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It isn’t like this is a new idea.  I live in the Chicago suburbs.  Lately, we (as well as much of the Midwest) have been getting hammered by one severe storm after another.  These low pressure cycles sweep through in an aggressive rush rendering old oak trees a little lighter as wind gusts of up to 70 mph free the trees of their spindly bare branches.  There are a lot of older trees in the area that have these dead limbs.  I park my car under one that threatens to splinter with a strong blast.  Thus, I would probably need a new car.  The oak trees in my neighborhood range from about three stories to five stories tall.  It is impressive.  Like a skeletal system, these sturdy and strong wooden bodies endure the tribulations of the four seasons.  Like my skeletal system, severe weather, pushes them to suffer more than is the status quo.

I’m sure that these storms have more than arthritis patients aching.  I’ve heard that people with broken bones can sense the change in the weather too.  Apparently, as a low pressure boundary encroaches, once-broken bones may have an opportunity to expand more.  High pressure feels good because it helps to push that somewhat compromised bone together.  With RA, high pressure helps to press our swollen, aching, and compromised joints together.  Low pressure allows for the aches and pains to fire up.  This is how it was explained to me.  Looking at the sizes of the ganglion cysts on the top of my right foot seems to be confirming the hypothesis.

It was almost three weeks ago that I started a short-dose of prednisone to combat the bursitis I had developed from a rather innocuous nodule on my left achiles.  The bubble on my left heel was simple unsightly.  My feet, in general, are unsightly.  Nonetheless, I took the damn prednisone.  It is amazing how much better EVERYTHING felt.  Yes, not medicating with methotrexate and the other cocktail of RA drugs means that I’ve pretty much allowed myself to “tune out” the usual aches and pains of the eveyday.  But, what a difference about three days of prednisone made.  It was unbelievable!  I was running and jumping and chasing my two and a half year old niece around her swingset with ease.  Then the course of the prednisone was finished.

Within one week, and in combination with this powerful weather, I’ve felt like garbage.  I notice the achiness of my fingers and wrists.  I’ve seen the bubble reappear on my left heel and watching the crazy swelling of the larger bubbles on the top of my right foot.  RA said, “remember me?” and made its return loud and clear.  Yet, I am still holding my meds.  I saw my G.P. doc yesterday for a pre-op physical and he  was intrigued that I was so much more conscious of the RA pain.  We both agreed that it is a case of that adage: “It is sometimes easier to live with the devil you know, than the angel you have never met.”  I think that going without meds for more than a year now I was certainly accustomed it.  Sure, the weather would turn, and I would ache.  This is not something that a perfectly normal and healthy individual might not also feel.  This is just how it is.

What I find ironically and strangely symbolic is that as the weather rages, it sends me raging at the conscious acknowledgment that I do in fact have RA.  I think, not having popped pills and poked myself with syringes, it was kind of easy to forget that I had it.  Sure, those first steps in the morning always felt like I was walking on shards of broken glass, but by 10 a.m. I was doing fine.  I also wasn’t logging posts here, so I really didn’t dicuss or think about RA for weeks at a time.  I was too busy.  It seems like this past spring was one of the most mild ones I can remember in a long time.  That helps to the illusion of being RA free.  And since I’m not taking meds, I don’t see my rheumatologist – after all, what is the point?  She will say, “take this” and I’ll say, “no thank you.”

Anyway, the weather now reminds me that I indeed have this damn disease.  The bubbles (those ugly arthritic nodules) reminds me that I have it.  The searing joint pain, yes, hot and stinging – more than achy, reminds me too.  I had a dream last night where I was running (with great ease) through a beautiful park.  I decided that I wanted to see more and more of this park so I just kept on running.  The running was so smooth and I was breathing a healthy heavy breathing, not anything like the pre-heart-attack huffing and gasping I’d probably do if I tried this in real life.  The dream was so simple and lovely.  Then I woke up and had to go to the bathroom.  I was immediately frustrated by the pain from my feet.  There it was: reality.

I’ve been reading a lot lately.  Part of it is school related.  I’m trying to get a jump on planning for the fall.  I want to be AWESOME this coming school year!  In all of my reading, I can so easily “get behind” characters who rise to a challenge, attack it creatively, and achieve a level of success.  I see it happening in the pages and then step back to the real world.  Things are such a mess, besides my own personal health woes.  There is the oil disaster, the bankrupt state budgets (which I fear will negatively impact me next spring), the human rights sturggles that have always been a part of mankind but are thrown much more in our face due to the instant accessibility of our mainstream media, and probably most sad, this ever-more-pronounced sense that I feel in culture’s move away from heart, spirituality, faith.  It is a dog eat dog world out there, nature is venting her fury, and when it seems like masses of humans should be reaching out to one another with kind, open hearts – myself included – we tend to get more and more wrapped up in the rat race.  Sure there are exceptions, with certain individuals who can embody peace, generosity, and spiritual strength despite the storm…sure, even individuals can shift in and out of that mode too.  I consider myself that type.  Yet, I can’t help shaking this sense that we are all in the midst of a severe storm.  Although it may seem sunny at the moment, the storm is still raging in other ways.  It is in the worry I see carved into my dad’s wrinkles when he wonders how Medicare will sustain my mother once my dad retires from his firm three years from now?  If Medicare collapses or adjusts its benefits, will my parents have the retirement funds to make it?  It is in brother-in-law’s worry-laiden pondering as he fears that the collapse of the state budget will mean deep, deep public education cuts.  As a music teacher, he fears for the worst, especially given his Masters + 30 pay scale credentials will mean fewer schools would consider him.  God, such sad irony that a budget determines something like the weeding-out process of candidates.  My sister, knowing that this is the case, wonders how she can remain a stay-at-home mom and knows that a newer home with the additional bedroom she would need for the next baby they want is no longer in the cards at this time.  The storm is too unpredictable to think even that close-range into the future.  And, what happens if I get riffed?  Will I be able to afford Cobra?  How long would it take me to find a job given the sheer numbers of potentially out of work teachers when the projections of next year’s cuts combine with the realities of the cuts from this year?  It is terribly messy.  I wonder what can be done?  Where will the fixes come from?  Didn’t I too believe in the Hope that Obama seemed to embody?  I’m certainly not against him.  I just can’t imagine anyone short of a legit messiah being able to tackle the problems of this country, let alone the world, and being able to make a signigicant change without being able to conjure a few miracles.  At times, the suffering, the storms, the destruction and dysfunction seems so much that I can’t help to believe we are in some sort of “end of days.”  If the Mayan calendar has it right, I just might not need to worry about paying back some of my credit card debt.

How did I ever get so off topic?  Goodness.  On the flip side of this storm idea is that there is always “the calm after the storm,” which implies that to know such calm we must know the storm.  In order to bring this back to RA, I will suggest that my dream of carefree running suggests the possibility that I can achive it.  When my culture, my own family’s struggles, appear to be rather omninous, I can choose to believe in the hope of my own personal health.  Maybe the advancement of medicine and technology will mean that my RA is not so debilitating as it has been for my mom.  Maybe it means that should I be blessed with my own children, there will someday be a treatment to eliminate this gene from their genetic make-up.  Maybe, it is just the simple hope that I will experience that calm after the storm because I can, once again, trick my mind into thinking about something else and I’ll “forget” the pain.  Whatever the case, I am not an ostrich hiding my head in the sand because there is a storm raging at this moment.  I am aware.  I can sense it.  And, I can always hope.

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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.

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The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki