Category Archives: Arthritis

Think Of It As Your Job


My first real job – one that took taxes out of my paycheck – was at a nursing home kitchen. I’d just turned 16 and had been a candy striper there for two years. I worked 16-20 hours a week and had to wear a hair net and a white apron, but so did the cute boys working there, so I didn’t feel too awkward. I learned to search trays for lost dentures and how to pitch mashed potato balls at someone using the braided hose by the garbage disposal as a bat. It was horribly messy, but it was F-U-N fun. Well, until our boss found out.

I was no stranger to work. My dad owned a grocery store and I worked there from ages 8 to 15, candling eggs, bagging potatoes, delivering groceries, stocking shelves, and running the cash register. I also mowed lawns, shoveled snow, babysat, cleaned houses – anything to keep me in the latest Elton John record.
Fast forward…oh…a lot of years. I’ve been in school since fall 2011, learning what I can about nutrition. My goal is to counsel folks who maybe want to lose some weight, ease inflammation, or control their diabetes. I want to work with them, listen to their concerns, give them guidance and a kick in the butt if needed, and to motivate them to do their best. I’m really looking forward to getting back to work, not because I need an Elton John record (although I could use some extra dough to pay for my Pandora and Sirius radio subscriptions), but mostly because I’m itching to help even one person feel better.
Before that happens, though, I need to fix this:
As you know, the old knee’s been going out frequently since March and so it’s finally time for a new one. After denying this fact for weeks, I finally scheduled surgery for September 11. I gave it three months for a number of reasons, one being I turn 50 in August and I wanted to get through the remaining days of my 40s with my original body parts. You see, when I was 18, a doctor told me I’d be in a wheelchair by the time I was 40 because my knees would be so deteriorated. Not only did I get 10 more years out of the old girls, only the right one needs to be replaced in the near future, thanks to the debridement surgery on my left knee (and a surgeon who believed in my ability to rehab fully) three years ago.
I also delayed surgery so I can have time to get my body as strong as possible and be in the best shape nutritionally in order to have the best possible outcome. My surgeon was all for this and wrote me a script for physical therapy. And for physical therapy, there is no one I trust more than Seth.
Seth has seen me through rehab on both of my shouldersand my left knee. He’s not only knowledgeable, he is a teacher, an incredible cheerleader, and has a way of making me laugh, even when I’m hating on him for making me work so dang hard. Given how resistant to (and, I admit, afraid of) this surgery I am, Seth is the only person who can instill the kind of confidence I’ll need to see me through this.
Here we are, me hooked up to the neuromuscular e-stim machine and Seth working the controls and explaining what it does:
Last week, I got a script for the brace Seth recommended called a Playmaker. After my knee went out on the bike trail six weeks ago, I thought all cardio exercise would be off limits since my knee slipped so much. I put this baby on and it’s like my knee is almost normal. I can work out on the stationary bike, and yesterday, I did 10 minutes on the elliptical without any pain. Zero. So…maybe…hmmmm…I don’t need surgery….
Two hours later, I climbed the stairs of my house without the brace. Pain. It’s real. That brace ain’t fairy dust. It’s a tool to help me get by for the next three months. I need a new knee. And I am – seriously – grateful that this technology is available. If I’d been born 100 years earlier, I would have had to suck up the pain; accept it as my destiny. Now, as Seth reminds me, surgery and a few months of rehab is a drop in the bucket of life. A blip.
I am eternally grateful for the people I’ve met here and on Facebook who have either had a knee replacement or knew someone who did. The support and advice have been as essential as Seth’s “prehab” program. I’m especially thankful for the several real-life stories of folks whose lives have improved exponentially after surgery, namely another Lynn who, after having surgery, ran her first 5K four months post-op. I told Seth about her and he said: “You need a goal, especially for those days you’ll be Christmas shopping and your knee is hurting and you’re wondering, ‘Why did I do this?’”
We talked about options. I told him I’ve always wanted to go snow shoeing, but because of my right knee, I couldn’t.
“Make that a goal for January,” he said. “And what about the Pittsburgh Marathon? How about in May 2014, you walk the half?”
I called my daughter, P’burgh M’thon expert Cassie.
“You gotta train,” she said. “Do some 5Ks and a 10K first. You don’t want to be swept up.”
I Googled “marathon sweep up” and hell to the NO! I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder for the sweep bus! I’ll focus my goals on snow shoeing and a 10K. I’ll know later if the half is attainable.

Seth told me to think of this prehab and surgery and rehab as a job. And what did I say I want from my future job? To help even one person to feel better.

So I’ll practice on myself. Right now, that one person is me.

Lift…hold 5 seconds…release. Repeat 30 times. Roll over. Lift…hold 5 seconds…release. Repeat 30 times. Roll over…. Both legs. Calf lifts, band walking, cardio. Oh, and upper body and core, too.

