So my week of spa treatments continues…

Thermojet.  This is an infrared body wrap system that is supposed to “melt” body fat.  I can’t say whether or not I’m a believer, but the heat does feel really good on my sore back and my crazy sore legs.  The process involves wrapping the core and the thighs in these silicon pads that then deliver infrared heat deep into the tissue.  The elevated temperature is supposed to cause a metabolic process whereby your fat cells react by shrinking.  I’ve looked on the Thermojet website and I think that if it was such an easy fix that more people would be using it.  I’m currently paying $75 per treatment and I’ve had 2.  I took my measurements at the beginning of my week and can say that there is some truth in the dropping of inches…that is the biggest claim – drop inches (I don’t know how that equates to pounds).  I’ve lost 1″ from bust, waist, hips, and thighs.  Of course, I sweat like crazy so maybe it is water weight.  I think I’ll know better with a few more wraps.  The positive benefits of heat, drinking more water, and spending 45 minutes just chilling out are certainly part of this treatment.

Reiki.  I will be having my 2nd Reiki treatment soon.  Although, again, there are a lot of skeptics that would say this is a bunch of hooey, I can’t help but think that there is something to be explored here.  Reiki is not a massage – as I thought it was.  Reiki involves a therapist using hand positions above the client’s body at points along the Chakras.  As the therapist (healer) does this, they sense and treat the Chi as it relates to that particular chakra.  After my experiences with acupuncture, this is strikingly similar.  You don’t need to undress for this treatment.  It lasts an hour and the therapist provided me with some interesting feedback following the session.  I didn’t provide her with anything more than a basic answer to a question before we started.  She asked me, “what do you want to achieve with this session?”  I said, “I’m not really sure.  I have physical ailments, which I imagine a lot of people do too.  I guess I’m just willing to see what you think.”  She seemed fine with that and then told me what she was going to do with putting her hands above the different places of my body.  She said that she often has people fall asleep and that is fine.  She also said some people claim they feel strange: lightweight, deeply relaxed, or warm.  She also said that clients have heard a humming sound or have seen lights.  So following the prep, I laid back and closed my eyes.  At first I had a bunch of racing thoughts.  I was thinking about how I could try to focus on random stuff so that I wasn’t falling under the power of suggestion.  I started to think about how much this was going to cost.  I thought about other things I had spent money on and then worried about money a little.  Then I thought about my grandma being sick and how she must feel alone.  I thought that I should be a better granddaughter.  I thought about how much stuff I need to do and started making lists in my head.  All of this thinking sped through my mind until I felt a pulling sensation in my jaw.  It felt like an ache – as if I had just worked really hard of chewing old gum.  So I thought about whether or not I had noticed that feeling at all and if that was from the healer’s hands being above my head.  Right as I was feeling that, she moved her hands to my ears.  Her hands did feel warm and once she switch to my ears my jaw didn’t feel like anything anymore.  Then I was just thinking about the warmth on my ears and how it felt good.  She stayed there a while and then moved to my eyes.  Again, her hands were warm.  At this point I just checked out.  That is, I started to feel very floaty – as if I could snap out of my body if I wanted to.  Then I thought that I could feel a massaging sensation, but not physically.  It was as if I could sense her cradling the energy and it was just held there above my physical body.  Now, at this point, I started to doubt myself.  I thought, “oh dang, I’m making this up and maybe I am asleep and just dreaming this.”  There was some drilling and hammering going on nearby and I felt my concentration wander to those sounds.  However, that warm, massaging, vibrating sensation continued.  Then I had some thoughts about how I’ve felt vertigo when I’ve meditated in the past.  I thought that is was strange how I wasn’t feeling that now.  I felt grounded and safe.  Also, with acupuncture, I could remember feeling so cold – sometimes so cold that I was physically shivering.  With this, I was warm and content.  The therapist’s last hand position was just below my feet.  It felt like something was draining from me.  I’m not sure if that was power of suggestion or not.  I kind of imagined that this floating feeling settled back into my body on the table and then that the bottoms of my heels were like the drains of a bathtub and that the plug had been pulled and the water was slowly and gently emptying.

When the therapist told me to open my eyes I felt extremely calm.  I just remained still.  I’ll try to recapture what she said.  She stood by the side of the table and said, “well that was very interesting.”  It didn’t look like she was searching to make anything up.  She continued, “I think that you just wanted to achieve calm and peace.  When I put my hands by your throat the angels told me that you have a beautiful voice.  That means that it isn’t just like singing, it is that what you say is beautiful and that you should keep sharing your words because they are good.  Your heart charkra, gave me an impression.  I saw an old man in glasses and dressed to go fishing.  Does that mean anything?”  I said no.  “Hmmmm, well he means something to me.  He reminds me of a person who was always, ‘me, me, me.’  When you are in a relationship it is supposed to be fifty fifty.  This man that I know was not like that, he was mean.  Yes, he represents a mean man.  Maybe it is like that for your heart.  You had someone who was ‘me, me, me’ and it hurt you.  That is just the impression I get.  I also tried to ask for more information, I wanted the angels to show me a clearer picture and they said, ‘no. that we are too connected to have anything more revealed.’  Sometimes we come across people that we might have been connected to in previous lives or in some other sense of energy.  I just don’t know.  When I was over your solar plexus, here-”  She gestured to my upper abs.  ” -well, I’ve never sensed so much strength.  You are a very, very strong person.  You have so much strength – you don’t even know.  You only see like this-” she gestured a waving motion up and down infront of her.  ” -you don’t see how beautiful you are inside.  You are very wonderful and the angels said that you need to try and see the miracles that are right infront of your nose.  Your strength is yellow energy, golden.  You can trust that you are on the right path and that you should follow it.”  I said, I don’t even know what path I’m on.  She replied, “you don’t need to know.  Just trust that you are on it.  When I was here-” she gestured to an area on my lower abs about even with my hips. ” -I sensed a lot of creativity.  I also saw a lot of orange.  But, yes, much creativity.  You are also very smart, and this is a gift.”  I don’t remember what she said until the last past with my feet.  “I usually try to see people are birds or trees.  With you, I saw a huge tree – huge.  Again, this tree is strong.  But the roots do not run down deep.  It is like the roots are spreading wide to try and explore everything all around, like popping up to see, ‘what is this about?  what is over there?’  You are only a little grounded and need to work on that.  It isn’t about knowing more, but about trusting and feeling like the steps you take here on earth are safe and solid.  With you, I want to get your roots deeper into the earth.  I also got a vision of you in Scotland or Ireland.  You were in a place that was very old, very peaceful, and very green.  Does this mean anything?”  I said that I didn’t think so.  I’m not Scottish or Irish.  “Hmmm, well I saw you in this place and you were very happy.”  Honestly, as she mentioned this my mind went to the most recent film of “Pride & Prejudice” where Kiera Knightly is poised at the edge of a rocky precipice in England.  She stands as this strong, independent female as the wind whips through her dress.  She is beautiful and strong and very inspirational in this shot.  It is one of my favorite scenes ever, and I own the film and always get goose bumps when I watch that shot.  In that shot, she makes being alone a symbol of strength.  It is funny that I thought of that so vividly.  I told her about the different sensations that I felt and that as much as I didn’t want to think I was feeling anything that I can’t deny that I did.  She said that sometimes people are in tune with that energy and that is probably the case here.  She said I need to drink a lot of water so that I could continue to allow the treatment to have an effect.  And that was it.  The rest of the weekend included a lot of what would have been stressful stuff, but I rode out those events with a calm, gracious, and patient attitude.  It was actually very out of character for me.  And, more importantly, where I had the opportunity to be a good granddaughter, I was.  That is too coincidental for me not to mention.

