Serving Up Thanksgiving Realness

“The future for that foot is bleak,” Dr. Burns said.

It was a blunt statement from my podiatrist that caught me off guard this week, however true it may be. I first learned this reality at 23 years old, with a freshly mangled left foot, and a newborn baby.

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Multiple surgeries + giving birth = tired mama

I’ve spent the last 15 years rehabbing myself and trying not to let this injury define me. Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m active and health conscious. I’m acutely aware of my limitations and try to listen to my body when it’s speaking to me; especially my left foot. I care about this foot so much, it has a NAME for God sake.

My eyes instantly welled up when hearing the word, “bleak.” My breath caught. This is not breaking news but I was stunned to re-learn my fate. I was only in for a routine x-ray and now I wanted to cry.

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Trying to be productive when you can’t walk

I’ve become so used to downplaying my injury. It’s hard to convey the severity of my foot because people look at me and think I’m fine. Even those closest to me. I don’t share the story very often, but when I do, it’s usually met with comparison to their own ailments. I know people are trying to relate to me but it just minimizes my pain and experience.

It’s not the fucking same, people.

If someone is willing to share their story with you, don’t insert yourself. Listen and let them know you care about what they went through. Even people who appear strong and resilient need this.

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Jaelynn was wheeled around on this walker for months & months when I couldn’t walk & carry her at the same time (which was the first year of her life)

This week I was reminded that as hard as I try, my foot will never get better. No amount of Pilates or yoga or rest or massage will change my fate. The arthritis will and is setting in throughout my foot. This causes daily pain, but the most heartbreaking part to me, is the imminent loss of mobility in my already stiff foot.

My doc said it may eventually turn into a solid block of bone once everything becomes fully arthritic.

As of now, I have about five degrees of mobility in my foot and ankle. As long as I have my shoe mods, I can dance, walk long distances, teach Pilates, travel, etc. I live my life without much obstruction.

The thought of dragging around a useless foot was terrifying. Amputation has been thrown around many times over the years and that could be my fate as well.

As of this week, I have a 12th surgery on the horizon.

I know there are many millions of people who have it worse than I do. I don’t want to come off as ungrateful. I am thankful for how far I’ve come and how much my body allows me to do. That is the main reason why I typically don’t break it down like this on my blog.

However, this week I was sad and needed a place to vent.

I don’t want to bring down the grateful spirit of the season but I had to keep it real this Thanksgiving…and apparently so did my doctor.

keepin it real

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The Doppler Takes Europe

This summer, my family embarked on an action-packed 10 days in London and Paris. It was my daughter’s first trip out of the country so, peak tourism season be damned, we hit up the major sites. That led to a lot of walking and standing. My leg/ankle/foot, aptly named “The Doppler” due to it’s weather predicting capabilities, were definitely feeling the effects.

Traveling with an ankle fusion means dealing with constant pain and swelling. I have to plan sitting breaks and find ways to prop up my foot when it starts “talkin’ to me.”

Basically, the Doppler is a fickle travel buddy.

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Paris at night

Our family travel style is hit-the-ground-running and get the most bang for our buck. We prefer to use public transportation, for the experience and to spare some costs, so there is a lot of walking involved.

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Long trek to the apartment. Hubs took over my bag.

Lugging suitcases through the streets, standing at bus stops, up and down stairs to the subway, hustling to catch a train – they all add up to a rich experience but it takes a toll on my foot.

I was putting in no fewer than 18,000 steps and 10-20 flights of stairs per day. I had at least three consecutive days of 20k steps. I developed a blister on my toe during the last few days of our trip. I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with our fast-paced adventure. It’s challenging enough on healthy feet! I didn’t want to be the one holding us back.

I took a breath and tried not to stress. Here are a few things I did to save my feet:

Footwear. This is obvious but key. It’s tricky to coordinate my “comfy” shoes with travel outfits, especially when your shoes are complicated like mine . When going to the theater or out to a nice dinner, I’m not going to wear my tennies. A few months back I bought silver img_9123Birkenstocks, which are basically my version of a dress shoe. Those in rotation with a tennis shoe and a pair of Adidas gave me options for different looks yet still comfortable.

