Status: After 10 Weeks

Hello friends,

It’s been a few days since I last posted about my shoulder, and I’m too cold to go out and walk Luna quite yet, so I thought I would update.

Things are going well. My new physical therapist is super nice and very thorough. Like I mentioned a week or two ago, I’ve started working on strengthening. Strengthening, at this point, does not look like me lifting a bunch of weights and getting super buff.

Instead, it looks like me, lying face-down on a table with one-pound weights on my wrists, slowly bringing my arms up, around, and back (probably extremely gracefully). It looks like me at the rowing machine pulling 20 pounds. And it looks like me, still pulling the red bands, not the higher resistance blue ones yet.

But I really am starting to get my range of motion back. It doesn’t feel painless or normal yet, but I CAN DO IT.

My right arm, the one without the rubber band, going straight up!
“If I bend my wrist, I can reach higher!” – Me
Left arm for comparison

I’m slightly more and more able to move my right hand up my back every time. At this point it goes to about the small of my back. Compared to my left arm, which reaches about to between my shoulder blades, I have a long way to go.

(However, because my joints were so loose before, it’s probably unrealistic to aim for equal flexibility any time in the near future.)

My PT said today, “I’m so proud of you! You’ve improved so much since I started working with you.” And I felt like a little kid who was so excited to please a grownup.

Let’s get into some more details about what I can and can’t do right now:

  • Driving – I can drive! Steering sharp turns takes a little more foresight. I was naughty and drove a 4 hour trip to and from the Bay Area to spend time with friends last weekend. Most of that trip was straight (not too much steering), though I must say my arm was aching by the end from holding the steering wheel.
  • Sleeping – I still only sleep on my left side or on my back. Sometimes I want to lie on my stomach, but my shoulder really doesn’t like that unless my arms are straight and right next to my body. I never plan on sleeping on my stomach like that, but I like to turn sometimes to stretch my back.
    Sometimes my old habits creep up and I mindlessly try to turn to my right side. Then my right arm has to push me up to turn me over again. Not pleasant!
  • Chores – I’ve been doing dishes, emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the cat box every day. I vacuumed my car before my road trip on Saturday and that was challenging because of the ways I had to contort and reach. I can fold most laundry, but big towels are challenging.
  • Exercise – I’ve been going on a lot of hikes lately. It’s a nice thing to do with my husband when he has the day off. My legs will be primed when it comes time to run again. After awhile of intense hiking, my shoulder does start to ache. But it’s usually not too bad.
  • Music¬†– I played a whole two hour jazz rehearsal last Tuesday! It was really nice to be back on trumpet. Really, my right arm didn’t hurt too badly from that. My left side was a little cranky from doing all the heavy horn lifting.

What about work?

I have my doctor appointment on Thursday and I have a feeling that’s when he’ll assess me for returning to work. Right now I feel hesitant about the idea. There are still limitations to my mobility, and my job involves just enough pushing, pulling, lifting and contorting to make me nervous about having an accident and ruining it all.

So, I don’t know. March 15th (3 months after procedure) is in theory my scheduled return date, and a lot could happen in the 3 weeks between now and then. I think I will ask to be seen again before that date.

That’s about where I am right now. Stay tuned for more!


For the next part in this series, click here.

Goals, Lifestyle

My Messy Mindset

This post is the space where I’m going to discuss a certain consistent, prominent factor in my life. It is my relationship with clutter, and you guys, this is a doozy.

Some people have unhealthy relationships with food, which factor into all kinds of decisions they make. Some people have very strong fears or stressors, and have to dramatically alter their lifestyle and plans to avoid stress-triggers. Some people love Nickelback and nobody can understand why. These qualities can be prominent to others, but are not always so prominent to the people directly affected.

This is the phenomenon that occurs when I give my coworker a ride and she says with true, sincere admiration, “I think it’s amazing that you can just have your car like this. I would be so anxious.”

What’s the Problem?

I have a very specific style of messiness. It’s hard to describe.

My car has papers from everywhere – oil changes, doctor receipts, planners, an actual package of colored paper to copy on for work, sheet music. A full-size keyboard that belongs at one of my schools. Three scarves. A can of soup I brought for lunch once and then couldn’t find so I’d assumed I forgot it at home. Random shit people give me that has no home.

