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I’ve Got A Ticket To Ride: Personal Challenge, Day 23 (10.9.12)

Today started off great.  The weather cooled down and it finally felt like Fall.  I actually wore a sweatshirt this morning.  I was in a good mood despite my sore body.

But then the sun came out and my mood got worse (it must be opposite day).  I had a freak out about finances and rising gas prices.  Since my paycut this year (they changed my schedule so I can no longer make extra money doing supervision), I am struggling to keep up with the rising gas prices.  I do have to admit that I have spent more money than I planned on this personal challenge–most of the money spent on food and gas.  But over $5.00 a gallon for gas is ridiculous.  So I did what I always do when I get into panic mode, I went to see my therapist.

After a grounding 45 minute session, I had a new outlook on things, new solutions to my problems, and a smile on my face when I noticed that the clouds had returned.

And my perspective returned.  I am the queen of stretching a dollar.  So I had to look at what I have at my disposal.  I have the free Metro TAP card that I received, offering me the chance to try out the Metro for 5 consecutive days.  I first used it on Sunday and it is good until the 11th.  So I am going to use this pass as often as I can.  I tried to find a good route via the Metro to get to work but all routes point to an hour and a half commute.  Since I am not a morning person, that isn’t going to work for me.  (But I am going to try it out tomorrow to see if it is really possible).  So I will just use my car to go back and forth to work.  I can ride my bike down to the grocery store and use the Metro to go anywhere else.  A monthly pass on the Metro is $75–the current price of one tank of gas for my Cavalier.  This will eliminate the gas I waste driving to all my new adventures as well as the gas wasted trying to find parking spaces.  It will also eliminate the fees for parking.  But the best part, it will help me lose the weight I gained after my car accident.  Hopefully, I will work my way up to riding my bike to and from the different places as well.  (I really have to work on going uphill).

So tonight, I decided to give this new plan a try.  I parked my car in the driveway and headed to the closest bus stop.  I downloaded the Metro app on my phone and used that to track the local buses.  I hopped on the bus that took me to the Gold Line train station and I took the Gold Line to Old Town Pasadena (Memorial Park station).

Once again, I pulled out my phone and used my Pasadena app (and eventually Yelp) to find a place to eat.  I decided I was going to try this Vegan restaurant called Green Earth Vegan cuisine on Fair Oaks.  I am not a Vegan or a Vegetarian by any means but I have some friends who are hardcore vegetarians.  So I thought I would check out a place where I could possibly take them when they visit.

I made my way over to Fair Oaks and found Green Earth Vegan just south of Colorado on Fair Oaks.  I also discovered that it was closed.  Yep, it is closed on Tuesdays.  So I pulled out my phone and went to Yelp for assistance.  There are tons of restaurants on Old Town but they are too pricey for my taste.  So I filtered my search for a restaurant with a good rating and only one dollar sign.  It turns out that the number one choice is right next to Green Earth Vegan–El Toreo.  Mexican sounded good to me.

So I walked in and instantly I felt like I was walking into someone’s home for dinner.  Everyone in the restaurant seemed to know each other.  There was a group of guys at the first table watching a ball game, playing dominoes, and enjoying their tacos and cervezas.  I sat down in a booth, placed my drink order and started to browse through the menu.  I ordered the carnitas dinner and enjoyed my complementary chips and salsa.  I looked over at the TV and noticed that the baseball game playing just happened to feature my hometown team, the Detroit Tigers.  The Universe is so funny sometimes.

As for my meal, it was really good but it can’t beat the carnitas tacos at El Patron in Altadena.  But I would happily return to El Toreo to try some of the other items on their menu.

So with a very full belly, I made my way back to the Memorial Park Metro Station and hopped on the Gold Line train back to Allen.  But according to my Metro app, I had a 30 minute wait for the next bus.  I decided to just walk home, just like I did on Sunday.  It was a nice cool night and to my delight, as I approached my neighborhood, it started to sprinkle.  The drizzle felt nice and cool after the walk home.

Obviously, the travel time is longer than driving but overall, I found the bus and train experience to be so much more relaxing.  And it almost felt like the Universe was telling me that I made the right decision (about using the Metro) by giving me the gift rain in the last leg of my journey tonight.