“Yes, boss…I mean, Seth.” (And thank you!)

X-Amount of Time

I couldn’t follow the dharma teacher’s guided meditation this morning to save my life. My monkey mind swung from thought to thought, and my body busted loose from every position I put it in, even though I was in the comfiest place in the world: my bed.

I sat up and took out my iPod ear plugs and said, “What? What the hell do you want?”
The answer I got was, “Live now, not later.”
Don’t ask me where that came from because I don’t have a clue. I often wonder if it’s not my past lives coming through (all of whom had obvious issues with patience) saying, “Come on already! Figure it out and let’s move on! Chop chop!” But I guess that wouldn’t really be embracing patience now, would it?
Anyway, I sat with that question and answer for a moment. Then I reached in the nightstand for a pad of paper and wrote this: “When my knee is fixed, when I lose 10 pounds, when this depression leaves me, when I’m done with school…THEN life will be the way I want it.”
Ha! Like some magic fairy is going to come along and make my life great – without any  exertion on my part – once x-amount of time has passed?! Fat. Chance.
X-amount of time will pass: One. Second. At. A. Time. And in those seconds, I am.
I. Am.
So instead of a formal guided meditation this morning, which clearly wasn’t happening, I broke it down into my own meditation.
I am:
1. A person who needs a knee replacement.
Sooooo….What can I do in the x-amount of time between now and surgery? “Duh…” say my impatient past lives. “You can still have goals!”

I can’t ride my bike and I can’t work out on the elliptical – two things I love to do – but that boo-hooing has put at least two pounds on each of my thighs, I swear. I CAN walk, for cryin’ out loud. Pretty well most of the time, despite the limp. And I can lift weights. And I can strengthen my core. So I set goals: To walk the entire length of my beloved 20-mile bike path twice before replacement, a few miles at a time. And every other week, my BFF Shari will join me, like she did today. So will Al.

Today, Shari, Al and I walked my favorite part of the bike path and I saw some old friends and their babies:

I’ll also pick up the weights again at home, and I’ll hit the gym and talk to a personal trainer. I might even join a yoga class, like I’ve said I’d do for how long now?

2. A person who wants to lose 10 pounds.
Sooooo….What can I do in the x-amount of time between now and when my shorts feel a little loose? PAY ATTENTION to everything I put in my mouth. It worked before, it will work again.
3. A person who is clinically depressed.
Sooooo….What can I do in the x-amount of time between now and the time I’m feeling less depressed? I’ve already started doing something about that (pat on my back).
“I met her in a Kuhn’s grocery store parking lot…” Sounds like a great beginning to a cheesy romance novel, but that would be how I met my AIM blogging friend, Debby. Google maps sent her 20 miles away from where we were supposed to meet, and when she called and said she had no idea where she was (which is totally understandable since Debby lives in California and has never been to Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh motto is, “If yinz don’t know where you are, go home.”), I went in search of her.
“Stay put, I’ll find you,” I said, and typed in her coordinates into my Garmin. (When I was a kid, I wanted to be Uhura).
We were supposed to meet – of course – at a groovy healthy breakfast place, but that was light years away from the grocery store, so we went to my favorite Mexican place, Mad Mex, where we ate pepita hummus, chips and salsa, and chopped salads.
Often, the Internet feels ethereal, so meeting Debby grounded me. I needed to be reminded that real people read my blog, real people write blogs, and real people interact with real people, just not always in person. Having said that, the Internet has a silent surrealness about it, at least it does for me, and I’ve been needing some real-life connectedness.
Last week, I met another online friend, who works at Clarion University, just a few blocks from where I used to live, and yet, we never got our s*it together to meet when I lived there. Melissa has lost over 100 pounds and, like so many of us, struggles with the “Can I/How do I/Do I want to lose more?” question, along with “Who am I now?”
We got along juuuuust fine *grin*
I also went to a Pirates game with my friend Rachelle.
The Bucs are doing great right now, but even when they’re bad, I can’t be sad at a Pirates game, thanks to Michael McHenry and Andrew McCutchen. …sigh…
4. A person who is still in school.
Sooooo….What can I do in the x-amount of time between now and certification?
Study. Finish my final projects. Pass my exam. There’s no room for wishy-washy, feel-good sentiment here. I need to kick myself in the ass and do it.
I. Am.
You. Are.
We all have x-amount of time between now and….when? I will do my best to fill that space with compassion. Fill that space with love. Fill that space with curiosity and questions. I just know I can’t fill that space with the future. It doesn’t exist.
“Live now, not later.” Life is the way I make it. Now.

Needing and Sharing Comfort Food: It’s Human. Dump the Guilt.

