Category Archives: Let’s Get Healthy

As it turns out, compression socks are actually pretty cool

Let’s be honest — I’m 54 and I work at a job where I spend a lot of time on my butt. Add in ShitKnee and fun new problems with other leg joints, and I’ve been having a hard time with the old gams lately. I’m still doing the PT exercises, but barring an actual replacement I think I’ve gone about as far as I can go in terms of functionality.

This is when FB decided to start throwing compression sock ads at me every half hour. Now, I know that they’re damn useful pieces of clothing, and I have no worries about “ew — grannywear” reactions because I have been in my house since 3/13/20 and nobody sees me anyway. So after the fifteen millionth compression sock ad danced across FB I decided, what the hell, let’s take some measurements, find a company that handles heroically sized people, and see what happens.

Squeeze Gear turned out to be the lucky company, and I gambled $40 on three pairs of rather snazzy blue and white compression socks (I feel a little like a superhero). They arrived today, and as expected they were a challenge to get on, but I did it.

First impression: I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. The cuffs felt kinda tight around my left knee, but not painfully so. The other leg is the one that lost muscle mass 37 years ago when it was in an immobilizer, so that sock went on a bit more easily. Walked around in them, and immediately decided to put on my slippers with the traction soles so that I didn’t go ass over teakettle. I also felt a bit lightheaded, so I went upstairs and checked my BP, thinking maybe the socks were driving it up. Nope — 128 over 72.

Well, then.

I sat back down and did some paperwork. About an hour later I got up … and my legs felt okay. Knees and hip still hurt, but my calves felt pretty damn good. Decided to go grab the duvets and bring them down to wash them, then went back upstairs to record a podcast which meant sitting for a solid hour in a chair that usually causes me a certain amount of pain when I get up … and it wasn’t bad at all.

In fact, I gotta say that these things are kinda amazing. I’ve been up and down the stairs multiple times this evening, way more than I usually do, and I’ve been humping stuff up and down as well. Once again, the knees and hip still hurt, but there’s no pain whatsoever from my calves. It’s much easier to get to my feet without pain, and I’ve found that I have more energy to get chores and housecleaning done.

I’m going to wear these for a full week during the day and see how I feel by the 24, but based on today’s results I would have to recommend compression socks to anyone who has a job that keeps them sitting for long periods of time. These aren’t just for Granny or long plane rides anymore.

So, it’s 2021

I know it’s expected to come up with a list of resolutions, diet plans, and goals at this time of year, but to be honest I hate resolutions, diets bore me, and I already came up with my goals for 2021 back in November.

Goal #1: Improve my indie publishing sales

The trick here is twofold — write and publish more good books steadily, and get really, really good at promotion. Which includes Amazon ads for me (I don’t have a great deal of luck with FB ads but I’m studying up on them), as well as social media promotion, regular blogging here, biweekly newsletters, and tools such as BookBub, BookFunnel, and BookSprout.

On the book-writing front, I managed to get a novel or novella out each month in the last half of 2020, which almost completely cleared off my WIP backlog. I won’t be able to keep that up in 2021, at least not if I want to maintain my current level of quality, but the goal is to release six books, once every two months, and put out a novella or short story in between the book releases. That, I feel, is manageable, and should result in twelve titles being released in 2021.

On the promotion front, my Amazon ad game is definitely improving — I’ve been making more sales and my Advertising cost of sales is dropping steadily, which is also good. That being said, I’ve decided to blow away all the old ads and start fresh in January by implementing the things I’ve learned about Amazon ads and doing A/B testing. It’ll take some time for the algos to pick up on that and start bumping the books up, but from a long-term perspective I think it’s the best thing I can do. Still need to do some more research on FB, but I may dip my toes back in that pool sometime in February.

Goal #2: Make mo’ money

This is partially tied into Goal #1 since that’s one of my main income streams. What with the emotional and financial rollercoaster of the last four years, I’m tired. Last year I had determined to clear off all of our outstanding bills with my contract job, and before COVID got me furloughed I was able to clear all bills except one. I want to expand on that this year, plus I want savings, I want to be able to invest in the stock market, and I want Ramón to be able to retire in 2024. And the only way to make that happen is to bring in more money.

I have three income streams at the moment — indie publishing, contract tech writing work, and jewelry making. At the moment the contract work pays the most, but it’s also on hold due to COVID. I would very much like to get to the point where I make enough money from indie publishing that I don’t have to rely on contract work unless the job really appeals to me.

