Ruminations, Louise Brooks, & More

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This tranquil secret garden was part of the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour about ten years ago.

This past week hasn’t been what I’d term thrilling—mostly I’ve been dealing with sudden, stabbing pain that would strike my right shoulder randomly, immobilizing my entire arm. This excruciating pain was related to my recent shoulder surgery.

But I don’t really want to rehash all the occurrences. Suffice to say I’m heartily sick of the subject. But I was taken aback when the pain hit me hard at the gym the other day, especially since I never work my right shoulder at the gym and all I was doing was getting off of one of the machines.

The pain was severe but nowhere near as bad as the first occurrence almost two weeks ago. I somehow shuffled over to a couch in the lobby and attempted to sit down. My BFF was with me, so she helped carry my stuff for me.

One of the staff came over and asked me if I was alright. I knew they’d be worried I had injured myself on the premises, so I hastily assured him that my condition had nothing to do with the gym. I asked if there was an ice pack on hand and there was! Sure saved my life.

Luckily, we had completed our strength training, so we rested and chatted for quite awhile. Eventually, my friend left and I finished my workout by putting in 30 minutes of rather low-key cardio on the stationary bike. Just didn’t have the energy to go all out. My body couldn’t do it. But, hey, at least I finished.

This coming week will be filled with various doctor appointments, PT, and filing taxes. Not exactly fun in the sun, huh?

I’ll be following up with two orthos (for my knee and right shoulder), and I’ll be getting an MRI on my left shoulder. I’m kinda hoping I just have bursitis and not a rotator cuff tear on the left shoulder. But it’s a bit unnerving to hear my left shoulder crackle whenever I do shoulder rolls. At least my right shoulder doesn’t make any noise at all.

Small mercies. I’ll take ’em.

NOW FOR THE FUN STUFF

No more Gloomy Gus; it’s time for the uplifting part of my post. First of all, my BFF and I are planning to visit a local nature park mid-week. She’s never been there, and it’s been over a decade since I’ve visited the gardens. We’ll walk around, commune with nature, and hopefully take lots of pictures.

I say hopefully take lots of pictures because my poor iPhone is old and storage is extremely low. Oh yeah, and the battery is starting to go, too. If only I had a great digital camera, or at least, the iPhone 7.

Believe me, I’d be running out today and getting a brand new phone with oodles of storage if I could only afford it.

Wait. That falls under the heading of the Gloomy Gus stuff. OK then. Back to the fun stuff.

We’re also planning on going on the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour in May. We took the tour over a decade ago and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I’m sure we’ll see some lovely gardens again, such as the one pictured at the top of this post.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Photography has been an interest of mine since I was a teen. Ever since my recent discovery of the Painnt app, I’ve been obsessively applying filters to some of my pictures and other free sources and have been sharing them on various platforms such as Instagram.

Filtering photos really is art in its own way, even if you’re just tweaking a stock photo. You’re puting your own stamp, your imagination, creativity, and indeed your own unique vision upon a subject. You’re enhancing color, increasing warmth, or adding ominous touches to the original photo. By the clever manipulation of light, shadow, color, and texture, you can completely alter the narrative of the original source photo.

And to me, that is exciting indeed. If I’m lucky, I find myself awestruck by the beauty and transformation of the finished creation.

I’m using the Painnt app on my iPad right now because my old computer with Photoshop on it isn’t hooked up to the internet. And yes, I also need a new computer and the latest versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Dreamweaver… ahem.

OK. Fun stuff only. See, I remembered.

DISCOVERING LOUISE BROOKS

I’d like to show you some of the work I’ve done this week. One of my favorite creations is this photo of the iconic silent screen actress, Louise Brooks. Frankly, I’d like to produce a high-res image of it in acrylic so I could display it.

I’ll post my filtered photo first, and next to it I’ll post the original black and white so you can compare the two. Interestingly enough, I had come across the source photo in a Facebook group dedicated to the 20s, 30s, and 40s. I was struck by Louise’s beauty and by the exquisite photo itself, so I thought I’d try working on it. I was pleased with the results.

