Get Me Out Of Here

I spent four consecutive hours yesterday watching, HGTV’s Beachfront Bargain Hunt.  For those of you who know better and spend your Sundays reading, writing or doing something productive, this particular segment on the HGTV network features people who are tired of renting and are looking for beachfront vacation properties to buy.  A realtor shows them several properties until they find the beachfront oasis of their dreams. 

After bombarding my brain with images of pristine aqua-blue waters framed by miles of golden sandy beaches, clear blue skies, thirst quenching tropical beverages and sling-shot bikinis, I felt even more depressed than I already was.


I am no different from the 1.3 million US residents living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. If you have RA, you will experience pain.  If you have RA and you live in a cold climate, you will most likely experience even more pain.  And stiffness.  And aches. And sadness.  And isolation. 

I know I do.

As a result (and just because) I am leaving tomorrow (weather permitting) for an almost 3 week hiatus, landing directly in the warm and comforting arms of my wonderful mother, who happens to live on the island of PUERTO  RICO.


Just what the doctor ordered.

Bad Days -Good Days A-Z

“Create a short story, piece of memoir, or epic poem that is 26 sentences long, in which the first sentence begins with “A” and each sentence thereafter begins with the next letter of the alphabet.

Bad Days:

Arthritis was never invited

Bone Spurs were never my thing

Comfort is hard to come by

Depression always slips in

Empathy comes in rare moments

Fatigue decides she’s in charge

Gambling with medical cures

Hoping the day will come

Images of painless days

Joints magically healed

Knuckles inflamed and on fire

Lungs filled with fluid and pain

Motion is what I strive for

Napping is what I need

Oxycontin becomes my friend

Puzzles become my game

Quietly enduring the aches

Refreshments to numb the pain

Stiffness is lurking near me

Trying to ruin my day

Useless I now become

Vertical I cannot be

Wondering when it will get better

X-rays reveal the unwanted

Youth has been ripped at the seams

Zero relief is in sight

Good Days:

Arthritis does not own me

Better days are ahead

Coping is what I am doing

Dancing is what brings me joy

Easing into reality

Fighting like a young boy

Grateful for what God has given me

Healing day by day

Informed and educated

Justifying my pain

Knowing I am loved by so many

Loving them just the same 

Making the best of my life

Never ever giving up

Older and wiser by the minute

Pushing along to the top

Quietly saying a prayer

Relaxing as much as I can

Sorrow does not consume me

Tenderness fills my heart

Urging others to accept

Venom will make me regress

Words cannot express my gratitude

Xs and Os for you all

Young and alive I am feeling

Zestfully plugging along

Should I or Gluten-I?

I was put on this earth for one purpose and one purpose only.  To eat.

I. Love. Food.  Plain and simple.  I am one of those people who savors, licks, moans and ahhhsssss when eating.  I don’t know if my taste buds are super sensitive or what, but eating yummy food is an orgasmic experience.  In my own defense, I don’t eat a lot of junk food.  I just eat big portions of yummy real food.

I do not consider myself overweight…more like a bit over my ideal weight.  Maybe a little round, plump, hefty healthy, but not over the top.  More out of shape recently since exercising has not been possible due to my d%*#@ cervical stenosis.  It hurts when I walk or…move.

In the past, I could maintain my semi-ideal weight because I could exercise some.  This kind of sucks now.  Because I am eating the same amounts.

I have a wonderful, funny, teeny tiny, skinny, health conscious dear friend who has a teeny tiny stomach who also happens to be an awesome nutritionist.  She works with very poor families trying to help them eat better while the federal government continues to cut the program she works for.  She is compassionate and is truly making a difference in this world.

I call her, Mama.  Just for fun.  She calls me that too.  So, Mama as I said earlier, is teeny teeny teeny tiny.  She looks at food and immediately feels full.  She is basically my opposite.  We often go out to eat together and it is guaranteed that she will have a doggy bag to take home whereas me…not a chance.

Mama goes to many seminars to stay updated on the latest nutritional information.  She hates to see me suffer in pain, so she looks out for me.  She has read several articles stating that a gluten-free diet has been known to help patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  These patients have felt a significant difference once they are gluten-free.  Mama keeps gently letting me know this information and says, “I’m just throwing it out there”, for me to consider.

