Acceptance 

Acceptance? Maybe. At least acknowledgement. So I’ve been pondering my hip problem and  all the repercussions for a bit now. I’ve been floundering in a sea of misinformation and advice from such caring and knowledgeable friends, but to say I am overloaded is a drastic understatement! Stress has been through the roof and each appointment has brought more worries and things I need to think about. Canes? Being judged by people and how in Albania I need a crutch to avoid not only the broken sidewalks, but stares. This is what has been told to me, but I could see it happening in many places. I’m 31 and I’ve been focused on achieving my health goals for about 5 or 6 years now. I started as a morbidly obese girl in her mid twenties who ate whatever greasy or sugary thing I could get my hands on with little fresh food. That is until I moved abroad and changed everything. I am a pretty good cook and have a good relationship with my food now. I enjoy baking and am trying to get most processed food out of my diet and am back to a meat free diet. I quickly fell into being active as well. Starting with walking around China, joining a gym, and playing badminton. I fell in love with weightlifting, the feeling of being powerful and watching the progress. The pounds began to melt off and my energy skyrocketed. I continued in Taiwan and even added distance running on a treadmill, because I fell if I was outside and not on a smooth track. Knowing that I’ve been on uneven legs helps explain some of the extra clumsiness. I added in river tracing a bit, a sprinkle of rock climbing, and long hikes and I felt I was reaching towards such a great and active life. I hit a plateau in the middle of my second year, and knowing I was moving to Turkey I decided to hire a personal trainer to help me learn some new techniques in order to continue losing the extra weight. This was the first time I was told my left side is shorter and how I squat incorrectly. He was worried that I may injure myself and we taped the ground to prevent that, but only ever experiencing calf strain I never thought to see an orthopedic, I just figured I taught myself the movement wrong from fitness videos. I continued and although I had to take a break in Turkey for many reasons, I didn’t have a huge backslide in gaining weight. But I was determined to get back to it the right way in Albania. Finding a good trainer was difficult, but I found one and he knew about my unevenness and I began. Breaking up with Thomas was very hard on me, and to add another blow I was in pain. Sitting hurt, sharp pains began to radiate through my leg. This was the beginning of the journey of physio, a relaxation of pain, back to exercise lightly in aerobics and the pain returned tenfold with added excruciating pain when I rotated my hip outwards. The muscles were extremely tight and I knew I needed to go back to physio. But the hope that I could heal this completely was still there. I mean, I’m getting healthier and stronger. Plus I am not scared to work hard, so I’ll do the plan physio gives me. The fact that I know now that I pretty much have a destroyed ball in my left hip, I’m not sure what to think. I’m looking at constantly moderating my pain. Learning how to stay active yet protect the cartilage that I have left. It is impacting my ability to run, do the high impact activities that I love, and even limits my dancing. But more than all of this, it is making me really think about something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. After I got divorced, I was super insecure and not very trusting, especially with men. The idea of opening myself to another relationship was laughable and stressful. But I was happy to be single, to learn about me and how to care for myself. Something I always put on the back burner for others in my life.  But I want a family. This planted the seed that if I didn’t meet someone while I was still able to have children, I would look into getting a donor to get pregnant. But it was fleeting and I was so young. At 32 almost, the reality that I may want to do this and understanding all the implications this has with my travel and that I am single. I’m okay with this, and I have been working to save money and get more prepared for this big step. Now I have learned that pregnancy will cause me a lot of pain due to the extra weight bearing on my hip and pelvis. Also, with the hip deformity I will have to have a c-section. These decisions individually may seem like not so big, but this is really changing my views of my reality. I need to get really positive again. But I am also facing the fact that I will be doing my rehab without real professional assistance. I don’t have access here to a really qualified physical therapist that can devise a program to help. My insurance won’t allow me to see a doctor out of Albania. I’ve been told that when my limp (which is somewhat visible now) appears, it will be helpful to use a cane, especially on stairs, in order to relief strain on my left side. I am wearing the insole to balance my pelvis, which similarly to braces moving your teeth, moves my muscles back into proper position. This makes me ache every night after walking all day. I’m trying to accept it, but it is rough. Im glad I started my health journey when I did, or the possibility that I would have used this as an excuse is scary. The question remains, what will this mean for my plans? Where do I go from here? Will I finally get where I can simply focus on being happy? 
So I may not being reaching out so much, but I would love to hear from you. 