Well, it’s time to fix another body part. It’s like I’m in a “Surgery-of-the-Year” club. The dues are pretty high, but what can I do? I need functioning joints if I can get ‘em.
This year, it’s my left shoulder. I didn’t injure it, but due to my “loose ligaments” and arthritis, I tore the supraspinatus muscle, which is part of the rotator cuff, as well as the biceps tendon a few years ago. I was able to rehab with physical therapy and chiropractic (see “It’s All One Big Huge Freaking Circle”), but then in April, I mowed my lawn and made a mediocre problem a bigger problem. I literally tore the crap out of that supraspinatus.

Every night I sleep against a pillow fortress (BF calls it The Great Wall of China) which elevates my arm enough so I can sleep with minimal pain. However, the last few months I’ve been awake most nights at 3 a.m. with a burn in my shoulder so hot I could supply enough energy to keep my town in electricity for a week. (This, in addition to hot flashes, makes my nights really interesting.) I get up and take 2-4 Advil with a glass of soy milk or a piece of cheese because if I don’t, the Advil will eat my gut. Too bad NSAIDs aren’t a weight-loss aid…

In addition to the muscle/tendon tears, I found out today that my biceps tendon is not where it should be and needs to be “moved back into place.” Hmmm… Sounds like fun. Doc will also clean out the arthritis. Afterwards, he’ll stitch and patch me up, put me in a sling, and send me home where I won’t be able to shower or wear a bra for at least a week. Can’t wait. And I wasn’t even a bad girl this year! Santa better treat me well…LOL

Oh, I kid you. It’s not all that bad. It could be a lot worse, I know that. And I could also choose to drown my sorrows in food, which, for a moment, I thought about doing.

As I posted on Lynn’s Weigh on Facebook: “I saw my orthopedic surgeon today and I admit, my first thought after getting into my car after the appointment was, ‘I want to eat.’ Granted, I was hungry, but I wanted to eat something to console myself. I thought about it and was grateful that I recognized this feeling and met it head on. It didn’t stop me from getting vegetarian dolmades at my favorite Greek restaurant, but I understood why I wanted them. And not only are they awesome comfort food, they’re not horrible for me, either :)”

I took my dolmades and a Greek salad over to my daughter’s house, where she and the g-babies were eating lunch at the dining room table. I sat down next to Claire and opened the Styrofoam container of dolmades. We all chatted while they ate their chili and I my pieces of grape leaf heaven. Then I opened the container of Greek salad: lettuce, feta, red onions, tomatoes, olives and peperoncini.

“I done, Mama,” said Luca and he got down from his chair. I thought he was going to go play, but as I talked to Cassie, the little munchkin crawled under the table, climbed up on to my lap, grabbed a piece of lettuce and ate it. “Mmmm…” he said.

Claire then said she was done, too, and started eating my salad. Who knew salads were finger food? They also ate the pita that came with the dolmades (I’m still gluten-free! Three weeks in and I feel great!), dipping them in the Greek salad dressing that is so absolutely fantastic I wish Greek Stop bottled it. But the don’t. And they won’t. So sad.

Anyway, my salad was gone and they were still hungry, so Claire went to the fridge and dug out a bag of spinach and dumped a bunch into the Styrofoam container so she and Luca could continue to graze. It was wild watching them eat lettuce and spinach, leaf by leaf. When they were done, Luca was covered in dressing and very, very happy. Claire was a little more neat, but she still had olive-oil hands, and after she washed them, proceeded to dry her hands on my jeans, laughing so hard she almost peed herself. Who knew Greek salad could get you so high?

I did! That’s why it, and the dolmades, were my go-to food when I got the shoulder low-down from Doc today. Comfort food – when used in moderation, and particularly when it’s shared with people we love (Thanksgiving and mashed potatoes, anyone?) – is OK. Dump the guilt! God knows I spent years during my weight loss/maintenance feeling guilty for eating food that soothed my soul. I’m so over that.

I did a little search-a-roo on the Internet and found a few recipes for dolmades that I will attempt to perfect before my surgery in December so I can make them (with my one good arm and an assistant) when I need comfort food during rehab. I’m going to try a vegetarian version of this recipe from Food Network or this one from Living and Loving in LA or both!

How do you respond to your inner “You need comfort food NOW!” voice? And if you choose to eat a comfort food, which one or ones are your go-tos?

“Pack your bags!. We’re going on a guilt trip!”

When I was in North Carolina last month, I bought a notepad with this cover:

Know what I use that notepad for? My grocery list!

Yesterday on my Lynn’s Weigh Facebook page, I posted a link to this article: “Middle-aged women happier with moderate exercise.” I wrote:

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I do much better when I’m not killing myself with vigorous exercise and yet, I feel so guilty for not exercising like I used to.”

Reader Michelle posted this response: “I don’t get the feeling guilty part. Why do something that doesn’t make you feel good?”