I naturally knew who Louise Brooks was, but I had never seen her films, nor did I know much about her personal life. So it was highly gratifying for me to accidentally stumble across an intriguing BBC documentary on her life on YouTube last night. The documentary was based on interviews with her and included excerpts from her 1982 memoir, “Lulu in Hollywood,” which were read by actress Linda Hunt.

Louise was a fascinating creature. With her bobbed hair and hedonistic lifestyle, she was the epitome of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Roaring Twenties flapper—liberated, sexually adventurous, headstrong, and ultimately self-destructive.

Louise had an admittedly relaxed attitude about sex. She had affairs with some prominent men, like Charlie Chaplin, but she also claimed to have had a brief dalliance with Greta Garbo.

She socialized with William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies at San Simeon. Louise also worked with many of the famous stars, directors, and producers of her day, including W. C. Fields, Walter Wanger, Howard Hawks, Wallace Beery, and even Fatty Arbuckle after his downfall.

Louise soon tired of her new husband and Hollywood and went to Berlin where she made her best films. Berlin in the twenties was decadent and every sexual appetite could be easily satisfied, especially if you had the money to pay for it. But it was also a creative city in which to make innovative silent films.

Brooks is best known as the lead in three feature films made in Europe: “Pandora’s Box” (1929), “Diary of a Lost Girl” (1929), and “Miss Europe” (1930). The first two were directed by the famed Austrian director, G. W. Pabst.

It is in “Pandora’s Box” that Louise plays Lulu. According to Wikipedia, “Brooks’ portrayal of a seductive, thoughtless young woman whose raw sexuality and uninhibited nature bring ruin to herself and those who love her, although initially unappreciated, eventually made the actress a star.”

Pabst had predicted that if she did not mend her ways, she’d end up like Lulu. But Louise sought pleasure for pleasure’s sake and her personal life often too closely mirrored that of Lulu’s. She was on the verge of total self-destruction when film preservationist, James Card, rescued her in 1955.

Her memoir should prove to be a fascinating book. I’m looking forward to finding a copy and reading it.

 FILTERED PHOTOS 

Over the last couple of days, I began focusing on certain themes: horses, lighthouses, greasers or Teddy Boys, musicians, dancers, and a few miscellaneous subjects. Some samples of my work are in the following slideshows:

HORSES & LIGHTHOUSES

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DANCERS

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GREASERS & MUSICIANS

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50s GLAMOUR, RIPPED DUDE, & MISC.

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I’m always searching for new subject matter, whether it be current or evocative of the past. But there’s always something intriguing to unravel when delving into the social mores of a bygone era. You never quite know what fascinating tidbits you’ll uncover when you take some steps back into time.

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Tips After Shoulder Surgery

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If you find yourself facing shoulder surgery, don’t let yourself get scared by all the doom and gloom articles and posts online. I’m here to tell you that it ain’t that bad.

Even the pain was minimal; I wouldn’t even call it pain. For me, it was more discomfort than anything else. I will qualify that statement by stating that I likely have a high threshold for pain, so my experience may not be your experience, and yes, I took my pain pills every six hours.

In fact, I kept a list of when I took my pills as I found my cognitive abilities were slightly impaired from all the meds. This way I didn’t have to rely on my memory. I’m now coming off the pain pills; I take one at bedtime.

Personally, I wouldn’t bother getting the nerve block. I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t go through that trauma. I told the nurses while in recovery that my pain level, on a scale from 1-10, was an 8. My neck and shoulder felt very tight. They gave me more dilaudid and morphine… and then more again…. I left the hospital feeling no pain at all.

I’m not sure that’s usual—I can only tell you about my personal experience. Again, your experience and your physical condition may be quite different from my own. The nurse had told me that their goal was to get the pain down to a level 4 or less.

It’s important to move your arm in passive motions, meaning you let gravity do the work for you, so you don’t end up with a frozen shoulder. But I have discovered that I could do a bit more with my right hand than originally anticipated. I can move my elbow more now than I could two weeks ago, too.