And believe it or not, before last year I made pretty much the same amount from jewelry making as I did from indie publishing (mainly due to my work in sterling silver and semi-precious stones). Publishing has now pulled ahead of the jewelry, but I’d like to get back to designing and creating jewelry this year. It’s fun, it’s a nice break from writing, and it’s become part of my writing process (I mull over story ideas and plotting when I’m melting silver and soldering findings together). Also, people have been asking when I’m going to put more baroque earrings on my Etsy page. It’s nice to have fans.

Goal #3: Continue working on my shitty knees

At least I now know exactly what’s wrong with both of them, and I have PT exercises that do help. But that little chat with the PA at Baylor confirmed that I’m never going to actually straighten out either knee unless I get replacements, and the Baylor surgeon did not seem willing to do that.

Which means I will continue to limp for the foreseeable future, until 1) I can find a surgeon willing to replace ShitKnee at the very least, and 2) save up the money for that, as my PT sessions drained all the money I’d saved for surgery from last year. God, I hate the American medical insurance system.

Now, I just have to implement all of these goals. I’d gotten off to a great start on 1/4 after my break, but yesterday was taken up with hauling JJ to the emergency vet because he’d been vomiting up pinkish foam (after an exam and bloodwork to the tune of $611, the determination — he had an upset tummy) and today I’m running around trying to tempt JJ to eat with soft treats and easily digestible things and Jeremy is making an absolute ass of himself trying to get in my way. Need to catch up with word count, monitor the pending Senate race in Georgia (come on, Jon!), and brave the outside world later on for a food shop.

Onward, 2021.

First PT Session Complete

As you know, Bob, I was diagnosed with chondromalacia of the right patella last week, and the doctor sent me off for physical therapy to shove the damn thing back into place.

Today was my first PT appointment, and apart from the sticker shock (thank God I socked away money for the knee replacement because hoo boy) it went pretty well. My therapist is named Elena and she ran me through my evaluation (turns out I can balance surprisingly well on my left leg) and the four exercises that I will be doing for the foreseeable future, and most likely the rest of my life. Turns out that yes, my patella is all the way off to the outside of my leg and needs to be returned to its proper location. I also have limited range of motion in the knee — can’t bend it or straighten it completely, which doesn’t exactly come as a big horking shock.

But I will start my exercises tomorrow, and for the next three weeks I go in for PT twice a week. Apparently next week I get to try the anti-gravity treadmill, which somehow uses air (yeah, I didn’t understand that either) to reduce my weight to 60% and will help me retrain my brain and body to use a normal gait while walking. She also said that I have decent strength in both legs — it’s just the pain from the misalignment that’s causing me problems. If I can get that fixed, I should be good to go.

The next three weeks will be interesting, especially as I put on muscle at the drop of a hat (I’ve been using KT tape on the knee for the last week, and yesterday I looked down at my legs and saw more definition in my calf muscles because I’ve been walking more). Elena also showed me another way to tape up my knee that urges the patella to come back to its normal position, so I’m going to use that pattern with the KT tape.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if I can actually run someday? Who knows…

Adventures in Orthopedic Medicine

Since I’ve been bitching about this stupid right knee of mine for decades, it seems, I finally made an appointment with an orthopedic specialist to have it evaluated. I’ll be honest with you — I assumed I was looking at a complete knee replacement after having it x-rayed nine years ago and being told, “You know that knee ain’t right.” Even socked away one paycheck to cover the deductible for our insurance and everything.

Well. After a somewhat fraught night (my biggest fear was that they’d take a look at me and say, “Yeah, we can’t operate on you. Come back when you’ve lost fifty pounds”) and an even more fraught morning where I found out that they wanted to move my appointment up an hour and fifteen minutes, I headed off to meet my new doctor. Everyone at the front desk was seriously friendly — point one in their favor. I got shown into an exam room super quickly (point two) while the nurse took a couple of details, then the X-ray tech escorted me off to the X Ray room to take 4 different shots of my knees — front, rear, bent from the side, bent from overhead. The one in this post is from the front, I believe, and my right knee, aka ShitKnee, is on the left side of the image. A layman can tell that there’s something wrong with it.

Then the doctor came in. He was super nice and cheerful, and immediately put me at my ease about everything. We reviewed each of the x-rays, and he told me that I had the normal amount of wear in my left knee for a 54-year-old woman (go me). Then we discussed ShitKnee.

It turns out that the official name for my problem is chondromalacia of the right patella. I have very shallow tracks in both knees for my patellae (“It’s morphological, you got it from your parents,” he said. I replied that my dad had bad knees all his life. “There you go — blame your dad”), and ShitKnee’s patella is way out of alignment with its track. The strain that’s putting on the muscles is causing inflammation and pulling the joint inwards towards my other knee, which also causes mucho pain as I hobble around. To demonstrate what was going on, he was able to gently straighten out my knee with his hands. Mind you, that was not fun by any means, but it proved it could be done.

