Catching up

It’s a pretty morning here in the Northern California foothills. Last week included temperatures that soared, for two blistering days, into the triple digits, but it’s a soft, sweet 75 degrees right now. All clear sun and cool shadows. The scent from the oranges in the basket on the counter drifts lazily around the room. The scent fits.

As I fill a pot full of cold water for our morning coffee, I look out the kitchen window and see, in

If you look closely, you can see the skunks next to the spa house...

the dappled garden next to the spa house, a close-knit little family of skunks. They’re busy foraging in the soft, cocoa soil for goodies. Are grubs tasty? To skunks, maybe.

Yes, I said skunks. A momma and three nearly grown kits. From my vantage point, they’re a blob of furry black with four brilliant white stripes. I’ve seen them several times now, usually about mid-morning. I think they live underneath the spa house. Each time the skunklings have grown a little bit bigger. I wonder if they’ll share the home territory with Momma once they’re adults. And will she have more kits later this summer? If she does, where will we put all the skunks?

I haven’t written here much lately; in fact, I can’t believe my last post was at the end of May. I’ll try to write more often in the future, but for now, I’ll just catch you up on the latest.

Back in April I took a couple of week-long prednisone tapers, separated by about two weeks. The idea was to finally beat the dull, constant bursitis hip pain I’d been having for months and months. After a delay of several days, the second taper actually worked. My pain lessened and lessened, and finally, was pretty much gone. Halleluiah! It was so nice to be able to move, walk, sit and sleep without pain.

May was pain-free and terrific. The first couple of weeks in June were, too. But last week the bursitis pain returned, along with some amped-up rheuma pain in my hands and, I think, my right hip. The two types of pain are quite different. This new pain, while only moderate, felt like it was deep inside the hip-joint, knife-sharp and un-ignorable. It stayed around for a day and then, thank goodness, disappeared. In the meantime, the renewed bursitis pain continued unbated: a low to medium-severe, diffused ache that runs along the outsides of both hips from seat to knees. The right side generally aches more intensely than the left.

At night, it keeps me wakeful and rolling from one side to the other, trying to find a comfortable position. The nortryptaline my rheumatologist prescribed helps, but not consistently. Asking for a higher dose or a different  type of sleep aid is on my list of things to ask him about when I see him again next month.

I’m also going to tell him about the more painful flares I’ve been having in my hands lately. Along with the continuous, low-level soreness (which is mainly just annoying) I’ve had several bouts of deep, sharp pain focused  in my right thumb, pointer and pinky fingers. It’s pain that’s instantly reminiscent of The Old Days, when my rheuma was horribly active and severe. Fortunately, these flares have been relatively brief, the longest lasting about 12 hours. In The Old Days, the bad flares would last anywhere from 24 hours to four days. I never knew what to expect.

So, ol’ Wren is a bit gimpy right now. But my mood is sunny. Last week Mom and I went to the local retail outlets, where I’d discovered there was a Merrell* store. The company makes incredibly comfortable shoes; I’d read about their “barefoot” shoes on Cathy’s blog, The Life and Adventures of Catepoo. Her posts piqued my interest, not because I want to walk “barefoot,” but because the shoes just sounded so good for rheuma-feet. Like most of you, I can’t wear most shoes, and pretty shoes with heels are out of the question. As a result, I have a few pairs of practical, comfortable and plain shoes that I wear nearly year-round. Most of them are at least three years old; the oldest top 10 years. Pathetic, eh?

So, the Merrell outlet. Now, I have to say, these are not “beautiful” shoes. They’re made with people who drive hybrids, wear eco-friendly clothes and shop at Whole Foods in mind. Fit, slim, well-paid thirty-somethings (and boomers, of course) of both genders who hike on the weekends in modified baseball caps and perspiration-wicking cargo shorts, their daypacks full of Vitamin Water and maybe a doobie or two tucked in amongst the trail mix and dark chocolate squares. So, not actually beautiful, maybe, but Merrell’s shoes are still pretty good-looking. What I was hoping for was a pair of presentable new shoes that were light, cool for summer, and above all, wearable on feet that hurt in almost any shoe that’s even a little bit attractive.

To my total delight (thanks, Cathy, for the tip!) I found two pairs of Merrells that work for me. Neither were their “barefoot” shoes, but no matter. One is a pair of sandals; the other a pair of grippy-soled Mary Janes with mesh uppers, good for extended walking and standing. Both fasten easily (and adjustably) with Velcro, and both can be worn for everyday or, in a pinch, with clothes that are a little nicer for the occasional evening out, as long as it’s not at a really fancy place.

And wow, are they comfortable. The fit is so good, and the shoes so nicely made, and with such excellent arch support and firm, cushioned (yet lightweight) soles, that it’s easy to forget they’re even on your feet. If that sounds odd, keep in mind that often, with rheumatoid arthritis, forgetting your fickle, painful feet is impossible. Most shoes do hurt them in one way or another.

The one drawback: Even purchased at their outlet store, Merrells are pricey shoes. The sandals were $90; the Mary Janes, $80. Mom (that sweet lady) bought me the sandals. I just couldn’t afford both pairs at once. “Call it an early birthday present,” she said.

These two pairs of new shoes will get me through the hot summer ahead. I hope to go back to the outlet in October and get another pair or two for winter wear.

In other news, we just celebrated my daughter’s 30th birthday; I’ve lost a total of 23 pounds; Mom and I are growing a tomato plant on the back deck that’s thriving and already has one small green tomato on it; Mom is feeling much better most of the time, but has become very forgetful so that I feel uncomfortable leaving her alone for more than a day at a time; and back home in Camino, Mr Wren has added another large dog to the mix (Finny, Shadow and now, Jake). I imagine the chaos and am grateful that I’m here instead of there for the time being.

That’s enough updating for now, I think. Thanks for reading. I’ll be sure to post again soon.

*Merrell is not paying or in any fashion rewarding me for promoting their shoes on my blog. I just want to pass along a really good find to people of both genders who, like me, search for shoes they can wear comfortably on feet made painful and sensitive by arthritis.