Ay.  Help.  Me? The Queen of bread & pasta,  gluten-free?  Me?  The one who loves ALL foods?  Me?  The one who hates grocery shopping because it is exhausting – and would now have to shop for hours looking at the ingredients?  Me?  The one who can barely muster the energy to cook because standing for too long in the kitchen hurts my feet?  Me?  Who is Puerto Rican and loves fried Puerto Rican food?  Me?

Ay.  I suppose I should try it.  If people are experiencing an improvement in their symptoms, then it must be worth it.  Maybe going gluten-free would give me more energy so that I could shop and cook more often.  Maybe…but, did I mention how much I love food?

I know it is much easier to go gluten-free these days.  There are plenty of labeled foods and special areas at the grocery stores…that’s a good thing.  It is easier to order gluten free meals at restaurants as well…another good thing.

I could try it for a couple of weeks and see how it goes.  Ay… I don’t know.  Maybe I could hire a personal chef who will buy all the food and cook it for me.  All I would have to do is to walk to the dining room, sit down and eat.  That sounds wonderful!  Ay. 

Should I, Could I or Gluten I?

Prednisone, Gin, Naproxen, Wine, Chemo & Cannabis


What a dilemma I have.  

You see, I typically visit my Rheumatologist every two months to check in on my RA and see how much damage it has caused me.  They weigh me (Ouch), take my blood pressure, give me the good ‘ol Pillsbury Boy poke in my belly, probe me, lift my limbs, squeeze some joints,  make me open my mouth and say ahhh, send me to the lab for more poking and change my medications if need be.  All in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes.

Every six months I go to the hospital for the day to have a Chemo Infusion via an IV.  They provide me with a nice comfy bed, Benadryl, Cortisone, anti nausea meds and I go in and out of a very deep Benadryl-induced sleep.  Every half hour the IV machine beeps and beeps and beeps alerting the nurse to come check on the ever so slooooowly dripping bag of, let’s call it, poison.

The medicine in the bag, called Rituxan, can also be called miraculous.  It is typically given to cancer patients in higher doses but has been known to help with Rheumatoid Arthritis!  It is the only medicine that has actually slowed down the erosion of my joints and has given me some relief.   Let’s have a round of applause for Rituxan!!  Woot!  Woot!

It’s not a cure and it’s not perfect, but I’ll take it!  I also take quite the cocktail of other drugs to help me function throughout the day.

I am usually a very good patient (kind of).  I do as I am told (sometimes).  Well, I am also rebellious by nature.  You know, don’t tell me what to do kind of girl.  For the past 4 months, I have gone on STRIKE!  I have taken a sabbatical from visiting ANY doctor.  

Like a child who refuses to go to school, I continue to have tantrums and refuse to go.  No, no and no!  I. Don’t. Wanna.

I figured, I am an adult (sometimes) and I can do as I please.  I know, tsk….tsk, you say.  Cut me a little slack pretty please,  I just get fed up with the whole thing sometimes (woe is me).

Now, I’ve got issues again.  Pain in my side, strange growths popping up in my cervical spine from Stenosis, back problems, blah blah blah.  I am due for a physical, mammogram, colonoscopy, lab work, you name it…but… I. Dont. Wanna!!!!!!  Can almost 50 year olds have tantrums?

I have been perfectly happy ignoring my pains (and blogging – which is almost as miraculous as the Rituxan),  taking my Prednisone, Naproxen, Gin, Wine and Chemo.  The Cannabis, I am still waiting for my state to get it together after they passed the legalization of the medicinal stuff!  You cannot get it yet.  What’s taking them sooo long?  

Why can’t my body leave me alone??? In peace! Just let me be, you know.  

This means I must end my strike (it was fun while it lasted) and push the speed dial button of my many doctors to pay them a visit.  I. Don’t. Wanna! I. Don’t. Wanna!  I. Don’t. Wanna!

Oh, alright.  I will put my big girl underpants on and call on Monday (Grrrr).  But, no one can ever take away my Gin, Wine or Cannabis! 

The Swim to My 50s – I was meant to be carried on a bed with a canopy and curtains and fed grapes to

images-33 images-34

This, according to a health provider that used to treat my feet and body when I was first diagnosed with RA.    She worked on trigger points and would try to alleviate my aching and rapidly deforming feet.

When nothing seemed to help, she simply looked at me and said, Your feet were not meant for walking.  You, my dear, should be carried on a ‘litter’ (a bed with four posts, a canopy and curtains) and fed grapes to.

I couldn’t agree more.

When God made me, this must have been part of his plan.  He knew that my feet would not be able to carry any weight and that my other joints would also fail me.

I am almost 50 and I have yet to see a litter parked in my driveway.  Where are the shirtless men in cloth diapers ready to carry me to my destination?  My old Toyota Camry has no curtains and although it sports a sun roof, it’s just not the same.

I have discussed most of my other body parts in earlier posts.  My feet, however, require a blog of their own.

I inherited my feet from my dad.  Size 9, wide, a long big toe and beautifully protruding bunions {I apologize if you have a foot fetish and I am turning you on right now}.  This is where my dad’s and my feet’s similarities end.  Now, picture these feet turning out to the sides with my bully of a big toe leaning and squashing the other more, fragile and helpless toes.  Not a pretty sight.

It is a good thing that I never understand what the ladies who do my pedicures are saying but I can guarantee you that as they are smiling at me, they are aghast at the sight of my feet and pretend not to notice.

Before RA, I wore all kinds of shoes.  My favorites were the stilettos I wore while frequenting the discos.  I am now the not-so-proud owner of several God-awful Crocs.  Pink and black.  And, I even have the winter ones with fur inside.  But once I had surgery on my left foot, my selection expanded again.




I won’t even tell you what a nightmare the surgery was and how much I suffered.  It was so bad that I had my mom ask our priest if he could stop over to visit me, as I lay in bed for 4 months, recovering.  

There is a funny story about this day that I have to tell you.  After sitting at my bedside reassuring me that things would get better and to continue to have faith, Father asked me to pray with him.  He asked me to say my Hail Marys.  Now, I don’t pretend to be super Catholic, but at least a moderate one…at best.  I froze when he asked me because I, for the life of me, could not remember it!  Hail Mary, full of grace… After what seemed to be hours of silence as he waited for me to begin, I asked him if he would say it with me.  He agreed and began reciting it with his eyes closed.  I stared at his lips and tried desperately to match his words, accentuating the ones I remembered and mumbling through the words I had forgotten.  Not my proudest moment.

So now, I have one straight foot that has permanent nerve damage, with an even longer big fused toe (which I ended up jamming and breaking after the surgery) that is a size 9.5 and that prefers narrow fashionable shoes.   And, one deformed size 9 wide foot, that requires the comfort of…Crocs.


Ain’t they purdy…


 I have often said, to those who will listen, that I refuse to operate my right foot unless I can be put in an induced coma for 6 months while it heals.  Needless to say, I have accepted the fact that I will be living my next 50 years with mis-matched feet.

I think I will say my Hail Marys every night until my birthday and hope that on that morning, I will wake up to find a huge shiny red bow taped to my new state of the art, loaded litter {men in cloth diapers feeding me red grapes – cuz green ones are too sour- included}, sitting in my driveway.



The Swim to My 50s – Things that make me ^%@#*- swear!

I am by no means a prude but I am no cusser either.  I get increasingly stressed out and anxious when others swear, yet hearing myself say these words, is not as bad.  I still try to avoid it.

Unfortunately, I am finding that the frequency of me reaching that…breaking point has increased over time.   Not only am I swearing more in English, but the Spanish swears are flying off the shelves of my sassy tongue!  And let me tell you, swearing in Spanish is even more gratifying.

I have an answer to the very clever quote above.  I don’t open my package because I…f-@#*%-‘in – can’t!

Have you tried opening packages lately?  For the love of God, somebody do something!

Did you know that by 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons in this country?  This is more than twice the number in 2000. People 65+ will represent 19% of the population by then.

Hello?  Manufacturers, are you listening?

This isn’t just a problem for the elderly or people with arthritis.  Everyone seems to be resorting to their chicklets to open just about… everything.

