Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cabbage Soup and the Lenten Season

will I think my life is changed since I discovered cabbage soup. I’m not living as a true vegetarian. My cabbage soup is made with chicken broth, and I will not apologize for it. I made a declaration at the beginning of Lent that I would stop eating meat, and I have. I suppose that while doing my penintentials, I got a little lazy. It’s not like I fried up some bacon and stuck into my soup. This is really a good thing.

I made my declaration to stop eating meat, as I always do, on Ash Wednesday. Unlike many people I never look at this as  “giving up” anything. I always believe that my declaration for Lent is one about building, changing. Since Lent began, and for quite a period before, I began eating lots of raw carrots. I refuse to look at it as snacking. I don’t look to the carrots for  satisfaction. I suppose I think of it, I guess, as a placeholder.

I found my inspiration in my sister’s dog. Her dog Carson is getting up in years, but my family took to buying it bags o raw carrots, and Carson now consumes raw carrots every day. I do not know what effect for good or ill, this is had on Carson’s health. But I do believe for me eating carrots is a wonderful thing. As for whether or not these are snacks, I believe that I need to look at this a different way. I have listened to people over the years who would pretend that something that they’ve substituted for something else “just as good” as the item being replaced. (“ I’m sure that if you just try one of these sweetened carob soy proteins and fiber bars, you’ll agree that they taste just as good as chocolate cake.”)

I’ve always regarded this is nonsense. Still, when I crave something to eat, I often know that I’m not looking for food because I am hungry. Sometimes I feel bored, sometimes I feel anxious, or perhaps, my brain is seeking out some type of neurotransmitter release, an explosion, that eating something disgustingly unhealthy for me would achieve. In those moments, nibbling on carrots, has become that placeholder. It is probably one of the more positive changes in my life lately.

In the last year have learned how to exercise. I learned how to dance, I learned how to stretch, and started to utilize a manual wheelchair that my mother bought for me not too long ago. Along with the carrots, the cabbage soup, and deliberate reduction in my caffeine intake, my exercise has changed my outlook on my entire life. I’m just feeling really good. In one month from now, Lent will end. No doubt I will want to assess how much, if any, of my old diet habits I would want to retain.

I do not own a scale. Unable to stand without holding onto a support, it seems difficult, if not impossible, to weigh myself accurately at my home. Still, I can feel the oxygen in my skin, the changes in my sleep, and the clarity of my vision. I’m also noticing my clothes are fitting looser than before. This is an exciting time. Also, just as I’ve said before, I am not “on a diet”. These are not some extreme actions aimed at rapidly achieving some desired result. These are life changes that I’ve thought about, and I’m willing to maintain for a lifetime (one day at a time, of course).

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

SCI: San Jose. Dancing permitted.

With the introduction of my standing frame years ago, I was able to practice weight-bearing exercise.  This exercise, this standing enabled me to do many things with my body.  It helps me to reduce the tone in my legs, the war spasm between muscle groups that were always meant to work together.  It helps me to increase my balance, and my general sense of well-being.  It strengthens the bone density in my legs, while gravity alone affects profoundly the circulation of my blood, and the movement of my digestion.

Unlike the standing frame and my therapist's office, this frame comes with the learning curve.  There are no guides for my feet, no crank to pull me into an upright position, and no therapist to observe my postures.  The learning curve is essentially this: the last three years I've worked with my rickety body to make it stronger and more pliant, while never really knowing if find that that was optimum, or even helpful.

In the last year-since April 21, 2012-I have been able to increase my use of this tool, and see its efficacy, increase dramatically over the first two years I had it.  I can only imagine what my development would've been like if I had to rely on outside sources for this help.  As it is, I am standing around seven hours a week.  My body thanks me.

In addition, I have received from my family, a manual wheelchair.  Daily, I go out into the yard, I push myself around in this manual wheelchair, and work out until I'm exhausted.  This is all done in addition to the machine workouts inside our mini-gym at the apartment complex.  I work out regularly during repetitions on the lat pulldown bar, and push myself as much as I can doing bicep curls.

 My fear has always been that there is this absence.  The absence is in the area of aerobic workout.  Having always loved going out on my bicycle, I feel this emptiness, a need not filled.my doctor, of course, is the first to agree with me.  While swimming is definitely a cardiovascular exercise, it still does not qualify as being aerobic activity.  By God's grace, I did experience a decrease in appetite as my activity level declined, but it still did not stop me from gaining a significant amount of weight over the last three years.

To the precise degree that my spirit had been willing to make changes, my flesh had proven weak.  With all the changes that I had made in the last three years, is thrilling to see that the thought of changing my  wardrobe one more time was more than I could bear.  I was strapped into my standing frame three days ago, and I found out that I could dance.  I found out I could play music, and I can move.  I was able to move my arms, my shoulders, my hips, and even my legs.  I found this so stimulating that I went through this movement for at least eight minutes before stopping in exhaustion.  I tried again, and stopped again.