Guilt, among other definitions, is “self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing.” I don’t know why guilt is easily absorbed by some and rejected by others. All I know is that I don’t remember a time when I haven’t known self-inflicted guilt. Guilt in the form of having let someone down. If I didn’t make my bed, I let my mom down. If I didn’t get an A on a test, I let my teachers down. If I hit a pop fly into right field, I let my softball team down. And whenever I gained weight, I let myself down.

Over the years, I’ve grown a thicker skin, something less porous. I can better discern those actions that are “worthy” of guilt and those that are unproductive self-flagellation. Better, but not perfected. Food and exercise are those precarious areas in which I am most vulnerable to the kind of guilt that produces feelings of “inadequacy and wrongdoing,” largely because their effects are physical. If I gain weight, I’m not only letting myself down, but also a community of people who have followed my blog over the years.

So what’s a more proper response? Michelle has me thinking that it’s probably not guilt *smile* Guilt is counter-productive and paralyzing. A better response would be….? Hmmmm…. A commitment to improvement? Mindful investigation about how a certain exercise makes me feel? An acceptance of the way things are now as opposed to what they were four years ago?

Yes, yes, and yes.

I found this quote recently: “Hard though it may be to accept, remember that guilt is sometimes a friendly internal voice reminding you that you’re messing up.” I’m messing up when I don’t feed my body right and when I don’t move it the way it is capable of moving. And “capable” has changed over the years. I used to hit the cardio really hard, but my arthritic joints said, “No more!” and I had to dispense with the 90-minute workouts. Yet, despite the reduction in pain due due to more moderate exercise, the guilt remains.

Guilt is one of the hardest emotions to wrap our arms around and let go of (when appropriate).
But with a little introspection on this rainy day, the fog is lifting and I’m seeing guilt for the inappropriate response it is.

How much happier would we be if we approached our bodies with care, acceptance and wisdom rather than guilt? Mess up? Yeah, we’re gonna do that sometimes. The best solution? Self correct. Don’t dig out the knotted cords.

The Dog Days Are Almost Over

For the first time in many days, I am alone, sitting in my dining room, which has no table. My stepsons were here for a few days, fulfilling my birthday gift request: that the entire family be together for the first time since Thanksgiving.

The cicadas are singing along to “Dog Days Are Over.” They shed their nymph shells a few weeks ago, leaving brown exoskeletons scattered over my yard – paper-thin and perfectly detailed duplicates of the cicada’s body pre-emergence.

This has been a summer of change for me, and like a cicada nymph, I’ve emerged from an exoskeletal shell and am learning to use the wings I’ve grown in all the summer’s transitions.

I wrote a blog a few months ago about how a friend told me back in March that until I learned to live within the space of my new life with the same strength and determination with which I lost weight, I would be forever grasping for and holding on to bogus and temporary securities. He said I had to let the loneliness maul me, to feel it to my core and to not run away. In time, he said, it wouldn’t hurt as much and I would be stronger.

I took that challenge and allowed the loneliness to wash over me. I was in the middle of the mauling when my brother Marty had his seizure at the end of June. When he was released from the hospital a few weeks later, I went to Minneapolis to help in whatever way I could. I cried when I was dropped off at the Pittsburgh airport July 18. I cried for my brother and I cried for me. I wanted to go, but I didn’t want to go. I was afraid. I had no idea what to expect or if I was up to what waited for me there.

I worked on shedding that fear on the plane while drinking a first-class glass of wine (Literally, it was the wine they serve first-class passengers, since they’d run out of the cheap stuff they serve coach. And for my “inconvenience,” they gave it to me for free. *smile*) So while sipping said wine, I thought about my strengths: A) I am a mother; B) I used to be the secretary for the senior vice-president of a large general contractor (think airports and sports stadiums, many you’ve probably been to); and C) I’m a practicing Buddhist (I always forget that one). I possess super-human organizational skills and a little more patience than I once had, so whatever was waiting for me in Minneapolis was up against a somewhat powerful force. At least, that’s what I told myself. It and the wine helped.

Long story short, I hit the ground running. The mauling continued, but it loaned me (or “borrowed” me, if you’re from Minnesota) some strength and determination. For facing my fear, I was rewarded with a closer relationship with my brothers. Although I’d prefer the three of us hadn’t gained this closeness because of a brain injury, I’m glad for the trust it has created between us and the trust that I developed in myself. I continue to advocate on behalf of my brother and to keep his schedule from 1,000 miles away, and will go back to Minneapolis in a week. Only this time I won’t cry at the airport.

Some of you might remember that last year I was going to go back to school to become a dietary technician. The divorce, the move and the mauling made that impossible. So, too, did a worsening of the osteoarthritis in my knees, wrists and shoulders. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I don’t blog as much as I used to. The main reason is because 1) sitting for and 2) typing longer than an hour is difficult. Dietary tech classes are mostly online and require several hours a day of writing and computer reading, so I gave up on going to school and, while I was at it, blogging, too.

