One Step Forward

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I’m proud to announce that I’m able to walk! It’s been a long road since breaking my ankle in January, a long road I had to scooter. Don’t get me wrong; the scooter saved me from crutches. I’m less agile than some, e.g. broken ankle, and had difficulty using the scooter without injuring my good leg. Glad to say goodbye to that. Additionally, I shed the boot and the walker. The cane is still employed for stability, mostly in the afternoon and evening, and a knee brace provides support anytime I walk.

Three days ago, my mom, two sisters, and I celebrated Mother’s Day early. We went for haircuts first and, after, enjoyed lunch together. That was a really big day for me and I felt it the next day, needing the entire day to recover. Yesterday, my husband and sons took me to dinner for our Mom’s Day celebration. I napped for a couple hours before we went, but I was able to go. Now, with two of the past three days involving outings (more than the past three years), my ankle is hurting all around and my energy is seriously depleted.

Nervously looking ahead two weeks, to a work event my husband earned by reaching a sales goal, this last weekend has shown me a few things. I’ll need to do nothing else the week before the event so I’m not stretched thin(ner). Minimizing ambulation will be key over that weekend. There is a ray of hope because I was able to enjoy dining out. The day after will, most likely, require two steps back.

The resort where we’ll stay for the event.

Here, Birdie Birdie

Picture by Sara Zuelke

A new hobby is bringing me joy! Earlier this spring, I ordered a small birdbath and a birdfeeder for my backyard. Birdsong seems louder and brighter this year, which says more about me than the population of birds in this area.

Picture by Sara Zuelke

I’ve long enjoyed watching all manner of hawks circling above my neighborhood, riding thermals up, up, up, while scanning below for a snack or meal. There are owls in the trees nearby, and I love to hear their hoots. I’m pretty sure, though, that it was a large owl swooping down in the night that planted talons on the neck of my white bichon frise as she lie on her belly in the cool grass during a summer hot spell. That little dog let out a sound I’d never heard and haven’t since. I don’t know if she was dropped because she was heavier than estimated or because of her squeal. Maybe the owl thought she was one of its own, given my dog’s screech.

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When I was able to walk around the field and trees surrounding, I spotted a bird I couldn’t remember seeing before. I watched them fly tree to tree, several of them moving around in medium-sized evergreens. They were black and white, so beautiful. Imagine my surprise when I dug a little online and found they were magpies, common magpies. Well, in my book, the magpies in this area are stunning. I’m also quite fond of the red-breasted robins that frequent trees in my backyard.

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It wasn’t until I became aware of the rich and varied birdsong coming through my windows that I really paid attention to the smaller birds flitting by and resting on branches all around. I’d purchased a beautiful hummingbird feeder and had it out in plenty of time for scouts, but none have visited. I love the feeder itself, so it’s outdoor decor. Perhaps we’ll get hummingbirds when the weather truly warms. Disappointed by that effort, I decided to check out regular birdseed dispensers. That led to perusing birdbaths.

Picture by Sara Zuelke

Yesterday, I was outside for three or four hours, thoroughly enjoying the comings and goings in bird central! That’s more time than I spent on the deck all of last year. Good vibes.


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Travel with me, if you will, to 1982. Those were days of big hair, bright clothes, and the Sony Walkman. 40 years ago June, I graduated from high school. I attended the 10, 20, and 30 year reunions but I’m sitting out the 40th, if it even happens.

  • Ronald Reagan was president and announced the war on drugs. Nancy Reagan introduced “Just Say No.”
  • We were rocking out to hair bands. Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” was the number one song of the year. My favorite songs that year were “Don’t You Want Me, Baby?” by Australia and “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell.
  • The number of female admissions to universities had recently outnumbered males and in 1982 women earned more bachelor’s degrees than men for the first time.
  • There was still corporal punishment allowed. At my high school, students who had used up their first two warnings could choose between a hack with the paddle (with holes drilled in it) or an hour picking up cigarette butts in the smoker’s section. Yes, there was a smoking section.
  • The movie E.T. was out that summer, and I worked at the one theater in the city that was showing it. It was unbelievable. Every show sold out, day after day. The lobby was packed with people waiting in the concession lines. This was an old theater that had originally been an actor’s theater. There was a huge balcony and a long-dormant mezzanine level mini-concession stand was brought back to life.
  • Disney’s EPCOT Center opened.
  • The Commodore 64 became the first popular home computer.
  • Gas was $0,95 per gallon.
  • Cats opened on Broadway.
  • The DeLorean was in production and on the market.
  • Cheers and Family Ties debuted on TV. The top show of the year was Dallas.
  • Radio stations were not yet all owned by the same company. In my little neck of the wood, it took about three weeks for us to begin hearing nationally popular songs. There were also regionally popular songs on the radio.
  • “Trivial Pursuit” was introduced and became a favorite past time of my friends and me.
  • Books published in 1982 included “Space” by James Michener and “The Indian in the Cupboard” by Lynne Reid Banks.

Here we are, 40 years later. I remember hearing about how the rate of change was going to continuously increase in speed. Comparing what life was like in my late teens as compared to now, 2022, in my late 50’s, is amazing. When I was in high school, if you’d told me many people would cancel home phone lines, carry a computer in their pockets, and drive cars with rearview cameras, I would’ve scoffed. Having a car that parallel parks itself, though, sure would’ve come in handy when I took my driver’s test in February of ’82.

Parent is Also a Verb 4/23/22

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In the beginning, if you have any sense, you’re nervous about bringing that tiny, completely dependent, bundle of snuggles home. Now, you’re a parent. Some folks continue living life as they did before and add this new member as an aside. Others adopt the new role of mom or dad studiously, committed to doing everything right to the best of their ability. I was the latter, especially given that I’d taught parenting and child development classes for a few years.

If you’re the sort that engages in parenting as a verb, looking for best practices, let me relieve you of stress caused by these expectations you’ve set for yourself. You’re going to screw up. One of my friends was born to be a mom, giving birth at home the same day her husband packed up camping and drove her back to their house on the fourth of July because, heavy in her third pregnancy, she’d been having contractions for a couple days. Most of the parents I know, do not move seamlessly into and through parenting like she does.

