The Six Year Frustration

This post gets kinda person, but I'm so happy with this story's ending, I just have to tell it. 

Six years ago this month I injured my leg in Morocco while serving in the Peace Corps. I was participating in an exercise class with all women, near my apartment. It was a great way to be active and integrate at the same time. The instructor's methods were a little "90s" to me, but who was I to go against the grain. In this environment I just followed the leader while we lunged to the beat of Candyman by Aqua. Seeing women in this new light, being fit, and the pounding beats of early 90s technopop really make me want to come back for more. 

During one class we did some partner stretches. Being a dancer in my young life, there are certain ways of stretching that I was told are bad for you. No bouncing up and down to go deeper and be careful not to push too far past the comfort zone. The stretch I was doing with my partner was one that both our legs were spread out wide and we took turns pulling each other forward to get a deep inner thigh stretch.  Partner straddle stretch if you want to Google it. With partner stretches it is important that you can communicate with the other person since they are not in your body and you need to tell them when they are pulling to far. I didn't have good communication with my partner due to the language and cultural barrier. I couldn't express myself that I knew this stretch was unsafe. 

Suddenly my partner and I heard and audible pop and looked at each other in horror. Fire went up and down the back of my left leg. Oddly enough, I was the one of the youngest and fittest women in the room and I am the one that got hurt. My home was only about a 60 second walk, but I remember limping there. For the next 18 months in Morocco my hamstring/glute area never felt the same. I tried to continue to do yoga, but it hurt and I think I likely continued to do more damage. Long amounts of walking made it worse. 

After 18 months the issue was not gone, just to a point tat some sort of strength was beginning to rebuilt. In Morocco I had a ultrasound, a few visits of physical therapy, and a couple of massages from a friend, but again with a language barrier I was never able to get the care it likely needed. 

During different points in time the injury has manifested itself in different ways around the left side of my body. I know the injury site is deep within the insertion point of my left leg, but if felt adverse effects in my hip flexor, low back, and psoas muscles. I've spent dozens of hours online, trying to self diagnose, and I've had everything from piriformus syndrome, to sciatica, to a nerve injury or connective tissue injury. I've spent likely close to $2,000 in out of pocket costs on different doctors and therapy techniques, but still no one can give me answers to that scary pop six years ago. 

For the past six years, the most annoying part is the lack of full flexibility in that leg and the fact that most types of activity flare it up. Running, biking, yoga, all things I love would put me into pain that I just dealt with. Never was it debilitating, just annoying and sore and I just wanted to feel good. I knew I was having a huge issue with my left glute muscles because since the injury happened when I sit or lay down there was a tightness in my left butt cheek that make it feel like I was laying on bunched up sheets. It meant that I would constantly fidget in my seat or bed to have relief from the annoyance.

With each attempt at answers from a medical professional I'd come up with money wasted and no better off than I had before. For years a system of personal stretching techniques I used at least kept the injury somewhat maintained. 

A couple of weeks ago, while in physical therapy for the Graston Technique, (I do recommend) I decided to just Google "Why is my glute so tight". Like with many searches before, I found a forum where a man described a similar issue as mine and echoed my technique of not working the glute too hard as to make it even tighter. A person offered them the explanation that, sometimes if  muscle is too weak it can lock up and become unable to loosen up. He recommended some exercises to activate the glute and strengthen it, thus loosening it up. In my continued research of strengthening and stretching the glute I came across the proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching technique or PNF stretching (can be done without a partner). It is something I had utilized before, but only a couple of times. In just three days of following this advice I felt as if my issue had been eradicated by at least 50%. 50%!!! What would it be like in a couple of weeks? I am now about three weeks from that and I can say that my issue is about 90% gone. I can still feel that injury site and a bit of tightness in my glute, but it is completely manageable. I can feel the area getting stronger by the day. I can now bike, jog, and do yoga without paying for it! All this cost me no money and no time spend in a waiting room. I tell this story because for me, it's so exciting to be able to be active without pain afterwards. I don't even care about answers anymore, I'm just glad I can easily maintain this issue.

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Living History at Hillside

Working at Ella Sharp Museum has been a dream come true. Maybe it's a dream I never realized I had. Working with the kids has been so good for me. I know I love youth development, but being back after a while of being gone, shows me just how much I love this work. 

When 3rd grade classrooms come on field trips at Living History at Hillside they visit four historic buildings. In each, they get to experience life in the 1880s. Many of them have so many questions. I hope you'll enjoy me sharing with you what I've learned and have been able to share with students.

