Sunday, November 8, 2009

Beginning With the End in Mind?

“From early childhood I had always dreamed of becoming an
explorer. Somehow I had acquired the impression that an
explorer was someone who lived in the jungle with natives
and lots of wild animals, and I couldn’t imagine anything better
than that! Unlike most little boys, most of whom changed
their minds about what they want to be several times as they
grew older, I never wavered from this ambition.”
-John Goddard

Years ago, I remember when a friend of mine talked to me about my personal vision. From the time he spoke to me until much time later, I never knew the idea he shared was from Stephan Covey. He said one idea that was very popular was to "start with the end in mind." I have reworked my own self image, my own personal dream, my own wavering self confidence, and still, I see how this principle has propelled me forward.

Back when I was in multi level marketing, one thing I remembered was that the head of the company talked about mountains. He talked about how the different people react to the climb. He spoke about how many people speak incessantly about the rocks, and about the problems on the path, while the rare group keep their eye on the goal.

Little is spoken about the problems of the second group. They have their eyes on the goal, and it is sure that they make many mistakes, and encounter many problems. They do not dwell on them. The message of this principle was driven home when I read the account of John Goddard. This man had at ba very early age, listed 127 goals.

We all have goals, but Goddard listed his goals to include livng with tribal people in Borneo to climbing the world's highest peaks, and exploring the world's greatest rivers. I m ay not be Goddard, but I do have an appreciation for the end assessment of his goal listing. Most of the sources I checked say he is still alive, and I read he has accomplished 111 of the original goals listed back in 1940.

What is the message in the game Rock, Paper, Scissors? Is it not a constant reminder that no matter how much we have mastered there is always someone who knows more? Is it not true, that no matter how weak we feel there is always someone weaker? My friends have told me for years never compare my insides with other people's outsides.

When I get frustrated, I remember that we are all somewhere in a continuum. I am still getting older, still learning, and still enjoying life. Some people are greatly influenced by the psychological community, want to encourage me, and praise me anytime I do something well.Sigh. I try to encourage myself. I try to find my strength from within. I do not need people clapping their hands for me every time I do something right. I am not listening for some south american sports announcer to yell out "Gooooaalll!" just so I can find the adrenaline to keep going.

Right now, I still want to run a marathon. I believe a doctor who supports the idea I may get better is the best doctor to have. I am pleased with the exercises my therapist gives me as I focus on mastery of my nervous system.

I remember my friends who said "Keith, slow and steady wins the race."
I think of my physical therapist who reminds me that mastery of an exercise is about a steady mind, and attention to details.

But, even as I move slowly, I remain focused on my ultimate goal.
Thank you for reading.

Friday, November 6, 2009

My Time at Lincoln High School...

Once upon a time, computers were a new paradigm in schools, in libraries, out in the world we knew. I recently bought a phone/address book from radio shack for fifteen dollars that boasted an enormous amount of memory compared to the Apple II+ to which I was introduced in 1981. It would be two years before my mother would buy me the Commodore Vic-20. My friend, Howard would get a Commodore 64, and groups with 1200/2400 BAUD modems would be assembling bulletin board services.

Times were fun for people now able to establish relationships with BBS's, and the pre Internet world of online chat was born. But, with this infantile world of information being digitized and sent over phone lines, one man found a computerized machine, and he found an important application for it. With a trunk line installed in his home, and a box attached to his phone with a companion box attached to another phone line in the office of his client.

He says his first client was Abraham Lincoln High School in San Jose, California. They purchased from him a specialized computer that nightly would compile a list of students names and phone numbers. The computer then would call the homes of students, one by one, informing the person answering the phone that their student had missed one or more classes that day, and that the absence needed to be cleared.

He seems like such a nice guy. He spoke to me about all the ADA money that a school loses for every unexcused absence. This business of absences leads us back to the ultimate issue which is money. Every student absence lost the school fifteen dollars in government funding. Considering how many students stay home sick every month, that can add up to a large amount of money, even today.

