IntrepidWoman's Journey

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And the saga continues with more examples of dumbassery in my life. There are so many, but these two come to mind as they relate to my last blog.

I have had 13 surgeries and number 13 was bad luck. I had hernias as a result of cancer surgery a few years before and instead of having them taken care of, I procrastinated because I thought my job would fall apart if I was not there. I had always put my job first, ever since I was a teacher, starting in 1985.

Anyway, I started having horrific pains which my son suggested might be hernia strangulation.  I was lucky enough to contact my doctor from the Pass, who volunteered his time in Okotoks, where I was living, at the Urgent Care Centre. He had me into a surgeon’s office within 24 hours and I agreed to be ‘fixed’ a few weeks later. The surgeon said he could do it immediately, but again I waited, as I had school groups scheduled and copy deadlines at work.

The day after surgery, which took several hours longer than planned as there were about 5 areas needing repair, I was up and walking around the hospital. Suddenly, my blood pressure plummeted and my kidneys shut down. Long story, short, it took two weeks to get me stabilized and I ended up off work longer than originally planned. Thus, Dumbassery #2.

My third example is my favorite. While working for the town of Okotoks, all staff were summoned one day to attend the opening of the new fire/police station. Lunch and a tour was included. The building was finished and in use but the outside grounds were still a mess.

Because we were late, my coworker and I were rushing through the gravel towards the sidewalk, which was a big step up until landscaping could be completed. I, of course, was clutzy and tripped as I reached the cement, landing heavily on my shoulder. The fall knocked the wind out of me and the pain kept me momentarily sprawled on the sidewalk. I know. It was not a pretty site.

I need to backtrack at this point to tell you about a fireman who had come to the museum to do routine inspections and who I deemed did not have a funny bone in his entire body. Example: He was to let us know the current building capacity. I said, in my dumbass way, “I want to know because I have a group of students scheduled and need to know how many to throw off the balcony.” Well. If looks could kill, I would not be here today to write this story. My coworker looked at me in utter horror and I slunk into my office to relive the disgrace again and again, for the rest of the afternoon. From that point on, I started calling him Grumpy, as in, “Is Grumpy coming to check the storage areas today?” Other staff also started referring to him as Grumpy. He had a very serious demeanor.

Back to my fall from grace, during work hours, outside the firehall. My coworker asked if I could get up. When I said no, she ran into the building to get help. Remember. This was outside the new fire station. Out ran the entire D division of firemen, and the first to get to me was, yup, you guessed it – Grumpy.

He was beyond kind. I was surrounded by men in blue, with Grumpy holding one hand and supporting my back with the other as they checked me for injuries. They kept asking if I had hit my head. I still am not sure why they asked more than once, ha, ha! They were all so kind and very professional.

Eventually, I was helped by Grumpy into an ambulance, given laughing gas by an EMT and whisked away to Urgent Care where I sat in a wheel chair for 4 hours before anyone even examined me.

I had torn my rotator cuff, ended up driving daily for a month into Calgary for physio through Workers Comp and again found out that my job did not collapse if I was not 100 % on it.

Moral of the story – I learned respect that day. Grumpy was very professional at his job at all times and did not kid around. I took a day off work and when I returned, I told everyone how kind he was and that they all needed to call him MR. Grumpy from that day forward. (I also delivered boxes of Purdy chocolates, with a thank you card, to Division D at the fire hall.)

I had to drive by the new fire station everyday on my way to and from work. Everyday I would look over to where I had fallen and where I left my dignity, sprawled on that sidewalk. The landscaping was finally completed and a tree was planted where I had fallen. I like to think of it as my tree. Dumbassery #3.

 

Having a high pain tolerance is not always a good thing. My story:

Many years ago I lived on a farm, 3 km south of Lundbreck, with my horse Freckles. It was a beautiful place, with the house sitting on a hill, overlooking the valley all the way to the road that led back to town.

