Week One Reflections

A weird light came through in the picture, but I was in no mood to move and try to avoid it.

Last Friday, I had surgery to repair my foot. The surgeon smoothed out two spots on my bone, removed the compromised parts of my Achilles tendon, and fixed the tear. It was performed at the orthopedic’s facility, which made things more convenient as I avoided the hospital. After dealing with so much discomfort, I was almost eager for the eventual relief surgery promised. 

It always amazes me to spend any amount of time in an operating area. For patients and their families, this is a life-changing experience remembered for the rest of their lives. For the staff, it is (usually) just another day at work. That being said, they were fantastic at making me feel safe and welcomed.

The process of getting checked in was easy enough. No one told me that I would be waiting for an operating room to open, so I stayed in the waiting area for over an hour and a half. This is my only complaint about the process; I wish someone had given me the head’s up as the anticipation almost brought me to a panic attack.

The surgery itself took less than an hour. I went into the operating room at 11 and was home before 1. I left groggy but eager to be heading home. 

The next few days were a blur. I was beyond fortunate to receive a fantastic nerve block. I didn’t begin to feel any pain until the following evening. I spent the time with my “toes above the nose” (as the nurse instructed). Once the pain came, it came on hard. The first few days were spent napping and watching bad TV.

I have a sort of half-cast on that is wrapped in a bandage. I have no clue what my incision looks like. This is unsettling for someone like me, who hates surprises and not knowing as much as possible about something. The cast set my foot facing down, unable to put any weight on it. Currently, this is the most difficult challenge. I cannot do much. Mike bought me a travel coffee mug with a cover and a handle to make my coffee. I use my Hydroflask with a handle to get my water, but beyond yogurt and snacks, there isn’t much I can do to get myself food. Having your eleven-year-old pour milk into your Cheerios and bring it to you on the couch is pretty humbling. Note: Mike adds too much milk for my liking, but Michael’s milk to cereal ratio is important. No one discusses such things, but it is a huge deal.

Love the irony of hobbling around with my “Happy Camper” mug

Once I stopped napping all day, the next challenge involved staying sane during the heatwave. Temperatures reached 104 with the heat index, so sitting outside with a huge cast on was out of the question. Mike put the air conditioner into the living room window. We pulled the light-blocking curtains and sat in the dark, mostly on devices and watching reruns. By Friday, it was affecting Michael. Humans are not meant to live in caves, even ones with AC and Big Bang Theory reruns. Even though we had as many adventures as we could before my surgery, having to sit inside for four days was not at all enjoyable.

Here are my biggest takeaways from the past ten days:

The internet suggested using a hair dryer to blow cool are into the cast. The internet is sometimes a genius!
  • Preparing was a huge help. Having a basket of clothes downstairs made things easier. I packed comfortable clothes but have found I have only wanted to wear cotton clothing, so the workout gear I packed has sat untouched. Also, these are my favorite hang-around shorts. They’re super soft and have pockets. I bought one pair, then ordered two more after they arrived.
  • Having snacks within made me feel more independent. Mike made me a snack center, which was a huge help.
  • I need to do as much as I can to ensure that I heal as quickly as possible because I cannot shower or prepare food for myself sticks.
  • I wish I had purchased shower wipes. I used a wet facecloth, but I wish I had bought actual shower wipes.
  • My husband is amazing. He’s been working all day and taking care of everything at home. This includes taking care of me, cleaning the house, taking Michael to baseball, taking care of Banjo, and a million other things that come up throughout the day. He hasn’t been sitting down before nine each night.
  • My friends are amazing. I haven’t talked to many people about getting this done, but those who know have been checking in and helping out more than I ever hoped. I am beyond grateful.
  • Banjo is beyond happy to have me home for a few more weeks. However, he is pretty confused regarding my refusal to play with him. After trying to engage, he took out all of his toys, made a huge mess, and played with his back to me for a little while.
Banjo was upset that I wouldn’t play, so he took out all of his toys.

The following steps involve a lot of feelings of hurry up and wait. I have my follow-up tomorrow and will hopefully exchange my cast for a boot. I will still not be able to do much walking and rely on my crutches; being able to carry my Cheerios to the couch is something I very much look forward to doing. I won’t begin walking or trying to strengthen the foot for another four weeks.