But feeling sorry for myself is not a favorite pastime and it was making my family nuts. It was hard to accept that I needed help, but it was harder to stay locked in self-sympathy. Hmmm…where had I felt that before? Ah, yes, back in 2004, when I understood that losing weight would be a long and life-changing process, but that it would be even harder to stay 300 pounds. I’d shed my skin then, I could shed it again now.

So in May, I called the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and began working with a woman named Sara, who helped me think through what I wanted to be when I grew up. After evaluating my physical “issues,” she hooked me up with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Institute for Rehabilitation and Research and its Center for Assistive Technology. Last week I met John, a rehabilitation engineer, who took on my “issues” as a challenge to find the most adaptive computer equipment possible. Among other things, he recommended I use this:

Have any of you used speech recognition software before? I’m anxious to give it a try, but I have a feeling it will be like learning a new language. Or maybe it will be like a microwave. Just like, “How did we ever heat up leftovers before the microwave?” maybe in a few months I’ll be wondering how I ever typed without talking.

My friend assured me the mauling would eventually become a scratch and then a gentle touch and in time I’d come out on the other side stronger. In this shedding of my nymph shell, I find myself somewhere between a scratch and a gentle touch, definitely stronger and definitely happier. Sort of like the happiness Florence and the Machine sing about.

Happiness hit her like a train on a track
Coming towards her, stuck still no turning back
She hid around corners and she hid under beds
She killed it with kisses and from it she fled
With every bubble she sank with her drink
And washed it away down the kitchen sink

The dog days are over
The dog days are done
The horses are coming
So you better run

Reunited, And It Hurts So Good

The last time I was in a gym, my left knee was growing “cartilaginous intra-articular bodies” which “float freely within the synovial fluid.” Ah…the good old days. I had a debridement and synovectomy in June 2010 to remove the nasty buggers, but the surgery precluded me from using my favorite piece of cardio equipment: the arc trainer. And if I couldn’t use the arc trainer, what was the use in going to the gym? (Yeah…I’m all or nothing like that sometimes.)

My daughter, Cassie, started hitting the gym early on in her last pregnancy. She worked out until the day Mae was born in February and then picked it up again five weeks later. She’s invited me several times to join her, but I’ve been doing a lot of biking and walking this summer, so I told myself I didn’t see the need. The truth is, I was afraid my body wasn’t up to it. I mean, back in the day, I used to hit the arc trainer hard for 45 minutes every time I worked out. I cranked that baby up to a resistance of 50 with an incline of 4 or 5. Burned 600-700 calories. What would I be able to do now? Ten minutes? Fifteen?

But Cassie inspires me so much, and in keeping with my promise to take better care of my body, I told her I’d join her at the gym today. After all, no goal gets accomplished without a starting point. Even the most fit people in the world had to start somewhere, right? I remember my starting point. I went into exercise kicking and screaming. I started out walking a half-mile around a track. I was exhausted! But that half mile turned into a mile, then two miles, then three, then I started walking 4-5 mph, then I started strength training, then I joined a gym and fell in love with the arc trainer, then I got a bike, then I started hiking… When I walked into the gym this morning, I felt the same joy each that every one of those exercise moments had given me and I was ready to hop on the arc trainer and start over.

All the biking and hiking I’ve done this summer paid off in a fabulously empowering 40-minute cardio workout. I did 20 minutes on the arc trainer, staying between a resistance of 25-35 with a few minutes at 50 just as a reminder of where I want to be again. Then I hopped on the treadmill next to my lovely daughter, who was running, and I walked 20 minutes at varying inclines and speed. Even got it up to 5 mph because I could.

When I was done, I went downstairs to the weight room and it was like being home. I forgot how much I love the weight room, too! “Hello 15-pound weight. Oh there you are bench where I do my crunches from hell.” *sigh* There’s no place like home.

Five hours later, I’m still high from the gym. My legs are a little sore and my abs are still screaming from the workout I did a few days ago, but it’s all good. I’m starting over and I welcome the challenge.

(Now if I could just get that Peaches and Herb song out of my head…)

I Know I Can, I Know I Can

How appropriate that, in light of my recent blog – “I’m the Little Red Engine…”, my first official bike ride of the season yesterday was on a rails-to-trails bike trail. It was on the Butler-Freeport Community trail that, around mile 9, I turned “I think I can, I think I can” into “I know I can, I know I can.”
Ex-husband-turned-BFF Larry (the man who bought me my bike when I got to goal) and I biked 11 miles in an hour and change. This was down from our usual average of 13 to15 miles in an hour. But my body is different this year and so is my focus. As I said in the little engine blog, “Somewhere in me exists a balance between Hardcore Lynn and I-Don’t-Feel-Like-It Lynn.” Yesterday, I found that balance, and – shockingly – it felt right. The ride was challenging, but not killer, and the best part was that I saw so much more than I ever did peddling 13+ miles per hour.