Winter was tough as the snow had melted and re-frozen into lots of ice around the house. One day I happened to look out and spied Freckles almost a mile down the road. There was a cattle guard so I could not imagine how he had escaped the fenced area.

I hurriedly donned winter wear and headed down the road to the cattle guard. It looked like it was frozen over. Freckles was old so I did not think he had jumped it. Being a city kid, I decided he must have walked across the frozen guard so I proceeded to do the same. I fell in with my right leg, all the way up past my shin. It hurt, but I was more concerned about rescuing Freckles so I hobbled down the road, finally catching him and bringing him home, locking him in a corral for his own safety.

The next day I went to my doctor who sent me for an x-ray. He said I had 3 cracked bones.  Being dumb and not really understanding what that meant, (cracked is broken, duh!), I continued on with life and took Tylenol for the pain.

About a week later, I came down the steps from the house and fell hard. It was nearly 9 pm and I knew I had some serious damage as I heard the bones snap as I landed on the ice.

My first thought was that I had to get into town to the little store before it closed at 9 pm to get someone to help me, as I was alone. I dragged myself into my Bronco with standard transmission and drove into town with my injured leg having to move between gas and clutch petals. My high boot was keeping everything in place.

As I pulled into town and stopped near the store, I realized I was going into shock and that the store was already closed. I parked in the middle of the road and a couple in a van stopped to help me.

The story only gets worse from here. The man drove me in his vehicle to the hospital in Blairmore while his wife followed in my vehicle. Once in emergency, the hospital cut off my boot and phoned the doctor on call. He was busy with his cows and told them to put me in a bed and he would see me in the morning. During all this, I refused morphine because I wanted to remain lucid.

I was mad at the doctor for not coming in so left the hospital and ended up on a friend’s couch for the night, with my leg propped up on pillows. The next day my son came and drove me to the hospital in Pincher Creek. They took one look at my leg and phoned ahead to Lethbridge to arrange for an orthopedic surgeon and surgery.

After finally letting them give me a shot of morphine, I laid in the backseat of the Bronco and endured a bumpy ride to the city. They offered an ambulance, but of course I said no.

After surgery that included a steel plate and pins to hold together 3 breaks, I had a cast from my toes up to my knee. I wanted to go home. The surgeon said I had to stay in the hospital until I was able to walk to the bathroom because I had no one to look after me at home. As soon as he left, I hobbled to the bathroom, pulled the cord for the nurse, then told her to tell the doctor I was leaving. He said it was against his advice, but I left.

Next time I saw my family doctor, he gave me heck because I should not have been walking on bones that were ‘cracked’ after the first fall. He had not told me that at the time, but assumed I understood. Poor fellow was my doctor for many years and I always made him earn his fee.

Best part of story – I was told to stay home for at least 9 weeks and they would not be giving me a walking cast. One of my students phoned me after about a month and pleaded for me to come back. The substitute teacher in my art room was not to his liking. I did go back and sat on a chair with my leg up. I was just as happy to be back in the classroom as my student!

So what did my bravery due to a high pain tolerance get me? Today I have osteoarthritis in my ankle and it can be a real pain some days. BUT: I also have a story in dumbassery to tell, (according to friend Deanna.)  Is ‘dumbassery’ a word? With stories from my life, I can make it so.

 

 

 

 

 

Not always. Christmases have highs and lows like all other events in our lives. Today I am speaking as a Christian who grew up with the magic and wonder of Christ’s birth celebration amidst the store santas and rampant commercialism.

Now as a senior, I am sad to see the evolution of christian celebration of the season. It is not that I want nativity scenes on every corner, but I want them to have equal importance to all cultural representations at this time of year. Instead, I am seeing it all disappear.

I am sad that people argue over whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” or ……  The joy of celebrating our beliefs, whether Christian, Jew or another faith, has been diluted to almost disappearance for all faiths in all public settings.

