A Big Long Story About an Incredibly Evil Splinter

Two weeks ago I did something ill-advised, something I knew better than to do. Two weeks ago, I got tired of seeing one of my gigantic yarrow plants (5+ feet tall) crowding out one of my blue mist spirea plants (maybe 2 feet tall). So I grabbed my cutter and went out to trim back the yarrow. Dumb, dumb, dumb! Yarrow plants have the toughest, woodiest stems of any plant in my yard, and I know better than to touch it without gloves.

Sure enough, I managed to impale the middle knuckle of my right hand on old growth from last year. Instant agony. Stream of profanity. Regret, pain, and nearly instantaneous swelling.

I dug out a splinter and waited for the injury to resolve itself. Instead, it swelled more, became more painful (possibly due to me knocking it into everything), and turned into a fleshy mood-ring that alternated between pink and angry red and blue and purple and, oh-my-goddess-now-it’s-starting-to-look-black.

Imagine this is my knuckle, minus the lovely silver setting.

Imagine this is my knuckle, minus the lovely silver setting.

I hung in there until this past Saturday when pus showed up, and I finally went to the doctor. With the use of groovy magnifying goggles and the finest pair of tweezers I’ve seen, she removed a splinter and gave me a prescription for antibiotics. Five days later, the mood ring was as angry as ever and the knuckle was so sore I nearly wept whenever anything touched it.

So yesterday after swallowing the last antibiotic pill, I returned to the doctor’s office where she donned the goggles again and poked at me with the sharp tweezers I wasn’t liking nearly as much, until she found a small splinter. Hooray. Not. I was sure I was in for weeks of tiny splinter removal as the cursed yarrow worked its multiple evils out of my flesh. Then she started digging some more as I gritted my teeth and curled my toes. A long moment later, she said, “Here’s one.” Another tiny piece stuck up from my knuckle. Hooray? And then she grasped it with the tweezers, and it was like a magician pulling a scarf from a sleeve.

One half-inch long.Tracy's splinterI realize the gargantuan image is overkill, but I cannot stress enough how freakin’ huge that thing seemed when she pulled it out. We both made loud exclamations of the “Holy crap, Batman!” variety.

Last night for the first time in weeks my poor old knuckle wasn’t stiff and sore, and today I can make a fist without any pain. I can start lifting weights again! I can punch someone in the snoot without feeling (much) pain! I’ve got my life back!

Life is grand and I wish everyone a wonderful, splinter-free weekend!

Hoop Dreams

I used to hoop a lot and then I guess I lost enthusiasm because I never found my flow which made me feel clompy and uncoordinated and less-than-awesome in comparison with the many other people who seem to float as they hoop. BUT, today I’m feeling the urge to do more than spin the hoop around my waist while watching college basketball or whatever other television program I’d rather not view while sitting on my butt, and I want to learn to float and dance and do lots of graceful, cool tricks. I want to be the hooper of my imagination.

You heard it here first, people: I am going to cast off those clompy-Frankenstein-feelings and try to reclaim my joy in the spin. I am going to resume my pursuit of FLOW!

Not me, not even close, but a lovely hooper from Morguefile,com who will inspire me to get back in the spin

(Not me, not even close). This is a lovely hooper from Morguefile.com who I hope will keep me inspired to get back in the spin.

My Secret to Mental Health


As mentioned (ahem) a time or two before,
I don't do well with the short, dark days of winter
and try all sorts of things to keep myself from
collapsing into a weeping sack of Tracy.

My current favorite weapon for deflecting the winter blues
is to do a 20-minute cardio workout on the treadmill
(walk, jog, stride, sprint, repeat x 4).
I know, I know…big deal, right?

I don't do the workout just any old time: I do the workout
so it coincides with the sun disappearing behind the foothills.

Because even though the sun is leaving me for the day,
I don't really mind because at that very moment my system is flooded with endorphins.

                                                                                   image from morguefile.com

Take that, Winter!


The Holiday Gut


As a result of the increased caloric intake due to Thanksgiving and my birthday,
I've felt a bit like this:

                                                                                          © Tracy Abell 2008

No, I haven't turned green and bulgy-eyed.
I'm referring to the sensation of a bloated belly dragging on the ground.

Time to get those stick-legs moving!


Chain of Fools


This was me in February 2009 as I embarked on Flexibility Quest:

This was me in January 2010 eleven months into Flexibility Quest:

This is me after neglecting regular yoga practice for the past eight months or so: 

                                                                                image from morguefile.com

Don't be a fool:
If you're doing something that makes you feel good 
and is good for you, keep it up.
I'm here to tell you that rusty joints ain't no fun.