Monday morning I saw my doctor.  He reviewed my bloodwork and my thyroid is barely functioning.  I guess that explains a lot: being so tired, being achy, my crazy menstrual cycle.  So I have a follow up on in a bit and I really hope that I start getting my energy up and my mind in gear for the start of the school year.

Tuesday was spa day, again.  I used another gift card to get a manicure and a pedicure at the Coldwater Creek Spa.  Oh my goodness was that a nice treat.  My feet haven’t looked so cute in a long, long time.  The nail tech was super nice and tucked me into this awesome reclining chair.  The pedicure was heavenly.  It felt so good to have warm, soft feet.  The different creams and lotions smelled so good.  After the pedicure, I had my hands done.  The result is that I do feel prettier.  I didn’t purchase any product since I simply wanted to use the gift card and not spend any money (except for the tip, of course).  This would have been an expensive day had it been my money.  I know that I can’t afford to keep up the nice toes, so I find myself just looking at them a lot and liking the shiny, pink polish.

Today I spoke with a specialist in Ayurvedic Yoga massage.  It combined deep breathing, yoga poses, stretching, and massage.  I am going to meet with her in person soon and see what treatments she might suggest.  Although since might seem over the top, remember I am searching for Eastern-influenced and based methods to combat my R.A. and to make progress toward a healthier lifestyle.  The yoga piece seems to be really important as I know that it is used with seniors to promote joint health.  I’m not a senior, but my yoga ability level is.  I’m excited to try doing yoga again since, from what I remember, I loved how good doing yoga felt.  I need to try my best to leave my frustration at the door.  I’m too out of shape now to hold a pose for long, and just like working out in the mornings, I get mad at myself for allowing such a drastic backslide.  So, now I need to clean.  My back is feeling better and I have neglected housework for far too long.

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John Clease played a funny peasant in Monty Python’s Holy Grail.  In a scene where the townspeople want to burn a witch he claims, “she turned me into a newt.”  Then, since he is obviously human he adds with a goofy smirk, “I got better.”  Whenever I do get better from something I hear that character’s voice in my head.  My back is doing better.  I have realized that a lot of the pain was coming from my glutes and hamstrings.  Nevertheless, my back was seriously messed up and until about two days ago I was wondering when it would improve.

Despite the pain and the spasms I continued to work out – at a much, much lighter level.  I stabilized my back and did a lot of upper body stuff and smooth cardio.  The gym has a Cybex elliptical that is so smooth I can’t tell if I’m moving forwards or backwards.  It is awesome!  I also did walk in the therapy pool.  I had to spend a couple of hours sewing up a tear on my new swimsuit.  The last time I used it at the club I put it into that spin-dryer.  Since it is a larger size it got all twisted up on the machine and I had to rip it out of there.  It was a brand-new suit and so I was determined to stitch it back together so that I could get my money’s worth out of it.  My mending job makes it look like some Frankenstein thing.  Anyway, I managed to salvage it and use it!  I also kept up with the ice and heat therapy at home.  I continued to take anti-inflammatory meds – but not the prescription.  I forced myself to keep active after brief periods of resting.  The result is that I’m doing a lot better.

Today I had a one hour swedish massage at a little spa in the downtown area.  The newspaper kids gave me a gift certificate there and I couldn’t imagine a better time to use it!  Wow, this was just what I needed.  The therapist found all of my knots and sore spots.  She spent a lot of time on my back, shoulders, and legs.  When she asked me to flip over I could barely move – that was because I was so relaxed.  The lavender aroma-therapy oil also helped to soothe away my tension.  I could really get used to such luxury, too bad my bank account can’t.  One thing that I wish I could take better advantage of is that foot massage.  Once, when I had visited San Francisco’s Chinatown I found a reflexology place.  I don’t know what they did to my feet, but it took an hour and I never had happier feet!  The massage today included some work on my feet.  That really helped me relax and feel better.  I will research online and see what other places in the vicinity might have reflexology.  I’d like to do that.

I would also like to re-visit accupuncture.  I did a series of treatments a little over a year ago.  It was too expensive to keep up, but it was awesome!  I could feel the chi responding to it; I also became aware of listening/feeling my body.  I am admitedly a needle-phob.  It takes a lot of mental prep to get me in to the lab for bloodwork.  So the idea of me laying on a table with needles sticking in me was pretty overwhelming at first.  But these needles are totally easy to handle.  They are tiny and flexible.  Sometimes I didn’t even feel them going in.  It turned out to be a very relaxing and rejuvinating experience.  The worst part was when I would feel chilly.  Anyway, the cost was my main hang up.  Scheduling time for the weekly sessions was also tough.  Once things got too crazy with my time and finances it was the treats like accupuncture that had to go.  I do think that it is extremely helpful for combating the chronic pain of R.A.  There are a lot of other things that it can help – which I read up on  – but, for me, the almost instant relief from joint pain was the deal maker.

