Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Being selfless is for the birds

Is it wrong to plan a trip out of town - alone - for Mother's Day? How about when you're a mother? I am seriously thinking of doing this next year. A little overnight stay somewhere. I'll pack a bottle of wine and a good book to read. Maybe I'll get crazy and book a massage for myself.

Mother's Day is tough for me every year. I don't know why I get so upset, but I have a minor breakdown every May when this particular holiday rolls around. Maybe it's the price I pay for being an adoptive mom, feeling like I never quite measure up on the momscale. My poor husband seems to know he's going to botch it and probably wishes I would go away for the weekend. This year, our daughter went camping Saturday night. She returned home Sunday afternoon. I am 99.9% sure that she'd had no inkling it was Mother's Day until she heard someone mention it. Later, while I was walking one of the dogs, she signed a card that her dad thrust in front of her and left it for me on the kitchen counter. She spent the rest of the day in her bedroom. I spent the rest of the day washing the smells-like-campfire clothes she brought back from her camping trip. I have to confess that I miss the goofy Mother's Day art projects that she made for me when she was little. I wouldn't mind having a paper plate with some rigatoni glued on it in the shape of the letters M O M.

My husband did get me some gifts. They came from the Pick-n-Save across the street: wine, flowers, and an iTunes gift card. Also, he bought me a Kermit. While I was at a meeting a couple of weeks ago, a stuffed Kermit (the kind with bendy arms and legs) fell off of a shelf in the office/guest room. The dogs chewed it up. On his watch. So, he ordered a replacement for that on eBay.

The gifts were nice. I have no complaints. What I really wanted, though, was for the day to feel different from all the other days. My days, it seems, are an endless cycle of work-cleaning-cooking-laundry. Wash, rinse, repeat. But mothers are supposed to be selfless, right? I'm not supposed to wish for something different.

A lighting fixture in our bedroom is not working properly. It's an electrical issue and God knows we can't hire an electrician. I decided to buy a floor lamp for my side of the bed so that I can, you know, see. I picked it up at Home Depot on my way home from church on Sunday. I dragged the box into the bedroom and proceeded to put the lamp together. You can probably picture what it looks like - a light fixture atop a heavy metal pole.  Pretty standard stuff. As I was looking down at the instruction sheet, the dogs ran through the room and somehow stepped on the cord, causing the pole to crash into my skull.  It hurt like I don't know what.  My husband heard me yelp and came to pull the dogs out of the room so that I could continue. It seemed like a good time for a husband-type person to say, "Hey, I'll finish putting it together. Besides, it's Mother's Day - you should be relaxing!" Honestly, that's all I really wanted . . . just to hear things like, "What can I do to help you?" or "What would you like to do today?" I wanted some sort of acknowledgement of the fact that the people in my home have clean clothes in their closets and two clean toilets in which to poop.

My expectations, I know, are too high. I know the issue lies with me and not with them. I also know that I need to say off Facebook on Mother's Day. I see all of these other moms being treated to breakfast in bed and having all of their favorite things delivered to them - from Starbucks to jewelry. And then I think, "I didn't get any special treatment - it must be a side effect of me being a terrible mother." And so on it goes. I end up feeling depressed and annoyed.  I really need to do something different next year. Maybe I will.

Monday, May 8, 2017

What do you mean, you don't want to hear about my feet?

When my plantar fasciitis was at its worst about two years ago, I did a lot of googling in attempt to figure out how I should proceed. I watched countless videos, perused medical websites, and joined a Facebook group started by fellow sufferers. I visited my podiatrist again and again. I was desperate for help.

So, just in case some other middle-aged chick is googling the same stuff I googled and happens upon my blog, I thought I should provide a bit of information about what worked for me. I am now pain-free.

First off, let me say that plantar fasciitis is no joke. Unless you live in the 17th century and are a member of some royal family who gets carried around and doesn't have to walk . . . you probably have to walk. PF makes every step a nightmare. When my pain first started, I thought maybe I had just overdone it at the gym.  I was hitting the elliptical a lot at that point. You know how it goes.  You get into your mid-40s and when something starts to hurt, the initial thought is, "Oh, I guess this will just always hurt now." You don't know what is fixable and what isn't.

I spoke with a yoga teacher at my gym and described my pain to her.  The pain was primarily in the arch of my foot, close to the heel. She confirmed that it was probably plantar fasciitis. This theory was later confirmed by my podiatrist. In addition, my body reacted to the strained fascia by laying down some extra bone on my heel, AKA "bone spurs." It looks super sexy on an x-ray, let me tell you.

So began an odyssey lasting over a year. As PF sufferers will tell you, the worst time of day is first thing in the morning. At night, we all naturally sleep with our feet somewhat extended (like a ballerina). This shortens the fascia alongside the bottom of the foot. This is why that first step is so brutal - the connective tissue on the sole is pulled taut as soon as the foot hits the floor, and that's very owie. For most people, the pain subsides somewhat after walking around for a bit.

I proceeded to try a bunch of stuff that I read about on the interwebs.