As for my Metro adventure tomorrow, I am going to try out the suggested routes and see how if taking the Metro to and from work is a possibility.  Stay tuned.

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My Cup Has Runneth Over . . . On My Back: Personal Challenge, Day 22 (10.8.12)

Considering how sore I am from yesterday’s adventure, I decided that I would try something a little less active.  Since I had an appointment scheduled with my amazing acupuncturist, Dawna Ara, I decided that maybe I should try something different.

I first started seeing Dawna after my car accident back in May.  She did a wonderful job assisting with my recovery and healing process.  And even though I am technically done with the therapy on my injuries, I keep going back to see her because I feel so good after an acupuncture session.  She is helping me deal with the stress from my job and the pain from my severe Endometriosis.  So today, I asked her if there was something else that I should try besides the acupuncture.  She mentioned Cupping.

I remember the first time I had ever heard of cupping was from a tabloid story about Gwyneth Paltrow’s spots on her back.  Then it came out that the spots were a result of cupping, a form of acupuncture that involves heated cups over the skin to promote blood flow and ease stress, aches and pains.  Cupping can involve the acupuncture needles but Dawna chooses to just stick with the heated cups.  She isn’t a fan of the more extreme forms of cupping that literally involves blood flowing…into the cups.

According to Acupuncture Today, “cupping is one of the oldest methods of traditional Chinese medicine.”  It is often used to treat congestion, arthritis, pain, depression and to reduce swelling.  The American Cancer Society states that “Cupping is supposed to realign and balance the flow of one’s vital energy or life force called qi or ch’i, pronounced “kee” or “chee.” In the presence of illness or injury, proponents say, the qi is disturbed and there may be too much or too little at certain points in the body. The practitioner diagnoses any imbalances in the qi and attempts to restore them.”  It is also thought that this is an excellent way to remove toxins from the body.  There is no real scientific proof of the benefits of cupping but if the Chinese have been using this for thousands of years, there has to be something working.  For me, as a Libra who seeks balance, how could I possibly resist trying a new method to get rid of the imbalances in my life?

For today, my imbalances lie in my sore muscles and Dawna decided to use the fire cupping technique to treat my condition.  After finishing up my acupuncture, Dawna  applied oils and lotions to my back.  (This is to help move some of the jars up and down my back).  She pulled out several glass jars that looked like mini fish bowls.  She used a swab to apply alcohol to the inside of the glass jars and used the flame from a lighter to ignite the substance, removing the oxygen from the jar.  She quickly placed the heated jar on my back and as it cooled, it created a vacuum that caused my skin to rise up into the jar.

My back after cupping

It sounds like it would hurt but it didn’t.  It was an intense feeling but not at all painful.  She placed several jars on my back, some remained stationary while others were moved around my back.  Again, there was nothing painful about this procedure.  I felt like I was getting a deep tissue massage as she moved some of the jars up and down my back.  After a few minutes, I heard the popping noises as she took the jars off my back.  I felt great.

And even though I have red streaks and hickey-type marks on my back, it was totally worth it.  My muscles are relaxed and the majority of the soreness I felt before drifted away into the glass vacuums.  I would definitely do this again.

Gallery of Inspiration: Personal Challenge, Day 17 (10.3.12)

Have you ever had one of those days where it becomes so clear that the Universe has plans for your life?  Well, I had one of those days.  I spent some time after work going through Pasadena View’s website and their page, 365 things to do in Pasadena page.  I printed out the listed, crossed off the places I had already visited and started to do some research on some of the events.  Then it just became a chain of events.  Google led me to Pasadena View’s website, the 365 Things to Do page led me to the Old Pasadena website and the Events page led me to a Gallery and Bookstore that I had never heard of before, Flower Pepper Gallery & Bookstore.  The name alone caught my attention.  But the events page mentioned that this particular gallery currently had a group show in exhibition entitled “The Color Blue.”  I clicked on the more info page and the show advertisement caught my eye.  I found the image intriguing and wanted to see more.  The title of the exhibit could mean so many different things (I started to think of Picaso’s Blue period) so the best way to satisfy my curiousity was to head over to Flower Pepper and check it out.