The weakness of democracy is that it tries so hard to stress freedoms that it actually takes away freedoms. I know that may not make sense, but think about it. If we all had the true freedom to celebrate our faiths, we would have menorahs on display, nativity scenes and other representations of religious faiths, side by side. Many people want it to be like that but political correctness takes it all away from everybody.

How sad and bleak and scary. Our children’s children are not learning about faith and given choices so they can decide what to believe. They will grow up believing in nothing but commercialism and consumerism.

In the winter of my life, I continue to celebrate the birth of Christ and feel the joy in my heart. My friends with other faiths join me in keeping their beliefs in their hearts, but each generation is losing a bit at a time. How bleak the world will be in the future with only the radical religions taking over by force. Sounds extreme? Maybe. Maybe not. If we do not stand our ground by standing by our faith, it will be easy for radical believers to control the masses.

I do wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Seasons Greetings to all. I wish Joy to every person this time of year. Kindness to others less fortunate is the reason for the season. Many suffer pain and loss and need to feel that mankind still has an element of caring for their fellow man. Most religions have the universal belief in loving each other. Is that not a good thing to continue teaching our children? I am grateful for my God and cannot imagine the long walk through this life without Him by my side.

It is Christmas Eve and gently snowing here in southern Alberta. I still feel the magic and the joy in my heart, after all these years.

 

Banishng Facebook from my daily life on November 2nd has made me mentally more contented and relaxed and has changed my thoughts to be more positive and creative. It was hard at first but each day has been easier. I have broken the addiction. I have cleansed my mind.

Up next, my body. History: obese entire adult life, pre-diabetic, hypertension, lupus (in remission but working insidiously behind the scenes), fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis in knees, hips, lower back and right ankle, neuropathy in feet and legs, and cancer twice, resulting in radical hysterectomy and removal of thyroid. Imagine what I am costing the health system!

Four days ago, I began a Reboot, made famous by Joe Cross, who juiced his way across the US for 60 days in 2010, losing 80 lbs and ending up off all medications for a serious autoimune illness. His documentary about his journey is called “Fat, Sick and Almost Dead”. His website talks about juice fasting for periods of 3, 5, 15, 30 and 60 days.

For a few weeks now I have been juicing one meal per day, usually breakfast, and eating mostly fresh foods, not processed. Last week I upgrated to a more efficient juicing machine which increased liquid output by almost 100%. Much research has gone into juicing, types of juicers, Joe Cross and his website RebootWithJoeCross. It is the teacher in me. I needed to know all the facts.

I was finally ready to do an actual reboot where nothing is comsumed except fresh juices, water, coconut water and herbal tea. I chose 3 days because that seemed doable. (Note: purchased bottled juices are not good as they have added sugar and preservatives.)

I have never purchased an IPad app, but have downloaded many free ones. For this reboot, I purchased Joe’s Reboot app and it was awesome! For $6.99, I was able to input daily weight, nutrition, exercise, how I was feeling, etc. and any negatives were met with instant tips to counter the issue. It also contained juice recipes, progress charts and shopping lists. I just finished my first 3 day Reboot and lost 8 lbs! All info is kept in the app and I can easily add many more reboots.

This is not a fad diet. It is a quick way to fill your body with micronutrients and cleanse your internal systems. Doctors and nutritionists agree.  I could quickly gain back that weight in no time by eating processed foods and going back to bad habits.

The hardest part is after a reboot, which Joe discovered as well. North America is fat and sick because of processed foods found in grocery stores and drive-thru ‘quick and dirties’. Meals that heat in a few minutes contain very few nutrients and a whole lot of chemicals. People on the hamster wheel of life like these convenience foods because time is limited in their busy lives, BUT: there are more chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension, autoimmune illnesses and cancers since how and what we eat has changed over the last 50+ years. These conditions are being found in children as well in the last few years. Also, food producers are using ever-increasing amounts of chemicals, antibotics, plastics, preservatives, and poisons in the raising of animals and crops for consumption. It truly is scary.