There will be stress, a lot of difficult situations demanding you make decisions and take action whether you feel like it or not. At 4:45 on a Friday, you try to convince the nurse that you need to get in now to your pediatrician, not urgent care. Your child screaming in the background doesn’t made a dent and neither do your tears. Maybe you’re in front of your house to check on the kids playing because you’re not sure if what you hear is fun, mad, or injury screaming. Your young child comes running toward you, crying, and then his eyes roll back in his head while he collapses to the street. Imagine getting your teenager to a summer math test following his independent study of algebra 2 and trigonometry, only to find the proctor teacher has a couple friends in the testing classroom, one of them with a couple of young children.

Circumstances will push you to quickly evaluate and respond to situations you wouldn’t have chosen and can’t control. You’re not puzzling on just your own interest now; there is another human being completely dependent on your choices. In an ongoing problem, there may be pressure applied by grandparents, peers, and professionals to handle concerns one way or another.

Constructing an intentional framework, before you’re thrown into challenging scenarios, to assist you in making decisions relieves stress because you know you’ve got a plan. Even if you’re required to act in the moment, you’ve already established priorities. The best advice I’ve ever been given about parenting is to choose your child’s best interest if there is a conflict. Whether it’s convenient, easy, or causes friction with family members or friends, you will never regret putting your son or daughter first. This is what parenting means to me.

Other choices may be your focus or you may choose consideration of a few additional issues to complete your decision-making framework. Following identification of my child’s best interest, I was committed to being consistent and considered, rather than reacting with my emotions. It was important to me to follow through with rules and consequences, so if I’d set a reasonable expectation and it wasn’t being met, I wouldn’t give in to pressure to “let it go.” If, on second thought, I’d set an unreasonable or unnecessary restriction, I didn’t hesitate to let my kids know I had reconsidered. There will be another blog, hopefully not too far into the future, about the blessings of being wrong.

With Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June, celebrate family and love. Appreciate the people you love. In my case, it was my mom who gave me my most treasured parenting advice.

p.s. I’ve never managed to readily assign former vs latter. For me, it requires a quick internet reminder. I admire people who let the correct verbage to roll off their tongues in the midst of a conversation or debate. Whatever the reason, my brain is unable to retain the order. Am I alone in this???

Rambling Rows

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Yes, I know they’re tulips. Following are some more of the stand alone thoughts that are in my head, not one worthy of a full post on its own.

Good news! I am walking. It’s going pretty well. Of course, I want it to happen quickly, but I can feel that I overdid things yesterday. I tried to prolong my time on my feet by adding tasks to my regular trips to the kitchen or bathroom. I was figuring in my head how long it’s been since doc gave me to go-ahead for weightbearing. I thought it was almost two weeks ago, but then I remembered the date of that appointment was 4/14 and realized on 4/19 that it had only been five days. Five days. Again, I gotta slow down and take care of myself. Taking it easy today, for sure.

The focus on progressing the functionality of my foot with the balance and pain issues is backed by fibro. My ribs have hurt for a few days now, making it very uncomfortable to breathe or sit up for long. Back, abdominal, shoulder, neck, and head pain are present in varying degrees of frequency and intensity. Another current symptom is vertigo but only if I look to the left. Thank goodness it’s not full screen.

Celebration of our 30th anniversary had to be postponed and downsized because of my broken ankle. The actual date is 2/29/92 so we’re used to marking the event on days that aren’t really our date on the three years between Leap Years. After I got the nod to begin walking, wearing the boot and using a cane, we went out to dinner at a nice place nearby. I did it! I went out to eat. This is quite the accomplishment because fibro makes it difficult to do anything in the evening. I made it through and then it felt soooo good to lie down.

Later this afternoon, my husband will be on a plane to California for a week. Together he and his mom will be going through the inside of her home, clearing out things she can donate or those that are beyond their use. The plan is to move her here before winter. To the room across the hall. With her dog and cat. The animals are certainly not optional. They’re not regular pets. They were both animals loving and living with my sister-in=law who died from ALS three years ago. Moving forward, demolition will be starting on my bathroom when this trip to California concludes. Meanwhile, I continue working with my counselor on ACT therapy (acceptance and commitment) and my new mantra, “There is no need for fight or flight.” I breathe.


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After nearly three months off my feet, actually one foot, the surgeon who inserted a rod and a bunch of staples into my left ankle gave me the go-ahead to begin bearing weight on that side! This is very exciting! I’ve banished the knee scooter and, in its place, now there are a cane, a quad cane, and a walker borrowed from my mom.

The instructions given by the doctor were to start with 25% of weight, offsetting the rest with cane or walker and then move up 10-20% every few days. Are you kidding me? I cannot gauge a 10-20% increase. Oh, and wear the boot for a couple more weeks. Walking independently after a month would be the result of following the plan. He explained that the ankle is well-healed and won’t be hurt by walking; the pain will be from the muscles and tissues as they respond to activity after being out of service for several weeks.

Truth be told, I haven’t worn the boot for a few weeks. I didn’t bear weight on the injured side but wore no aircast. While I didn’t break the rule by using my left foot to walk, I did test out standing on it this last week. The day before and the morning of the doctor appointment, I did do some short stints. Felt a little tingly and a bit sore but not bad.

When I got home, I did try walking with the cane first but found myself carrying the cane and just walking because it was much faster. Besides, I mostly do short walks to the bathroom or kitchen. I tried the walker and it seemed a better way to control the weight on my left leg. It’s wide and clanky in the halls of my home, hardly worth the trouble. I did recommit myself to wearing a boot and using a cane going forward.

The surgeon did say to listen to my body and stop when pain increased. What if it’s not painful? What if my body doesn’t tell me to stop? Can I just go for it? Why use the boot if my foot feels fine without? Control the weightbearing even if I”m fine with full weight? Am I a freak of nature who is magically able to go directly to walking independently when others describe taking a few months to ambulate on their own two feet?

