Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bloomin' Lovely...and other events of the week

These are two of my Amaryllis; 'Red Dragon' and 'Apple Blossom', which bloomed this week.  There is one more yet to bloom.  An avid gardener, this is the closest I get to playing in dirt at this time of year.  If you could see through the window behind these flowers you would see a yard full of snow.  This is the hind leg of winter and the slowest part to pass.  Meanwhile, the week has been full of activities to make time pass more quickly, if that's possible. 

Last Thursday I wrapped up a 20 week At Work meeting which gave me an extra day off this week.  This Thursday turned out to be one of the busiest days I've had in a while and not altogether in a good way. 

It started out by training with Bruce at 7:30 in the morning at our new training space.  When training with Bruce I usually don't bother counting reps, I just keep going until he tells me to stop.  He knows that I will push myself until I can't do anymore and then I still manage to squeeze out a few more.  So, it came as a surprise when lying on the floor doing side arm raises with a dumbbell to see him walking off to the next station with Higgie when I hadn't even finished one side!  Turns out I was supposed to count to 20 and flip over.  I had been waiting for him to tell me.  So my triceps got an extra work out.  They're still sore!  It was actually a very tough work out.  I haven't been back to the gym since then due to a number of reasons but I have run out of excuses today.

After working out I went to see Dr. Wade.  Final diagnosis on my sore bum/hip problem is an inflamed SI (sacro-iliac) joint; again, the treadmill being the culprit.  I'm still getting treatment for it and it's responding slowly.  I am down to one chiropractic visit a week now. 

Later that morning we set off to my Mom's retirement home to take her out for her birthday.  That didn't start out too well.  I had called her when I got back from the chiropractor's office but she wasn't in her room.  I called the management office and asked them to remind her that I was coming to take her out to lunch later and to tell her happy birthday.  This would have been around 9:30 a.m.  We showed up at 11:15 to find her waiting for us in the lobby.  She was very confused and shaken.  She apologised for being late.  We told her she wasn't late and that we were early.  She started babbling something about 'making mistakes'.  She is not very coherent at the best of times these days.  I attempted getting her to come with me up to her room so we could put on her coat and snow boots but while we waited for the elevator to take us there she collapsed into sobs saying over and over "I make so many mistakes".  I did my best to comfort her, telling her she had made me and I was no mistake.  I also reminded her that it was her birthday and there was no crying on birthdays, as she used to say to me when I was little.  As best as I can understand, I think she had been waiting for us in the lobby from the moment I had called, believing our arrival was immanent.  Her watch hasn't been telling the right time either which wouldn't have helped.  When we didn't arrive she must have wondered what was going on.  I think she still has moments of lucidity and when the pieces don't fit she becomes upset.  It was deeply disturbing to see her that way but she soon cheered up once we were in the car and on the way to the restaurant.

We chose to meet at the Boardwalk Pub, a restaurant near the lake.  It has better-than-usual pub fare and very good burgers.  Along with Higgie and I, in attendance was my soon-to-be 90 year old aunt, my brother and his wife and two of his four children.  My niece came with her husband and year-old son, Harry,who, like the Prince and his paternal grandfather namesake has bright red hair!  He is very cute and was the star of the occasion.  Mom was very happy to see him and he was much taken with her.  He sat on her lap for a long time, studying her face intently.  We had a great festive lunch complete with cake and gifts and flowers after which Higgie and I took Mom for a brief walk on the boardwalk.  Walking is her favourite activity.  Unfortunately, there were a couple of inches of newly-fallen wet snow to hamper our progress and the sun refused to come out, but it was still a nice day for her.

After taking Mom home we returned to ours with hopes of napping, but with Eldon, the handyman working away in the bedroom next door it was a bit difficult (his real name is Norm, but like Eldon, the character on 'Murphy Brown' he never finishes so he never leaves.)  Norm has been working on the interior of our house since June of last year.  He renovated the complete lower floor, removing old panelling, putting up new drywall and trim, upgrading lighting and painting throughout.  He took a few months off and now he's back to work on the two upstairs bedrooms replacing baseboards, hanging new closet doors and painting.  We closed the door on the room he's not presently working in and tried to sleep but it was rough.