My desk has all kinds of craft supplies, pens from conferences, music books, teaching books, hobby books, hobby stuff, stamps.

I am so productive!

My dresser has a basket with random hair stuff, maybe some old jewelry I never wear, a box for jewelry I do wear, two boxes with random scarves or specialty clothes like scarves and an Ugly Christmas Sweater.

My kitchen counter has all kinds of papers and all kinds of stuff. Even when it’s “clean,” it’s messy.

This is truly a good day.

The problem is, when I get into someone else’s car and they apologize for it being “so messy” when there’s only a few things in the back seat and virtually nothing else, it seems my standards for messiness are askew from the norm.

Why am I like this?

Two reasons: Projects and Habits.

I was always a crafty kid. I loved making beaded jewelry. I loved drawing with all kinds of media. I loved sitting on the floor of my room, with all kinds of supplies, and making something pretty.

The problem was, those projects were often time-consuming and involved lots of little components. It didn’t make sense for me to put supplies away if the project wasn’t finished yet. So the stuff would sit out, sometimes for weeks, until the project was done. During this time I would usually have developed another, shorter project, that I could do when I got stuck on the first project. It was not uncommon for me to trip over a project in progress as these things typically took place on the floor.

Why put things away when you can keep them out? That was my mindset. Unfortunately that type of habit setup doesn’t transfer smoothly to anything besides running a personal art studio, and even then it’s questionable. Why do the dishes when you could wait for there to be more dishes? Why sweep the floor when you can wait for there to be more stuff on it?

Of course I was never consciously thinking those things, I just never made the space in my mind to make tidiness a habit.

Breaking It Down

It was everywhere growing up, too. My house was never clean. My dad had all kinds of projects going on in the den and the garage, always. There was constantly mail, books, catalogs, and unfinished business on the coffee table, dining room table, and kitchen counter. Clothes, shoes and school supplies were all over the place.

(Please note, growing up was pretty great. My parents and sisters are GREAT. My dad worked all the time and usually didn’t come home until late. My mom was usually taking night classes when I was in middle school. It would be unfair to expect my parents to keep the house clean in the situation we had.)

I hated messes but somehow never saw my own messes. When I got my own room, I was so excited that I would finally be able to have a clean room. Nope.

For a long time I felt shame about this. People did not want to be my roommate because of how messy I was. Then I decided to stop feeling stressed about that. I coped by deciding that I am just a messy person, and that’s how I will always be.

Then I went on temporary disability. To keep myself productive, I made a daily chart-format to-do list.


I put “Dining Room Table,” “Dishes,” and “Cat Box” on my list. And just last Wednesday, like a ton of bricks, it dawned on me as I was doing dishes (no pun intended).

I don’t have to be a messy person. I just don’t currently have strong cleaning habits.

I can clean up my messy mindset. I can take control of my environment.

The Zero Waste Factor

Deciding to follow a zero waste lifestyle has made it much easier to address this part of my life. How?

First, I’ve started to take an extra critical look at the things that occupy space in my house. There are some things I can sell, but I honestly am privileged enough to say I don’t need $5 for that bottle of face wash I used for a week that makes me break out. If someone wants something I have and don’t need, I want them to have it. I will be systematically purging things that make clutter from my house, but working to throw away as little as I can.

Second, I’m aligning myself to the idea of using what I have. I have a lot of stuff. I have clothes, shoes, and five sets of shampoo/conditioner. That means I don’t need to get more for a long while. I don’t need more pens, either. I thought I might need a new cup mute for my trumpet, but a quick brush on the corks with sandpaper will give my current mute a much stronger grip.

Third, I’m disconnecting myself from acquiring more. Purchase-wise, that means I’m only going to be buying food and basic essentials. I’ve been receiving a lot of mail lately. I signed up for online billing. I subscribed to Catalog Choice and every time I get mail that I don’t need, I add it to my account. Accumulation of stuff makes the clutter come back.

Making a Change

So I have laid out my plans for reducing clutter in my house. That is great, but it’s not the only component of this problem.

The way to sustain a pattern of stopping big messes before they start, is to make it a habit.