This second day out, I have not used the boot but I have used a cane. I did go downstairs to start a load of laundry, but my husband was less than pleased when I told him. It’s just all so exciting!

Unfortunately, my knee hurts more than my lower leg, which disturbs me because the original fall felt like my knee had given out, causing me to go down. Not one practicioner has mentioned my knee; it never became swollen and hasn’t hurt since the dread event. It surprised me to feel a twinge there and scared the crap out of me. I am more concerned about falling again due to some unknown knee issue than I am of the pain I may experience from walking. I’ve ordered a knee support and I’m going to wear one of the three ankle supports I tried when I was treating it as a sprain. That is more comfortable, by far, than the boot.

Moving forward, literally, I’ll progress my walking duration and frequency as long as my ankle cooperates. So far, so good. I just cannot be the one in a million who are pain-free upon beginning mobility as soon as the okay is given for walking, right? Is it too good to be true? My plan is to move along unless the lower leg says, “Whoa!” I’ll let you know how it goes. Have a great weekend!

p.s. I am not a special case. Alas, my foot hurts quite a bit today when I stand/walk on it.

Stress Be Gone

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Apparently, my new mantra, “no need for flight or fight,” is only as powerful as the time and energy I give it. As usual, when I get new information or choose a new strategy to improve my condition, I’m so excited and sure this will be the “thing” that makes a difference.

The first day I focused on signaling my amygdala that there is no threat requiring stress hormones for fight, flight or freeze, I could return to my center and remind myself continually; and I felt a slight reduction in the tightness I generally have in my low chest/upper abdomen. Over the course of the next couple of days, it felt like I didn’t need constant remembering that there was no threat. I was breathing, stretching, and applying makeup. (I feel strongly that women are culturally conditioned to wear makeup and admire women who go without. For me, putting on some makeup just helped lift my mood, something about not looking like death warmed over.)

As is most often the case with me, a painful episode distracted me entirely from mindfully considering there was no real threat. The most recent issue involved my damn knee scooter. I have repeatedly whacked my good ankle on my ride over the course of the last six weeks. It reached the point where merely grazing my ankle as I pushed myself around the house was excruciating. The entire inner ankle/foot was swollen and bruised. There also appeared a bony knob about the size of a nickel on top of the malleolus. Great. I was scared that when I go to the surgeon for follow up on my post surgical left ankle/foot, he was going to say I needed to stop weightbearing on my right. Maybe I’d fractured it? It took a pretty good search before I was able to diagnose myself. The “new” circular prominence had already been present but repeated impacts to that site resulted in this presentation. I was able to palpate the same structure on the left but it was recessed. The literature reported that this reaction is regularly not even noticed if people have substantial muscle and fat around the lower leg. Anyhoo, this trouble on the right leg was discouraging enough to draw my attention away from the mission to quiet my nervous system.

The bruising is clearing and I’ve changed my diagnosis from possible fracture to repeated injury. I’ll probably still get the ankle/foot surgeon to take a look when I go for my eight-week post-op visit to evaluate whether or not I can get rid of the scooter. Consideration should be given to the threat the scooter poses to the “good” ankle. I’d appreciate your positive thoughts on the morning of Thursday, April 14.

When I proposed to my husband we should go out and celebrate if I get permission to walk, he posited that the recovery would still take time and I probably wouldn’t be resuming normal ambulation immediately. Since then, I’ve heard from several people who’ve undergone the same type of fracture and insertion of hardware; the one message they all had was that this road to recovery will still take months, maybe even a couple years. Wow. That wasn’t part of my plan.

Rather than pausing my effort to decrease the effect stress is having on my whole body until after the visit with the surgeon, I will resume today. I will. There is no need to wait for the outcome of the surgeon’s evaluation, and the decision whether or not I can bear weight, to judge what level of stress “should be” established going forward. Whatever the prognosis this week, my amygdala needs relief. Breathe.

Diddy Fin Frips

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My dad has been gone three years today. As a provider, he built a wonderful life for our family. He wasn’t perfect as a father but who is? He had outpatient surgery, coded, and never came home. He was 83.

He grew up in a Pacific Northwest farming community with his parents and two brothers. His parents both came from families with many, many children, 13 or 14 kids. My grandma was a twin and her twin married one of my grandfather’s siblings so the kids of those two marriages were double cousins. They had a built-in community of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

When my dad was learning to talk, he couldn’t make all of the sounds properly. One of his uncles loved asking him, “What’s that?” when a truck passed because my dad’s answer rhymed with truck but started with an ‘f’ instead. I’m pretty sure my stern grandma didn’t find that amusing. If you’d asked him his name, he would’ve answered, “Diddy Finn Frips,” which was nowhere close to the actual pronunciations of his first, middle, or last names, Dickie Glen C**** (withholding last name out of respect for my mom who is very private). He loved telling that story and the uncle who encouraged his love for trucks!

Their farmhouse was two rooms and, when the third child was on the way, my dad and his older brother were moved into a tent in the backyard. That was their bedroom for a year, including a cold, snowy winter. The two older boys were given the honor of picking the name for their new baby brother. It amused my dad to no end, even as an adult, that they chose the name Warren because it meant a dirt hole in the ground for rabbits. They pulled a trick on him before he was even sitting up solo.

There were also sad stories and I’m not sure my father would describe his childhood as “good” but he sure told lots of stories from that time with a smile on his face, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing them. I miss my dad.

Mini Medical School

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On YouTube, I came across a nearly-two=hour video titled “Mini Medical School: Fibromyalgia.” I’ve seen previous fibromyalgia videos but haven’t watched much because, after all, I have fibro and have been to multiple doctors regarding diagnosis and treatment. Over and over, I’ve been told that there is nothing to be done besides taking prescription medicine, either Lyrica or gabapentin. Those are supposed to lessen the fibro pain.