So to add to my wonderful debt, I bought a Wii.  I’m not sure if I’m keeping it yet.  I’ve been wanting to get one for a long time.  Since I like the idea of interactive play, this seems to be a justifiable purchase.  I am thinking of taking it back because I can’t afford it.  I also can’t believe that I can drop the weight I need to drop and get my health to where it needs to be by playing video games.  That is a lot of money to gamble with on that notion.  I once bought a PS2 and barely even played it because I’m just not good at video games.  I’m already annoyed with the tennis games because I’m standing up and swinging like I would if I was actually hitting a ball and it messes up the shot and I end up hitting the net or hitting wide.  I almost just have to wrist the shots to make them go in.  I have one more week to figure out if I’ll keep the Wii or not.  Maybe I can see if my health insurance will pick it up.  Just kidding.

And regarding that whole health care issue: the government initiative thing.  I wish that I could understand the concept better.  I’m smart and I feel like I can wrap my mind around complex stuff – but, this gets me confused.  At times I think that one fair government-based health plan might be a good thing;  but then on the flip side I can not deny that we have an amazing state-of-the-art medical system that has thrived on competition and the capitalistic nature of our society.  We have “The Best” because we have created a market where one can buy the best.  If we level that field, then I’m not sure what will happen.  It is extremely complicated.  I’m glad to see that really smart people are at work on the problem.  I’m not sure what is really going to work to convince me one way or the other.  I fell asleep during the press conference – I was tired from working out.  I also can sense a lot of spin from the ultra-conservative side of the media.  I’m not liberal and I’m not conservative.  I guess I try to be ethical and educated when I feel a tug of war in things where my one little opinion is supposed to matter.  That is why I can’t say what I think.  Is re-vamping the system smart?  Not sure….Is it ethical?  Not clear.  So, for someone like me with a life-long battle ahead combating a disease that will spawn other medical conditions where I will want the very best care from the most adept and highly qualified doctors that benefit from cutting-edge advancements at pristine facilities paid in part from an insurance policy that I’ve worked hard to earn by getting my higher education and certificates and by paying into the benefits that my career allows me to enjoy….well, I guess, I’m just not so sure about this.  I guess I just want to see and know that I can be taken care of by the best.  But, at the same time, I want that for my fellow citizens too (as that is ethical).  The whole thing feels like a catch-22.

So what can I learn from this?  1. I got better.  2. I value alternative medicine and wish that I could afford to keep up with it.  3. I’m skeptical about the Wii actually keeping me motivated and on track (but that is all about me and nothing that an eletronic device can combat).  4. I can’t sort out the reality of our country’s health care dilema.  5. I’m way to wordy.

My ambitious nature is truly a double-edged sword.  In most cases, my drive helps me to launch into things with vigor.  However, when I do run full throttle, it is hard to hit the brakes.  There have been many instances where only some sort of outside force will become that figurative brick wall that I hit head on – which then, finally, does stop me…dead in my tracks.

This past Monday I went back into the gym and hit it…hard.  I was only twenty minutes into an hour workout when I could already feel my very unused muscles screaming at me.  My hamstrings were cramping up, I could feel that uncomfortable tension behind my kneecaps and up at the base of my butt.  Then my quads started to burn.  At about forty minutes in I dared to attempt two sets of 20 reps of a kettlebell thing.  I’ve never done this type of lift/swing thing and it looked simple enough: do a half squat, grip the thing, explode up in the legs sending the weight up in front of my chest, then use my core and legs to counter the weight as it swings back down, use momentum to repeat the swing in a steady rhythm.  This might have been doable had my legs not already been trashed.  Since they were, I think that I used my lower back to produce the lift and the swing.  This was a terrible, terrible move.  After my first set I could feel a sharp shooting pain seizing up.  Since I was trying to be “tough” I did not listen to this warning sign.  I just powered through in pain.

Pain is something that RA folks just deal with.  Even with medications, pain is still ever present and a part of life.  I’ve been dealing with pain and other health things for so long that I just didn’t believe this back pain to be any different.  So after a little rest I did the second set of the kettlebell lifts.  Even though I could feel the sting of a sharp pain in the first move, I clenched my teeth and gutted out 19 more.  I knew that I would be sore, sure, I’ve done that before where I killed my hammies and could barely stand up a couple of hours later.  I just figured it would be like that.  So, I cooled off with some very painful stretches on the floor and then went to grab my bag from the locker and head off to teach some tennis.

As I lifted my bag up, I couldn’t even clear my head to sling the strap across my shoulder.  The pain was electric, hot, and frightening.  I dragged myself to my car and lumbered to get into the seat.  Then as I was driving, I was stuck in traffic behind a truck that had caught fire.  Thus, I  ended up sitting for close to 40 minutes before I arrived at the tennis courts.  As I had been sitting in the car I could feel my back and my legs tightening up.  I turned off the engine and cringed as I tried to open the door.  My legs were so heavy and I had to use my arms to help swing them out of the car.  As I tried to stand up, I felt something twinge – slip – pinch – wobble…it hurt…and then it didn’t stop hurting.  There was no way I could stand up fully.  I was trapped at a high school parking lot with my tennis classes about to start across the street.  Fantastic!

That was Monday morning.  I quickly got my classes covered with other coaches and went home to begin ice therapy and I-Be_Hurtings (ibuprofen)…800 Mg geltabs.  I popped the Advil and hobbled to the floor.  I thought that I was hurting pretty bad for DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness – have had it before with legs and just thought that this was an extreme case).  I didn’t sleep as the pain just continued to get worse.  So I phoned my sister who had some pretty bad back issues a while back.  She agreed I should just keep icing it and see if it gets better.  It got worse.  Later that night I couldn’t move without clinging to a wall, countertop, on the bottom of my putter as I used it like a cane.

For three days I had endured and only ever felt a little okay when I was sitting still with an ice pack in place.  Finally, I got to the doc’s today.  Herniated disc.  No big shock there.  So he wants me to take prednisone.  Ahhhhh, no!  He also said no lifting…terrific, there goes my trying to get in some extra hardcore workouts before the crazy schedule of school started again.  Now, I’m taking even more steps away from fitness because I let my ambition get the best of me.