At 6:30 p.m. we headed out once again for an annual pub night fundraiser at the Steamwhistle Brewery.  It's built in a historic roundhouse building once used by the Canadian National Railway.  The fundraiser is to benefit a charitable trust set up in memory of Higgie's sister, MaryLynn who died of colon cancer in 2002.  It's called the MaryLynn Higgins Youth Fund.   It provides travel scholarships for schoolchildren who otherwise would not be able to accompany their classmates on school trips.  Last year several hundred kids benefited from this fund. 

The evening was a lot of fun.  Most of Higgie's family and friends were there.  There was a great live band made up of 14 professional musicians who donated their time.  They played R&B and funk and dance tunes.  We danced and drank Steamwhistle beer as well as bidding on some items at the silent auction which included Leafs-Bruins tickets which Higgie badly wanted but they ended up going for $500.  I got a 90 minute massage for $90. which is what I'd pay for a regular 50 minute one.  I can't wait to have it.

As full as the day had been and as tired as I was, sleep, once we got home, was not to be had.  As soon as I went to bed my stomach began to ache and cramp.  I had a burning sensation which began at the base of my esophagus and went all the way down.  Soon I was in the bathroom and that's pretty much where I spent the night, off and on, vomiting and all that other nice stuff that goes along with what  I think was a case of food poisoning.  I was worried my Mom might have had it too because we both had burgers for lunch.  If she had been as ill as I was it would have killed her.  As soon as I decently could, I called her retirement home but didn't hear back so I was forced to assume she was okay.

I have an early morning meeting on Fridays which I knew I couldn't cancel.  There would have been no way to contact my manager because she doesn't answer her phone before 8:00 a.m. (who could blame her?) and there wouldn't have been anyone available at such short notice to fill in for me, so once I was sure I wouldn't barf on anyone I got ready to go out.  I can't believe how well the meeting went, despite being so tired and also despite setting off the burglar alarm in the office next to the meeting room where our supplies are stored.  I opened the door to the office suite not knowing there was a burglar alarm and when it went off I had no idea what to do.  I called the building custodian who was furious with me, saying I should have known how to disarm the sensor but no one had shown me.  With shattered nerves I carried on with the meeting and as mentioned, I'm amazed it went as well as it did.  This meeting is a relatively new one I've taken on since Christmas.  The members have been through a constantly changing array of leaders and it has taken them time to warm up to me but I can feel it's beginning to happen.  Once the meeting ended I realised my stomach had stopped hurting, so as much as I hope I helped them, I can definitely attest to the fact that they helped me.

I wish that could have been my only meeting that day but in fact, I had a second one; an At Work meeting downtown at the Hospital for Sick Children which followed right after.  This meeting was the first meeting I was given as a brand new leader and I have a deep affection for it.  It's a pleasure to conduct and it always makes me happy. 

I headed home in a good mood (and fell asleep on the streetcar!) to find 'Eldon' banging away at baseboards.  He offered to knock off for the day since Higgie had told him how sick I had been but I assured him there was no need.  I shut the bedroom door, climbed into bed and don't even remember the moment at which I closed my eyes.  All I know is, three hours later, I woke to find I had read 3/4 of a page of my book before passing out.  I got up, made a light meal of scrambled eggs and went back to bed an hour later.  I slept so soundly I netiher heard Higgie come home from work or come to bed.  Apparently I was snoring to beat the band.

On Saturdays I have two meetings which are both very early.  They went well and I came home planning to go to the gym but that didn't happen, so today it must.  There are five weeks remaining until my first run.  If I can't build endurance by running on the treadmill I can at least build strength. 

Do what you can do.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

This week's training

I'm happy to report that we're back training with Bruce.  He found us a new venue run by very accommodating people who not only let us bring in our own trainer but let all three of us in on one ten-session pass.  It's a bare-bones serious training sort of gym; no frills and no fancy extras but it has a huge array of equipment.  It's not as close to our house as the Balmy Beach club is - not walking distance - and given Higgie's schedule we will only be able to make it there once a week.  We decided to train together to make the best of the time we have so we will continue to meet Bruce on Thursdays which is, for now, a day off for both of us.  I previously had an At Work meeting taking place on Thursdays but it finished it's 20 week run and won't be continuing.  I plan to use the extra time off training and spending time with my Mom.

Training together with Bruce felt more like Boot Camp.  I can't wait for it to start again.  Eight more weeks!  Training outside is the best!