Still, I am thinking about production loss. I am thinking about how many productive hours are lost across the board by these students that could have been studying, practicing sports, working on a play script, or enjoying quality time with family. Instead, many of these students were put in the position of hovering near the telephone, waiting to intercept that unnecessary phone call.

Anyway, the discussion also involved the technology, this little black box in the attendance office was programmed daily with all the numbers to call. By modem, this information found its way to this man's house, and all the calls were made. It is silly to recall there were times that even mild-mannered, conformist me had opportunity to anticipate such a phone call. I even remember when my mother chose to ignore my lame excuse about the fallibility of computers when she did catch the phone before me.

I am grateful to have not cut class too much in my high school years. I just wonder how many times I could say "it is probably a computer glitch" and not sit in despair over my parents' disapproval. Since I mentioned this, I have heard from many fellow students who relayed their own memories of those calls. I have to ask myself how much anxiety could have been avoided if students just did not cut class.

Well, that is a ridiculous thought!
Thank you for reading.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Night, 2009

I am not a party pooper. I think Halloween can be a fun, exciting holiday. It would be fun to attend a costume party, and I can see the fun of passing out candy from a porchstep. I just do not get excvited enough to do anything about it. I remember being a kid, and having the job to pass out candy at the door. One years my sister and I set up the front porch so it looked like my head was sitting on a platter, and I remained there a couple hours while the children roamed door to door calling out "Trick or Treat".

Every year I remember I have an entire year to come up with a costume for the following year. Somewhere in my mind, I know it could be fun. Then The week of October 31 arrives, and I never get around to creating a costume.... Now I live in an enclosed complex with locked front doors.... No kids to Trick or Treat herer. Oh well.

Halloween really is a holiday for the kids. I am not a parent, and I am definitely not a kid. Still, aside of passing out candy at my parent's house, I have not been involved in Halloween since the 1980's. On Facebook, I see pages of my friends from high school dressed up in costumes; most of them are parents, however.

The goal would be to come up with a vision, a dream so fresh that people would stand in awe at my preplanned spontaneity. Well, that is my vision for next year. Meanwhile, I sit at home, grateful I do not have a bag of candy that I should avoid.

So, what joy do I get out of Halloween this year? I showed up a week ago Thursday to Sacred Heart Community Service. They told me that instead of putting clothes on hangers, they wanted me to man the Halloween room. I was disturbed. My routine was being violated this day. I went to the room, and was told I would be the door man.

Clients would walk in the room, and hand me a voucher. The voucher would claim the number of adults and children for which they wanted costumes. People combed the room. I watched the way parents filed in and examined everything, piece by piece, finding costumes for their children. We had bags for kids to collect candy, hair gels, hair spray colors, costumes, fake teeth, fake blood, make ups, wigs, tiaras, swords, and eye patches.

The thing I appreciate, only after watching it, is the details, the cares of the parents. People came to me asking if they could get one extra item to complete a costume.

The room stayed open no more than two hours. By then we had serviced many parents. I had handled a large number of vouchers, and the room had been reworked by other volunteers a few times. There was just no more costumes left. I suppose we did alright. I crawled back int my corner, and went back to examining clothes donations. This was a good day.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What are my Habits

One of the more enchanting people in my life works as a teacher. She teaches young people, helping them improve their English speaking skills, and has also run many classes where she teaches them basic cooking skills. I always figure, I can do that! The truth is I can. Sigh. I have had troubles from time to time finishing projects. I will discuss more on that some other day.

I am tickled to recall a day when I stood in line at Barnes and Noble bookstore where I filed past all the tables of discounted books. I passed a book on procrastination. The title was Overcoming Procrastination. The book was very exciting with ideas filling my head. I had my purchases in one hand, and this book in the other. I was waiting in line, knowing this book was placed on that table just for me, certain it was there just for my perusal, on that one day. I put it down, my eyes tearing up with hope for change in my heart, and knew I will come back someday to buy that book.

