Snow Gives Way to MUD

We had a very snowy February and March here in North Central Idaho.  Snow slid off the roof creating giant banks of snow on the side of my house and barn.  We plowed the driveway clear with the tractor this year, and created monstrous sized mountains of plowed snow all over our property. 

But now the sun is shining during the day, and the snow is melting off.  Thankfully it’s been a slow process so far…but nothing can stop the spring MUD.  Mud on the driveway where the sun hits makes for a slimy trip to and from the highway.  Mud where we park.  And ever so slowly the snow and ice is melting off too.  I may not be able to see the grass in my yard for several more weeks, but walk ways that have been plowed are melting quickly – I think we are down from 6 inches of packed snow (and let’s face it…ice) to just an inch or two in front of the house.  By the weekend I may see some gravel – or mud more likely.  But it’s progress!!! 

Now my prayer focus is that the weather continues to cooperate and our spring melt is slow and gradual, with cold overnight temperatures, and minimal rain.  You see, my house sits down in a valley along a creek bed.  As the snow melts above us, gravity does its thing, and the spring runoff fills our creek to capacity – and often over the banks.  We have lived here for almost 15 years now, and nearly every spring is wrought with worry and careful monitoring of the creek’s behavior.  Most years it is uneventful, with the water running high for a week, cresting over the banks for a few hours each day, and then receding.  But there are times when the runoff runs faster than we would like and the water level rises up to the house for a 6-8 hour nerve wracking stent before it goes back down.  As long as we have lived here, we have been lucky enough to avoid any water damage to our home – and we do carry flood insurance – but we know our home has flooded in the past.  There are 2 times that the water was high and we went through the house and picked up all the important stuff off the floor, piled things on beds, couches, tables, said a few fervent prayers – and went to bed.  We have been blessed to wake up to dry floors and receded water, but it humbles you in those moments.  You have to make quick but decisive choices about what really matters, and what will be just part of the mess. 

Isn’t that just human nature though, to worry about the things that are out of our control?  To spend hours planning for what ifs and then what – thinking that maybe if I have a perfect plan, and do all the right steps in the right order, I can influence the outcome.  Right???  No.  Really I can’t.  I can’t influence the weather.  I can’t alter the flow of the creek.  I’m not that powerful.  But I can have a plan to grab the dogs, a few essentials for myself and them, pick up a few things from the floor, and park my car on the top portion of the driveway – in case we need to leave quickly.  And that is in fact our plan – one we hope we don’t have to initiate, but we are prepared for.  It’s simple and without a lot of detail – because what will be will be.  If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that I can’t control everything, and there is no point to letting worry and fear consume me. 

These past few weeks I’ve been working on preparing for my spring craft shows.  I’ve been making soap, lotion, lip balms, salves, creams, trying to be diligent about keeping my database up to date.  I’ve filled and shipped a few orders, which is always nice, and have made sure those get recorded in the database too.  This coming weekend my plan is to spend a few hours back in the soap room and label and pack up what I need for the craft shows.  It takes a few focused hours to get that done, and I’m oddly looking forward to doing it and checking that off my list.  I need to make another couple batches of lip balm and at least one batch of my Courageous cream, and then the first weekend in April I will package up the last of the soap I need, wash my table coverings, and hopefully be ready for my first craft show of the season.

Spring makes me think of hope, new life, and new opportunities.  This past year has been a challenge for me in many ways.  Of course, a great physical challenge has been recovering from spinal fusion.  And now today, feeling fairly well recovered, I have time to think about what this next year has in store for me.  Spring time is also when I feel very connected to my MRKH family.  The annual MRKH Day in Ann Arbor is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I will not be attending this year.  I was able to attend last year, and to spend a week with my dear friend Chel for a much needed vacation, and it’s a trip I still think about nearly every day.  This year there should be an MRKH conference in Seattle, and I will make every effort to attend that one.  Obviously, Seattle is much closer for me making the travel expense more reasonable. 

I’ve been thinking about my MRKH a lot in the past few weeks.  I’m sure it’s because I’m working on Courageous products, and the conference is coming up.  But it’s little things too.  I was invited to a baby shower for a tiny new blessing at our church.  This little one is a rainbow baby after 2 miscarriages, and the new mom is a lovely woman.  I bought sweet baby gifts, prepared my contribution for the lunch, but when the day of the shower came up – I just couldn’t make myself go.  Babies are beautiful and lovely to hold and squeeze…baby showers are hard.  So I took care of myself, and skipped the baby shower.  One of my MRKH sisters recently had a birth mom change her mind about giving up her child for adoption, and so I’m grieving alongside her and it’s hard.  This was one of my greatest fears when I was at a point in my life where adoption was an option on the table.  Could I withstand the heartache if my dream was shattered?  To be chosen, and UN-chosen?  And yet, another of my MRKH sisters is PREGNANT.  She received a uterine transplant, and now after her 3rd attempt of IVF, she is 12 weeks pregnant.  My heart sings for joy with her, and she is even posting adorable bump pictures.  What a medical miracle and a blessing from God himself.   I have 2 MRKH sisters and their families who had embryo transfers to their surrogates last week who are waiting to hear if they are pregnant – and so we wait with baited breath to hear the news.  All of these things recently in my life, and while I am gleefully happy and hopeful for the moms to be, the new moms whose dreams have come true – I am also recognizing these triggers and allowing myself to feel the pain of infertility…again.  