Dude Looks Like He’s Crazy


Good thing I don’t want to look like this guy:

                                                                                       image from morguefiles.com

Because I just finished hammer curling 12 pounds with each arm,
and according to my not-always-stellar math calculations,
this dude’s curling 65 pounds. Each. Arm.



Update on Overall Wellbeing


I want to check in here since I haven’t been around much lately,
but don’t want to completely fall out of the habit of blogging
while I’m hunkered down in the revision cave.

So here’s where I’m at in my collective health:

Emotionally speaking, I’m feeling good about the positive changes I’m
making via my revisions and choices for my career.  I feel in control
of those factors I can control.

Physically speaking, I’m doing very well.  Last Friday I graduated from
PT after seven weeks of no running.  I can now run again on a limited basis
as I work back to where I was before.  I’m also able to hoop again!!
My daily plank routine is going well, and I just finished a three-minute plank. 
(I’m telling you, if you haven’t tried them, they’re a great way to firm up your core;
you see results very quickly). 

Parentally speaking, in this exact moment I’m doing a better job of remembering
I already navigated my high school years and that it’s up to my boys to do the same.
(But, oh, it would be so nice to have a magic wand to keep away the hurt and angst).

Friendly speaking, I miss everyone here.  And while I have glimmers of guilt for not
keeping up, I know you all understand.  You get why it’s important to keep my head
down and push on through.  But please know I’m thinking of you and sending good
thoughts your way.

Monday, Monday


Just got back from my PT appointment
at which I received strict instructions to not run for a week.
It’s now official: I will not be running the BolderBoulder on Memorial Day.

                                                                                                                     © 2010 Zippy

(Lebowski wasn’t planning on running this year so I have no idea why he looks so grumpy).

My left leg is longer than my right. Hooray!


Ever since the summer of 2008 I’ve suffered off-and-on tightness and pain
in my left ITband/hip/buttock.
It came on after training for the Bolder Boulder, and after research,
I decided it was due to training so many miles in the streets
where I’d run facing traffic which meant my left side was always leaning into the gutter.

At Zippy’s suggestion, last week I finally called my running shoe store
to ask for a Physical Therapist recommendation.
Well, I just got home from my appointment with
Stuart Wilson at Chamption Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy,
and guess what I found out?

It’s not an ITband issue.
My pain wasn’t triggered by running in the gutter.

My left leg is longer than my right leg,
and the way my body compensates is for my left foot to pronate 8 mm.
Healthy pronation is 2-3 mm.
Again, mine is 8 mm.
No wonder I was in pain!

He taped my left arch to hold it in place and then had me get back on the treadmill.
But then I felt pain in my knees.
So then he removed the tape and put a lift in my right shoe.
Much better!

My homework is to wear the lift all the time,
walk as much as I’d like,
on Thursday go for 2-3 mile run, and, if it feels okay,
to run 2-3 miles on Sunday.
I go back for my follow-up appointment next Monday.

I’m thrilled.
I already feel different/better, and am hoping, hoping, hoping
this means I’ll be back on the trails again.
I might even try to run the Bolder Boulder which is (eek!) three weeks from today.

Hooray!  My left leg is longer than my right!

Fun at the dentist office! Really!


Who says it’s no fun going to the dentist?
I just spent an hour there and had a grand time.

Did I mention I was only in the waiting room?
Zebu had an appointment to get his braces-clad teeth cleaned,
so I hung out in the front office.

Did my figure eights,
inserted my ear plugs,
and drafted another couple pages of my final chapter.

Let’s hear it for the dentist office!

Merry Planksters – Update


Two weeks ago I posted about how I wanted to strengthen my core.
I’ve been doing planks most every day since then and I want to tell you,

I’ve done them off and on (mostly off) over the past couple years
but am here to say, a little consistency goes a long way.
I can already feel a difference in my strength (I mostly don’t shake and quiver anymore).

So I’m here to encourage you to do you and your core a favor, and start doing planks each day.
You’ll tighten your midsection, tone your abs, improve your posture, reduce risk of injury
(planks can even slice, dice, and make julienne fries!)

Seriously, invest five minutes a day and become a Merry Plankster!

Rebuilding My Core: One Plank At a Time


I’m mostly putting this out there in order to hold myself accountable,
so feel free to skim on by.

I really want to strengthen my core muscles.
Hooping is great for that but I haven’t felt up to hooping for the past six weeks,
so need something I can do on a daily basis that doesn’t require lots of time.

Enter the mighty PLANK. . .

Front plank:  today I held this pose for 60 seconds.

Side plank:  today I held this pose (right and left sides) for 45 seconds each.