Love and light

Easy Sunday 

So I need to get my mindset under control. The negativity has been wreaking havoc in my life and the time has come for me to begin kicking ass and taking names again! I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries lately about food and health. I’m making this my thing. I love cooking, and have been trying my hand at baking the last year or two. So bye bye processed junk. If I’m hungry, I better be cooking it for myself. Well at least most of the time. I won’t become a shut in and never eat out. Today I’m trying a recipe for a whole wheat seeded bread from the minimalist baker. It sounds delicious and is vegan. So by the time I post this, I will know if it is a success. For dinner, I bought a nice bag of arugula, some fresh mozzarella and tomatoes for a caprese salad along with a completely homemade veggie tomato sauce, courtesy of my slow cooker. Topped on whole wheat rigatoni, it was fabulous! Such a beautiful Sunday spent listening to my jams and cleaning the house. I hope my neighbors don’t get tired of my 90s rock mix, but who doesn’t love Blues Traveler on a day like today. Anyway, enough for now. 

Yes it was a success!
Peace and light

Diagnosed

Some of you may know that I’ve been having problems with leg, hip, and muscle pain for a while now. Last year I had to take an exercise sabbatical since the pain was so bad. It hurt way too much to continue weight training. Sitting was beginning to hurt. Thinking it was muscular I went to a physical therapy/ chiropractic office. I was ordered to stay off my feet and see them for a few months. Slowly the pain became more manageable and the frequency of pain decreased quite a bit. I put on about 10 pounds as it was difficult to find the balance in my diet when I wasn’t working out most days. So after about 5 months I felt strong enough to at least start doing cardio again and enrolled in an aerobics class. After about a month of doing this every so often the pain came back with a vengeance!    Still believing it was muscular I went back to physio. All this must be able to be explained and healed. I mean I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in! But it didn’t and on a particularly bad night riding a camel in Morocco I began to realize this problem must be a lot more severe than I ever imagined. So for the past few weeks I’ve been trying to understand it by visiting multiple orthopedics. Words like disease and hip replacement are being thrown around and then the fear set in. After finally being denied access to an American doctor by my insurance, the real hunt for someone to explain what is happening to my body began. I’m still unsure of a lot and plan to see another ortho when I get access to a doctor that won’t cost me an arm and a leg (haha) but the situation is becoming clearer. My official diagnosis as of now is displastic coxarthrosis of the left hip due to hip diaplasia or femoral necrosis. But the doctor believes this began a long time ago. There is no way to know for sure, according to him, but he believes I had a rare childhood disease called perthes which you can read about by clicking the link. While mostly diagnosed in young boys, some cases are found in girls as well, and the damage is usually much more severe. The jist is that somehow blood flow to the ball of the hip is disrupted and causes the bone to deform and not develop properly. The symptoms are all very familiar. I don’t remember the number of comments I had growing up about the way I walked or the nights I was in pain from growing pains (or so we all thought). The fact that I became obese was also not helpful. Nor was all the weightlifting and running I did for the past few years. Now I am looking at a complete hip replacement in the next 10 to 15 years, which is terrifying to me. I also need to keep going to physio to rebuild strength in my left side and to learn how to walk while using an orthopedic insert since my left femur, so my leg itself, is about an inch shorter. I have been wearing said insert and the ache in my leg is pretty intense as I will begin the process of realigning my pelvis and all the muscles on my left side. I’m being ordered to lose more weight to relieve the pressure on my hip and a laundry list of other rules that no 31 year old should be dealing with, especially because if this was caught when I was still developing. As of now the damage is done and my options are much more limited. I foresee a lot more emotional ups and downs with this and hopefully more writing as a better way to get out everything that has been building up inside. But I’m working on getting my light back, so hang in there with me folks! 
Here is what I got today, support tape to help with something, haha my brain is on overload at the moment. 

Grow

In education, there is this idea of a growth mindset. The philosophy is this; students are rewarded not solely on a finished product or meeting a goal. In place of this praise for “getting an A”, or doing something at a certain level, students are praised on their effort, their ability to persevere, and for making progress, no matter how small. The language used is vastly different than the simple “excellent” or “good job”. You need to help your students be mindful of where they were, make simple realistic goals they can hopefully meet, and show them how much they have learned and achieved since the beginning. The language in these scenarios is specific “wow, look at that! last month you read 25 sight words, this month you can read 30, you must be practicing and reading a lot.”

