealing with things that should have been said in person, and could have been, since I'm very easy to track down. But I digress.
I've been thinking about that relationship a lot the past week, probably because I've visited some of our old haunts with my new friends. And also because I've worked very hard to avoid some of the pitfalls that contributed to his special brand of crazy. I'd never watched somebody work to destroy himself before. I'd never seen somebody so cared for by his friends and family shun everyone who loved him and crawl into an isolated little cave, slowly becoming so insular and so disassociated from his life that he lost most of his friends and almost lost his job.
Over the past few months it would have been so easy for me to do the same thing; to hide out in my apartment shrouding myself in illness and self-pity and shutting out the world. I worked really hard to not give into the ability to isolate myself, and I'm so thankful to everyone who would have stopped me if I'd started down that path. My dad died four months ago yesterday. I got mono 16 weeks ago. The first four months of this year have been miserable. But things are getting better. I'm getting better. I'm so excited for the rest of the year.
And I'm so glad everything worked out the way it did that one week in April four years ago.
Over the past two weeks, several people have commented that I'm starting to sound like myself again. Having been unaware that I sounded un-like myself (or like anybody else), I've gotten to thinking about what this might really mean.
I can't begin to explain how much better I'm feeling in the past 10 days. The difference is incredible. I can go grocery shopping and run errands and even walk for exercise. I still need to rest. I'm still not 100 percent. But I can finally see that I'm getting better.
Maybe I just needed to reach the 16 week mark to really begin seeing improvement. I definitely think the acupuncture and herbs have helped. And so has the ability to rest and relax and have three weeks to get well without having to worry about going to work each day. I return to my job part-time on Monday, and I think I'm ready.
I'm still tired sometimes. I still need a late day rest. I would still rather sit than stand. But I also have the desire to go for a hike. I can't yet, but I want to, and that's huge progress. So maybe I'm getting back to normal. Or discovering the new normal. I'm looking forward to it.
I've rested more in the past few months than in my ENTIRE life. I've been really careful with my diet. I'm taking vitamin supplements. And still, 15 weeks into my mono adventure, I'm far from well. I've lost more than four months of this year, and I'm getting angry and restless.
In a continuing effort to really feel well again, I started investigating acupuncture a few weeks ago. A friend talked to her acupuncturist about me, and he thought I could significantly benefit from treatment. Other friends told tales of allergy symptoms significantly improved and other health concerns that have benefited from acupuncture. I started to get excited.
So I got some referrals, checked out my insurance coverage (it's questionable, but I might get a small reimbursement) and made an appointment. It was expensive and kind of out of my way and getting there was a bit of a hassle.
And it was awesome.
I started my visit by filling out a three-page questionnaire detailing my eating, sleeping, and digestive habits. The paperwork assessed my fitness level, how much and what I ate, and asked a bunch of questions about a variety of symptoms I do not have. We then spent about 40 minutes in a consultation that included a physical exam and conversation about my health concerns and what I was hoping to achieve.
The acupuncturist was very well educated, knowledgeable, and good at explaining things in a way I understood, and she was very up-to-date on the western medicine end of some of my health issues. But by far the most impressive part of my exam was the pulse check.
She checked my pulse by placing her fingers on a few different pulse points along my arm. In the middle of doing this, she asked if I had a heart murmur. I do, but my doctors can rarely hear it unless I'm lying in a pretty specific position and the stethoscope is placed properly. I've had a series of tests done by new doctors who question my heart murmur because they can't hear it. None of the paperwork I had just completed mentioned my heart, and she knew just by feeling the pulse in my wrists.
After the exam she explained the treatments she thought I'd find most effective, and then we started the acupuncture. She described the significance each point she was pricking, but I'm not sure enough about them to relate all that here. She started with a spot in the center of my forehead, which she referred to as my "third eye." She then stuck a needle into the top of my head, in order to draw energy upwards, and placed a total of 16 needles along my arms, legs, feet, and into my sinuses, to help with my allergies, which were really bad yesterday.
I was laying down, so I couldn't see where the needles were going, though I could feel an occasional prick. She told me to relax and just kind of doze, but that was impossible. I wasn't in any pain, but I felt a continual - I'm not sure how to describe it - kind of like an energy surge at each of the needle points. It's almost the same feeling as using electrical stimulation to ease a muscle spasm. It was weird, and it left me a little too wired to take a nap for the 20 minutes I lay on the table.
After 20 minutes, she took out the needles, applied some pressure to the spot on my forehead, which was a little red and she warned me might bruise. We talked about some herbal supplements to aid in wiping out the remains of the mono virus, and I made a followup appointment for next week. I left with a 30 day supply of herbs in capsule form, a small bruise on my forehead, and the hope that this will help.