When I arrived in Old Town, I immediately found a paking spot right in front of the gallery (that never happens to me).  The Flower Pepper Gallery & Bookstore is literally right on the corner of Union and N. Arroyo Parkway.  When I first walked in, I was greeted by the extremely nice and courteous staff.  I probably could have stood there talking for hours, but I had only put 45 minutes worth of coins in the meter and of course the gallery would eventually have to close.

The art work in the exhibit, created by several local artists, truly fits the theme of “The Color Blue.”  The image titled “Baby Blue” by Dustin Myers was the first to catch my eye.  If I only had large quantities of money to spend on artwork, this would be the first added to my art collection.  And the image “The Comfort of Apathy” by Ryan Myers would be the perfect gift for my college roommate; this is an image that I think many from my generation would want hanging in their homes, reminding us of our own childhood (and Pee Wee Herman).

Every image in the exhibit had great depth and detail, leaving the true meanings of the work open for multiple interpretations.  The images are displayed on the Flower Pepper Gallery Bookstore website but I highly suggest heading down to Old Town Pasadena (if you are in the LA area) and checking them out in person.  They will be on display until October 19th and a new exhibit opens on the 20th (stop by and meet the artists opening night–contact the Gallery for more details).

This is definitely an art gallery that I would definitely want to check out every time they have a new exhibit.  Like I said, I think the Universe wanted me to go there today.  I made a new friend and hopefully a new partnership that will help me with one of my goals on my bucket list: to make a difference in the lives of others.  So stay tuned.  I think I will be writing more about the Flower Pepper in the future.

I Wanna Be a Cowgirl, Baby! Personal Challenge, Day 11 (9.27.12)

Today I decided I wanted to do something that I hadn’t done since I was in high school back in Michigan.  I wanted to go Horseback riding.  I started to think about it last week when I went to the Old Zoo in Griffith Park and saw the pony rides.  So I did my research and found several different places where you can go horseback riding in Los Angeles.

Since it has been over 16 years since I saddled up, I thought it would be best to find a place that worked well for beginners.  Ironically, the perfect place for my adventure was very same place that inspired my choice, Griffith Park.  At the LA Equestrian Center, there is a horse rental area that provides guided trail rides through Griffith Park for just $25 an hour.  Other places that I found looked more advanced and had prices starting at $40 an hour.  So the Griffith Park Horse Rental and Trail Rides was my adventure destination for the day.

Once you pull into the LA Equestrian Center, you will see sign guiding you to the Horse Rental and Trail Rides area in the parking lot off to the left.  I parked and walked back to the rental stables.  I was immediately greeted and when I told them I wanted to go on a trail ride, they started to prepare my horse while I filled out the legal forms.  I made sure that this was my first time at the trails and that I hadn’t been on a horse in over 16 years.  They gave me a safety helmet and introduced me to my personal guide, Jesus.  They went over the basic instructions of how to control the horse with the reins.  The assured me that Jesus would be with me at all times if I had any questions or needed assistance.

I do have to admit that it was a little weird for me that I was told to lead the way and Jesus traveled just behind me, nudging my horse on when he needed it.  And since we had a language barrier, he didn’t know enough English and I didn’t know enough Spanish, it almost felt like I was on a solo ride.  But what a nice ride it was, especially when we got into Griffith Park.

We saw deer in several different areas.  If I hadn’t been concentrating on keeping my balance and holding onto the reins, I probably would have been faster to grab my phone to get a few pictures of all the wild animals that crossed our path.  Thankfully, Jesus was sweet enough to use my phone to get a few pictures of me on my horse.

I chose to do the one hour trail ride and that was plenty for my first time back on a horse.  And it wasn’t until we returned to the stables and I dismounted that I realized what a workout I had received in that one hour.  My legs and butt were sore.  They told me that was a good sign and it meant that I was riding correctly.  So now I completely understand why cowboys walk the way they do because that is exactly how I was walking.

Overall, it was an excellent experience.  Everyone was very nice.  I would definitely go back.

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The Teacher Becomes The Student: Personal Challenge, Day 10 (9.26.12)

This morning, while watching the news, I saw a commercial talking about a website called Discover Los Angeles.  I thought this would be a great place to find new ideas for my personal challenge.  And today, my allergies were still acting up so I thought it would be best if I found something indoors.