The documentation is available that proves all this, but people generally dismiss all the facts. Joe Cross and others have proven by example that the healthiest foods are fresh, not processed and that a diet of mostly vegetables and fruits with minimal dairy and meat meals (fish, chicken, beef, preferablly organic) per week can change lives by improving health and extending life expectancy.

Studies of eating habits around the world show very little disease and obesity where plants are the main diet. Industrialization has been our downfall!

So, here are my facts. Since I began to eat healthier, plant-based, fresh and not processed foods, I have lost 35 lbs in 4.5 months. My blood pressure meds have been cut in half, my AC1 test for blood sugar is below the pre-diabetic range now and my energy level has increased 100%.

I have found a local farm that grows vegetables and brings in BC fruits that were not grown with chemicals and pesticides. I try to buy organic in stores where available.  Also, no more caffeine (coffee), diet pop and artificial sweeteners for me. If it does not contain nutrients, my body doesn’t need or want it.

My final BUT: I am not on a diet; I have changed my eating habits. I still eat in restaurants once in a while, choosing the healthiest items on the menu, I still enjoy a piece of homemade apple pie when I make one for a family dinner, and a visit to Dairy Queen a couple of times in the summer will still happen, just not every hot day. I wont indulge in pop or chips because they have no nutrition whatever in them, and that seems like a waste to me. And when I fail, as people do, I will get right back up, dust myself off and do a Reboot. It is called eating to live, and I want to live long enough to dance at my grandchildren’s weddings.

In summary, I am finished with Facebook and fast foods. I call that Freedom.

Dreams are wondrous things. I have had two that stand out very clearly in my memory. In the first, I was driving very fast on a winding road in a heavily forested area. At one point, I careened off the road and sailed into the air, knowing without a doubt that when the car landed, I would die. I woke up, shaken to the core. It was so real.

I eventually forgot that dream until a couple years later when I was heading to the city to visit family. I decided to take a back rode through a scenic, forested area. I was driving briskly along when I recognized that place in the dream where I went off the rode. I pulled over and stopped, reliving the dream in my mind, my heart pounding. After several deep breaths, I continued my trip, driving more slowly and with great caution.

The second dream was a feel-good experience where I realized I could jump high into the air and then float or fly around. I kept doing it over and over, enjoying the sensation of weightlessness and being able to look around and see below me. The sense of joy and freedom was wonderful. I woke from this one smiling.

Last night I dreamt I was working with a boss from my past, and it was frustrating and scary. A good friend who died a few years ago was also in this dream scene, which was a mix of my past careers and past acquaintances. I woke up coughing and in a mental fog, coming slowly back to my safe and calm reality.

In the dream, Bad Boss and I were in business together, but I never knew what he was doing from one minute until the next and I have no idea what kind of business it was.  The room, activities and people were constantly changing around me. At one point, on his way out the door, BB handed me some papers and left. I seemed to be running around trying to track people down to see what they were doing, and finally I glanced at the papers. Our company cheque had bounced and the receiver was stating that he was done with us. Distressed, I started running around again, trying to find BB.

When I told him the news he was not too concerned, but I was unable to show him the note, as I had set it down somewhere. Then I started searching for the note, stopping to talk to my Dear Friend who was standing by a wall of shelves containing art and craft supplies.  As I continued to walk the halls, searching for the note, I also began searching for DF, who had suddenly disappeared as well.  I had conversations with several people along the way. Finally, I started coughing and stumbled out of this nonsensical scene. It took a while to clear the grogginess and I was left feeling sluggish and unsettled.

i am not sure how accurate dream interpretation is, but it is likely very interesting. What brings people from your past into your dreams? What causes the same dream to happen more than once? Why do we remember some dreams and not others? Are some dreams a prediction of the future?

