Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pushing Forward

It's funny how you can be doing or watching something and all of a sudden you realize that there's a hidden meaning in what you're witnessing.  It happened to me this weekend.  The message isn't what got me but rather the bearer of that message.  Jimmy's Pee Wee hockey team.

On Saturday they played against what could be considered a rival team.  Coming into the game they were 1-2 against this team including a pretty bad loss in a tourney championship game.  Jimmy was pretty jacked going in to play them and thus far I've enjoyed watching their games because two out of the three had been very competitive.  And the first two periods on Saturday were no different.  It was back and forth, good plays being made my both teams and as they entered into the third period the score was tied 4-4.  It was shaping up to be another memorable game with a great ending.

Beginning the third period Jimmy's team put another shot in the net and took the lead 5-4.  It was after that the wheels came off.  Only a minute of two later their competitors scored to tie it up.  And then a minute later they scored again to go up 6-5.  And then they scored again, and a again, and again, and again, closing out the game with 6 unanswered goals to take a 10-5 win.  Momentum had swung and they fell into quick sand.  No matter what they did it didn't work and as each goal went in you could see the kids body language change from competition to the realization they were going to lose the game.

On Sunday they had another game a fair distance away.  On the ride Jimmy and I talked some about the game and I gave him my standard advice when asked what I wanted to see from him that day:  Play hard, do your best, and listen to you coach.  No "score a goal or get an assist" or "work on your shot or skating".  Those are things for practice and will come with practice.  Games are for showing what you've learned and applying them to the best of your ability and I impress that on him before every game.  What I didn't know at that time is they would do that and more.  They would present a life lesson if one were inclined to look for it.

Once the game began it was like they'd completely forgot about the day before and what had happened.  They were all flying around the ice and making plays.  Getting shots on goal an controlling the speed and flow of the game.  At the end of the first period they were up 1-0.  As the game wore on and they played the second period their confidence seemed to build and they put in a couple more goals.  By the end of the game it didn't matter who was on the ice, they were skating hard and playing as well as they had all season and they finished the game with a 6-1 victory. It was an amazing transformation to watch from one day to another.  

So where was the message in all this?  On one day they couldn't seem to get anything to go right.  No matter what they did it seemed to backfire on them.  However, rather than simply giving up they continued to play the game and take their bumps and bruises.  The kept working hard to try and change the outcome even though they could see it simply wasn't their day.  But that work proved fruitful the next day.  They put the previous day and game behind them and began fresh.  They were able to apply the lessons from the previous day and translate those lessons into a good, solid win.  This is something we can all learn from.  We all have bad days, days that it seems nothing will go right.  Sometimes those days turn into a string of days or even weeks or months.  What's important in those times is to continue to work and improve and take the lessons learned and apply them.  I know when I have frustrating times I can forget this lesson and it took a group of great kids playing a hockey game to remind me.  

In life, like it a sports game, bad things are going to happen and sometimes it's going to feel like everything is against you.  It's up to you to continue to push forward, learn, and make the changes necessary to accomplish your specific goals.  It's also necessary in life, like in a team sport to rely on those around you instead of trying to do it all yourself.  Ask questions and listen to your coach and mentors, lean on your teammates or friends and family to help you get through when you're not performing your best, set a specific goal and work towards it.  And above it all, never give up or give in.  Keep fighting and pushing through each and every day with a goal of being a little better today than you were the day before.  Yes, I was reminded of an important lesson.  And it was a lesson taught by a bunch of kids doing something they love.  Let us all remember those lessons when we're doing the simplest thing of all.  Living.    

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Starting from Scratch

No lie, the end of last week sucked.  But before I begin, I'll step back a bit and give you the history to help you better understand how I got there to begin with.  Back a couple of years ago I pulled/injured my hip flexor pretty seriously.  Honestly, knowing what I know now it was a long time coming.  I had lifted weights, very heavy weights, for years with improper form and it threw off the balance of muscles in my body.  Basically the front half of my body is extremely over developed compared to the back.  So it could be taken as no great surprise that once I corrected my form I was hit with an injury.  At the time it occurred I was squating and felt it happen at the bottom of the movement.  Since there was no one else in the gym at the time I couldn't stop and had to push the weight back to the top of the movement which no doubt didn't help.  I missed 5 days of work and walked favoring one side for quite awhile.