I have tried to adjust to this reality by purchasing user-friendly gadgets in order to make my life easier and to actually cook dinner for my family.  No one is ever home when I need to open those jars and cans and I was tired of hobbling over to the neighbor’s house for help.

This funky electric gadget above looks like the Cat’s Meow but, it lasted one day.  The thing jammed the jar in there so tight that I could not only not open the jar, I couldn’t remove it and had to throw the whole thing away.

Got a headache?  Relief is going to have to wait until you figure out how to twist the cap open, rupture the safety seal, peel the remaining foil out, reach in the small opening for the cotton ball and get the two d-*&%# caplets out.

I’m sorry, but if you have to use a meat cleaver to open up your new way too expensive printer ink, something is very wrong!

I had just about enough a couple of months ago, when I purchased an OralB electric toothbrush in order to make my life easier and alleviate my aching wrists.  I tried opening the stiff “clamshell” plastic packaging (I even used my handy As Seen On Tv, Open X Dual Blade knife) and ended up with a big gash on my finger from the sharp edge of the plastic.  Really?  I bled trying to open up my new toothbrush?  After writing a letter to Procter & Gamble, they responded by saying that the instructions were in the back of the package.

How about those convenient little #@%^* ketchup packets?  After trying to “tear here” with your fingers and then your teeth,  you end up with a huge mess and thinking you would have been better off stomping on the packet instead.

Heinz Ketchup

Heinz Ketchup

For the sake of my new and rapidly developing  potty mouth and my grandchildren-to-be, I hope that companies stop triple packaging everything and realize that half of the population cannot use their products because they can’t… open them!


The Swim to My 50s – Our Short-lived Empty Nest


A couple of blogs ago I talked about how sad I am (at times) that my husband and I did not have more than two children.  This temporary insanity acts up when I see my husband and his five brothers all together.   Although they don’t always get along, I think of how Walton-ish it would have been to have had more.

Enter into evidence,  child #1 and child #2.  They are both amazing, loving kids who have had to grow up sooner than many of their peers.  Even at a young age, they had to watch me suffer in bed unable to get up and attend to their needs as my Rheumatoid Arthritis wrecked havoc on my body.  

They learned how to get themselves breakfast, make their school lunches, clean the house, make their beds, answer phone calls and attend to my needs.  My husband was wonderful as well but his job kept him away from home for many hours.

Although they may not realize this yet, the circumstances they had to deal with have made them the self-sufficient, sensitive, caring souls that they are today (usually).  I am very proud of them and I see the strength and confidence they both have when making decisions.

Well, as my health has improved, thanks to modern medicine, I have noticed that their abilities have… declined.  Suddenly, they seem to have forgotten how to make beds, do dishes, clean the house, cook and clean up after themselves.  Quite the mystery….wouldn’t you say?

My son is a freshmen in college and my daughter a junior in high school.  We have become empty nesters even though my daughter still lives with us because, she is never home.  My husband and I find ourselves alone on friday and saturday nights often and have taken full advantage of this new-found freedom.    Consequently, the house is relatively clean and neat (except for her bedroom).  Who ever said girls are neater anyway?


In two weeks, my handsome 6’2, size 14 shoe – fisherman of a son, will be coming home for the summer.  He is funny and kind and brightens up a room.  Unfortunately, he also destroys that same room and all the rooms in the house – for that matter.  He leaves a trail all around the house and we can trace his every step.  Every room can tell a full story of what he is up to.  Socks, underwear, crumbs, mac-n-cheese, candy wrappers (when did it become in to throw wrappers on the floor rather than the trash?)

Then there is his fishing paraphernalia.  Fishing is his passion and apparently ours as well…or so he thinks.  We often trip over fishing line in the living room, come close to being pierced by stray hooks images, confuse his worms and bait containers in the fridge for some kind of exotic edible dip and cannot enter the garage without being hit in the head with one of his 50 rods.

My beautiful daughter is a bit sneakier about her messes.  We would often find a dirty sock or two of hers stuffed in between the sofa cushions. I kid you not.   We would be sitting on the couch, smell something…search under the cushions and, Voilà!  When asked why on earth she would do this, she simply stated that the laundry room was too far.  It is located two doors down the hallway. 