Speaking of which, I learned there are eight types of fibromyalgia pain. I’ve known them personally and for many years, but I didn’t know of the classifications:

  • Hyperalgesia – hyper meaning more and algesia meaning pain. When the pain response reaches the brain, the volume is turned up. The pain is felt stronger than normal.
  • Allodynia – Abnormal pain in response to a non-painful stimulation on the skin, e.g. a very light touch, something brushing up against the skin, or pain from heat or cold, I vividly remember my ten-year-old son poking my forearm and I responded by jerking my arm away and loudly exclaiming “OUCH!” My son said, “What? I barely touched you!” and I answered, “Well, it really hurt!”
  • Painful parasthesia – prickling pain characterized by numbness, tingling, and clumsiness, much like when your leg “falls asleep” because it’s been in an odd position for an extended period of time. With fibro, it occurs randomly.
  • Visceral pain – from viscera, the abdominal organs. Feels like an uncomfortable sensation in the midriff, perhaps moving across. This occurs for me if I stretch or twist. For many, many years it has seemed as though I can feel my anxiety or stress in my diaphragm area, a large knot just below the sternum.
  • Neuropathic pain – itching, burning, and numbness. The most frequent sensation of neuropathic pain I experience is feeling like the top of my feet have been scalded under hot water, but nothing eases the pain.
  • Costochondritis – pain in the chest caused by inflammation of the cartilage connecting the ribs to the sternum. It can be mild or it can be mistaken for a heart attack. It may be described as burning or stabbing. I have this symptom frequently and I can feel the inflammation of the tissues.
  • Joint pain – joints throughout the body can feel swollen and painful, perhaps limiting mobility. This is very common with fibro. Many fibro patients are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Temperomandibular joint pain, affecting the jaw and ear, is also common. Personally, I was diagnosed with TMJ at age 22 but I thought it was just the latest fad and ignored the dentist’s opinion. I’ve been breaking molars since I was 26. Crowns galore. I also have widespread osteoarthritis.
  • Headache – tension headaches or migraines frequently plague fibro patients. Headache pain may surface as 1. sharp, pulsing pain 2. pain on one side of the head 3. Pain that spreads to the neck and shoulders, 100% of the time for me. 4. pain at the back of the head and nape 5. Nausea 6. Sensitivity to light, sound, or smell.

Since 2009, I’ve not met a physician who could give me any hope about dealing with fibromyalgia, including a top rheumatologist in town during 2016. This Mini Medical School was sponsored by UCTV (University of California TV) and the lecturer was a doctor from UCSF. Turns, out there has been a lot, I mean A LOT, of research, findings, and publications regarding fibromyalgia. It is well studied with real data showing clearly that fibromyalgia is a neurological condition.

The source of the issue is deep in the brain, the amygdala. It regulates our most basic human needs and lets us know when we’re threatened, initiating the fight, flight, or freeze response. Stress hormones flood the body and cause a traffic jam in the central nervous system. With fibromyalgia, an early life event triggers a major stress response and this, in turn, leads to miscommunication between the amygdala and pain receptors. If there is no threat to be faced or from which to be chased, those hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, damage the systems of the body: vascular, respiratory, dermatological, auditory, muscles, gastrointestinal region, thyroid and pituitary glands as well as erosion of the coating of nerve endings themselves.

The first step, then, is to calm down the abnormal stress response. Strategies for this can include regulating healthy breathing, stretching, herbal supplements that support the central nervous system, five minutes in the sun each day, meditation, practicing hobbies that bring pleasure, etc. We’ve heard about these methods for improving mental health, pain sensations, and quality of life; but here is a basic stepping stone of human life that literally is in overdrive and must be controlled in order for any healing to occur throughout the other systems of the body.

A serious illness, injury, or very stressful circumstance are typical loci for the onset of fibromyalgia. I believc a serious illness requiring hospitalization at age 11 is the most likely source for me, 46 years ago. Symptoms developed regularly over the years, before I even got out of high school. In my case, my body has been in flight vs fight mode with overproduction of stress hormones for nearly five decades. I don’t know how long it may take to clear the traffic in my brain but I am going to focus on this because I haven’t had any idea how to possibly positively affect the condition my condition is in up to now. This is the reason why I didn’t push myself to write and publish this post. I’m giving myself grace and repeating my new mantra, “No need for fight or flight.” In the meantime, I’ll look forward to receiving my mini diploma from the mini medical school.

I’m Enough and Nothing At All

My whole life I wanted to be enough, for someone to behold me, smile, and say, “You are just the person I’ve been looking for!” Smart enough, funny enough, good enough…

Take it all away. Cognitive abilities have declined. Isolation is the rule. Even speaking is often interrupted by tears.

Family and close friends still love me. They want me to continue living. It seems I find I am enough when I offer nothing at all, requiring only that I breathe. Enough certainly doesn’t feel like I thought it would.

Neurological Condition

Research at the tip of one’s fingers brings a new understanding of fibromyalgia. The interested members of the medical community know what it is, where its origin is in the depth of the brain, and how it attacks the body. I haven’t heard anything new since 2009. As odd as it sounds, I’m so excited to learn that I have a neurological condition. I’ll be sharing what I’m learning and efforts I make to manage fibromyalgia as well as the results. Because of what I’ve learned so far, I’m not pushing myself to write and post about the paradigm shift in a hurry. Just checking in. On days I have a good morning, I’ll be working on those posts. For now, I can’t believe none of the medical professionals have talked about any of this stuff. Suffice to say, overproduction of stress hormones and flooding the body leads to damage over time. Such a relief to know something.

Sara’s Still Rambling

At our favorite diner & dive bar on a gray, quiet Sunday, my husband and I were brunching, he on his chicken fried chicken pile and I had a Hot Mess with a Dirty Mary. It wasn’t football season and the TVs displayed a trivia game, entertaining pictures, and an infomercial. We were seated below the infomercial for magical skin creams for exfoliation or buffing, just the thing to make your skin look decades younger. To my husband, I said, “No matter what you do though, you can’t undo crepe.” Wolf, my husband, looked at the screen and said, “What’s crepe?” I explained that as women age, neck skin develops wrinkles in a crepe paper appearance. His response, “Huh, never heard of that before, and you have lotion in your crepe.”

