Career, health, shoulder

Grieving the Loss of My Old Normal

Hey friends!

WOW, it has been a long time since I was last on here. At least I’m posting now!

Today I’m going to write about something I had not seen addressed when I was looking into life after shoulder surgery. But first, I will update you on my life.

Going Back to Work…Kinda

On March 26th, I returned to work. My principals seemed surprised to see me even though I had e-mailed them. I learned later that HR had not distributed my return note…whoops.

It was a bizarre and intense experience to be back. I prepared all of the ukuleles for the third graders who would be meeting me for the first time (I would have started their lessons in January). I was so happy to deliver that first lesson to each group and excited to teach them the ukulele. All of my lessons went smoothly and wonderfully.

Band was a different story. At one of my schools, some very sweet children who weren’t even my students came in and asked if I needed any help setting up my classroom, so I directed them as they moved the chairs and stands into place for me. It was wonderful. At the other school, I had no help. I had to lift the cafeteria benches to move them into place, and they were HEAVY.

It was a shock to see how many students were still in my bands…not many at all. I’d left in December with over 140 total band students, and I think I only saw about 40 or 50 that week. It was the week before spring break, and maybe the kids didn’t know I was back, but it wasn’t something I expected. It happens over time, and I was seeing three months of attrition all at once.

There were a lot of things about work that I found physically overwhelming. The fact that I had to lug my laptop around to do any kind of digital work was hard. I went to my partner teacher’s classroom to work, carrying my laptop bag. Because I knew I would be there awhile, I also brought my lunch, water bottle, purse, and books. Because the school is gated and I had to walk through the office to get to the room, I walked about a quarter mile with all that heavy stuff.

Every school was like that. Every place I went, I had to carry a million things. Plus, there was stuff in front of my stuff that I had to move. NOT ideal for a shoulder healing from surgery. I was tired, very sore, and hungry because I kept forgetting to buy food to prepare lunch at home.

Mental Health Is Important Too

The straw that broke the camel’s back was on Wednesday, the 28th of March. I was originally going to help my friend lead the district honor jazz band, but here’s the thing…I was out late on Monday going with my other colleague’s band to festival, I was out late on Tuesday for regular band practice. On Wednesday, I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and heartbroken that only three students had shown up to my last class of the day.

I could not even show my face to the honor jazz rehearsal. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed that I could not make it through one week of teaching.

The truth is that teaching music, band, or any kind of program where you build something throughout the school year is contingent on consistency. Leaving it for three months and then coming back is DIFFICULT because March and April are the pinnacle months of the school year.

And the truth is that I overlooked that. Because I wanted to be back so badly. I wanted to be normal again so badly. But I’m not normal yet.

My therapist (counselor) insisted on Friday (March 30th) that I ask for more time. I called my doctor’s office the following week (spring break) and got two more weeks.

And then, faced with trying to figure out what the remainder of the school year will look like, and feeling completely hopeless that my program for this year has essentially been ruined, she suggested last Thursday (April 12th) that I don’t go back.

It’s Okay to Feel Feelings

The normal that I used to be is gone and I am sad because of that. My situation is different from other kinds of situations, my work is different from other kinds of work, and my surgery was different from other kinds of surgeries.

Things that I used to do, tools such as exercise that I was using to manage my emotions and process my thoughts, are not available to me the way they had previously been. Other things that I do to help myself, physically and emotionally, take more time right now. I have to respect that.

I am nervous about asking my doctor to extend my leave through June. My therapist said that if he doesn’t write a note to take me out, she will.

The important thing to consider is, who am I helping by being overwhelmed? Is it healthful for me to work in that state? Is it safe for my shoulder? If my work allows me to stay out, I can start again in August with every system in place to be my very best self in my teaching practice. That’s what the students deserve.

In the mean time, I’m doing everything I can to just breathe. And making some damn good videos.

To start from the beginning of the shoulder saga, click here.


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.

shoulder, Uncategorized

Shoulder Status: After 11 Weeks

Hey friends!!!

(Whoa, Stephanie, 3 exclamation marks? Really?)ย 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, notย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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.


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.
  • Musicย – 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.


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.

Career, shoulder

Mental Muscles

Hey friends,

I wanted to write today about one of my favorite concepts. I strive to integrate this throughout working with my band students, who constantly are in a place where they have to learn something new all the time.

Learning an instrument is hard, in different ways to different students. Sometimes it’s about learning how to listen. Sometimes it’s about re-shaping what the face does. Sometimes a student has difficulty with reading notation. Sometimes everything is in place, but playing in front of a teacher is really scary.

There is ego involved with something so liquid as music. Success at something one time does not guarantee success a second time. Student musicians constantly experience potential embarrassment.

These difficulties are all normal and okay. We work through them.


What happens if we’re comfortable all the time? Maybe I’m sitting on the couch, mindlessly playing a game on my phone with the TV on cartoons (this may or may not be something I do every morning). My body is using minimal energy, just resting. There is no challenge to the muscles and no growth in strength. There is no progress.

The same thing happens with the mind, and this where my anecdote of the day comes in. Because I haven’t been working – I’ve been on disability leave for six weeks and still have six more weeks to go. And that’s a big deal to me.

Something you should know about me – I’m an introvert. That is a part of my personality that I am very aware of. (Introverts tend to be very aware that they’re introverts. Many of the most charismatic educators I’ve ever learned from have confided to me about their introversion.)

And I have a natural inclination to be shy. This is something I’ve worked on my whole life. My career (talking to students and adults) has lent itself very well as a stage to my explicit practice of social skills. I love talking to people. But I get nervous if there are problems – they are uncomfortable. It has taken me years of work to get to a place where I can talk to people as freely as I do about issues at work.

This takes work and maintenance. Just like anyone with a hot muscle-y bod, if I don’t do the work it takes to maintain those mental muscles, the skills deflate.

My Own Discomfort

I am approaching six weeks into recovery from a major shoulder surgery. Before the surgery, I was bendy-bendy-bendy. I could twist and contort both of my arms in all directions. I could bring my clasped hands over my head from the back to the front. I could lick my elbow.

So imagine my surprise today, in physical therapy, when I was asked to bring my arms forward and up, and then out and up, and I could only begrudgingly go about halfway.

It’s supposed to go all the way up!
One reluctant thumb up for this exercise…

I am embarrassed to say that this hurt my ego a little bit. I thought I was so great because I used to be able to do so much before. I thought, because I had worked so hard to stay strong before the surgery, that it wouldn’t take so long to regain my range of motion or strength as my protocol suggested.

I was so wrong and that was truly the uncomfortable part. It hurt like needles in my shoulder and like daggers in my mind. No way am I anywhere near ready to resume the activity level required to do my job at the present moment.

I was mean to my therapist. I questioned what he was having me do. He assured me that he was following the protocol outlined by my doctor. I am embarrassed that I didn’t trust him for a second and I plan on apologizing next time.


One of my favorite professional development talks I ever went to was a session called “Mindfulness, Discomfort, and Growth.” It was geared toward teaching GATE kids, but I firmly believe that students and humans of all needs can extract value from taking a mental inventory of any uncomfortable moment. (The presenter was Dave Mochel, by the way.)

I loved it when he said, “The best two times to practice mindfulness are when things are going really well, and when they aren’t.” When I got home from PT this morning, I immediately prepared my dog for a walk and prepared my brain to feel some feelings. Years ago, I would have felt hopeless about my situation and cried on the couch. (This is still a valid thing to do, but I’ve gone through this process so many times I’ve learned how to streamline it/save it for later.)

As I stepped onto the sidewalk, I immersed myself mentally into every aspect of how I felt. My arm already aches. It will hurt more tomorrow. I will plan on breathing through the physical pain that I know is in my future. I will probably do a drug.

There is also mental discomfort. I regret that I gave my therapist attitude. I retraced the steps that prompted that behavior. I realized that some of my mental/social muscles (usually exercised at work) have weakened. I will work on mending that important relationship.

Through mindfulness I can figure out the source of our discomfort, and create a plan to either fix it or work through it. And there is growth. It’s my most powerful tool.



Shoulder Status: After 5 Weeks

Hey guys!

It’s been a few days. Being on disability is surprisingly busy. Here is how my life is going…

Actual Shoulder

My PT has been massaging the crap out of my scars. Last Tuesday, as he was massaging my shoulder, he said something to someone across the room and added something like “Stephanie here, smiling like a champion, but actually wincing because the pain is so intense.”