Did it? Well, I definitely feel pretty good today. I didn't sleep too well last night, but I knew that was a possibility after acupuncture. I don't feel like I could scale mountains, but I was able to go to the DMV and then slowly walk home with a brief stop at Trader Joe's. Acupuncture or not, that's huge progress over a few weeks ago.
Several years ago, my friend Steph and I sang in the same choir. Before we met, she went out a few times with a guy from our church. She tells that story here. When I met this guy, Steph and I were just becoming friends. Then she left the choir and I continued on.
And, four years later, this guy thinks I'm her. And he calls me Stephanie when he sees me. And it happens often.
I think it's fair to say Steph and I don't look anything alike, but you can judge for yourself here and here.
The first time it happened, I figured it was an easy mistake since he saw me at a choir event and maybe, with my dark hair and my face obscured behind a music folder, I could possibly look a little like her. I, of course, immediately emailed Steph to tell her about this odd encounter.
I see this guy occasionally at Mass, and he always waves and smiles. He's occasionally greeted my by (not my) name, but we rarely chat. I saw him in Tahoe last month, and he waved and smiled. I saw him at a friend's birthday party this weekend and he bid me farewell with a big hug and "It's so good to see you, Stephanie."
I, of course, burst into uncontrollable giggles, stomping my feet on the floor I was laughing so hard. And I commented to a friend that I can't understand how he gets us confused. Steph rarely wears glasses, her hair is lighter (and since her fantastic new haircut and my inability to get to the salon, much shorter than mine), I'm taller than she is, our coloring is very different, and she has way bigger boobs than I do.
And he went out with her FOUR times, and he and I have NEVER been on a date.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not insulted or anything. Steph is beautiful. But dude, four dates? And you can't remember what she looks like? We're working on a plan to help him get a clue, but in the meantime I'm going to have to get a name tag. It will say "Hello, my name is NOT STEPHANIE."
Given the disappointment of my junior prom, I decided to get serious about planning for the senior prom early in the year. On St. Patrick's Day, while in Manhattan with a friend to watch the parade, I bought my dress. I found it at a thrift shop for about $20, and I loved it. It was sleeveless with a v-neck and had a black layer covered by a gold or bronze-ish overlay. The effect was really cool - it looked black in some lights but sparkly in others. I was ready. Now I just needed a date.
I'd planned to ask a guy friend I had a crush on. I'd talked it through with a close girlfriend for weeks during track practice, and just as I was about to ask, she cornered me in the chorus room to tell me he'd asked her. And she'd said yes. Really, what was she supposed to do? Say no, and give him the head's up that I was going to ask him? That would have been awkward. And besides, since he and I were going with the same group, now she'd be there too.
But here I was again, weeks before the prom and without a date. Some of my teachers, dismayed that so many senior guys were going with junior girls, briefly flirted with match making. I should go with Juan, one teacher suggested. He was a good guy and a friend, but he wasn't sure he wanted to go, and he was a good six inches shorter than I was. How were we supposed to dance? How could I wear heels?
After a few weeks of debate, I asked a friend. He was a junior, a nice guy, we'd been pals for a few years, and he was taller than I was. He knew all the friends I was going with, and we'd have fun. His parents were divorced, he didn't have a lot of money, but I could cover the costs of the tickets and anything we did afterward, so he'd just have to rent a tuxedo and maybe buy me a corsage.
But I didn't count on his slightly crazy mother. The mother who, despite the OK from his dad, wouldn't let him leave the house on prom night. There'd been murmurings about his mother for a few days, but I figured he'd work things out. Thankfully, he didn't call me on the day of the prom when she'd forbidden him to go. He called a mutual friend to rescue him, and she did. She helped him sneak out of his mom's house, drove him in her parents' station wagon to the florist, helped him pick out the biggest, heaviest, tackiest corsage they could find, and then drove him to school. Where he'd arranged to borrow a tux. From our math teacher.
(Let me insert a brief aside to say the math teacher was a professional musician before becoming a teacher. He had a very nice tux from his symphony days. It looked a little sloppy on my date, but it worked. That teacher saved my senior prom.)
I don't know where he got dressed, but my friend showed up at my house in a full tux, with a slightly crooked bow tie. The three of us (my date, the friend who did all that driving, and I) took some photos, strapped on the corsage, and went to another friend's house, to meet the whole crew for photos and then the limo ride into Manhattan, where our prom would take place at the Puck Building, one of New York City's most celebrated landmarks.