Clocking in for my garden center job at a large grocery store, I had my cowboy hat, sunglasses, and large water glass ready for the sun and heat. The head butcher walked up and said, “Well, good morning, Flower Girl!” Without thinking I answered, “Hello, Meat Man!” He said that was the nicest thing I’d ever called him.

About a week ago, I watched Rob and Amber react to “Nights in White Satin” on their YouTube channel, RobSquad Reactions. I pause to even tell this one. That was the very first time I realized it was “Nights” and not “Knights.” All my life I’ve been picturing knights in white satin. Creepy KKKish but I didn’t dwell, obviously. I’m so relieved it’s actually about nights in satin sheets. Much better.

To the reader – The following requires the ability to read between the lines. My German mother-in-law is moving in with us. I start with German as a descriptor because it’s what first comes to mind. Her husband of 40 years passed away a couple of months ago. My husband, her son, is her only family now, except for extended family in Germany. Alone now, in kinda the middle of nowhere, she didn’t know what to do next. Therefore, my German mother-in-law is going to sell her place and move here, probably this summer. I can’t imagine in my head what this will sound like or look like long-term. I’ll share some of the fun in future ramblings.

On one of the earliest dates for my husband-to-be and me, we went to Magic Mountain, just an hour down the freeway from where we lived in Southern California. Once in the parking lot we sat in the car, talking and talking. At some point, we agreed we really didn’t feel like dealing with the whole amusement park experience but decided maybe we’d check out a go-cart track. We just had to drive about 30 more minutes, into the San Fernando Valley. There were still a few spots open in the parking lot, as dusk settled. Again, we did not get out of the car! More conversation ensued. Once it was dark, kids were showing up to tear around in cool cars, so we drove further, taking only a couple of freeways more to a pretty big miniature golf course. By now, it was fully dark. It was the best looking putt putt course I’d seen with lots of multicolored lights and good looking structures. Made sense since it was next door to Burbank, home to many show and movie studios. We took it all in from the outside. We continued to laugh and talk. Hours and hours in the car, not going to a few different spots. I think we didn’t stay in that parking lot so long before we packed it in and drove home. We laugh about it still, 33 years on, agreeing we were meant to be.

Living in the same home for 20 years, our two sons grew up on our cul-de-sac off a deadend. It’s been a great village. The street is fairly long with many more neighbors than a typical cul-de-sac. Most houses were not home to children but the handful of boys present from three houses felt like a lot more. Pretty sure my sons, in particular, felt like the adult occupants without kids were strangers; I knew them, though. I found out a few years after the fact that my boys had knocked on doors at the opposite end of our street, presenting themselves as poor and “selling” rocks to raise funds. What?!? A few neighbors had opened their front doors in response to knocking or a doorbell, to see my guys plus one standing on their porch. My sons would literally announce that they had no money and show rocks “for sale.” Some of these folks felt terrible that we were struggling so and gave the boys money!!! When I questioned my kids about this after I learned of it, they fondly reminisced how they’d “earned” money. Embarrassed and appalled just begin to describe how I felt. For their part, my neighbors were relieved to learn we weren’t struggling to make ends meet and thought it was hilarious!

Called to the principal’s office in my senior year, I was sure I was getting busted for forged notes releasing me from classes, because the attendance office was performing a purge, comparing immunization and enrollment records to see if note signatures were consistent with those on school records. This was waaaay back when parents wrote notes to excuse absences or release kids from class. My best friend had been caught, so I thought it was my turn. I’d “used” my dad’s autograph in my fakes since I knew he didn’t fill out any of the school records, and this was before there was any mention of using that process for catching forgers. Following the overhead announcement from the office requesting my presence and the whole class responding, “ooooh,” I walked the empty hall with my mind swirling. When I entered the office lobby, one of the secretaries pointed to a chair. This was not the attendance office. Before long, my principal, who was also my psychology teacher, asked me to take a seat across from his desk. He was friendly and welcoming. I had no idea what was happening. Mr. Halvorsen explained to me that the district was putting together a team of teachers, administrators, and one student from each of the two high schools to evaluate and adopt a sexual education curriculum. Sex Ed. He told me he’d like me to represent our school in this group. Relieved I wasn’t in trouble, I accepted. Later, I wondered how I was going to explain this to my parents, the principal singling me out for this assignment. This subject had been a source of contention in our home for a few months, related to my relationship with my boyfriend. They just chuckled though.

  • Regimen – a plan or routine. People follow a medication or exercise regimen.
  • Regime – the ruling class. In Iraq, Sadaam Hussein’s regime was unseated.
  • Regiment – a group or unit of soldiers or militia. A regiment of soldiers was moved forward.

Thank you, just needed to put that out there.

Fu@%&ng Fibro

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on

Plans for today, nearly two months after my bone-breaking fall and still not weightbearing since surgery just a month ago, included a shower and going outside. Early in this injury-surgery-recovery process, I truly could not differentiate between anything that might be related to my leg versus fibromyalgia. In the past, I’d wished fibro was visible, like a broken leg, so people would be able to see how my body suffered and why I wasn’t more active. In late January, there I was, not a wish come true but something akin to it. The injury was serious all by itself. Having walked on it for a couple weeks before I got the order to stay off it completely and then taking a combo of powerful meds in the mix with surgery, general anesthesia, and inability to care for myself, it was a whole new scene. It wasn’t difficult for me to completely ignore fibro, attributing pain and other symptoms to the broken leg situation.

Lord, a vacation from fibro was wonderful. I know it was still there doing its thing, but the prescribed Percocet, the powerful muscle relaxer, anti-nausea and anti-itch medications took over everything. I was able to pay fibro no mind. No need to discuss it; my daily life didn’t revolve around limitations imposed by the disorder.

Now, though, I’m not taking any of the medications prescribed by the surgeon. They can’t be the cause of my dizziness and loss of balance. No crutches in use since the early days, so can’t blame shoulder and neck pain/terrible tightness on that anymore. Yes, I’m unable to deny the interference of fibro in my daily life.

Sadness covers me as life with fibro comes back into primary focus.

I’m in acceptance and commitment therapy now. Most recently, my counselor and I discussed acceptance of MIL coming to live with us. That’s a whole separate issue I promised readers earlier I would bury in some posts. Update: She’s moving in sooner rather than later. I am working to accept this major change and commit to making it work. It’s a project.

I realize in my current set of circumstances I need to accept that fibromyalgia is part of my life, not a foreign virus or bacteria, an enemy that needs to be vanquished. I thought I’d done this already. Apparently not. I suppose some followers will be as fatigued by the subject of fibro as I am. I don’t blame you. So, after a terrible night’s sleep, not because of pain or discomfort related to my leg, and waking up dizzy as hell with very sore shoulder joints, I am not showering today. I still have to use a shower seat, but I’m really tired and don’t feel able to manage. I still hope to go outside. I’m newly fascinated by the wide variety of birdsong in our backyard and the field beyond. The one dog we have left doesn’t go out much and doesn’t chase the birds when she does, so there is a louder chorus than I remember.

Here I am again, tailoring my plans and activities around revolving, uncomfortable fibro symptoms. They’re not going away in a few weeks when I get the okay to walk on my injured leg. No surgery can remove them. No amount of bedrest will heal them. They are in me. Acceptance, rather than disdain, is called for, but I don’t know what that looks like.

p.s. March 20, 2022 – Today is a new day. The sun is shining and I put makeup on for the first time since I broke my leg on January 25, 2022. One day at a time.

p.p.s. Looking back, I had COVID for the first two weeks of this year, immediately following which I broke my leg. I may have put on makeup today for the first time in 2022. Happy New Year.

Parent is Also a Verb (PAV) 3/17/22

Photo by Kaysha on Pexels.c

Meaning of the word discipline: In OED and Watkins it is said to be from discere “to learn,” from a reduplicated form of the PIE root *dek- “to take, accept.” But according to Barnhart and Klein, it is from a lost compound *discipere “to grasp intellectually, analyze thoroughly,” from dis- “apart” (see dis-) + capere “to take, take hold of,” from PIE root *kap- “to grasp.”

One phrase we do not encounter when we look at the earliest roots of discipline is “punish.” The assignment of such meaning came later.

Some common synonyms of punish are castigate, chasten, chastise, correct, and discipline. These words mean “to inflict a penalty on in requital for wrongdoing.”  

Unfortunately, in my opinion, the use of discipline and punish interchangeably has become our primary cultural understanding. When someone say, “That child needs some discipline,” they’re not talking about “guiding and teaching.” Most probably, this is someone wanting a parent to “punish, correct” or “control.”

Now, with just a bit of research online, we’re invited to change that paradigm. Most importantly, we need to implement the new focus on “teaching and guiding” in our relationships with our children. If a young one does something incorrectly, we’re encourged to instruct them, check for understanding, model, and practice with them. We can provide a lot of positive reinforcement through discipline, promoting an increase in desired behaviors.

Punishment does have its place but, for maximum effectiveness in discouraging unwanted behavior, it should be a known consequence to the child, reasonable, close in time to the offense, and consistent. This does not mean getting physical with our sons and daughters. We can implement time out, which should be one minute per year of child’s age. This should be in an area with little stimuli. Parents may take away a child’s toy or activity to provide negative reinforcement. We can still approach this with a teaching attitude, instructing our child that the particular behavior is unacceptable. We don’t need to get mad or otherwise emotional; we are guiding them.

Other mothers I hung out with thought I was overboard in my practice of instructing my sons in expected behavior and regularly implementing consequences as warned. For example, my group of mom friends would take our kids to playland at a local fast food restaurant once a week, allowing us to visit while they got physical activity. One rule I had for my two boys was they needed to wear their socks. I didn’t want to lose socks every time we visited and I didn’t want their skin coming in contact with some unknown substance or bacteria. Week after week, when we drove to meet up, I’d restate that they needed to keep socks on or we’d have to leave. Some weeks we did have to leave, maybe after five minutes, maybe after 15. I sensed my peers thought I was too strict, but if I said there would be a consequence, there would be. I meant what I said and said what I meant. That, in fact, was the lesson I was teaching, more so than expectations about socks.

Contrast this with one of my friends who had a very hard-to-handle son, bullying, throwing fits, etc. At one of our informal meetings, she told me how they’d been at the mall and, when it was time to leave in order to go to the fast food joint, he pitched a huge fit, sitting on the floor and refusing to move. Caring for her infant simultaneously, she didn’t know how to get him to the car. Ultimately, she told him there was a secret candy shelf at the destination and she would let him pick one if he came with her. He did. They got in the car and, as she fastened him in his car seat, he asked, “Do I really get a candy?” She abrutly answered, “No, there’s no candy there.” My friend would also tell her three or four=year-old son that the police were coming to get him if he didn’t stop misbehaving or lashing out. Bless her heart, this was a challenging little guy to deal with and, unfortunately, it continued through his young life. I’m not in anyway saying her tactics were the cause, but seemed to be ineffective.

My children learned early on that I was loving, present, open, firm, and predictable. When they caused trouble on a Friday and received a consequence of losing lunch recess the next Monday, I called the office Monday morning and reminded them my sons were supposed to spend lunch recess in a “time-out” room. Another opportunity for consequences to be implemented was when my 12-year-old pulled down the shorts of a friend while the whole middle school student body was out front at the end of the day, waiting for buses or pick ups. He meant to “just” pull the shorts but the underwear came, too. The sleepover of a group of friends that weekend to celebrate his 13th birthday was canceled and I didn’t feel sorry for him. He chose this egregious behavior. He was suspended for three day and spent that time in his room, “following” the school schedule. Would it have been easier for me to let him hang out and play video games while I worked from home doing medical transcription? Yes, but my priority was to teach him that his behavior was unacceptable, not to avoid interruptions in my routine. My son, 22 now, lives in an apartment and that friend is his roommate! An important part of teaching, guiding, and correcting my children was being supportive of school authorities. I’ve been a teacher and I never understood parents who believed their child’s version of events without even checking with me first and remained uninterested, only fighting for the student’s “innocence.” I wanted my kids to know we were communicating and on the same page. My guys were rascals sometimes and I acknowledged that reality.