I will listen to my doctor about not lifting, since I can’t anyway.  He suggested that I walk in the pool in order to keep mobile.  I’ll listen and do that too.  But I’m still not so sure about taking the roids.  I just don’t like the thought of that.  So, even though not listening to my body got me into trouble in the first place, I’m still not sure that I will take the prescription.  In any case, I pushed too hard and now I’m paying for it.

“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” ~His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

Today I am grateful for my amazing, kind-hearted, soft-spoken Dad.  My Dad is like my own personal life tutor.  He is gentle and ever-present.  His love is the very definition of unconditional.  It never makes me feel clausterphobic.  He is not someone who says, “I love you” or gives a lot of hugs.  In fact, he is very, very reserved with showing any emotion on a regular basis.  That is why, when he does get emotional it affects all of us so much more.  He never raises his voice.  He doesn’t punish in a painful or spiteful way.  He expresses disappointment – worse than any screaming match or harsh words I can endure.  Thus, I know where, how, when I’ve disappointed my father throughout the years…those times stick in my throat and I choke them back as I did the tears.  My father is the embodiment of sacrifice.  He has given so much to stay in a marriage rocked by disease.  My mother’s R.A. has been a curse.  My father, owner of a youthful, wide-eyed wanderlust spirit, has never seen even a small fraction of the world he once wanted to experience.  Vacation funds have been diverted to medical expenses.  Bike rides, hikes, and camping under the skies has given way to comfortable hotel rooms with sturdy beds.  The last time we went camping as a family I was in grade school and I’m not even sure if my youngest sister was born.  That is a lifetime ago.

My Dad has his close friends, he participates in church and with community philanthropies as much as he can, he is on many of the neighbors’ speed dials as a free-of-charge “Mr. Fix It.”  Despite all of the demands of maintaining a career in the competitive world of sales, he continues, as he always has, to put his family first.  He drops everything at a moment’s notice to be there for his 96 year-old mother, my mom, me and my sisters, and now his granddaughter.  The 18 month old is the light of his world these days.  Prior to that, the mini-schnauzer that I bought against their wishes in 1994 at the beginning of my junior year at U of I, Molly (put down in 2006) was the one thing that could put a smile on his face, guaranteed.  I think both Molly and now my niece represent the reciprocity of unconditional love.  The rest of his family does love him, but with the condition that we have cost him both the highs and the lows of the experience.  Hence, knowing that there has been disappointment there.

I don’t know how I would have endured all of my medical mess over the course of my life, and especially in these past two years where both the physical and the mental woes collided at the same time, without my Dad.  He has been there through it all as I spilled my guts, was sad, was afraid, was angry, was frustrated, was hopeless, and got determined in intermittent spurts of motivation. I am not comfortable showing all of those cards to my Mom as she deals on a daily basis with all of her demons…demons that have become a rift in the relationship that I have with her.  My struggles spawn a blame game with her which then, inevitably, ends up causing her to feel worse about herself, her parenting, her marriage, and things from her past that she can not do anything about.  Thus, for much of my adult life, I’ve sheltered her from my raw emotions and have been too guarded to feel that same connection with her that I appreciate so much with my Dad.  I know that bothers her too, but it isn’t nearly as bad as when I’ve let my honestly creep out with her in the past and that sent her reeling.  I mourn that disconnect frequently, but it is a coping mechinism that I am thoroughly aware of and choose to enact.

Having a chronic disease like R.A. is much more than simply treating and managing R.A. alone.  Everyone has their own personal hells, challenges, and struggles and struggles.  Simply seeing something as a plot on a two-dimensional timeline hardly begins to hack away at it.  I can not begin to unravel the complex, knotted web of complications that are a result of choices upon choices I’ve made througout the years.  Coming into such a predicament, as we all do, it really helps to have someone like my Dad there to help and simply provide that constant calm presence.  As much as he is a hard-core, tried and true Roman Catholic, he sure does live out some Buddhist philosophies too.  I like that!  Maybe that is why I used that quote today.  My Dad has not gotten what he had hoped for in his life on a surface level: vacations, time to learn to play golf better, a nicer car…but, he has earned the genuine and deepest of love and respect from his family.  Given a choice, I bet a lot of men would want that over anything else.

Today the two families are getting together for a father’s day picnic.  My brother-in-law’s family is that p.d.a. type; they hug and kiss, tell eachother that they love one another, and truly like spending time together.  We are not the opposite end of that spectrum, just not so far on their side of it.  Today I am feeling really bad physically….maybe it is all that crazy stormy weather that has been rocking this area lately.  Maybe it is that I’m just experiencing a flare up – or both….or neither.

My right ear is not working.  It feels clogged up and the pressure hurts.  I found out that sometimes R.A. patients can have flare ups in the fluid of the ear as it is very similar to your joint fluid.  Who knew?  I’ve still not scheduled an appointment with an E.N.T. doc – and I know I really need to.  This ear thing and my constant sinus problems have combined to make me a little too wobbly and dizzy.  I didn’t even hear my phone ringing yesterday because I was laying on my good ear side reading a book.  I was that deaf…and I need to fix that a.s.a.p.  But, despite the health issues, I’m very excited to go to this picnic.  I can’t wait to just give my Dad a hug and let him know that he is the best.  He doesn’t want me to buy him anything….fine, I’ll still get him a card.  But, being a closet Buddhist, my Dad knows that it isn’t about “stuff,” it is about having that time together.  That just adds to the list of why my Dad is the best!

So on this father’s day, I am grateful and there is simply no better medicine than love.

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.  Seriously, the pace of my life has been such that securing even the slightest bit of time for anything other than sleeping, laundry, bill payments, and cleaning was damn near impossible.  It is funny how my sister, the new mom with an 18 month old, can summon help within moments of placing a phone call.  Meanwhile, spinster big sis, me, can receive no such help because I have no entered the noble business of providing my family babies.  Ok, I love my sister and that does sound terribly jealous.  It isn’t that I’m jealous.  I babysit all the time and realize how hard doing things that I do all the time are when you have a baby to watch after too.  I love babysitting because it reminds me of the simple freedoms I enjoy by not having any kids.  However, it is frustrating that so much of my family’s attention, time, money, and effort is so completely consumed in one place.  As I’ve been struggling and asking for help, I am not getting it.  That leaves me feeling terribly alone.