The Butler-Freeport Community Trail has several trailheads five to15 minutes of my house. I opted for one about six miles west of the start of the trail, which put us in the downhill slope first. Downhill is normally not my favorite starting position on a rails-to-trails trail (I’d rather do the uphill work first), but this was my first ride of the season with a crankier-than-usual body and I had zero confidence that I could bike more than a few minutes or a few miles, especially on an unfamiliar surface – crushed limestone and, in a few places, mud. The trails I cut my biking teeth on in Venango and Clarion counties were paved. I knew that taking it easy the first half of the ride was just plain prudent. (This would be me thinking ahead…looking for balance…I think I can, I think I can…)

I bought a second-hand bike rack last month, one that fits over the spare tire of the Jeep. I’ve never owned a bike rack, nor have I ever attempted to load a bike on to a bike rack. In my bike-riding married past, that was always something Larry did.

Yesterday, however, I read the instructions and put the bike rack securely on the tire AND loaded the bikes AND secured them with bungee cord and a strap AND drove us to the trailhead…with NO major incident. Having this knowledge makes life so much easier. In the past if I wanted to ride my bike alone on a trail, I’d have to stuff it in the back of my Jeep. This took longer than the actual ride, and one or more body parts ended up cut or bruised and much cussing ensued. These days, with grandbaby car seats practically welded to the back seat, the space in the Jeep is very limited. If I want to ride on a trail, I either take out the seats (which y’all know is a big old PITA) or learn how to work a bike rack.

My handiwork:

At the trailhead. It only took about five minutes for me to feel comfortable riding on crushed limestone.

Massive tree down…lots of mud on the trail.

Little waterfall. This is what I meant about biking slower. I not only heard the water falling, I saw it.

Larry, as bad as his eyesight is, is an excellent birder. He can always spot the smallest of birds. Yesterday on the trail, he saw a scarlet tanager and stopped suddenly. I nearly ran into him. The bird flew away so I didn’t see it. So disappointing. But a half mile later, Larry stopped again. “Look! An indigo bunting! See it? See it?” Yes, I saw it. And it was beautiful and brave (it didn’t move even though we were just a few feet from him) and he’s now on my Life List.
We turned around 5.6.miles in. Here I am, getting my confidence together. It wasn’t going to be a bad uphill ride, but it would be constant, and given I’d not biked like that in several months and I was not quite the cardio queen I was a year ago, I was a little worried. But hey, what goes down, must come up, and I’d been down long enough. I took off the long-sleeved thin shirt I wore over my t-shirt, tucked my Blackberry in my pants (to take photos on the way back), and started peddling.

Minutes in, the lung rush and the increased heartbeat started, but it was familiar, like an old friend. I knew what was being asked of my body. I’d been there before. And despite a lack-luster, half-assed winter of “exercise,” I felt incredible. I stopped a few times to take photos, but I peddled and peddled and peddled and when I got back to the Jeep, I was a sweaty stinky happy-beyond-belief mess.

Since getting to goal, I’ve eagerly anticipated the first bike ride of the season (Here are links to the blogs in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010). I’ve been on dozens of rides in four years, but this one was the most “spiritual.” It renewed my faith in my physical self (I know I can, I know I can), and it affirmed what I’ve been trying to accept for many months, that less is better and that there is balance between doing everything and doing nothing.

What do you know you can do now that you didn’t know you could do before?

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More photos:

I never thought…all the times I crossed this bridge in my car…that I would be riding my bike underneath.

The creek at the end of the downhill.

The creek near the end of the uphill. (It’s down there somewhere.)

A very happy me 🙂

I’m Just a (Wo)Man in a Silly Red Sheet

Ah…spring. The time during which my body thinks it can do anything, only to find out…it can’t.

Since recovering from the plagues in February and March and shedding the overall doldrums of winter, I’ve been hitting the exercise pretty hard the last few weeks. I want my arms tank-top ready and my legs North Country Trail ready…NOW.

But…Humpty Lynn has fallen off the wall…again.

I mowed the lawn a few weeks ago. Yeah. That was a reeeeallly dumb thing to do. Unless you’re using a riding mower, it’s probably not in your best interest as a person with torn rotator cuffs to use a NON-self-propelled lawn mower to cut down grass the height of swamp weeds and just as wet.

Most of the time I’m judicious with my strength training, doing what my physical therapist prescribed a few years ago: swapping hand weights for TheraBands. But…you know…when you feel kinda good and you’ve been cooped up in a long winter…well…you start thinking you’re not as messed up as you are. You think, perhaps, you’re superhuman.