The discovery that I can dance, the realization that I can move while strapped into my frame, is very liberating.  The thrill that I could increase my activity even this much is amazing.  I then discovered the next day that my arms wer

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Beginning Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday.  Some people this week reflecting on Pope Benedict's announcement that he will retire have joked:" so, what are you giving up for Lent?"  I suppose I find that funny.  Pope John Paul II was very young when selected at conclave to lead the Catholic Church.  I have to remember that when I think about how charismatic and well loved he was.  I remember reading that in his life he circumnavigated the globe over thirty times during his Papacy.

I keep this in mind remembering Pope Benedict was much older than he when taking his post.  Pope John Paul II was Pope for three decades of my life.  It is hard to imagine what kind of expectations I would have for his successor.  But, this seems neither good nor bad, and I can look at all the jokes, ignoring the ones that I find tasteless or ignorant.  Now, we can only imagine what the next Pope will be like in the wake of Pope Benedict's final Holy See you later.

Outside that, my thoughts have been on food.  My last ten months living independently of that obnoxious care home I lived in, one of my greatest celebrations has been food.  My liberation manifests in this excitement over being able to buy what food I want, eat what food I want, and sculpt a diet that for me is creative, nutritious, and cost-effective.

On Facebook, I've posted many pictures of the meals my caregivers have provided for me.  I've also posted pictures of foods that I've cooked for myself.  Right now every meal is a delight.  I have been learning how to control portions, control budget, manage my diet, and avoid spoilage.  Vegetables are the worst.  If I'm not going through my refrigerator on a regular basis, I can't rely on my caregivers to tell me when vegetables are feeling ignored.  In my recovery from codependence I try not to be concerned about that.  Unfortunately, if vegetables get ignored they do become unusable.

I believe starting today, that should be a non-issue, because I'm giving up meat for Lent.  Last Monday, my caregiver produced for me baked penne pasta in a rich meat sauce following my every specification.  She browns too much ground beef, and my only thought was, how am I going to use all this up before Wednesday.  I had her boil 2 cups of dried penne pasta, and layer it in the bottom of a 9 x 13" baking dish.  We covered it in a meaty red sauce and a couple handfuls of cheese.

After baking it for 30 min., I knew there was way too much there for me to consume by Tuesday night.  I ate some Monday night, sent it home with her to feed her family and still had too much for Tuesday.  But alas, it was after all Fat Tuesday, so I indulged.

I still have a freezer full of meat and awaiting me after Easter arrives.  In the meantime, I learn how to get creative – as I once did – with greens, vegetables, legumes, and grains.  That's all I have to report for now.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

my new ride

So, today is Christmas, and I am feeling like I fared pretty well  this Christmas Day.  When I think of all the people who get so excited, imbued with the Christmas spirit, it seems kinda funny that I would think of myself in terms of having" fared well" on this day.

So many people have  said to me," are you ready for Christmas?"  They ask me that question is if there was something that I should be ready for.I am usually ready for Christmas to be over.  I stopped worrying about the drama of Christmas a long time ago.  I was given permission by a friend to mellow out.  To the best of my ability, I try to soak up the Christmas spirit vicariously from the people that surround me, while feeling this great gratitude knowing that they're enjoying themselves on this one day.

I made it back home after dinner.  I  feel great satisfaction knowing that I spent time with my family, watched a movie, enjoyed a great meal, exchanging freely with sister and parents.  I'm even put into the odd circumstance of counseling others who feel weird about their holiday season.  I get to listen to other people's anxiety, and I try to remember the anxieties that I felt myself, while feeling so very grateful that I can appreciate the positive feelings that so many people share at this time of the year.

Lately, my focus is been on transportation.  Living in a two hundred pounds power wheelchair, I started realizing how much of my freedom has been lost by not being able to enjoy all the options that I had as a walking man.  Because of Pres. George Bush signing the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1991, I actually have much more freedom.  Every bus in Santa Clara County is required by law to have functional wheelchair lifts.  The same is true of trains and other public transportation.  Still, I cannot get around the way I want to.

My parents did me the service of purchasing for me a manual wheelchair.  I am exercising regularly to develop endurance on it.  That's not the reason I wanted my manual wheelchair.  So many places I want to go, are challenged by the fact that people can't take me there.  I want to be able to climb into a person's car and have them drive me some place.  This is something I used to take for granted.

Now that I have this manual wheelchair, I have to see if I have the ability to successfully transfer my body from my wheelchair to the car.  Then, I have to be able to transfer my body from the car back to the manual wheelchair.  My excitement is that I have a friend who is willing to help me practice this.  He has excitement in this process is developing such that he's planning trips for me.  I get confronted with my own sense of trepidation.

