Breathe In, Breathe Out

Mid-Winter Musings February 10, 2013

Filed under: My posts — elanaalfred @ 10:42 pm
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I think it is safe to say that many of us have been doing the same things this weekend—cuddling up with our softest blankets, watching marathons of our favorite TV shows and those rom-coms we never got to see, reading while drinking lots of tea or wine, and simply relaxing because that’s all we can do when Nemo is in town. Prior to yesterday I was somewhat disappointed by this winter. I expected a lot of snow, and we were not getting any. Instead we were getting cold, cold temperatures that really test our love for New England. During winter months in cold areas it is very common to hear people saying, “Next year I’m moving to Florida” or “Why don’t we live in Florida?” I’m sorry if you’re one of those people, but I just don’t get it. One of the best things about growing up and living in New England are the different seasons.  And we do each of them rather well.



Nemo 2013!

Nemo 2013!

My love for changing seasons does come with some difficulties, and ones that, before I met Eamonn, I often overlooked. Winter is especially challenging for him, particularly as a teacher for young children. We all know about this year’s flu epidemic, and I certainly hope that you all got a flu shot. As it is, staying healthy during the winter is hard—a common cold is inevitable. The flu is always a threat, but this year it became more of one, and as Eamonn is with children everyday, all day he is on alert constantly. I, too, am on high alert because having to take the train to work everyday with people wiping their noses and then holding on to the bar is a great way to spread germs.



Before I met Eamonn, I never thought too much about getting sick, and lucky for me, I have a strong immune system. But I remember quite well the first time I got sick while dating Eamonn—we were living in Chicago and our apartments were about 5 miles from one another. I had a slight fever and he would not come over to comfort me because he knew he couldn’t risk getting sick. I, however, thought he was being an asshole. Eventually, with enough persistence and begging, he came over with hot soup (he really is the best). I’ll never forget it because he ended up staying over to make sure I was ok, and we fell asleep holding hands, on my L-shaped couches.



I learned quickly that, though none of us want to get sick, if Eamonn gets sick it usually becomes more severe, and he can end up in the hospital, so he takes many precautions. For me, one of the hardest parts about getting sick is how careful I need to be around him. Earlier this winter I got the inevitable common cold, which lasted for a couple of weeks. During that time Eamonn and I couldn’t kiss each other goodnight or good morning or at all, we had to be extra careful about making sure we didn’t share drinking glasses or utensils, and I tried not to get too close to him as we slept in bed. It sounds small, but not kissing your husband for two weeks (especially when it’s my husband!) is a challenge, but giving him my sickness would be a lot tougher.



The winter is also challenging because with it comes more physical needs that most of us do not think about. As I

Eamonn "shoveling"

Eamonn “shoveling”

write this, I am listening to the bulldozer on our street making a first attempt to clear away the snow. Even that machine is struggling to do so. I cannot help but to think about, and dread, what all of this snow means if we want to eventually go somewhere—a lot of shoveling out our two cars on the street. For the average human being, shoveling can be quite strenuous, especially in two feet of snow. As a strong, muscular woman, I have no problem taking the burden of this work from Eamonn, but I know he wants to help and not assume I will do it on my own.



Another physical challenge that snow brings to Eamonn is simply walking. I know it sounds silly, but it really does become more of a hassle for him to walk in the winter. Not only is it cold (though he insists colder makes it easier for him to breathe) but with a lot of snow to walk through it becomes more strenuous. Usually we do not have two feet of snow, but when we do Eamonn dreads it even more than most of us.  But because he’s such a trooper, he just increases his oxygen flow and gets going!



Call me crazy, but I really don’t mind the winter in New England. Well, I could do without the freezing temperatures! I just cannot imagine a year without all four seasons, but most of all I think it makes us all appreciate the summer that much more. But as much as I don’t mind the winter, I do exercise much caution to make sure it does not get the best of Eamonn. Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do to control Eamonn getting sick, and he has enough hand sanitizer for a small village, but the things I can do to make it easier for him I do without hesitation. And if you don’t believe me, come take a look at whose car has already been shoveled out: Eamonn’s!




