Thursday, July 24, 2008

1/4 pound gym

I had my second visit to the physical therapist this morning. In the middle of the room there's a table holding several different small exercise machines made of wood and ropes and weights and pulleys. After I began my visit with 10 minutes of ultrasound followed by 10 minutes of laser treatment I was able to start on the machines.

For the first exercise I stood beside the table. Attached to the corner of the table is a rectangular wood frame standing on end. There are holes on either side of the frame to accommodate a short length of pole that pushes through one side of the frame and out the other. On one end of the pole the therapist attached a length of rope that hangs to the floor and on the bottom of the rope she added a quarter-pound weight. My task was to hold the other end of the pole in my right hand (the injured one) and by turning my hand back toward me and forcing my wrist down, turn the pole to slowly lift the weight off the floor. With each turn the rope would wrap a little around the pole until after about 40 turns the weight was all the way up. Then I'd let the weight back down and do it again. 10 times.

I did the same set of 10 a second time with a different end piece attached to the pole so my had had to mimic the motion of opening a jar. Then a third time with yet a third end piece. Each time with a quarter-pound weight. Then I did three other exercises at various machines around the table: two pulling my hand back toward me, and a third curling my fingers. Then there was a final exercise of using a clip like a large clothespin to pull pegs out of a peg board. With every exercise the therapist would follow me around from machine to machine, instruct me on proper form, and then make a record of what weight resistance I had used and how many sets I accomplished, just like a personal trainer at the gym.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Is that all there is?

Since breaking my right arm I’ve lost a lot of range of motion. Particularly striking is the movement of bending the hand forward or backward at the wrist. My left hand bends about 90 degrees forward and back. My right hand only bends about 10 degrees forward, and backward I can’t bend it at all.

Bending the right hand feels exactly as comfortable as bending the left. It feels as though the limitation were perfectly natural and normal. If I didn’t have my left hand to compare it to I wouldn’t know my hand was supposed to bend any more than it does. But in fact the only thing preventing the hand from bending are some muscles and tendons that have grown weak and stiff from un-use.

The experience makes me wonder about other limitations we feel in life: limitations that feel completely normal and natural but are actually false. Limitations where we tell ourselves, “of course I can’t do that,” or “I’m already doing as much as it’s possible to do.” Without a fully functioning model to compare ourselves to we may be short-changing our lives unnecessarily.

There are some places in our lives where we know we’re limited and we’re already at work stretching. But it’s also healthy to explore those areas of our lives where we think we’re living as fully as we possible. Perhaps we’ll discover we’ve created false limitations that are nothing more than a failure to imagine the greatness we’re really capable of.

What happens in October?

The September issue of Esquire Magazine is going to feature an electronic cover that will flash the message, "The 21st Century begins now." Esquire is preparing 100,000 editions of the magazine for newstands, apparently the home delivered magazines will not have the special cover. Ford motor company is helping finance the stunt and will have their on ad on the inside of the cover making use of the same technology.

Cool, But. Does anybody have any idea what will happen to the 100,000 tiny batteries that will get thrown away with the magazine? WIll people rip the cover off and recycle the rest of the magazine at least? It would have been nice if Esquire had planned some green way to despose of their gimmick after the lights stop blinking.

Gay La La

I spent the last week in Miami at a conference for Gay and Lesbian choruses from around the country, and a few international choruses as well. An amazing 5,000 people attended. My own chorus, the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, only had 86 members attend out of our more than 200 members, so you can imagine the total number of singers there must be if 5000 came to the conference. Back in the late 1970s when the first gay and lesbian choruses were being formed, including Los Angeles in 1979, the then existing chorus formed GALA as a means of supporting the movement and encouraging other cities to form their own singing groups. The conference included performances by choruses from many major cities, as you'd expect, but also dozens of small choruses from small cities around the country as well.

The week was great fun, both in meeting a bunch of friendly people from around the country, a great chance to socialize with members of my own chorus who I often only see at rehearsal and never really get to talk to, very educational in watching what other chorus do, both what I liked and didn't like, some great music, a lot of heart, one great day at the pool, and one great evening at south beach with a full moon coming up out of the darkened water.

wrist preschool

I started physical therapy today on my broken right wrist and forearm. The office looks like a preschool: a big open room with a couple of tables and chairs on all sides. On top of the tables are wooden machines with ropes and pulleys and wheels that looks like children's toys. The walls are decorated with colorful posters designed to be encouraging and with cute sayings about hands. I mentioned the resemblance to a preschool to the therapist and she laughed. And then after having thought about it for a moment she said, "Well I guess the task is sort of the same. We're starting over with your muscle and bone development remaking a life time of experience."