I know that the process will be long and filled with ups and downs. I know that there will be victories as well as setbacks. I’ve already been told that the earliest I can even think about running is next February. I also know that I will complete the goals I had to abandon this year (Boston Marathon and Marine Corps 50k). Most importantly, I know that this journey will be worth it.

The Calm Before the Storm

After months of trying to fix my foot on my own, it became clear that surgery is the only option to return to regular activity. I still cannot walk normally, only walking with the injured foot out Fred Flintstone style to make it even slightly tolerable. I miss being active; even kayaking hurt because it required resting my heel on the boat’s floor, which caused aching. Being active is a big part of my life; being unable to do so is disheartening. My awkward gait is causing strain on other parts of my body.

My awesome Fred Flintstone stance

I initially hurt my foot in March. I wore a boot for two weeks and did everything I could to get better. I attended physical therapy. I carried a resistance band with me and used it during virtual classes and my preps. I even earned my yoga instructor certification! I worked on getting stronger but re-injured it anyway. The weekend before the second injury, I ran twelve slow miles, getting back on track for 50K training. I did everything I was supposed to, only to begin right back where I started. An X-ray confirmed that there was no improvement. An MRI confirmed an Achilles debridement was my only chance of getting back to normal. I have to accept that I will not not be completing the Marine Corps 50K or the Boston Marathon (both virtually) this year.

So my surgery is scheduled for this Friday. My orthopedic offered to follow probable timeline:

  • Two weeks: no walking/ weight
  • Six weeks: boot/ begin PT
  • Eight weeks: no driving (mid-October)
  • Ten weeks: maybe start riding a bike (early November)
  • It will be six to nine months before I can even consider running, which brings me to next spring.

I learned that I would need surgery ten days before it was scheduled, which was perfect. This gives me enough time to get stuff done as I won’t be able to drive for eight weeks but not enough time to get nervous and freak out truly. Honestly, it hurts so much that I would have had it done the following day if that were an option. Having ten days to prep gave me time to take care of things I wouldn’t be able to do after the surgery.

  • Take the car in for maintenance and a recall
  • Get Michael school shoes, which was so much fun as he hasn’t had to wear dress shoes since March 13, 2020
  • Get Michael the last of his school supplies
  • Stop into my school to put away my materials and belongings
  • Stock up on household goods since I am unable to drive. (I did this as if we live in a world without online shopping, and everything would fall apart if we ran low on dish soap, but it makes me feel like I’m helping during a time when I will feel useless.)

This also gave me time to plan out modifications to my life that will be required while I cannot put any weight on my foot. Because we live in a cape, we live between three floors. Mike and I were able to figure out how to make this work:

  • Contact school and make sure I was okay to take time off and had everything submitted for approval
  • I will take a downstairs bedroom
  • I made myself a laundry basket of clothes to live out of so I don’t have to go upstairs or rely on the boys to bring me clothes
  • We put a folding chair in the outdoor shower, so I don’t have to try to and stand in our slippery bathtub.

This timeline also allowed eight days to get in the last of the doable summer activities. They include:

  • Taking Michael to Salem to visit Fun Chicken, only to discover that Kiddie Land is closed on Mondays
  • Going to see the Lake Monsters one last time
  • Last pizza on the beach trip
  • Visiting observatory during the meteor shower.

The window of time when Michael wants to do cool stuff with his mom is closing, so we want to do as much as possible

The Lake Monsters’ mascot is Champ, which allows for this cleaver wordplay!
At least we were able to play old school pinball!

The surgeon’s office called this morning as we were finishing breakfast at our favorite little diner- the one that still has RC Cola from the fountain. It’s pouring today, and Michael has baseball tryouts tonight, so this isn’t much more to do than wait around until things get hectic for a little while.

Badass Brave Mom (?)

Last month, I had my final wisdom tooth removed. The procedure also included a bone graph and an abutment. During the consultation, the oral surgeon offered me the option of getting knocked out, but I chose to not only remain awake but only to receive Novocaine so I could drive myself back and forth. That afternoon, while trying my best to get through the discomfort, I explained to Mike that doing this made me feel pretty badass.


This part of the quarantine seems more challenging than the original round. Liam has no interest in going for walks. When cases were declining, he was able to play baseball and tennis. His school is trying its best to remain in-person, but positive cases in his class have him quarantining, which removes the routine he needs to thrive.


