Category Archives: aging

Knee needs

Tuesday morning at an ungodly hour, I have an appointment in Clifton Park to have my meniscus trimmed and basically tidied up. Or in. Whatever. It’s going to be a little worse for a short time, but then it should get better.

I’ll be able to strengthen my body symmetrically instead of out of whack, as I innately protect my left side from further damage during yoga class. Both butt cheeks should hit the ground together in child’s pose and the bottom of my left foot will once again find the inside of my right thigh. Even more will be right in my world than it is today and that’s saying a lot.

Spending this winter break from school at home having, and recuperating from, knee surgery may not sound like an ideal vacation, but I’m psyched about it. Unless something goes terribly wrong, my discomfort is going to be abated and my flexibility will improve. And I’ll be able to run again.

It’s ok to be home recuperating in February when I’ve got 4 weeks of travel later this year to which I’m looking forward. Unlike my hobble when I initially landed in Athens last summer, I should be feeling stronger and more able to walk without pain or a limp during those upcoming weeks of foreign adventure. I’ll be better – physically and mentally. It’ll be great.

Today was my last walk around Muni pre-surgery and it was spectacular. There was no wind and the sun was bright and strong. Jeter was well behaved and placed his poops really well, near trash cans oddly marked “Inedible.” We walked the front 9, counterclockwise, adding a short loop by the clubhouse.

At one point we overtook a group of three humans and a couple of dogs and, as we passed them, I overheard one of the women talking about running. Judging from her attire of leggings and windbreaker, I concluded she had originally planned to run the course but, when she encountered her friends, changed her mind and decided to walk instead.

Hearing the word “run,” honestly, triggered me. Coincidentally, I was wearing my running shoes for the first time in months on the relatively clear paved path. I couldn’t not run.

Last uncut knee pic! Scars show life lived.

I ran slowly, reveling in how my body felt unleashed. My feet didn’t hurt and my hips felt loose. The sun was on my face as I smiled. I was so damn happy. I imagined being able to run again, without the tenderness I was currently experiencing on the inside of my left knee. That morning date with the orthopedic surgeon couldn’t come soon enough.

I really (k)need to just get this done.

Comments Off on Knee needs

Filed under aging, Albany, Exercise, medical, Observations, running, travel, vacation

Defining luxury

I’m mentally packing for an upcoming weekend in Florida. Carry on only, of course. The weather looks a little dicey, but I’m sure that I’ll enjoy the warm air and my rented summer-esque wardrobe, even if it rains a little.

My plan is no plan – visiting friends and walking on the beach are the only things I really hope to do for the couple of days I’m away. If you have any recommendations for places to eat or drink in the Palm Beach vicinity, let me know.

So, does jetting off to Florida for three nights and two days sound to you like the ultimate indulgence? While it’s definitely a treat to escape New York in February, there’s something else going on in my life that feels a lot more luxurious…

Yesterday, I went to see a surgeon about my torn meniscus. I drove to the appointment in my cute and reasonably safe car, leaving work early using some of my accumulated paid sick time. The doctor reviewed the MRI, for which my HMO paid a negotiated and agreed upon price of $350. Had I not been insured, the out of pocket cost would have been closer to $900.

The orthopedist and I discussed treatment options and quickly agreed that a surgical approach was my best course of action. We picked a date two weeks out, during my official (paid) winter break from school. Prior to that date I will meet with my primary care provider for medical clearance for the procedure. I expect that appointment, like the office visit Monday, will cost me $25, which I will pay from my pre-tax flex spending plan.

After surgery, there will be a follow up visit to have the sutures removed and physical therapy to help me regain strength in my knee. My insurance will pay for all of this.

During these months of discomfort and pain and missing running, my favorite physical activity, I have never once had to consider how I would pay for the necessary medical care to help me get better. There hasn’t been a single moment when I’ve been concerned about not being able to go to work and receive my salary because I did not have paid sick time available.

Not once.

Now that, my friend, is genuine and real luxury.

