Thursday, May 30, 2019

My Journey Through Plantar Fasciitis

Months ago I started feeling foot pain during and after running. Little did I know I was entering my first bout with plantar fasciitis. Here's how I've coped with this scourge.

Phase 1: Denial. I chalked the pain up to simple muscle soreness. Surely I was pushing my running to the next level and some discomfort was to be expected. To some degree, this held true. The pain in my right foot went away. But the pain in my left foot persisted. After the third run in a row where the pain was significant, I knew I had to do something.

Phase 2: More Denial. I decided I'd give myself two weeks off of running. Surely absolute rest would fix it. Never mind that I continued to stand at my desk and my left foot continued to hurt. Still, I felt like it was getting better. After two weeks of no running I went for a jog. Within minutes, the pain returned and I had to stop. That was quite a moment of despair.

Phase 3: Google can fix this, right? I finally had to face it: I was injured. I made an appointment with a podiatrist, and in the mean time did some Googling. Typically, using the Internet to self diagnose is a bad idea. I figured I'd end up deciding I had foot cancer or the the like. But in this case my symptoms matched plantar fasciitis to a tee. It wasn't just my left foot that hurt, but it was my left heel. And the fact that the pain was worse stepping out of bed in the morning made it even more obvious that I'd named my curse properly.

I'd only ever heard of plantar fasciitis in passing, and it was always hinted at as an unshakable condition. These discussions conjured up images of a chronic disease; the same way someone might say their crohn's is acting up.

Phase 4: Taking Action. While I was waiting for my doctor's appointment, I adopted two new strategies. One, I lowered my desk to a sitting position. Man, that provided some immediate relief. I also ordered a mat to stand on and will at some point re-introduce the my standing routine. I also did some research and found a series of suggested exercises to help runners recover from injury. I've lost the source of this list of exercises (sorry oh brilliant list maker!), but the routine was as follows:

The first time I finished this routine I noticed something remarkable: my heel pain was gone! I was cured! OK, not so fast. The pain did return. But it was a relief just to know that I could affect this pain in some way.

Pushing my luck a bit, I tried going through the routine and then immediately going for a run. I started my run with zero pain, and after a few minutes I felt a dull ache. Still, I was able to complete my run with minimal discomfort. This was another sign that my running life as I knew it wasn't over.

I can't recommend the above workout highly enough. I awkwardly made my way through the exercises the first few times, but with practice I could tell that I was gaining small measures of flexibility, balance and strength to perform the exercises with a modicum of grace. Sticking to the same exercises is almost certainly a recipe for disaster, but I'm telling you, the above sequence is a winner for runners.

Between the sitting and the exercises, I found that I could resume my running. At times the heel pain would disappear, and other times it would flair up. Whatever was going on wasn't a simple linear equation: I'd feel like I was on the mend, and then bam! I'd found myself with a burning pain in my left heel.

Phase 5: Seeing a Doctor. Given how clearly my symptoms matched the plantar fasciitis descriptions I'd found on the web, part of me felt it was excessive to see a doctor. I'm glad I ignored that instinct. The doctor took x-rays and confirmed my diagnosis. She also gave me the same set of stretches and advice I'd found all over the web. But it was comment that the plantar fasciitis would go away that I suppose I really needed to hear. I could make it go away faster by doing the stretches and exercises she prescribed; but just by the nature of the injury, it would eventually correct itself. What a relief to hear those words.

It's now been a few weeks since seeing the doctor and I've been keeping up with my stretches. I've also started wearing orthotics in my shoes and have plans to switch to more supportive shoes. My left heel pain still flares up occasionally, but I can tell that things are clearly improving. The pain in my heel no longer dominates my thoughts during my run. Every day it looks more and more like my journey with this bout of plantar fasciitis is coming to a close. (And yes, I realize that posting this before completely recovered is tempting the evil eye; but I'm willing to take that shot.)

If you're struck down with plantar fasciitis don't panic. Own it. Do the stretches. Follow the conventional wisdom. You'll get better.

