stepping outside…

…my comfort zone.

Fred Astaire and a chorus of Fred Astaires per...

Fred Astaire and a chorus of Fred Astaires performing “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in Blue Skies (1946) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems in 2013 I’m steppin’ out and…”puttin’ on the ritz.” Since top hat and coat tails won’t ward off the chill, I’m doing it in…wool hat, scarf and mittens.

My mantra for the New Year? “Go big or go home!”

And so yesterday…

I drove 45 minutes to the next town to attend a Level One yoga class!

Yeayyy for me! I’m still patting myself on the back. 

A yoga class.

A yoga class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having pondered the idea of taking yoga for some time now, my body decided it was…now or never. “Shut up…or put up!” It seemed to say.

When I undertake a project, I research it to the nth degree. I never do anything half-way.

There were a couple of in-town sites which were ideally located. However I opted to venture farther from home  for a variety of reasons, not least of which was to learn from someone who would be a nurturing guide. I didn’t want to risk injury hurrying to keep up.

English: Bikram Yoga

English: Bikram Yoga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Classes at one local operation are held in 95-100 degree temperatures. The practice is called “hot yoga.”

I’m positive I would have passed out before drawing my first breath. And the rule is…once the door closes and class begins…everyone stays put. Those who can’t stand the heat are required to sit on the sidelines and watch…the entire time.

Another yoga venue seemed too small…spatially…and politically. “How’s that?” you ask. Yoga political?

I’ve learned over time that politics is part of everyday life. The smaller the community, the harder felt the politics. Negative vibes are difficult to overlook. You either do. Or you don’t…and move on.

The logo of Red Flag Linux

The logo of Red Flag Linux (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A third business never responded to an email I sent, even though their website ensured me they would. That stood out like a “red flag” signalling a lack of organization or worse…promises not kept.

My research efforts always include reading reviews. ALWAYS!!! They tell me more than all the flowery words written on websites.

One review indicated the yoga owner/teacher of the business cancelled class, deciding to breakfast with a friend, even after one student showed.

A review for a second, claimed that a promised refund never materialized.

 Unlike the others, Discover Yoga  was exactly as depicted on its website.main studio

The manager/instructor was knowledgeable, patient and helpful. In its understatement, the facility, had a calming effect. No bells and whistles here! Just yoga. It suited me to a tee.

After learning that my first class was free, I got more good news.

I’m still a young chickadee at 63! Were I a couple of years older, I’d get a senior discount on future classes.

There’s always a silver lining. We just have to…

…look for them…

English: This is, in fact, why I quit my yoga ...

English: This is, in fact, why I quit my yoga class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

………hugmamma.

swedish hospital…a 5-star resort?

Hubby and I had a date Saturday…touring the brand, spanking new Swedish Hospital in the Issaquah Highlands. We thought we’d make a quick stop, check it out, and be on our way to our real destination…Molbak’s Nursery, gift shop and cafe in Woodinville. Well, we never made it to see the flowers, plants and knick-knacks, or lunch among the lush foliage. Instead we wandered around the new hospital with thousands of other curious tourists to what seemed like a resort, not a place where the sick and maimed go to be cured and put back together again. I’m sure I wandered around, my mouth agape the whole time. We were all like children in a new candy shop, sampling everything with our eyes. I wasn’t the only one who was bug-eyed either.

Walking through glass doors which parted without hesitation, I immediately saw a Starbuck’s to my right…already with a line of people. No small wonder there. Tucked in the corner between the cafe and the front door was the restaurant. Visiting it later, I saw that it was on the caliber of any good dining destination in the community at large. Viewing the grandeur of the Pacific Northwest through the surrounding glass walls would also be a treat…a very calming one for sure.

Wandering further inside through what felt like a grand foyer, a reception desk sat to the left, and next to it a staircase leading to the second floor. Straight ahead was the bank of elevators, and to the right, past Starbuck’s was a gift shop. Rather, I should say, a mall of shops. After touring the floors above, I spent some time wandering in and out of the several stores. This is probably when I most felt like I was not in a hospital.

What appeared to be the main gift shop was lit up with a beautifully handrafted chandelier made by a local artist. Directly beneath was a table also crafted by another homegrown talent. In fact, most of the items in the shop were made here in the Pacific Northwest according to the shop’s lovely manager. She spent a few moments of her time talking with me, smiling all the while. A definite asset to what could be an intimidating environment for some. After all, this was still a hospital.