Let’s Get Physical April 18, 2012

This past Monday in Boston was a record-breaking 90 degrees. It was also the 116th Boston Marathon. Over 22,000 insane people, one of which was my crazy and courageous sister, Polly, ran 26.2 miles in the extreme heat. Kudos to her and all of the runners- you’re inspirational.

Exercise and sports have always been a part of my family’s lifestyle—not to be competitive but to stay active. My older sisters were avid dancers for their entire youth (we have the videos to prove it!), while Abby and I ventured out onto the basketball court, thinking that someday we would be starters in the WNBA (needless to say we’ve moved on). Other sports that we all partook in were tennis, field hockey, and swimming. As a kid, I’m not sure that I really appreciated the push I got from my parents to be active, but as an adult I realize the importance of trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle of working out and being fit, even though I’ve been slacking on this lately.

When I started dating Eamonn it was clear to me from the get-go that he too, liked to be active, though his idea of this was a bit different from mine. Eamonn’s preferred physical activities were capoeira, biking, and skateboarding, though I’m not convinced the latter counts as exercise. I had never heard of capoeira until I met Eamonn, so for those of you who are unfamiliar, it is a dance/martial art originated from Afro-Brazilian culture. Simply put, there’s a lot of kicking and head dodging. However, I have to say that I am very impressed with capoeira ever since I saw Eamonn in a performance with his Chicago group—I could never do it myself despite his persistence that I come with him to a class! Biking is his other love. When we lived in Chicago he would always bike the 4 miles to my apartment, giving him the exercise and relaxation he needed, while giving me anxiety for his safety. I do love bike riding, just not so much in busy, city streets. Eamonn thought this was especially hilarious when he witnessed me, for the first time, on a bike in the streets of Chicago (in fairness I was riding his oversized bike making me uncomfortable and wobbly).

One thing was always clear, Eamonn was happy when he was doing capoeira or on his bike. His activities were not just about having to be active to stay healthy, but it was about being happy, doing something that he loved, taking a break from all of his other health-related chores to do something he wanted to be doing. So when Eamonn’s health was declining, one of the hardest things for me to accept was that these activities would be taken away from him. Now that Eamonn is on oxygen all the time, it’s hard for him to take capoeira classes and get on his bike outside. Not only is it harder for him to breathe, but the weight of the backpack that carries the oxygen concentrator makes the exercise that much more strenuous.

For about two years now Eamonn has been forced to get creative with his exercise tactics. He primarily uses his bike inside on a stationary trainer. We also have an Xbox Kinect so that he can play different games, for example boxing, track and field, and my personal favorite, African dance (it is quite a workout). Of course Eamonn makes the best of it, by watching his favorite X Files episodes while on the bike, and challenging me to boxing matches, which I usually win. He also started a very successful after-school capoeira program, keeping him involved with the sport as he helps his students; he has also established a connection with the Boston capoeira group through their music class. Despite Eamonn’s positive attitude, it’s not the same as when he got to be outside, or participate fully in a class. I certainly can tell the difference—exercising has now become another chore for him to fit into his busy schedule to stay healthy. It’s no longer making him happy. It’s no longer something he loves.

So, about a month ago, when spring finally arrived in Boston, I convinced Eamonn to come with me on a walk outside, leaving his indoor activities behind. It took some tough love, but he agreed and we started our way around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. I could tell that his breathing was becoming increasingly harder, so I did what any good wife would do: I took from him the backpack carrying the oxygen concentrator to relieve him of the extra weight. I played the role of Jillian Michaels, trainer from The Biggest Loser, and pushed Eamonn to keep going, even when I knew that he wanted to stop. Of course, when he needed to pause I let him.

Eamonn made it around the Reservoir and we have gone for a number of outdoor walks since. I know it hasn’t been so easy for him, and it’s still not his bike, but I am incredibly proud of his endurance, determination, and fight. I know that he will eventually be back on his bike and throwing kicks in capoeira class because that is just who Eamonn is.

On Marathon Monday, while we were eating dinner, Eamonn looked at me and said, “Some day I think I’ll do the Boston Marathon.” I believe it.