Since my last post, I’ve continued to hold my methotrexate injections.  One, I simply hate giving myself the shot; I get all creeped out that I’ve done it wrong and I’ll get some sort of crazy flesh-eating disease at the injection site.  Secondly, I was just so damn spent that I needed to get some sort of immune system back online to help me finally kick an 8 month long sinus infection and associated, disgusting, side-splitting cough.  I even ended up with pnuemonia.  I can’t remember if I wrote about that, I don’t think that I did.  I was coughing so badly that I couldn’t get any air in and I was freaking out.  It kept me awake at night, caused me to have to pull over while driving, and happened at the same time that the Swine Flu outbreak started.  So, with such a nasty cough and all over crappy appearance, everyone around me seemed to quaratine me away.  Finally, I made my way to the urgent care and was pronounced with walking pnuemonia.  This is the first week I’ve even started to get back to feeling good.  Thank God for summer sun, fresh air, and vacation!

All of my health struggles have really played havoc with my fitness plans.  That isn’t to say I’m defeated, as I know I am not.  I am merely just getting back to some strength.  Not having any sort of medically based treatment plan in place for the R.A. makes the pain a little tougher to bear, but I do.  I’ve even enjoyed going to the driving range to hit golf balls.  I had my clubs regripped with “an arthritic” grip.  I also bought a new bag that only weighs 3.5 pounds.  It makes it a lot easier to get in and out of the car.  I’ve noticed that my hands stiffen after golfing – just as they do with tennis – so I’ve found that if I just tuck them under my butt to keep them warm and compressed, that works.  I do this while sitting to watch TV.  I have to admit that asking the golf store guy about grips made me feel old.  They even recommended that I try the “transition” clubs for seniors.  Maybe I’ll do that eventually, but for now I still like swinging my heavy and powerful Big Berthas.

Golf aside, the tennis is fine.  I am continuing to run programs despite the effects of this slumping economy.  Sign-ups are down.  My costs are the same.  I will not make a profit this year.  I am okay with this since I prepared for it.  I’ve been really cutting out all kinds of frivolous spending.  Still, I will probably have to dive into some credit to get through the next nine weeks.  I’m still having to wrestle with my food issues.  Luckily, being on such a tight budget limits me from over indulging in much of anything.

I’ve been keeping up with my Go-Wear-Fit.  It is one of the coolest things I’ve ever purchased for fitness.  I had my bike tuned up and I’ve been riding.  This hurts me all over, but I don’t care since I can endure it.  I love feeling like I’m flying when I get up into a high gear on a flat stretch so that I’m barely pedalling and just screaming along!  It is great and my hopes are to get my mileage up.  I still need a day to recover after I’ve done a ride.  Whereas, that stiffness and soreness just pissed me off at first, I now embrace it as part of just knowing that I am doing it.  I don’t know many R.A. patients that can still do twenty-five miles.  Of course, I also don’t personally know many other R.A. patients, I just know that my mom hasn’t done anything like that since the early 80’s.

Speaking of R.A. mommy, she has been doing Pilates.  She spends beaucoup bucks to have private lessons on a reformer machine.  My mom claims to be having a whole heck of a lot of bad days.  She is really limping and says that it is painful in all of her lower body joints.  She has been changing her meds and adding in new stuff for the always new conditions that seem to errupt from complications of this and that.  She scolds me for not taking my shots.  She also buys these subscription only, hosptial based R.A. newsletters and magazines.  She gets two copies and always gives me stacks of this stuff to read.  She claims that I need to be well informed.  I agree that is probably true, but I’d rather my doctor is well informed for me.  I have enough to think about and keep track of.  I also don’t like to use my free time to read up on my friggin’ disease.  Yuck!  I don’t want to think more about it, I just want to tough it out.

Maybe this thick-headedness is not the best thing for my long-term joint health, but I don’t care right now.  I just need to do what I think is right for right now.  So, for now, I’ll continue to try and work out, eat healthy, sleep better and more, and enjoy some down time with my vacation.  More later as I’m sure I’ll have some more stories to share.

So I’ve have the GoWearFit for a little over a month.  Although I am not outwardly attempting to do anything fancy with my workouts or diet, I am learning a lot about how my body burns calories, my sleep efficiency, and where and when I am active during my otherwise sedentary day.  I used the “report” generator on the website to create a monthly analysis.  That was really informative.  The most interesting thing is seeing how my sleep patterns vary.  I’m not that efficient at sleep.  It is really something to see your actual sleep time blocked out.  There is an interesting shift that happens with my sleep around 2 a.m.  I go from burning 1.2 cal/min to 1.7.  That must be because of increased brain activity during my REM cycle – I would guess.  If I work out in the morning then I can burn more calories by just doing what I normally do.  Also, by eating breakfast, I keep my average cal/min higher throughout the morning than if I don’t eat anything when I get going in the morning.  Lastly, all the running around I do with the team after school seems to wear off rather quickly.  Honestly, this is a great tool and the only complaint I have is that website is really, really slow.  It is not supported by Mozilla, which is what I use for everything, so I have to use Explorer.  Maybe it is that or the Java that is slow, but it takes forever to get from screen to screen, upload, and then view the results.  It could also be that the site is just overwhelmed too.  Nonetheless, it is totally worth it and I’m more than impressed!

It snowed last night and this morning.  The weather looks pretty bad for tennis this week.  I’m taking another Sunday off since I am completely burned out on work.  I still have over 100 research papers to grade.  I do a few here and there throughout the day.  I just need to bear down and do it.  Making locker tags is so much more fun.  I also ordered the boys bag tags.  We shall see how that turns out.  I’m really enjoying the boys team more than the girls.  The boys work out harder, don’t complain about running and lifting, and get really pumped when they win games.  The girls are fun in a different way.  They get into the “sister” stuff more: getting little gifts, taking pictures, and dressing up.  I’m making the guys dress up for home matches.  They either love or hate it.  There are a few guys that know they look good and strut around a little taller and prouder.  The boys that like to blend in, because they are self-conscious, seem to squirm a little as they walk the halls in a nice button down shirt and dress pants.  It is good practice for them though.  They have come a long way in just a little while.

