Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thirteen Moons, Dreaming & Random Acts of Kindness

Be sure to read all the way to the end, I saved the best for last. My life has really changed over the last several years and sometimes it can be depressing. My back has gotten so stiff I can't do much of anything. I don't dare bend over for fear my back will go out. If my back goes out, I might have to lie in bed for weeks, and there wouldn't be anyone to water the gardens, do the weeding, or open up the shop, much less anything else, like the mundane responsibilities of life.

We can't afford to have someone come in and do the work. So to cope, at first I just quit opening up the shop. Next I quit weeding. Then I let Gary weed eat down a few perennial beds (that was extremely hard for me to do - you know how I love my garden and all the plants here). But I reasoned less to water and less to weed. I offered plants or gardening books to lots of locals in exchange for weeding, but there weren't any takers. I guess folks are smart, they know a little hard work when they see it.

It all began about 10 years ago when I lived in Arkansas. A filing cabinet started to fall over at work and I leaned to the side to catch it and I heard something pop in my back. I couldn't do anything for about two weeks, but the doctor said it was just muscle strain and would go away. I should have had an MRI then. For the last several years all of the doctors said my back problems were just muscle strain, telling me to just take it easy for a while and it would get better. Finally a few weeks ago, I went to the emergency room. An xray and CT scan showed nothing. The next week I finally insisted I be referred for an MRI. I found out I have two degenerated discs in my back and arthritis, both of which the report apparently said was mild. I'm not a complainer and I don't like taking any medications, but I've had to spend almost every day in bed for the previous week or so lying on my side in pain - I guess that's mild.

Apparently there are two main reasons for degenerated discs one is smoking, that lets me out. The other is hard physical labor, that, unfortunately, has been my problem. Apparently I have been my own worst enemy. Remodeling my last three homes, this one being the most extensive, landscaping, and then taking care of my 94 year old father-in-law at the same time for the past six years has caused my discs to give up in disgust. After my father-in-law passed away in May this year, my back really started to deteriorate.

I'm finding out I'm not a spring chicken any longer. After my father-in-law passed away I started looking for a job in earnest outside the home. Well the economy isn't that good and jobs are hard to find in this area. We also want to sell our home to downsize, but the economy isn't that great and that is affecting the sale. Meanwhile my back was acting up. So I worked with my clay even more. I've shown an example of what a normal space between the vertebra should be and what a degenerated disc would look like. The bottom line is when the disc is degenerated the space between the vertebra is narrower and the disc doesn't do it's job of cushioning the spine while you are walking, standing, stooping, carrying, etc. and the narrowed space or degenerated discs means pain and lack of mobility.

I also decided to turn my garden gift shop into my clay studio. I made clay pieces at school but haven't accomplished as much as I wanted to. The less I've done the more the work has piled up outside and inside and then the worse I feel. My only solace is my clay. I have found one of the best tools to aid in mobility is a cane. Not only can you use a cane to help you get up from a sitting position, but if you drop something, you can use the crook of the cane to pull that item up to where you can reach it. I am also looking into getting one of those grabber poles that allows you to pick up something without bending down or get things off the top shelf without getting on a ladder.

Gary, the Saint in my life, does as much as he can, but he is gone from 5 am in the morning till 5 p.m. each night. He said to me the other day, "I wish you were like you were when you were 25!" I said, "You didn't know me then!", (we got married when I was 35). He said, "Well then 35!" I said, "I wish I was like that too". This comment was after I was particularly b----y due to my pain and frustration at my circumstance. When he's not around, I have another guy who keeps me company while I'm lying in bed, one of my cats, Binky. Aren't I lucky?

OK, so now at least I know something concrete about my back (feels like a sack of concrete is sitting on it sometimes). But if I had known about the degenerated discs years ago I wouldn't have done all this work here, I might have chosen another path, but that's another story. I have an appointment with a specialist the second week of December but I want to avoid surgery as much as possible. I don't really want it surgery and I can't afford it anyway.

It is really hard for me to just lie in bed. My mind is racing (type A personality) thinking of all I could (clay pieces) or should (housework, watering, getting a job)be doing and it is like torture. I don't know which is worse, the pain or my brain racing with its thoughts. One night I found a book I bought some time ago intending to read it and never had, Thirteen Moons. Hey, this is a really good book which I highly recommend.

Gary got us a new computer chair (an example shown) with lumbar support - I couldn't sit in the other chair for longer than 5 minutes without my back hurting. (Luckily I can type fast to post, and I can read fast to keep up with all the other clay blogs). I can't sit on the couch because it's too soft and makes my back hurt almost immediately. This may sound silly, but I found out if I put one of those mini ironing boards on the couch and cover it with about 6 layers of towels as cushions, I can actually sit on the couch because that makes it firm enough. Apparently you are supposed to sit with your back about 15 degrees tilted back in a chair. I am trying to retrain myself not to lean forward while sitting - it isn't easy to break old habits.

We're thinking of getting one of those inversion tables (example shown) to see if I can stretch out my spine a little at a time to get some relief. Oh, I also sleep on my side with a pillow between my legs, which is supposed to keep your back aligned. I was always opposed to chiropractors, but I might give that a try too.

Last but not least, someone I only know through their blog sent me a gift, two ceramic magnets, to keep me on the straight and narrow. I must learn to "Say No No No More" and to "Dream". I can hardly contain myself at this generosity. Deborah Woods of the Mudpot sent me two handmade ceramic magnets and I am so grateful. My photos don't do justice to these two ceramic pieces, the clay is a beautiful earthy warm brown, extremely light weight, and so smooth. I just love these magnets; I have them on my fridge. I can't say enough about how wonderful it is to receive something so unexpected and thoughtful in the mail.

