Thursday, May 21, 2015

A History of Challenge - Part 3

This is the final installment of my back story that began with A History of Challenge - Part 1 and continued in A History of Challenge - Part 2.

While finishing college, I worked as a math tutor.  Me!  The algebra challenged person who couldn’t pass the class in high school!
I know all the mistakes, so I’m good at helping reroute the logic behind common mistakes.  I helped quite a few fellow students pass their math classes!!
My confidence soared with my continued academic success.  In 2008, I started looking for internships.  I had a few interviews, but nothing panned out for me.
I continued searching.
I continued to turn up nothing.

I sat for my FE Exam (that would be Fundamentals of Engineering), and 6-8 weeks later, I discovered I had passed!  Whew!
It was an 8 hour exam, and I didn’t want to repeat that experience!!
Graduation day came, and my parents were beaming as I walked for my bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering.
I started casting about for engineering jobs, but there was just nothing out there for me.  It was 2010, and the job market had not recovered from devastation.  I was working at Goodwill for $8.75 an hour.

In desperation, I applied for an opening with the Social Security Administration.  A few weeks later, I was signed up to take an aptitude test.  A few months after that, I was invited for an interview! Four months after my initial application, I was offered a full time government job, and I took it!
This was not an engineering job.
However, I had solid, reliable, full-time employment!  I would be able to pay my bills, now!
Stable employment is allowing me to pursue my passions.
Horseback riding.
Inspiring the people around me.
And, now, sharing fitness and health with YOU!

Let's keep in touch!

* indicates required

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A History of Challenge - Part 2

This is a continuation of my story that began with A History of Challenge - Part 1 .

With some very intense help from my friends, my mind was warped and I fumbled my way through Precalculus that semester.  I grasped at unit circles and right triangles and repeating patterns.  My life became consumed.
Similarly, I struggled through my physics class.  I was preparing for a transfer into a Physical Therapy program after acquiring my Associate’s degree.  The last hurdle was this Physics class…
I failed my first physics test with a 40-something percent.  Can I fully express my devastation?

I spent hours on my physics homework.  I was in the professor’s office on a daily basis asking questions.  I cried over my textbook.  I snuggled my cat…
I barely passed my next test.  There was more crying involved.  Crying was a daily occurrence.

It turned out that I had to completely rewire my brain, and I had to do it fast!!  I was developing a whole new set of problem solving strategies.  On top of that, I was delving into scientific concepts I had only scratched the surface on previously.  I didn’t truly understand the material until weeks after we had tested on it.

During my second semester of physics, I was in my professor’s office again, and this time I was reading an article on his wall about researching in the field of physics.  He said to me, “So, are you going to get a physics degree?”
No, I’m really more interested in doing things outside rather than working in a lab.
“Oh, so you want to be an engineer!”
Oh, no. Engineering is for math people!
“Well, you’re math people, aren’t you?”

I had not, up to this point, considered myself a math person.  That comment stopped me in my tracks.  It nagged at me.  So, I started researching engineering degrees.  Next time, I would be able to explain why I wasn’t interested in engineering.

However, that plan backfired!!  I was fascinated!  I really wanted to learn about that stuff!

I made an agonizing decision to shift my coursework focus and extend my expected graduation date.  I decided to get a degree in Civil Engineering!

This professor made it a point to be available to help me with my calculus, as well as the physics, even after I had left his class.

And you know what?  I got A’s in both semesters of his class!  I really did get it!  I was math people!

Continued in A History of Challenge - Part 3

Let's keep in touch!

* indicates required

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A History of Challenge - Part 1

I’m no stranger to challenge.  I feel as if I have hit many obstacles on my road through life.  The first of which proved to be school, in general.
I struggled to pay attention in class, and I had no ambition to do homework.  It felt like senseless repetition, to me.  I failed basic algebra several times…  I couldn’t make it through history class in the first try, either.  I don’t do well memorizing names and dates.  It just didn’t connect with me…
It took me 5 ½ years to complete 4 years of high school, but I graduated!

I felt like I wasn’t capable of succeeding at college at the time, so I joined the US Army!
My journey as a soldier involved quite a bit of self-discovery.  My military experience sometimes feels like a completely separate world…
I finally came to the realization that I really did need a college degree if I wanted something more than a minimum wage job.  I applied to the local community college and started on a path to self-improvement in spite of my complete fear of Algebra.

Allow me to expand on my fear of Algebra.
I was discussing the prospect of college with a close friend.  I was telling her what my concerns were about college, and when I got to Algebra, I burst into tears!
We weren’t even talking about me signing up – we were just talking about what ifs!!
And here I was, bawling on her couch before I was even enrolled in an Algebra class!!!