So I went to the Discover LA website and clicked on their link to “100 Free Things to Do.”  I am a broke teacher who lives paycheck to paycheck (gotta love budget cuts where you are making less money then when you started your job).  There were so many interesting ideas but I thought it would be best, in my current state, to check out the “Free Health and Beauty Things to Do.”  The last item caught my eye, “Get self-centered,” at the Sahaja Yoga Meditation Center.

Unfortunately the link what is disabled but being the tech savvy photo teacher, I just deleted the last part of the web address and was redirected to the Sahaja Yoga Meditation Center home page. 

On the home page, I read the following:

“Sahaja Meditation is a simple yet very powerful technique which brings meaning, balance and gravity into our lives. Everyone can do it! And remember… it’s always free! Your self-realization is your birthright. You should never have to pay for the touch of Divine Love… Sahaja Meditation is a unique method of meditation based on an awakening that can occur within each human being. Through this process an inner transformation takes place by which one becomes moral, united, integrated and balanced. One can actually feel the all pervading divine power as a cool breeze, as described in all religions and spiritual traditions of the world.

Perfect!  I noticed that there were several locations and I found one in San Gabriel that was meeting tonight.  I always wondered what it would be like to take an actual meditation class so this was my chance.  Plus the description mentioned something about one becoming balanced–that is every Libra’s dream, their mission to find balance.

So I drove down to the San Gabriel Library (a place where I had never been before).  The parking lot is small so I had to park on a neighborhood street.  When I walked into the library, the teacher in me almost had a heart attack.  It was loud and children were chasing each other around the book stacks, no parents in sight.  The teenagers at the information desk were busy texting that they didn’t even notice I was standing there, waiting to inquire about the location for the class.  I cleared my throat, loudly, and then just asked them about the class.  Without even looking up from their phones, in unison, they said, up the stairs.  WOW!  I was a little concerned about how a group of people would be able to meditate in this Chuck E. Cheese atmosphere.

Thankfully quite a bit of the noise was inaudible once you reached the meeting room.  But when I arrive, I was the only person there.  I thought that maybe I had the wrong place.  This wasn’t what I expected.  I had imagined a room with Tibetan prayer flags strewn about and a big Buddhist alter.  This was simply . . . a meeting room with off-white walls and industrial gray carpeting.

A few minutes later, the instructor arrived.  Again, not what I expected.  I think my mind had assumed that a meditation class would be something like the ones run at the monasteries.  I was expecting a guru in his robes.  Not a man in business attire carrying a Macbook.

A few minutes later, another person arrived.  Again, not what I expected.  I had dressed the part of what I thought a meditation student should look like.  I was in my yoga pants and tank top, wearing my sandals and all of my crystal bracelets.  I had my hair up, dangled earrings and my Buddhist necklace.  The young woman who came in looked like she had just come from work, or the mall.

As it turns out, we were the only students that evening but that was actually to my benefit.  The instructor told me the history and ideals behind Sahaja Meditation.  Then he guided us through a Chakra meditation sequence followed by meditation with music and then the conclusion of the meditation process.  It wasn’t what I expected but it turned out better than I imagined.  I basically had a personalized course with the meditation instructor, once again proving that a teacher is more effective with a smaller class size.

I left there feeling calm and relaxed.  I was drama free and happy.  I think I will be back next week.  Who knows, perhaps my meditation skills will improve, allowing me to ignore my noisy teenagers.  This was definitely a good experiment.

Daily Post Writing Challenge: A Letter To My Former Self

Hey Kelly,

I am taking part in a writing challenge from WordPress’ Daily Post. The challenge is to use the Post via Email tool and to write the post as if you are writing an actual email. So I decided I would write to you, my former self–a young woman who always hid behind the written word.

As your future self, I want to warn you of your habits of expressing yourself only through writing. You have this bad habit of holding in your real feelings until you explode through a written, verbal regurgitation that tends to make matters worse. I understand your fears. You are afraid of rejection and getting hurt. But the problem with email is that you don’t know if the other person even read your heartfelt diatribe, if they interpreted it with its true meanings and feelings (teasing and flirting doesn’t always come across in email), and you will never know how they feel if they decide not to respond. With verbal communication, yes, it is scary but at least you get responses right away, ending the "what is he thinking" loop that plays in your head. And no matter how scared you are to express yourself live (or even in-person), always remind yourself that what is the worse that can happen–you will lose something you never even had?