3 Comments

Filed under aging, Exercise, medical, musings, Observations, running, travel, winter

The cost of Free Lunch

E15229C3-B06D-4718-9900-89702C4A0391
Monday, YALSA, the young adult librarian services arm of the American Library Association, awarded the 2020 nonfiction award to Rex Ogle’s Free Lunch a small book that left a huge impact on this reader. The memoir tells the story of Rex’s first semester of sixth grade in Texas. He’s just entered middle school, a milestone for which he was very excited. He’s a hardworking and bright student who loves to read and values the routine of school. In addition to his schoolwork, Rex shoulders a tremendous amount of responsibility at home caring for his 2 1/2 year old brother and preparing meals since his mother “doesn’t cook.”

 

And, he’s poor. Really, really poor.

 

Rex lives with his mother, her boyfriend, and their child, in a two bedroom apartment in which all of the furniture items can be counted on one hand. Rex sleeps on the floor in a sleeping bag, storing his meager wardrobe of ill fitting, but clean, clothing in cardboard boxes left over from the family’s most recent move. They move a lot.

 

There is never enough food in their home, but the threat of physical, emotional and verbal abuse fills the otherwise empty rooms. Grocery and school supply shopping expeditions are balancing acts between getting what is needed and not angering a mother who rages against every perceived societal injustice with a loud and confrontational voice.

 

Reading Rex’s words on the page prompted memories and strong feelings for me. We were poor, too. While my mother never was abusive, she also was not particularly interested in the emotional needs of her own children or sensitive to the pressures of fitting in socially. I just don’t think she had the resources to explore either of those avenues.

BC236245-370B-48A7-B2DA-A534BC372D90

I shared Free Lunch, along with Hey, Kiddo, Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s National Book Award Finalist graphic novel memoir, last week with my 7th grade students. The theme of the presentation, and the books I pulled, was families. I talked a little about the infinite number of household compositions that can be encompassed by the word Family. I told the kids about the embarrassment Ogle felt about his home situation and poverty and explained that I knew what he was talking about because of my own experiences growing up in a single parent household, being dependent upon welfare, and receiving free lunch.

 

When I was a kid, there were times when we had to devise ways to heat up food (pre-microwaves) when there was no gas for the stove. Hot water wasn’t always available and sometimes in the winter there was no water whatsoever because we had neglected to leave the water dripping on cold nights and the pipes had frozen. Most of the time, in home laundry was a luxury we didn’t have and I have memories of clothing drying near the wood burning stove upon which we were dependent for heat. 


802D0A74-777C-425A-B69D-6508467206CA 

Hours of my childhood were spent in the overheated offices of the county social services building waiting as my mother reapplied for assistance. I learned at an early age that toilet paper, soap and aspirin were all considered nonessential and thus not able to be purchased with food stamps. And the embarrassment of free lunch? I’m very familiar with the shame of having to publicly admit that my family did not have the means to provide me with a midday meal.

 

My lesson finished with a “blind” book selection activity in which I asked students to close their eyes, reach into a bin filled with assorted books and withdraw one. As they lined up to perform the task, I explained that none of us get to pick the family that we’re born into and I requested that they sit down for 5-7 minutes with their randomly selected book and just read. Following their quiet reading, they had the option to borrow the book or opt for an alternative title. The choice, just like what might come next in their own lives, was theirs to make.

1 Comment

Filed under aging, Books, Education, girlhood, News, Observations, Recommendations

Medical Monday with mixed results

I’m pretty stingy with my sick days. It’s not like when the kids were younger, and finally all in school, when I would take a sick day just to be in my own house in the quiet. No, these days I get plenty of alone time so I try to hoard my sick days and take care of medical matters at off work hours. So, guess what my Monday holiday looked like?

 

Yes, I opened the day with a 9:00 appointment for an MRI. My knee pain hasn’t really diminished, despite not running, and an X-ray last week revealed nothing remarkable. Have you ever had an MRI? I’ve had at least one before and they’re really not very pleasant, although yesterday’s was far more tolerable than the head/neck one I experienced in the past. On both occasions my coping mechanism was to close my eyes and not open them again until it was over. If you’re remotely claustrophobic, I’d recommend you do the same should you find yourself in the same situation.

