Saturday, April 25, 2020

Palmas Del Mar is too far

At the end of yoga yesterday, when the teacher said to think about what you need to do and how you are going to do it, a thought popped into my mind: "I need to dust this room." So when she unmuted us at the end (Zoom yoga being the new normal), that's what I said I needed to do.

My living room is in one way the best room to do yoga in and in another way not so great. I can put my laptop on my grandmother's coffee table and lie down on the rug and have plenty of room. The rug is so worn in the middle that I really should replace it, but I got it with my mother and I don't want to do it. Also the chairs from the kitchen, and a bunch of boxes, are stacked along the wall. Since work had to stop in the kitchen, I haven't had a chance to move anything back. The feng shui is not great.

Corey, the model who my mother painted, looks down at me from the wall. His expression doesn't change (duh) so if I wobble, he doesn't seem to care.

I took the framed photos and other stuff off the tables and dusted. Then I picked up a few things that were lying around and went to put them into the cabinet that had been in the "so-called den," the transformed bedroom that my sister and I had shared. I opened the side door of the cabinet. A whole bunch of photos were stuffed in there. Ah, the passive, a lack of responsibility. Who stuffed them in there? They included all the old family photos, including the one of the family, in Leipzig, at their last dinner before the Holocaust stole many of them. OK, so, drumroll...I put them in there. I took them out and put them back. There was also a sort of hat box thing full of photos that my mother had thrown in there.

People, if you are cleaning up a little, what are you doing with all the photos? In addition to the ones in boxes, there are framed photos that my parents had put up behind the bar at Atlantic Beach. (Yes, when they bought the house, it had a room with a bar in it, what can I say? ) What do I do with the framed photos? Here is one of me, in Central Park, either daydreaming or concerned about a pigeon.

I took one out and looked at it for a good long while. I took a photo of it and sent it to the kids.

It is me with the three of them on a big bed. Katie is about six months, so Joe and Ben are 4 and 7. Ben is a reading a book that interests Katie. There is a New York Times on the bed. Ben has the same smile as he does today. Joe is looking at Katie and maybe still wondering where she came from. I remember the T-shirt that Joe is wearing. It's of the New York skyline. I seem to have been drinking a Heineken. My legs looked nice and tan. Now the bottoms of my legs are messed up from skin cancer and not so smooth. Of course the tan led to the skin cancer (multiple squamous cells), but who thought of that then?

We were in Palmas Del Mar, Puerto Rico. My parents had taken the whole gang. I remember my mother making up a song that she sang with Ben and Joe. "Palmas Del Mar is too far, we can't get there by a car." There was a scene at some point. Ben had fallen off of a jungle gym and hit his head. My mother's face went white. It was the first of a series of Ben mishaps. I don't remember having any real trouble traveling with a six-month-old baby and two little boys. We had a lot of fun. It was when the worst thing that had ever happened to me was having three Caesarean Sections.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Feet can do the darndest things

I was thinking while walking past a bush in bloom this morning that the best way to keep sane in the face of COVID-19 is to keep from looking too far into the future in much the same way that I tried to frame my outlook during leukemia treatment.

You have to pull your gaze back from the uncertain future to keep from  keep getting overwhelmed. Or at least that's what I tried to do. In the hospital I remember saying to a doctor, or maybe it was a nurse, that I was trying to take it one day at a time. I remember the person saying to even take it one breath at a time. I don't know about that, but I do know that if I get carried away with the what-ifs, I try to pull myself back in.

I've also been thinking about my feet, the good and the bad.

They have been serving me well, carrying me around town on longer runs. I heard somewhere that it's good for the brain to vary your route, so I've been changing it up a little. To get a break from the intensity of MSNBC, I've been watching a little bit of The Today Show, which usually has at least a few bright spots. The other day they were talking about even changing up little things, such as using the opposite hand to brush your hair or your teeth.

I don't think my feet can take it running every day. But I'm glad that while playing so much tennis in The Before Times I at least tried to run once a week so I wouldn't lose it in case I wanted to do more. Now, with no tennis, running beckoned. It's not as easy as when I used to go out without even thinking about it. I have to push myself out. But once I get going, I'm glad for it. The most I've gone is six miles, but it's not any less than what I used to do. I am of course slower. Five to six miles is enough for me to get those wonderful endorphins. With a dog walk in the morning and near the end of the day, I've gotten up to seven or almost nine miles on some days.

Can you tell which are the new ones?
The problem with my feet is, 1) I felt a twinge in my heel and realized I better take care to do the things I know I need to do to keep plantar fasciitis at bay. These include stretching, rolling my foot on a bottle or ball, and, something that's hard for me to do, getting my knuckles into my calves to try to get them to be less tight. (I needed the chiropractor for that.) I have some roller things somewhere in the back of a closet, where they are not too useful.

I realized that I hadn't gotten new running shoes in a long time, so I went online and found the same model and brand. Of course the ones on the market were the next model up. You hear people saying to buy two pairs of the same shoe if you like them. I don't have the foresight. I looked around and found what I wanted, Brooks Cascadia 13. They are a trail running shoe but good for me because they are very neutral and work well with my orthotics. The ones widely available on the market are up model (14) but since I couldn't try them on I wanted to stick with what I had. I found them at Skirack, a little store in Burlington, Vt.