I am sure there are many in this world who are much more bereft than I, and I hope they will be touched by a little bit of kindness from someone unexpectedly as they go through their daily lives. Thanks for your thoughtfulness Deborah; today I said no to a lot of housework and I'm dreaming of lots of new clay pieces I want to make. I plan on sending Deborah a special package, as soon as I get it together to mail. Maybe this will start a trend of random acts of kindness, wouldn't that be neat?

P. S. Since I've inserted a little bit of humor in this post, I am feeling a tad bit better. Apparently my new chair and talking about my problems here has done me some good. Thanks for reading.


  1. Oh goodness, I had no idea. You have worked so hard for so many years! You're right to bring that clay work right to your lap or table--there are definately projects you can do. I had some terrible tendonitis in my wrists due to falls on the ice, and I found I could make little pigs. Thanks goodness clay is infinite!
    I hope things go better for you I really do.
    btw-I loved Cold Mountain alright, havn't seen the movie though.

  2. At least you know- and thank you for letting us know.
    I hope we can all give you some support as you figure out what you need to do from here.
    thinking of you-M

  3. I'm sure it's good to finally have an explanation for all of the back problems that you have been experiencing. Though I have never had any back problems, I go to a chiropractor once a month for wellness maintenance. I've been going for years. I know that there are horror stories out there about chiropractic, but I think that if you go to reputable chiro, one that you feel comfortable with, that you could benefit from it. Talk to local friends and see if they can recommend anyone.

    Good luck in getting better and keep that sense of humor! You know what they say about laughter.

  4. OH LInda what a tale. I am so sorry you are experiencing these problems. I wish you could find a decent physical therapist. I have a friend who's turned his back problems around with the right exercises. He does them daily & has strengthened his back to help support his disk problems. He's a different man - but a therapist worked with him & showed him which exercises to do. You mention money being tight - will your insurance cover physical therapy? Is there anything we can do - as a group?

    Thank goodness for the joy of clay - and your work is worth pursuing - lovely!

  5. I DON"T think you want to try the chiropractor, that's where I went first since it had worked before. He only made it worse. I too recently had an MRI after more than 6 weeks of pain and immobility. I couldn't sleep because I couldn't find a position that allowed me to sleep, and if I did, it didn't work the next time. My MRI also showed moderate to severe degenerative disk disease, they had a fancy name for it, but that's what it is. I have been to a pain management clinic and had shots of steroids (I think) placed directly where the nerves come out of the spine. Twice. But the shots have left my left arm weak. Loritabs have also given me some relief, but I try to get by on a minimal dose as they are supposed to be addictive. They seemed to think that my pain should have been "mild" too. If that's mild, I don't want to know about severe. I am relatively pain free right now, but the underlying cause of the pain is still there and the pain will probably come back when the nerve shots wear off.

  6. I'm glad you got the magnets Linda! While I appreciate the offer, I don't need anything in return. I just thought of that magnet when I read your post about doing too much. It has a good home now. Good luck with everything. sounds like you are having a hard time right now.

  7. Gosh, how I wish it was different for you. I too, will be out of work beginning in January 2009, so I don't know what is ahead. Hoping that you heal these days... thanks for your honest sharing. (I thought I posted this yesterday but I guess it didn't get through). Peace~

  8. Hi Gary, I'm looking forward to seeing some movies too, thanks for the good thoughts.

    Hi Meredith, thanks so much for thinking of me.

    Hey Jerry, I think reputable is the key for a chiropractor, I guess they are now recognized by the AMA which is good.

    Welcom Earl and Vicki, I'm with you I don't want to take medications, I did fill the prescription in case it got too bad and am just keeping them in the cabinet. I'm actually taking a few aspirin which has fewer side affects. I'm going to a specialist to see what they recommend, but I want to try minimize any further deterioriation if I can - I think eating a good diet with fresh food that has lots of vitamins will help me. My neighbor told me her husband had his vertebra fused because the discs got so bad, I hope it doesn't come to that, but better than constant pain I guess.

    Hi Judy, I'm seeing a specialist next week and will see what they say to do and not do and I will set a plan for myself after that. I am already doing research and seeing what I can do that doesn't cost anything and that has helped and I am working on making a few trades wiht folks-looking at a way I can use my computer skills to earn some more income, so thanks for the offer I think we'll do fine for now and I have another show coming up too.For my ceramics I have done mostly one off things, but I may make a few repeats but different glazes of popular items to increase sales which will help.

    I think the main thing is for us to get this place sold as the upkeep is not helping me. I may post it on my blog and see if someone knows someone who wants to buy a great commercial zoning residential home.

    Hi Deborah, thanks for your good thoughts, the good days I feel fine and the bad days aren't good at all, it is kind of strange but unfortunately unpredictable, I am trying to see how I can prevent further pain days by looking closely at my body mechanics - so far the better chair, not lifiting anything heavy and the pillow between my knees at night is really helping and taking frequent breaks - saying No !

  9. Hi Amy, I wish you luck in your job search, seems like it is a sign of the times. We are looking at our budget very closely and seeing ways to cut costs and we are also thinking of ways we can trade people for services - people are actually being more receptive to that. And I am looking at ways to become more productive with my pottery and developing other skills to earn income - trying to think outside the box so to speak. Necessity is the mother of invention as they say. Thanks for your good thoughts and good luck to you too.


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