He’s done with this but trying his best. He’s putting so much pressure on himself to get perfect grades. In trying to wrap my finger around why this is his new obsession, it reminds me of my go-to method of dealing with stress: cleaning. Both are ways of controlling our environment. Despite always telling him that we want him to try his best, he has been putting so much pressure on himself, asking multiple times if we are disappointed if he earns below an “A.” I keep reminding him that his goal for this year is to get through it.


In the meantime, I feel like I am barely treading water. My knee is progressing, but I keep having moments of overdoing it and not doing enough. When I can practice yoga and go for two-mile walks a few times a week, it feels almost fine. Being up five to eight pounds- a result of not running juxtaposed with being on a soft-food diet while my mouth heals- is not helping my knee. After weeks of ten to twelve-hour days, I’ve made myself back away from school and search for a sense of balance between home and work.
The afternoon of my appointment with the oral surgeon, Liam brought me a small Post-It note. AS he handed it to me, he explained, “I know I’m not supposed to say it, but I think you are.”
This is the note he gave me:

When I feel like I’m failing at everything, I think about the fact that Liam believes I’m doing okay. When Liam feels like he is failing, I remind him that our current goal is to get through. I may not feel like a “Bad Ass Brave Mom.” I’ve been up since 2:30 am. I couldn’t tell you the last time that I did my hair. I never made it to the grocery store last week, which led to us eating chicken nuggets, ramen, and cereal more times than I would normally admit. But we finally finished The Good Place, I ran for the first time in ten weeks, and I played catch with Liam every afternoon this week. To Liam, that is pretty badass.

A Few Fears Before my First MRI

In random order:

  • Last year at this time, I was training for my first marathon and completing twenty-mile runs. Now, I can’t even walk around the block.
  • I have one half remaining to complete this year’s Rhode Masters series. I know that I couldn’t even walk it.
  • I need to accept that the New York City Marathon is not going to happen. They’re (maybe) going to send a medal I never got close to earning. And that sucks.
  • Remember that time in 1998 when you tried to go tanning in a tanning bed, freaked out, and pulled the emergency stop after three minutes? Yeah, you can’t do that this time.
  • How can I possibly stay still for thirty minutes?
  • Will I have to take out my nose ring? I hope I don’t have to take out my nose ring. I can’t get it back in by myself.
  • What if my running and November Project friends forget about me?
  • What if they find something terrible?
  • What if they can’t find anything wrong with my knee and cannot find a reason why my kneecap moves in all directions, and I can barely walk Banjo around the block?
  • My knee has popped every time I’ve bent it for the past two weeks; why did it stop popping the day of my MRI?
  • What if I can’t work out for months, and I gain weight?
  • If I need to have surgery, Mike will have to do so much around the house, and he already does so much. This is going to suck for him.
  • Will I ever be able to run again?
  • Will I ever be able to work out again?
  • At least I have an excuse to skip PR day when November Project resumes.
  • If I need surgery, I hope I can get it done soon. I know Covid is backing up non-emergency procedures.
  • At least this is happening during Covid, so I can teach from home and not have to worry about being out of work for four-twelve weeks. There’s no way I could trek up and down three flights of stairs multiple times a day!
  • Poor Liam already does so much; he’s going to have to do even more.
  • Poor Banjo misses long walks. I miss long walks, too.

2019 Goals

Teachers enjoy two “new year” beginnings, one in January and one in September. So far, I have done a nice job maintaining several of my school year resolutions.  I have been going to bed early and getting lots of sleep. I have been meal planning.  I pick up the house a little bit each day and have been doing a good job of keeping up with laundry, avoiding the need to spend most of Saturday morning cleaning.

Where I am slacking is when it comes to working out. I have not gone for a single run after school.  The main reason for this is being in a new school with a new curriculum.  Because I stay at school a lot later than I did last year, I head home to pick up Liam and avoid spending even more on after-school care than we already do. Liam has promised to start running with Banjo and me in the afternoon. While the runs aren’t long or fast, they include bonding and watching Liam set goals.

This start to the new year has me thinking about my goals. I have my students email weekly goals.  When they ask why they need to email me their goals and create a plan to reach them, I explain that a goal without a plan is nothing more than a wish. Sharing them makes them real.