Okay, a few random thoughts then I’m out.  I had a very vivid dream the other night where I was holding the hand of some guy that I knew loved me – it is a dream.  It felt so real and I realized how nice it was to have that personal contact.  It made me realize how starved so many of us are for something so simple and reassuring as that.  The PLANET EARTH series should be mandatory viewing for hish school students.  Kids need to appreciate the world that they are a part of – and they need to feel a part of it, not disconnected because of their technological dependencies and instantaneous lifestyles.  Kids should also have to do some sort of coursework which requires community service: spending time with the elderly, cleaning up roadsides, visiting kids with disabilities.  The types of kids who already do this are not the kids who would most benefit the most from doing it.  I can think of a handful of my students I would love to send on a PeaceCorps kind of excursion.  I wish that I could just take them to Uganda or Peru or Nepal myself.  I cried watching the series finale of Battlestar Galactica.  I love how brilliantly they wove all the stories together at the end.  I kind of saw it coming based on what I know about hominid evolution.  I was sad that Starbuck never go to tell Lee that she loved him and vice versa.  Instead, she vanished and proved that she was indeed an angel walking among her people.  She was not afraid of death, rather she was afraid of being forgotten.  That is my fear too – must be why I write.  The characters of Divine Six and Divine Balter were very cleverly inserted into our modern world to provide an interesting commentary on “all this happened before and all this will happen again.”  The cyclical nature of the universe as a whole is represented with this concept.  I think about plate tectonics.  With the exception of The Himalayas, our mountains are eroding.  Eventually new ones will be made and then those too will erode.  It is amazing to consider that the gorgeous white sands of Florida are the quart which has been polished from the erosion of the Appalachian Mountains, which were once greater than the Rockies.  I totally dig mountains – so I live in the flatlands.  I should have been a Geo scientist.  I just wish I had more time and money so that I could travel and then write amazing stories about nature.

So, now that I’ve rambled….which is completely due to my whacked out sleep schedule…I apologize, I will wrap this up by saying the R.A. has been bad.  I’m not dwelling on it.  I’m so stiff and sore though.  I think it is all the major weather stuff (bringing me back to the assertion that our climate is infact shifting and our storm systems have become more dynamic in order to balance the greater swings from homeostasis).  The pressure change directly impacts joints.  With low pressure systems there is less compresion on the joint so it can swell more easily.  Okay, Planet Earth is showing the snow leopard.  Gorgeous – simply gorgeous creature!  Maybe I’ll grade some more – eventually.  I want to do more Eco-teaching with literature and critical thinking on these kinds of things.

I am so sorry for not posting here sooner.  I simply got very, very busy: things like keeping up with Doc appts and attempting to find the time to prepare super healthy food and run around with a sick cat…yeah, life was kickin’ my sorry ass all over and I couldn’t sit still long enough to write without falling asleep sitting in a chair.  Now my sleep schedule is all jacked up.  I’ve been having a hard time stilling my thoughts enough to fall asleep, then I’m having such active and vivid dreams that I’m often jolted awake way earlier than the alarm.  All in all, I’m lucky to get 4 or 5 hours of sleep.  This is why I had THE BEST Sunday yesterday.  I took the day off working at the club and just slept!  I was crashed out on the couch with the sun pouring in through the window.  The cat, finally done throwing up, was crashed out on top of me.  The TV was off and we just listened to the wind and the birds.  It was so peaceful!

The R.A. has been pretty bad.  The lifting and working out must have tipped the pain scale.  I was having such a hard time walking after any stretch of inactivity.  Mornings were excruciating.  I was hanging on to the bed and leaning on a dresser to make my way those first dozen or so steps.  My fingers were locking up and I attempted to wear my new thermaskin gloves more often – even at school.  Those things ARE GREAT!  See my previous posts for the link to the store….and no, I’m not getting anything for the endorsement.  The velcro is very catchy, but they do warm the knuckles and wrists.  I am very glad that I’ve had them for those  mild and cold snaps of weather these past two weeks.

I’m also back to taking the damn shot.  Of course three days after taking it I was sick as a dog.  My migraines came back with my period.  There were two days when I didn’t know how I’d drive home.  Of course, this could all be tied to the lack of sleep – which I attribute to sinus trouble – which I attribute to my immune system on siesta due to the damn shot – or lack of sleep attributed to constant and increasing pain – and no, I didn’t take any pain medicine (which I could, but it tears up my stomach and then I’m not sleeping due to heartburn)….man it is all interconnected!  If one thing is out of whack the whole system goes screwy!  I do know that I NEED SLEEP!  This is not a good mental state: exhausted, emotional (hormonal emotional), and in pain.  I know I’m preachin’ to the choir here, right?  Put Monthly Mother Nature on top of all that I am was ready to rip heads off.  I almost cried in school the other day because I was just so tired of putting in so many hours with my before-school frequent fliers for detentions.  I just really need Spring Break to roll around.  Then I can rest and enjoy some daylight.

The GoWearFit has been awesome!!!  I dropped 4 pounds – very slowly – in maybe three weeks just by seeing what I’m burning without doing anything more than eating more veggies.  I love the MSG warning.  That goes off with all kinds of processed foods.  I’m shopping at Whole Foods (which I can’t afford) because I have so much stuff in the freezer that sends my alarm beeping “MSG! MSG!”  Kind of frightening when you consider all the chemical crap in most of our food.  I finished reading “SKINNY BITCH.”  That is a VEGAN brochure hidden in a catchy self-help title.  Basically, it scared me but I am still prone to enjoying an occasional vittle despite the guilt and horrifying images that come to mind with it!  The positive side of reading that is that I thought about food a lot more…the negative is that is sounds like the self-loathing self-talk of any woman who has ever had or continues to battle an eating disorder.  I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I’m thrilled that the boys’ team is really coming together.  We started with two coaches and two players – we were told that we had to have 12 to make the season a go.  Now I have 20 really nice and fun players.  They seem to really enjoy it! I didn’t secure the recruit from football who showed amazing promise, if only I could have pulled off a golden set….6-1 didn’t cut it!  I’m fine with that since I’m so pleased with the boys that are out there in 40 degree rain and wind.  They have given me a lot of moments to beam with pride.  We are supposed to play the school’s first ever home match tomorrow afternoon.  The boys are all dressing up in professional wear for school and I hope that the rain holds off.  I think we could stand a chance to win!  Our #1 singles came from soccer and is super talented despite his minimal playing experience!

I’m really hoping to get my sleep balanced again.  Although yesterday was a perfect day, those are few and very far between.  I need to use that kind of time to knock out research papers!  I have over a hundred to go!!!  Yeesh I need a T.A!