Update: Sue also adds this advice: I also recommend getting the night brace, if it comes back. It is amazing how quickly that augments the exercises. I speak from much experience. I fought the brace for a long time but oh my goodness it really does help.. Thanks Sue!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

From Subject to Photographer

While visiting a playground this last weekend, Dovid mentioned that he enjoyed watching the birds. Well I explained, if you like watching them you're going to love photographing them. I handed him my DSLR with 300mm lens, showed him where the viewfinder, zoom and shutter button were and sent him on his way.

After watching Dovid shoot photos for a while, Tzipora wanted in on the action and I gave her the same quick tutorial.

For the rest of the day, including our trip to Castle Island, the kids took turns shooting with my DSLR.

Below are some examples of their work. I couldn't be more proud of them.

You can bet that our next trip is going to include even more photography. Perhaps a trip to the zoo is in order to practice photographing animals? Or maybe we tackle some photo challenges? Is it too early to teach them the rule of thirds? Oh, this is going to be fun!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Boston Yom Orchim Weekend - Slumber Party, Castle Island and Group Hugs

This past Saturday we passed a restful shabbat playing games and catching up with our nieces and nephew. We also took an epic 4 mile march around Brighton, visiting both the nearby reservoir and Ice Pond (formerly known as Secret Pond, but renamed this trip when we learned its original purpose was for the harvesting of ice). We reminded all four children that the reservoir was the first adventure we'd had with each of them, pushing them in their strollers when they were just a couple of weeks old.

For the first time in all our visits to Boston, we opted to stay at an Airbnb rather than a hotel. Perhaps it was the holiday weekend, but hotel rates were even more crazy than usual. Our Airbnb was delightful and had a big 'ol sectional. As part of the epic 4 mile march we stopped by the house and the kids noted they could each fit on the couch while lying down. And so it was decided, we'd have a slumber party!

We ended up hosting 3 out of the 4 children in our Airbnb and it worked well. Sunday morning we found ourselves with 3 extra guests and no real plan for breakfast. Looking around, we scrounged some ingredients I'd brought with, mixing plain-instant oatmeal, powdered milk and chocolate pudding, for the ultimate Uncle invented breakfast. The kids were quite psyched about having pudding for breakfast, and who wouldn't be?

Because we were driving back to DC, we didn't have a whole lot of time to spend playing on Sunday. In the morning, we bundled up the kids and Shira's Mom and headed down to Castle Island, a Boston site I'd been meaning to get to for years. As my Mother-in-Law put it, this would be our scouting mission.

The parking lot was nearly full when we arrived at 10am. We checked out the fort and surrounding grounds and then made our way to the beach to dip our toes into the icy Atlantic. Whoo wee, that was some chilly water! The beach was on the rocky and small side, but that didn't slow the kids down one bit. They had a great time playing and were bummed when we had to leave relatively early. My Mother-in-Law and the kids also did some shell collecting for future jewelry projects.

I could definitely imagine coming back to Castle Island when we have the day to spend there. Some of our party would enjoy the fort tour and surrounding trail, while others would be happy playing in the water and building sand castles. The steady stream of planes flying overhead would be a nice bonus.

When we left the parking lot, Dovid started playing the License Plate Game, seeing how many states he could notice. Almost every car in the parking lot had a Massachusetts plate. This is further evidence that this is a local hangout, a place where Boston families can get some beach time without fighting traffic.

After Castle Island it was time to drop the kids off and start our trek home. It was there that Gavriella got to once again try out a new phrase that we taught her this weekend: Group Hug! We all came in for one big last hug and then it was time to head home.