I had a few interesting days in the past few weeks, culminating in 2 vastly different, yet similar in one way, conversations. They both left me feeling peaceful, which is turn made me reflect (living that LP)! haha. The first conversation was with my brother, Tim. Simple, short, and sweet, he was just checking in and it was so nice. It makes me want to put more effort into remaining in more frequent contact with the family, especially if I am not visiting in the near future, which is looking more likely to be the case, but who knows what will happen. The second was to be honest with someone about where I am, and what I need at the moment. I was worried about this conversation, how the other person would take it, if they would be upset. The products of repeated putdowns don’t go away easily, and this is truly challenging for me. But to my surprise, it was fine. They even congratulated me on being so straightforward and honest to not only them, but to myself. With this not only did I feel peace, but I felt strength. Like I shouldn’t worry to share what I really think, need, feel, especially if I do it from a place of peace and not hurt. Which is what brought me to growth. This person made a joke about me “growing up” haha. But really, he wasn’t too far off base. We all are still “growing up”, even if we are 31 and have been independently living for 16 years. I am beyond exhausted, but in light of the joy this night brought me I got these words in my head:

Growth

Like a toddler takes their first steps

tentative at first

bold after repeated use

Nothing stops their determination

Fall

Get up

Get hurt

Find comfort

The challenge has been set

They won’t stop until they succeed

A child learner to use a pencil

random lines

change to letters

form words

communicate

Life is a process

You will fail

But in that failure

Growth

You’re a work in progress

You learning your identity

Sometimes you forget

like when you fall in love

2 lives meld

2 lives separate

You have to remember who you were before

You blend the two and learn

Growth

you’re a work in progress

How to use your voice

even if you were silenced

Now you know you can shout

if you need to.

Growth

You’re a work in progress

You learn

How to be true to who you are

based on your terms

not insults

not lies

not disappointments

not false compliments

Sometimes you will regress

But you will always continue

to be kind

to be honest

to be nurturing

to be forgiving for your faults

Growth

You’re a work in progress

You travel

you explore

you get lost

you find your way

you meet new people

some kind

some not so

You learn

Growth

You’re a work in progress

You learn to control your mindset

You become positive

strive to improve

learn new things

Focus on the good

Life will happen

You will  be negative

You put yourself down

You feel sorry for yourself

But you refocus

you say a pep talk

you remember you’re awesome

you see your growth

and realize

The beauty of growth

there is no limit

there is no glass ceiling

your efforts

will bring you endless opportunities

love

joy

adventure

intrigue

knowledge

pleasure

memories

excitement

friendships

with a cost

sadness

loss

pain

illness

stumbles

When this happens

remind yourself

you have been through a lot

you survived

life is good

keep searching

who know

This makes life, life.

mysterious

beautiful

Don’t give yourself a goal

None of us should ever be “grown”

be open

challenge yourself

Grow

Me first

So I am back. I’ve not written in a little bit, but hopeful that I will make more of an effort to do so now. It’s been a rough little while here, but slowly the clouds are parting. I’ve been feeling such intense emotions, almost like grief, but the fog is beginning to lift and I noticed, yet again, that I am forgetting me. I am forgetting that ultimately I live within my body, day in and day one, and will until I am no longer present on this Earth.

It’s such a natural state for me to take care of others. Whenever the opportunity arises, I am typically there with a helping hand, even if I am so tired, so anxious, so everything else in that moment. I procrastinate, but typically when it comes to self-care. Why do people do this?

After my marriage ended, my journey of self-discovery really highlighted the need to put me first and remember that I need to be my number one supporter in life. I need to project myself positively, love me, take of me, so that I can really do what I love: take care of others. And I accomplished a lot. I am more kind to myself, and more aware of how I need to care for myself, and why it is immensely important to do so.

But it also so easy to forget.

This month marks one year that I split with Thomas, and maybe I am punishing myself for an unknown offense, like it was my fault entirely for the break-up. I wasn’t “enough” for him to want to make it work. Yet, I also know, when I think objectively, that this thinking is nothing but bullshit. haha.

So we go back to where I began 6 years ago. I am going to back to loving me, dating me, taking care of me. Remembering that I am enough, and that I deserve far more than I have been giving myself. That I am a person who needs daily care and first and foremost this care needs to come from me.

I love you all, and I am not going to forget or “NOT HELP” you, but if I go on radio silence for a while, this is the reason. I need to feel whole, happy, content, and productive in my day in order to find the energy to help you and not feel like I need to sleep for 100 years like Mr. Van Winkle.

