Just What I Kneeded

A llama, an Elmslie and DeNovo.

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A nice little side effect

Over the last month or so, I’ve had a couple different appointments where my blood pressure was taken. I’ve always had what I like to call “robust” blood pressure. It’s not high, but it’s certainly not low. It typically sits right in the middle of normal. On rare occasions, when I’m stressed out or worried about the appointment beforehand*, my blood pressure will read on the high end of normal.

Then I started swimming.

My blood pressure has consistently read at the very lowest end of normal. Actually, one reading was well below normal.

This makes up for the fact that I gained a couple pounds after I started swimming. I’m pleasantly surprised by this development, but I’m curious, too. I’ve always been active, so what is the difference with swimming? Why does it make a bigger difference than the biking I was doing? Is it because I have quite a bit of time to myself to think and meditate on my day? That might be part of it. I’m more in tune with my mind because I’m not distracted by my headphones, which are ever present when I engage in other forms of exercise. I’m not sure, but I believe I will keep up the swimming. Partly because of this… partly because I love to people watch at the pool.


*I have a touch of “white coat syndrome.” No matter what this blog may have you believe, I absolutely hate going to the doctor’s office. Hate. It. I tend to get really worked up about it. I don’t think I went to the doctor once in the time I graduated from high school all the way through my 20’s. Then along came the knee, and now I’ve been to so many appointments with various doctors, I can’t keep track.

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A llama


He’s so cute, I just want to smoosh his cheeks.

This is Normandy.

He was born on D Day. Hence the name.

My schedule has been insane lately, and I haven’t had time to write a post this week. I thought instead I’d share a sweet pic of a sweet little llama. He was about six months old in this pic. Now, he’s four years old and thinks the world owes him–he’s quite full of himself. He was one of the last two babies I bred, and I unfortunately broke my leg shortly before he was born. He never got the training I did with my others, and I’ve never shown him. He did spend one year in 4-H, so he has been halter trained and had some performance training. But he pretty just hangs out in the pasture, beating up all the old guys.

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Gypsy portrait

This is Stryker. He’s a seven-year-old Gypsy Vanner stallion. We joke about changing his name to Ferdinand because he is extremely (sometimes infuriatingly) laid back. Just like Ferdinand from the children’s story–the bull that would rather smell flowers than engage in the bull fights.

Gypsy Vanner stallion.

Someone should have scrubbed the mud off his face before snapping his picture.

I spent some quality time with Ferdinand this past weekend. We’re working on his ground training. He’s a big baby about, oh, pretty much everything. He likes to pretend that he’s not bigger than anything else on the farm and gets scared when he sees inanimate objects. It’s not his fault. He hasn’t gotten all the proper training. He’s been professionally trained under saddle and in a cart, but he hasn’t really gone too many places off the farm to learn that the world is not a scary place. It’s the lack of experience that shows up from time to time, and we’re working on that.

I tied three pie pans together with some twine–makes an awesome racket. The neighbors were probably, like, what the hell?! The lesson was brief, but it was a good lesson. It ended when I could rattle the pans on either side without him moving his feet and when he’d walk with me while I was rattling the pans. He was still tense, but it was his first lesson with the pans, so I think it went very well. He has no idea what’s coming because this was just the first in a long line of lessons I have planned for him. He’ll be “bomb-proof” eventually whether he knows it or not.

This ground work gives me something to do while I build strength and confidence in my ability to ride again.

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Random camera pictures

I take way too many pictures with my phone. Half of them are just extra shots taken in quick succession so I can capture the action. You’d need a magnifying glass to pick out the differences in some. I then go back through and delete pictures like crazy because no one needs three shots of the same image, and let’s be honest, I don’t really need most of the pictures I’ve taken. They’re not anything that I’d print out and hang on the wall. But I thought I’d share a few here. For no reason.

Re-paved road in park.

Who knew new pavement was so awesome?

This picture is über exciting. That’s new pavement on the main road in my favorite park. It’s so smooth! And so fast!

Deer in the park.


I always have my phone with me on my rides, and I managed to snap this as I breezed by some of the deer in my favorite park. You can’t stop completely to take the pic because then they get all suspicious and run away, so this is the best it gets when I’m on my bike.

