Shoulder Status: Please Get Me Back to Work!


How’s my shoulder now? It’s weird. It’s perpetually weird. You guys…will my shoulder ever be normal again?

I’m a little over 3 months past my surgery now. I’m still going to PT twice per week.

Last week I told my therapist (the newest one) that I was struggling with pain. I went on a road trip that ended up being a day longer than I’d expected, meaning I missed two doses of the Relafen (anti-inflammatory). And I was torn about when I should return to work.

The PT said that if I was having a lot of pain when I missed one day’s worth of pain meds, it’s probably not time to go back yet. And it takes 3-4 months for anyone to go back who has this procedure. I’m still normal. I’m still doing okay.

I also had lost track of what the day was, and I thought spring break was next week, but it’s actually in two weeks. So the PT said, of course, “Just take next week off, then you’ll have the spring break week, and you can start fresh!”

But now I’m feeling like if I waited until the real spring break, two more weeks off and returning to work on April 9th…that might be a little too long. For my comfort as a music teacher whose goal is to maintain the program.

My dad called me as I was grappling with this. (He’s had rotator cuff repairs on both of his shoulders – not the same condition as mine, but similar.) He said yeah, it’s probably going to just be painful forever. Just go back to work and keep doing the exercises at home, and be careful at work in the meantime.

My PT said, “You would not want to injure yourself again.” It’s important to remember that my job is quite physical. I lift heavy items and open heavy doors and do awkward arm-related things.

So for now, the plan is to return next week, work for one week, then have spring break, and then business as usual. I haven’t had PT yet this week, so I suppose we’ll see how it goes.

How is my shoulder feeling now? I have a lot of tightness in the front part of my bicep, actually kind of close to one of my incisions. Stretching is hard because of this tightness but it’s supposed to be like that, I guess.

I asked to have some massage work done on my back behind the shoulder blade. It’s been kind of tingly-numb there. Because of my restrictions, I don’t really have any stretches to counter all the forward-type motion I’m doing. The massage work helped a ton, and the therapist also suggested self-massage by rolling a tennis ball on my back against the wall.

I’m doing a lot of strengthening exercises every day. I’m up to 80 wall push-ups and 80 of each rotator cuff band exercise. (I do the rotator cuff strengthening on my left side, too, just to keep it strong.) I also practice my range of motion in the mirror and use a homemade pulley to stretch those stubborn biceps.

I’d say I spend about 40-50 minutes per day doing PT exercises at home.

In the therapists’ office (?), I’m now pulling back 20 pounds in seated rows, 4 sets of 15. I’m also pulling down 20 pounds, a new one for me. I do range-of-motion exercises in the mirror and lying on my stomach, with 1 pound weights on my wrists. Those are hard. The goal is to get up to 4 sets of 20 on those, but they take a long time. Currently I do about 4 sets of 12.

How’s my range of motion looking?

Looking good!

Something to know about these photos – even though I am pretty close with my reach here, it is a LOT of effort to bring my arm up this high! Even though I’m practicing bringing it up like this 60 times a day.


I’d like to think my ideal would be to effortlessly be able to get my arm next to my ear. And now, for the most awkward photo to take:

Excuse my reach…

This reach has improved, but I haven’t been stretching this way every day. I was told that it should come last after everything else is in place.

I have a confession to make: I have been playing trumpet or flugelhorn practically every day this month. And wow, I’m sounding good. And wow, that might have something to do with how weird my biceps are feeling. Maybe it’s bad for me to do that. But…but…but…it’s truly healing for my soul.

So that’s basically where I’m at right now, in terms of my shoulder. Work in 7 days…hmm…we’ll see.


To find out how work went, click here.

Career, Lifestyle

Having the Courage to Start

This is fairly verbatim to a video I made today. Maybe with a few added points and fewer “and….” ‘s. But I’m pretty much going to just copy and paste my video script.

A few years ago one of my colleagues shared about a poster in her classroom. We are traveling music teachers, going between schools, and we all share spaces with other teachers.

The poster said, “It’s not the finish line that matters. It’s having the courage to start.”

And my coworkers had a field day with this. Because HOW could the finish line not matter?

Does this mean results don’t matter in the end?

Does this mean you can do a crappy and half-assed job and as long as you do something in the meantime, you’re good?

Does this mean if you start something and then you quit immediately, the fact that you started is the only thing matters?

I think this third idea is what grabbed the attention of my coworkers. Because we are band teachers. Kids get very excited about band. They get their instruments, their books, learn about music, and some kids find out that music is hard. And they quit.