Walking through an oversized open doorway into the next shop, I delighted in seeing all manner of gifts for newborns and toddlers. Some items I’d never seen elsewhere. Across the way was another, very large, retailer selling exercise clothes, lingerie, and if I’m not mistaken, some maternity items for expectant mothers. One fun gift for you or someone else was a “snap” watch for around $16. The salesclerk kindly showed me how it operated. She stretched out the watchband, snapped it across her wrist, and “voile!” the watchband wrapped itself securely in place. What don’t people invent these days?!?

Down the hallway, next door to the shop with baby gifts, was a small studio for yoga classes. The nice volunteer offered information on how I could sign up for classes. Of course, it involved the internet. What doesn’t these days? Evidently I can check out the schedule for times and styles of yoga on the Swedish Hospital website. I might have to do that. I’ve always wanted to take a yoga class on a regular basis. Good for the body…and mind.

There were doctors, nurses, and technicians milling about to answer any questions. It was amazing to see so many of the staff smiling and relaxed. I’ve usually only seen them hurrying off to tend to patients. And I mean hurrying! Hopefully they’ll continue to smile once they get back to business as usual. I like smiling medical staff. They calm my nerves. Wouldn’t they make you feel more comfortable? They would me.

In October I’ll be having a colonoscopy and endoscopy done by Dr. David Patterson, Medical Director of Gastroenterology at Swedish. I met up with him again at the open house, after having talked with him a month or so ago at our initial consultation. Originally from New Zealand, he retains very little of his accent. Having lived here in the States for 35 years, I can understand why. Dr. Patterson’s ready smile and easy “bedside” manner goes far in steadying my nerves for the impending procedures. Knowing he sees many people in the course of his practice, and having met me only once, I was amazed that he could recall who I was as throngs of people were milling all around us. The key to unlocking his memory about me was that my daughter was a ballerina. We’d discussed it at our first meeting when he asked if I had children. Of course, ask a mom about her offspring…and you’ve got a friend for life. Well, let’s see what I think after the doc goes to work on me in the Fall. I’ll let you know then…

Meanwhile I’ve only good things to say about the new Swedish Hospital and their staff. They’ve served me well for more than a decade, the doctors and nurses, that is. Oh, and the ER team at the old facility. Between my husband and me, we’ve seen them a few times over the years, for various and sundry minor crises, which seemed somewhat major at the time…episodes of asthma, pains mimicking a heart attack. You know, the usual.

The new Emergency Room check-in looked like that in any 5-star hotel. But that’s as far as we went. I’m hoping we won’t have to see the rest of the ER anytime soon. Unfortunately we didn’t do any of the tours offered. The one to see the surgical facility had a line of people the length of the hallway. Since hubby and I were on a “date,” and we’d already spent a couple of hours sightseeing, we decided we’d seen enough to convince us that the hospital was pretty much just what the hype was all about.

it’s what the doctor ordered…and it’s just fine by me…hugmamma.

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ever have one of those years?

I know the year’s not done, but in the words of the reigning Queen Elizabeth, thus far mine’s been an “annus horribilis.” I’m not complaining, well maybe a tad. It’s more that I’m amazed at being blindsided by events over which I’ve had no control. I’m sure I speak for every one of us.

For me the chain of events began in late Fall when my daughter returned home for health reasons. As her mom I naturally felt the time with us was not just about physical healing. I knew it included emotional, spiritual and mental care as well. Her inner wellness was just as crucial as her external wellness. That for me meant making the journey with her. I felt her lows, and I reveled in her ascents back to normalcy. But it was a roller coaster ride for sure. And while I made certain that she had all kinds of support, I thought I could go it alone. Of course I reached out to my husband and friends, but moms tend to take on more than they can sustain. I didn’t know I had, until my daughter left.

Illness came calling almost as soon as our daughter boarded her flight home. I was laid up for weeks battling digestive, as well as respiratory ailments. At the time my husband was away on a business trip. Not being able to get out of the house for stretches at a time, my spirits were stretched thin, very thin. Not getting to exercise class regularly didn’t help.

Deciding to have physical therapy for chronic upper back, shoulder and neck pain once I felt well enough, got the endorphins moving. The sun seemed to be smiling down upon me once again as I got outdoors, breathing deeply of fresh air and renewed hope for better days ahead. Of course Christmas needed to go back into plastic, storage bins, but I hadn’t the strength yet for that monstrous chore. It would have to wait until I returned from our trip to see our daughter perform. But I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me 3,000 miles away.