This being my first visit they took a whole array of measurements to establish a base line. Compared to my healthy left hand I've got a long ways to go. But the therapist said at this point the only thing preventing my full range of motion is that my tendons have shortened and stiffened from disuse. So now it's just a process of strength-building and stretching.

After the measurements we did two kinds of therapy: one with a laser to put energy into the arm, and the other with ultra sound to break up scar tissue and ease swelling. Then I was done for the day, sent home with a couple of xeroxed pages of hand and wrist exercises. My next appointment is Thursday.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Jesse helms dead at 86

I don't feel any glee over the announcement. Lives are precious, even when misspent. And even despicable lives contain sparks of divinity, and leave grieving loved ones who I would not want to disrespect.

It's helpful to me to separate Jesse Helms the person, who I can have some sympathy for, and for his family, and Jesse Helms the symbol of a brand of race-baiting, homophobic, willfully ignorant conservatism that Helms helped develop under Nixon, epitomized under Reagan and Bush I, and now has reached its nadir and flame-out under Bush II. It is the passing of that era he
represents I happily celebrate today, the death of that ideology, not the death of a man.

how's the wrist coming along?

Went to the doc yesterday. He says I'm healing and gave me a referral for a physical therapist. I'm to see her twice a week for the next six weeks, initially, and then we'll see how it goes.

Last night I peeled off the last of my "steri-strip" bandages. I've got a very attractive pink scar on the inside of my right arm from just above my wrist to halfway to my elbow. it looks tough, which I like, but it also looks like the aftermath of a dramatic suicide attempt, which I don't like.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

let the healing begin

My house has been suffering with broken appliances in apparent sympathy to my broken wrist. Finally, now, some things are starting to be fixed. The water heater took three visits from three different repair men and about a week, but is now replaced and the new one is working fine. The dishwasher also took three people and nearly a month to fix. The first guy blamed it on one part, ordered the part and then after waiting about 10 days determined that the part was not available and the whole machine would have to be replaced. Before that happened a second guy came out and said the problem was a different part. Before that part came in a third guy came out, today, diagnosed yet a third part as the problem, pulled a replacement off the truck and now the machine is working fine.

Meanwhile our sprinkler system has been failing, first in the front yard and later in the back yard as well for the last week or so. I've been trying to cut down on watering but I don't want to kill every plant on the property. I was able yesterday to get the sprinkler system back on line for the back yard but I'll have to get the gardener to figure out why the controls aren't working for the front yard.

And then, of course, there's my wrist. Very slow, very slight improvement. The bandages (sterile strips I think they're called) have started coming off in the shower revealing a very tough looking scar.

gov't funding of faith-based programs

I was against it under Bush but can support it under Obama. It's not just democratic bias. Obama's plan is different.

First of all I applaud Obama taking up an issue that makes it clear that not all religious people are conservatives. Much of the news analysis has portrayed this idea as part of a larger play on Obama's part to attract the evangelicals. I hope he does win over some conservative religious folks. But it's also important to me as a religious liberal to have my religion affirmed as influential on good, liberal, policies, like care for the poor, care for the enviornment, civil rights protection, and so on.

The Bush plan mingled church and state in a way that the Obama plan avoids. It is possible for the government to provide assistance to social service organizations, including those operated by religious entities, in a way that does not support one religion over another. Funding can easily be reviewed for fairness. However, Bush's plan allowed the funded charities to operate in ways that would not be allowed in secular organizations. Bush in effect was funding religious principles that had nothing to do with the effective providing of services. A Christian organization that will only hire Christians, and won't hire gays, should not qualify for government funding because regardless of the social service they provide the government would clearly be supporting a religious view.

But Obama would require the religious organizations to operate in the same religiously-neutral manner that secular organizations operate. And using their existing structures to provide needed services rather than duplicating a structure just so the government can run it makes perfect sense to me.