When I first decided to sign up for a half-marathon, my husband told everyone. I was not as excited to share the goal, mostly for fear I would fail and everyone would know. Once everyone knew I was planning to run two half- marathons in 2018, I had to make sure I was able to achieve this goal.

Setting these goals makes me think a lot about what I want to achieve next year.

So here, in random order, are my 2019 goals:

Run a thirty-five minute 5K.  I just finished reading Deena Kastor’s Let Your Mind Run. She talks about her goal of running a fifteen minute 5K. I’m focusing on my own goals. Cutting a minute off of my 5K PR would put me in the thirty-five-minute range. I would be happy with that.

*In the time between my first draft of this and when I got back to editing it, I shaved forty seconds off my 5K, putting me at 35:59. Next goal is to make it to 34:59!

Cut a minute and a half off my half-marathon PR: I know that isn’t a lot over 13.1 miles, but it would put me in a 12:29 pace. For some reason, dropping down a ten-second increment sounds likes an awesome goal!

 

Do a handstand: I’ve been able to do a headstand for a  few years and want to transition to a full headstand. I think a lot of it is mind over matter; I need to get over my fear and make it happen.

Random Things Making Me Happy

Baseball is back!

We look like babies in this picture!

I love baseball! Loving the Red Sox was a non-negotiable while Mike and I began dating.  We can compromise in other areas, but the man I married needed to be a Sox fan. Baseball played a huge part in our dating. One of our first dates was to Fenway; we’ve been countless times since. Mike and I even had Red Sox undertones at our wedding. We took Liam to his first game when he was only a few months old. While he appreciates the excitement, fanfare, and $5 hotdogs more than the game itself, Liam enjoys visiting Fenway. Opening Day signifies that summer, with her long, warm days, is quickly approaching. We are attending our first game of the season this weekend. I am beyond excited to continue our Fenway traditions, even if we are supposed to get some snow that morning.

Assumptions are never a good idea!

Yes, Liam did line up the garbage cans

Through my years of teaching, I’ve learned to meet students where they are and help them fill any gaps in their learning. I’ve also learned not to make assumptions about what they know, as backgrounds and learning experiences vary. Wednesday afternoon, Liam, Banjo, and I walked home from school. As we walked into our house, I asked Liam to grab the trash bins from the curb and line them up by our house. He lined up the trash bins, just as I asked. I giggled, reminded the importance of explicit directions. As I finalize my last project of the year, I am reminded to not only be clear with my expectations but also to remember the importance of modeling and support each step of the way to help my students achieve.

Rainbow clouds!

While I was pregnant, Mike’s Aunt Char was very sick. She tried to hold on long enough to meet Liam but passed away when I was six months pregnant. After her funeral, I saw rainbow clouds for the first time. It seemed like a sign. Since then, I have only witnessed rainbow clouds a handful of times. Once was at Mackerel Cove while we were all playing on the beach. Once as I drove to Target to get Liam new pajamas the night before he had to have his ear tubes surgically removed (I was a nervous wreck), and once the other morning while driving to school.  I am a big believer in signs but cannot figure out why I saw rainbow clouds at that moment. I know about science and such, obviously, but I just like to think of such occurrences as signs.

I learned to make GIFs!

animated

Banjo manages to sit moving just his tail. It is the cutest thing to watch. I managed to get it on video and loved it so much that I downloaded a GIF-making app and made him a GIF.

Half-Marathon and Banjo Training

It’s been two weeks since Banjo joined our family. It feels like he’s been with us forever. We are learning each other’s ques and setting in nicely. He’s a happy dog, eager to learn, please, and rid the world of squirrels.

Last week, Banjo and I went for our first run. We did okay, but he pulled quite a bit. We made it about a mile and a half before we were both done. Two days later, my shoulder was still sore. I saw someone running with their dog using a belt leash. After scouring reviews on Amazon, I ordered one designed for large dogs.  We took a quick walk, following our usual route. It was so much more comfortable than pulling him on his leash! Yesterday, he and I set out using the belt leash. I love that it has pockets. I was able to fill one with animal crackers (his incentive of choice), one with waste bags and my phone, and one for my water bottle. (I don’t know how people run without water.)