Barn cat named Tarzan.

Tarzan. The (not so) wild man.

This little dude is Tarzan. He and his three siblings (Moxie, Batman and Tiny) were born early this spring in the horse barn. I was doing chores one weekend morning, and I heard what I thought was one of the barn swallows screeching. On further inspection, I figured out that a stray cat had given birth to a litter of kittens in the back of the hay stack on the floor of the barn. Tarzan was so named because he was absolutely wild when he first started venturing out into the world. We couldn’t get close to him, but we could pet and play with his siblings. That’s all changed, and he’s now the most ridiculous of the bunch. He comes to you immediately when you enter the barn, and you spend the entire time in the barn tripping over him. His purr is the loudest I’ve ever heard. As you can see, he likes to take selfies.

Llama in front of fence.


The most important thing about this picture is not the gorgeous llama. It’s the equally gorgeous fence behind him. Look at how straight it is! I built that damn fence with my bare hands.

Nephew on the playground rock wall.

Little monkey.

This little monkey is my five-year-old ‘phew. If anyone asks, he’s not my favorite. I love my niece and all my ‘phews equally. For the most part. He’s the only kid on this planet that has made me pause longer than 10 seconds and think that maybe I need to have my own kids some day. He gives super ultra mega hugs of doom. What is a mega hug of doom you ask? Well, he runs to the other side of the room and then runs full speed right into you and tries to squeeze you to death. Depending in whether he catches you standing or sitting, he’s fairly successful in squeezing the breath out of you.

Girl on a horse.

The niece riding Pie.

I took the niece and the ‘phew to the farm a few weeks ago, and my niece rode Pie for the very first time. I think she might be hooked. The ‘phew wasn’t quite convinced he wanted to get on Pie, but he was really excited about taking pictures of his sister from the other side of the fence. This is one of the 57 masterpieces he took that day. What bothers me most about this picture is that my niece is only 7, and her feet almost fit into the stirrups that were set for me.

That’s it for now.

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Side effects

I mentioned a while ago that I was taking Celebrex in a last-ditch attempt to find some prescription help for the knee. My OS isn’t a big fan and explained why he doesn’t typically prescribe Celebrex. Then he went on to say that a handful of his patients with cartilage degeneration had found some relief with the medicine, so he thought it might be worth a try since I can’t stomach any of the narcotics that were prescribed, and the injections didn’t work. We plain don’t have other options.

At first, I didn’t think there were any side effects. It was the first medicine that didn’t make me nauseous or otherwise destroy my GI system. (I would much rather deal with daily pain than some of the GI problems caused by the prescription narcotics and NSAIDs that I’ve had in the past.)

I started having weird symptoms over the last three or four weeks. My shins itch like crazy, and there is no rash (which made me think I really was going crazy). I thought maybe the pool water was drying out my skin, and I started slathering on the lotion (“It rubs the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose again.” Anyone?). I wasn’t convinced that was the problem because I’ve been swimming for more than six months now with no issues, but I didn’t have any other ideas. Then, a little over two weeks ago, I started having extreme dry mouth. At first, I thought I was dehydrated–simply not drinking enough water. The dry mouth persisted for a few days and grew bad enough that I had to try to figure out the problem because drinking 100 oz of water a day wasn’t getting rid of the dry mouth. My tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth and my teeth, and it was getting raw.

Turns out, both itching and dry mouth are potential side effects of Celebrex. I finished the last of my prescription, so I’m going to wait to get a refill. I’ll see if the itching and dry mouth go away. I might not ever get a refill because I can’t tell for sure that the Celebrex was helping my knee. Even without side effects, there is absolutely no reason to take a drug that’s not helping. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll just keep swimming.

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Over the past six months or so, I’ve started a new “tradition” with the niece and the ‘phew. I take them to Sunday brunch when I’m in town visiting. I usually let them pick the place, unless I’m in the mood for something specific. Then I try to sway them, but I always tend to lose that argument. Their favorites are Dunkin Donuts, Panera and Bob Evans. They’re little donut fiends, but I’m not really into fried dough, so I’m trying to expand their selection a bit. The ‘phew likes the pumpkin muffins at Panera. “Aunt Laura, I’m kind of a huge fan of this!”