For those kids, my teammates were probably thinking, that’s the finish line. And the poster becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way – “It’s not the finish line that matters.” The fact that the kids started band, and quit band, and didn’t see it through to the end – that’s a dissonance that makes them want to disagree with the poster. Because it seems ludicrous.

But I’ve been thinking about that poster lately, because it happens to also have been hanging in one of my classrooms for the past two years. And I’ve been in this weird phase of life – on disability leave, not sure when would be the most appropriate time to return to work, thinking about starting this YouTube channel and wondering how much time and money I really want to invest in this.

I was thinking about what I should discuss this week because I wasn’t sure if I had any perfectly-formed thoughts about ANYTHING and would that even be worth posting about? I’ve been watching so many videos of these great YouTubers and their amazingly formed opinions and thoughts, and wondering what would be the best way to deliver MY expertise and feeling like a fraud because I’m not even currently working in my field.

I thought about a song I wrote once. A song about songwriting, that might perhaps be one of the most poignant and relevant songs in my life. It’s a song about taking an idea that came from your brain, developing it, holding on to it, and being proud that that came from your brain even years later. Even if it turns out later to be crappy or weird.

I feel like this song will always be relevant to me. The last lines?

Because what if I couldn’t sing at all? Who cares if the world isn’t ready for me to sing at all?

Today is the day I realized that I agree with the poster. “It’s not the finish line that matters. It’s having the courage to start.”

Please hear me out about this. If you are like me, maybe you are someone who seeks to work hard and do great things and make the world better. Maybe you want every piece of work that comes out of your brain to come out as a shiny golden masterpiece. Maybe there are a lot of circumstances stacked up against you and you’re just trying to be better, or there’s something you want to change in your life and it’s very different from anything you’ve ever seen anyone else do.

Maybe you are considering a big life change or even a small one. Maybe what you are thinking about could put a strain on your relationships or a strain on your ego.

My point is, starting something is friggen scary. Doing anything new can be terrifying. Especially when you are changing something about yourself or making yourself vulnerable.

Going to a yoga class for the first time? Scary – because most people in a yoga class have already experienced that. Starting a fitness regime, even in the comfort of your own home, is scary. Because what if you can’t do it? What if it hurts? What if you abandon it a week in?

Returning to something you’ve done before is also scary. Especially if it’s something you have been good at. You risk bruising your ego, and that sounds like the smallest thing in the big picture, but it’s a big deal and a big risk.

I’m freaking out about returning to teaching. Everything I’ve built in the beginning part of this year, everything I’ve trained my students to do, I just don’t know if they will still have that. I may have to start from scratch.

This is a big one – starting to be the change.

Having the courage to start to be the change.

I’m addressing this in light of the student walkout on Wednesday. I know my district was supportive of students who chose to walk out for their safety in schools. I know other districts may not have been so supportive. Students who chose to participate and speak out against gun violence in schools – They took a huge risk. That is scary. It takes courage.

It takes courage to model the change you want to see if it’s different from the norm. It would be much easier to just keep doing everything the same. But guess what? You have to take risks to grow. We, as a society, have to take risks to grow. There has been a lot of failure but that doesn’t mean it’s all over.

Because the truth is, there is no finish line. There’s no finish line until the sun engulfs the earth. Even after the last human dies, there is still a planet here. Even after we die, there will still be more humans whose lives are valuable and worth fighting for.

Even after my ego gets bruised from a day full of teaching mistakes, or from someone telling me my trumpet playing is full of clams or that I really need to check my privilege, there is my opportunity to START FIXING THINGS.

Have you recently been battling to find the courage to start something new or important? Have you recently taken a risk to change something in your life? Was it scary? I would love to hear about it. Please let me know in the comments!



shoulder, Uncategorized

Shoulder Status: After 11 Weeks

Hey friends!!!

(Whoa, Stephanie, 3 exclamation marks? Really?) Sure, why not?

I’m doing well. Still on leave, more about that later. Here’s an update on my shoulder and life.


Last week was very rough on me in terms of pain. Starting last Tuesday the 20th, I had this active soreness in my shoulder and arm for 6 days straight.

My doctor’s appointment was on the 22nd, and he was going to release me to go back to work this week. I told him I couldn’t possibly. There are multiple situations in my job every day where I have to lift something out of my trunk, carry something awkward while opening a heavy door, contort myself in a weird position to reach something, or arrange furniture.

So he extended my leave until April 15th. He said that, when I’m feeling strong enough, I can just let him know and he’ll release me.