The prom itself was fun, but kind of disappointing. The venue was beautiful, but our room did not have the building's fabled view. We faced the building next door. The DJ didn't have one of our prom songs (Turn Around by Blues Traveler and Into the Mystic by Van Morrison - he'd never heard of Into the Mystic). The dinner was good, but the caterer ran out of cake before everyone (including me) got a slice. My date didn't really like to dance. Only a few couples were already stumbling drunk. Nobody fell down on the dance floor or kicked out for public intoxication. Many of my classmates had booze problems, and often showed up drunk to school functions, so this was a pretty big concern on prom night.
The official part of the evening ended around 11 pm and we changed into club-appropriate clothes and headed out into the city. I swapped my heels for my Doc Martens, and my friends and I descended on the Limelight, one of NYC's best known clubs. They specifically hosted 18- and-over nights on prom weekends, but it was still a struggle to get my parents agree to let me go. The Limelight, once a church, had quite a history as a gay club and night scene drug mecca. A neighbor told my dad all sorts of tales of the goings on there in his party days, and my parents were concerned about unleashing some naive suburbanite teens in a potentially dangerous club.
I was eventually able to convince my parents we'd be OK, mostly because the under-21 crowd was segregated from the real revelers once inside the club. The Limelight also charged upwards of $25 per person to get in on prom weekends. I paid for both of us to get in, we stayed for less than an hour, when, burnt out on loud techno music and close quarters, we left the club and spent the rest of the night sitting outside in front of this former church, watching the city go by and eating Ben and Jerry's ice cream.
At closing time, we piled into the party van and headed back to the 'burbs, anticipating an early breakfast hosted by the parents of the guy I'd hoped to ask to the prom. They were serving eggs early, but we still had some time to kill, so we asked the van driver to drop us off at Orchard Beach so we could watch the sunrise. He refused to drive past the entrance barriers (because the beach was closed at 4 am), and some of the kids in the front of the van argued with him for awhile. We finally agreed that he could park in a parking lot near the beach, and we'd walk.
By this point, we were all tired and hungry, but none of us had been drinking, so we were all very sober. We watched the sunrise, sat in the sand until we were uncomfortable. Having killed enough time, we headed to my friend's parents house. Their breakfast was awesome. We all talked and laughed and ate in their backyard, and then everyone went home. Graduation was in about 36 hours, and we all needed some sleep.
As I stood in the grocery store the other day, I overheard two store clerks talking about her prom. I was close enough to hear him ask "Did you rent your dress or buy it?"
"I bought it," she responded, "But it's no big deal. I'll just ask somebody else."
Though I missed the beginning of this conversation, I'm guessing the first guy she asked turned her down. For a second, I was 17 again, and I could absolutely relate. Except in that case, I hadn't bought a dress.
My high school had two proms: the junior prom was held in the school gym for the junior class, and the senior prom was the big deal, formal dress, fancy dinner occasion at a swank place in Manhattan.
My junior year, I wasn't too excited about the prom. I vacillated for weeks on whether or not I'd go. My mom and I looked at dresses, but I didn't buy one. Shortly before the prom (held sometime in early June, I think), I asked a friend who was a senior if he'd go with me. I remember cornering him in the hallway near the gym to ask, and I was really surprised when he said yes.
And then the next day he called to tell me his uncle was dying, and the whole family was going to say goodbye on Long Island and he couldn't go to the prom. I'd like to think he was being honest, but I've never been sure.
So dateless and disappointed, I decided to bail on the dance. The person I am now would have gone stag and had a great time, but my 17-year-old self wasn't quite comfortable being the only single in a gym full of couples. I decided to meet my friends afterward to go out in New York City. I met everybody outside the high school, we got into the limo (or maybe it was a van, I can't remember), and drove into Manhattan. My small town classmates could do some hard partying, and by the time we got into the city, many were already dangerously drunk. Some classmates with fake ids were able to get into a few clubs, but my friends an I weren't nearly as well prepared. We spent the night in Manhattan standing outside a couple of clubs, watching our very drunk classmates stumble and puke.
Until that point, I'd never been in a situation with my friends and alcohol. I'd never been to a big party and my closest friends were not procuring booze for weekend consumption. We hung out in coffee houses and ice cream parlors instead. I didn't do any drinking that night, but I remember one guy who, by the time I saw him, was so drunk he was almost passed out. I'd known him since elementary school (possibly kindergarten, but I think first grade), and I spent part of the evening trying to help him stay upright. He slurrlingly thanked me for helping him out, told me I'd always been really nice to everybody, and then puked at my feet, just missing my shoes.