I said, “That’s true. That is not a lie.”

Next Thursday is my last day with the sling, but I’ve been increasing my up-and-down range of motion. I can get my hand slightly above my head with a straight arm. It’s not all the way up yet, but getting there.

I get pretty sore on those nights following PT. That is when sometimes I do have to go back and take a strong painkiller just so I can relax and go to sleep. Otherwise it’s pulsating and aching, as I simply lie on my back.

Today, as I was walking, a bee flew in my face and I reflexively swatted at it with my right hand. SO MUCH PAIN. I actually said out loud to no one, “Stupid reflexes! Why?!” Ugh.

Trashy Tales

I’ve been walking about 5 miles a day on average. Usually it’s just walking Luna, but every couple of days I go out and pick up trash on the sidewalks and streets near where I live. (I’ve learned that I can’t do both of these activities at once.)

There is a lot to be picked up. I live very close to two high schools and apparently they never learned about not littering in school.

Usually I use bags that other people have given to me when delivering stuff, or bags that our bread comes in. If there are no holes in the bag by the time I come home, I empty this trash into our kitchen garbage and use the bag again.

I’ve picked up some treasures. One time I found a very nice, fully intact Pyrex bowl. One time I found a whole 6-pack of small bottles of Mickey’s beer, lids and all. If I’d had the strength to bring them home and reuse them, I would have done so. But I put 5 of them in the recycling bins belonging to the neighboring apartment complex, and only brought one home to wash and reuse. They were lovely green bottles.

Most of what I find is food-related – small candy wrappers, bags that used to hold individually wrapped candy, fast food packaging, lids with straws, etc. I find a strangely large amount of drink bottle lids with no bottles attached. I find a lot of cigarettes and I wish I were diligent enough to pick them all up, but sadly I don’t.

The kids at the high schools would have no lack of work to do if anyone decided to clean up their campus as a senior project.


I was pleased to learn on Thursday that they found someone to teach music in my place while I’m gone. I’m truly relieved that my students will not be missing out for 3 months.

One of my projects is to downsize all the stuff I have, and I have a LOT of magazines. Music Educators’ Journal, Teaching Music and CMEA Magazines dating back to 2008. Do I ever read these? No. Are they full of valuable information relevant to my profession? Of course. The problem is, they don’t have the topics I need at my demand, and my job is very particular.

So I am cutting out articles that directly relate to my job in my district, and will be scanning them to put on a Google drive for myself and my colleagues. Then recycling the magazines. Shelf space achieved.

I have a long way to go with this, but I also have a long way to go before I can go back to work.

That’s about where I am. Stay tuned for a post about food soon. ๐Ÿ™‚


For the next part in this series, click here.


Shoulder Status: After 4 Weeks

Hey friends!

It has now been 31 days since my shoulder surgery. Overall I am feeling motivated and also a little overwhelmed.

The Scars

I have some pretty gnarly scar tissue. I guess they did open up my skin in four places and jam a camera all the way into my joint.

My PT has started massaging the scars after I do the exercises and it HURTS. Maybe more than most other things. I don’t know what more I can say about it. The only thing that hurts more is when I get startled and accidentally jerk my shoulder.

So sexy
From the back, ooo baby.

The Sling

I still have 11 more days with this thing. While it is a pain, I’ve actually been starting to sleep better on my back and left side. (Remember, my sling has my arm facing straight ahead, not across my body.) When I sleep on my left side, I still need a pillow to support my arm at the right angle. Often my shoulder aches in that position because it’s floating at the top of my body, not totally stable. The most stable way to sleep is on my back, but that can be hard if I want my comforter to cover me all the way. The weight of the blanket presses down on my hand, which stands straight up.

My sling has become pretty much a crumb and pet hair collector. When I’m finished with it I will give it a good vacuum and see if I can send it to be re-purposed.

With my arm this way, I still can’t drive. Even though it could seem like a loss of freedom I don’t think it really has to be. I can walk to the grocery store if I have to. I’m finding a lot of ways to keep busy at home, which brings me to…

My One-Arm Hobbies

Next week is when my school district goes back in session (I know, we have a long winter break!), and therefore my work friends will no longer be available to drive me around and hang out at any given time. No worries, though, I have acquired a few hobbies and activities I can do with one arm.

