The Case Of The Torn Business Card

Torn Business Card

Encyclopedia Brown was happy that is was once again summertime. He walked over to the garage and hung up his sign: “Brown Detective Agency. 13 Rover Avenue. Leroy Brown, President. No case too small. $50 per day plus expenses.” (Oh man, talk about inflation! I remember when he used to charge just 25¢ per day!)

Encyclopedia Brown powered up his computer as he waited for a customer to walk in. (If his character was created recently, he would have probably been named Wikipedia Brown.)

The morning passed and not one customer entered the garage. Business was slow. (Must be the recession…)

In the corner, next to the bicycle, was a backpack that Encyclopedia Brown had found the day before as he rode through the park. He had meant to figure out who the owner was so that he could return it, but had forgotten about it the afternoon before, as he parked his bike and he rushed off to get a drink of water.

Encyclopedia Brown inspected the backpack. Inside was an iPod, a digital book reader, some hand gloves, a container of Visene, and some energy bars. Nothing contained any identifying information.

But wait! In the front pocket was something that looked like a business card. Encyclopedia Brown pulled it out. What and odd looking card…it had a drawing of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, “DIG IT” in large pink letters, and a message saying that there was a reward if found. Below that was a phone number. “(415) 555-”

Unfortunately, the bottom right corner of the card had been ripped before it was placed in the pocket. The last four numbers were missing.

But at least he had an area code to work with. 415. San Francisco.

Encyclopedia Brown started trying to decipher the business card. With the Leaning Tower of Pisa, maybe it belonged to a travel agency specializing in tours to Italy. A few minutes later, with the help of Google, Encyclopedia Brown had a list of ten travel agencies in San Francisco which matched the requirements.

He called all of them, but not one reported a missing backpack.

It was time to move on to the next plan. “Dig it.” Maybe this card belonged to a landscaping company! In just a couple of minutes he had a list of Italian-owned lawn care companies in San Francisco. Ghilotti Brothers, Romano Yard Care, and so on. Luckily, this list of names and phone numbers was much shorter that the previous one.

He called all of them, but no one reported a missing backpack.

What to do? Encyclopedia Brown was stumped, which does not happen very often.

Just at that moment, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy entered the garage.

“I need you help in finding…” Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy said – but was interrupted by Encyclopedia Brown before he could finish.

Encyclopedia Brown pulled out a non-disclosure agreement and a retainer agreement from a drawer, and placed them on the desk. “Please, in this day and age I need you to sign these forms before we can go any further.” (Wow, Encyclopedia Brown really has changed since I was young!)

Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy signed the first form. Before he could sign the second form, Encyclopedia Brown said: “There is no need to sign the second form. I know exactly what you are looking for!”

Encyclopedia Brown picked up the backpack and slid it across the desk.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy was elated to be reunited with his backpack that he had forgotten in the park the day before!

How did Encyclopedia Brown know that the lost backpack belonged to Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy?

Encyclopedia Brown was never one to give up. As he continued to envision the business card in his mind, he thought once again about the clues that were on the card.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Leaning. Slanted. Crooked.

Pink text…why was the text pink? Red. White. Pink. Pinky.

Dig it. Dig it? Or was he reading this wrong? Maybe it said digit. Yeah, that’s it! Number? Finger.

As Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy signed the first paper, Encyclopedia Brown saw that the last digit on his left hand was curved – and then everything fell into place!

The images and the text on the business care were a riddle for “crooked pinky finger”!

(And in case you are wondering…Encyclopedia Brown still did charge his fee. I told you he’s changed!)

I was a huge fan of Encyclopedia Brown when I was in elementary school – I just loved the concept of having to figure out the mystery in each chapter. It was always so much fun.

So today I thought I would have a little fun.

You see, two days ago I woke up and noticed that the pinky finger on my left hand had curved inward – seemingly overnight. This small finger now overlaps the neighboring ring finger.

I have no idea of this is permanent or temporary.

Yesterday the pain and swelling in this finger did increase significantly. (To be honest, I have never experienced so much pain in a finger before.) In my physical therapy sessions we are spending a lot of time on this finger. They even showed my  how I could use medical tape to try to straighten it out – although after an hour, I can’t bear the strain that results from doing so.

For the time being, I’ll just work my new crooked pinky finger into my life…and I won’t let it stop me from having fun!