My peers and classmates are mostly done with creating tiny humans themselves, but now I am seeing them welcoming grandchildren into their lives.  A new chapter, a new generation, another layer of legacy they are adding to this world.  I look at my life, and while I’m not leaving a genetic legacy, I hope that I am leaving a trail of compassion, love, acceptance, service, and grace.  I am content in my role of mentor and not mother.  I know that I am making a difference in the lives of the people whose paths I cross.  I know I am living the life and love of my Creator for all the world to see.

Matthew 5 15-16

6 Months Post Spinal Fusion

It hardly seems possible that it’s really been 6 months since my surgery, but I can’t deny the truth of the calendar. I’ve gone from the heat of summer, to a beautiful fall of color, to the depths of a snow packed winter. I’ve gone from walking with a walker, to a cane, to slow but deliberate walking, to the ability to walk as much as I want. I’ve gone from no lifting, bending, twisting, through a slow and steady recovery, to being able to lift what I need, bend forward and touch my toes, and gentle twists in my upper body. I’ve learned how to protect my back muscles and keep my spine stable. I’ve learned to kneel and squat down instead of bending at the waist to reach things on the floor. I’ve strengthened my hips and legs, and I’ve worked to strengthen my core muscles, the big and little ones, and I’ve worked to strengthen and stretch my back muscles and the muscles in my legs and hips. It’s been a huge recovery process, but I feel good with my process and what I can do now.

This past week I had a visit with my surgeon. New x-rays show my fusion is growing stronger, and all the rods and screws and cages are doing their job. He is pleased with my progress, and the strength and flexibility I’ve gained. He commented that it looked like I’d dropped a few pounds (yes, validation!), and that it looked like I was more comfortable. I agreed with him, and asked him about continuing restrictions. For the past 6 months I’ve been to avoid using a heating pad, and no use of NSAIDS. I’m cleared to use them now if i feel the need. I’m cleared to lift safely and smartly. We talked about craft shows, and that I am to be careful and not lifting while bending or twisting, and to keep my boxes packed on the light side. I’m allowed to walk, jog if I want (not likely), ride a bike, swim (also not likely), and do as much yoga as I like so long as I’m careful during twisting poses and don’t ask too much of my body. I’m to be careful and extra cautious in the snow and ice – NO FALLING. The fusion itself will continue to heal for the next year, but I’m right on track. His parting words to me were, “Call me if something comes up, but you MUST DO YOUR EXERCISES EVERYDAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.” Alrighty then, message delivered doc!

The next day was my appointment with Brenda, my physical therapist. She put me through the paces and did some massage on my whole back (I was a little extra stiff apparently). She talked about challenging my strength and using some resistance along with more repetitions. She sent me home with some bands to use. She agrees with the doc’s assessment to keep doing what I’m doing, and keep adding strength challenges. She talked a lot about being aware of my body mechanics, and listening as my muscles gain strength. When you get stiff or sore, take the time to rest and stretch things out before doing more. When you feel like you need to sit and rest, do so. When you feel like you need to get up and move, do so. When your muscles get tight, use your massage stick and tennis ball to release the tension. And you MUST DO YOUR EXERCISES EVERYDAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

So apparently, I keep moving along and doing my exercises for the rest of my life. I knew going into this surgery that as important as what happened that day in the operating room was, that my recovery and rehab would be even more important, and a life long commitment.

My food tracking app tells me that I’ve been tracking food and eating cleanly for 47 days now. I’ve also been riding my exercise bike regularly, and working hard on my PT exercises and doing yoga a few times a week. I feel like I’m in a healthy mindset, and the doc was right, I have lost weight since the first of the year. I’m not dieting per say, but I’m also not eating crap. I’m monitoring my calories each day, and avoiding eating grains and starches, and avoiding sweets and overly processed food. I don’t feel deprived, and I’ve been enjoying looking for and trying new recipes. We have been eating a lot more fresh produce, and I know I’m feeling much better in general – I have more energy and am sleeping better too.

If you aren’t in the Pacific North West, let me share that we have been given our entire dose of winter…in a couple week’s time. It just keeps snowing…many inches in the cities, a lot of wind, and out in the hinterlands where I live – we are measuring the snow in FEET. There have been school closures, road closures, and when you do get out and about, the roads have been a mixed bag of snow covered, slush covered, clear, and drifts. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful…but I’m tired of it. The closed the university for a day last week, and we had late start another day…and those things hardly ever happen. It’s been several years since the last time it happened.