Blogging has been a nice way to chronicle this experience. As you may have noticed if you’ve perused this site before, I don’t only blog about how sexy my scars are. I like to write about all kinds of things. It’s been fun to explore other blogs and other people’s worlds through this platform.

Reading is the next thing I can do with one arm. I’m currently reading Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. I’m about halfway through. I also read Wonder by R.J. Palacio – that was a much quicker read. I finished that one in about 3 days. I was thinking about getting a library card. Before I do, I want to read every book I have. This will be part of downsizing – If I read a book and want to read it again, I’ll keep it. If once was enough, I will donate it or maybe sell it on eBay.

Walking my dog has been a nice hobby. I usually give her a walk after my husband leaves for work, and before he comes home. Lately I’ve been trying to go for 5 miles of walking a day.

Not looking at my phone all day has been really helpful for my sleep. I’m trying to develop better habits about that. I go on my phone to communicate. I can go on my Chromebook for social media.

Two days ago, as a step toward my zero waste journey, I went outside with a bag and picked up trash. I walked around my neighborhood and filled the bag, got another, and filled another bag with stuff from a different part of the neighborhood. I don’t know if it’s because I live right by two high schools, by an apartment community, or some combination of those things, but there’s a lot of trash around.

It has been a weirdly meditative process to go around and pick up trash. It feels bad because it’s there – some other human in this world decided that leaving their trash there was okay. But it feels better when I pick it up, and it’s no longer on the ground.

I hung up a poster on my neighborhood bulletin board inviting others to pick up trash with me. It feels nice to take some responsibility for my surroundings. What happens if nobody shows up? There will still be one person going around picking up trash.

My one-arm artistic facility is minimal. :/

An unexpected side effect of this activity: squatting down to pick something up off the ground has left my gluteus muscles a little sore. Obviously this is how I will be getting my booty muscles back.

Outside of those everyday things, I’ve been doing a lot of little projects around the house: Sending late wedding photos and Christmas presents, turning my husband’s old undershirts into rags, sorting out the piles of stuff in the kitchen, getting rid of magazines I don’t need.

I spent one day making care kits for homeless shelters and people on the street. I reused bags to contain sample snacks I’ve received in the mail, sample soaps and lotions, washcloths, feminine products (I just got reusable ones in the mail yesterday!), socks and gloves, band-aids, plastic silverware, napkins, and cleansing cloths. These are things that I know could be used by someone but I don’t need them in my house anymore. I really hope they end up helping someone.

Sleepy dog not included

So, that’s about where I am right now. Future projects? I have a photo project in mind for my brass chamber music workshop I will be compiling for soon. I would like to find a use or a project for the wine corks we always accumulate. And I need to figure out how to better organize this blog for new visitors. There is much to be done, but I need to go at my own pace. The most important reason I’m taking this time off from work is to heal myself.

What are some healing activities you like to incorporate into your day?


For the next part in this series, click here.


Status: Recovery Day 21


It’s a little dreary out to walk the dog right now (only 60 degrees, I’ve become such a wimp) so I thought I would update my friends and family on how my shoulder recovery is going.

If you are new to this saga of my life, I had labrum repair surgery on December 15th, 21 days ago. I’m at the 3 week mark! I will put links at the bottom of this page if you want the full previous context of my experience.

Last Doctor’s Visit

I went in for my 2-week follow up last week and was disappointed to learn that I am actually supposed to have my sling on for 6 weeks, not the 4 weeks my original work note had said. You guys. I don’t have a regular sling that holds my forearm across my body. I have an immobilizer with a wedge-shaped pillow that keeps my right arm facing straight ahead all day and night.


So that was disappointing to find out.

I also got my stitches out. They put steri-strips over the scars, which the assistant said would “come off on their own.” But last night I decided to just peel them off, because it had been 6 days.

Starting PT

With my stitches out I was able to start physical therapy this week. I was visiting this same facility frequently before my surgery, before I was able to get an MRI and was just trying to figure out the source of my pain. They know me there.

I came in Tuesday morning and my therapist said, “So, cartwheels and push-ups today?” Heh heh heh…I wish.