Almost from the get-go, our family was engulfed in a discussion of differing opinions. Any mother of a young adult knows we must tread lightly with our opinions. Yes, I want her to know how I feel, but I don’t want to live her life. At 61, I don’t want to live mine, AND hers. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again. Besides, she’s very capable of living her own life. But it’s very difficult not wanting to share my decades of experience, in the hopes that she won’t make my mistakes. Needless to say our family endured a few days of tip-toeing around one another. In the midst of it all, my husband left on another business trip. And he’s usually the neutral party. After a day or so, and much discussion, my daughter and I resumed our loving, BFF status.

Throughout the ordeal, the flu was brewing in my daughter’s gut. She danced sick, endured our brouhaha, and finally succumbed. The weekend after her performance I took her to the ER with a migraine headache that included dizziness, nausea, and mild vomiting. We sat in the lobby with many, other sick people waiting our turn to be seen, first by the insurance clerk and then the nurse, and then the doctor. Our visit began at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, and didn’t end until 11 p.m. that night. The best part for my daughter was the last hour-and-a-half, when she slept like a baby because of the Benadryl she was getting intravenously. At that point, I was so light-headed, not having eaten since breakfast. Once I told the nurse about my hunger, she and the doctor wrapped things up pretty quickly. Once we got home, my daughter fell into bed, immediately dozing off again. I proceeded to raid the icebox. I know, my age is showing, but “icebox” somehow seems more apropos than “refrigerator.” Maybe because it makes me feel like a kid again, when MY mom did the worrying.

With my daughter sleeping in the next morning, I felt life was finally back on track, so I sat down to blog on my laptop at her dining table. Mindlessly writing, enjoying the moment, I surfed the internet for a picture to add to my post. As soon as I clicked on a photo of a picturesque beach on Maui, all Hell seemed to break loose. Those words blinking incessantly before me “virus, virus, virus’ will forever be emblazoned on my brain. Waking my daughter, together we wend our way through Hell, and back. Trying to buy a pop-up anti-virus security product, “system tool,” only got us more viruses. In fact, the laptop screen went entirely red with “VIRUS” glaring at us in huge, black letters. Using my daughter’s computer we sought online help. We found Tech Pros whose opening page warned of “system tool” being a scam. A half-hour’s drive away, we left my poor, inundated laptop in the hands of the experts..

At a cost of $199 plus tax, my good-as-new laptop was back home with me a couple of days later.  It’s actually better than before. Tech Pros installed a security system, in addition to zapping all those yucky viruses, “dead as door nails.” (Where’d that expression come from, I wonder?) Talk about bed-bugs, I really felt like the viruses had crawled into bed with me. As we used to say growing up on Maui as kids, those viruses gave me the “heegie-beegies!” The correct saying, according to my daughter, is “heebie-geebies.” Whichever it is, it’s exactly how I felt.

Oh, and then there was the matter of cancelling the credit cards we’d used to try to purchase “system tool,” whose sole purpose was probably to steal our information. My daughter’s Visa was replaced in a day or so at a rushed shipping cost of $16. My Master Card arrived the following day at no extra charge to me, except that the UPS driver left the envelope on the wrong doorstep. I learned of their error after I arrived home last night. While I was still at my daughter’s trying to track down my new credit card, I ended up having to cancel it, and have another new one sent to my home address. 

As if we’d not had enough I got hit with “the bug,” or so we thought. I started feeling the nausea my daughter had experienced. We thought it might be the flu. Would those viruses ever leave us be? As it turns out, we decided I was probably experiencing gastritis or the beginnings of an ulcer. Over the past few months, heart burn symptoms have returned time and again. Getting on a regimen of Prilosec and Tums as needed, as well as a diet of whole grains, steamed veggies and selected fruits seems to have calmed my digestive system down considerably.

But just when my health ordeal was unfolding, Mother Nature decided to ratchet things up a bit with a tornado watch. With heavy rains and winds whipping about, the sirens at my daughter’s apartment complex began blaring. Turning on the TV to the news channel, we learned of a full-blown tornado watch in our area. As the newscaster followed its movement, my daughter and I emptied her bathroom of anything that could kill us if we were to hunker down, wrapped in heavy quilts in the bathtub. My husband, back home from his business trip, called while we were preparing for the worst. Needless to say, he was worried. Needless to say, I was panicked, my digestive symptoms getting worse by the minute.