Rotation. I tried to pack light but I need shoe options. My foot feels different everyday so it’s hard to predict which shoe will feel good on any given day. I typically pack three — one pair in my carry on, one in the suitcase and I wear a pair on the plane.

Changing shoes throughout a day of sightseeing was helpful when I felt blisters coming on. If I wore tennis shoes during the day, I would put the Birks on at night. Many times we were gone all day, so I brought an extra pair with me. A little bulky in the backpack but worth it.

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Summer rain in London

Soaking. Luckily we had bathtubs in both of our Airbnbs. After a full day of traipsing around the city in hot weather (not much A/C in Europe) I would get home and run cold water over my feet. I would follow that up with a soak in warmish water for 10 minutes*.

*Epsom salt would’ve taken my soak up a notch. Adding a cup or so to a warm bath helps with pain and swelling. 

Elevation. I like to elevate my leg at night to reduce swelling and promote good circulation. This was especially necessary when we spent hours walking through the Louvre and touring the Palace of Versailles.

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Tourists at Versailles

Piggybacks. Last but not least, my husband is a true Boy Scout. He carries my bags and always holds out an arm when I’m climbing stairs or hopping off a bus. Most importantly, he offers piggybacks anytime, anywhere. 90% of the time I don’t partake (I’m embarrassed). However, by the end of our first full day in Paris, day six of our European trip, I took him up on it.

End of a loooong day

We were almost home and I couldn’t muster another step. I hopped on, skirt and all,  and was so grateful that he is always game (and our daughter is always ready with her camera).

When I was injured at 23, I thought I was facing a life of wheelchairs, scooters and sedentary activities. Doctors told me I’d deal with chronic pain and walking difficulties for the rest of my life. I never thought I’d be able to enjoy traveling.

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Sitting a spell

My car accident happened 15 years ago today.  It’s the Doppler anniversary! I do face chronic pain and walking difficulties. However, I’ve learned a few things: life goes on, you adapt and try not to sell yourself short.

Plan trips; Test your limits; Sit when you need to.

And never turn down a piggyback.

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Shoe Hustle

Walk a mile in someone’s shoes.

I think about this sentiment sometimes when I’m hustling to find a new pair of shoes. If you slipped on a pair of my sneaks, you’d be lopsided and probably dread shoe shopping as much as I do.

I’ve had a problematic gait stemming from a car accident in 2003 that crushed my left leg and ankle. I’ve had 11 surgeries over the last 14-plus years. Early on they added metal and screws to fuse my shattered ankle joint. The fusion was to alleviate some of the chronic pain I’d have for the rest of my life.

It’s mostly helped…except when I have to find shoes.

That fused joint is the reason I have to modify all of my left shoes with a 1/2″ lift. My left leg is shorter than my right and has little to no movement. Because of that rigidity, I also need a tapered, or “rocker,” sole to make up for the lack of mobility in my ankle. The lift and rocker are necessary in all of my footwear. This is done by a professional shoe orthotist or cobbler (more on them in a future post).

Here’s a look at the operation:

I’ve spent hours scouring the internet, hunting down various shoe sites in search of something that can undergo this type of transformation. It takes a critical eye and a lot of trial and error. But if I didn’t have all of my shoes modified, I couldn’t walk very far without a lot of pain and a very apparent limp.

I buy about 2-3 pairs of shoes each year. I’m looking for a new pair right now. Something cute and comfortable that I can wear when we travel this Summer. It’s frustrating but I keep reminding myself it’s not impossible.

It just takes a little patience…and a lot of hustle.

 

 

 

Sweatin’ to the Newbies

Anyone interested in getting high? High on fitness!download

(Warning: puns continue)High-Fitness-Logo-1

High Fitness classes are the latest craze in my neck of the woods. People of all ages are going gaga over this action-packed aerobics class. I hear it mentioned at the gym, see it all over Instagram hashtags #aerobicsisback, and the sweeping line to get into a class is impossible to miss (I’m talking 80-100 people waiting in line for a class on a weekday morning!).