This set of exercises, of course, was very different from what I was doing before the surgery. Before it was a lot of strengthening and stability exercises. Now it’s just getting used to the feeling of using it again – letting it hang, curling my arms, climbing up the finger ladder and using the pulley to reach a little higher.

It felt weird that I could only get my elbow as high as my chin. My shoulder feels so different – like moving it at the wrong angle could dislocate it again. I guess that’s why I have to stay in the sling for so long.

Daily Life

I have relinquished a lot of freedom in my life by only having use of one arm. I can’t drive with my sling. Luckily I have a great husband and good friends who can take me places. My husband just had a lot of days off in the past few weeks, so it’s been nice to spend some extra time with him.

I get approached a lot by people in public now. Many people will ask, “Rotator cuff surgery?” (no) or “Who did your procedure?” or smile and say “I remember those days!” I find that people at check out stands, in making polite conversation, will ask what happened. I promise a lot of people, it looks much worse than it is. (Though maybe it’s just as bad as it looks? I don’t know.)

I wonder if that’s what it’s like to be pregnant.

I’ve been using my Chromebook a lot to write blog entries and read other people’s blogs. I’m liking this routine, peeking into other people’s worlds. I’ve also been reading a few books like I said I would. I’m preparing to go “zero waste” and making plans for how I’m going to live my life when I have my independence back.

I’m still walking my Loon dog once or twice per day. Usually I will walk about 3-5 miles a day total. It’s important to me that I move around as often as I’m able.

I have done two, beginning-level, YouTube spin classes on the exercise bike. Those are challenging and I’m glad to get even more of a lower body workout. I can’t do it all the way because I’m wary of standing up with only one hand to grab the handlebars. Still, it’s a good aerobic workout in a situation where I can only move one arm.

I really, really miss cooking my own meals. Brian is a good cook, but he doesn’t always want to cook. And those days we get take-out, which creates a lot of trash and is expensive. I bought a lot of pre-cut veggies from Trader Joe’s so I can cook some meals with one hand. I know it’s a lot of packaging waste, but I can’t cut or hold something down that’s being cut with my right arm. So for now, it’s take-out, leftovers, smoothies, veggie burgers, and sauteed pre-cut vegetables.

Bathing is getting easier. With my stitches out I can shower like normal, and I have washed my own hair (with one hand) twice. I was starting to get a rash in my armpit area, so I applied hydro-cortisone cream on it for a few days and made sure my arms were completely dry after bathing, before I got dressed. That seemed to help a lot.

I can’t put my hair up at all unless I contort my neck at a crazy angle. Something I didn’t realize – boys do not know how to tie ponytails. I asked my husband to tie my hair up and it felt like a kindergartner was playing with my hair! I know what I will teach my future son.

I am pretty much a pro at buttoning my jeans with one hand now. I got tired of feeling like I was always in pajamas.


It sucks. It sucks. It sucks.

Some nights I’m like, “I will probably sleep really well tonight!” But most nights I do not.

The evening after my first PT session, my 40-pound heeler dog jumped on the couch and practically sat on my bad shoulder. It was so painful I decided to break out one of the hard core painkillers from right after surgery. I slept well that night!

I have taken to occasionally smoking the wacky tobacky before bed. The stuff we have is not particularly strong but it helps a little bit.

I’ve had vivid dreams almost every night since the surgery. It’s like my brain has been processing every possible awkward or uncomfortable situation I could ever have and making me live through it. Last night I dreamed that I was teaching the ukulele to my music teacher colleagues, and we were using ukuleles from my schools. But they were dirty and in cruddy condition. Why did my dream self let those ukuleles look so bad?

Honestly, though, this week I’ve had an easier time sleeping through the night. I think exercising more helps a lot, which is why I was excited to get that bike.

That is about it for where I am. If you’ll excuse me, I must walk my doggy. Thanks for reading!


To read about how I got into this mess, click here.
To read about how I prepared for my surgery and recovery, click here.
To read about my shoulder surgery experience, click here.
To read about my recovery at Day 13, click here. ๐Ÿ™‚ Woo!

For the next part in this series, click here.


Status: Recovery Day 13

Hola my friends and two followers. It has now been 13 days since my shoulder surgery. Here is where I am today.