As I’m sure you’ve already surmised, no tornado touched down in our area, although sightings were reported in other parts. Due to return home to Washington, I hoped my digestive symptoms would abate long enough for me to make the trip which included a stop-over. Fingers crossed, I checked in online.

When I awoke yesterday I was good to go, having taken one of my daughter’s sleeping supplements which helped me rest through most of the night. I even blogged, putting out a post, before packing away my laptop. My husband called making certain I was, in fact, traveling. Later he called back warning that my flight was delayed 45 minutes, which would affect my connecting flight. The hour wait was now shortened to half-an-hour. I wasn’t deterred. I was ready to return home and be sick in my own house, rather than “riding it out” at my daughter’s.

When I got to the airport, I called my husband to say I’d made it, and asked if he could check for other flights in case I missed my connection. He called back with great news. The connecting flight was also delayed by 45 minutes. Hallelujah! God decided to give me a break. As it turned out, I had to work for it. My flight arrived in Terminal C. I had to high-tail it to Terminal D, which I did. Panting, my feet literally flew as I rushed past anyone and everyone making sure I wouldn’t miss my flight home. So determined to make it, I wound up standing in line at the wrong gate. God intervened again when another passenger informed me of my mistake. I hoofed it out of there, making it to the right line. I needn’t have worried. The flight didn’t leave the gate until well past the delayed departure time.

The only thing that hurt by the time I landed home in Washington, was my fanny. Could they make airplane seats any harder? But I’m home, with my husband, cats and dog. And you know what else? I’m even delighted to see that Christmas is still with us. My cat-sitter left a note saying, in part, “…I love all the xmas decorations! China Rose.” Don’t you just love her name? And she’s a sweetheart to boot.

The year’s not done as I’ve said. But I’m determined that it’ll get better. So I’m rejoining my friends in exercise class, continuing with my physical therapy appointments, healthier diet, and blogging. I’ll look into starting yoga, tackling other writing projects, and an adult ed class, perhaps in French.

we can all make lemonade…out of lemons…hugmamma.  🙂

“ringing in the ear,” not just a senior problem

I THINK I’ve experienced tinnitus, “ringing” in the ear, but I can’t be certain, because I tried to ignore whatever it was. My mom often spoke of it, so I thought only elderly people heard “ringing” in their ears. And, of course, I was trying really hard not to get older. Looks like my reaction was the right thing to do.

According to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, “A Most Annoying Ringtone,” many causes can be blamed for tinnitus. It can result from “hearing  loss-due to aging, exposure to loud noise, accidents, illnesses, auditory nerve tumors, wax buildup, drug side effects, history of ear infections, brain injuries from explosive devices, head and neck trauma, TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), or hormonal balances.” 

Tinnitus, from the Latin root word for “jingle,” is the perception of an external sound when none is there. It varies for people. Some hear a high-pitched buzzing, others hear a “ringing, roaring, hissing, chirping, whooshing or wheezing. It can be high or low, single or multi-toned, an occasional mild annoyance or a constant personal din.” Experts surmise that when hearing is lost in certain frequencies, the brain attempts to fill the void with noise that’s imagined or remembered. Audiologist Rebecca Price, who treats tinnitus in Durham, N.C., at Duke University’s Health Systems, says “Those auditory centers are just craving input.”

The CDC, Centers for Disease Control, estimated that 16 million American adults experienced frequent bouts of tinnitus in 2009. An estimated 2 million are unable to function normally when sleeping, working, concentrating, and interacting with family. Thanks to baby boomers, the elderly population is rising in numbers, as are the incidents of tinnitus. Remarkably 12-year-olds are also complaining of the ailment, according to Jennifer Born, speaking on behalf of the American Tinnitus Association, a nonprofit education and advocacy group. The culprit it seems might be “personal music players cranked up high.” Vets from Afghanistan and Iraq also suffer tinnitus, the “No. 1 service-related disability,” as a result of brain injuries from explosive devices.