I decided to post today since I wanted to try and get some more feedback from my new GoWearFit.  Surf http://www.gowearfit.com – very, very cool!  This gadget, which I totally could not afford, is AWESOME!  You strap a little sensor to the back of your left arm and that is it.  It records the amount of calories that you burn doing everything – even just sitting here now typing this.  You can even wear it through the night and see the average calories per minute you burn while sleeping.  Not only that, but it also counts steps using a different technology than my crappy $16 pedometer.  Then using METs, you can track how many minutes of moderate and vigorous activity you do each day.  For all three of these options you can set goals.

My goals are to burn 3880 calories, walk 8000 steps, and get 60 minutes of moderate exercise.  I’ve been trying to get into the vigorous range, but I think that is reserved for running, because I’m totally pushing myself on the bike and elliptical and not getting above that 6 MET range.  So I’m seeing some interesting numbers.  First of all, it is damn hard to burn 3880.  I haven’t yet.  I can get to the high 2000’s – but that is with my normal walking around school and doing a bike or elliptical in the morning.  I haven’t yet done 8000 steps.  I didn’t realize how hard that is.  The moderate exercise is okay.  I think I need to change from 3-6 METs as the range to 4-6 since I don’t think my walking up and down the stairs is really enough to see progress.

There are some other cool features.  I’ve had the MSG! warning come up.  I guess the device can sense that crappy additive.  I ate a french fry on Thursday and no sooner than had that hit my lips than did the indicator start beeping.  That is really cool.  So, of course, I Googled MSG and found a bunch of really frightening stuff.  I don’t think I can go a day without some MSG and/or derivative getting into me.  It is everywhere.  Also, you can set the display to give you an alarm and message when you need a reminder – like to take some medicine.  All of this interfaces through the website.  The website creates reports and charts – it is awesome!  I tried to log food, in order to compare the calories burned to calories consumed.  The javascript failed and I was unable to complete this step.  It is purely a fault of my older computer, nothing against the company.

I am so used to the heart rate monitors I used to use almost religiously.  I wish I could see my heart rate.  However, I do understand that trying to scale feedback to fit a certain number does not provide as much feedback as this device.  My heart rate is unique and just because it is at a certain number doesn’t mean anything.  When you boil it all down it is all about banking.  In order to drop weight I need to burn more than I consume…that is what this helps you do – pretty effectively.  I just need to know what I’m actually consuming.  Considering the amount of calories it says I’ve been burning than two things could be happening here.  One, I’m eating a ridiculous amount of food – like over 3,000 calories a day.  I remember hearing that Michael Phelps eat 10,000 calories – that is a boatload of food.  I’m not sure what 3,000 calories of food looks like, but it seems like a lot and maybe that IS really the case.  I just don’t know since I’m too crazy to actually follow portion control.  The other thing I’ve considered is that my medication and thyroid thing is effecting how I actually metabolize fats.  That is, even though I’m burning a lot, the question is does it actually go away?  Is there something causing me to still bloat and stay heavy?

I ask this because I really, really want to get back to running.  I have dreams about running sometimes.  The impact from that kind of exercise combined with my weight gain has made running impossible for way too many years.  I just want to run and jump and not worry that my knee or ankle will twist and shatter beneath me.  I was watching the frosh football players do sprints last week and just wished so much that I could blast through the air like that.  Granted  that they are twenty years younger than me and in way better shape than I’ve ever been or will be, but it was great to see their huge kicks, explosive steps, and balance.  I want that!

So I decided to play a lot of tennis today.  I ran as much as I could.  Amazingly, I was awesome.  I haven’t hit that well and that hard in so long.  I was ripping serves, chasing down short balls, blazing forehand return winners, and getting down for my backhand.  I could sense that it hurt, but the rush of just doing it overcame the sting of each step and tightening in my fingers.  I know I am going to really hurt tomorrow.  It was more activity than I’ve pushed myself to do in more than eight months.  My boys tennis team starts tomorrow and I am going to try to be active with them.  I know that I’ll have good days and bad days with my RA, but I just need to push through the pain.  I’m only getting older, so make the most of the moment.

I saw a lady last week with really, really deformed hands.  Her knuckled were so swollen and her fingers were twisted in the “swans neck” shape.  Her hands stand out as the most shocking ones I’ve ever seen.  It made me grateful that I am not that bad – not even close.  I Googled images for RA hand deformity.  I don’t resemble anything like those images.  My fingers are a little curvy and my big, middle joint can get knobby, but I can use my hands fine once I get them going.  So, I did decide to buy the Thermaskin gloves – as a preventative thing.  I use them at night while I sleep.  I helps to prevent me from clenching my hands into fists while I dream.  I often wake up with nail marks in my palms.  The gloves keep me warm and relaxed.  So far, I think they are a good purchase.

So, as far as the RA goes this week, I just don’t care about it.  I want to and believe that I can get fit once again.  It is a long road and there will be pain with every step.  But there would still be pain if I did nothing too.  Might as well just adopt a fighter attitude and know that if I use my new “toys” the right way I can make some strides.  Ok, time to cook something for dinner.  Have a happy week ahead!

I’ve enjoyed the emptiness of the school’s weight room at 6:30 a.m.  I haven’t really pushed myself outside of my safety zone since I am just there with my assistant coach and a few of the guys from the team.  These guys will soon be switching to the daily afternoon slot.  So, just yesterday (Friday) I went down to the weight room after school.  Big mistake.

I walked through the door and saw a group of football stars hoggin’ all the equipment.  Once they saw me they were all shouting my name and egging me on to lift with them.  The rumors of my lifting days have circulated through to this crowd now from former students of mine.  One of my current kids loaded up a bar with 35’s and said, “come on show us how you can do this!”  The other guys gathered around.  “That is more than I can do” a little freshman confessed.  I was wearing my dress clothes and didn’t know if I should try.  The last time I did, I fatigued and had to get the assist to lift it back to the rack.  My student swung around to spot me, “come on, do it!”  My competitve spirit got the better of me and I plopped down on the bench.  I wrapped my hands around the bar and counted out “1-2-3” then my student lifted the bar off.  “Got it?” he asked.  “Uh huh.” I muttered and began the drop to my chest.  I knocked out 3 reps rather fluidly – which shocked me.  Hmmm, lifting this first before going through a warm up was key.  “Ok, now do the 45’s,” he said as he was already changing the plates.