 

Banjo was very attentive when he discovered my pocket full of crackers!

 

We had a great run! We went a longer route than we usually do during our walks, covered over two miles. We definitely could have gone longer, but I didn’t want to push it and I needed to pick up Liam. I turned on my interval timer but didn’t need since Banjo kept stopping to smell and mark things. He and I kept a 12:33 pace, right where I aim to be during short solo runs.  Best of all, I could truly be “hands-free” while running; everything fit in the belt!

 

While running with Banjo requires adjustment, I’m glad he and I settled into the routine that works for both of us.  I will miss afternoon runs on the Boulevard, but it is nice to have a running buddy for my short, weekday runs!

We Are on a Break!

I recently decided to break up with cheese.  Well, Mike convinced me to give up cheese for a little while and see how I felt.  I had already decided to give up my small cup of ice cream each night.  (I’m working out like crazy and gaining weight, but that is another story.)

We spent ten days together stuck inside a tiny house hiding from frigid temperatures.  The weekend before Christmas, I made two delicious mac and cheese recipes for different sets of guests.  The first used cheddar cheeses and Sriracha, the other asked for sharp cheeses and pancetta.  I made pulled pork to top the cheddar mac and cheese.  Because I am terrible at math and following recipes, I gathered the ingredients based on their pre-shredded amounts. Once I ran them through my shredder, I had a ridiculous amount of cheese, which led to ridiculous amounts of mac and cheese.

Mike and I spent the following week eating mac and cheese, refusing to spend money going out to eat or grocery shopping when there was a fridge full of perfectly good leftovers. At night, we snacked on meats and cheeses after Liam went to bed.  We were on vacation! We could live it up!

My indulging caught up with me.  I gained five pounds.  This brought my weight right past my “Oh Crap” weight.  (Does anyone else have a weight hierarchy?  I imagine mine like the threat pyramid the government uses. It consists of Yay!, Good/Okay, Watch it Now/Reel It In, and Oh Crap.)

I also noticed that my face, which has been pretty clear, started to look like it belonged to a teenager.  More like, it belonged to an awkward teenager who had both pimples and laugh lines.  My biggest issues involved my stomach.  I won’t get into the details, but Liam and Mike became fearful of sitting near me.

While Mike and I were getting ready for bed, he mentioned the amount of cheese I had been consuming and asked if I had ever considered giving up dairy.

Anyone who knows me knows this would normally be laughed off.  I love cheese!  (By the way, there is a name for someone who loves cheese; we are known as turophiles.) However, I had read quite a few articles about the benefits of eliminating dairy, including improvements to skin, stomach, and sinuses.  My sinuses have been throbbing, causing me pain under my eyes and into my jaw.  Netti pots, Claritin, hot compresses, and nasal sprays are no longer helping.  I was planning to use the ENT referral my primary care doctor gave me at my physical.  I really try to avoid taking medications.  If giving up dairy would help me breath better and be pain-free, it’s worth a shot!

Now comes the difficult part, actually giving up cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products.  I use almond milk in my morning smoothies.  I can use that when having cereal and scrambled eggs. I purchased a plant-based butter type spread and soy-based yogurt.

I am now seven days into my breakup with dairy.  So far, it isn’t as bad as I feared.  It might be the placebo effect, but I swear that I am already breathing easier. I can breath deeper than I previously could. During my run Tuesday, I slowed down because my legs were tired, not because of breathing difficulties.  Today, I ran my longest run! However, I know the cheese fit will kick in soon.  While it is a bit too early to say whether it has helped clear my skin, I have noticed no new breakouts in the past few days.

This news is bittersweet.  I am glad that I am experiencing excellent results from giving up dairy.  Honestly, I was hoping that it would not work and I could go back to being my awesome, cheese-loving self.

What am I Thankful for this Year?

I know, it’s a totally clique prompt, but I’m going with it.

Mike

Right at the top!

Mike supports me in every possible way.  While I didn’t need his permission, he gave me his blessing to sign up for BRG and take a class at Bryant this spring.  Some weeks, I was out of the house four nights.  He never complained.  A year ago, we spent four days in the hospital while he recovered from an appendectomy. We laughed through much of it, confusing the nurses.  We left the hospital thankful not only for his health, but that we were able to get through a scary, stressful time.