Fast forward to last winter when I re-injured it, not to the same extent but enough to put me on the couch for a few days.  A couple months of letting it heal and then I was doing the Rush Fit home workout program.  I felt great after completing the 80 days in the spring!  Much of my pain was gone and I wasn't having the same amount of days of soreness.  Unfortunately I fell of track and for the past few months had only been doing it periodically.  After Christmas I decided to get back into it, along with adding some additional stretching in an effort to begin rebuilding my body.  And that brings us to Friday.

Friday was day 3 of week 3 of Rush Fit.  Jimmy had a hockey game that night so that afternoon before he arrived home from school I planned to knockout my workout, shower, do a couple quick chores, and then we'd be on our way.  However, as I was nearing completion of the dvd, I went down into an air squat and felt the familiar pain of the muscle in my hip pull.  Immediately the frustration set in of knowing that I was done with my workouts for an undetermined amount of time.

Unfortunately, my night was not over.  Jimmy still had a hockey game that evening which meant 3 hours of driving (round trip time) and roughly an hour and a half of standing.  If you've ever had that injury, the only thing you want to do is lay down with ice on your lower back/hip/butt area and I knew before we set out it was going to be a very uncomfortable evening.  I wasn't wrong.  By the time we got home (from a great game no less and a big win) I hurt.  All I wanted was to lay on the couch with some ice.  Thankfully, the next day Jimmy's coach agreed to take Jimmy with him for the two games (it was a tournament weekend).  However, it still required me to spend roughly an hour on the road to get him to the pick up spot and even that short amount of time was extremely uncomfortable.  I am thankful for Coach taking him on Saturday though.  It allowed me the rest of the day to lay on the couch and rest, which is key for the healing process.

The next couple days were spent rocking R.I.C.E.  (Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.)  I've also been in contact with Maralyn's sister who's a massage therapist as well as a local yoga instructor.  After discussions with the wife, I'm taking a whole new approach.  Yes, you read that correctly, my big, hairy, redneck looking body is going to begin yoga.  For everyone's sake I'm forgoing the pants associated with the practice however.  I feel as though I'm going to be starting my health from scratch.  It's ok I guess.  I feel like I don't have much of an option at this point.  What I've been doing isn't working and I'll be damned if I'm willing to give up my health because I'm being stubborn (as my wife will tell you I do that enough by refusing to go to the Dr. for various ailments).

In all honesty, I miss lifting.  I enjoy it, it's a great physical release, and I have friends who are into it as well.  Not to mention one of the reason's I'm so anxious to move is so I can get back to the trainer and gym I was a member of before my initial injury.  However, after this past weekend it's become clear that before I can begin doing it again, reforming and reshaping my body is a necessity.  Not only a necessity for myself, but for my family as well.  Me being down puts everyone in the house out.  Marylyn has to step in and do more which can put her at risk for seizures and falls, Jimmy has to sacrifice time with both of us, and it puts me in the awkward position of needing to postpone healing into order to keep up daily tasks.  It's a no win situation for anyone.

Moving forward, I'm hoping my hip injury days are over with.  I expect I'm going to be uncomfortable once I begin my new workout program but that's ok.  I've done a little yoga and understand how different it is from traditional lifting.  What I have yet to experience is the difference it can make and that's pretty exciting.  It's going to be a long road I suspect to get back to where I want and need to be but thankfully I feel as though I have a map that will help me get to my final destination while avoiding the pitfalls.    

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Day's In The Life

I don't know if it's a question so much but it seems as though people are curious about what I do on a daily basis.  While it's true, especially in the winter, that I'm not always running around crazy busy, I tend to approach many of my days like a job with a list of tasks to complete.  The truth is though, my days are always different and can change on a moments notice, literally.