I’ve been waiting for the right time to give this new school aerobics class a try. When my spunky, talented dance fitness instructor (apparently they don’t call it Zumba anymore?) said she was subbing a class over the weekend, I knew this was my chance.

After asking around and doing a bit of research, I learned that High Fitness is a high intensity, high energy aerobic workout incorporating simple choreography set to a variety of contemporary music. Here’s an explanation from the High Fitness pros:

The creators boast about people getting “addicted to the high,” and from what I’ve seen, that seems accurate. The Fresno Bee got wind of it last December, writing about its popularity at our local gym, GB3.

My endurance is pretty good right now from all that dance fitnessing. I thought with some slight modifications I was ready to give it a try. Bring on my new favorite workout!

My first mistake was not getting up early enough on Saturday morning and strolling in with only 5 minutes to spare. There were probably 60-plus people in the room and all the good spots were taken. I squeezed myself into a spot on the side where I could barely see the instructor or move without the fear of hitting someone. I was constantly craning my neck to see tiny Tiffany way up in the front, while myself and the other late arrivals tried to follow along smashed up against a weight rack.

Tip: There are some dance studios and “boutique” fitness studios that offer High Fitness in a smaller space i.e. smaller classes. That’s a good option if you don’t want to deal with crowds.

But that was all logistics so I tried to power through…

The music was good. A fun mix of pop and hip hop from the past couple of decades that appeals to many age groups. It’s definitely one of the most appealing elements of the class. Spice Girls, anyone?

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Photo credit: highfitness.com

Tiffany has great choreography, and her High class was no different. Moves were sassy and vibrant, working well with the music. You can get the hang of them quickly. It’s a lot less dance and more squats, burpees and jumping mixed in with a few aerobics classics. I imagine retired (or current) cheerleaders love this class. It had that peppy, athlete vibe.

I like a good pep routine but overall, I have to say I’m not down with High.

I couldn’t finish the hour. The moves were too intense and although they offer modifications, I was frustrated by the number of changes I had to make. I really wanted to love this class but found my limitations distracting. I saw people of varying ages and abilities happily modifying moves but that’s just not me.

Shining a spotlight on my inabilities takes the fun out of workouts for me. I don’t want to feel weak; I want to feel empowered.

In the end, I held strong for 40 minutes until my toes started to throb. They were operated on last summer and now a good indicator when I’ve gone too far. One thing this experience showed me was that I’ve finally learned to listen to my body. I no longer push myself through that type of pain — even when my ego is trying to convince me otherwise.

Sorry, High Fitness, I’m just not that into you.

 

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Yoga on the Cheap

Summer is in full swing and it’s been tough keeping up my regularly scheduled fitness. Between work, travel and occupying a constantly bored teen, my yoga practice has been slippin’. It’s difficult to make my favorite class on Saturdays and I can’t rationalize shelling out cash for drop-ins at local studios. I’m forced to get creative.

Enter: my quest for free yoga on YouTube.

I have been mining YouTube for fitness gems for years. DVDs get repetitive and I prefer to mix up workouts. YouTube is perfect for this. Here are some of my favorites for an inexpensive yoga fix:

Yoga with Adriene: She’s a good mix of crunchy but not too granola. Whether your aiming to feel more energized, relieve stress, or focus on specific parts of the body, beginning and advanced yogis have many options with Adriene.

 

Tara Stiles: Tara Stiles is pretty amazing to watch. She’s tall, thin and ultra flexible — but don’t be intimidated. She has a lot of short videos for varying levels. She’s my go-to if I only have time for a 10 minute routine in the morning or before bed. She moves quickly so having some yoga knowledge under your belt helps.

Shiva Rea: These videos aren’t the highest quality but they get the job done. I like the Shiva Rea approach; it’s challenging, a little intense and well paced. She makes me feel all spiritual and s**t.

