Saturday, July 31, 2010

Products That Have Changed My Life

I know the title of this entry may sound a bit dramatic, but the following three products deserve the praise. Trust me.

The Wonder Hanger
My organizational dream has always been to hang every shirt I own. But before the Wonder Hanger came into my life I never had enough closet space to do that. Now you can open my closet and it looks like I barely hang any of my tops, but in reality I don’t have one t-shirt or top folded in a drawer. I do need to warn you not hang really heavy winter coats on the Wonder Hanger. Since it is made out of plastic, it will break. I have seen some that are made out of metal but haven't tried them yet…they may be even BETTER!

Space Bags

These are the plastic bags that you fill with clothes and bedding and suck out all the air with your vacuum. I have used these ever since my husband joined the Navy and we have moved from a three-bedroom townhouse to a studio apartment (400 sq ft) and then on to a two bedroom apartment. Since I never know how much storage we will have, I've had to become pretty savvy with space and these bags have been a savior! They range in size from a small travel size to giant cubes that allow for pillows and comforters. Oh and don’t forget to try the hanging bag version that you can use to hang winter coats or stick in your hanging bag for traveling!

Chi Flat Iron
This is the most recent addition to my “Life Changing Products” list. Over the July 4th weekend my step daughter came to visit and brought with her a Chi Flat Iron (hair straightener). I had seen these advertised before, but since they usually run $100, I never actually considered buying one. That was until I used it. I have naturally curly hair that is pretty darn thick and a pain in the ass to dry. My current hairdresser has even commented that the texture of my hair makes it very difficult to dry, therefore almost impossible to get straight without professional help. I have tried countless products, brushes and bought my own flat iron….none have worked….until now! My hair may never be curly again thanks to this miracle worker. In one swipe it makes my hair perfectly straight. And thanks to my spray-on heat protector, it is shiny too! Best $100 I have ever spent!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It Always Come “Back” to This

As many of you know, three years ago I had back surgery. Yes, after suffering for over two months with a herniated disc (marriage and honeymoon included in that time), I had a laminectomy of my L-5 disc. The surgery was a “success” and I have been relatively pain-free since. I say “relatively” because to be honest, my back hurts everyday. I am always reminded that I have a bad back. I cannot walk or stand or even sit for a prolonged period of time without my back letting me know it isn’t happy. But as long as it wasn’t debilitating like it was three years ago, I have considered myself lucky. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized that daily pain doesn‘t make me lucky.

This isn’t to say that I haven’t been doing things to try to take care of my back. After studying for my personal training certification I learned that tight hamstrings and hip flexors could lead to back pain. So I stretch both daily. I learned that different back supports would help, so I bought them. I even tried my hand a yoga and Pilates (short attempts, but attempts nonetheless). I thought I was doing everything I could. The surgeon who had worked on my back said that I had degenerative discs and that I would battle back pain all my life. I accepted this as the truth and just tied to minimize the pain.

But six weeks ago I left my kickboxing class with a familiar pain shooting down my leg. And when I awoke the next morning and couldn’t get myself to stand upright, I knew I was in trouble. “Here we go again,” I thought as I began the slow, painful process of trying to get help for my back.

I know the process well. It begins with a trip to your general doctor who will give you muscle relaxes and pain meds. Some docs will give you steroids to help with the inflammation, others won’t. After about two weeks of being in acute pain, you return to your general doctor and he/she will then send you to physical therapy.

Nine times out of ten physical therapy is a waste of time. Each visit you spend an hour receiving heat therapy and electrical stimulation and are sent home to do some stretching exercises. This can go on for weeks and if it works, you’re cured! If it doesn’t, you go back to your general doctor and it is MRI time. By now it has been about 6-8 weeks and you don’t need a damn MRI to tell you that you have a herniated disc, but you wait for it to be confirmed anyway.

This is where an orthopedic specialist comes in. He or she will review your MRI, take some x-rays and tell you that you have two options: surgery or cortisone shots. Ironically, during all of this time, no one is trying to figure out why this has happened, they are just trying to find a way to stop the pain and avoid nerve damage.

Three years ago I chose surgery. I didn’t want to spend another minute in that kind of pain and the shots were billed as a “short term” solution. What wasn’t really acknowledged was the surgery was a short term solution as well. Granted I got three years and not three months, but again it was like they were just putting a band aid on the problem and not trying to actually fix the problem.

So I decided this time it would be different. I would make it different. I bided my time in agonizing pain as a played the game with the doctor and his pain meds, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers. But anytime my back was good enough for me to sit (sometimes I actually knelt) at the computer I was researching back problems, trying to find a different approach. Having recently moved to California, I was hopeful I could find some new approach or “new age” help. I love the Midwest, but progressive in alternative medicine it is not.

Eventually I found what I was looking for…someone with a different approach to back problems. I found a website for a physical therapist who combines the practice of physical therapy with yoga. When I read about her approach I knew I hit pay dirt! Finally someone was pulling information and practices from different disciplines to find a way to not only align the spine, but teach the patient to keep their body in alignment.

I’ve had three visits with my new physical therapist. At the first visit she discovered that my right leg is almost an inch shorter than my left and that I have a week core (which I knew). She said that my spine needed to be decompressed to relieve the acute pain and she showed me how do this with extremely simple moves. I was also referred to a foot doctor to get orthodics to help with my length discrepancy. Within 24 hours the severe pain was gone and I could put on my sock and shoes without having to lay on the bed.

After three weeks of treatment I am back to my normal daily routine and workouts. This isn’t to say that I’ve been pain-free, I still have my moments. But what makes me happy is that my therapist hasn’t stopped searching for answers just because the acute pain is gone. She still spends an hour, one-on-one, working with me at each appointment and explains what my back is doing to cause me pain and how we are going to train it to move correctly. She also believes that correcting the height difference in my legs will make a huge impact on correcting my spine problem. She agrees that I may have degenerative discs, but that doesn’t mean I have to have a lifetime of chronic pain.