With this new wheelchair, I no longer feel so limited.  I get to see how my friends are willing to help me, and I'm learning more about how I can help myself.  What a marvelous time this is.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Wheels

Lately, I've been thinking about transportation.  I'm trying to get excited about the discovery of  exoplanets around Alpha Centauri, especially when one is so close to being the same size as planet Earth.  I just can't feel the excitement.  My mind is spent on transportation.  As well it should be. 

I can't get excited about exo planets.  The latest discovery, around Alpha Centauri, is the nearest  exoplanet discovered yet that is Earth size.  Scientists get excited because Alpha Centauri is a mere 4 light years away.  Using current rocket technology, there is absolutely no possibility we will ever reach that star system.


My current musings on transportation are little more selfish.  Spending most of my time awake in an electric wheelchair, I do think oten about the limitations of this lifestyle.  I have family members whose homes are not yet wheelchair accessible.  There are no friends that can take me anywhere, unless they happen to have a wheelchair accessible van.  In recent times, the paratransit service called outreach has denied me access to their service, because I live too close to a bus stop, have access to a power wheelchair.

This denial caused me a slight bit of stress.  I wondered, what would happen if my chair broke down out in the middle of town, with no way to get home.  Outreach does not want to answer that question.  So anyway,Friday  I decided to go down to Denny's for a coffee, and meet with some friends at a morning meeting, and no sooner did I leave my apartment complex that my wheelchair dropped into a small hole, jarred the system, making it power down completely.  I stared at my console dumbfounded.

Why, just a week ago, my mother and I met as a medical supply store to look at wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs.  I had wanted to buy a manual wheelchair for quite a while, realizing that I can go anywhere night unless it's on a specific bus route they can get me home at a reasonable hour.  The wheelchair we wanted was not in stock, so we had to backorder it.  I jokingly said, I don't want to wait; I want it now.  Indeed, why would I need to have a manual wheelchair immediately?  I have gone this long without it.

The benefits of having a manual wheelchair are enormous.  I can get more exercise on a day-to-day basis.  My friends can take me anywhere I want, without my having to pay a service to take me home.  The possibility of burning extra calories is very encouraging, and I'd always have a reserve in the unlikely event that my power chair should become unusable.

So, along comes Friday.  Without a cloud in the sky, everything looked hopeful.  All I wanted was to be my friends, and then find my way over to Sacred Heart community center to do some volunteer work.  It wasn't meant to happen.  (Notice to reader: that last sentence was purely for dramatic affect.  I am not a fatalist, and do not subscribe to superstitious thinking).  When I hit that bump, and my chair powered down, I felt a small sense of dread.  But, I've always been inclined towards problem solving.  I spotted a couple guys and each was able to help me in some small way towards pushing me back to my apartment.

The maintenance guy at my apartment pushed me to my desk.  I thanked him and sent him on his way.  What a difference a week makes.  Isn't it slightly ironic that in the day following this incident, my mother would call me to tell me that my new wheelchair would be coming in a week?  How funny it is to think that this one weeks wait would occur at this time.  Still, sitting at my desk, I started calling the people I needed to call.  I immediately called the people that do my wheelchair repairs, and asked them if they do emergency repair work.

The woman on the phone was very helpful.  She understood immediately how poor the situation was for me, and told me that she needed to make a few phone calls to find out if she could get a technician over to help me.  I want to emphasize that I did tell her my power chair does not work, that I cannot walk, and am unable to leave my desk.  While reviewing my contact information, she asked me if I would be at this phone number all day.  Knowing what I told her, all I could do was laugh.

She asked me what phone number would be best to reach me, and told me that she would probably call you within the next 5 min.  In less than 90 min. after the initial problem, a technician I know well was here at my apartment, and quickly was able to fix a loose connection, making my chair functional yet once again.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Maybe I am Thinking too Much

okay, so I'm eating a Danish.  For $5.79 I'm able to purchase at the store eight raisin-ettes from Svenhard's.  Over the years I have consumed thousands of danishes from theirs and other bakeries.  It is funny to realize that the fuel for this behavior is a memory.  This memory comes up from childhood, a memory now altered shamelessly by me to meet my needs and feed my compulsions.  I suppose remembering childhood should never be done so cynically as this.  Still, I digress.

Each Danish was covered with a frosting or a glaze that was always kind of hardened around the edges.  When my teeth bit into it, pieces of fat and sugar melted across my tongue, and my back teeth fresh pieces of the frosting mixed in with spiced raisins to produce the most exquisite explosions in my brain.  As you can see my memory of these danishes remain fresh and exciting.  Every package I buy for $5.79 comes with an unfulfilled promise.  That promise is that I can re-create to my satisfaction that sensation I remember from many decades ago.