He’s funny.  I genuinely love spending time with him.  He is a great father.  I am thankful for him and our great marriage.

Liam was in my tummy in this picture; I wouldn’t know that for another week

My In-laws

My in-laws are amazing!  My father in law is one of my favorite people in the world!  They are supportive and involved.  They are fantastic grandparents.  My mother in law will play with Liam for hours.  They both give great advice.  When I am thankful for my husband, I am also thankful for the two people who raised him.  They are the reason he is so wonderful!

My Friends (old and new!)

The few years after having Liam were so lonely.  Facebook exacerbated the situation by informing me everytime people went out without me.  Over the years, I’ve made some life-changing friends.  They support me and challenge me to try new things.  They offer different perspectives.  They allow me to vent when needed put push me when it is time to move on. Most importantly, they make me laugh!  Whether we are running, doing yoga, putting together an event at Liam’s school, or sitting around a fire in someone’s backyard, laughter is always a significant part of the festivities.  I think about where I am right now, fully aware that my friends helped me more than they’ll ever know.

Booba!

My kid is amazing!  I know, every mom has to say that.  I love this little seven-year-old child of mine!  He’s smart, funny, and observant.  He is kind, even when he doesn’t realize I’m watching.

Teaching

My work is challenging but rewarding.  My kids are amazing and make excellent observations about their world. I am also blessed with fantastic coworkers and a lot of autonomy.  I spend more time with my colleagues than I do with my family.  I’m thankful to spend my days with great people.

My Health

I often complain about my body, fully aware that I need to change my diet to change my body.  However, my body is healthy and allows me to run and practice yoga.  It allows me to take walks with Liam and Mike.  It may be bigger and softer than I’d like it to be, but I am thankful to possess a healthy, able body.

“Good Start!”

While doing research for his I-Search paper, a student asked me to look at his research organizer.  He had one bit of information for each of his five research questions.  Knowing he needed at least two to three answers for each of his questions to formulate a valid, well-rounded response, I told him, “Good start” and began asking clarifying questions to gather more information.

“Really?  I thought I was done,” he told me as we wrapped up the check-in.

From across the room, another student chimed in, “Don’t you hate when she does that?  ‘Good start.’ ‘No, I’m showing her because I’m done and she always says ‘Good start.'” There is nothing more humbling than learning about an annoying quirk from a group of teenagers.

It wasn’t until he called me on it that I realized how often I use the term “Good start,” in both verbal check-ins and while communicating via Google Docs.  I often joke with my students about a magical place called “Done.”  They all want to be there.  For them, “Done” is place that means they can relax for a minute and exhale before moving onto their next goal.

It makes me wonder, when are we “Done?”  In yoga, we are never “done.”  That’s why it’s called practice.  In the ten plus years of practicing yoga, I’ve never been bored; there’s always something new and another challenge.  Running and weightlifting have changed my yoga practice.  While my legs are stronger than they’ve ever been, I’m aware that I am not as flexible as I used to be.  I was close to being able to do a split; that went away when I began running three times a week.  While some flexibility fled, I find I get more from my sessions now.  My body craves the stretching and movement.

When it comes to running, I am aware that I will also never be “done.”  I’m inspired by progress to become faster and stronger. It is such a great feeling to feel better while running or to go a little faster than you’re used to running.

With both my students and Liam, I spend a lot of time talking about growth mindset, a term coined by Carol Dweck.  She talks about the power of the word “yet,” as in, “I can’t do that yet.”  Because I loop with my students, we can talk about progress and how far they’ve come in the months and years we’ve known each other.  When he gets frustrated with a new concept, I remind Liam of his progress in ninja skills classes and elementary school.  “Remember when borrowing numbers in subtraction was tough?  Now, you can do it without any problems.  You’ll get this!’

My running friends and I often remind ourselves of our progress.  We remember when the thought of running four minutes was terrifying.  Now, we regularly run three miles without stopping.

So this makes me wonder when I will be “done” when it comes to running, weightlifting and yoga.  In my weightlifting, my goal is to do a pull-up.  I can deadlift 200 pounds but can’t do a pull-up.  I signed up for a 10K next September.  There is talk about a half marathon next summer.  How far will go?  I have a plan to reach these goals?  What’s next?