Oh, yeah.  I also did tricep dips.  Today I did 15 dips.

I’ve gotta start somewhere, right?  Right!

If anyone wants to join me in this, maybe we can cheer each other on to greater core strength.
(I absolutely promise not to challenge you to a plank-off, which Zebu discovered is quite popular in PT circles).

Bid on a Manuscript Critique

Tara Grogan-Stivers, otherwise known as  , is a breast cancer survivor.
You can read her story here.

Tara is raising money for the Susan G. Komen 3-day Breast Cancer Walk in Seattle.

Mandy Hubbard, otherwise known as  , is helping Tara’s efforts 
by auctioning off a full manuscript critique.

Full details on Mandy Hubbard’s fabulous critique offer.

Please check it out.
If you’re not interested in a critique, you may donate via Tara’s Fundraising Page.
Also, feel free to share this info and help spread the word.

Go, Tara!

Gaining Flexibility


Last February I proclaimed to the world (um, my little Live Journal circle of friends)
that I wanted to focus on flexibility in 2009.
I hoped to touch my head to my knees by the end of the year.

I’m not quite there.
But as you can see by these photos, I’m definitely making progress:

  February 2009                                                  January 2010

Most every morning I start my day with my litte Kundalini Yoga workout dvd.
I love it and not only because it’s helped me become more flexible.
I love it because during the hardest-for-me pose, the "narrator" says PREVAIL!


Heartfelt Thanks!


Just a quick update on my mother-in-law’s surgery:
Everything went very well.

In fact, the surgeon discovered there wasn’t a problem
with her valve and so didn’t have to touch it.
(Apparently earlier imaging had revealed it only had
two flaps rather than the necessary three, but they
discovered today it does, in fact, have three!)

Thank you again SO MUCH for all your good thoughts and healing wishes.
I felt them, Zippy felt them, and I know those thoughts supported my mother-in-law.

Here’s a hug for all of you from all of us…………….

Heart to Heart


I haven’t been a good LJ friend lately.
Haven’t read and commented much.
It’s been a rough year.

Despite my absence, I’m going to ask a favor.
Zippy’s mother is going in for heart surgery tomorrow morning.
She has two genetic heart conditions that need repair.

I didn’t write about this before but when Zippy got his heart stents,
they discovered he has an enlarged aorta.
The good news is they measured it again recently and it hadn’t grown.
So he doesn’t need surgery.

But as a result of his situation, his whole family got checked
and we found out his mother’s aorta is also enlarged.
Hers needs to be repaired now.
Plus the leaky valve they discovered.

All this time we’ve been worried about Zippy needing that surgery
and then we find out his mother is having it, instead.

We’re pretty scared.
And scared people don’t tend to project the most comforting thoughts.
So I’m asking if you could please send good thoughts to his mother.
She goes in first thing tomorrow morning.

Thank you so much.

PSA: Pine Nuts


Sunday night Zippy made the best cilantro pesto
It was to die for.

Today we’re regretting it.

It seems some people react to over-consumption of pine nuts
by experiencing a metallic taste in their mouths.
People like us.
Two to three days after the fact.

So for instance, this morning’s smoothie tasted metallic.
Even my coffee didn’t totally mask the taste.

And in case you’re thinking a constant metallic taste 
would aid in weight loss (because who eats when everything
you stick in your mouth tastes like a handful of old pennies?),
I’m here to tell you the post-pine nuts sensation isn’t a consistent sensation.

Some things taste better than others.
For example, I just got done "experimenting" with
a slice of cold pizza
a handful of tamari-roasted almonds
a bowl of cereal
and a banana.

Nothing tasted all bad all the time.
There were glimmers of good.
Not really good, but okay good.
Except I kept hoping for something that was 100 percent good from start to finish.
Which means I ate more than necessary.

So be warned: if you want to make that delicious cilantro pesto, go easy on the pine nuts.
And if you decide to live dangerously, let me know if there’s anything that tastes 100 percent good.
Especially since this phenomenon apparently lasts eight to ten days.


Health Insight

Thank you again for all the good wishes regarding Zippy’s heart.  Yesterday he went to work and felt fine, even as he took a nearly two-mile walk on the mall.  He walked slowly and with a friend, and enjoyed being out in the fresh air.

Since many, many people are suffering in this poor economy and job market, I wanted to share something that might help someone:

We thought Zippy’s feelings of low-energy and breathlessness (and eventual tightening in chest) were a result of stress since the company he works for filed for bankruptcy in November and his job terminates at the end of March. 

But Zippy now realizes there was a major difference between how stress affected his body and how the blocked artery affected him.   