Anyway, my girlfriend teaches, and I listen often to the day to day experiences of this world of teaching. I do not hear about the fights, the noise, the chaos of managing children under the age of ten. One thing I hear about is this thing called a lesson plan. What is a lesson plan? My memories of elementary school involved some time with eating snacks, weekly fluoride treatments, nap time, snack time, recess, and storybook time. I remember walking home with papers of mysterious content pinned to the back of my shirt.

One thing that escapes me is that amidst all the things I remember from my childhood, teachers were constantly following programs of teaching me important skills on a somewhat fixed schedule. Why would I have ever thought that these fine teachers everyday took time out of their day to reflect on what they were going to teach me the following day. I remember how many skill sets, and how many expectations are placed on each child in order for a teacher to recommend that child proceeds to the next grade.

Well, she works at a private school that loves Stephen Covey, and encourages their staff to demonstrate the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in their planning process, even asking them to model the Seven Habits in written communications (like lesson plans). I am still reeling over the concept of planning what I do before I do it. What expectations would I create in others should I set this precedent in my life? I have been told that what anyone thinks of me is none of my business. Perhaps, then, I can explore these ideas further. Disregarding other people's expectations may be very practical in a time like this.

I have read Covey's book. His is a book about action. Just as I said before "bring the body, and the mind will follow" I will possibly gain more from the indicated actions in these Seven Habits. I will not write more about these habits, unless I am actively applying them in my life. Funny how useless learning a habit seems, unless I engage in the indicated actions discussed in the book.

I will explore some more on Covey the next time I write...

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Two Bags of Steer

Along time ago, a flock of birds traveled south for the winter. One of the weakest birds fell behind. Flying through a low pressure system, feeling the challenge of cyclonic winds, the bird learned his weakness to be possibly fatal. He fell behind, and was forced to crash land in a field. Having never lived long enough to face this experience before, he lay dazed, lost in reflection, preyed upon by waves of self-doubt and indecision.

The weather system had passed, and he basked in the warm sun, until a cow -unaware of him completely- proceeded to have a bowel evacuation atop the small bird. He knew this was to be the end of him. He was denied sunlight. He was lost, unable to breathe, and was certain death was imminent. But his drive to live prevailed. Aiming upward, he struggled, wriggled, and pecked ntil he forced his head out to suck in his first gasp of breath in several moments.

Still encased in cow's dung, he could hardly contain his joy at his seeming salvation. He started chirping, and chirping, and chirping. Along came a cat who heard, and spied the stranded bird, dug him out, and ate him.


Not everyone who shits on you is an enemy.
Not everyone who digs you out of the shit is a friend.
Sometimes, when stuck in a pile of shit, you should keep your mouth shut.

A member of the United States Air Force shared that inspired story with me in 1993, and I have remembered it ever since. But, at the peak of my maturity (age 22) I would have no idea that bthe story was not just cute or funny. I now know that remembering that moral can save me much headache. In 1993, I lived with my family, I had no true responsibility, and I was oblivious to any possible needs I had, because everything I needed was provided for.

Now the question arrises as to who is my friend, and who isn't. Or, looking at the story, perhaps the question is actually what actions are helping me, and which are hurting me. Reading the moral of the story, I am assured that people's motives, good and bad, are becoming less and less significant. After a time, I found that listening to people's explanations of their actions - at times insulting, hurtful, misleading or debilitating- did nothing to change a situation.

Perhaps what I am saying is in the end, I have to view an action solely on the merits of what it accomplishes. So much time gets lost listening to people explaining why they chose to lie to me, chose to steal from me, choose to mischaracterize me to others, and I am sure that the explanations that offered the best of intentions for me or for someone else. Try listening to someone elucidating why they tried to screw you over... One man actually stuttered while talking to me: "I never any harm." Perhaps the stutter was not an affectation, and I am insensitive for the disgust I had that day. There is a chance for forgiveness, but I cannot walk around pretending everyone acts with the best of intentions. Human beings just are not like that.