This whole brunch thing is a fairly enormous step for me. I’d never gone anywhere alone with them before last spring when they were almost five and seven. For seven years, I’d always had one or both of their parents along, so I wasn’t responsible for… anything. Suddenly, I’m responsible for EVERYTHING for those two hours while we brunch. The first couple of times caused heart palpitations. It’s not that they’re bad kids; they’re actually pretty great and generally well behaved. It’s just that the responsibility for two lives is frightening. What if something goes wrong? Anything could go wrong!

My ‘phew is old enough now to go into the bathroom on his own. For obvious reasons, I can’t accompany him in to the men’s room. But letting him go into the restroom all by himself the first time that he was with me was terrifying. There might have been any number of problems in there. There have been reports of crocodiles in toilets, you know.

Panic aside, I have a fun time with the kids. Though I have yet to finish my food without help from at least one of them. My ‘phew gobbles up his food, announces he’s stuffed full (“Aunt Laura, I cannot eat another bite!”) and then asks me for the last half of my waffle less than two minutes later. My sister keeps telling me that I can say no. But she’s wrong. I can’t say no. I try sometimes, but it always ends in yes.

Pig pancakes.

I think it’s a little creepy that the pancakes look like a pig, and there’s bacon sitting RIGHT THERE.

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The secret shame of swimming

I’ve been swimming. A lot. Over the last seven months, I’ve worked up from barely able to complete three laps to being able to swim three miles  (105 laps) in one session. That qualifies as a lot.

I’ve also continued to bike a bit and to do my PT exercises a couple of times a week.

What’s bothering me at the moment is that I’ve managed to gain weight, even though I’ve been more active in the last three months than I’ve been most of the last three years. The difference is swimming. I think. I’ve never been a swimmer, and I don’t think I’m a particularly efficient one now.

Admittedly, I love my fro yo and other things that aren’t particularly good for me. But my eating habits haven’t changed much while I’ve added exercise, so I would expect that I would at least maintain, if not lose, weight.

I started looking into this because it’s annoying me. I’ve gained less than five pounds, but it’s still annoying to see the scale head the wrong direction.

I haven’t yet found any real research, but it does seem that there is some controversy out there about swimming and weight loss. I didn’t start swimming for weight loss; I started because it’s pretty much the only thing that I can do without hurting. So the anecdotal “evidence” might not totally apply to me, but it still has me wondering.

First, there’s the possibility that I’ve gained weight because I’ve built up some muscle mass. I don’t think this is the answer, despite the fact that there has certainly been positive changes to my right VMO. I haven’t seen enough of a change to warrant weight gain.

Second, there’s the idea that you have to work a lot harder to burn calories in the pool because you’re not towing around your whole body weight. Not sure on this one. I suppose it could be true that I’m not burning as many calories swimming as I do when I’m doing other exercises, but I’m never in the pool less than an hour. Plus, I’m not carting around my own weight when I’m biking. I’d need to know more before determining if this is the problem for me.

Third, there’s the idea that the cooler water in the pool sucks the energy right out of you, making you feel hungrier afterward because the body is trying to warm up (eating is one way to do that). If you’re not careful, you might overeat or eat more than you even realize. I don’t know what I think about this one either, at least as far as it relates to my own situation. As I said, I do get hungry after I swim, but once I realized this, I’ve been careful to drink water first and then eat a snack. It’s also much less of a problem for me now that I swim at night rather than in the morning.

There’s a lot of people with a lot of differing opinions, and most of them are just that–opinions. All I know right now is that I’m annoyed. I need to figure out how to lose the weight I gained before I gain more and start looking like a marshmallow. I think I’m going to start switching up my exercise in the pool. I’m going to do more speed work and try out a few different strokes. I’ve been focused solely on freestyle because I know that one won’t hurt the knee too badly, but I think it’s time to try something new. I think I need to get back to strength training, too. It’s just that there are only so many hours in the day, and I’d have to give something up to be able to do more. It’s a delicate balance between what I want to do and what I probably need to do. Bah! It shouldn’t be this hard.


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