Soon, these two lovely teens of mine, will have forgotten how much they missed each other and will get right back to doing what they do best.  Arguing about, who gets the car?  Whose turn is it to empty the dishwasher?  Why they have to help?  How he hasn’t done the dishes in 8 months…and how much hair she leaves in the tub after she showers. 

The noise level in the house will increase, our grocery bill will double, the laundry will be overflowing, our water bill will go up, the big screen tv will no longer be ours to enjoy, the kitchen will be sticky, we will be kept awake into the later hours of the night,  the fish will be biting and the socks will be a’ hiding.  Our nest will feel empty – no more.

Truth be told, I cannot wait…kinda.


The Swim to My 50s – This Girl Is On Fire…

After taking a close look at my gouda (a fun word to describe your gluteus maximus) during my April 8th post, Swimming to My 50s – “I like Big B— (Goudas) and I Cannot Lie”, I took a little break from body parts.

It was a nice break but I knew I had an obligation to continue swimming along checking for any necessary alignments and adjustments to this soon to be 50-year-old bod.

Well, right below my gouda, are my lovely thighs.  

I suddenly had a flash back to the Jane Fonda exercise days back in the 80’s.  I had just graduated from high school and at the suggestion of my cousin (whose thighs were a bit… large then), I went rushing to Kmart to buy my very own Jane Fonda’s Workout VHS tape!

Ok, so my thighs were a bit large as well, probably because while in high school, I spent my .35 cent daily lunch allowance on ice cream sandwiches instead of a ‘well balanced’ school lunch.  At times, I chose a Drake’s Coffee Cake instead of the ice cream sandwich in order to vary my diet. 

These are so good!

These are so good

Word had it that this workout did wonders for your legs.  Seeing that the ice cream and coffee cakes had all settled in my thighs, I could not wait to start the workouts.

Boy did Jane look good then!  She still does – damn her.  How old is she now, 80?  

1982 VHS

1982 VHS

In the video, she sported a pink and purple striped leotard, pink tights and purple leg warmers.  She looked so happy.  So did her accomplices who flawlessly followed her every step. Why weren’t they sweating?  And, why were they smiling so much?

The first time, I played the video all the way through without participating.  I wanted to know what I was getting into.  I figured if they could do it, so could I.

It was summer, I was in Puerto Rico with my family and away from my boyfriend (now husband).  I decided that I would transform my thighs before seeing him again the following month.  

I put on an old t-shirt, short shorts (so I could see why I was doing this), pressed the play button and began following along.  Jane was looking right at me through the tv screen.  She seemed to know my every move.  She kept telling me to breathe (could she see me panting?). Then, she would tell me to bounce, bounce and bounce some more.  As I bounced (which I believe is now known to be a bad thing to do when stretching – just saying), she told me to, make it burn.

I knew exactly what she meant by burn because my legs were on fire.  How did she believe it was humanly possible to do as many leg lifts as she made me do? And the pelvic tilts…ouch!

Well, my girl Jane was right!  Soon, I became obsessed with the workouts and did them twice a day every day.  I was determined to have Jane-looking thighs.

Mind you, this was in the early 80’s when I was young, healthy and physically able!  Unaware, that in the years to follow I would be diagnosed with RA and unable to move!

When fall rolled along and it was time to go to college, I was more than ready.  Not only did my thighs look amazing but so did the rest of my body!

Fast forward to 2013.  What can I say?  I’m sure Jane’s thighs still look good. But, I’m not bitter.  My almost 50-year-old thighs are strong and have been the pillars that have kept me grounded, steady and able to support all the heavy burdens that have come my way.  

As Alicia Keys suggests in her song, Girl On Fire,  this brickhousechick, is on fire!  

The Swim to My 50’s – Now, where was I?

I could not do it.  Since the Boston bombings, as I sat to write on my blog, no words would come to me.  Having lived, studied and worked in Boston for many years, I could not stop thinking about the horrible events.  Nothing I wanted to write seemed appropriate enough or worthy of a blog entry.  Everything felt so trivial in comparison to the mayhem in Boston.

How could I write about my silly experiences, stories or events?  It felt disrespectful and selfish discussing my insignificant little life, while so many were suffering.