Yoga House: If you want to learn or perfect specific poses, check out Yoga House. They have a variety of short videos showing you how to get in and out out of various asanas. The video quality is good, just ignore the random passersby in the background.

 

Last but not least, my favorite cheap yoga find is at Lululemon. They offer complimentary community classes on most Sunday mornings before they open for business. It may seem odd to practice in a retail space but it’s surprisingly serene. Classes are led by different local teachers each week. It’s a great way to check out new instructors without paying for a class. I follow Lululemon on Facebook to keep track of weekly in-store events.

Also, free classes take the sting out of buying $100 yoga pants.

Namaste.

 

 

How Joy Got Her Groove Back

 

We’re half way through the year and I have to admit, it’s been a doozie.

I came down with pneumonia in February and was hospitalized for seven days. Yes, SEVEN days for what I thought was just a bad case of the flu. When the ER doctor came in and told me I had pneumonia, I looked at him in disbelief and said, “Just a little bit of pneumonia, right?”

Nope.

It was a large mass in my lung. I was admitted, put on a ton of antibiotics and waited days for the fever to break. It turned into, what I assume in my limited knowledge, the full pneumonia experience. I lost 12 pounds in 6 days. It took weeks to gain any semblance of energy.

But this post isn’t to dwell on that low period of sickness. It’s to talk about how I got back up. I was scared to work out. I didn’t want to push my body too quickly, relapse, and end up back in the dreaded hospital.

Fast forward to June. I’m feeling back to normal and giving props to Zumba.

I am a self-proclaimed gym-class snob but I found a couple of talented Zumba teachers at my local gym. They put together a fun, fast-paced, total-body-workout that I’ve been practicing about 4 times a week. (sidenote: I was so excited to take my teenage daughter with me but after a few classes, she’s still not a fan.)

Zumba is practiced worldwide and got it’s start in Colombia in the 90s. A typical class is a series of choreographed dance routines set to a variety of music, usually with Latin movements and rhythms. The classes I enjoy are an energetic mix of hip hop, salsa, booty shaking, and a high intensity cardio workout set to a variety of music. It’s basically a dance class, which is why I love it.

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I feel like it’s gotten me back into shape faster than my usual workout routine. I have gained back most of the weight that I lost (bummer) but most of the loss was muscle anyway (double bummer) so c’est la vie.

I do have to be careful and find ways to modify around the fast movements and jumping during a typical class. I used to think I couldn’t take the class at all because it’d be too hard on my injury. I’ve found ways to change up jumps and twists here and there and I’m pretty proud (and surprised) that I can keep up. I’m able to get down and sweaty like any other person in the class!

I’m not sure how long this new fitness inspiration will last but for now, I’m just thankful I got my groove back.

A Brief Pause

I didn’t intend a two month break from the blog but life had other plans.

It started with the beginning of another school year, meaning marching band season begins, and there goes my free time. I feel each passing year moving faster and faster so I try to stay present in her life–especially transitioning into the teen years. Marching band is her thing. It’s her reason for getting out of bed every morning, excited to be at school at 7:30. I can’t miss out on that!

Real talk: being a part of her band experience takes me back to my middle and high school color guard heyday. It’s something for us to bond over and a commonality that keeps me feeling connected to her. Plus, I’m not gonna lie, I still like watching marching bands and color guards.

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In between band mom-ing and volunteering as a color guard coach, my mom was diagnosed with melanoma. It took two anxiety-ridden weeks to see how serious it was, if the PET scan was going to show signs that the cancer had spread to any lymph nodes. I took extra days off from work to spend time with her and travel with her to out-of-town appointments. This is not her first bout with cancer.

Luckily, the cancer did not spread. Now, after having a large section of her face operated on, she’s cancer free. Again.

The last two months have been a juggling act between overachieving mom and supportive daughter, leaving little time for much else. It’s funny how easily we can slip into a groove of looking out for everyone else but ourselves. Things are calming down now. I’m hoping to get back to hanging out with my husband, exercising, blogging, wearing a lot more sunscreen–maybe even putting on some lipstick.

Baby steps.