Bionic Me

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Yahoo! I finally found a solution to my knee brace problem! But this post is less about me and more about that seemingly rare commodity in the 21st century–good customer service.

Honestly, I’ve been on the verge of writing a post several times about poor customer service. Somehow, receptionists and others whose job it is to interact with the public have gotten the idea that being kind and polite–providing good service–is no longer a part of their job. And I just won’t accept that any more. I’ve decided its part of turning 60, just like “you’re not the boss of me” was a part of turning 50. I try to be polite but firm when confronting their poor service and/or straight out rudeness. But still, its just not a good day when I have to deal with this stuff. Mini rant over :)

So. Back to the knee brace. From all my experiments, I somehow figured out that maybe a knee sleeve would work to help the brace stay in place (it kept “migrating” down, which according to Mr. Google is a common problem.) Ever the bargain shopper, I checked out my usual shopping place–Amazon–and had almost decided on one brand, when I clicked on another site, Brace Sox. And I thought, it might be good to pay a bit more and get this from a company where I could talk to real people, and ask if their product would help with my particular problem. Imagine my surprise when I called and a real person answered the phone!! After discussing what I needed, Ann recommended a particular product, told me the size I needed to order, and gave me some tips on how to wear it.

Now, imagine my disappointment when I got my new knee sock, and tried it out, and the brace slipped down around my ankle in less than 50 yards. I was so disappointed. So I waited until the weekend was over, and then, dreading making a phone call to find out about returns, I checked their website. Ahhh, instructions on how to return via email. I sent off an email describing my problem, and asked for a refund number to include when I sent the sock back.

Now, imagine my surprise when Ann called me back. She was very kind and polite. And we discussed what had happened. And she just sounded disappointed that it hadn’t worked for me. But she gave me the information on how to return. And because she sounded so disappointed, I asked, would you like me to try one more time before I return it? And she said, yes, and sounded very happy that I would do that.

Okay. Imagine one more time. I put the sock and the brace on EXACTLY the same way, and it worked!!! It worked so well that I went back and got Noah and we went for a long walk. NO SLIPPAGE whatsoever! I don’t really know what the difference was, but I am thrilled, and so very hopeful that soon I might be taking a three mile hike again.

I talked to Ann one more time, and she sounded so happy that it had worked for me. Cost of buying from a company where you will get good customer service? Priceless!

Good Things

Its strawberry season! I buy too many strawberries, considering there is only one person living in this house. I found a good thing to do with the strawberries that are on the verge–very ripe, but not gone bad.

A potato masher! A potato masher (from the Dollar Store, no less) works perfectly to pulverize strawberries into a thick “sauce.”

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I’ve found a number of things I can do with these mashed strawberries. They work as a topping for protein pancakes or English muffin french toast. I can mix them with a Laughing Cow Lite wedge to use as the celery topping.

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And if there is still some left, I can mix it with some plain yogurt, and eat it that way, or mix with other ingredients for some yummy frozen yogurt granola bars! (original idea courtesy of Cammy.)

The way I always make these granola bars is to measure out each ingredient as it goes in, make a note of the calorie count of each item, add them all up at the end, and divide through by 6 or eight (depending on how many bars you want to make out of this recipe.)

For this batch, I mixed the mashed strawberries with some of my plain homemade yogurt, and then added in some store-bought granola, sliced bananas, mini chocolate chips, and chopped walnuts.

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Just mix everything in an 8X8 pan, and place in the freezer. When the yogurt is frozen, maybe an hour or so, cut into bars and wrap individually in plastic wrap. These are very hard when fully frozen, so take out of the freezer maybe half an hour before you plan to eat them. They are usually around 125 calories, a most worthy, light, and tasty dessert.

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A Dog With a Problem

I only buy one type of nylabone for my dogs. Because that is the only type they like. And I am a good doggie mom. Nylabones never wear out, but it seems they eventually lose their charm. So I buy more. Recently I bought three new nylabones (three doggies.) Although, Bess only occasionally gets into chewing on them, and Sophie only grabs one when I am doing my exercises. She gets nervous when she can’t control something, and apparently my being down on the ground making strange shapes falls into that category. Noah still enjoys his bones every day.