And then he shocked the poo out of me. He said that replacement surgery was always a last resort, and that a patella problem like mine is the easiest to fix with PT. “I prefer to try a biological solution first,” he said. I agreed that yeah, that would be my preferred method as well. We settled on 6-8 weeks of PT, 2-3 times a week (well, hell, I have the money socked away for the surgery–I can use it for the PT), with a return visit in six weeks to re-evaluate the knee and see what’s going on with it. I cannot adequately describe the intense relief I felt after he told me that. I had resigned myself to getting a knee replacement and learning to live with it, and to hear, “Yeah, no, this can be fixed with PT” was astounding.

One other thing that I really liked about this doctor — he said, “This is not your fault. You could go climb Kilimanjaro tomorrow, if you wanted. It would hurt like heck, but you wouldn’t do any additional damage to the knee.” Translation: my knee problems aren’t due to me being fat. I just have shallow patellar tracks — it’s how they developed in utero. Which makes sense because Dad was always a gym rat and very fit for much of his life, but that didn’t stop him from having shitty knees. I thought was exceptionally kind of the doctor to mention that.

I’ve already picked a place from the list of rehab centers he gave me and made an appointment for next week, and after watching a YouTube video I now have ShitKnee wrapped with a cradle support of KT tape. I have to say, doing that made me a believer — the knee still hurts, but the tape is providing enough support for my patella that I can put my right foot flat on the floor instead of walking on the outer edge towards the ball of my foot (you would not believe the callus I have there). Even better, I was able to make dinner without breaking out into a rolling sweat and having to sit down from the pain, and I may well clean the downstairs bathroom today. Small steps, but they’re moving me in the right direction.

Let’s Get Healthy: Day Eighty-nine through Ninety-six (AKA Hoo Boy, Redux)

Minutes on treadmill: 30
Resignation level: beyond reasonable belief


Okay, here’s the story. For the past eight days I was not only working ten hours a day, I was also making twelve mermaid doll bodies for a con that happened over the weekend (when I volunteered to run a “Decorate Your Own Mermaid Doll” demo I wasn’t aware that I’d be working a contract gig at the same time). I was literally finishing the day job, then shifting three feet over to my sewing machine and cranking out doll bodies.

Did I walk during that time? I tried to. I think I managed maybe ten, fifteen minutes a day, when I wasn’t doing an exhausted faceplant or having weird anxiety dreams about programming triggers in Storyline. I know I should have been doing the full thirty minutes. It just didn’t work out that way. I didn’t get much sleep last week as it was.

On the plus side, I don’t seem to have gained any weight, which is nice. Then again, I also wasn’t eating much during that time. I also wasn’t doing much of anything beyond working, sewing, feeding the cats, and grabbing a few hours of sleep before getting up to do it all again, which means I’ve lost some gains on mobility and endurance. Boo.

But it is Monday, things are back to normal, and that means yours truly was back on Chuck grinding out the time (and I have the sweaty hair to prove it). Even better, I have some new story ideas that came to me while I was sewing, and I’ll be inputting those into Uncertainty Principle and King of Blades, as well as the holiday novella that I WILL have done by the middle of October, come hell or high water.

Let’s Get Healthy: Day Seventy-nine through Eighty-eight (AKA Hoo Boy)

Okay, I didn’t stop this, honest — my laptop died and access to my blog was damn near impossible using my tablet so there it is.

In the last week I’ve had good days and bad days with regards to walking (didn’t do any on the 10th because I felt like crap), my actual period started on Wednesday and is progressing normally (which means I’ve bloated up like a sick camel), and today I spent fifteen minutes on the treadmill and 2-3 hours cleaning the upstairs bathroom that used to be Ramón’s baliwick but will be used by me as well from this point onwards because I’m working in my office and don’t want to keep going to the master bathroom when I have to pee.

And yes, it took that long. No, it’s not because the room was absolutely disgusting — he does tend to clean up after himself. But the light of my life is also a ginormous pack rat who tends to store stuff wherever he can find a flat surface, so much of the cleaning was me sorting through piles of printouts stacked haphazardly on the counter and trying to figure out where the hell a given item 1) was and 2) where it was actually supposed to reside.

But the bathroom is clean now, and it will stay clean from this point onward. It’s also the one with the non-functional tub (we replaced the drain earlier in the year and managed to crack the drain pipe in the process), so if all things go well on the job front the nasty old tub will be yanked sometime in November and replaced with a beautiful tiled shower stall. You’d better believe I’m collecting pictures of stalls and dreaming of subway tile and a lovely glass door.

