Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gua Sha

Yesterday I had my second acupuncture treatment for this pesky shoulder condition known as adhesive capsulitis. Turns out that shoulder woes plus what I like to call "computer spine" has my upper back and chest in knots. Working out the kinks in the muscles and stretching out my shoulders is a tall order but I'm determined to let Josie work on me in whatever way she feels best.

My practitioner is trained in more than traditional acupuncture techniques. She also is licensed to dispense Chinese herbal preparations (I'm wary of those ever since I learned about Chinese herb nephropathy), teaches the healing technique of Qi Gong, and incorporates other elements into her acupuncture sessions. One is fire cupping which I wrote about earlier.

Yesterday she discussed another technique with me, this one called Gua Sha (also known as scraping). Although highly recommended for what ails me she admitted, "I don't want to scare you."Hmmmm. The technique involves intentional brisk and firm scraping of the skin (usually the back) with an object like the one shown here. The goal is to see redness develop, a sign that stagnant toxins are (finally) being released from the tight muscles. If there is no redness, the area doesn't need help apparently.

Truly, it didn't hurt. But, Josie took me to a mirror after the treatment to show me the redness on my back and to reassure me that this was totally normal and would fade over a few days. It was pretty darn dramatic but the lack of discomfort (more of a burning than anything) was amazing. Today I've been a bit sore but not too bad and my upper back is moving better. I went on line to learn more about Gua Sha and found this short video.

She also gave me some more exercises to do at home to complement the work she's doing in the one hour comprehensive acupuncture sessions. I'm feeling like this may help; the techniques have been around for thousands of years. Western medicine has little to offer me at this point. I don't think I've much to lose and lots to gain.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Aruba on my Mind

My brother and his family, plus extended family (and friends), are in Aruba right now enjoying the sunshine, white sand beaches and laid back "One Happy Island" attitude. I'm thrilled for them and deep down wishing I could be there too. Aruba will always be "home" to me. I haven't been back since 2001; way too long.

Quite by surprise, I received an email in my in box this morning from an ex-Lago-ite (read: former Aruban, like me) named Steve who was in my brother's high school class long, long ago at the American school in Aruba (where my Dad was principal for 27 years). Steve happens to be in Aruba right now too. The island is small enough that people find out who else is visiting; it isn't too hard. He'd been able to locate my brother and arrange a visit.
Anyway, attached to Steve's email were photographs he'd taken of what he knows is my most favorite location on the entire island of Aruba.....the backside of Colorado Point. The natural bridge and the ocean blue.....the place where my ashes belong whenever that time comes. The calm of these photos is unusual and Steve pointed that out in his comments saying, "Very light winds in Aruba at present; calm seas and very clear water. "

These are Steve's photos. He has graciously allowed me to use them in whatever way I see fit. The photograph above shows the natural bridge with water so still it looks like you could jump in, cool off and swim. Not. Deceptively calm. In fact, getting down this close where ocean and jagged rock intersect is something I've never done, choosing instead to behold the magnificence from the ledge above. Here are two more photographs from Steve featuring a usually roiling sea, made still by lack of pounding northeast trade winds. Check out this earlier post of mine and compare the photographs which show the more violent side of Colorado Point.

I love this last shot; the earth's curvature apparent or an illusion?

Aruba has been on my mind of late. I'd love to take my family again; Chris and Heather, Laura, and Denny. I see us hiking about Colorado Point. I can see the awe on their faces; a first for Heather, a repeat performance for the other three and for me but nonetheless a sight that settles into the soul forever. Fundamental. Deep. Everlasting.


I'm coming home.

Monday, February 22, 2010

On to the Next Step

My shoulders are "a killin' me". The pain keeps coming; turning into a chronic beast with no end in sight. Such is the nature of adhesive capsulitis (or frozen shoulder) in many cases. I've tried steroid injections, physical therapy, ibuprofen, massage therapy and endless stretching on my own. Two steps forward and two steps back with no meaningful forward progress. The shoulders aren't exactly frozen....they're inflamed and certain movements make them zing and beg for mercy, like putting on a coat. It takes me ages to get that coat on without help some days. Most days.


Today I had my first session (for this problem) with an acupuncturist. I had seen her years back for another issue and thought maybe she could provide some relief for this annoyance too. She's great; trained in traditional Chinese medicine she not only takes a detailed history and performs the acupuncture treatment, she also gives "homework", things to work on in the interval between appointments. Plus she uses techniques like fire cupping which is another ancient remedy used primarily for painful syndromes. Having those glass cups applied to the skin and left in place for 20 minutes or so feels really weird; I had two on each shoulder. It doesn't really hurt but you'd never know that from the looks of the skin when they're removed.

Remember a number of years back when Gwyneth Paltrow raised a stir showing up in public with her back covered with odd looking bruises?

I'm sporting spots that look mighty similar to these on my shoulders. Truly, they don't hurt but they look rather scary.

As for the acupuncture needles and the little jolts of current she ran through some of them, I was glad when the treatment was over. But I signed up for five more over the next few weeks. I've got to try something.

My shoulders are still hurting. Nothing is as good as a couple of aspirin in the moment. The problem is, it JUST. COMES. BACK. AGAIN. I'm trying to get to the root and root it out.

Wish me luck.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Do You Think You Can?

"Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right."
Henry Ford

This quote has been on my mind a lot. These words came up in two different conversations I had today. How much of what we seek is just out of our reach because we don't believe in ourselves? I know it's true for me.