Eli Stilson Log House-This log house was built north of Jackson on Coon Hill Road by Eli Stilson in the late 1860s. After a century, and different owners, the then owning family donated the log house to the museum when it was transported and has stood at it current spot near the woods on the property. A log cabin is a structure that was historically built to only last one or two years while more permanent structures were built. A log house one that is built as a more permanent dwelling with a solid foundation. Our log house is of course just one room, but has a loft accessed by an indoor ladder. Mostly all children ask to go up there, but with a short amount of time and safety in mind, we always have to say the answer is no. When students visit the log house, I give them an experience of what it was like to be a child living in the country in the late 1800s. I explain work is never done. They start out their morning with chores of collecting eggs from the chicken coop and collecting firewood for the wood burning stove. Once inside the log house, we churn butter together with store bought cream, but an authentic butter churn. To pass the time, we sing a chant that kids recited during this time to deep entertained while going through the process of churning butter. We talk about the different sections of the room and point out how each thing has it's place. I get a lot of "ewwws" when I show them the chamber pot, aka the middle of the night indoor bathroom. They all realize there is no electricity or indoor plumbing, and though we have electricity in there now, I show them the look without the lights to show what only natural light will do. They end by beating dirt out of rugs outside on the clothes line. They enjoy getting to hit something with a stick and not getting in any trouble!

Dibble One-Room School House-I like to have fun with the kids and I do, but part of me wants to be stern just to keep them in line. In the school house, I get to do that! In the Dibble School House students find out that grades K-8 had to be taught in just one room with only one teacher. I explain that some teachers were just teenagers themselves, who has completed all grades and could share their knowledge. Men were teachers, and so were women, at least until they got married that is. Students sit in rows and we start out by saying the Pledge of Allegiance with words that are a bit different from ours today. The "under God" part is not in it, because it wasn't added until 1954. We count the stars on the flag together and they find out there are five less than they are used to. I get to carry around a stick that I point to things with, but I also enjoy banging it on the ground to get the group's attention. Each row represents a different grade and students spend about 10 minutes on grade level assignments that they complete on their slate at their desk. Afterwards we all check it together. I'll look around and find a student who I think can take a little embarrassment without being scarred and call them out as a trouble maker. I hope letting them in on the secret makes them feel special enough to be my dunce. I bring that student to the front of the room where they sit on the dunce stool and don the dunce cap while the whole room erupts in laughter. This is one time that laughing at your fellow student is exactly the right thing to do. I explain that this form of punishment is meant to embarrass the student on the dunce stool and hopefully they won't act out again. We do a team spelling bee and students enjoy the bit of competition in spelling words against each other. Lastly they get to sign their name with a fountain pen and ink. This part is quite stressful for me because the ink can be unruly and get out of control fast, but many of them enjoy trying to use an old fashioned pen.

The Merriman-Sharp Farmhouse-To me this is the crown jewel of the entire operation. This house was purchased by Mr. Abram Wing in 1855 for his daughter Mary, who was on her second marriage after having lost her  first husband and two young children. She married Mr. Dwight Merriman and together then ran a 900 acre farm in that very spot just south of the City of Jackson. They raised fruit trees, bred horses, and kept other animals. People looked to Dwight Merriman for his expertise in the farming industry. Dwight and Mary Merriman had four children together, three of which, all boys died before the age of 30. Their only surviving child, a daughter Ella, was given the house and farm when she married Mr. John Sharp in 1881. Mr. Sharp was a state senator and also took over operations of the Hillside Farm. Mrs. Ella Sharp came from a family who valued education and experience for women so Ella was educated and well traveled. She was unable to bear children, but the city of Jackson and children of the area became her charge and she loved them all a great deal. Upon her death (1912), after being widowed four years earlier, she left her home and farm to the City of Jackson to be preserved as a park and museum.  When students stand on the front lawn of her house I show them a picture of Ella sitting on the very porch they are staring at. I tell them all to thank her for gifting us this wonderful place. They are intrigued by all the rooms on the lower level, for many it may be one of the largest and nicest homes they've ever been in. After witnessing the family's rooms they enter the kitchen where they learn a bit about the hard work, without modern technology, servents of the time endured. Together, step-by-step, the group goes through the process of laundry from grating the soap, removing stains with a washboard, and winding the garment through the laundry wringer. Lastly we enter an added room to the house where they may look at more pictures of Ella's life and we end with some funny dances of the time period. While listening to music played on a Victrola, the kids like to laugh and goof around with their dance partner.

Wood Shop-The wood shop is the place that I get to interject a bit about gender roles during this time period. It's never fun to think about the fact that women had very little opportunity pre-WWII, but I'd like the young boys and girls to realize that things have not always been as equal as they are now. I start out by telling them that it is very inaccurate that I, as a woman, am working in a wood shop. When I say this was a place for men, many of the boys get a spurt of testosterone as they embrace their masculine kingdom.  It makes me smile. As for the girls, I explain how lucky we are than in 2016, we can be whatever we want to be, and I ask them what they want to be. The kids get to try out real tools from an 1860 wood shop, the instruments used to build a log house like the one they were in that morning. In pairs, they take turns sawing a log with a 2-person cross cut saw. They get to try and drill a hole with a brace and bit (we never get very far). Perhaps the most fun (and scary) is to use the shaving horse where they use a tool to shave down wooden roof shingles smooth. Most of the boys love it in here, but I get really excited when a girl who might be nervous tries the tools.

*Photo of Farm Land from the Ella Sharp Museum website.