I think the biggest pain in the neck is sleeping. Since you have to sleep sitting up, I advise using a recliner, or barring that, using a husband pillow and fluffy pillows to sit up in bed. And ice!

Icing twenty minutes on/off will help bring down the swelling, which helps control discomfort.

Showering is a big pain. Take a nice long shower the morning of your surgery because you sure won’t feel like taking one for days. Washing your hair is a bit difficult, too, so be prepared for that.

Eating using only my left hand was pretty funny. My sister had to cut up my food the first couple of days, and I found eating with a spoon was easier than using a fork. But two weeks after surgery, eating isn’t quite so difficult. Keep in mind that most difficulties are fairly transitory.

Clothing worked out more easily than I thought. I recommend that women get a couple of tops or a caftan with kimono sleeves; they work out great! I have a tunic with kimono sleeves, so it was perfect paired with leggings. And my sister gave me a shawl for Christmas, which helps keep me nice and cozy.

Finding a bra I could wear was something I desperately worried about prior to surgery. Believe me, the first few days after surgery you’ll be glad to just put on the damn caftan cuz you ain’t going nowhere.

Soon, however, I found I could fasten my bra in front and slowly turn it around. Then I put on my left shoulder strap but left the right strap down so there wouldn’t be any pressure on the surgical site. Besides, there was no way I could get my right arm through the strap. Luckily, no one could tell I was only wearing one strap.

Men can wear buttoned-down shirts, but you’ll have this thick padding over the surgical site for a week, which means shirts won’t fit. If you have a loose, stretchy  t-shirt with a wide neck, you should be able to put that on.

If you live alone, try to stay with family or friends until you go to your follow-up appointment. My follow-up was eleven days after surgery, but it can be up to two weeks. And you’ll need someone to cook for you. Later, you’ll be able to do some minor cooking, but only one-handed.

Stock up on food, frozen meals and fruits/vegetables, coffe, tea, toiletries, and other miscellaneous items. Spray antiperspirant works more easily than roll-on. I bought a kitchen brush so I could wash dishes. Buy flushable wipes. You’ll need them.

Move important items to the middle of cupboards for easy access. And if you live in a complex that has dumpsters with lids on them, ask someone to throw away your trash for you. You sure won’t be able to do it yourself.

Additionally, constipation is invariably an issue with surgery due to the anesthesia and the pain meds. Eat lots of fiber-rich foods, drink plenty of water, and take an appropriate OTC remedy. I rarely have this problem, but I did this time. Kirkland’s LaxaClear worked well for me.

I’m supposed to wear my sling for six weeks. I kept on my sling 24/7 for several days. But now, since I’m stuck at home for the duration and I’m highly cognizant of not picking up anything heavier than a coffee cup or making wrong moves, I wear my sling mostly when sleeping or if I need to go outside.

This means that you will NOT be able to drive as long as you’ve been ordered to wear your sling. It’s just not safe. For me, this restriction is the worst. I’m stuck at home unless someone else drives me.

The PA did not release me to go to physical therapy for an additional four weeks in order to avoid a failed surgery, so I do passive exercises four times daily at home. Make the wrong movement or put too much stress on your injured arm, however, and that may cause an anchor to pop out. Boy, that’s a scary thought!

Please let me know if you have any worries or concerns about an upcoming shoulder surgery, and I’ll try to help. Good luck!

 

An Announcement

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DRUM ROLL PLEASE! OK, nothing that exciting to announce… I’m not getting married or something like that. Hahaha! But I do have my MRI results.

Yes, it’s a torn meniscus. It’s been torn for a long time. I asked if that meant like 10 years? My ortho surgeon said yes. So I now have my confirmation.

Over 10 years ago, I got my first golden retriever as a puppy. She was an adorable, rambunctious, but loving, pup.

When she was a year-old, 65-lb. puppy, she used to get a gleam in her eyes when we played in the yard together. Uh, oh. She’d begin by charging towards me, taking a flying leap and then bodyslamming herself into my knees. I’d see her gunning for me, but all I could do was brace for impact. She never took me out, but she sure tried.

My knees would hyperextend and it would HURT! My knees were never the same after that. Eventually my goofy pup realized it was useless to keep tackling me. It’s not like I was a pro football scout or anything.

But the damage was done. My baby tore my meniscus. And to think I worked in rescue for 6 years after that, and at the dog kennel for 4 years doing very physically demanding work. No wonder I was in pain 100% of the time and had problems even just walking down the hallway of my home… It’s amazing I was functioning all this time with a torn meniscus and didn’t know it.

Anyway, surgery is set for the end of January. Before my surgery, I’ll have a pre- op, like an EKG, blood test, etc. Oh, I also have wear and tear underneath the patella, a Baker’s cyst caused by the torn meniscus, and osteoarthritis.

I may have to have knee replacement surgery down the road thanks to my osteoarthritis. But I’m gonna do everything in my power to prevent that.

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Don’t Let Life Get You Down

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Challenges can be overwhelming, but the best approach is to roll with the punches and figure out how to overcome obstacles.

We all face challenges in our daily life, but it’s our mindset that has the biggest influence on the outcome. And yep, it’s NOT always easy. But once you make up your mind and become determined to reach a certain goal, your life often changes for the better.

I’ve lost 16% of my body weight so far, despite the challenges I’ve faced lately with my lack of mobility and the fact that Thanksgiving and my birthday were in the same week. Ooh, plus a friend invited me to be his date at a dinner the other night, which was a lot of fun.

The encouraging news is that I STILL lost 9 lbs. in 30 days, even after eating those three amazing meals. All three dinners included dessert, and one of the meals included wine. I just made good choices and logged everything in the app, My Fitness Pal.

Isn’t it great to know that losing weight during the holidays, and without feeling deprived, can be a reality?

I haven’t been blogging much lately because my left knee totally gave out on me not too long ago. My active lifestyle came to a dead stop. I even had a couple of days of crushing depression because of it.

My knee improved after my physical therapist taped it the day before Thanksgiving. The tape stayed on for 6 days, and it really helped. I can finally put weight on that leg again and straighten it when I’m lying down, but I have to keep the knee bent when I walk.

Sadly, the limping is throwing off my gait and putting a huge strain on my back. It’s also exhausting to walk that way.

I won’t know more until I go to my ortho surgeon to get my MRI results next Wednesday. The surgery will be scheduled then, likely for sometime in January.

Another big problem is that I stopped all exercise because of my knee and car problems. I’m determined to go back to water aerobics class this Saturday, baring any unforeseen problems like rain or the car becomes undriveable. So even though the morning will be cold, the outdoor pool is heated.

Hopefully, I’ll fight the desire to stay snuggled under the covers early Saturday morning and that the weather won’t be a deterrent. I really need to go to water aerobics because I can tell I’m losing strength and stamina. My goal is to strengthen my core, which will help relieve my low back pain immensely.

Today was a breakthrough; I actually went grocery  shopping. Unfortunately, it left me exhausted and sweating. I felt as weak as a kitten trying to maneuver that heavy cart up and down those aisles.

You try pushing a grocery cart with your left side, limping, hunched over the cart, with a cane in your right hand. It doesn’t frickin’ WORK!

So those are two of my personal challenges. I need to have knee surgery done in early January, get through the 4-6 weeks of recovery, and buy a new car. And then start going back to physical therapy.

The good news is that PT for my rotator cuff issues has also been approved. So I can make the PT appointments once I figure out all the necessary logistics.

