Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain

Stories & Stuff

Welcome back, back spasms.

In 2012, I was living and working as a ski instructor in Australia when I took a wrong turn on the mountain and experienced the sharpest, worst pain in my life. On a scale of 1-10, this was an instant 15, and I honestly had no idea what to do. Fortunately, however, this was an on-the-job injury in a country with much stronger worker compensation protocols, so while I lost almost two weeks of pay, I didn’t have to pay for the medical evaluations, physical therapy, or prescriptions that would have cost me more money than I earned over those three months.

It did, however, mark the beginning of a long, hard slog of chronic back, neck and shoulder pain that I’ve been dealing with ever since, not to mention the headaches. The initial recovery period however – the time it took to go from essentially unable to move a muscle to basically (if painfully) mobile and able to go back to work – was just shy of two weeks.

In the three and a half years since, I’ve found physical therapists and chiropractors on three continents, tried everything from deep tissue massage to acupuncture, and finally settled into something of a pain control regimen. Between daily strengthening exercises to prevent back and neck pain and pharmaceutical solutions to the chronic headaches, I have managed to turn my constant and sometimes debilitating pain into a regular but manageable nuisance. I’ve learned the nuances of my back and neck pain and can tell when a stiffness is best treated with heat or ice. I’ve worked with enough experts to know when lower back pain is a lower back issue and when it is a result of muscle tension or spine misalignment somewhere higher up. I’ve mastered the art of keeping my spine aligned by bettering my posture, but also by learning the exact order to tighten certain muscles in certain positions to bring things back to normal. I’ve resumed skiing and dancing, rejoined sports teams and even signed up for an aerial silks course. (Yes, Mother. I joined the circus.)

And then it struck again. As class was ending on Friday, I felt a familiar jolt of pain in my lower back that meant I wasn’t moving for a while. I slowly bent myself into child’s pose and tried to stretch the back muscles out even as they were spasming. I carefully stood up and painfully got dressed and took an hour longer to get home than normal.

I cancelled my plans and found my heating packs. Spent the evening lying on my back, with a lacrosse ball rolling slowly along either side of my spine, putting painful (the good kind of pain!) pressure on my muscles to work out the tension. I slept with my knees bent over a pile of a half dozen pillows, and repeated the heat/massage/heat/stretch routine again this morning.

Unlike last time, when I was on opioids for a week, I didn’t take any pain killers today, and although I took a lot of ibuprofen last night, it was as much for the anti-inflammatory effects as the pain-killing ones.

Unlike last time, when the pain was so bad that I couldn’t focus on anything for days, I wrote two essays today.

Unlike last time, when I didn’t get off the floor unless absolutely necessary, I met friends in a coffee shop today, and then went out for drinks tonight.

Unlike last time, when I had no idea what was going on or how to fix it, I have the tools to relieve the pain and to mostly address the underlying issue.

I’ve just finished a half hour of rolling more tension out of my back, and I’m currently lying on my heating pad. When I wake up tomorrow, I’ll be doing it all again. But then tomorrow at noon I’ll be performing in a tap show, and though I know it will be painful, nothing bad will come of it.

 


Puppies and Winter

It is currently January, and I am sitting on a big comfy chair in front of the window with a cup of tea and some music and I’m watching the snow fall and the puppies play in the park across the street where we just built this snowman:

DSC_0123(*Side note, as I sit here and watch people take photos with this little guy, I can’t help but revel in the happiness that snowmen spread. It makes me smile!*)

And even though I should probably be doing my homework, I’m loving winter, which is my favorite season (until the snow melts and the flowers bloom, then I’ll be head over heels in love with spring). So I thought I’d share some photos that I’ve collected over the past month or so.

First up: (surrogate) family photos from the snowman-making process. We kinda like each other.

We also love puppies, and thoroughly enjoyed playing with these beautiful dogs, Milo and Galaxy, who live just down the street. (Galaxy, with the gorgeous blue eyes, is both deaf and mostly blind.)

In case you weren’t sure that both Boston and Lake Tahoe are beautiful places to live, here is the Charles River, mostly frozen, and Lake Tahoe, mostly gorgeous.

Last month, after Christmas but before it actually decided to snow in Tahoe, Robby and I went for a walk around the lake and ran into these beautiful puppies

Also, can we talk about the fact that my baby brother isn’t such a baby anymore? It is very clear that he is past little boy stage too, and living on the cusp of manhood.

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If/Then Finals

This week marks the second week of December, which college students around the country know affectionately as the week before they get to go home, or less affectionately as the dreaded finals week. My finals this semester have been both easy and impossibly difficult – I started finals before finals started, courtesy of a professor who decided to have his final during the last class period. (They think this is helpful, since we have fewer finals during the four days that is the legitimate finals period. Plus, they then can also go home earlier. But when you have a final, two problem sets, an essay, and a presentation in the last three days of classes, said professor appears to be a bit of an ass…)

Anyways, courtesy of that early final, I only had two tests during finals week (and a project and accompanying paper). Only two tests. In Chemistry and Physics. On the same day. THE SAME DAY. People, if you’ve never taken two or more math/science classes in one semester, you do not understand the struggle that it represents. Problem sets due? They’re probably on the same day. Chances are high you have a unit test in both during the same week. But two finals on the same day is horrendous. I strongly encourage everyone to never, ever, ever do that.