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

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Despite Lupus: How To Live Well With A Chronic Illness

Despite LupusDespite Lupus: How To Live Well With A Chronic Illness
by Sara Gorman

“Sara [Gorman] has written a gem of a book for lupus patients struggling with a new, frightening and unpredictable illness. Her advice is also applicable to all of us: lead a healthier, happier life. Discover the inner self and what is really important to you. Change is the cornerstone of life. Sometimes when we are feeling awful, we fear that “I will feel like this forever”. That feeling is understandable but completely false. Things always change. Knowing that we will not feel the same the next day or the next week is comforting. Our ability to change and put our happiness and the happiness of our loved ones as the core of our existence makes us happier and healthier people with our chronic disease, whatever that disease may be. Sara’s book helps us learn these and other truths to help us live with lupus and lead happier lives.”

More information can be found at the author’s blog www.despitelupus.com.

I haven’t read this book yet – it was just published this past week – but I look forward to doing so. One of the nice things about the whole umbrella of autoimmune illnesses is that, quite often but not always, if something does not directly address my own personal illness, I can just swap out some terms (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, lyme disease) and it works just as well!

Hat tip to My Life Works Today! for posting about this book.

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Some More RA Blogs

Synovial Syntax
“I am finding discovering and adapting to the limitations and plan changes imposed on me by RA as hard to bear with as the physical symptoms. I miss being more active and yet I’m often close to being overwhelmed by the challenge of raising two pre-schoolers.” This blog started earlier this month, take a look – the author’s writing style is amazing.

Bionic Lady
Adventures with artificial joints and rheumatoid arthritis. “At age 16 I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. In the following 14 years I have had many ups and downs with this disease, including have two hip replacements by the age of 25. This is disease is a day-to-day struggle for me. For years I’ve tried to keep most of my feelings inside and prove that I can handle it. I think it is about time to get it all out.” This author has been writing since February of this past year.

∞ itis
Warm Socks has been blogging about RA for years, and was one of my first friends at the RA Connect message board. Her blog is full of wonderful and helpful information that I have not found anywhere else. Please make it a part of your daily blog reading, as I do.

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The Happiness Hypothesis

“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.” -Marcel Proust

The Happiness HypothesisRheumatoid Arthritis Guy just finished reading a wonderful book. Every now and then I come across a book that, even before completing it, I know it will have a profound impact on the way I see things.

This was one of those books.

The Happiness Hypothesis, written by Jonathan Haidt.

Though this is not a book that you will find in the self-help section of your nearby bookstore, this collection of ten great ideas which look to find modern truth by weaving together ancient wisdom does indeed provide some of the best help that can be found in just over two hundred pages.

In his widely praised book, award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt examines the world’s philosophical wisdom through the lens of psychological science, showing how a deeper understanding of enduring maxims-like Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, or What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger-can enrich and even transform our lives.

Using the wisdom culled from the world’s greatest civilizations as a foundation, social psychologist Haidt comes to terms with 10 Great Ideas, viewing them through a contemporary filter to learn which of their lessons may still apply to modern lives. He first discusses how the mind works and then examines the Golden Rule (“Reciprocity is the most important tool for getting along with people”). Next, he addresses the issue of happiness itself–where does it come from?–before exploring the conditions that allow growth and development. He also dares to answer the question that haunts most everyone–What is the meaning of life?–by again drawing on ancient ideas and incorporating recent research findings. He concludes with the question of meaning: Why do some find it? Balancing ancient wisdom and modern science, Haidt consults great minds of the past, from Buddha to Lao Tzu and from Plato to Freud, as well as some not-so-greats: even Dr. Phil is mentioned. Fascinating stuff, accessibly expressed.

At a time when I am continue to reevaluate what happiness means in my life with chronic illness, I feel very fortunate to have been able to read this book during such a critical juncture. (Thanks to my psychologist for recommending this book to me!)

This book also has a corresponding website at www.happinesshypothesis.com, which includes additional book reviews, chapter summaries, and a page on how you can actually use this book as a self-help book should you choose to do so.

As a person living with rheumatoid arthritis, two things in particular stood out to me.

The first thing was Chapter 7, titled “The Use of Adversity”. We’ve often heard the saying that suffering makes some people stronger. This chapter is an exploration into this idea, and examines how some individuals are ultimately able to use adversity to their advantage, while other are not.

The second thing is a paragraph – taken from this same chapter – which sums up perfectly how writing this blog has helped me move forward when it comes to understanding my life, my chronic pain, and my illness. (Emphasis mine.)

And finally, no matter how well or poorly prepared you are when trouble strikes, at some point in the months afterwards, pull out a piece of paper and start writing. Pennebaker suggests that you write continuously for fifteen minutes a day, for several days. Don’t edit or censor yourself; don’t worry about grammar or sentence structure; just keep writing. Write about what happened, how you feel about it, and why you feel that way. If you hate to write, you can talk into a tape recorder. The crucial thing is to get your thoughts and feelings out without imposing any order on them – but in such a way that, after a few days, some order is likely to emerge in its own. Before you conclude you last session, be sure you have done your best to answer these two questions:

Why did this happen?