At one point, both boys were told by playground supervisors not to play with a particular friend, choosing a different part of the outdoor area, because together they were trouble. I called and asked the principal if it was okay for me to pull up to watch recess and ensure there weren’t any shenanigans. She told me no, it wouldn’t be okay for a van to pull up to the fence and watch the children playing. (duh, should’ve thought that through) but I was welcome to sign-in as a visitor at the office and go out to recess in order to monitor the behavior of my kids. This was much less convenient for me, having to park, sign in, go through the school, and hang out for 20 minutes or whatever it was then. I did it for a week. My sons knew I was in partnership with the school.

On another subject, spanking has been proven ineffective in shaping behavior. Think about when you were young. Being spanked provokes feelings of anger and an “us v. them” attitude. You’re not on a team, working together, if one party is receiving physical punishment. Hitting a child in anger also can lead to abuse, using a tool such as a belt, spanking longer and harder, or other forms of inflicting pain such as pinching, twisting, or manhandling. Best parenting practices exclude spanking as a consequence.

Indeed, effective parenting is a verb. Discipline should be thoughtfully considered and consequences, positive or negative, in place Many, many people revert to playing the parenting tape in their head from their childhood years and emulating those experiences, e.g. “My parents did that and I grew up okay.” I didn’t raise my kids perfectly but I did it intentionally. I’m proud of my sons and the choices they’re making as young adults.

***Abuse is any action that intentionally injures or harms a person and includes physical, psychological and verbal abuse. No matter the frustration level, we must never attempt to assert control by belittling or attacking.*** If you need help, talk to your doctor, clergy, counselor, etc. If you suspect someone of abuse or neglect, check online for guidance in your state for reporting; agencies and regulations vary greatly across statelines.

Sara’s education and experience: B.A. Ed; M.S. Counseling; teacher grades K & 2/3, educator for childcare providers, training in Positive Discipline and Growing, parent educator, program director of crisis nursery, including parent support, staff management & training, stay home mom 16 years with two sons born 19 months apart, medical transcription for 10 years in order to stay home, substitute teacher grades K through 12. Blogs about a wide variety of topics on

Short Shrift

Tried to write an update on my fracture, three-and-a-half weeks out. Actually, I did write and post an update earlier today, nearly an hour ago. I spent a good bit of time writing and selecting pictures.

First issue was when I went on as a reader and was appalled that the yuckier pictures were right up there with the x-rays. I went back to my site and then noticed all of the text had disappeared, with the exception of one line. What? The kicker is it took me longer to try to fix than it had just writing. I may not be as recovered as I think I am. Happy to say I’m done taking opiods! Weaned myself off. Minimizing time on them has been a priority for me. I had a horrible reaction last November when I had a tooth extraction, and I worried this go-round would be the same. Spacing out the pills as soon as I felt able, and then taking a half-tab a couple times and then just one. No problem.

I’ll try to write and read in maybe a week. Screen time sometimes makes me feel poorly. Anyhoo, tried to proof as I typed but today, who knows? It’s a crapshoot. Thank you.

Not a Molehill

Eight days from injury to doctor

Nine x-rays

Two fractures, fibular & tibula, the former requiring surgical repair

One boot

Two crutches

One knee scooter

One wheelchair

One surgery

Ten screws

One metal rod

Seventeen staples

Five weeks injury to completing surgical procedures

Six more weeks with no weightbearing on healing leg

Years ago, 18 to be exact, I slipped on our back deck stairs due to black ice. I landed spread eagle, robe open, in a foot or so of snow. Hurt so bad!!! I hurt all over but my leg looked and felt broken. X-rays at urgent care revealed there was no fracture, surprising everyone (medical staff, my sister and I). It was “just” a really badly sprained and bruised right low leg and, uh, that pain was so bad for so long.

Fast forward to nearly two months ago, January 25, 2022. There I am, falling down in my bedroom, apropos of nothing, my arms feathering down, seeing my left ankle turned out further than it should be, thinking ‘that’s not right’, and then putting it out of my mind as requiring emergent care. It took superhuman strength, at least supersara strength, to get up on my bed, (not a pillowtop.) I immediately started ice and elevation for both ankles, both of which started to swell and bruise not long after injury.

This was the first week of “recovery,” but about five days in we realized both of the injuries were not the same. The right ankle held onto deep blue and purple bruising for quite a while but the swelling decreased, responding to my efforts. The left, however, maintained its swelling and there was some bruising that just held its color, just greening around the edges. I’d already scheduled a visit with my primary later that week to talk about other issues. She sent me immediately for x-rays, referred me to orthopedics, and wished me luck. The call the next day from the practice informed me that my fibula was indeed fractured.

I admit to seeing medical molehills and turning them into mountains in my younger years. Now, not so much. A couple of decades have taught me that the medical system will make it a mountain all on its own. My 2013 experience falling down our outdoor stairs without a break in spite of a really ugly appearance, gave me enough information to waylay treatment in 2022. They’d just tell me to ice and elevate no matter the formal diagnosis, I said to myself.

Most medical personnel with whom I’ve had contact over the past few weeks have asked how my injury occurred and how it was treated initially by emergency room physicians or maybe urgent care. When many medical professionals think I must have sought immediate attention, I was certain it was a mountain rather than a molehill, and I do wish I had recognized it right away. I wouldn’t have walked on it for a week. Doctor reassured i didn’t cause any further damage, but it sure hurt. Water under the bridge now.

I am so relieved to be on the other side of this mountain and on my non-weightbearing way down.

This post has been proofread, unlike some tired attempts. Anything I missed? blame it on the leg!

30 Years

Traditional Wedding Vows Example: 1 “I, (Name), take you (Bride/Groom), to be my (Husband/ Wife), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

Well, my husband and I have certainly visited all of those circumstances over the past three decades. We have held ourselves to our vows even, or especially, when times are hard. We’re exercising our vow muscles now as we navigate my chronic fibromyalgia and depression with the addition of a spiral break of the fibula, requiring surgery to put it back together.