But, if the discerning reader presupposes I have a dung pile of my own, that that is the cause of this little post, they also know the third part of the moral. I have much to gain in keeping my private issues private. I once read from a man who said "nothing pays off like restraint of pen and tongue. Maybe I am wrong for expressing public grumpiness, with hints of cynicism. Still, I am smart enough not to throw stones in public. Even simple-minded folk like me can learn from the past.

The hope for forgiveness comes in no longer caring about people's intentions. If someone behaves carelessly I can look for a pattern. If that person cannot stop behaving in a careless fashion, I will simply move away from them. Maybe I did learn something useful from those Al-Anon meetings.

Thank you for reading

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This is my home

After one person viewed this video, I was asked to take my batik hat away from the stove. Amazing the details people notice in this short 90 second view of my little place.

The filming was made possible with my Olympus digital camera, and my electric wheelchair on a slow setting. If I filmed this on foot, I am sure the video would have been more action packed.

(The music selection is the Talking Heads singing Naive Melody(Home, This Must Be The Place))

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Doctors: You May be Wrong For all I know, But You May Be Right.

Today I got to see some old friends again. I had not visited Sacred Heart Community Service. I had not visited them in close to two years. I had not had a chance to help out since the day I left San Jose in 2005. For this day, I knew there was a chance I would be working out in the pantry. I knew that I might be working with food. I knew to visit SHCS I would need to wear regular, close-toed shoes.

My mother bought me some fine shoes in the weeks preceding my trip to the island of Jawa. A pair of Brown Skechers, these shoes look simple, clean, and very stylish. Besides, they are the only close toed shoes I own, and I was actually excited to pull them off the shelf. My memory is not spectacular, but I stand assured I wore those shoes at least once, but no more than three times. Froom the day I prepared to board Cathay Pacific's flight to Hong Kong, I put on a pair of quality sandals, and they remained my footwear of choice until today.

I will say this was a casual decision until I actually attempted to put on the shoes. I pulled the skechers off the shelf, and put on some white socks. I have been in a wheelchair since June, and did not realize the challenges my legs are giving me. I loosened the shoe laces, and (after pulling my left leg onto my right thigh), noted that I di'd not have the strength to force my foot into the shoe. After less than ten minutes of wrestling with myself (think Edward Norton in Fight Club), I wiped the blood from my nose (just kidding) and succeeded in getting both shoes on my feet. I proceeded to bus off to SHCS.

I showed up at the back dock. My friends, Andy and Maureen, had given me a Pronto electric wheelchair.Wheeling to the back dock, I spoke to the supervisors, and they directed me to the clothing closet. Behind rolling petitions, SHCS keeps enormous bins refilled constantly with clothing. My supervisor, a woman named Angela, instructed me to sort the clothing, and place them on hangers.

The enormous bins are filled with donated, un-folded, and unsorted clothing. Actually, some of the clothing is folded. Some of the clothing is actually washed, and some of it is brand new. Some of the clothes are dirty, unfolded, and torn. My instructions are to sort the clothing, and select which clothes that seem to be of greatest quality. I am not to put out clothing that I would never purchase for myself or family . Ignoring the desire of some to have clothes with stains, rips, or tears, we have a standard that such clothes are automatically recycled. Everything from old socks to pristine dress suits make way through the clothes closet.

Standing in line, people are given a time limit to find and select what clothes they want to take for themselves. Once I realized how much quality clothing finds new homes through this service, I developed a deep appreciation for the work. Looking at the bins of outdated, mismatched, and unwanted clothing, I sometimes lose sight of what an enormous amount of clothing gets moved into grateful hands on a daily basis because of this organization.

As an aside: this past week I visited for the first time a neurologist here in San Jose to address the problems I have been having. I have a dragging foot, a loss of balance. I am losing sensation in my hands, leaving myself able to type with only my two index fingers. I am now spending the bulk of my waking hours in a wheelchair, with a walker to help me around my new apartment.