I stopped taking the narcotic painkillers regularly around day 5, and used them to help me fall asleep until around day 7 (when we left for Christmas). I’ve been taking a prescribed anti-inflammatory called nabumetone, just 2 times a day. It didn’t help me at all before the surgery but I think it makes a big difference now.

I’m not feeling a huge amount of pain right now. I didn’t ice my shoulder at all yesterday, and only iced it once today.


Sleeping is the worst since I stopped taking the narcotic painkillers. Every night I try to get to sleep upright but it’s very uncomfortable, and my butt slips down and I end up just on my back with my forearm sticking straight up. Last night I slept on my left side, placing a firm pillow under my sling pillow so my arm would stay put. That kind of worked. Then my big fluffball kitty Emmy, with her massive kitten mittens, stepped on my bad shoulder with her full weight on each paw. Not the massage experience I was looking for.

I woke up last night at 3am. After failing to get back to sleep for an hour I looked at food webcomics on Bored Panda for the 4:00 hour. Then attempted to go back to sleep around 5am. At 6:15 I gave up and went downstairs for breakfast. I felt like I’d stayed up late writing a paper for college, but I had nothing to show for it.

This afternoon I napped for 2 hours. I woke up feeling horrible. I hate naps. Tonight I will attempt to either sleep on the couch, or re-construct my pillow fort to be more supportive. I think I may also try consulting with Aunt Mary Jane before bed so I can stay alseep. I keep forgetting that’s an option.


Took a bath this morning and shaved my legs thinking it’ll be 74 out today, maybe I’ll wear a skirt. I attempted and failed to shave my armpits. I scrubbed my right armpit 3 times and it still smelled like B.O. Can’t say I didn’t try.

Got a nice hair wash and blow dry. The other client there also had just had surgery. I don’t know what I’m going to do after becoming used to the jetset Fantastic Sams lifestyle!


Since getting back from Christmas I have resolved to go on at least one walk a day, if not two, if not three. The person who was feeding my doggy when we were gone overfed her, so she has put on a little bit of holiday weight. (I, being vegan in a sea of non-vegan social functions, actually felt like I didn’t eat enough for much of my trip.) We walked 4.6 miles yesterday, and 4.3 miles today.

Luna playing ball – before my surgery of course!

My great work friend brought over her exercise bike she never uses, so I’m excited to give that a try. I figure if my arm has to be totally still, I should still be working on my lower body strength. I can get a little more cardio in that way, too.

My only arm exercise right now is to bend and straighten my arm a few times. I do that 2-3 times a day, usually when I change clothes.

Speaking of clothes, I wore a real bra today! And jeans! I’ve missed looking like a grownup.

Mental Health

My mental health has been up and down so far. Christmas took a lot of energy out of me, much more than I wanted it to, with a jam-packed 3 day schedule of event after event after event. I missed the relaxed and low-key way my own family celebrates.

However, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to decorate my sling like a present!

At home, I’ve been watching a few shows, but I’m trying not to watch TV and look at my phone all day. I’ve been trying to read books. I have a lot of books in my house that are cookbooks or nonfiction “How to do this!” kind of books. Cookbooks are great for when I’m able to drive to the store, purchase ingredients, and use two hands to chop vegetables. But now it just makes me sad that all I can make are leftovers and soup from a can.

I’ve been sloooooowly reading Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, since I am a musician. It’s good but so long, and I’m not sure reading about music is as exciting for me as actually listening to or participating in making music. After this I think I’d like something lighter and definitely fiction. Reading is actually kind of hard because of what I have to do to hold the book open. But I can make it work.

Walking the dog has helped me break up the day. Luna Loveypants is a great walking dog. We’ve bonded a lot. Plus I’m hoping the sun exposure will help me more to sleep at night.

I’m trying to navigate the cause of my insomnia. I’ve never been great at sleeping. I think it comes down to, even though I have very minimal structure to my days while on disability leave, I’m trying to impose more on myself. I don’t think that’s as good for me as it is for many people. Maybe when I start PT and have more of a routine going, that will change.

So that’s where I’m at. ๐Ÿ™‚


To read about how I got into this mess, click here.
To read about how I got prepared for my shoulder surgery, click here.
To read about my shoulder surgery experience, click here.
To read about my recovery at Day 21, click here.