Sometimes a dream will hang over me for part of the next day. I feel like it was real and the experience, no matter how weird, may linger for hours. Last night’s dream is still with me. Maybe a long, hot shower will clear my head and reset my day.

DF was a good friend who was known for her kind heart and unlimited generosity. She died too young from a heart condition. BB was a boss from hell. He stole from the employer and from friends and clients, went on emotional rants with everyone quite often, lied and played the injured party for over two, long years before leaving town and his job.

I have not seen these two people for several years. They were never together in my life. I miss DF. I try not to ever even think about BB.

Last night was our first snow fall. I awoke from this dream to white and wet.

This is likely the strangest post I will ever write. At least I hope it is. Heading for that shower now.

Change in life is constant. Our journey has forks in the road; we constantly have people enter and leave our lives as we trudge along through time. We move, we change jobs, (and sometime partners) and do our best to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Each of our paths is unique, but is filled with valleys and mountain tops. Life is often hard; we experience pain, loneliness and sorrow. Life is also glorious, filled with joy, love, and hope. If it was not for the valleys, could we really appreciate the mountain tops?

For me, retirement has been one of the biggest changes in my life. I moved through the adult years as a single parent struggling to juggle family and finances and finally stepped off the hamster wheel 21 days after my 66th birthday. My first year after was spent just recovering from life’s hectic pace. I was so exhausted!

Now in my second year, I am on a journey to cleanse my body and become the best I can be. Chronic illnesses have plagued me for many years. After a near-death experience in February 2013, and the recent realization that my life expectancy is not way into the future, I have taken control of my physical self.

First thing was to research to find out why there is so much chronic disease, obesity, and early deaths due to so many cancers and the effects of high blood pressure and diabetes. It all comes back to what we eat and the amount of exercise we get. Desk job + processed foods in the stores and quick-and-dirty drive-thru meals all add up to an unhealthy life style. Research has proven it. There is lots of data out there. Nothing new here, but changing it however, is not easy. We live on treadmills. Ours lives are super busy. We are raising our kids to be super busy as well and in between work and chauffering kids to lessons, we are thankful for the chicken nuggets and drive-thru coffee.

It is life. It is how it is. It has evolved over time to this. I have the privilege now, in the winter of my life, to make big changes and it is going well. My taste buds have changed after a few months of eating fresh foods, juicing vegetables and fruit daily, riding an exercise bike and taking yoga and NIA. I rarely eat bread products and have sworn off processed meats and most processed foods. Research has helped me locate locally grown and raised food where I live. Life is good. My energy is through the roof. Physically, I feel better every day.

But… Isn’t there always a but? My poor brain continues to suffer from information overload. Easy access to social media fills my head daily with the horrors of murders and natural disasters. The provincial and federal elections this year were full of hateful statements and images. I have witnessed how abuse and bullying are alive and growing on the internet.

So, what to do about it? I get up, have my hot lemon water and turn on my computer to Facebook, then read emails, then news sites. I end the day the same way. I check in during the day when I am at home. (At least when I worked, I could only do it in the morning and at night.) Some of what I see is good. I like pictures of ex-students and their families and seeing how their lives are unfolding. I enjoy posts from long-time friends and knowing what is going on at Jack’s school and in my neighborhood. Facebook has become the window to my retired life, but I have been sitting in front of it way too much, reading about other people’s lives instead of living my own.

The elements of negativity in social media are pulling me down, mentally and spiritally. As I gain energy and improve my physical self, my mental self is deteriorating.

My addiction to social media is keeping me from real-life experiences. It is time to do something about that. Tucked into my fleece sheets last night, trying to clear my head and go to sleep, I decided to go off Facebook for a month. If I can learn to love vegetables over chocolate, surely I can learn to love real people interactions over FB interactions. There is much more to me than being a Facebook troll!