Today we went to the Balmy to use the fitness room.  Since I'm banned from the treadmill for now, thanks to my piriformis problem I used the elliptical for 30 minutes.  I used to love this machine but I rapidly became bored with it once I became strong enough to do other things.  I worked hard at making it a challenging work-out - perhaps too hard!  I chose a program that would vary the resistance and moved at top speed when the resistance went to zero.  I tried a few other methods of intensifying the experience as taught to me by trainers; tricks like lifting my toes inside my shoes and pushing with my heels only, or pedaling in a semi-squat position.  It's really important to watch your stance while on this machine because swaying from side to side (like when you're listening to a really good tune on your iPod!) or not standing erect enough can be injurious.  Not sure which of these bad things I may have done but my knees felt unhappy when I got off the machine and my hip still hurts, possibly worse than ever.

Tomorrow I will do a total strength training work-out; no cardio except a bit of jumping or jogging in place to warm up.  I need to keep the muscles moving but not irritate anything further.

Tuesday: back to Wade and the elbow in my butt cheek!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Mom

My Mom has dementia.

Saying it makes it seem so simple or cut and dried, but there's so much more that the simple word 'dementia' doesn't cover.  So much that I've lost of the person who was my mother, a brilliant and courageous woman who wrote three novels and travelled most of the world on her own.

Nowadays she is a sweet, elderly child.  She is amused by childish things, like bright-coloured beads or dogs we see in passing on our walks.  She likes watching movies and going for ice cream.  She once climbed the Hindu Kush mountains and travelled to Samarkand. 

She obtained a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto when she was my present age and now she can barely string a sentence together because she has lost much of her vocabulary.

Today I took her to visit her sister.  In a cruel twist of fate, my aunt, who is nearly 90, has lost none of her faculties except her mobility.  They reminisced about their childhoods and Mom had a great time.  I wish I could get her over to see my aunt more frequently but my schedule doesn't always allow it and my aunt lives in another part of the city to us.

Nine months ago, after my mother suffered another bad fall, this time breaking her ankle, (the previous bad break had been two vertebrae in her thoracic spine, which is to say, she broke her neck) I witnessed a real deterioration of her mental faculties.  She had been living downtown in a seniors apartment but it was becoming very apparent that she needed more supervision, especially after the falling down began.  So I moved her into a small retirement home near where I live and attempt to see her at least twice a week.  The move unhinged her even more though, and every day I live with that guilt.  Still, I think she would have been dead by now if I had left her where she was.

I grieve for the loss of my best friend and intellectual sparring partner.  We always read the same novels and appreciated the same writers and writing styles.  She encouraged me to start my literary discussion forum Constant Reader and always promised me she would post something there one day but never did.

I assure myself that she will adjust to where she now lives but in my heart I know she won't  and every day she gets lonelier and slips aways from me more and more.  She is 86 next week.  I wonder how much longer I will have her and who she will become in time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Benched Again

....or, bummed about my bum.

My old friend piriformis (as I now know it's called) has reared its ugly head again.  I thought I had over-stretched in Pilates because the day following my return to my Pilates classes there was a pinched feeling in my right buttock.  I kept stretching my glutes as much as I could thinking (rightly, as it turned out) that it might be the pirifomis muscle pinching my sciatic nerve again, but the pain began to move around my hip joint and radiate down the side of my leg every time I attempted running.  I could never get past 5K without worrying about a real injury occurring.

So, yesterday I went to see my charming and always effective (not to mention good-looking) chiropractor who treated me with deep muscle massage.  Not as restful as it might sound, it consists of him drilling his elbow into my right butt cheek to make the piriformis muscle let lose its death grip on my sciatic nerve.  It will eventually leave bruises, which can be darned hard to explain in the locker room!  It is a very painful procedure but it's effective, and, I hope quick.  Last time this happened it took a few weeks to heal but this time, being in better shape, the treatment might take hold more quickly.

The cause is definitely due to running and not, as I had feared Pilates.  Still, I am banned from both for the rest of this week.  The reason is due to the muscles in my butt and hips trying to stabilise my body while I run.  Proper stance and posture will aid in this but it's also treadmill-related.  When running on a natural surface the body will require rest periods where a runner will slow their pace.  A treadmill, while adjustable for speed, cannot properly emulate this process.  So it could be that I was running too fast.  Sometimes the treadmill runs you and not the other way around.