 

Keep in touch and I hope all have a positive and safe holiday and New Year!

conflicted

Confliction is a fact of life. You know you should eat healthy yet you bargain with yourself that the one bowl of ice cream won’t hurt too badly. If your lucky, then conflict in your life can be easily negotiated. A compromise can be made. A solution, even if one you didn’t fully see in the beginning will appear. It is a much different case when the conflict is within yourself. When it is between your heart and your brain. In some ways the saying is true, time heals all wounds. And some things you must relinquish to time. Trusting that it will get easier. And it does. You make new plans, you begin to enjoy your days and know you will eventually get over it. But the thorn remains. You just begin to accept it. There are moments that just bowl you over. Dreams that you neither call upon nor want that appear in your sleeping hours that make you wake with a smile until reality dawns and you remember it will never be like that. How do you hope for something new? When your heart has not yet agreed with your realistic mind that something more may wait somewhere in the future? I guess you just trust and practice patience. 

Cut, Maintain, and Regrow

If you’d have asked me this day last year what I would be doing today, the answer was simple. I would have been living with Thomas on the campsite in Retz. I would have been looking for more ways for me to get a visa to be with my love. Spending my days with his family, having bbq’s, walking around his property, helping with preparing for the fall by cutting wood. I would have been happy. When our relationship ended 7 months ago, I didn’t even think about this summer or what I would do for 2 1/2 months while school was out. I was top busy focusing on work, determined that my coming to Albania was going to help me pursue my career, even if that didn’t end with me teaching in Austria. But I do believe that everything, and everyone, happens for a reason. In the midst of that heartbreak, I was hosting a surfer from the carolinas named Katherine. She told me about a program called wwoofers and how she volunteered in Ireland on an organic farm. The seed (hahaha) was planted at that point. This was a way for me to be productive, learn something new, and still be able to travel. It would also give me the added bonus of “living” in Ireland, and find out if I could call this place home.

My life is in a turning point. I love traveling and exploring the world and the past 5 years of bouncing around have been truly life altering. However, I am not the same person that I was after my divorce. I am not running away from something anymore. I want to run towards something. I’m ready to find that place that makes sense, the puzzle piece that tells me this is where I should plant my roots. I will still travel, explore, investigate, and work for understanding of others. I just want a permanent home to do it from in the meantime. I want to raise a family, even if it is just me and my child. So I will travel now not only for adventure, but with a new filter. Can I live here and be happy for an extended period of time? Would I be happy raising my child here? Is it easy enough for us to leave and explore other places in summer and on holidays?

I love Albania, the people are kind hearted and the country is beautiful. I can see myself loving my time there, gaining wonderful memories over the next several years, and leaving with a piece of Albania in my heart. However, I also know Albania will not be my forever home. Culturally, we are very different and some of these differences will prevent me from becoming permanently based there.

Anyways, back to my summer. I am volunteering for a lovely couple, Cliona and Conor Dooge. They won their property at auction back in 2000 and moved into a property that was overgrown, wild, and teeming with potential. It consists of their main house called the rectory, named after the fact that it was the home of the local rector from the village church. It has a little creek running through the property and has “the island”, a large field completely surrounded by ponds, with lily pads, or the creek with access from the house with a cute little red bridge.
Now to the gardens, where my fun begins. They have a poly tunnel where grow their herbs and small veggies. Around the corner from this, they have their raised beds. Currently, these beds are being used to make compost. They have a walled garden that is filled with various fruit bushes and trees. Here, Cliona grows apples, black currants, raspberries,figs, st. John’s wort, sweet pea, mint, gooseberries, lettuces, horseradish, ajd multitudes of roses. Spread throughout the rest of the property you will see many flower beds that are all also organic.
My day consists of weeding the beds, mulching, harvesting fruit, playing and feeding her 2 adorable pups, Sky; a German Shepard, and Scout, a collie mix. I also take care of her 5 hens. If she still had pigs, I would also take of them, but her last sow passed 2 years ago.

The work is hard and I can feel my muscles working all day. I am loving being outside all day, and knowing I am helping things to grow is a wonderful experience. When I am digging or pulling, my minds quiets and I feel so at peace. This feeling is rarely interrupted, unless Sky jumps on me to play through out the day. Hahahaha. I am letting go of the things in my life, like my relationship, that I no longer have control over. I am weeding these parts of my life, just like the dandelion that threatens to take over a garden. Then comes the pruning, the removal of the unneeded. With this, the roses are able to bloom beautifully when they are ready. I know that now I am in right in the middle of this in my current life….a kind of maintenance phase. But when the new buds bloom, they will grow tall, be healthy and bloom into something truly astonishing.