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis – AND?  At least I have all my limbs and extremities in tact.  Yes, I experience pain on a daily basis – SO?  It is nothing like the excruciating physical and emotional pain felt by the victims of the bombings.

I am going to turn 50 in September.  Really?  That’s my dilemma?

As the days passed and the suspects were still out there, I began to think about the want and longing we all felt  for some sort of normalcy.  We could not wait until the suspects were caught so that we could go back to our routines, as mundane as they may be, and to our little insignificant lives.

Psychologists were advising that parents continue their daily regular schedules with their children, in order to ease their anxiety. None of us could truly get the atrocity of the bombings out of our minds as we grieved for those affected, but we tried to resume our lives because – we had to.

Soon I realized that I had to move forward.  That, as trivial as my life is, it is nevertheless, my life.  Not unlike the lives of many out there.

You see, although major events in our lives can shape us into who we are, it is often the simple routines and experiences that bring us joy and that make us feel blessed.

We all have silly stories to tell and experiences to share.  We do not have to be famous, on a reality show or on the news to be relevant.  Our voices and opinions matter to us and to those who choose to listen.  We enjoy reading about other’s lives and opinions and learn to find the humor in the difficulties we face.

There are atrocities happening every day.  We cannot ignore them or avoid them, but we can show our strength by continuing to live our lives the best we can.

I look forward to sharing more of my silly insignificant stories (like how I got my thunder thighs) with you, on future posts! 🙂

The Swim to My 50s – My name is brickhousechick, and I am a blog-oholic


Courtesy of

How can this be?  Why me?

I cannot deny, that the warning signs indicating that I had somewhat of an addictive personality, were there.  I sort of suspected that it was not normal for me to order a case of Olde Cape Cod Poppyseed Dressing, after having night sweats and a panic attack at the thought of not having my next supply. 

Or, the fact that I hide chap stick (shh…) everywhere in my house and car so that when the uncontrollable shakes come over me, I have immediate access to my fix.


I continued to ignore my loved ones’ warnings thinking that, contrary to what they believed, I did not have an addictive bone in me.

Consequently, against the advice of other blog-oholics, on that raw March evening (last month), I  took a bite of the -oh, so tempting – blogging apple.  I, brickhousechick,  waited until my family was out, locked myself in my room, closed the shades,  googled blogging sites, came across the WordPress world and, Wham-O!  I was hooked after my first post.

Nothing will ever top that first time.  The rush I felt writing my first post. Trying desperately to figure out what on earth a Widget was and how to add a picture to my Gravatar.  I get chills just thinking about it.

I soon discovered, sadly,  that one post was not enough.  I needed to experience a higher state of excitement.  I needed more.  I had to write more.  

I began sneaking around with my laptop any chance I could, reading other blogger’s posts, commenting on them and even pressing their Like buttons.  The thrill of almost getting caught, only increased my desire to do more.

I found myself staying home all day and night.  My husband was suspicious and expressed his concerns.  Why did I need to speak or socialize with real people when my virtual enabling blog-oholic friends, were always there for me?  They understood how I felt.  They got who I really was and they, did not judge me.

Well, the consequences of my new-found addiction began to show their ugly faces.  I had bags under my eyes from staying up all night coming up with ideas for my next post.  My neck was permanently curved in a severe osteoporosis – kind of way.  My fingers became stronger than an eagle’s talons, as I grasped my laptop for dear life unable to let go. It was time I got help.

Today, I am happy to announce, I was one hour and 35 seconds sober (blog-free) until I began writing this post, two hours ago. Please do not judge me.  Writing  is part of my recovery.  I am not perfect and just because it is 1:00 in the morning, does not mean I have fallen off the wagon.  It is  just a small set back.  I blame it on my husband actually, who had to travel this weekend and left me completely unsupervised in my bed, with my laptop.  

“Serenity Now”.  Tomorrow, is another day and everyday after that, is a gift.  A new beginning.  I pray for you, my fellow blog-oholics, that you may find peace and comfort in knowing that I am always here for you (especially in the middle of the night, when my husband is asleep).

I will sacrifice my recovery so that I may be available to help those who find themselves diving off the wagon and running for their laptops.  That, my friends, is the kind of blog-oholic I am.