I’d love to hear about some of your personal challenges and what steps you’re taking to overcome them. We can all help each other obtain our goals. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

UPDATE: December 18, 2016

Wow. Someone just liked this post on my blog from a year ago. Reading it brings back so many memories. After I wrote this, I was forced to use those electric carts in the store. But even those left me sweating and exhausted. That’s how difficult life was back then. And it made me realize how all that made my back issues worse. I found it interesting how I was still losing weight quickly then, but it all slowed to a crawl immediately following surgery. I’m eating about 1200 calories or so per day now, and I’m lucky if I lose one pound. Grrrr. However, I’ve persevered and have lost 67 lbs. I never did PT for my rotator cuff. Probably better I didn’t cuz it turned out that my rotator cuff has disintegrated and I need surgery. Major shoulder surgery is scheduled for January 6. 

Surgery? Who Me-??

imageSome of you may have read about my struggles with my left knee. It’s been problematic for a long time, but my knee started buckling in October, after my first PT knee appointment. Last Thursday, I stepped over a pile of laundry on the floor with my left foot, and well, let’s just say that it didn’t go well. At all. It really swelled up and even after constant icing, the swelling hasn’t decreased one whit. My physical therapist suggested I get an MRI. Luckily, I already had a referral to an ortho surgeon.

I called the doctor’s office on Friday afternoon, and they were able to get me in early Monday morning as they just had a cancellation. So Saturday, after water aerobics, I went to the imaging center in the hopes of getting a copy of my knee X-rays. I was sent from one floor to another. An attractive Asian lady told me I was at the wrong office and that the office I wanted was closed. I explained that I was told to come to her particular office and that it was urgent I get those X-rays.

She called downstairs and chewed out the staff over the phone. “Why you send her up here?” she demanded. Her tone and accent reminded me of the owner of the dry cleaning establishment where TV’s Mr. Monk took his clothes to be dry cleaned and repaired. Anyone remember her performance? Very funny. Anyway, if it wasn’t for this lady, I wouldn’t have gotten my X-rays.

So I went to see Dr. Stein, the ortho surgeon, today. The staff weren’t a bundle of laughs but Dr. Stein was nice. I gave him the disc with my X-rays on it, so he was able to see my sexy knee joints. LOL!

It seems my right knee has moderate to severe osteoarthritis, while my left knee only has moderate osteoarthritis. Meaning, my right knee is worse than my left. Was I surprised! But my right knee only bothers me occasionally and it rarely swells. The doc had me walk across the very small room. Then he had me walk on my tippy toes (harder), then on my heels (easy). My left knee clicks sometimes. He had me lay on my back and bent my right knee. Tested it. Was OK. Then he did the same to the left. It didn’t hurt but the skin on my kneecap was very tight (edema).

He believes I have a torn meniscus! He said it’s a 15-minute surgery where they clean it out. He seemed to want to skip the MRI and go right to surgery. I suggested we do the MRI first to make sure we knew exactly what we were dealing with. (Yeah, no way was I gonna do the surgery first.) He agreed. The surgery would be done at a surgery center, and I’d be put completely under.

That’s the part that makes me nervous. Hey, I saw the Paul Newman movie, The Verdict. I know s**t can go wrong… Or the anesthesiologist gets drunk the night before, has a horrible hangover, and accidentally overdoses the patient… OK. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies and I’m whipping myself up into a paranoid frenzy. But seriously, anytime a human or animal is put under, there’s risk involved.

Here's what we're likely dealing with...

Here’s what we’re likely dealing with…

It will take awhile to get the approval for the MRI, so my next appointment with Dr. Stein isn’t until December 16. The doc said the recovery time after surgery won’t be too bad; I think I read that recovery time is 4 -6 weeks. But I know that some people get very sick after anesthesia, which I bet is a barrel of laughs. The good news is that I’ll be able to walk after the surgery with the use of my cane. However, I would think that stairs would be out of the question for at least a few days, so I’ll need to find somewhere else to recover. I know that it’s important to get full range of motion as quickly as possible, so I think I’d be able to tackle my stairs at home a few days after surgery.

In the meantime, I can continue exercising, even doing leg presses at the gym, as long as I don’t encounter any pain. I’m not sure if the surgery would take place before or after Christmas. My guess is afterwards.

Yippee.