Last weekend the snow created all kinds of havoc. Wind gusted snow across the roads creating white out conditions, and drifts accumulating in the roads. It just wasn’t safe to travel out of the cities. After a series of messages between our pastor, the elders in the church, and myself, and a bit of prayer – I was asked to not only lead our service because our pastor couldn’t make it down, but also to deliver the sermon. I’ve had to do this before due to weather, but she wrote the sermon, and I just read it. This time, she and I spoke at length, and her sermon wasn’t a good fit for me to deliver. God has been pushing me recently to step out of my comfort zone more and more. So I spoke to my pastor about a sermon idea I had. She approved of the direction I was being led, and I sat down Saturday evening using a sermon outline another pastor had written, I wrote a sermon on the Power of Prayer. I used my lovely new bible to find appropriate scripture references, and listened to my heart as I was writing. I sent it to my pastor to look at, and for any last minute changes, and I went to bed.

Sunday morning I got up and ready for church, printed the bulletin that Pastor E had sent me, read her words of encouragement, and printed my sermon notes. My little country church congregation was lovely and supportive as I not only lead our service, but delivered my first official sermon. I went ahead and recorded it with my phone, to send to pastor, and a few close friends. After prayerfully considering my options, and the motivations behind them, I’ve decided to share it with you as well. May my words truly bless you.

Power of Prayer

A Graceful Rehabilitation

I’ve been thinking I need to give an update, let you all know how the rehab is progressing. The change of physical therapist has been good. I’ve been able to switch things up and make some real progress. I’ve seen Brenda 3 times now, and have been doing my home exercises and when I see her each week she works on something else.

The first week was that darn IT band and trigger point massage in my hip and glute, and using my roller massage stick on my hamstring and the IT band itself. The incredible tenderness has diminished, and the tension has released significantly. I continue with stretches and work to build balanced strength. It’s clear it’s all working, as my SI joint is much more stable, my pelvis aligned, and the IT band isn’t holding so much tension.

The second week, she worked the soft tissue in my hip and then put me through the paces on the Pilates Reformer – doing a lot of core work and leg work. More stretching and a reminder to keep the rest of my spine above the fusion mobile. While we want good stability around the fusion, we want strength and mobility in the rest of my spine.

This week when I saw her, I asked her to help me trouble shoot the left foot nerve pain. We went through what I have been doing at home, the stretching and “neural flossing” and she did a body mechanics assessment. She had me make some small changes to the way I had been doing the neural flossing, and focus on a couple different ways to stretch and work my ankle and foot. With some soft tissue work – more trigger point massage- in my calf and ankle area she helped release some tension, which should help that nerve to glide more freely. I’ve had to do some home massage and really work at the hot spots – so as it heals from the massage work, the hope is that the nerve will glide smoothly and that annoying nerve pain will diminish. Again I’m in a work it hard for a couple days, and let it rest and heal a day or two and then go back after it for a couple days. Hopefully soon I’ll see some progress.

I feel like I’m at a point finally where I’m really ready to go at this rehab and recovery thing on my own. I’m glad I’ve pushed to continue with the physical therapy past the initial 6 week protocol. I’ve needed to work through problems that have developed as I’ve healed – the SI joint, the IT band, the nerve in my left foot – all the while continuing to retrain muscles to support my spine. I’ve been careful, but I’ve also pushed myself in rehab. I didn’t want to just heal the incision and let the bone heal – I wanted to really rehab my body to get back to a place of strength and stability that I haven’t had in several years. I wanted a new lease on life, so working on healing and rebuilding strength has been important to me – a full recovery. I’m so thankful that I have good insurance and the ability to take the time to recover that I’ve needed.

I see my surgeon again in February – almost exactly 6 months from my surgery. That’s about when my physical therapy “prescription” runs out again. I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, like my recovery and rehabilitation has been a success, and that I will back to myself and my “pre-fusion” activities soon.

I’m looking at spring and summer craft fair dates, and feeling like I am physically able to do the work of setting up and tearing down shows. I need to spend some time making soap in preparation for that – and I feel like I’m physically able to do that too. I have to admit, there was a time when I was wondering if I would be able to get back to the soap biz – so it’s a very good thing that I’m feeling like all my hard work in rehab has been worth it!

I’ve been consistent for over 3 weeks with clean eating and exercise. I’ve been taking my vitamins and supplements every day and doing everything I can to fuel my body well. And I’ve been giving myself grace to just live a little too. I have found the balance that has been lacking for a while in my life.

Oh yeah…and it was recently my baptiversary – so I treated myself to a new bible and bible cover. With my focus on women’s ministry I have been doing a lot of bible study on women in general, and leading our local Ladies Night In ministry – so I wanted a bible that would help me do that. One of my favorite blogs put out a devotional bible recently, and so I treated myself to one. It’s visually a beautiful bible, but it’s also chocked full of reading plans, devotionals, and highlights over 50 women of courage. I’ve really enjoyed skimming through it and prayerfully considering which reading plan I wanted to start with. As usual, God had a plan and led me right where He wanted me to be.