I feel bad.  I feel bad because I spoke to my friend Bong, and like a drug addict, I felt compelled to hide my bakery purchase. It's like wearing long sleeves in summertime.  my friend Bong is a Buddhist, a woman who chose her faith in these last ten years of her life.  She says that the goal is to find peace within yourself.  She believes this peace is to be found in compassion.  She develops her compassion through breathing and simplicity.

I feel strange knowing that I, too, am learning to breathe, and breathe thoughtfully, consciously.  I also want to find that compassion. Bong is eighty-nine years old.  As a part of her faith, a part of her study, she has achieved great peace through great simplicity.  I told her about using hot sauce, and she told me she doesn't like "accessories."  In my quest to explode neurons within my brain, make every synaptic explosion meaningful within my life, I fail to think of hot sauce as " an accessory".

I suppose the question is this: if I want to achieve the peace that my friend has achieved, do I really have to make the changes that she has made?  I still cling to my Danish, an indulgence.  I also know every argument has been posed to me in support of vegetarianism, and still I fry up ground cow flesh to put inside my enchiladas.  I have to wonder, what could I gain by seeing teapots and hot sauce bottles as" accessories". Bong tells me for herself that her faith is borne of philosophy, not religion.  She doesn't muse over the metaphysical value of prayer, or the dreams of an afterlife.  Her goal really is to" be here now".

As I struggle with my own issues -as shown in my indulgent purchases of sugary treats and animal flesh- I have to ask myself what I truly want.  Could I really confront my own illusions, and find my way past my own impulsivity?  On this question alone, my eye drifts back to the coffee pot, and my unfinished package of Danish, to realize how much further I have to go to find my peace.  My thumb runs across the cellophane package.  I realize that I've been satisfied sufficiently for now, but my questions remain.  I guess I'm okay with that. I have to be okay with that.

thank you for reading.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bringing my Legs Back to Life

It is 1 AM and I'm still awake.  In the past week I have started swimming again.  Is a strange experience, and I feel excited by the possibilities.  I think the last time I went swimming was within the last eight years, and I really only spent a few minutes hanging out in a  hot spring, just long enough for a photo op.  I can't remember any time within the last fifteen years, or if ever, that swimming has been an active part of my exercise life.

I suppose I like good sale jobs.  As a person who once worked as a salesman, I seem to work well with being sold.  Friends, physical therapists, and occupational therapists have done little to sell me on the concept of swimming as a therapy.  As with all the exercises my therapists have offered me, my interests only lasted as far as the vision they could create with their recommendation.  But therapists are not salespeople.  They never tried to sell me on the idea of my improvement.  Am I depressive?  What kind of failure has kept me from trying to sell myself on my own recovery?

Somehow, swimming has always stayed on my mind.  It was always the last thing on my mind, but it was  there.  One year ago I inquired about a membership at the YMCA.  Six months ago I acquired that membership, and last week I put on my swim trunks for the first time.  Every exercise of therapist is try to offer me has had a purpose.  I understand that now, and I even knew that somewhat back then.  I wonder if I don't have to keep selling myself on my recovery.  It seems like I have to get myself excited all over again every time I want to make a new progress.

Last week my friend and I went to the gym I took off my shoes, socks, and T-shirt.  With my chair positioned side-by-side with the swimming pool lift, my friend directed this three people transferred me to the chair lift, and then they lowered me into the pool.  Feeling the water was amazing, and with slight trepidation I pulled away from lift chair.  Using my arms with little forethought I floated out to the middle of the swimming lane.

Even today, after two years of limited use, my legs are still more bone and muscle  than they are fat.  It never occurred to me how little inclination they have to float on command.  The moment I stopped actively wading, my head started to dunk under the water.  I did not gulp water, and I didn't start coughing, but I did start to have a clear realization that my body really does not work as well as I thought it would under these circumstances.  Grabbing the wall, I made my way over to where the three men wearing lifeguard T-shirts were talking, and I called out to my friend telling her that this was not working out quite the way I planned.  Almost immediately, one of the YMCA employees came over and told her that maybe I should be wearing flotation belt.

After 10 min. I was exhausted.  I got out of the pool and was not sure what I would ever accomplish there.  But my friend Cheri, seemed determined to bring me back, once again without a plan.  Yet this time, I had the flotation belt, I got on the chair faster; the moment I entered the water I started to move with the deliberateness that was exciting.  I started to see how I could use my body to move in an organized way, and within seconds, I was doing laps across the entire link to the pool.  This is the experience people wanted me to have.  This is the experience I needed to know about.  my entire body felt tired and peaceful that night, and yet I stayed  alert the entire evening.  The experience was incredible!

I can now see how using this swimming pool can advance my therapy, improve my circulation, heal my heart, and prepare my body for surprises in the months and years to come.  Well, will go back tomorrow, and we'll see what happens.

Thank you for reading.