My new doctor has reviewed my file, interviewed me for over an hour with a Stanford trained doctor reviewing my chart,and the two of them told me the same thing. Despite my previous diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, they do not believe my test results, nor my history support conclusively that diagnosis. The possibilities I was told included the hinted suggestion my problems may be reversible. We are awaiting more tests, but I am staying hopeful.

I already have family members worried that I am investing too much in the possibility of even a partial recovery. Even I have to admit that my condition could even be worse than I thought. I smile, because I remain far more productive when I invest in hope. Never once did I see a bumper sticker that read : "Got despair?"

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A long time ago, someone presented me with the concept of a mantra. I realize that many learned people can take the word 'mantra' back to its etymology, or at least find some expert to share an authoritative understanding on what a mantra is. From some traditions the mantra involves using a sound that helps someone focus their body's energy. I was also told that a mantra can help to keep the head clear while sitting, while breathing.

The first mantra many people hear of or learn about is the word "Om." This is a Sanskrit word, and was described to me as be "the primordial sound of the Universe" which sounds mystical enough for me. I see many people walking around with these symbols on their necklaces. I asked a woman, and she told me that it is the symbol for the Sanskrit word "Om". I smiled at her politely, and told her that "Om is where the 'eart is." I am not much of a mystic. I believe my few experiences with meditation proved that -absent any mystical pretexts- it is a very practical endeavour.

When meditation was studied, many aspects were reviewed. Blood pressure was lowered. Chance for stroke was lowered, and heart attack risk dropped. Of course, I have a friend who used to b a boxer. He apparently had issues controlling his temper in the past. He joined a program that got him on a machine to measure his stress levels, and played soothing tones when optimal levels of calm was achieved. Apparently using a basic behaviour modification model, he accomplished levels of calm and peace that others seek out in meditation classes with incense, discussions about energies, and chakras.

Indeed, researchers in biofeedback labs no little if anything about chakras, about extending your energy to flow from the Universe, and filter into the ground. They rarely would suggest the act of burning incense hoping to add to the biofeedback experience. With stated goals and projected results, biofeedback seemed to want to minimize the distractions that these mystical models provided. If I burn incense, perhaps I like the smell. If I put a mandala on my wall, maybe mandalas look nice. If I utilize a mantra, possibly I find focusing -on a sound, word, or sentence- I can stay on track in a meditation. Perhaps the mantra itself provides meaning for me.

Avoiding the primordial sound of the Universe, I came up with my own mantra. Without trying to ascribe any metaphysical significance, I felt inspired by a phrase from the Bible. The mantra I picked -and I used this one about two years ago- was the sentence "The truth shall set you free."
I needed a focusing mantra. I have no chakras to align, no auras to fix. My third eye is best left shut. So, I avoid the lure of Latin. "Veritas Liberabit Vos" sounds very beautiful, and certainly carries the same message as the English sentence. For my purpose, I need my mantra in English. This phrase I would say on every out-breath.
I find this mantra truly focuses me. In time, my perspective on what I believe starts to change. Just like my friend in his biofeedback clinic, I find my calm, and achieve new levels of efficiency. I live well,communicate better, and live to greater purpose.

Many of the books I read in the 1980's suggested that meditating to achieve those things would only sells the act of meditation short. I do not know that. But I do know many folk say to me "bring the body, and the mind will follow." I come to trust the experiences of others as guides. I learn from taking the actions I am shown. I have accomplished little by trying to change my motivations. If meditation has greater rewards, then I will find out by doing it, not by shaming myself for my failed enlightenment.

I thank you for reading.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Scattered Thoughts on Bumper Stickers

I am listening to Jethro Tull playing "It Was a New Day Yesterday, But it's an Old Day Now." I feel poorly qualified to share anything meaningful about the transitory nature of time. I have spent the last seventeen years listening to people saying things like, "If you have one foot in today, and one foot in tomorrow, you are pissing all over today." What does that mean? I know of other people who say things like ,"Today is a gift, that is why we call it the present." That sounds quaint enough, but still has certain limitations.