Which reminds me, I have to clean the downstairs bathroom tomorrow. Oh, the glamorous life of a writer…

Let’s Get Healthy: Day Seventy-eight (AKA Improving Slowly)

Time on Treadmill: 10 minutes.
Pain level: Looking longingly at the ibuprofen but I don’t desperately need it

Yeah, I know — it looks like I’m going backwards. I’m still not sleeping all that great so I did ten minutes on the treadmill, then swept the dining room, kitchen, and library (cat hair gets everywhere) to get some more movement in because the thought of getting back on the treadmill made me want to cry. I think I’ll be back to normal by tomorrow, however, because tomorrow is Saturday and that means I can sleep as long as I like. So even if I do get a couple of pain flareups during the night I don’t have to get up at Oh Dark Thirty for work.

The ironic thing? There’s nothing in my contract that says I have to maintain business hours — I could work at night if I wanted to. But it’s easier to be up at 8 AM so that you can field any phone calls coming in from clients, so that’s what I do.

In more creative news, I plan on bingeing on jewelry and writing this weekend, since my dear friend Cinco sent me yet more sterling silver flatware handed down by her great-grandmother, just waiting to be turned into jewelry (I already have a design in mind for one spoon handle), plus matching earrings for that vintage 1920s art deco pendant, and a cool sterling silver piece set with malachite that I unfortunately killed by putting it in the pickle jar (live and learn. I also now have a LOT of copper-concentrated pickle that I need to evaporate before I can send the crystals off to the Hazardous Waste center. When I’m not doing that, I’ll be working on Shifter Woods: Growl and King of Blades, whee!

Let’s Get Healthy: Day Seventy-seven (AKA Still Ow)

Time on Treadmill: 20 minutes.
Pain level: Not quite at “I want to cut my leg off” levels anymore, but not fun

To be bluntly honest, I didn’t sleep last night, so I feel moderately horrible today. Every time I tried to move (and I toss and turn a lot), the leg would start screaming and wake me up so most of the night was spent dozing fitfully between moments of, “HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK?”

Gentle, slow walking helps and that’s why I managed to get twenty minutes done today, but by the end of the day my leg was hurting so badly that I couldn’t even bend down to slip on my gymshoes. That’s when I decided to heed my age and call it a night. That being said, the pain level is definitely improving, even if it’s still not fun, so I’m hoping to be back to normal by Monday.

Writing … yeah, no.

Let’s Get Healthy: Day Seventy-six (AKA Ow)

Time on Treadmill: 30 minutes.
Pain level: Oh fuck

Okay. I have a home office, but I use a Mac as my desktop and my current contract requires a PC so I’ve been using a PC laptop in the dining room. Which has wooden chairs, which I’ve just spent two days sitting on for a total of twenty hours. Yes, I took breaks and got on the treadmill, but by the time I’d wrapped up the work day the back of my left thigh was throbbing like a rotten tooth.

I know exactly what this is — I’ve done it before during marathon quilting sessions. I basically compressed the muscle and nerves back there. See the middle muscle in the triple bunches shown at left? It feels like someone has jammed a knife in there and is wiggling it back and forth. Bending/lifting the leg (as in going up and down stairs) or squatting to sit down hurts even more.

No, this isn’t deep vein thrombosis. I’m fully hydrated, I’m not showing any other signs, and I’ve had this before. Unfortunately, the only thing that will fix it is to not sit in the dining room anymore and tincture of time. I’m taking ibu, but it’s only dulling the top layer of pain. Looks like I’ll be working in the living room from my chair there for the rest of the week, and then I have got to sort out a work place in my office.

Let’s Get Healthy: Day Seventy-five (AKA That’s Better)

Time on Treadmill: 30 minutes.
Bio Breaks: Pretty much lived in the bathroom today.

Between the progesterone, the supplements, the walking time on the treadmill, and the Synthroid, both my bladder and my GI tract have been quite active today in getting rid of yesterday’s culinary adventure. Hoo boy.

Unfortunately there’s still a lot of crap in the air and it’s causing all the usual symptoms, plus a fair amount of coughing. The weather predictions said that temps were supposed to drop down into the low nineties this week, but now it seems that temps will be going back up to 99°F and thereabouts for Wednesday through Friday. Between the ozone and the ragweed, going outside is an adventure in testing my pulmonary limits.

Today was also my first 10-hour day on the current contract, which was topped off by a somewhat complicated dinner so no fiction writing went on today. Once I get on a regular schedule, that should change. I hope.