Treatment for tinnutis runs the gamut from hearing aids to antidepressants. “The first step in treating tinnutis is usually to determine if a patient has hearing loss and to identify the cause…ear-wax buildup…infections, accidents, aging, medication side effects and noise exposure.” If loss of hearing is reduced, chances are it also dramatically reduces tinnitus, or at least makes it more tolerable for the sufferer, according to Sujana Chandraskhar, a otolaryngologist in New York and chairman-elect of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Surgery can help as in the case of 42-year-old, New York, pipefitter Frank Scalera, who’s suffered tinnutis since age 15, when a firecracker blew out his eardrum. After 10 surgeries his hearing is restored, and the ringing he’s experienced for 30 years has lessened. Hearing aids help about 40% of patients because they restore “sound in lost frequencies, so the brain doesn’t need to fill in the void. But some also have hyperacusis–in which normal sounds seem unbearably loud–so a hearing aid may be uncomfortable.”

Sound therapy is another treatment option. Soothing external sounds are used to drown out the internal ringing. Some people  are relieved by running a fan, a humidifier, or a machine that emits the sound of waves or waterfalls. At night when tinnitus is most noticeable, thereby disrupting sleep, some even prefer to listen to the static on a radio. Hearing aids also intermix soft “shhhsssing” tones to mask the ringing. But these are not usually covered by insurance and are expensive at $2,500+ per ear.

More sophisticated, and costlier at $4,500,  is the Oasis by Neuromonics Inc. A device that is similar to an MP3 player, it “plays baroque and new age music customized to provide more auditory stimulation in patients’ lost frequencies as well as a ‘shower’ sound to relieve the tinnitus.” According to the company, the brain is gradually trained to filter out the internal noise. “Users listen to the program for two hours daily for two months, then the shower sound is withdrawn for four more months of treatment.” Duke University political science professor Michael Gillespie, claimed the device helped him after he got tinnitus from an ear infection. He says he became accustomed to hearing the music, and then his brain filled in with less irritating sounds.

Some people find tinnutis a cause for anxiety. As mentioned earlier, I identified the “ringing” in my ears with old age. I would’ve dwelt upon other illnesses associated with the elderly, making me a captive of my own fears. Luckily my bouts of tinnitus only last several seconds. “Researchers long theorized–and have now seen on brain scans–that the limbic system, the brain’s primitive fight-or-flight response, is highly activated in some tinnitus sufferers. Patients often have generalized anxiety disorder or depression and a few become suicidal; but its unclear which came first.”  Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication can bring relief for some. Stress can bring on tinnutis, so that alternative health practices can be helpful, like yoga, acupuncture, deep breathing, biofeedback or exercise.  Supplements such as ginkgo, zinc, magnesium, as well as other over-the-counter remedies are advertised to relieve tinnutis, but are not supported by scientific research.

RTMS, repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, a new magnetic pulse treatment has served to treat severely depressed patients for years. Some found that it also stopped the ringing in their ears. Patients feel the treatment is “like a mild tapping on the head and brings no harmful effects.” Brain scans are done to identify tinnutis. Those with severe cases are found to suffer abnormal “communication between parts of the brain responsible for hearing and maintaining attention.” Dr. Jay Piccirillo, a otolaryngologist at Washington University in St. Louis, likens rTMS to “shaking an Etch-a-Sketch to erase an old picture.” Pulses are sent through the skull by a magnetic coil that is placed over the auditory cortex outside the head, to disrupt the faulty communications.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be one of the most effective treatments for tinnutis. Patients are treated for their emotional reactions to the ailment, not the noise itself. ” ‘The goal is to make your tinnitus like your socks and shoes–you’re wearing them, but you’re not actively thinking about them,’ says Dr. Chandrasekhar.” Or as one patient, Mark Church, an entrepreneur and investor, put it ” ‘It’s like living near an airport. After you’ve lived there for a while, you don’t pay attention to the planes…’ ” Having lived with tinnutis for 11 years, Church favors being in his shower, where the water drowns out the noise. Duke University Medical Center psychologist Michelle Pearce, begins therapy by having her patients identify “the automatic negative thoughts they have about tinnutis.” One claimed no one would marry her, while others felt their lives were over. Working with them, Dr. Pearce helped them realize that their lives didn’t revolve around tinnutis, that it was only one aspect which could be managed.

The local, evening news ran a segment about the growing effects of tinnutis, especially amongst youngsters. At fault it seems is the ramping up of noise levels with the invention of  iPods and the like. Looks like what use to be an old age issue is now open to all ages. It’s not something I want for myself at 61, so it’s unfortunate that 12 year olds can now suffer “ringing” in their ears as well. It took me 50 years to experience what can affect them in their youth… if they’re not careful.

before their time, here’s hoping youngsters don’t get old…hugmamma.