Sometimes, however, these circumstances cannot be helped. And so, here we go! Study for approximately three straight days without ever leaving the house, and you need something to keep you going. Some people love silence, but I need noise in the background to work effectively, but I don’t need the stress of being around other people freaking out. So I usually loop something on my computer. In the past years, I’ve had a constant stream of Gilmore Girls going (as a show I know so well that I don’t need to watch or even listen to more than 3 seconds every 10 minutes to know exactly what is going on). But this semester, for whatever reason, GG wasn’t appealing to me. So I started with my Pandora Wicked playlist, and then quickly decided I just wanted to listen to Idina Menzel forever and ever, which is difficult when the majority of her popularity on the internet is her singing “Let it Go” from Frozen. (You may also know her as Elphaba in Wicked or Maureen in RENT…) But then I found If/Then.

A musical currently on Broadway that I swear was written for her, If/Then has a beautiful score, and one that is perfect for studying to. It has enough variety in the music to not be boring, but enough consistency to not be distracting. I started with the Youtube channel that consists of the recordings; after three or four loops I broke down and bought the original cast album. And then proceeded to listen to it 27 times. 27 times. For reference, the soundtrack is 75 minutes long, so I listened to at least 33 hours of Idina Menzel over Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday… Needless to say, Idina Menzel’s wonderful, fabulous, phenomenal voice got me through these past few days. And will continue to be my motivating factor as I finish my project and paper before I go home on Monday!!

Anyway, I just wanted to share my most recent obsession and also make a public statement thanking Ms. Menzel for her amazing voice (and her parents for a. creating her and b. paying for all those voice lessons for all those years…).

In addition, you can’t deny that she is amazing just as she is. She starred on Broadway, won a Tony, took a decade for herself, got married and had a kid, and then went back to Broadway and is starring again. Plus, she’s funny (really funny!) and seems so down to earth and I would LOVE it if Idina Menzel became an idol for the current generation!


Acadia

Over a month ago – really, almost two months ago at this point – I took a weekend trip to Acadia National Park up in Maine. It was the last weekend before school started, the last weekend free of homework and commitments and general stress. It was the last weekend to not feel bad about reading a book just to read a book (as opposed to for some sort of homework) and the last weekend to go camping. (I proved that wrong though, didn’t I?)

Regardless, the trip to Acadia was wonderful and beautiful and actually one of the more gorgeous places I’ve ever been. And it all started with StumbleUpon; it was here that Liz and Elizabeth and I found the “26 Best Places to Camp in the US” and we (jokingly) decided to hit one spot a year. One year, one spot. Aaaaannnnndddd…. it just so happens that Acadia was #1 on the list. Is it alphabetical? Maybe…but no.

The decision to start our list with Acadia was primarily a result of the fact that Acadia is near Boston but not near Boston. And by that, I mean that it is driving distance but not easy driving distance; it takes about five hours to get there, and thus needs more than a normal weekend to see it right. So Liz and I drove up for Labor Day – three days, three nights. Two tents, one hike, and a partridge in a pear tree.

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No partridges, but we did see a wide variety of beautiful flora and fauna. I couldn’t catch most of it, but I brought my camera up and got a few awesome shots. It’s amazing how much more observant you can be with a camera around your neck. It was a determination to look for things that allowed me to find these little buggers:

But you don’t have to be that observant to find some other fabulous animals:

And we easily spotted a beautiful heron, about a million snails (here’s one!), and these ducks in the sunset:

Anywayyyyys… the fauna was beautiful. So was the flora. The trees were amazing. The flowers were amazing. The sunsets were amazing. The sunrises were amazing. And the rocks were amazing.

One thing I love about camping is the way it resets your clock. The way you have no excuse to stay up late – especially without a campfire – and no excuse to sleep in late. The way you can see the sunrise and the sunset every day, and it doesn’t even feel that early. I love getting a full night’s sleep and getting back to the ancient understanding with night. We used to go to bed with the sun and get up with the sun, and when we woke up in the middle of the night, we just enjoyed the night – thinking and talking and admiring the stars. I love the stars. Especially when you can actually see them.

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I particularly enjoyed the company with this crazy cray:

And we somehow managed a few selfies, even with my giant camera (and its self-timer.)

We hiked up to the top of Cadillac Mountain, and were two of the first people in the country to see the sunrise.

And then we wandered around the island, saw some of the beautiful sights to be seen from around the park.

And ended the evening with dinner on the rocks overlooking the sunset.

