Archives for the month of: April, 2013

On the Road

Road trip, plane trip, bike trip, canoe trip…any time we travel (and so break our daily rituals), we are at risk of straining or reinjuring our “bad backs.” It might happen when we forget to lift heavy luggage with our knees, when we wake up with a crick in our necks after sleeping on pancake pillows, when we have to sit hours on end, frozen in poor posture—the moments are limitless. Frankly, travel can be downright hazardous to our health… But, oh so rewarding! So, those of us with “bad backs” must take precautions, if we don’t want to miss out on anything.

I am NOT a medical professional—just a chick with twelve-years experience traveling with back pain. Here are some things I make sure are in my suitcase, if I run into trouble:

  • Biofreeze: works like other hot/cold gels
  • Arnicare: soothes pain and inflammation (but use with caution—read the directions)
  • Tiger Balm Patches: like a hot/cold gel, but you can put it on a specific spot where it hurts and it will last for several hours
  • Ibuprofen/Acetaminophen: traditional remedies for swelling and pain
  • Valerian Root: this herbal remedy can help relax your muscles and help you sleep—try it in the evening your first go
  • Zip-top Gallon Bags: great for making an ice-pack on the go if you’re not staying with a host or hostess who can help you out
  • Pillow!: it can be bulky, but provides the support and comfort you need to sleep healthy on the road
  • Towel: a thin, old beach towel you can layout and stretch on can help keep back pain at bay if you’re not staying with a host or hostess who can help you out with a clean floor

It’s also important to set ourselves up for success. Just because we’re traveling doesn’t mean we stop working out or stretching—it’s even more important to stay active and flexible. Take time before your trip to scope out options: does your hotel have a workout room or pool? Is there a YMCA or other gym you could visit while staying with family? Even a brisk walk around a neighborhood or through a mall can help—do what you can, and you will reap the rewards…


I just couldn’t do it. I set my sights on a slow jog for 30 minutes, and it didn’t seem like too much to ask of myself—I’d done it last time I was at Lifetime. But ten minutes in an ache between my shoulders nagged me; by fifteen minutes, the flash of lightening between my right hip and knee came quicker and quicker…1 elephant, 2 elephants. I was done. I hit the down button to a swift limp up hill until the Cool Down warning flashed.

It’s rare I get angry with my body, but I was still a little ticked off when that evening I sat in a row of chairs watching my daughter practice with her class in a warehouse filled with dozens of young gymnasts. I know it’s an effort—I see their progress every week—I but they make it look so easy when they flip their bodies in the air on the beam. Barely visible past the mats and horses and trampolines, I could see Hattie working on round offs, hand stands, and back flips.

In the car she startled me with complaints. She couldn’t do the round off—the one she had just done last class. A flash of pleasure hit me when I realized that we shared a frustration with our bodies. Maybe it’s not that I’m aging and broken, maybe it’s just an off day?

The words of Tricia Fiske (a wonderful yoga teacher in the suburbs of Chicago who worked with me while I was pregnant) came to me, and I shared her sentiments with Hattie: every day is a new day for our bodies; we must listen to them to learn what they are capable of; we must forgive them when our minds feel they fail us; we must push them to try again tomorrow. It was good advice for both of us. We clinked our water bottles and made a promise to each other not to give up.

Hattie makes it up to the top of the net rope after weeks of trying.

Hattie makes it up to the top of the net rope after weeks of trying.

In creative writing class this morning, we responded to Rita Dove’s “10-Minute Spill Prompt” (found in The Practice of Poetry, p. 13). The “rules” are to write a ten-line poem that uses one adage/proverb/familiar phrase that we must change in some way, and uses five words from a list she provides–in just ten minutes (Dove). I chose the words “needle, whir, mother, clouds, and blackberries” and the saying, “don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.” Here’s the rough draft of the poem I came up with—inspired by Dove’s prompt and our family’s chickens.

Curious Hen

Improving Egg Production

Just hatch your chicks before you needle
them with your finger, ticking off in a whir
how much meat you’ll bring to mother’s table.
Go pick the clouds of blackberries straining
their thick vines. Lick the dark juice
before it runs to your wrist and stains
your starched cotton. Quietly take your basket
to the hen house and share your spoils
with the brown, brooding hens—
it will sweeten their yolks.

Happy poetry month! I hope you might try Dove’s prompt today too.

And, just a reminder—today’s the last day Finishing Line Press is offering a shipping discount for my new collection of poems, Hit the Ground. Don’t miss out! Click here to get your copy.

Dirty Manicure 2


Over the weekend, we didn’t get to plant our seedlings (the temperatures are dipping this week), but we did split and move around perennials that were overgrown, give grasses haircuts, weed…all the good stuff. And, I did destroy my pretty nails. (Bittersweet.) And, Kevin and I wrecked our backs—yet again.

There’s something about the first few weeks of gardening that are high risk. I’m of the opinion that we’ve got “gardening muscles” that grow week over winter. Overjoyed to be out in week sunshine and air that smells of—well—spring, I begin with an awareness that I need to be careful. I bend with my knees. I take breaks to stretch my lower back. But in the homestretch, when I know I can get that garden weeded before Kevin sparks up the grill, I do dumb things. Like I squat and reach until all the weeds are cleared from my torso’s radius and squat again and two hours go by.

I wonder later, when my body complains before bed of the soreness in my limbs and the pains in my back, what happened? I ask every spring. You’d think I’d learn. My enthusiasm for the task at hand—preparing the garden for new life—gets me in trouble every time. Week 1’s done. Last night I pulled the back braces from the top shelf of the closet and ferreted around for the ice and heating packs, so they’re ready for the coming weekend.