You started this habit of expressing yourself, especially in matters of the heart, at a young age. You used to write notes to the guys you cared for in Middle School and High School but then with the addition of email in college, your bad habit soared. In college, with Big, you used email to tell him how you felt. Then the one time you stored up enough courage to tell him in person what you wanted, he gave you what you thought was a rejection–thus causing you to further hone your written communication skills.

You are a writer. You have a college degree in the subject to prove it. It should be a skill, not a crutch. One in-person rejection (your interpretation, not his) and another one on the phone and you developed what Big would probably call "long ass email" syndrome.

This is going to be a very hard habit for you to break. Through therapy, meditation, and a lot of soul-searching, you are going to do your best to get over your fears. But your daily interactions with teenagers who conduct the majority of their communications through technology–texting, tweeting, Instagram and the like–is going to make this one of the most difficult challenges of your life. But remember, you are from a different generation. A generation where your parents made you get your own phone line so you could talk to your friends for hours. Go back to your roots and work on your Verbal communication skills (and do your very best to convince your teenagers to do the same). Stop using your pen (or keyboard) as a sword, a weapon to fight off your fear demons, and do your part to help stop a future of tech zombies who would rather text the person sitting on the other side of the table instead of having an actual conversation with them. Remember, the benefits of an actual verbal conversation is instant feedback and responses. I mean isn’t that why you go to "talk" therapy? This will improve our future–and end all the misunderstandings that have occurred via email.

Luv, Kel (your present and future self)

Pin-Pointing The Pain

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OK, yesterday I decided to try something new.  After my accident last month, I am still in a lot of pain.  My friend in Idaho suggested acupuncture and massage.  So I went to Yelp and read all the reviews on acupuncture centers in the area.  I found Dawna Ara.  Yesterday was my first appointment and let’s just say that it won’t be my last.

I was a little nervous about the whole experience.  I’m not a fan of needles.  But since several of my friends and my therapist (all whom I trust) swear by it, I figured it couldn’t really hurt to try–or could it?  So I arrived early, mainly due to my nerves and my OCD about never being late, and Dawna greeted me when I walked in.  The great thing about Dawna’s practice is that you can make your appointments from her website and download all the paperwork so you don’t have to spend most of your time at the appointment trying to figure everything out.  Dawna sat down with me to talk about what was going on and things I had mentioned in her questionnaire.  She had me stand up and she instantly found my “trouble” spot on my neck.  She explained everything to me.  She told me it would be best to start with the acupuncture and then a light massage.

Surprisingly, the acupuncture needles didn’t hurt.  It tickled a bit when they went in but I  barely felt them.  Dawna had me lay there for 25 minutes–she came in to check on me from time to time.  While lying there, I could start to feel my muscles relax.  My trouble spot start to feel better.  It wasn’t anything dramatic but I could definitely feel things change the longer I laid there.

Once the 25 minutes passed, Dawna came in, removed the needles (which didn’t hurt at all), and gave me a light 5 minute massage with some sort of cooling cream.  I reminded me of the Biofreeze my dad uses.  Then my session was over.  Dawna told me what I should expect over the next few hours and days.  She gave me some herbal pain therapy patches to apply to my “trouble” spot over the next five days.  On my way out, I felt so calm and relaxed that I wanted to call everyone I knew and tell them to try acupuncture.

Now there are some side effects that didn’t hit me until later.  Once I got home and relaxed a little more, I felt lightheaded and very tired.  Since the accident, I haven’t been able to really sleep because of the neck and back pain.  But while I was laying on my couch, trying to watch the new Sherlock Holmes movie, I fell asleep.  I woke up around midnight and realized where I was.  I managed to muster up enough energy to turn off the TV and make my way into my bedroom where I collapsed on my bed, comfortably sleeping until my alarm went off that morning.  So I guess finally getting a good night’s sleep isn’t a bad side effect to have to endure.

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