Here are the things that ultimately did not work:

1. Rolling my feet on a frozen water bottle. I did this for months. All I got was cold feet.
2. Wearing a special boot at night . The idea of the boot is that it holds the foot in a flexed position, thereby denying the fascia a chance to bunch up. My right foot was always worse so I just bought one boot (it wasn't cheap) and tried that foot. I slept with the boot on for a few nights. Mostly what I accomplished was to kick myself in the left leg with my right leg and wake up thinking, "WTF?!" every few minutes.
3. Getting cortisone injections. I did this twice, on my right foot both times. It did help to numb the pain for a day or two, but the injection itself hurts like a sumbitch and, in my opinion, isn't worth it.
4. Wearing crocs. My podiatrist recommended that I get some Crocs slides and wear them around he house. I did that for months. It didn't help. Crocs don't offer proper arch support and don't hold the leg and foot in proper alignment. And my God were they ugly.
5. Inserts in my existing shoes. My podiatrist recommended some standard orthotics inserts.  They did help somewhat, but not fully.
6. Arch support bands.  You can find these at most drug stores. They did feel kinda good (it's basically a band that wraps around your foot and provides some cushion to the sole), but I don't have any evidence suggesting that they fixed anything.
7. Standing on a step and letting my heels hang over the edge, thereby stretching my feet.

I should add that I did not invest in custom-made orthotics. I know a lot of people do go that route with some success.  Some people also have surgery to correct PF, but the idea of operating on my feet seemed unappealing at best.

What did work:

1. Investing in shoes with built-in orthotics.  I know that there are several brands that offer built-in orthotics. I invested in several pairs of Vionic shoes. Fortunately for me, they do offer several styles that are not leather. I learned that there are two main features that PF sufferers need to care about when it comes to shoes: arch support and heel cup. I bought some flip-flips, worky-type shoes that I can wear to the office, and some tennis shoes.  (Asics also makes some styles that are good for PF).
2. Babying my feet. I am almost never barefoot. At this point, it actually feels weird when I am barefoot. When I am at home, I am either wearing my Vionic flip-flops or my Vionic slippers. I had a setback last summer after I walked barefoot on the beach while visiting my dad in Ocean City. It seemed like a good idea at the time . . .
3. Losing some weight. I guess this one is just common sense but if your feet hurt, it's probably better to have slight less weight smashing them into the ground (if possible).  However, I will also say that I have talked to other people at my gym who are struggling with PF and they were not even a little bit overweight. 

After six months or so without pain, I have now been able to ease back into some "normal" (AKA "cuter") shoes. However, I still make sure that the insole is cushioned (the bone spurs are still there, of course) and that I switch into my flip-flops or slippers when I get home.

The other tactic I use is to roll my feet on a golf ball almost every day. I keep a golf ball in my bathroom and roll my feet while I am getting ready for work. I really try to work the ball into any tender spots so that I can keep an eye on the situation in case it starts to get sucky again.

After wearing the Vionic shoes consistently for many months, I started to notice that I did not have any pain. Now, I will say that it can take a few wearings to get used to these shoes. In fact, the company suggests wearing them only for short periods of time in the beginning. The arch is very exaggerated and feels weird at first. In my case it was worth it to work through the initial weirdness of how they feel.

I think my main annoyance with this whole saga is that my podiatrist did not recommend Vionic shoes (or even some similar brand). PF is very common with middle-aged women so I think it was just like, "Oh, here's another one" and then they handed me a pre-printed list of the orthotic inserts.

I wish I could go back in time and stop myself from wearing cheap flip-flops or flats with no arch support. A lifetime of failing to care for my feet left me limping and in severe pain. I'm a lot more careful now. I even give myself foot massages while I'm watching TV (my family doesn't offer to do it, if you can believe that). I yelled at my dog Grover for stepping on my foot when he came bounding in from the back yard this morning. Doesn't that jerk know what I've been through?

Expensive but effective flippity-flops

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

12 (subtitle: just 365 days to go until I have a teenager in my house)

My baby, my goober, my curly girlie . . . is 12 today.  :::sniffle snifle:::

In the photo below, she is wearing a necklace that was given to her by a BOY! (I know, right?!)

In addition to hosting a birthday party for her and her friends (at an indoor trampoline park), her dad and I got her a ukulele, some new earbuds that she can step on, break, and then hide under her bed, some new sandals, and a birthday shirt. (And by "her dad and I," I mean that I bought her some stuff and then told him what I bought). Gifts have been trickling in from other family members, too.

It's been fun (and a little bit heartrending) to watch my baby girl growing into a young woman. In just six short years she'll be headed off to college. Ack! She both exasperates me and fills me with joy - pretty much on the daily. We are a typical mother-daughter pair, I suppose. We laugh at jokes together and then two minutes later I am yelling at her because she left food in her room (and is rolling her eyes in response). All par for the course, I suppose.  The other day she told me she was buying pizza for lunch at school.  I looked at the online lunch account and learned that she bought ice cream.  Two of them, in fact.  And no pizza. Why do kids bother to lie? They are SO bad at it!

Despite all the hijinks and questionable decision-making, I am so proud of my kiddo.  She has the typical amount of middle school angst, but she has such a good heart. She's the best hugger in the hemisphere. I love watching her musical talent develop, too.  She is taking lessons for the guitar and is learning the keyboard and ukulele on her own. She sings in two choirs and grabs a solo any chance she gets.

Happy 12th birthday to my sassy, doesn't-get-up-on-time, homework assignment-losing, shower singing, beautiful baby girl. I love you with everything I am.