I can’t even type the whirlwind of changing circumstances currently coming our way, from death of her husband and upcoming relocation of my mother-in-law to our home, my disability, etc. Overwhelmed, more tired than I can remember feelng ever, incredibly sore muscles and joints thanks to fibro, spout for tears on the ready, fuzzy mind, no ocean visit,

We’d planned for my husband to pickup food from a really nice restaurant for Sunday evening to celebrate our Leap Day anniversary, but I was too tired to eat. We cooked up a frozen pizza, which I’ve determined that I can no longer eat. Pepperoni is no friend of my acid reflux. Not that it will be terribly missed.

No trip, no fancy meal, no expensive gifts. The most important aspect of an anniversary, that we’re celebrating so many years together and honoring our vows, these things make our 30 year anniversary precious.

Hey, it’s another ‘no proof reading’ post.

Times Such as These

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

This is gonna be a short one. Wasn’t going to write at all today but gotta capture the thought while it’s still within my grasp, mentally and physically. which is a concern. For example, yesterday I had two pair or reading glasses but now I have none.

Surviving Sara is sometimes about choices I make that don’t necessarily pan out well and this post nails that. The woman in the picture above, I get it. I’m in the middle of a project, no time to go the workbench across the room. It’ll work this way. I only need the nail to go in a little bit.

As far as controlling pain following surgery for a spiral fracture of my fibula, the medical staff stressed the importance of sticking with pain meds regularly for a while. Well, my last experience with opioids was horrible, so I want to wean off as soon as I can. I have a worthy purpose for stretching out doses and quitting.

Photo by cottonbro on

Today’s circumstances are that I haven’t had much sleep since 3 a.m today, worst night sleep in a looong time. I’ve been waking up to find myself not only talking in my sleep but talking with my hands in my slumber, performing whatever task I needed to do in the dream. Wakes me up. The edge between sleep and wakefulness is not well defined. I do attribute these things to being under general anesthesia five days ago and I’m quite hopeful they’ll fade.

Photo by cottonbro on

Here’s where Surviving Sara’s logic for integrating information and real world circumstances collide.

1. Last night was the worst night of sleep I’ve had in ages. Tossing and turning. Scootering between bed and bath. My brain recognizes this and begins planning what I can do differently tonight.

2. Completely apart from those considerations, I decide this would be a good day to try spacing out pain medication dosages because my ankle/leg pain has been fairly well-managed so far.

Fast foward just shy of six hours, and I’ve got baaad pain. Had to suck it up until prescription pain relief was onboard. It was during this waiting time that I had a lightbulb moment. It became clear to me that spontaneously reducing pain meds less than a week post surgery, no less following a really horrible night of sleep, was not a good idea.

And the chorus of friends and family shake their heads and laugh, “Oh, for fuck’s sake. When will she learn?” I am working on mindfulness, mainly using the word more often. I will hold firm that the slowdown in my thinking and processing is the result of increased thoughful contemplation, certainly not an indicator of aging.

In addition to a front row seat to fibromyalgia and depression, here is the perfect post to illustrate what else Surviving Sara looks like. If you’ve read this far, you are Surviving Sara, too, Thanks so much for experiencing life with me, checking out one post or 100.

p.s. I had a Valentine’s Day post but didn’t get around to finishing and publishing it. Hope to blog more consistently as spring pushes petals up through the soil, frozen and icy not so long ago. Those pansies are some tough plants.

On the Other Side

Very relieved to be put back together, as Dr. Barrow described the results of my surgery to my husband post-op. Two nerve blocks for my ankle and low leg have me free of pain for the first time since I fell three weeks ago. Going to enjoy every minute until the blocks wear off.

A pain reliever, antibiotic, and meds for anti-itch and anti-nausea are on board. Doctor’s orders are to stay in bed except for using the restroom for the next two weeks. Follow-up visit at that point will be a transition from surgical dressing back to the AirCast, except my boot was removed in the operating room and it didn’t make it home with me. Called the ortho office. A nurse there is going to do some checking; hopefully they’ll have that boot when I go back. If not, I’ll need to go get a new one. Not a big deal.

I’m so glad to be done with surgery. On the mend from here. Oh, and the ordered knee scooter arrived while I was at the hospital! Things are definitely looking up, which is a very good thing. Whew.

Going Under

Photo by cottonbro on

A metal plate along with some screws and pins sounds more like a shopping list at the local hardware store than supplies for surgery, but that combo is what I’ve been told is necessary if I ever “want to have a functional ankle.”

My fibula has a complete break which changes into a spiral fracture, the whole thing running several inches long. My tibia also has a small break, which the surgeon says will heal on its own. The broken fibula has compromised the spacing of bones in my ankle. At least this is my layman’s take on many x-rays and explanations by doctors.

One concern of mine was whether or not I’d caused further injury by not seeking medical help sooner and hobbling on my bad leg lightly for two weeks. The surgeon assured me I hadn’t caused any more damage than was inflicted in the fall. That’s plenty.

The surgery scheduler asked me if I’d been prescribed any pain medication. She is the first person who has asked me about pain or analgesics since this whole freaking course of events began. I explained I’d been taking ibuprofen and she said to stop it. All I have now is acetominophen. I did discuss with the doctor the use of opiods post surgery and my concern about using them. He’s promised to prescribe the dosage in a way that weans me off instead of abruptly quitting. (See “Through the Wringer” published November 12, 2021.)

The best news of all (sarcasm alert) is that after the surgery I must not bear weight on my left ankle for TWO MONTHS! I purchased some crutches and I’m employing them at home but the learning curve is steep for me. My 57-year-old body, debilitated for years by fibromyalgia and major depression, isn’t naturally strong enough to handle this new activity. I bump and bounce off walls, and I occasionally touch down lightly on my boot. This won’t work after surgery.

My major concern, and one not addressed by any of the medical providers I’ve seen so far, is that I incurred all this trauma without tripping, slipping, or clipping anything. All I was doing was walking across my bedroom floor. How do I prevent this in the future? What the hell? One step at a time, I guess, if all goes well.

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