What good might I derive from it?

Here’s hoping that no matter what state we may find ourselves in at the moment, that we stop and take a minute to reflect on the happiness that exists inside each of us.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

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Superhero Appetite

Superman SlurpeeFor the past couple of months, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy has had a standing prescription for Prednisone. My rheumatologist told me to take this corticosteroid for three weeks (10mg x 7 days, 5mg x 7 days, 2,5mg x 7 days) should I encounter a particularly rough period with my RA.

During my last visit, he asked if I had taken any Prednisone. When I told him no, he told reminded me that there is no need to be a stoic in front of the pain, and to please not forget about implementing this this backup plan should it become necessary.

So, following in the footsteps of Barry Bonds et al., I decided to go ahead and start my steroid plan this past weekend. (Okay, I know these steroids are different from those steroids…I’m just having fun!) I figured that not being able to place any weight whatsoever on my left knee and left foot qualified as a green light. My right elbow isn’t a happy camper either at the moment, and my shoulders have decided to join the party as well.

The last time I took Prednisone was a few years ago, during which time I gained a lot of weight. (But it wasn’t the muscle gain that I had hoped for!) As anyone who has taken this medicine before knows all too well, the most common side effects include mood changes, weight gain, water retention, and the infamous “moonface”. (That’s exactly what is sound like – your face becomes so round that it looks like a full moon. Sometimes I feel like I should be sitting at McDonald’s playing the piano.)

Like most people, I am very sensitive to the notion of any weight gain. I think even slightly more so because one of my biggest priorities during the past year and a half has been my bringing my physical fitness and weight down to its ideal state. I have lost a substantial amount of weight during the past 18 months (close to 50 pounds, and almost 5 inches around the waist), and I would much more prefer not having to go back  up and down again. I also don’t think my joints would be too happy having to support any extra weight.

So as my hunger levels skyrocket (once again), and as my metabolism baselines, I have come up with a some action items in hopes of minimizing any weight gain during the coming weeks. (What a change from just six weeks ago, when I could barely stomach anything due to stomach problems…) I’ve got the healthy meals and exercise under control…I just have to take care of the other 21 hours of the day!

Leave It In The Store

My absolute first life of defense when it comes to weight control takes place at the grocery store. Anything that has a lot of fat or calories does not make it into my shopping cart – and since I can’t just easily run back to the store at any given moment, chances are that if it does not come home on the first trip to the grocery store, that it’s not coming home at all. I also make sure to follow the age-old advice of not shopping while hungry. (Who hasn’t done this before, and ended up with a kitchen full of cookies, ice cream, and potato chips?)

Watch It Wiggle

As midnight runs (okay, 2am runs – I often go to sleep right before midnight) to the refrigerator become much more frequent, I figured that I might as well fill it with something healthy snacks (but not too healthy…I’m not going to be eating carrot sticks the middle of the night, after all!) So at any given moment, one shelf of my refrigerator is filled with single-serve glasses of homemade Jell-O. (It’s especially fun to do the multiple layers thing…) Whenever I get the urge to eat something either during the day or night, I go for my servings of Jell-O…guilt free.

Do The Jamba Dance

I must admit, I have never been a big fan of fruit – but throw it in a blender and add some ice, and I am more than happy! (Thanks, Jamba Juice!) Most of my fruit shakes start from a base of fresh papaya, apple juice, and ice. Into this I add mango, strawberries, bananas, raspberries, and blueberries – depending upon my mood. For my own personal power boost, I add some ground flaxseed. Making my own fruit blends at home is easy, fun, and best of all – more inexpensive than the retail option.

Presto PowerPopper

Luckily, one of my favorite snacks while watching television during the evenings has always been popcorn. (I think I get this from my father – it’s very rare that he ever goes a day without eating popcorn.) A couple of years ago I decided it was time to give up on commercial microwave popcorn, as I had read too many health warning related to the oils and flavorings that they use. Childhood memories of tasteless air popped popcorn didn’t seem to appetizing, either. I was happy to come across this Presto PowerPopper, which I have been using since. The results are great tasting air popped popcorn (you can add a dash of butter or oil if you like, but it’s not necessary) from my microwave. Once again, this alternative is nicer on the wallet. (My father is also a recent convert to this microwave popper, which says a lot!)

If you have your own suggestions for minimizing the weight gain that is associated with Prednisone and other rheumatoid arthritis medications, please do share!

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

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