That made me feel better in terms of my shoulder but sad about work. I don’t think it will really take me until April 15th to finally be strong enough…but it could.

I explained that situation to my PT on Tuesday of this week and they changed my exercises a little. I did fewer exercises, but more reps. 4 sets of 10 of everything instead of 3 sets of 10.

I wasn’t too sore from that, but today they added seated rows, pull-downs (is that what they’re called?) and WALL PUSH-UPS.

Wall push-ups are freaking brutal. The push-up motion was my main source of pain before the surgery, because of where my injury was. But it doesn’t feel so obviously wrong like it did before. Now it just feels like I’m weak but can build strength in this part of my body.

And I have official homework now – I have to do the rotator cuff strengthening exercises and wall push-ups every day.


Me: Time for band practice! No, not that kind of band…

I know for sure I’m going to be sore for a few days. My therapist said that’s to be expected, and I should keep doing the best I can.

Getting Stuff Done

I made another chore chart for the past two weeks, and will make a new one today. It’s working! I’ve been building good cleaning habits.


The stuff on the left side is what should be done every day. The stuff on the right side is not as necessary, but I still want to track it.

Assessment for this round? Pretty good. I didn’t get much done last week because I was in so much pain, I truly just sat around and watched YouTube videos.

I got some REALLY big projects done. I actually cleared my desk so I can now use it as a functioning work space.

It’s far from where I want it to eventually be, but this is a huge step in the right direction.

I cleaned my car. Like I mentioned in My Messy Mindset, someday I’ll be a person to whom nobody will ever mention my car’s cleanliness. But because it being clean is such a contrast to what it’s often been, on Sunday a friend of mine did say, “Wait…is this your car?”

I’ve posted a lot of giveaway stuff on the Facebook marketplace. It’s been good but I’ve learned it’s best to just put a few items up at a time. Too many and I lose track of who claimed what.

BUT, I made $48 and got rid of stuff.

I didn’t practice trumpet very much last week because of the pain. I only blogged once in two weeks, whoops. And I only stretched my legs once.

Overall, though, this is helping me get stuff done. For my next chart I’m going to include the different shoulder exercises, and new projects. 🙂

Trash Walks

I am amazed that there continues to be new trash on my neighborhood streets only days after I do a sweep through.

Some student at a nearby high school left a full Styrofoam coffee cup of something on an electrical box, and I chose not to pick it up out of spite. If that person walked by there once, they should have to walk by there again and face the ugliness of that terrible choice.

That is not big of me, but it’s too ridiculous of a thing for me to pick up without it staying there for several days. Teenagers need to learn to clean up their own gross messes.

Here is what I’ve decided about picking up trash: For everything my house uses that comes in a plastic bag, that plastic bag will be repurposed to pick up trash on the sidewalks.

We’ve been pretty good about using our own containers to buy in bulk, but there are still some things that are very hard to find plastic-free where we live. Like bread – I could live without spongy sliced bread in my life, but my sweet husband cannot. So that packaging goes toward picking up trash as a compromise.

Yesterday’s Bounty


I’ve been inspired by a handful of YouTube channels lately. Admittedly, they are mostly lifestyle-related channels – sustainable living, minimalism, veganism. But it got me thinking.

I have a lot to share in my world, too. And maybe it would help me take a more disciplined approach to my music practice and songwriting if I had an obligation to post to a channel. Maybe I would be more inclined to make my work the best it could be.

So I revived my old YouTube Channel. I wanted to change the name but I guess it won’t let me. I’ll have Original Mondays, Windy Wednesdays, and Freestyle Fridays.

On Original Mondays, I will perform a song I wrote. Songwriting used to be an important creative outlet for me in college. I love writing songs because it juxtaposes poetry (economy of words) and sound organization – you can choose which words will have the most impact based on where you put them in the song.

I haven’t been disciplined in songwriting the way I’d like to be, so I thought this could give me a push. Also, I can share the songs I wrote years ago that still hold up in my mind today.

Windy Wednesdays will be a wind instrument feature. Right now, it will most likely feature a trumpet solo or etude. Again, I’m hoping this will be motivation for me to practice and polish a piece and deliver it to my best ability.

Freestyle Fridays will be a space for me to discuss all sorts of things. They can include the things I’ve discussed in here, like teaching strategies or musicianship strategies, or they can be something fun. I’m thinking of making one with tips for beginning chamber music players.

This is all new and in the making. I don’t expect my videos to be incredibly popular for a long while. They will be more for my own betterment.

What kinds of videos would you like to see from me?


For the next part of the saga, click here.