So SuperLynn mowed the lawn. Two weeks later, my left shoulder is still saying, “Really, Lynn? Seriously? What the h*ll were you thinking?”

I remember when my grandma felt so good while on her blood pressure medication that she decided she didn’t need it anymore, not understanding, of course, that it was THE MEDICINE that was making her feel good. Two weeks later, she had a heart attack.

My joint “medicine” is moderate exercise, but my brain…dang brain…loves LOVES intense exercise. I like pounding the crap out of my body, I admit it. When I lost all that weight, man, it felt AMAZING to push and push and push my thighs and calves and shoulders and abs and traps and biceps and triceps to the edge. I’d never done anything like it in my weighted life.

Then when osteoarthritis starting taking over joint after joint like the creeping Charlie in my yard, I modified my exercise routine. Surprise, surprise, my body rewarded me with less pain! But modifying also threw off the “calories expended” part of the weight-loss/weight-maintenance ratio. Clearly I consumed more calories than I expended this year because I’ve gained 8 pounds. And try as I might, I cannot get back to my lowest weight – the one at which I beat the crap out of my body – without beating the crap out of my body.

At some point in most of our lives, there are obstacles to healthy living. They can be physical, emotional or both; temporary or permanent. It’s what we choose to do in the moment of most difficulty that steers our intentions. Obviously I’m not always mindful of what my intentions are, otherwise I wouldn’t be icing my biceps tendon.

My intention to lose 8 pounds is not unwise, but losing it at the expense of my body is that second arrow the Buddha warned of. As I wrote in September, the Buddhist teaching of the second arrow is that when we encounter pain (when we’re shot with the first arrow), we have the choice of how we handle that pain. We can blame or whine or indulge (hello chocolate cake!) as we run away from the pain (thus shooting ourselves with the second arrow), or we can experience the pain of the first arrow and live from within that pain, working out the best course of action that will not further our suffering.

God knows we have enough to deal with with that first arrow than having to work around the emotional complications of the second one. So…once again (and how many times have I done this in four years?), I’m reminding myself to stay mindful of my intentions, and to: 1) see the good, the bad and the ugly of my body and treat it with respect; 2) not beat myself up for 8 pounds; and 3) stop thinking of myself as superhuman.

That is…until the next time Humpty Lynn falls, and she will. Because she is me, and I am nothing if not human.

In Spite or Despite, Life is Still Good :)

I know, I know…I haven’t blogged since Tuesday. What a crazy week! I was helping out in the Conti Infirmary where everyone – my two g-babies, son-in-law and very pregnant daughter – have been alternately sick the last two weeks. The illness has passed, so they can welcome g-baby #3 into a relatively germ-free house within the next few days. Cassie’s due date is Friday, but she went a few days early with Claire and Luca…so…Monday? Tuesday? So exciting!

I brought the kids to the mall on Friday to ride the carousel and those 50-cent rides that jolt kids around for a couple of minutes, but they imagine they’re driving a car or flying a space shuttle. Amazing what joy a roll of quarters will bring a 3- and almost 2-year-old and their Grammy.

The other thing that’s kept me from blogging is the news I got Wednesday from my knee doc. What we thought was just a meniscus tear (something that could be repaired with a simple scope) turned out to be much more, and the knee surgery I had in June, the one we thought bought me at least 5 years with my original equipment, turns out to have been in vain.

I’m getting pretty good at reading MRIs and x-rays. Most anything in bright white isn’t good. No, no, no. You don’t want to see bright white. But we did see bright white. A big old mass of bright white on my upper shin bone, lit up like the Griswold Christmas tree. It was fluid, which means, for lack of a better word, death. The bone, said my doc, is dying.

“We see this in women ages 40-65,” he said. “But usually it’s in women who are heavier than you.”

Doc doesn’t know about my obese past; all the years I spent going up and down the scale. At that moment I figured why tell him? Nothing I said would change the diagnosis.

So I walked out, a little stunned. My five years of reprieve from a total knee replacement is most likely down to 12 months or less. But rather than be angry, I was resigned. Sad, but resigned. I’ve done the anger thing. Anger is like snake oil. It cures nothing.


The sign on the exam table in knee doc’s office

In April and May 2010, I wrote two blogs about how I live with the consequences of living most of my adult life on a weight roller coaster and more importantly, being morbidly obese for several years.
In the Refuse to Regain post, I wrote: “I haven’t wanted to explore this, mostly because there’s not a damn thing I can do about it now and I can’t change the past. But the question is begging to be asked, the question I’ve avoided since making goal three years ago: Do I have all this arthritis in my knees, shoulders, wrists and toes because I was overweight and obese for so many years? Like stretch marks and loose skin, is arthritis my daily reminder that, for years, I fed my insatiable desire for starches and sweets; gained and lost and gained and lost a lot of weight; and for the most part treated my body like it was separate from me?