I do standard things that most husbands do.  I get up and and make sure Jimmy is awake before making coffee for myself so I can function enough to either help him get ready for school or ask the necessary questions about if he has his homework in his bag, any papers, ect, like I suspect most other parents of a 6th grader do.  I drive him down to meet the bus on days when the weather's nasty (it's about a quarter of a mile from the house to the pickup area) which will become virtually everyday once winter sets in here.  I work on the house and the cars when needed.  I mow, take care of the landscaping, plant the gardens, bring in the firewood in the winter; cut, split, and stack the firewood in the summer; run to the post office to mail out the pottery pieces people have purchased from her, and pretty much anything else you can think of when you think of the husband's role in a marriage.

Together with those I also do the majority of the cooking, the dishes, much of the cleaning and laundry (though Jimmy is beginning to help out more with each of these and Marilyn helps out as much as she can.)  One of the hard things with Marilyn, however, is that if she pushes herself to do much on a given day it actually makes things much harder for a day or two after.  When she gets worn out, she's done and it takes days not minute or hours to recover.  I see on her face the struggle that she has wanting to help when she can but realizing that she needs to guard against pushing herself to much.

Marilyn can't drive so many things are scheduled and arranged around that.  The main VA clinic in the state is 5-6 hours away so that hour long Dr.s appointment is an all day event. If she's not feeling well a two day trip becomes necessary and we stop at my family's house overnight to take a break and let her relax.  What we attempt to do it schedule other things while we're down that way so it's not such a long trip with minimal results but that's not always possible.  Even if the appointment can be done at our 'local' VA clinic, local is a very relative term considering it's still 60 miles away.  Again, we try to arrange other errands around the trip to make good use of our time, but she can only be on the go for so long before she becomes exhausted and we need to get back.  Basically a standard, local appointment including driving and time spent in the doctors office is roughly 4-6 hours give or take.

Also, because she can't drive all of it falls to me.  I do the grocery and other shopping, take Jimmy to hockey practice and games (some of which are up to two hours away), take them both to all appointments, go to the post office when needed, and whatever tasks most people do.  She does come with me sometimes for grocery shopping duty but we've both decided that the task is much easier accomplished when I take care of it myself.  Not to mention, I think she dislikes doing it as much as I do and it's an easy way for her to get out of it.  HA!

If she's had a bad day or night with pain or has had a seizure I change modes and go into medical professional mode (medical professional?  Yeah, it's the best descriptor I can come up with right now).  After care for a seizure breaks down something like this:  If she feels in coming on ahead of time or the dog alerts we get her to a safe place, preferably seated or lying down.  Once the seizure begins I monitor her, wait for the convulsions to subside and then sit with her rubbing her cheek and saying her name until she opens her eyes and acknowledges who I am.  Postictal (unconscious) time can range anywhere from a minute to upwards of 5 on occasion.  After that it's sleepy time for her for anywhere between 4 and 12 hours.  Usually I remain awake throughout that time and check on her periodically as from time to time her breathing can become very shallow.  The dog generally hangs out on the bed as well as her protector.  Once she awakens there in generally a day or two where her mind is very foggy and she's run down and requires a lot of rest.  She's also had times where her speech is pretty severely affected.  When this happens the only way I can describe it is that she speaks like a stroke victim.  It's very clunky, like she's trying to say the words but her body won't allow it.  During the time I've known her this has happened a couple times though her speech is somewhat slowed after nearly every seizure.  It once lasted three days and another time about a week.  Apparently before we got together it happened for a much longer period after one particurally bad seizure and the speech issue lasted for a couple months.

My job after seizures is very similar what I do on days where the pain in her legs gets up to about a 7 or 8 to a 10.  These days either require use of both crutches or her wheelchair.  Often she requires help with various stages of dressing herself, standing up, getting out of bed, and manouvering in and out of the shower during these times.  I spend a lot of time running during these times as well.  Preparing and bringing in food, moving things around, and getting her whatever she requires.  Those days are the most physically and mentally exhausting.  It hard to watch someone you care about in an assload of pain.  It's hard on them as well knowing that it's hard on you.  Thankfully, I'm a big guy.  At least, that's what I tell my wife.