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ANYWAY, sometime in his adult life, Noah developed the bad habit of burying his bones. Even though I try to keep watch, he immediately snuck outside with two of the bones and buried them. If he would dig them up and use them again, I wouldn’t get irritated. But apparently he forgets where they are.

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So I put the last one up, and only gave it to him after I closed the doggie door. This displeased him greatly. He wandered from door to door in the house, hoping for a magical exit to open up.

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He is an expert at giving me that “hangdog” look. But I do not cave. There is still one good nylabone in the house.

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Garden Report

Its been a busy few days in the garden. MLG finished the wood border for the Japanese maples on Thursday.

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So of course, I needed to go to the nursery and get a few ground covers.

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You all know how I love my ground covers, right? And since doing all these improvements in the garden, so that the ground covers are actually planted in the GROUND, I have had much more success with them. I was thrilled to have a whole new area that would benefit from ground plantings. I spent most of Friday working in the garden, planting and doing other chores.

Here’s a couple of shots of all my little plantings:

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While checking out the ground covers, I found a display of sedums and other succulents. I haven’t had much luck with them, but decided to give them one more try. I had this pot (remember, the one that MLG sawed the top off of,) and thought it would be perfect for a grouping. I sanded the edge, and then moved it out next to the steps to my studio. This is outside the fence, so I am hoping that the deer do not find sedums desirable.

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Elsewhere I have had success for the first time with snapdragons. They are another one of those plants that benefit from being planted in the fall. I finally tried that.

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And while I was at the nursery, I spotted a new intriguing plant. Its called a “ground orchid,” and is supposed to be extremely cold hardy! I love the way the stems sway in the breeze.

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A close-up:

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And so far, this year, neither Noah or the Pink Flower Thief have found this delightful patch of pansies appetizing. Too much of a good thing maybe?

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I have been able to work so much longer in the yard than I have in a long time. I am thrilled with how good my knee feels right now. Who knew that increased energy would be a side benefit of pain relief?

Triple Whammy and an Exercise Check-In

Well, I’ve been meaning to do an exercise post for a while, but then yesterday happened, so I decided to put them together, since the two events are related.

In the ongoing saga of what to do about my knee — I won’t bore you too much with details, but it has been very frustrating. Insurance company refusing the gel shots, a stubborn doctor (IMO) who is mad at the insurance companies, spending time myself writing to “management agencies” only to find that no one is the boss of my insurance company… and then, the department that was making a custom brace for me. Well, I decided to call it a “series of unfortunate events” instead of being very mad at their incometency (I did try that, it didn’t really help the situation.)

ANYWAY, yesterday I had a follow-up appointment with the second set of doctors that I had been referred to. (If this isn’t enough of a saga, you can click here to read even more :) ) I went in with a list of questions, and I left with:

  1. A steroid shot in my knee!
  2. a new prescription for meloxicam (supposed to be better than Aleve.)
  3. My new brace (I stopped by that department to see what the heck was going on, and lo and behold, they found my brace.)

Okay, can I just say that I am on the high hopes end of that “disintegration and hope” spectrum? The shot just stung a little going in, and I was waiting for it to really hurt about four hours later like they said might happen. Nothing. I can only describe it like I feel stronger.

I have DebraSY to thank for the meloxicam. Whenever anyone mentions joint pain/medication in the same sentence, I always quiz them. She said it had done wonders for her.

And, the brace, if I can figure out how to make it stay up, I know will make my knee feel more stable so that I can walk for longer distances, which I have been missing. So, about that staying up. Of course I googled the problem, and found that “brace migration” is the most common complaint. Okay, brace techs, could you have mentioned this? I have one pair of tight running or yoga pants, that seem to help. I am thinking that a knee sleeve might be the solution. If any of you have experience and suggestions for me, I’d love to hear from you.

