I thought I knew everything about sciatica. If so, I’ve forgotten a few details. That, or a body six-plus decades in the making expresses itself differently than one in its thirties.
Three decades ago I had a bad patch of sciatica—undiagnosed for upward of three years (I’m guessing) because I didn’t have health insurance. Finally a friend, a masseuse, suggested the cause. And over time physical therapy provided the cure.
Here, in full color, are clues to nuances I didn’t remember from the first time around.
Like — how much misery it provokes just to pee first thing in the morning. (Why? Details below.) Ditto with getting into your jeans—let alone your long johns on a cold winter day.
So ladies … here’s your sciatica morning kit: a couple of funnels from the auto-parts store and some strong cord (look closely for the safety pins stuck through the cord). More on that slotted spoon with the funny handle later.
Look for the tranny-fluid (aka power-steering fluid) funnels. The angle is perfect. Still, practice makes perfect … you don’t want to hit the toilet seat, after all. And if you’re doing this at night by a dim bulb … don’t you go slipping the funnel in backward. Because you’ll be dropping your undies in the laundry basket before you crawl back into bed. (Put on your undies and socks before you go to bed—they too will throw you out of kilter if you wait till morning.)
I suggest the style on the left—the narrower mouth, notched midway around its circumference, is a better fit for a woman’s anatomy. Buy two: one for your backpack or satchel; the other for home.
The cord? Tie each end to the belt loops on your slacks and slowly, slowly walk your way into them. It’s awkward, but sure beats the alternative. Don’t have belt loops? Thus the safety pins. And it’s lots easier to get jeans over silk long johns (or PJ bottoms).
The slotted spoon with wooden paint stirrers taped fore and aft — that’s a homemade back-scratcher; I’ve used it to clean my gutters too. Came in handy those mornings when I couldn’t quite lift the lid to the toilet.
My first bout of sciatica was due, I’m sure, to the fifty- and hundred-pound grain and flour sacks I hefted back when I worked in a bakery … not to mention that fridge and the mattresses I hauled (by myself) up a steep, uneven flight of concrete steps to the place I was renting back in the early 80s … the massive flagstones and glacial erratics (look it up) from my landscaping days … and all the other heavy work I did from time to time, not thinking twice about keeping my back strong, not even knowing there’s a right and a wrong way to lift and boy, I was doing it wrong.
There you have it. Stay fit, stay safe — but if you’re already in deep, this’ll help you get back into whack. Oh … I forgot; I said I’d explain that “first thing in the morning” bit. Well, I’m told our disks take on water in the night. So if a herniated disk is already butting in on a nerve channel, it’s worse if the disk has swelled during the night. You want to give your disks two hours to let that water seep back into … wherever … before you do anything — like sitting, like putting on your socks.
PS. Such a crazy warm winter we had, I didn’t even get to practice writing my name in yellow snow. Next year!
It takes a practiced eye to see the garden in my weed patch. Nearly gone are the flowers; my conservative guestimate is that I lost upward of a thousand species, cultivars, and color forms. Though I haven’t counted the survivors, only a relative handful made it through all these years of neglect. Of the vegetables, the chives alone stand undaunted by weeds. The asparagus, even the rhubarb (victims of shade from small trees that got big fast) are nearly kaput.
Yet I just brought in a peck of greens gathered in a ten-minute ramble through the what’s now mainly goldenrod and garlic mustard. Indeed, perhaps a third of today’s bounty was garlic mustard. I don’t much like the stuff, but the first new shoots of this in spring are the mildest—a relative term for sure. I doubt I’ll cut more; other, milder greens are popping up now.
Yet when diluted by two or three bushels of other greens I’ll gather through the seasons, the flavors—tart, lemony, pungent, mild—complement each other and the other vegetables I’ll have gleaned from overrun neighborhood gardens or the occasional folding table by someone’s drive, heaped with squash or cukes or beans—and a can to drop your money in.
My technique? I just dump each harvest into a large clear trash bag in the freezer in my cellar—what I call my walk-in fridge; even in August the cellar is still relatively cool. By the time the bag’s half full I’ll slip on some rubber gloves, set the bag atop a bench, and crunch those frozen greens into shards and flakes until I’ve reduced the volume by, oh, maybe 75 percent.
Then I keep filling it and mixing it so that early spring’s dame’s rocket and garlic mustard—that dame’s rocket is almost as intensely pungent as garlic mustard (they share a family tree)—are scattered throughout the year’s bounty of nettles, dandelions, violets (the leaves, mainly), chives, ramp, daylilies, dock, bedstraw (not much; harvesting it is a chore), japanese knotweed shoots (get them early), watercress; and I’m sure I’ve left some out. All are either in my yard or within a 10-minute walk of my house.
To cook? Well, you just make your pot of soup or stew (more later on how to freeze taters, squash, carrots, sweet corn, etc.). Once it’s pretty much ready you just get a scoopful of crushed greens from your freezer and drop them in. If the soup’s really hot I’ll just turn off the flame then; the greens cool it as they cook. Or let it simmer a few more minutes if that cooling-cooking routine makes you nervous.
The important thing? Don’t let your greens thaw before you dump them in the pot. They’ll turn into an unappetizing black mush that even I might hesitate to eat.
Well, there’s more I could say. I could extol the virtues of nettles. And of poke; it should be poking up any day. When to pick dandelions. But those will have to wait.