It's can be hard to explain to those who've never done it or had someone close to them who's been a caretaker.  When I first entered into this I thought it would be easy and looked at others who'd done it and didn't understand the time involved and the stress it could bring about so it's easy for me to understand the questions people may have.  Sometimes it feels like I'm busy when I'm not really busy.  Something it took awhile to understand is that it can take awhile to figure out a routine.  I don't mean a day to day routine because that can change at a moments notice.  But routines for getting things done.  We're still playing with some things to find what works and doesn't but it's coming together slowly and as it does things become much easier.

So that's a very basic breakdown.  To get into anything and everything that could happen in a day or week would require be to basically write a book and if you're anything like me, you'd lose interest pretty quickly reading about the duldrums that come with every day life.  In many ways our life isn't all the much different than many other's I suspect and certainly much better than other families with a disability in the home.  We try not to focus on the negative and are constantly challenging ourselves to be better.    It's not always sunny, but we have lights that enable us to see the good things every day in life.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Crazy Winter Beginning

Winter for us is a rather strange time of year.  Like everyone else we've been blasted by the crazy weather we've had this year.  It turned our normal 3 and a half hour trip home to an 8 hour ordeal due to an ice storm that hammered the southern part of Maine a couple days before Christmas.  To top it off, my family was among the thousands who didn't have power for days (5 in our case).  Because we're a hardy bunch we still had a wonderful Christmas with meals cooked on and in my grandparents cook stove and spent a lot of time talking with no tv in the background with I can't complain about.  It was an old fashion Christmas and it was pretty awesome in a lot of ways.

Both before and after the trip home for the holidays we've been dealing with some serious cold temperatures.  From what I've read it was the coldest and snowiest December in 5 years where we are and has been described to me by locals as the definition of an "Old Fashion" winter.  I wouldn't mind it so much but it certainly alters our particular lifestyle.  Because of the way this house is set up, it's an extreme pain in the ass to keep warm during those cold spells.  There is a soap stone wood stove in the living room which does a great job keeping that end of the house warm.  However, because of it's location almost none of the heat makes it's way to the other end of the house.  Another issue with it is that the living room was an add on by the previous owner and was stick built and insulated properly while the other end of the house was a very roughly built log home.  I spent a good deal of time this summer re-chinking it (what the sealant in a log home is called) but didn't get it completely finished. (We didn't have the funds to rent a lift this year and working at the top of a 25 ft ladder was a no go).  It's mostly done and has made a huge difference but there's obviously some heat loss.  At the log end of the home there was also a porch that was added on but the geniuses who built it negated to insulate the damn thing.  The porch is also open to the who house so it's not possible to simply close it down for the winter months.  Intelligent move in this climate.

So we have the wood stove in the well insulated end of the home and at the other end a propane fireplace/stove thing that may work in a small room but not in such a large area.  In the addition (which is now the wife's pottery studio) there's a pellet stove as well.  On the really cold nights we also need to run an electric heater in the basement to insure the pipes don't freeze.  So what does it mean for us?  It means we run the house in shifts.  One of us is up during the day and the other stays up all night to tend the stove and make sure all is well with the electric heater.  This is obviously hell on all of us.  Since I take Jimmy to hockey games and such Marilyn has been doing the majority of the night shifts though I've done a few here and there when she's had a rough day (or night for that matter).  It's a very interesting way to live to say the least.

Though it's a pain in the ass to live this way, I have certainly had the opportunity to educate myself on different things home heating related!  I done a lot of things I'd never done much of; insulating a floor, hanging plastic over exterior windows, banking the house with snow, chinking (which by the way I don't ever want to F***king do again!), cleaning chimneys and fixing and cleaning pellet stove.  Yes, it's been a couple years of education regarding homes and extreme weather.  Lesson's I'm going to be very happy to apply to my own home further south as soon as possible!.  :)