Immediately after my appointment, I dashed home to get Jeter to his appointment at the veterinarian. Just before Christmas during a belly rub session, I found a lump on his tummy. My response was panic. Cancer. Once I started breathing again, I calmed myself down by doing some research and considered that his behavior in every way was unchanged. I would keep an eye on it for a couple of weeks.

Last Friday I had a mini panic attack about the lump, despite the fact that there hadn’t been any changes, and scheduled a veterinarian visit for Monday to follow my own appointment. I hustled (on my bad knee!) home to collect Jeter and off we went to the animal clinic. 

Jeter was evaluated and the mass was aspirated with the results confirming the veterinarian’s assessment – a common fatty tumor. I couldn’t have been more relieved with the news and Jeter and I celebrated with a brisk walk around the front nine at Muni.

Well, at least as briskly as I could move with my injured knee. 

While my dog’s diagnosis was all I had hoped for, the findings from my MRI were less welcome.  Apparently I have a tear in my meniscus – and a complex one at that. Shit.


So, next up is an appointment with an ortho guy recommended by a friend who has had some knees issues of his own. I’m not really sure what he’ll recommend but it’s possible PT and a continued moratorium on running may be enough to get me back doing what I miss and love – running. 
Guess I’ll have to take a couple of hours of sick time to find out.

1 Comment

Filed under aging, Exercise, holidays, medical, running, sick, stress, winter

Thoughts I’ve been thinking

  • It sucks that my knee is injured and I can’t fully do the active things I enjoy doing. I see a surgeon in early February and my only question will be: In your experience, what is the most successful plan of treatment for women in my age and activity range who are most interested in being able to resume normal activities (even at a modestly modified level) in the speediest fashion?  That’s my bottom line. I want to run.
  • There were two articles which really spoke to, and for, me recently.  There are things in life which will forever cause me to shake my head, sometimes in a nod and other times in “no.” Both of these NYT pieces made me forget to breathe. I can only link to one because they other one, “I Quit a Seven-Year Affair,” has been removed from the Times’ site.* I’m not sure how I feel about that move, but the piece did remind me of Mrs. Maisel’s choice to share as much about Shy Baldwin as she did in her performance at the Apollo. I knew there would be repercussions.
  • For god’s sake can we leave Megan and Harry alone? They’re entitled to their one precious life, too and Harry’s already seen how an uncivilized society can kill a woman he loves. Who cares how they choose to live?

  • Speaking of caring, there’s so little of that in the world right now. This recent picture of an absolutely beaming Megan Markle walking with her baby and dogs, collected some heated comments about Megan’s son not being safely fastened in his front carrier. Everyone had something critical or nasty or judgmental to say and no one simply offered to help her accomplish the task. We’re moms. We need to be nicer to each other.
  • At a just-turned-green light, I hesitated prior to shifting into first gear and the man in the big truck behind honked his horn and then pulled into the left lane to pass me, giving me the finger as he jerked his vehicle in front of me. I shrugged. Whatever. As we approached Fuller Road, I moved into the right hand turn lane and, again, he aggressively yanked his truck partially in my path. I’d be afraid to witness his response to something beyond a too slow start at a green light.
  • This morning, J, shared a story about some kids pulling a Ding-Dong Ditch which resulted in the deaths of three teenagers. The home owner whose bell was rung, felt the need to pursue these kids at high rates of speed prior to ramming his vehicle into theirs and forcing them off the road and causing them to crash. What is the matter with people? Why are folks overly reactive to minor transgressions, yet numb to the way our government is broken? Is it an assertion of control in a world which feels increasingly unspun. Or maybe it’s actually overspun. 
  • In the last week I was recognized by a reader I had never met (Hi P!) in a really complimentary way and told at an event a few nights later that I looked like Emma Stone.  That’s a good week right there.
  • I read a book this week and can’t stop thinking about, Free Lunch by Rex Ogle. I’m working on a full post.
  • I can’t imagine a better Friday night than a winter one spent at Cafe Capriccio eating eggplant, drinking red wine and hearing a set of quality live jazz.
  • Happy Chinese New Year.  It’s the Year of the Rat, but, honestly, isn’t that what we’ve been living with for the last three years?
Let’s all make the best of it, shall we?
*maybe you can find it in print somewhere?