We broke the trip up with a stop at Liebman's Deli in the Bronx. The food was good (and plentiful!) but it was the cannoli I picked up at the Riverdale Corner Cafe and Bakery that was ultimately the epic treat. My gosh, it was pastry heaven!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Boston Yom Orchim Weekend - Getting There

Last Thursday afternoon, as the sun was shining, I got a phone call from my Brother-in-Law: my Mother-in-Law's flight to Boston had been canceled and she was scrambling to get on a new flight. The challenge was that we were all hoping to be in Boston by 8am, for my nieces' and nephew's Yom Orchim (guests day) at school. He wanted to know if our flight had been impacted? We were in the clear, I explained.

But, a few hours later we got a notification from American Airlines: our flight had been canceled, too. Now it was our turn to scramble to get on an updated flight. Unlike my Mother-in-Law, we had no luck. If we took crazy flights, we could land in Boston by Saturday Night. Yikes. It was decision time: let the weekend go by without us, or jump in the car and drive the 7+ hours to Boston. We applied the 1-year test: would it matter a year from now if we showed up in Boston for the kids' special day? We weren't sure. Finally, Shira made the call: we're going.

At 4:10pm we jumped in the car. Two hours later, we found ourselves approaching BWI airport - what's usually a 45 minute drive away. The whole trip was like that: our arrival time to Boston kept getting pushed further and further back. An hour away Boston we hit a massive storm, where the lightning lit up the entire sky and our wipers couldn't keep up with the downpour. At 2am, we pulled into our Airbnb and collapsed. 4 hours later we got up and made our way to the kid's school.

After a quick nosh it was time to surprise the kids in their classrooms. Up first was Tzipora's Hebrew class. We peeked in her door and waved. She jumped up and ran over to us, giving us a hearty bear-hug. As I would later recount to the kids, it was at this point that the hectic trip the night before melted away. Was the trip worth it? Absolutely.

Tzipora's class was discussing sites within Jerusalem (all in Hebrew) and it was a thrill to watch Tzipora not just understand what the teacher was saying, but take the lead in her small group and help out another student. Our little scholar! We kvelled!

Then it was off to Dovid and Chana's classroom, where the topic of the day was decoding Ben Franklin's Aphorisms. Dovid's quote was: “Glass, China, and Reputation, are easily cracked, and never well mended.” Chana's was “Beware of the young doctor and the old barber.” These were tricky, and it was great to see both kids could untangle them.

Finally, it was off Gavriella's class where we were given a bit of burlap, some yarn and a plastic needle and the opportunity to make a creation. After a couple of false starts, we ended up creating a delightful picture. It was a treat to see Gavriella figure out how she could control the outcome of the picture with a little planning and being careful about which stitches she put in place. I've got to pick up some of these supplies for our home, as this was a real winner for younger kids.

After spending time with the kids in their classrooms we had a sing along assembly for all the kids. While it was nice seeing Chana, Tzipora and Gavriella sing, it was truly special to see Dovid playing his trumpet. Go Dovid!

We volunteered for school pickup duty and at 2:30pm found ourselves, Shira's Mom and the children packed into the minivan. The safe thing to do would have been to head back to the kid's house and start prepping for Shabbat. But with sundown being so late, I couldn't resist squeezing in an activity. Off we went to the Bunker Hill Monument.

The monument is quite impressive, and after snapping some family pics, we started up the 294 steps to the top. I walked with Tzipora, who at about step 50 had her fear of heights kick in. We took some deep breaths, held hands, and bravely continued up to the top. I'm also afraid of heights, but in this case, there really was nothing to be panicked about. You're fully enclosed at all times and the structure couldn't be more solid. We all made it to the top, including Gavriella! We enjoyed the impressive view at the top, took lots of pics and then made our way back down to ground level.

The forecast was calling for a somewhat windy day, so I had grabbed a pocket kite while packing for Boston. Now, on the green space adjacent to the monument the kids did their best to fly said kite. The gusts weren't enough to keep the kite in the air, but that didn't reduce the kids' kite flying joy one bit. They were to happy to run the grounds, providing their own lift to the kite. The smiles on their faces said it all, they were having a blast.

After the memorial, we made our way back to the house were we hurriedly prepped for shabbat. It had been an exhausting 24 hours, but boy was it worth it!