So for now I am doing the stretches Wade gave me and hope to connect with Bruce soon for another strength training session at our new work-out space.  Higgie bought a 10 session pass for the place yesterday and now we just need to arrange a time and day with Bruce to continue training.  My first run of the season is April 2nd, so I need to be ready.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

You're Never Too Old

Higgie and I got to rub shoulders with the rich and famous in the sports and television world this week when we attended a fundraiser for a police-based charity called Operation Merry-Go-Round. It raises funds to buy computers for kids who would otherwise be unable to afford one and who are, by police standards, considered at risk.

Our trainer, Bruce is one of the organisers of the event and for the past few years he has given us free tickets for the event as a thank-you for our loyal patronage. It's held at the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto and it's a fun-filled evening for us, not just because of the free food, which is great and relatively healthy, and not just because of the free booze either! It's a fascinating venue and the chance to see all the memorabilia and trophies is of interest even to me, a non-sports fan. We always meet interesting people. This year we met the General Manager of the Toronto Argonauts, Adam Rita who is a long-time friend of Bruce's. He is very charming. But the biggest kick was meeting Jeremy Roenick , a retired hockey player and sports commentator who was a judge this season on CBC's hit show, 'Battle of the Blades' . The premise of the show is to pair hockey players with female figure skaters and see how well they can transfer their skating skills to a new purpose. All the players were recently retired, most in their 40's. I told Jeremy what I most admired about the players' attempts to re-make themselves as figure skaters was that it proved to me no one is ever too old to change. I told him that I worked for Weight Watchers and had learned to become physically fit in my 50's. He was impressed and after several minutes of chatting about the show and having my picture taken he said he was very pleased to have met me (bet he says that to all the girls!). I also had a chance to introduce Bruce as my trainer, though they knew each other because Bruce had arranged for Jeremy to be there.  Jeremy said he was very impressed that Bruce was able to make people so excited about fitness as we obviously were.  Here's Higgie and I with Jeremy:

So, after bragging away to him about how dedicated to fitness I am, I now have to admit to what a complete fraud I have been this week, since, other than Pilates on Monday, I haven't done anything in the way of a work-out since then.  Feeling enormously guilty and slug-like, I prepared to go to the club after lunch today but discovered my iPod wasn't charged.  It was almost enough to keep me at home.  I still managed to force myself out the door, if only because I knew I had to get to a mailbox to mail the paperwork from this morning's meetings.  After finding a mailbox, I was still of a mind to turn around and go home again, because who can work out without music?

I got to the club and was taking off my coat in the dressing room when a lady in the shower area (unseen by me) said "There's a lot of sighing going on out there."  I explained that I was annoyed at not having my iPod to listen to while I worked out and she commiserated.  I then admitted to having almost stayed home because of it, despite not having been there all week.  She then admitted to not having been there since December, but before I could respond, she walked out of the shower room and I could see that she was an older woman.  I was mentally cutting her some slack for her own absence when she told me she was 77 years old and until Christmas was coming four to five times a day to work out!  You are definitely never too old.

So Jeremy, (you hottie) I want you to know, I'm back at it, I'll be there tomorrow and the rest of this week.  Half-marathons don't get run by themselves.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Best Laid Plans

Five work-outs per week just didn't happen this week.  Maybe I was being unrealistic.  Other than Pilates on Monday I made it to the gym one other time this week for a short 5K run and some stretching.  No strength training; no time.  Tuesday I started two new meetings back to back, the first one of which started early and I needed to get organised.  Wednesday we were hit with a blizzard and I spent the afternoon shoveling instead.  Friday morning is also an early meeting.  Today, Saturday, I spent with my Mom and the plan was to meet Higgie after he finished work and head for the gym but it'll have to be tomorrow instead.  AS crazy as my Mom makes me I know a work-out would have done me good but the club gets to crowded by the late afternoon and I am, quite frankly, bushed, having got up at 5:30 this morning to prepare for today's meetings.

Next week should see things return to  a bit more even keel.  Bruce stopped by on Friday to tell me he had found a space for us to train with him; a small neighborhood gym where you can buy a pass and do whatever you want there.  We'll get back to weekly training with him and then go to the club on our off days.  I'll be heading back to the Pilates class on Monday.  It will happen.  No sense feeling guilty or beating myself up over it.  I haven't given up, it's just a set-back.