“Duh,” says every person I’ve ever interacted with, who is by default a tidier person than me.

I don’t know why it took me 30 years for it to finally click that I don’t need to be messy. But if there’s one thing I am good at, it’s building habits. That’s how I got so decent at the clarinet in college – I habitually went to school at 10pm when parking was free, and practiced until midnight when the buildings closed.

Making a to-do list is a really simple way for me to keep up. If I get “most” things on the to-do list done in a day, I feel like a productive human.

But what really got me building habits was the chart. Because “Dishes” is on the chart every day. I can’t have one day that omits “Dishes” from my to-do list.

I hope this has reached someone who struggles with a problem like this. You are not alone. We can all build better habits and become better, happier people. Someday I will give someone a ride and there will be no comments on the cleanliness of the car. Someday I will have a dresser with only a few things on it that I use frequently. Someday my desk will be organized and functional.

This will be the week I plan on fixing those things. Who’s with me?



Zero Waste Achievements: One Month In

Transitioning to a new way of living can be challenging sometimes. I wanted to take this blog post to celebrate the successes Brian and I have had in terms of reducing the trash we produce.

I will be upfront about where I am in this right now. I’m still in the “Use what you have” phase. I’m also in the “My husband thinks some of these changes are really extreme because he’s never seen anyone do something like this” phase.

I have a distinct advantage as an alumna of Humboldt State. I was never going to be the extreme one there.

Where was I before? I’ve been carrying a reusable water bottle with me my whole adulthood (13 years). I’ve used reusable shopping bags for almost as long – long before you had to pay for a bag in California. Before moving to Santa Maria (3 years ago) I was a frequenter of grocery store bulk sections. I still used plastic bags for those, but I very often re-used the same plastic bags until I deemed them gross.

Before living in Santa Maria, I frequented the local farmers’ markets. Like, maybe I went 2 or more times per month. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but I supplemented my fruits and veggies with ones from the Co-Op (in Humboldt) and New Frontiers (in Solvang). Those stores both sourced from local organic farmers. There aren’t a lot of stores like that here, but there are farmers’ markets.

Being in a bigger place was new to me and I truly got sucked into the consumer culture. Everything is so easy to come by – especially because my job here pays a lot more than anything else I’d ever known. I literally had more money than I knew what to do with. (I am very, very aware that this is the exception of people my age and not the norm.)

I stopped shopping at thrift stores when I got my current job, because now I could afford new clothes. My good work friends, 10 years older than me, became my shopping buddies with a congruent mission of building a greater professional wardrobe. 2017 was a year of buying lots of pretty pieces for work.

That just about sums up where I was. Now I’m going to discuss the small changes I have made so far.


I do not mind using old plastic containers to buy stuff in bulk and to store food. Brian loves peanut butter filled pretzels from Costco, and they come in a giant container. I’ve been filling it with fig bars from the bulk bins. I’ve been filling an old hummus container with beans, and a Trader Joe’s cardboard oatmeal canister with steel cut oats.

With using containers, it’s important to get a weight at the register beforehand. Both times I’ve done this the kids at the registers were unfamiliar with this process. It’s okay, they’ll learn. When I finish at the store, I write down what the weight of the container was so I don’t have to have it weighed a second time.

I also use a pen or Sharpie to scribble out the scan code/ISBN. That way the register doesn’t accidentally mark it.

Brian has a food scale at his parents’ house. We plan to use that to weigh our containers at home.

Instead of getting spinach in a plastic clam shell, we’ve been buying it in tied bunches. This is something that takes a little more work to prepare, but it’s cheaper and you waste so much less. It only takes about 10-15 minutes to wash the whole bunch, tear off the stems, and lay the leaves out to dry. I’ve been saving the stems for other purposes.

I use breathable cloth bags to store my produce as I shop. I might start making more of my bags out of exercise shirts so they don’t add to the weight.


One month in, I have succeeded in my goal of not buying any new clothes this year. I’m really still on my surgery T-shirt rotation. I’ve been wearing the same 12 or so shirts on rotation for the past 8 weeks. I typically put jeans or pants in the hamper after about 4 wears. If they don’t smell bad, they’re not dirty yet.