“The answer is probably not a resounding ‘Yes’, but it’s not ‘No’ either. I am, in many ways, responsible for the shape of my body now. The choices I made about diet and exercise and the things I declared acceptable (basically ignoring the weight elephant in the middle of the room) accelerated the degeneration of my knees and feet, and perhaps contributed to the degeneration of my wrists and shoulders.


“Even though I give myself a lot of credit for stopping the weight before it got any higher and for losing the weight which has given my other systems better health, here on the other side of weight, displaced anger still exists.”

We all lose weight for a variety of reasons: to avoid heart disease or avoid or regulate diabetes, to look better or fit into a size-smaller wedding dress, to be able to play with our kids, to fit in an airplane seat. All good reasons. But how many of you have lost weight because of the potential for osteoarthritis? My guess is not many. I certainly didn’t have a clue obesity could cause this arthritic mess of a body I’ve got now.

On Lynn’s Weigh last year, I wrote: “Even now, I get angry when I think about what I’ve done to [my body] and for what it can’t do anymore, much of it due to having been morbidly obese. But…I promise myself to do my best to stop the cycle of anger, grief and guilt I put myself through with much frequency. I will do this by journaling more positively and finding alternatives to self-flagellation as solutions to my perceived failings.”

Nearly a year later, I’m…eh…doing OK with stopping the anger cycle before it gets looped around. I try not to live in regret, but it still pops up once in awhile.

My plan now is to: 1) pay close attention to the pain, which right now isn’t too bad; 2) get educated about total knee replacement in “younger” people; 3) play with my grandkids; 4) keep working out; 5) keep my weight stable; 6) don’t beat myself up.

G-baby #3 will arrive soon. Very soon. And right now, despite the knee and wrists and everything else, that’s all that matters.

Life. It’s good. And if I’ve learned nothing else through this, it’s that there’s redemption, regardless of what we’ve done to our bodies or ourselves in the past.

*** I need to add that if you comment about how you know someone who’s had a knee replacement and have said it’s the best thing they’ve ever done and they wished they’d done it sooner, let me know how old that person is. 47 is really too young to have a knee replacement because replacements wear out in 7-10 years and the next knee is never as good as the first. You get mileage on the first one, yes you do, but I’m trying to think ahead. I’d love to hear from folks who had TKR in their 40s. Thank you!

Biking and Salads and Volume

BIKING

After months of really awful winter weather and so much time spent inside, all I want to do is be outside. Know what I mean?

My vacation to California could have been just a warm-weather tease, but thankfully the nice weather followed me home. Well, sort of. Fifty-five degrees is hardly California standard, but it’s not 25 anymore, thank God.

To celebrate the sunshine, my husband and I went on our first bike ride of the season . We drove to one of our favorite rails-to-trails routes along the Allegheny River near Franklin and rode 12 miles. A good start to the season considering we haven’t been on our bikes in 5 months. My thighs will protest tomorrow, but I don’t care. My face will protest because of the wind burn, but I don’t care. Sixty minutes on my bike is worth it all.

What activity do you like to do now that winter is over? What do you look forward to doing in the warmer weather?

Because tomorrow promises to be even warmer, I’ll do some gardening. My flower beds are a mess and yet green shoots are popping up all over the place. I just wish I could remember what I planted everywhere. I hate when I forget to keep the little plastic tag from the pot after I replant. Oh well. I like surprises.

SALAD

I didn’t realize what a salad junkie I am until I went to a friend’s house yesterday. I packed a salad to eat. I asked her for a big bowl. She gave me a large cereal bowl. I said no, I need a mixing bowl. She looked at me funny and handed me a small mixing bowl. Again I said no, I mean a BIG mixing bowl. She laughed and showed me her collection of large bowls to choose from. I grabbed a big green plastic Tupperware bowl and dumped in the contents of my Ziploc bags.

When I pack a salad, I pack a salad. Half a bag of lettuce, half a bag of spinach, a cup of shredded carrots, 10 cherry tomatoes, 1.5 ounces of low-fat cheddar and three whole-grain crackers. Mix that with my homemade balsamic dressing and I graze for at least 20 minutes. I thought everyone ate big ass salads like that, but apparently not. I admit I’m a little embarrassed.

But I really love volume eating.

When I got home from biking today, I roasted 12 ounces of asparagus in some lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. I ate it all. Tonight for dinner, I made lentil spaghetti sauce and served it with spaghetti squash and broccoli. I ate a ton of broccoli, a ton of squash and just a small amount of sauce. While it looked like a lot of food on my plate, it didn’t equal a lot of calories. I ate it all and yet feel satisfied, not full. Again, volume eating.

Do any of you eat this way? If so, what kinds of food do you pack in? And no, chocolate doesn’t count – LOL! I wish.