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Time Travel is Possible

I'm doing something now that I never dreamed I could get to do. I have been traveling back in time. 

Ella Sharp Park and Museum has always been one of my favorite spots in Jackson. A couple years ago I started learning as much about Ella Sharp, the woman, as I was able to learn. Last October, I began as a volunteer at the museum. I ultimately wanted to be one of those women who got to dress up in period clothing to historically interpret  the 1880s. I started volunteering at a couple of festivals doing just that and doing some historical presentations about candle making or working in a general store. Soon, I began to get deeper than I thought I would. 

Being out of a full time job poses financial challenges, but also some liberating freedoms. One of those freedoms is the opportunity to work part time as a docent for the Living History at Hillside program. Previously known as Pioneer Living, this program brings 3rd graders from schools in Jackson County into the Ella Sharp Museum's historical buildings to give them hands-on experience living in the late 1800s. As a docent, or teacher, I get to guide the students through different activities that will hopefully engage them, make them think, and to appreciate the challenges of living during that time. As the end of my first week I am absolutely loving this opportunity. Doing this work truly makes my soul shine. Though the students can get a little rambunctious, energetic, and eager, I thoroughly enjoy  being able to share my knowledge and passion for history with them. Not only do I get to work in youth development, my true passion, I get talk about one of my greatest interests, all day long. 

I'd like to talk more about all the buildings I take the students through at a later time, but for now I want to get to the time travel part. I have been through Ella Sharp's farm house many times before, but now as a docent I get special privileges. Early this morning I walked up to the house to unlock everything and prepare for the day. For 10 minutes I was, for the first time ever, alone in Ella's house. I was wearing period appropriate clothing as the very same time. Aside from being able to talk to Ella, I had never felt closer to her. All around me were items from her time and I was dressed how she may have dressed. With no lights on, the morning sunlight shone though the large windows leaving me in the same state she might have been at a point in her life. I just stood there amidst all that magic. I love interpreting this time period, but what I love most of all is talking to the students about the incredible woman who loved her community and city so much that she left her home and land to us. I enjoy showing them her picture and pointing to the same exact spot on the porch where she sat. I ask them to all say one big thank you, out-loud to Ella, letting her know we appreciate what she gave us to enjoy and learn from. For me, I can't imagine time travel any other way. 

 (Sorry for the Alex show here, just me in a few locations at Ella Sharp Museum in period clothes.)

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No Facebook Update #2

I have thoroughly been loving my Facebook free life.I still feel no desire to mindlessly scroll through the newsfeed first thing in the morning.

I recently re-watched The Social Network. I really like the film and an left intrigued by a young Mark Zuckerberg's ability to manipulate computer code to create a service that has effected millions. Watching the Harvard undergrads, exercise their intelligent power leaves me slightly envious and slightly mystified. However, I ended the film with a relief that I was no longer under that spell. That I was free of that power.

Recently I visited Japan and of course I took photos. Gone are the days that most of us print photos from travels and slip them neatly into photo albums to be shared with family and friends. Those albums are now online and quicker and easier can be share with a much larger audience. So since I didn't have plans to fill a photo album either in physical form or online with my pictures from Japan, what was to become of them?

I don't think anyone takes pictures just for the fun of it. We take them to share with people. To show someone an image of something we saw that they did not. I ended up uploading my photos to my Google Drive account. I shared the album with just the people that I knew may appreciate them and would like to witness proof of my trip. I got no likes, no written comments, no shares. I felt no void in the inability to flip though my own album and view what people were saying about it.

I no longer feel at all alienated by being out of the loop with Facebook buzz. I have noticed some businesses and organizations with only a Facebook presence can be a challenge to get information for, but certain elements about the business are able to be views without logging in to Facebook.

My largest hit has been with this blog. When I shared my posts on my Facebook page, readers easily knew when I had posted something new. Now, I enjoy fewer hits as traffic to my blog has slowed. Now, if you look to the top right of the side column you can type in your email and my updates will be delivered to your inbox. No junk, just Cash's Corner posts!

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A Culture of Clean

Another large thing I noticed about the people of Japan is how clean they try to stay. Personally, I don't mind getting a little dirty sometimes and I don't overly worry myself with germs. I think a little germs can be good for us, building up our immunity. I am rarely sick because I take good care of my health. 

But Japanese don't seem to like germs and they go to great lengths to keep from spreading them. In any public situation I could always see at least a dozen or more people wearing a disposable facial mask covering their mouth and nose. They wear these to keep their own germs to themselves as well as keeping themselves safe from the germs of others. I had to laugh when I saw a section in the convenience store with these masks in them. There had to be at least a dozen different ones to choose from, including scented ones, children's sized, and pretty patterns. They take these masks seriously. 

Hygiene in the bathroom is a big deal! Every toilet I used came complete with many buttons to control the attached bidet to clean yourself with and many had an attached sink which would run water when the toilet was flushed. Some, in train stations came with increased suction for odor control, water sounds for privacy, and heated seats. 

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