I am going to deactivate my account today. For 30 days. I would like to never go back, but time will tell. Just as I crave a little chocolate once in a while and hope to learn to eat it in moderation some day, my desire is to limit FB to maybe once a week for only for a few minutes. Maybe I could eat a piece of chocolate when I check Facebook? I would have to turn it off when the chocolate is gone. Lofty goal! Better to say I could drink a freshly-made vegetable juice while I check FB for a few minutes once a week.

I will be back on December 2nd to check in. Wish me luck. I will have 30 days to make art, interact with real people and connect more strongly to my Higher Power. I will still have email, but I think Messenger will be gone with FB.

Now I am going to make my vegetable juice, and while I sip it, read Facebook, then press ‘Deactivate’. The rest of the day will be an exciting, blank canvas!

It is all about finding balance in one’s life, as well as living it to be our very best! Every single day.

Too much of a good thing for me has included: chocolate, art supplies, buying wool and knitting scarves, and exercise programs. I thought that meant I was OCD, but it does not fit the criteria. I do not wash my hands a lot, just sometimes after a lot of chocolate.

I have eaten enough chocolate bars in my lifetime to build a fort, knit enough scarves to warm over 40 necks, filled an old trunk with enough art supplies to last 5 years and spent the last few months taking chair yoga, NIA and riding an exercise bike as if my life depended on it.

My life does depend on it so I have been burning down the fort, found a place to sell my scarves for cheap, gave a bag of wool to Jack’s class for a project, began reading ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love), to get over the fear of creating, and continued going to yoga, NIA and riding my exercise bike except when having a fibromyalgia flare up.

I have also been researching chronic illnesses and their connection to how and what we eat. Documentaries that have become my friends include: “Fat, Sick and Almost Dead”, “Food Inc.”, “Vegucated”, “Hungry for Change”, “Forks Over Knives”, and “Food Matters”.

Watching how food is altered, processed and poisoned and how animals are raised and slaughtered has not turned me into a vegetarian, although it should have, but it has made me change my ways.

I am astounded by the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, many cancers and heart diseases that can be directly connected to what we eat. The proof is out there through studies of eating habits around the world.

Because my first year of retirement was dedicated to recovering from work exhaustion, getting up when my eyes opened, reading every book I could get my hands on physically and digitally, and spending more time with family and friends, it went by quickly. My second year began with goal setting, facing my sorry, sick self and pulling up my big girl panties.

Actually, a diagnosis of another chronic disease in July was the jolt I needed. My one big goal now is to dance at my grandchildren’s weddings. To that end, I have met with a nurse every few weeks at the medical clinic to discuss nutrition, found and watched all those documentaries, joined exercise programs at the seniors’ centre and stopped eating mindlessly to fix what ails me. The eating and non-exercise were causing what ails me.

After a few months of this total self-care, I have had my blood pressure medication cut in half, lowered my blood sugar so that I am no longer considered to be pre-diabetic, lost nearly 30 pounds and 4.75 inches off my waist. I still have a long way to go but I am on the road.

I am putting this out there to be accountable. That is scary but necessary. It has not been an easy process. I have stumbled and emotionally beat myself up, but have kept my eyes on the dancing ahead.

Joe Cross has taught me about juicing and micro nutrients, and learning about nutrition has taught me to stay away from bread and processed foods as much as possible. I gave up caffeine.

I am not on a diet. I do not deprive myself. My tastebuds have changed because of juicing dark green vegetables and fruit and from having a local vegetable share this summer with Noble Gardens. I just signed up for a winter share because they grow without chemical pesticides and I am supporting a family business.

I also gave away my Keurig so I would have more room on the counter for my juicing machine and cutting board. My energy level has quadrupled. I have gone from a walking zombie with chronic fatigue and multiple aches and pains to looking for things to do like clean out closets and wash windows.

There. It is out there. I am accountable to you now. That should make me lose a pound or two, just by sweating at the thought!


Historically Speaking

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