In the past, whenever he was under stress exercise always made him feel better.
When his artery was blocked, exercise did NOT make him feel better (physically or emotionally).

(My siblings found this info helpful since they’ve been walking around clutching their chests, wondering if they’re also on the verge of heart attacks.  My family has a history of heart disease, as does Zippy’s.  And yes, I realize Zippy and I had no business having kids since we’re both practically blind and have family trees filled with clogged arteries.  But that genetic ship has sailed).


Public Service Announcement: Stretch!

Had to take Zebu to the orthopedist yesterday.
He suffered another basketball-induced injury Sunday.
He was on crutches all week.

This is what we found out:

The hamstring (behind your thigh) is responsible for bending the knee.
The quad (on top of your thigh) is responsible for straightening the knee.
If the hamstring is tight, the knee wants to stay in bent position and
the quad has to fight it.
If the quad is putting all effort into fighting the hamstring, the quad is
not doing its work to stabilize the knee.
If the knee is not stabilized, there is much greater risk of injury.

Boys who play sports are particularly susceptible to injury because:
1) their hormones (testosterone) are more constrictive than estrogen (which is
why girls typically have greater flexibility)
2) they are still growing and since bone grows much faster than muscle,
the muscles can’t keep up and are tight
3) they are building muscle as they play their sports, and muscle
is tissue that contracts

Moral of this story?  STRETCH YOUR HAMSTRINGS!

Personal Yet Universal

In August of 2004, my health crashed.  Diagnosis was first Lyme disease then chronic fatigue.  I went from an incredibly strong person who ran, lifted weights, hiked, swam, etc. to a woman with no energy who spent the day in pajamas, napping three or four times each day.  Friends drove my children to and from school.  My husband did EVERYTHING around the house.  I had difficulty concentrating, could not multi-task, and overall was mentally fatigued.    

I eventually regained some strength but experienced a near-constant buzzing/humming sensation throughout my body, and pain in my hands and legs.  I still could not think clearly and was easily overwhelmed.  I became depressed.


In the summer of 2006, I happened upon an article about post traumatic stress disorder and chronic fatigue.   The article mentioned a book called WAKING THE TIGER by Peter Levine.  I read the book and realized I was suffering post traumatic stress!  But how could that be?  I hadn’t been assaulted, hadn’t experienced a natural disaster or lived in a war zone.  Well, I learned trauma can accumulate in our systems.  The time I’d been rear-ended, the various dental procedures, the C-section, all those experiences left residual energy in my system (I think of it as by-products of the adrenaline my body put out during those fight/flight moments), and my body reached the tipping point.  Hence, the buzzing/humming sensation.

In October I began weekly somatic experiencing therapy in which I learned to discharge that unwanted energy from my system.  It’s an amazing process and I’m thrilled to say I’ve regained much of my strength and vitality.  I’m not 100 percent yet but I’m running again, I can multi-task, and I’m not so easily overwhelmed.  Also, the process helped me understand the ways I disassociated in order to survive.

So why am I writing about this now?  Yesterday’s news out of Virginia Tech brought back many of those old “symptoms.”  My legs buzzed, my hands ached, I couldn’t think clearly, and I cried.  And cried.

And then I thought about these two news briefs from yesterday:

BLACKSBURG – A gunman massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech … The bloodbath ended with the gunman committing suicide, bringing the death toll to 33.

BAGHDAD – In the northern city of Mosul, a university dean, a professor, a policeman’s son and 13 soldiers died in attacks … Nationwide, at least 51 people were killed or found dead.

And I cried even more.

Because I realized I’m still living the post traumatic stress profile in regards to Iraq.  Even though every morning I maintain this sign, I’ve disassociated from that tragedy.  The civilian death toll is so high I can’t even visualize those numbers (I realize the “official” number is much lower than the actual death toll).  I can’t imagine what it’s like waking each morning with the knowledge there’s a very high probability someone you know will lose someone they know that day. 

The Virginia Tech tragedy plays out each and every day in Iraq.  Not the same circumstances but the same cycle of horrific violence and heartbroken families.  Yet I don’t cry about Iraq on a daily basis.  I won’t allow my mind to dwell on the terrifying reality of night raids, rapes, executions, explosions, starvation, and disease.  I’ve forced those thoughts from my mind in order to survive.   

And that scares me.  Because when we become numb to the lives of other beings (human and otherwise) on this planet, atrocities occur and our collective health is damaged.

I don’t want to “disassociate” the fact that we all love our children.  That we all want a safe, happy, and healthy future for those children.  And that every parent grieves the same way.

Today I grieve for everyone on the planet.