 As for problem number two, it's the unpredictability of the neuropathy in my feet. One day last week (I think it was before a storm) it got so painful that I could have cried. It gets to the point of feeling like you are walking, or running, on shards of glass, or that an electric current is going through your feet. I have CBD cream and drops that might help a little. I gave up on the THC and the TCH/CBD combo because I didn't like what even a small amount did to my head. A friend said I could be a weather predictor, because it seems to be related. Then they calm down and it diminishes to a low-grade buzzing feeling. On some days they are numb. I guess that isn't bad for running, because it's an extra layer of cushioning.

I asked the neurologist in Boston about trying a little more gabapentin at night. I don't take a very high dose. He said to go ahead and try adding an extra 300 milligrams at night. I asked him to change the prescription so I wouldn't run out. He changed it without adding a dose. In other words, he took one away in the morning and added it to the evening. He seems to have disappeared. I called his office three times, and Melissa sent him an email, because he was going to give me a referral to somebody I need for an intestinal problem that he said could be related to my neuropathy.

As I wrote in this post about dermatology, it is very hard to find a doctor for a non COVID-19 problem. At least it is not life-threatening, and so I am trying to keep that in perspective.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Despite anxiety, finding a certain kind of rhythm

The other day when I learned of a COVID-19 death that came a little closer to home than others, I felt so sorry for the friend whose friend he was and for the community that lost him, I did what I used to do much more easily than I do now: I went for a longer run. (My former colleague Stephanie Barry wrote a beautiful tribute.)

Without thinking about what the total distance would be, or, more importantly, the hills that I would need to climb, I increased my loop to one that I used to do. While running home, UP the Route 116 hill from Mosier Street, I had mixed and conflicting feelings.

This was good! I had pulled a coping tactic out of my old toolbox.

This could be bad! I was huffing and puffing so much going up the hill that I worried if the exertion could hurt my immune system.

Diane and David leading the seder.
I was surprised that I had run six miles. Combined with the dog walking, it would be over seven for the day.

Something that seemed so simple, like going for a run, is now more complicated. You think you're doing something right but you can't be sure. Everyone is sharing new insights, new concerns. The answers can change in one day.

I worried when a friend had shared a story about being careful to keep a safe distance behind someone else who is running, because if they're infected, their sweat, or spit, could infect you.

Ben, Nell and Megan
But I think the running provides safe social distance because I'm not going where there are a lot of other people. If I see someone, I jump to the side or cross the street.

I hope we all don't end up anti social. On the other hand, maybe we'll be more social than ever, wanting to hug everyone.

A hiker friend asked on FB if you need to wear a mask if nobody is around. Some people said yes, but more said no. In an article, "Everyone Thinks They're Right About Face Masks, in The Atlantic, Ed Yong summarized why the situation is confusing (and also ripe for anyone with OCD).

"As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many people are now overthinking things they never used to think about at all. Can you go outside? What if you’re walking downwind of another person? What if you’re stuck waiting at a crosswalk and someone is there? What if you’re going for a run, and another runner is heading toward you, and the sidewalk is narrow? Suddenly, daily mundanities seem to demand strategy. Much of this confusion stems from the shifting conversation around the pandemic."

He asked an expert a question that I've been wondering about: "Is it irrational to hold your breath when another person walks past you and you don’t have enough space to move away?" She told him it wasn't irrational and she did it herself. “I don’t know if it makes a difference, but in theory it could. It’s like when you walk through a cigarette plume.”

Advice can be contradictory within the same news story. For example, in A User's Guide to Face Masks, in The New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope writes, "The recommendation is to wear a mask at all times in public spaces because we don’t know who has the virus and who doesn’t. It’s also more socially responsible to wear a mask, even if you’re outside." But almost in the next breath, she writes,  "In general, outdoor exercise, with or without a mask, seems to be safe, according to most experts."

Whose mat is it, anyway?
OK, at least for now, here is my plan. No mask while running. Yes mask when walking if there are people around.

Another activity that once seemed simple has now gotten complicated: going to the bakery and buying a loaf of bread (and a cookie.) The Hungry Ghost Bakery, in Northampton, has a good honor system set up. You walk up to a window, check out the chalk board to see what they have, place your order, drive off, and return to pay on via their website. I thought it was a fun little adventure. And the eight-grain bread was delish.

 Then a child of mine said it wasn't a good idea for me to do that. Some people are all in with takeout food while others are not. A story on NPR on whether it's safe to eat takeout  lays out a convincing case for why it IS safe; several infectious disease experts whom NPR spoke to concurred that research hasn't turned up any evidence of COVID-19 spreading through food.

Of course it is lucky to have such concerns when there are people who don't even have enough to eat.
And I am lucky to live in a beautiful, uncrowded part of the country.

And I have adapted to Zoom.

Zoom yoga, Zoom exercise classes, Zoom happy hour, and Zoom seder.
It was nice to see so many friends and relatives at the virtual seder, even if only on a screen.

Maddie seems to like to come over for at least part of my living room yoga. Sometimes she lies down and hogs (or rather dogs) the mat. I either accommodate or nudge her. It is interesting to look into other peoples' homes and to see their pets pop into the picture at random times. Kind of lightens things up. Which is welcome right now.