“I haven’t done this in three years,” I whined back.  “Come on, I’ll spot and just do two.”  Against reason, I did it.  The other kids were impressed.  “You’ve gotta be one of the strongest teachers here,” one boy said.  “I’m sure I’m not,” I shot back.  I then did some medicine ball abs with the guys.  It was a lot of fun being active.  Yeah, it hurt.  I knew it would.  But I’m so glad that I did that since I know that I won’t always be able to, RA or not, age will limit me eventually.  No point in acting like a senior citizen when I’m not.

Today is shot day.  I’m not sure what I’m doing about that still.  I’ve been very congested and feeling run down (per my last post), so I’m just not confident that my meds will actually help.  I think I have bloodwork and a subsequent office visit coming up really soon.  I need to find some time to go bleed into a vial or two or three.  Tip: make sure to drink a ton of water so that the blood actually flows.  I had some really hard sticks over the summer when I was dehydrated.

I’m finally resolved about the summer.  I am NOT going to do my tennis camps during the day.  I’ll still teach the adults at night and on the weekend, but I’m looking into just doing some hard core fitness work on myself.  I know how to do it – I just need to do it.  So, hopefully that will be good.  I’m not sure how the money will work, but I’m willing to struggle for two months to make up for the year plus I’ve just pushed my health needs aside to run like a maniac through my work weeks.

My friend from college came up for a visit.  We were discussing the good ole days.  It feels like a lifetime ago.  I remember walking across campus in the bitter Midwest winter weather.  We talked about our skit from acting class and the places we used to go and hang out.  I’m so grateful to have her there to stir up some really nice moments from my past like that.  I’m grateful….for so much.

Tonight I attended the funeral service for one of my student’s little sister.  The girl died at age 8 from hydro-encephalitis.  I was filled with guilt that I allow myself to think that RA is so bad.  This little girl was never able to walk.  I complain about how walking hurts – at least I can walk.  The service was nice and I am glad that I was there to show my support.  On my way home I was struck with a craving for anything fried and fast food.  I realized that is was just my response to being triggered emotionally.

It wasn’t too hard to actually NOT go through a drive and order, then devour, some crap.  Rather, I went to Whole Foods and bought a bunch of healthy stuff.  I’ll probably have even more craving tomorrow, and the next few days, but I really want to get some of my fitness back.  I could give a shit about ever wearing two inch heals, but you can bet that I want to be able to grab hold of a bar with more than the 45’s on it so that knock out some solid lifting while I still can.  I still don’t know about that shot….I think I’ll opt out again.

I didn’t publish on Saturday night because I was up late celebrating my sister’s birthday.  It was a fun night, but maybe a little too fun.  I didn’t get to sleep until 2 a.m.  The next morning I was dead.  My throat was sore, I had a cough, and my head was pounding (no, not from any drinking).  I pulled myself together to go teach tennis.  The nodule in my right hand was especially irritated.  I knocked out my 5 hours and was happy to head home and get into my pajamas and robe.  I had a fever and I was freezing.  One of the associated conditions that goes with R.A. is Raynaud’s: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/raynauds-disease/DS00433

This happens to me from time to time where my fingers get almost blue.  I can’t get warm enough to be comfortable.  I will sit ontop of my hands, hoping that my body heat will help.  I will also run my hands under warm water.  This is nice too and makes me wish I could just spend some quality time on a vacation somewhere warm with water.  How about here: http://www.bibleplaces.com/deadsea.htm

Yeah, The Dead Sea.  Apparently it can help R.A.  I think that would be nice.  Unfortunately, in this economy I will not be enjoying any vacations any time soon.  I was thinking about travel.  My mom claimed that her R.A. flared up due to flying.  She says that traveling is so awful with R.A. because of the shifts in pressure.  HERE IS MY QUESTION???  Is this for real?  I have not ever felt a flare up brought on by flight.  But, I’d love some feedback on whether or not this is possible.  Please leave me your comments.

Other than luggin’ luggage, I can’t imagine that travel is a health threat.  So what else can send an R.A. patient into extreme suffering.  I’ve determined it is just getting rundown.  I’ve been kicking things at high gear for so long that I don’t know any other speed.  Prior to starting this blog I was laid up for one week with a double ear infection. I had vertigo so bad that I was on anti-vertigo and anti-nausea medications.  Such extreme illness is the only thing that will force me to take it down a notch.  The medications caused me to sleep the whole first week of January.  I missed work.  Upon my return, I not only went full throttle at my normal activities, but also had to play catch up.  Add to that the start of my pre-season boys’ team 6:30 a.m. lifting sessions, and I was going right back into rundown mode again.  I realized that my body could guage “crashes” to my days off.

Thus, knowing that I was feeling dead tired Thursday and Friday, it is no shock that I have spent my three day weekend fighting some upper-respiratory thing.  So, listening to my body, I took it easy.  I slept in on Saturday, Sunday, and today.  I’m going to bed early tonight.  I started using my Flonase again.  There is nothing else out there that seems to help me as much as that stuff.  I’m drinking fluids, popping vitamin C, and filling up the vaporizor.  The one thing that I didn’t do was dry my hair all the way prior to running outside into 25 degree cold air.  Isn’t that “an old wives’ tale” about catching a cold that way?  I don’t know if it is psycho-somatic, but my cough was WAY worse today.  I’m hoping that I get better this week.

So because I am still so rundown/sick I still have yet to take an injection.  My R.A. symptoms are pretty bad.  I have extreme stiffness and my pinky and ring fingers are very knobby and curled up.  My neck has been very stiff too.  I even had a dream where my stiff neck prevented me from turning my head while driving.  And, for the first time ever, I had jaw pain.  I’m a frequent gum chewer, and today when I popped in a piece of gum it actually hurt to chew it.  That was frustrating, yet made me consider the chewing-pain factor might develop into a positive situation whereby I must only drink protien shakes!  That could be beneficial – for a while, at least.

Lastly, I checked out some compression/warmth gloves online.  They are $30 (which is a lot for me to spend).  Here is the page, I’d love some feedback on whether or not these actually help and are worth the cost: http://www.arthritissupplies.com/site/371928/product/ATS8199

As always, thank you for reading and for any helpful comments/feedback.

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I’m currently reading:

The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki