Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Looney Tunes Challenge

My second week back at work has come to an end. It is hard to describe exactly how I feel, but I'll try. Think of one of those old Coyote and Road Runner cartoons. Picture the Coyote shooting off an ACME rocket that makes a big circle and ends up coming up behind him. Imagine said rocket hitting him squarely in the keester with a loud KA-POW and then him skidding on his backside across the desert floor. The sound effect might be a Whee-ee-ee-ee.

In many ways, I knew how this back-to-work period was going to play out. The train had already been moving for a month without me. I had to try to catch up, grab onto the train, and keep going without missing a beat. My teaching partner and the substitute did their best (which was very good) to have everything in place and moving the right direction. I had done a ton of work at home so that I was as prepared as I could be.

To be sure, the first week back was incredibly tiring. Besides working full time, I had various after-school commitments that kept me out and about until 9:00 almost every evening. The second week was better. I wasn't quite as tired, and I didn't have things going on every evening. I find that people (myself included) tend to think that since I am back at work, I must be back to my pre-injury self. After all, when someone comes back to work after having the flu, they feel pretty much back to normal, right?

Unfortunately, I haven't "just" been back to work, and haven't "just" been recovering from leg surgery. For the past month, I have also been battling an infection (TWICE) that required antibiotics, immediately followed by a spell of back spasms, followed by a tremendous head cold that hit me this past Friday. Seemingly, this trifecta of challenges has left me skidding on my fanny across the desert floor.

I have not been able to exercise the way I should. Exhaustion and feeling unwell have left me making poorer food choices. I have not been logging my food and water. I have fallen away from many of the things that made my summer productive and successful.

Yet, in some respects, I am still clinging to the path. As of this morning, my weight is only up about 2 pounds from my lowest point. My husband came to therapy with me on Thursday, and he was amazed at what I am able to do in the gym now. He kept asking me if I realized how much better I am doing on the bike and weight machines. He's right, I am able to do more. I am stronger than I was before my fall, in spite of having a rough couple of months.

I think this is a critical time in the lifestyle journey. I have had physical impediments for three full months now. The first burst of adrenalin and initial weight loss has past. The time when motivation begins to wain has hit. It would be easy fall into an old habit of telling myself, "It's no use, you might as well just give up."

It seems that the intellect (Super Genius) must step in and override the emotion when the journey road takes an uphill turn. I must make a DECISION to keep going, Ever Forward, even when I feel like quitting. I must take inventory of the challenges that the past two weeks have presented, congratulate myself for coming through it, and then turn myself around again. Just like Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius, I must pick myself up, dust myself off, and start planning my next week of attack. Don't just sit there, please pass my ACME catalog...

Friday, October 7, 2011

D- for the Teacher

Well, it is only Friday, but the score on my Test for the Teacher is clear. This has been quite the week! It was the first week back at work, but so much more.

I am very grateful to my teaching partner and the substitute who was filling in for me during the first month of school. They did a really great job throughout a very, very busy time. My partner has been exceedingly gracious all week in picking up and delivering my students every 25 minutes, in an effort to save my leg all the walking on the concrete floor. The staff and students were glad to have me back, and I was greeted daily with hugs and well wishes. It was the first true week with students for my partner, too. Somehow, we both forgot the breakneck pace we must keep during our day. Several times during the week, we looked at each other and just let out a big sigh and laughed! Of course, when someone else is "cooking in your kitchen", things are bound to be out-of-place; and it takes time to get things rearranged to suit your needs. By the end of every day, my partner and I were both exhausted!

I went home at lunch time every day and put my leg up. It seemed to help a little, but it was quite sore by the afternoon. By Thursday, it was sore even when I was getting up in the morning.

Besides being back to work full-time, I also had places to be after school every day. On Monday, I went for a therapy session. By the end of the hour-long workout, the therapist informed me I was to go home and ice and rest. She said I could not swim and I could not go to the grocery store. I was told not to cook dinner. Since there was nobody else at home to help me until after 10 p.m., I went through a drive thru, to get something to eat. NOT on my food plan, and NOT good.

On Tuesday, my mother called and said I needed to come to their house to go through some stuff she was cleaning out. Saying no really isn't an option when I get a call like this. So, off I went, loaded the car with "stuff" she wanted me to have and then went to the grocery store. I drove the half-hour home with quite a bit of pain. I got home at 9 p.m, and threw a pre-packaged something into the microwave to eat for dinner. NOT on my food plan, and NOT good, and NO exercise.

On Wednesday, it was my husband's birthday. I informed him that I had a staff meeting after school, then a check-up at the surgeon's office, then I wanted to go for a swim, and then have dinner with him for his birthday. As it turned out, he got off work about the time I was headed to the surgeon's office. AND, he set up meeting his parents at a restaurant 15 minutes after my doctor's appointment. Not really much time to swim when I had to be at a restaurant that is a 15 minute drive away. Although I made a healthier food choice off the menu, NO exercise. I drove myself home at 9 p.m. The leg was extremely sore and stiff.

Yesterday, as I have already mentioned, my leg was sore when I got up. It felt progressively worse throughout the day. At 2:00, we had a fire drill. The day before, the surgeon had cautioned me; no uneven ground, no twisting, no turning. For the fire drill, I had to lead my students through several inches of gravel bed for the playground (read that uneven ground) at a rapid pace. Fire drills tend to make young children squirrely (read that twisting and turning.) By the time we got back inside, the leg was throbbing. Instead of driving to the gym/pool, I went home after school and elevated the leg for two hours. Then I ventured out to teach a little crochet class that I had promised to my knitting group. I got home at 9 p.m. I ate a warmed up hamburger for "dinner." NO exercise.

In previous blog posts, I have related that a couple of weeks ago I was fighting one of those infections that women tend to get. I finished a 7 day course of antibiotics. I felt that the infection wasn't completely gone, and went back to the doctor's office for a recheck. Although there were a few bacteria that showed up, the doctor felt they were dead bacteria, and that the antibiotic had done its job. Those who are teachers will know that in the normal teaching day, people in this profession have very little opportunity to sneak away for things such as refilling one's water bottle, and using the facilities. These are the types of things that one fighting such an infection should make efforts to accomplish.

I was awakened at 3 a,m, today by said infection reappearing; bigger, badder, and most definitely angry that I had tried to snuff it out with antibiotics. The scenario that I had presented to the doctor about NOT wanting to miss any more work after missing the first MONTH of school has happened. I have a fever, I have chills, and it will be very clear that there is a problem when I go in to produce another "sample." I am NOT happy with my doctor, although I understand his reluctance to prescribe more antibiotics when it had appeared that the other course did the trick. It does NOT seem likely that I will be up to going to the pool or the gym today with a fever and chills, and well, the inability to venture too far from certain modern conveniences.

It is now 6:15 a.m. Since 3:30 a,m,, I have written lesson plans for the substitute, I have called my principal, I have text messaged my teaching partner, I have chugged a glass of cranberry juice, I have made 6 trips to the facilities, and I have vented in this blog post.

The whirlpool of everyday life has sucked me in and spit me out--the worse for wear. I'm not sure how I could have changed things this week to make it better. My commitment to this lifestyle change remains strong, but my worry over how to achieve balance has been sorely tested this week. I am frustrated, but reassuring myself that next week will be better. I am trying to remain positive and remind myself that the lifelong journey, not just a single week, is the true test.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Test for the Teacher

Well folks, it's been three weeks since my last blog post. There is a reason for my silence. I have been gradually re-entering my usual, every-day, normal life. I've got to be honest here, I've been worried about how I would handle this time since I had my accident. Now that the weekend before I go back to work full-time is here, I am still feeling unsure and worried about how this is all going to go.

In the past two weeks, I have worked three full time days. Two of the days were all-day meetings. I had worked at home for five full days to prepare for these meetings. They were mentally challenging, but I thought I would be physically fine, since I was sitting all day. Surprisingly, I was both mentally and physically exhausted afterwards. I felt that it was difficult to drive the two miles home. The third day at work, I had a morning meeting, and then worked in my classroom in the afternoon. The afternoon was more typical of a regular day. I sat and worked at my desk and at my teaching table, but also got up every few minutes and walked to various places in the room and the school. By 2:00, I was having throbbing pain in my leg and feeling fatigued. I stayed until 4:00, and was really tired by the time I went home. I put my leg up at home, but it continued to throb well into the night.

Frustratingly, during the past week and a half, I also contracted an infection. The infection was not in my leg. I had fever, chills, cramping, general malaise; and required a week's worth of antibiotic. My body does not love medications, and antibiotics usually make me feel as poorly as the infection. I did not exercise beyond my twice-a-week therapy sessions during the infection. I just didn't feel up to it.

On the positive side, my therapy continues to go very well. My leg is able to bend to its full capacity again. I am pain-free in the knee when I get up in the morning. Now that my knee is feeling better, I was noticing that the ankle on the bad leg was bothering me. The therapist informed me that I sprained the ankle during the fall, and it was inflamed. She has given me two treatments on the ankle, and it is feeling like it is calming down. I am using all the leg machines at the gym now, and increasing the weight I am moving. I have been riding the bike for three miles with resistance now.

Twice this week, in an effort to regain my strength and to prepare for returning to work, I went shopping. I needed to get my wristwatch fixed, and then discovered I needed a new watch. Shopping for a watch was an eight store trip until I found one I liked that fit my wrist.

I feel really good when I am sitting at home with the leg up, and I wanted to see how I would fare when walking on a concrete floor. The answer is, I can only walk on concrete for a short time before the leg starts to hurt. I am still somewhat weak, and have to sit down and rest frequently. This worries me, as it is similar to what I will be experiencing when I am back at work.

Throughout these days, I have fallen off my streak of tracking my food. I have been conscientious in making my food choices, but I have not been tracking. My weight loss has flat-lined since my surgery, just hovering in the same place. I have not been drinking the water I know I need. I have not been spending the time in the gym that I did before the surgery.

Since I started this lifestyle change journey at the beginning of summer, I have always felt that the true test would be the choices I made once I had returned to work. The exhaustion I have felt, combined with the general malaise from the infection and the hours spent at work or working from home has derailed my efforts. My biggest worry is here. My mojo has taken a nosedive. The running start I hoped to have before I went back to work has slowed to a crawl.

This week will be a big test for the teacher. Not only do I return to work for five full-time days, with students, and after-school meetings, and bus duty; but I also have a date with the therapist and another with the surgeon during the week. Additionally, I have my husband's birthday, and the knitting group I started seven years ago. My calendar overfloweth.

How I react to all this activity will make a big difference in how I feel about myself and my commitment to this lifestyle. It will be a challenge, to be sure. I am resolving to track my food every day. I am going to drink water while I am working. I have a plan to have some gym time at least twice on my own, along with one trip with the therapist. I am planning healthy meals for the week and making sure that I have the ingredients at the ready. I am placing healthy snacks within reach at work.

Wish me luck! I'll give you my test score at the end of the week!