I feel sure that there exists truth in both of those thoughts. But just as I know of no law that really states "pedestrians always have the right of way", I know no prevailing wisdom in disregarding the past, or suggesting no chance of a future. Having been both a driver and a pedestrian, I took comfort in my experiences overseas where it became clear that cars, not pedestrians, always have the right of way. Drivers regularly, dispassionately honk horns at pedestrians to remind them to get out of the way. So, when I hear these pithy little sayings, I still smile at the frequent usefulness of such sayings.

I wonder how many asshole pedestrians have gotten killed in traffic, believing this nonexistent right of way would magically engage the braking systems of oncoming vehicles. I ought to ask a police officer if she or he believes pedestrians "always have the right of way." I just like to be careful not to let my life run on quaint generalizations.

But, when I live my life, I hope to know when to keep my reflections to myself. I get tired of people trying to control my thoughts or my words by telling me one of their canned wisdoms. Now, I can think all I want about the past, and I can plan as much as I want about the future. Do we have a message, a caution, in this time preoccupation? Without the guarantee of tomorrow, anytime spent in planning- keeping a calendar, perhaps- becomes useless? Maybe equally silly to reflect on our joys, sadness, successes and failures from the past? Surely we have nothing to gain in that.

I only mention these thoughts, because the people sharing them, often seem intent on changing people's lives with these cutting-edge wisdoms. Do I seem recalcitrant? Does my resistance, my irritation seem unreasonable? I throw these ideas out to the world.... I have bumper sticker wisdoms of my own, I am sure. I continue to smile and placate opinionated busy-bodies, and then I write about them.

You may sense sarcasm in my examples. I think bumper sticker philosophies can work. I still like to keep friends around me who have a collection of life experiences that help iron out, and transcend bumper stickers when I make life decisions for myself. I enjoy having such friends in my life. With such people, I can see the success they have in their life, I can hear how they achieved their success, and I find most of them share about the things they do without needing to advise.

Years ago, I attended a meeting of a group called Al-Anon. Al-Anon groups gather together and works the twelve step program to help themselves learn how to live with alcoholics in their lives. One thing I remember vividly from those groups was every meeting they ended with a fixed statement including the phrase, "Let there be no advice, gossip, or criticism ..." Can human beings grow and develop without those things? Maybe a person can even grow better in the absence of "advice, gossip (and) criticism"? What do I have to gain by learning to leave people alone if they fail to live a standard I hold true for myself?

Of course, maybe I am just being silly.

Thank you for reading.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Oleum Infirmorum

I have many friends, people who, for whatever reason, have shown more interest in my well-being than they are in trying to change me. My distractibility is high as I write, and I feel like I have to work so hard to adjust my external world to capture my internal peace. Back when I was in high school, I learned how to practice meditation, and only now do I realize what it takes to get that back.

In meditation, I remember being able to overcome my general anxiety to sit for select periods of time. I was not an adept. I did not have some guide. I am saying I sat for ten minutes, fifteen minutes. I learned how to breathe. As I pass through the different changes in my life I realize what I had forgotten. I realize what I lost. I now know what I work to regain.

I do not practice as a Buddhist. I never formally studied Zen. All I know is when I was younger, I needed guidance.I read many books. I needed a reed to grab to keep from drowning emotionally. I was struggling with myself, and one tool i was given was meditation. Many refer to it as "the art of sitting." I ask now why I sit, and I believe that the act of starting to sit is more important than understanding why I do it. I am not a Buddhist indeed. Still, the art of sitting is a useful one. Everyday I remember some piece of something I discussed, something about which I wrote in this blog; I know I was trying to build a bridge to something, to somewhere.