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, Albany, Books, Eating, Exercise, Food, Librarians, Local, love, medical, moms, musings, News, Observations, politics, relationships, running, secrets, television, winter

Celebrating Elvis

I can’t say that Elvis was my very first crush (Tom Jones holds that honor), but he was the first performer whose albums I owned and played incessantly. My mother would order them for me from commercials on television and I would wait impatiently for the UPS guy to deliver the records to my house weeks later. The haste of Amazon Prime was unimaginable in the 70s.

The best weeks of the year, from a television viewing perspective, were the ones in which the 4:30 movie  featured Elvis movies like Blue Hawaii and Viva Las Vegas. Even as a kid I knew the quality of these movies was suspect, but they were just so damn fun to watch that it didn’t even matter.

August 16, 1977, the day Elvis died, is a day I’ll never forget. I was in Long Island at a shopping center that had outdoor speakers broadcasting a radio station playing pop music. There was an interruption in the programming and a man’s voice announced the shocking news that Elvis Presley was dead.

It was my first rock and roll heartbreak.

Had Elvis lived, he would now be 85 years old. On Saturday night the Hangar on the Hudson in Troy is hosting a birthday party to celebrate the King of Rock and Roll. Johnny Rabb, the Tichy Boys and other special guests will be performing in what promises to be an epic party in the King’s honor. My dancing shoes might not be blue suede, but they’ll be on my feet nonetheless.

3 Comments

Filed under aging, birthdays, concerts, Events, favorites, Local, Recommendations, Troy

Skiing with my Uncle Wolfgang

Last week’s epic snowstorm provided an unexpected early December treat – the chance to cross-country ski at Albany Muni. I got out there four days and the conditions just kept getting better. It was awesome and Jeter and I loved every minute of it.

Other than the first day when I skied with a friend, it was just me, my dog and nearly two feet of snow. Sort of. Skiing solo provides lots of time for thoughts and when I cross country ski I can’t help but think of my Uncle Wolfgang. He, too, was a cross country skier, albeit much more accomplished than I. Wolfgang, my mother’s youngest brother, was a competitive biathlete in Germany and, as I ski, I do my best to glide with the grace and strength he once did.

As my eyes took in the beauty of the snow covered golf course and my lower back became damp from my exertions, my head filled with memories of my Uncle. He and I, along with his wife and a Lilly boy or two, took some great road trips together around Europe. Wolfgang and Brigitte were great travelers and I have wonderful memories of sharing time with them in Paris, Amsterdam, NYC and, our last trip, Berlin. I miss him and will always be sad that he was taken so fast and furiously by cancer just weeks after we parted in Berlin.

But, I feel him with me, deep inside, and I truly understand the sentiment about how you never really lose someone you love as long as you have memories of time shared. I get it now and it gives me so much comfort and peace to know he won’t ever be gone.

I started thinking about all the little things I do that immediately remind me of people who no longer walk the earth beside me. When I chop vegetables, I remember Len, who taught me how to hold a knife. As I put together a salad in the metal bowl I insisted upon getting in the divorce, I think of my mother-in-law and her inability to not give her son and I something to take with us each time we left her house. If I see a deer dead on the side of the road, I recall my friend, John, who once demonstrated his compassion for a dying doe by finishing the job a car had begun, an act of kindness that he unfortunately wasn’t able to extend to himself.

Losing someone we love and experiencing the void of their absence, especially near the holidays, makes for an emotionally challenging situation. Knowing that we’ll never again hear a loved one’s laughter or feel their embrace, quite plainly sucks. However, if one takes the time to focus instead on what remains – the memories and moments and love shared, it seems to me that they’re never really gone. At least not from our heads and, of course, our hearts.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, Albany, beauty, cancer, Europe, family, favorites, friends, Germany, Local, love, musings, Normanskill, Observations, relationships, skiing, travel, upstate New York, x-country skiing