The exception is for workout clothes. It has been quite warm this California winter, with highs around 75-80 nearly every day for several weeks. So if I’m active outside, and start getting sweaty, yes, I’ll put those in the dirty clothes.

On the Go

I went to a thrift store and got 4 spoons, forks, and knives. I wrapped each set with a cloth napkin and now Brian and I each have a pair of reusable silverware sets in our cars.

I love going out to sushi, so I got a set of reusable metal chopsticks for the sushi place we like. They were really nice when we asked for no straw in our water, so I think they’ll understand if we bring our own chopsticks.

Again, I’ve always been pretty good at bringing my water bottle with me, but now I’m a little more diligent.


Our whole garbage story has changed since we got a compost tumbler. One month’s worth of organic scraps doesn’t even fill up half of this thing! I’m looking forward to a very fertile garden this year.

We received two sets of nice, simple cotton napkins as wedding presents. We set up a little wicker basket in the dining room for used napkins.

We’ll use the same napkins for 2 or 3 days. Wiping your face on a piece of cloth once doesn’t make it completely soiled. Those things are big!

I also use (unused) napkins to make cashew cream for my coffee, since I bought a nut milk bag, used it once and misplaced it forever. A napkin is basically the same thing.

I got my bathroom mirror spotless using only a sheet of newspaper and a tiny bit of water.

I un-signed up for junk mail a few weeks ago. I guess it takes awhile to go away. I’m still getting all sorts of stupid stuff every day. I wrote a “No junk mail or coupons” note for my mailbox.

I also unsubscribed to all of my subscription boxes. I felt a little tricked by social media, into thinking those things were cool. In fact, they were all just wasteful. I don’t need a whole box of random stuff every month or every few months.

In that same vein, Brian and I have committed to each only making one Amazon order per month. Whatever thing we might need, we’ll let it sit in the cart until it’s time. I also contacted Amazon customer service and requested they don’t pack the plastic bubbles in my packaging anymore. They happily complied.

It might be because I have more time on disability, but I’m much more inclined lately to keep things tidy. The huge exception to this is my desk, which has just been a giant pile since it was moved last summer. Someday I’ll work on this, and it will take an hour, and I’ll be like, “Why did I procrastinate doing that for so long?”


This one is really hard. We have two cats and a dog. One cat uses a litter box, and one does not. Our solution at the time was that the other cat would use puppy training pads instead. Those create a huge amount of waste. And I really hate them.

So we are exploring other options. One thing I would like to try is to make reusable pads out of thrift store towels. My challenge has been finding something liquid-proof that can also be tough enough to withstand kitty claws. I’ve been looking for a used shower curtain liner, a vinyl tablecloth or place mats.

For our doggy poo bags, we are still using what we have and probably will be for several more months. I also use these bags to pick up trash as I walk the dog.

I don’t know that we can get good pet food package-free. So we do the Costco thing and buy in large quantities there.


I’ve had a bad habit in the past few years, and that’s been to give up on a shampoo before I’ve used it all and switch to another shampoo. My bathroom cupboard yielded about 5¬† shampoo/conditioner sets.

This is stopping this year. I’m not working and my hair is short and untreated – I will use all of this shampoo before going forward with anything else.

I learned that the deodorant I love in bar form also comes in a glass jar! So I don’t have to be a crazy make-your-own-deodorant person.

I did, just today, make my own tooth powder. I used this recipe.

I’m using the face products I have. Honestly, this will take a long time. I have a lot of unused stuff. When it’s used I won’t replace it. Unless it’s sunscreen, I don’t see a huge need.


Shoulder Status: After 7 Weeks

Hi everyone!

It’s been way too long since we last saw each other. How have you been? I’ve been okay. Life on disability leave is weird. I can do things, but not all the things. I suppose I was originally going to blog about all of the things I do when I revived this site, but honestly, this is kind of just something to help me keep track of my own thoughts. If it helps you to read this, I’m really glad!


At 6 weeks, the PT protocol said I could stop wearing my sling. When I had the 6 week appointment with my doctor, on January 25th, he said, “Let’s keep it on another week. For comfort.”