When I finally got started in college, I knew that math would be a struggle, so I made it a point to set myself up with a study group and take advantage of ALL of my resources.  I was completing general education courses to get an Associate of Arts degree and transfer into a Physical Therapy program.  I got an A in my Intro to Algebra class.  I tutored my friend during Intermediate Algebra! Then, I faced a choice:
College Algebra followed by Trigonometry

 Many of the friends I had been studying with were taking the Precalculus class.  If I took this class with them, I would have the same support group, and I would only have 1 more semester of math… So, I commited!

That same semester, I was taking Physics…
My life was about to take a dramatic turn…

Continued in:
A History of Challenge - Part 2
A History of Challenge - Part 3

Let's keep in touch!

* indicates required

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Coping Strategies

The hardest thing I do in any given day is sit in a chair.  I know that doesn’t sound challenging, but there are consequences to sitting.  Within 30-45 minutes, a quiet ache settles into my left hip.  I’ll start to squirm a bit.  I usually don’t notice, but my darling husband has begun to pick up on it.  When we go out to eat, booths are the worst!

If I don’t notice or even ignore these warning signs, the ache deepens and grows.  Sometimes it will ooze down the outside of my thigh.  I learned quite some time ago that this ache follows my sciatic nerve down my leg.  At my worst, it goes all the way to my foot!  I avoid that state at all costs!!

Have you ever noticed how much we sit, as a society?

I don’t deal very well with being less-than-functional.  I get crappy.  Grumpy.  Snappy.  Every little thing gets under my skin.  Do you know the feeling?
I discovered that horseback riding usually made me feel better, even if it was only for a short period.

I can’t take off from work to go ride a horse when that feeling settles in, so I use a few other strategies, instead.

I have been through physical therapy at least 3 times now, and I get something new every time.
Prone-on-Elbows is a pain relief position I have used for 12 years, now.  I lie on my stomach and prop myself up on my elbows.  It can take 10 or 15 minutes for this position to reduce my pain, but it has always helped to some degree.

Most recently, I learned an active stretching method to reduce, and even remove, my pain.  It’s called centralization.  The idea is that if the extend of the pain decreases, or if the pain moves closer to my core/spine, then I am improving and doing something that will make me better.  I start in that prone-on-elbows position to let my spine figure out where we are about to be moving.  Then I do what I think of as “cobra push-ups”.  I lower my upper body to the ground.  I place my hands under my shoulders, and I push up as high as I can comfortably go while I leave my hips on the floor (or at least, near the floor) in a Cobra position.  At the top of my push up, I take a moment to “sag” my hips.  I just relax everything in my middle and let gravity pull my pelvis toward the floor before I lower myself back down.  I do this in rhythm with my breathing.  I inhale as I push up, exhale to drop my hips, and continue to exhale as I return to the floor.

Seriously, I’ll do this at work in my cubicle.  I may look silly, but I can’t do my job if I’m trying to sit through pain!

I have little pillows (complete with covers) filled with corn.  I warm them in the microwave and apply ‘moist’ heat.  I keep one at work, and I keep one at home.  If the heat fades and I need just a little more, I shift the corn around inside and reapply!

My last round of physical therapy, we would start my bad days with this warm clay pack wrapped in a towel.  The heat would sink into my back and dissolve the stiffness in about 15 minutes.  My corn pillows let me recreate that same affect at home.

Usually, I’m not a fan of the cold.  Icing in the winter doesn’t feel good to me.  Sometimes, however, there is distinct inflammation that can use my attention, and icing it will help.  My same corn bags can be put in the freezer and act like a bag of frozen peas (without the wetness and squishiness that inevitable follows the pea thing).  Bonus, the corn is reusable!

My husband keeps 3 neck wraps I mad for him in the freezer to put on his neck after a tough day.  There is always a wrap or two ready to go in the freezer.  Inevitably, one is left in or next to the bed…  But, hey! It’s a system that works!

I’m still on a prescription nerve pain blocker, but my dose is decreasing.  One day, I will be able to do without it.  In the meantime, I continue to work from where I am.  Small steps will eventually lead me to where I want to be!
I still supplement with Ibuprofen on worse days.  I might take it once or twice a week. 

I use these tools.  They might not be right for you.  I list them to share what is working for me.  If they work for you as well, that is fantastic!

I love to hear from you, so please tell me in the comments how you cope with your pain…
Click on the link to sign up for my Newsletter:

Let's keep in touch!

* indicates required

Sign up for exclusive content!