And I agree with her.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Yoga is a Four Letter Word

Do I really need to say more?
But I will try again. Someday. Soon.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Activia Situation

So I have decided to go back to trying some new things on the diet and exercise front. Since I have acquired a taste for yogurt (this took months), I thought I would try Activia since I tend to suffer from IBS and Jamie Lee Curtis raves about it how it “regulates” your digestive system in just 2 weeks.

I bought some Activia Light (Vanilla flavor) which has only 70 calories and I must say it tastes pretty good. But my problem isn’t with the taste. Actually it isn’t so much as MY problem as it is my husband’s problem. He has informed me that if I don’t stop eating it, he may move out for he cannot take another night “dealing” with the gaseous affect it has on my poor digestive system. The first night I thought he was bluffing, but after 4 nights straight, he has put is foot down and I am going back to my Light-n-Fit.

Trying Yoga tomorrow….pray for me.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Racoon

The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.

Okay, maybe I am too embarrassed to admit that this indeed did happen and my husband is borderline crazy. Judge for yourself.

It was a Saturday night and we were driving home from having dinner with friends. We had met at the Old Town Mexican Cafe and unfortunately ingested way too much food. Knowing my propensity for “stomach problems”, my husband was moving quickly through traffic to get me home as soon as possible.

We were less than a mile from the bathroom when I noticed the car in front of us suddenly swerve as to avoid something in the road. I soon saw what was causing the calamity. A rather large raccoon had obviously been hit and was flopping around in the turn lane. Though I only saw it for a minute, I will admit it was a sad sight.

Unfortunately my husband saw the same painful look in Rocky’s eye and slammed on the brakes. In doing so, he spun the car so it faced the curb and the passenger side was in the direct path of oncoming traffic. Meaning I was in the direct path of oncoming traffic.

“Oh my god, that raccoon has been hit!” he screamed. “We have to help him!”

“Can we move the car off the road first?” I screamed back.

“No Laura, we can’t!! You move the f*cking car!”

And with that, he jumped out into traffic and ran to be by Rocky’s side.

“You stupid Mother---!” The profanities came quickly as I crawled over the gear shift (remember, I am 6 foot tall) and moved the car to the side of the road. Thankfully oncoming traffic had slowed enough for me to get to safety.

My husband, on the other hand, was crouching by the animal in the middle of the road. He kept looking over at me as if asking what he should do. He would look up with this helpless expression and then slowly stroke Rocky’s fur. Not in any mood to help at this point, I continued to shout creative and masterful expletives from the car. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the windows were rolled up so he heard none of it.

I was about to get out of the car and ask what the hell he was going to do with Rocky when I heard the sound of screeching tires. I looked up in time to see a pickup truck slam into the back of a car that had slowed to see why a crazy a man was in the middle of the street (I assume). The car was catapulted about a block before coming to rest on the shoulder. The pickup truck sped off leaving the accident in his wake.

So let’s recap, shall we? It is Saturday night, my husband is in the middle of a busy road with a now DEAD f*cking raccoon, and there has been a hit and run. Oh and did I mention that a Mexican Hat Dance was going on in my digestive system?

The cops were on the scene rather quickly. Come to find out the guy in the car had minor injuries and the paramedics had to be called. The traffic cop couldn’t understand why anyone would rush into the street to comfort a dead raccoon (my husband explained that the animal wasn’t dead when we arrived on ‘the scene’). And all the while my wonderful husband didn’t realize why I was mad or why I thought he caused the accident. Once we got home I made my feelings known, after I used the bathroom of course.

For the sake of our marriage, we no longer speak of this night. And if any of you see my husband and remember this tale, I ask you to do the same.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Scenic Route

I took the scenic route to the gym the other morning. I like taking this “back” way because it avoids the freeway and I get to drive along palm-tree-lined streets that wind around Mission Bay, past Sea World. It was like any other drive until I took the exit and wound my way down to the street where my gym is located. As I made my way down the loop, I glanced over at the wooded area at the edge of the road. There stood a homeless man (I assume by his appearance), facing the road, taking a piss. Yes, taking a piss. He was making no attempt to hide his actions, so I was lucky enough not only to see the rainbow of urine, but his penis as well. The “scenic route” now has a whole new meaning.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Week of Firsts

  • I made my very first Pot Roast with potatoes and vegetables. This may not sound like a big deal, but anyone who has ever lived with me knows my dinner usually consists of hot dogs and popcorn (all low fat, of course). According to Scott, it was edible.
  • I attended my first Turbokick class in over four years at a neighborhood gym. Oh my god I forgot how incredibly hard that damn class is. If you have seen any infomercial on it, do not be fooled at how much fun the participants seemed to be having. They are faking it…and probably died shortly after.
  • This morning was the first time I saw my breath in I don’t know how long (don’t yell at me my beloved Midwesterners).
  • This may sound weird, but bear with me. While driving to the gym the other morning, I passed a Home Depot. Near the driveway into the parking lot stood at least 25 men. At first I was confused, but then realized they were waiting to see if they could get picked up as a day laborer. I had never seen that in person, only on TV shows like CSI and Law and Order.
  • This week marked the first time I made a U-turn at a stoplight, and it was legal (California is weird).
  • I made a friend using the Internet. One of the things I have learned during the process of moving all over the country is how difficult it is to make friends as an adult, especially when you don’t work in an office. So I decided I would try the Internet and low behold it worked. I found myself a workout buddy and someone to help me find the best mall and a good hair salon (all very important things).