I was sad about this, but I did what he said. The point was that my joints are, naturally, very flexible, and that’s what caused my labrum to tear in the first place. So keeping my shoulder stable for another week would help my muscles to tighten up a bit. My ROM is very limited, and it’s supposed to be that way for now.

The first night I slept without my sling was an amazing sleep. I knew I’d been still all night long, because I woke up on my left side and my right arm was practically glued to the side of my body. My little spoon cat, Gabi, has been so happy she can finally spoon with me again. The sling pillow had been in the way for a long time.

PT started getting a bit tougher two weeks ago. On top of exercises for assisted range of motion, we’ve added ROM exercises to do in the mirror (which I try to do twice daily), as well as seated rows, rotator cuff strengthening band exercises (which used to hurt before the surgery and now don’t!), and ball-up-the-wall. My therapist started doing arm cranks and wrestling, which involves my arm being guided by another person as I lie on my back.

I got really sad last Thursday because my therapist took another job which would have started today. This is a person who has helped me through figuring out how my shoulder got injured, and how to get it fixed. I’m sad I won’t be working with him anymore but he said he would let me know if he ever gets a saxophone, and that I should let him know if I do any musical things he can bring his son to. I do hope I can remain friends with this person who has helped me so much.

Tomorrow I will start with someone new, and that will be okay.


I have created a handy chart that helps me stay on task through these repetitive days.


The last thing I want is to be a super lazy person, even if my one job is to wait for my shoulder to heal. I walk my doggy twice a day usually, and have been walking an average of over 5 miles per day.

Though my therapist said I could do my shoulder exercises twice, my joint has been quite sore lately and I don’t want to push it too far too soon. So that’s my explanation for not doing those every time.

Other things on there are housekeeping stuff – things I think should be done at least once per day, so I put them on there. My husband was excited to learn that it is no longer excruciating for me to do dishes. (But I still won’t do the heavy ones.)

My doctor recommended I wait to start playing trumpet in groups again until sometime next week. Rehearsals for my groups are either 2 or 3 hours, so I have to build up the strength to do that specific task for an extended period. The hard part hasn’t been building my chops back up, or holding the weight of the trumpet – it’s just been keeping my right hand up and in front of my face. I have to be really cognizant of how I hold my shoulder, keeping it in place and not letting it creep forward. So I’m just playing for small amounts of time, several times a day.

Some days I’m the kitten, some days I’m the shark.

I’ve been doing a good job with reading lately, despite what it shows on the chart. I’m alternating fiction and nonfiction books, and I just started Dune. Seems interesting so far!


Sometimes I pick up trash on my walks – when I do that, I wear my sling and hang the trash bag from my right hand. There’s a lot of trash everywhere. I didn’t make it as part of my daily routine because I find it’s better to do these walks separately from walking the dog. It’s a lot of stuff to hold otherwise. I’ve been doing this maybe about 3 or 4 times per week.

Other projects? I am proud to say I figured out how to set up and use my friend’s sewing machine. I’ve been making produce bags out of old T-shirts and actually using them! Once I figured out the technique, it’s been taking me about 5 minutes to sew a bag. Now I have a present I can give all my friends for super cheap. Maybe I will post a picture of my bags. Maybe I won’t!

An update on my music educator magazine project – All of the articles are in a box still. I have not figured out how to use our scanner yet. Maybe I’ll do that today. (Maybe I won’t!) When I’ve scanned all the articles, I’ll organize them by topic and share them on a Google Drive for my colleagues to access. Then they won’t have to be in my house anymore and I can use the box again.

Food prep projects take a good portion of my day sometimes. It still isn’t incredibly comfortable to chop things with a knife, but soft things like onions and celery are okay. Food processor, again, is bae. I’ll use it to slice or shred sweet potatoes, beets, anything. Today I plan on cooking a big batch of garbanzo beans to make hummus, soaking cashews to make coffee creamer, preparing whole lemons to blend and freeze for cooking, and I will be washing and drying bunched spinach. I’ll write more on this project later.

So I have plenty of projects to keep me occupied, and with the exception of the food project, it’s okay that these go kind of slow sometimes. Any progress is noticeable and welcome, just like with my shoulder.


For the next part in this series, click here.