He'd been sneaking bottles of Zima throughout the night, and I still can't look at a bottle without thinking of him and smelling the potent alcohol and city smells mixed with puke.
My friends and I left soon after that, returning to the suburbs and hanging out at the diner, I think, though my memories of the rest of the evening are a little blurry. At some point, they merge with my memories of my senior prom. Check back tomorrow for that tale, which includes the warning to never ask somebody to be your date if he may have to sneak out of his house to get there.....
I can't tell you much about April 6, 1982, but I have pretty vivid recollections of the day before it. I was just a month shy of my fifth birthday, and the day was balmy enough for shorts and sandals. I wore a spring ensemble to my grandma's house. My younger sister was home with my parents, and my mom was very pregnant.
I remember clearly the day my parents sat down on their bed with my sister and myself to tell us we were getting a brother. I can't remember being very excited about this, but I'm sure I was.
Somewhere between April 5, a beautiful spring day, and April 6, a storm started. And my mom went into the hospital. And I was snowed in at my grandma's house. And my brother was born.
By the early morning, New York had gotten 18 inches of snow. And I wanted to go out and play in my grandma's backyard. Given my clothing situation, she wouldn't let me out of the house. I'm still trying to get over that.
I don't remember much about those first few months with my new brother, except that he was really tiny, and he'd sleep in his bassinet in the living room, and he'd suck his thumb while he slept. And that was the only time he was really quiet. And one day I got to bring him to nursery school for show and tell.
I must admit that I wasn't sure about this whole brother thing. I had a sister, and she was kind of fun, but I was just suspicious about this baby. I continued to be suspicious for several years. He was loud. He could never sit still. He squirmed and screamed and was really stubborn. We're very much alike, my brother and I, and we tend to butt heads. Often. And loudly. For many years.
Today that little boy, now over 6 feet tall, turns 27. He's become an amazing person. He told me recently that we've been able to become friends, even if we get on each other's nerves sometimes. I am so very proud that he's my brother and my friend. This past year has been horrible, and he's taken on burdens much heavier than should comfortably fit on even his broad shoulders. And he's done a great job. And I hope that this year is so much better than the last. Happy birthday, Bill!
My first week of medical leave has gone so well I almost forget at times that I'm still sick. I am feeling extraordinarily better. I'm sleeping better and able to nap each afternoon and finally able to eat more regularly. And I have the energy to cook for myself! And to go on little walks in the sunshine! And to clean a little!
I went on a dusting binge earlier this week. My apartment hadn't really been cleaned since November, and it was pretty gross. The dusting triggered my allergies, so now I'm kind of sniffly and a little itchy. But I can no longer see big dust bunnies lurking under my bed, so I'll settle for a few days of sneezing.
Of course, the dusting activity aggravated my spleen, which, along with occasional bouts of fatigue are the two indicators that I'm not really well yet. But I'm so much better, and I'm really excited about it.
Today I reached the 14-week mark in my mono adventure. I've lost the entire first quarter of this year. I didn't quite realize the significance of this until somebody referenced President Obama's inaugural address the other day. I know I had the radio on that day. I can remember lying in bed and hearing his voice. But I have absolutely no idea what he said. That sums up the end of December, the entire month of January, and a good portion of February.
I'm really looking forward to everything getting back on track; to the night I can comfortably stay out past 10 pm; to a few beers over dinner with friends; to the return of my cardio capacity. But today, I'm really happy that I can get up, make breakfast, and leave my apartment for a little while. The sun is shining and it's a beautiful day.
My sister's friend Elise is participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in June. She'll be walking in Chicago in the summer, which is probably brutal under any circumstances, but especially if she has to walk slowly because of the large crowd surrounding her. I know the economy sucks and charitable giving has plummeted this year, but if you've got some spare change under the couch cushions, or maybe if you've given up lattes for Lent, you can donate that money to Elise.
I've been to more funerals than weddings this year, and I have a not-yet-30-year-old acquaintance who's battling stomach cancer. Cancer sucks, and research money is scarce. Anything you can donate will go a long way to one day finding a cure.
Heather Armstrong spoke in Mountain View last night, reading from her new book on the day she found out in made the New York Times Bestseller List. The little bookstore was so crowded that Mel and I had to sit on the floor. That's why this shot includes that very large plaid elbow. He was sitting in the front row, undoubtedly having been dragged to the shop very, very early.
Writer. Marathon walker. Sometimes-photographer. Cyclist. Musician. Lover of cheesecake, San Francisco baseball, and comfy sweatpants. See Jane Run Ambassador. Team in Training cyclist. My philosophy? Life is not meant to be lived on the sidelines.
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