As far as exercise goes, I am so happy with my “routine” right now. I put routine in quotes, because, as with the rest of my life, it is not quite as routine as others. But moving every day is a must. So on days that I can’t or won’t go to the gym, I make sure to take one longer walk (my longer walks are only about 1 1/2 miles nowadays) or if I feel bad, I take two shorter walks. And I try to remember to do my PT exercises. These exercises are really hard, and have me huffing and puffing, so I know they are of good benefit to me. I have a bad habit of waiting until after dinner to do them, so once in a while, I just forget. But I do them about 3X a week.

Then, at the gym–well, this is the thing I am most enthused about right now. As you know, I started walking in the pool on my birthday (December)–trying to make myself get in the pool in the winter. And I found that I really did enjoy it. That was partly because we had such a mild winter, I’m sure. As time went on, I found more challenging ways to jog, march, etc. in the pool. I could tell I was getting a really good workout.

My water shoes were just some cheapies that I found at Ross–more like ballet slippers. So last week when I went to the big city, I put water shoes on my wish list. I actually didn’t think I’d have time to look for them, because I had a couple of other stops to make. One of those was Costco. I was all done shopping, and was heading towards the checkout stand, and lo and behold, they had some water shoes on sale!! Wow, I can’t tell you what a difference these shoes have made–they’re made like running shoes, and I really feel like I am running in the water. And of course it feels so good to do challenging things with my legs and have no pain associated with it.

When I’m at the gym, I still usually get on the bike for at least 20 minutes, and then depending on the time I have, I will go upstairs and do some weights workouts for about 20 minutes.

As I usually say, there is always SOMETHING you can do. Legs don’t work? Sit in your chair and punch the air with your arms until you can’t punch any more. Do stretches. Do yoga. Do some core exercises on the ground. Its so important to keep your body moving in some way as you get older. Anne Lamott even wrote about it in her 61st birthday post!

 

Good Things

I was doing a few things in the kitchen the other day and I thought “these are such good ideas. I should share them.” You are the lucky recipients :)

A long time ago, my BF got me a special gift. It was a beautiful little kit that included a jar of “foot cream.” I used to have heels that would get those horrible cracks in them, and so I have learned to take care of my feet! But I never would have indulged in such a luxurious present. Anyway, I loved this foot cream so much that I might have actually paid retail to get another jar of it. Alas, the company went out of business. But I kept the jar. One day, at Le Wal Mart, I found a cream that fit my specifications. Mainly that it did not have too much smelly stuff in it. This is a great product, IMO. The huge jar of it is less than $5. And I just put some of it in my pretty jar to keep at my bedside. It makes me very happy :)

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Another thing I have not grown tired of is my peppermint tea. Trader Joe’s has the most reasonable price, but you can find it in any grocery store. And I am picturing this particular travel mug because I have had issues with travel mugs for a long time. Either they retain unwanted odors, or they are difficult or unpleasant to drink out of. I found this one at Joann’s (yes, the fabric store.) It works perfectly.

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And last of all, the re-emergence of celery in my diet! I haven’t had it for YEARS. Because its okay plain, but its better with peanut butter or flavored cream cheese on it. And that’s just too many wasted calories for me. So one day, in the produce section, I see bags of celery for 58 cents! Well, I couldn’t resist that! And then came the brainstorm. If I mix one wedge of Laughing Cow Lite with just a tablespoon or so of mashed strawberries or crushed pineapple (in its own juice, of course,) I would have something similar to that delicious flavored cream cheese. For less than 50 calories, this is a Very Worthy Snack! I told my friend that if you close your eyes and use your imagination, it could almost pass for a dessert :)

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Okay, this next is not A Good Thing, but I thought it might amuse some of my cold weather friends. We had a storm come through on Tuesday, and it hailed for several hours. It looked just like it had snowed. My poor little plants. It didn’t freeze, so I think they will recover :)

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Hope your weekend is full of Good Things!