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Corn Chowder

When you have homework to do, you magically find all sorts of other things to work on instead. And when you have a crazy wonderful Aunt who is constantly posting on facebook about her home-made pickles and marinara sauce and closet reorganizations, you have plenty of inspiration. And when you wanted just one ear of corn but the store only sold them in packages of five, you have the materials. So instead of doing your homework, you make Corn Chowder.

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The inspiration/cookbook.

Step 1: sautee onions until they’re browned and sweet and fabulous. boil corn. cut kernels off the cob; add kernels to the sauteeing onions and add milk. mix them all together.

Step 2: pull out that blender. We had a surprisingly in-depth discussion as to whether the blender would be sufficient, as the recipe called for a proper food processor. I have to say, the final product was so perfectly textured that I can’t imagine making it any other way.

Step 3: blend. pour. consume. sprinkle some cayenne pepper for a bit of a bite.

Step 4: have a second bowl. because it’s just that good.

Step 5: save the rest for later. maybe when you get home late from tap and you’re too physically exhausted to make dinner. or save for finals, when you’re too mentally exhausted to cook. or, you know, for tomorrow because you can’t be bothered to wait that long and this chowder was amazing and you want more in your mouth.


One Door Closes, Another Opens

This post marks the end of an era. Technically, the end of a summer. An amazing, fabulous summer filled with friends and fun and camping and the most amazing internship I ever could have asked for.

When I decided to apply for and eventually accept the internship at Forum this summer, I didn’t expect it to be what it was. I expected to go in, sit down, get some work done, go home. I expected to love it at the start of the summer, and merely like it (if even that) by the end. I expected it to be just another job that I worked on for a few months. I expected to learn a lot and meet a lot of cool people and work with a lot of radio personalities and have a good time.

But Forum was a lot more that that. I met so many amazing people at KQED who go above and beyond every single day in trying to get the most and the most interesting news to the public. They inspired me with their commitment and their critiques and their professionalism and their passion. I got to see people in a hundred different professions come through, got to talk to them and ask them questions about their jobs. (Too bad I haven’t found my perfect profession yet!) I worked on every single part of the live show process – the research, the calling, the pre-interviewing, the meeting & greeting, the screening, the reading, and the thanking. All that’s left is the actual hosting! I actually looked forward to Mondays. (I was going to continue with the amazing-ness of my summer internship, but I think that pretty much sums it up.)

So one door is closing. I said goodbye to my internship for the last time yesterday. But another one is opening. I’m leaving tonight to start my senior year. I’m super excited for all my classes, and I’m excited to be living off-campus with my three best friends.

I sent a box yesterday that weighed 22 pounds and was full of books. (Don’t worry, I sent it Media Mail, and it cost < $15.) But if you looked in that box, or you looked at my Amazon orders list, or you looked at my class schedule, you might be a bit confused. Because … well …

  1. Particle and Nuclear Physics
  2. International Relations Seminar – US Foreign Policy in East Asia
  3. Advanced Japanese
  4. Physical Chemistry
  5. Literature of Haruki Murakami
  6. African Dance

I expect this semester to be a bit difficult, to say the least. I expect Japanese and Physics to have the hardest classes and tests, Lit and East Asia to have a lot of reading and essays. I’m hoping Chemistry is easy, but we shall see. And yes, they’re all part of my majors/minor. (Except Dance. That’s just fun.)


Breaking News Room

Last Monday, exactly 7 days ago now, Robin Williams committed suicide. Last Monday, like every Monday this summer, I was at work from 8am-4pm. The news about Williams was announced a bit after 3pm. This is significant only because it meant that I was at KQED when the news broke. In fact, one of the Forum producers broke the news.

She lives in Marin, so she always has a tab open to the Marin Independent Journal; Robin Williams lived and died in the jurisdiction of the Marin Sheriff’s Department, and they led the investigation. They wrote the press release and the Marin IJ were the first to see it and publish it. Our lovely producer saw the press release, and told us about it so fast that nothing came up on Google. (Because, as Dan pointed out, Google is an important source: “If it isn’t on Google, it isn’t true!”)

After a simple email to the entire news room with the news and the link, everyone was moving. Within about three minutes, Forum producers had determined if Williams had ever been on the show (he hadn’t). About three minutes after that, the emails started and the people walked down to ask if he’d ever been on the show. Since photos don’t exactly come across well on radio, people were looking for audio clips, which we unfortunately couldn’t provide.

We’d planned a show for the 9am hour. In fact, there were two shows planned (each 30 minutes). As sometimes happens, however, breaking news replaced the previously selected topics, and a Robin Williams show was instantly being crafted. By the time the decision was really made and the potential guests lined up, it was nearly 4pm. And, with the time sensitive nature of the show, the producers did all the work anyways. They know who’s been on Forum in the past, who they’d most like on the show, etc, without needing to ask questions, which always slow down a process.

It was fascinating to watch the process of breaking news being digested, interpreted, and reported on in the station around me, as tragic as that news may have been. I certainly didn’t expect anything along those lines when I began my internship at Forum, but it was certainly an interesting experience from which I learned a lot.