I'm workin' on it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Two Guys with February Birthdays

February 8th was Dad's 93rd Birthday and here are four generations of the local Seattle family celebrating. Today, nine days later, Chris's 24th Birthday arrives. For years Chris and his Grandfather have joked about their birthdays being so close together that they should combine them and have One. Big. Party. We never actually did that, but it was a good idea.

Today Denny and I took Chris out to lunch. Since all three of us work downtown it was easy to get away and meet up for a special meal. Turns out that the restaurant we chose offered a free meal to anyone celebrating a birthday (as long as you could prove it with a driver's license!). Sweet.

Happy Birthday, son! Your Dad and I are so proud of you!

P.S. 24 years ago tonight, after Chris was wheeled down the hall in a tiny bassinet to the nursery, I was so excited, exhausted, and exhilarated that I couldn't sleep. I turned on the TV and watched a movie. Which one was on? Flashdance. I'd seen it half a dozen times before but it was just as good, if not better the night of February 17, 1986. Funny the details one remembers about the biggest days of our lives.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

As you can see, our Holiday Wreath is still on the front door. Just in the last week or so the wreath started to get a bit dry and faded but it had been so lovely, I decided to keep it in place but dress it up for Valentine's Day. The string of hearts was just the touch to keep the greenery seasonal.

Today D and I are cooking a Valentine's Day dinner together. We're selecting some marvelous fresh fish from the Wild Salmon store at Fisherman's Terminal and then preparing some special sides; probably asparagus will be one. Dessert? Who knows. Perhaps a nice bottle of my new favorite wine, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dad's 93rd Birthday

Earlier this week Dad celebrated his 93rd Birthday. I've blogged about his 92nd and his 91st birthdays but must say, this one was the most fun of the three. The adult family home where Mom and Dad live makes a big deal out of Birthdays. The activity coordinator contacted me weeks ago to find out what we should do and the event was well planned. This picture to the right shows Dad talking on the phone with Ms. Laura who couldn't be there. I love to see my Dad smile.

A local swing band consisting of 3 men (sax, drums, guitar) and a woman (keyboard) provided the background music and we had cake, ice cream, punch, popcorn and of course.....dancing. Dad was delighted to have 3 of his grandchildren (including the newlyweds) and 4 great grandchildren show for the celebration. Even D left work early to join the party. 93 years is a big deal.

Good. Precious. Times. The very young, the very old, and the in-betweens. That's what it's all about. I'm convinced.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Of Talents, Gifts, and Dreams

I've more to say on the subject of dreams. Weeks back I posted about some of the weird and wacky dreams I've recalled come morning. We all are dreaming nightly, "they say", but most dreams never register into our daytime consciousness.

As I sit here on this early Sunday morning the skies are still dark and the coffee brewing all too slowly in the kitchen. I remember snippets of my dream from last night.

I am a student again, taking classes in medical school. But, the strange thing is, I am already a doctor fully trained so why I am in school isn't clear. Renal Physiology is taught by a master, someone I've known in the past, someone who in non-dream life is deceased, his life cut short by a devastating heart attack when he was in his early sixties. This already sounds way too convoluted.

True to form, I've missed the first class and have to admit this to the snooty course coordinator the next day as I pick up the course materials. She shakes her head and says, "The first assignment is due on Friday and the test is after that." She goes on to acknowledge that the topics are so complex that even after all her years listening to the chief deliver the lectures, she'd never be able to pass even the first test.

Lecture 1, which I've missed, covers the renal handling of potassium, a subject in "real life" which continues to fascinate me and for which I feel I'll never really have grip beyond the basic talking points. The lecture outline and diagrams are gorgeous, beauty to behold (I've always loved great study guides and visuals, especially in relation to renal physiology) Wow, I think, missing this lecture was poor timing and here's the course coordinator adding fuel to the fire by admonishing me that an assignment and test are on the horizon, implying it will be an uphill battle for me to catch up having missed only one of his lectures. (She doesn't know that I'm already a fully trained nephrologist, I say to myself).

On my way out of the office, I drop my handbag and everything spills out. I hear Professor Hebert who has been wandering about in the background and who spies me, requests that his assistant ask if amongst all my stuff scattered on the carpet might there be a tube (unopened) of toothpaste? In "real life" there was such a mini-tube, the type you get from the dentist's office, in my purse yesterday. Ahhhh, the nature of dreams to weave reality and fantasy in the most twisted ways.

The dream ended but I know from a deep place the message is prescient.

I'm struggling these days with just how to use my talents (writing and teaching) in such a way that I'm ignited with passion rather than beaten down by self doubt and criticism.

I'll think on this; the dream and the real life realities.

If we are blessed with talent(s), must we use them? Are our gifts our destiny?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cute Book

I'm "reading" another audio book on my "to and from" journeys in the car. This one is cute....a memoir replete with wonderful recipes which make me want to check out the hard copy from the library so I can jot down some of these delicious sounding meals.

I love the author's name too...Giulia Melucci. The title is I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti. Giulia, born of a Sicilian mother and an Italian father in Brooklyn learned to cook like a pro and describes her journey with relationship after relationship with guys/men who never turn out to be Mr. Right. Interspersed is her cooking which tantalizes most of them and delights the reader with (real) recipes which are simple yet sound amazing. Lots of pasta, salads, fish dishes and more. Ahhh.

I may buy this book for Laura. She loves to cook and it may help her to read about others who've struggled to find the right guy.

Giulia writes well and reads the audio version of her book; her voice is like butter.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Word for the Day


(far-KOK-tah) adj. Worse than "crappy" (be careful with this word!) Utterly messed up and out of order; lousy

Once again, a Yiddish word comes through for me.

Life is farkocktah caught between the woes and dramas of the very old and the very young.