So, the path I started twenty three years ago got distracted. I discovered beer worked faster than meditation. I found my girlfriend was able to bring me to a peaceful place faster than meditation. It really seems- or at least it seemed- that meditation was tedious, and unnecessary. This act of sitting alone, checking my posture, watching my breathing, and -to the degree I understand- clearing my mind, I felt it (the meditation) was all too much work. Sitting still seemed very difficult. With less things in my life about which I needed to worry, I find myself more distracted by this sense of lost time than in times past.

Back then, my thinking was clearer. My heart stayed peaceful. My eyes stayed focused on the horizon of possibility, while I worked to stay grounded in the present. So, today, I am home with my family and friends. I laugh, because as my diet has improved, and my health has gotten better, I find myself less focused than ever before.

Sitting works. Now I am finding that with my challenged nervous system, getting back my patience is a must. Learning to breathe purposefully becomes a great asset. I also find I am learning how to stretch my body, and stretch my mind. I am learning that yoga can improve my functioning in day-to-day activities. I find that my limitations are minimized , and I am freed to maximize what is left. If I am forced to sit, I can at least sit purposefully.

So, today I woke up in time to meet my friend for Mass. Today is Saturday, and his parish offers a special Mass to anoint the sick. Today I joined him. The service was short, and simple. We celebrated the Word, and listened to the priest's homily. After that we all lined up for the anointing. Scented oil was placed on my palms and forehead. I was blessed, and I celebrated as the Eucharist was shared.

Now that I am home, I can capture that part of myself that was drifting. Learning to live a slower life is challenging. I am used to doing things, going places on a moment's notice. Today I am blessed that I can see this world from a new perspective.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day to Relax at the Library

I have years of experiences support groups, and help oriented therapies. I have worked with counselors, and now -almost three decades later- I am pleased to say I do not feel more screwed up than when I began. I like to say that I have spent much time in the past twenty years with people that were more interested in my becoming functional than they were in salvaging my delicate feelings. Yesterday I met with a group at the national MS Society. It was a ninety minute meeting, essentially social, but with much good information

I have a host of friends that have a genuine interest in my health and well-being. So, after three years in Redding, my sister invited me to live in San Jose, California. In three years, I developed enough health problems to not ignore them. I continued writing this blog in December 2007 that I could whine about my then failed inter-continental romance. My chronicle of my developing health concerns did, however, make it possible to use my blog to find personal information- dates and locations of services- I needed to fill out medical forms.

Back when I started getting willing to find help, I was working in a job, and many of my coworkers were interrogating me about the difficulties I was having walking. Two coworkers cornered me at Orchard Nutrition to tell me I needed to see a doctor. I regret now saying that what I have is obviously neuro-muscular, and doctors could spend forever trying to find the problem. I did eventually find my way to the HOPE van, and the doctors there sent me to a neurosurgeon.

I went back to the HOPE van, and this time, with my MediCal, was sent to a neurologist. This man ordered a few tests. He ran me through a MRI, and pulled some fluid out of my back. Shortly thereafter, he diagnosed me with multiple sclerosis. Of course, I started asking questions over twenty-two months ago, and started seeing doctors about this problem which included my falling down periodically, and my challenge to stand up when on the floor. I was also getting numbness in two fingers on my left hand.

I suppose this is a lesson in patience. I was blogging two years ago with scarcely a limp. My family started sending me to a chiropractor, and his work did little to make me better. My mother on a later visit told me she thought my walking was getting worse. In the end all they needed was to see my MRI. My doctor told me my spinal fluid indicated there was inflammation in my spine. Later, after my MRI came back, he came to me with the diagnosis. I heard it over the phone on June 10, three days prior to my trip.

The main thing I cultivate is patience. I have friends encouraging me to examine the diet of a woman (an MD...) who claims that based on diet alone was able to cure her own multiple sclerosis. I suppose can lend more credence to that than to the chiropractor whose treatments made me feel better, but did little to improve my functioning. I am just reading about her right now.

I am also checking out the memoir of the great actor David Lander whose story about his experiences with this condition is detailed, compelling, and informative. I have little to say beyond that for now. I added a disorganized picture show on the blog. It will become better as I learn to organize my online pictures better.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I moved! (the picture may be deceptive.... not taken in San jose.)

I am now living in San Jose, California. This is a move friends and family have been encouraging since I left three years ago. I roder a bicycle to the northern part of California, and encountering the first hills of my journey, lost hope trying to tow a sixty pound trailer up eight percent grades showed me how well I overestimated my tenacity and strength. It also showed me I knew nothing about planning for such a trip.

Weeks before arriving in Redding I passed through the twin cities of Marysville and Linda. There I met the ownerof a local KFC and his daughter who asked me about my bike ride. She said ass I lefrt the store that I was walking with a limp. I told her that it com,es and goes. I assured her it was from riding my bike a lot.
Perhaps as part of my sins, I can add scaring a young person away from bicycling...

So, perhaps that was evidence of the diagnosis I received just two months ago. After visiting a chiropractor, almost getting fired from my job twice, receiving notices from people through my blog, leg tremors, falls, and loss of function in my arms and legs, I finally brought all this full circle. I contacted the social workers, made the appointments, and got the tests which brought me to one phone call over a month ago, telling me I have multiple sclerosis. Shit happens.

Still, now I am bacfk in a valley where the help I need is available in abundance, where services are available to assure my independence, and I can see my family and friends more freely.

Yesterday I went to see a cousin that works as a physical therapist. She did assure me that while I am using a walker and a wheelchair now for mobility, I should be able to walk more freely with the right braces and supports. So, let the healing begin!

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Angklung, traditional instrument of West Java

The angklung was a delight. I foun many clips of the instrument, but I selected this one, because it is short. The instrument is made of wood, and eight are required for a composition. Each one is designed to deliver one note.

While I was on Java, we visited a presentation of the angklung. It was in Bandung, and people were all given an instrument to play. Each one was marked one through eight, and the lady instructing us started by calling out numbers. She then switched to hand signals, and soon we as a group were playing music under her guidance.

They day was fun and instructive. I am grateful I showed up...

Thank you for reading

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Hole in the Ground, Bandung

From Jakarta I was able to jump on a train to Jogjakarta, and I was there for over a week. I would say that if I was going to come back here to Java, I would probably want to spend the bulk of my time in Jogjakarta. The city is the original capital for the Republic of Indonesia, and I was able to get to so many places so easily without having to taksi (taxi) all over the place. Jogjakarta had friendlypeople, and much quieter energy.

I spent much time recently talking to my family. It is important that I remember stress has aggravated many of my nhealth problems, and I am taking these moments to relax, and enjoy my days here, back in Jakarta. I have visited museums, markets, department stores, and many dining establishments. I am in Jakarta, seeing my girlfriend more often, and sifting through pages of digital photographs.

I had a few days in a city called Bandung. Bandung, one Malaysian woman told me, was a place of great outlet shopping. Shopping outlets is not a big interestof mine. I did enjoy seeing the historical sites of Bandung. I also enjoyed the visits to two geographic sites, gorgeous craters that many people worked together to get me there.

Traveling by wheelchair often, I found nthe willingness of one man, Samuel, to navigate my chair down manywindy, rocky paths, and turning the chair backwards could get me to my destination .
I assured him I am a lot heavier than his grandmother, and he told me that this was all about technique, not strength. I am grateful for the trips to these sites, but should you ever visit Bandung yourself, know that it is a wildly spread out lkandscape.

Travel in Bandung took hours, and my traveling partners fell asleep in the car. I had no book, and I got very bored waitin g to see the next attraction. Still, if you like the smell of sulfur, the craters are the place for you. Check them out. July 8 is my birthday, and I am looking forward to relaxing. Election day is upon us, and Indonesia shuts down on election days. I will turn 39 quietly, I suppose.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sop Kambing dan nasi(Goat soup with Rice))

(reporting from Indraloka Resto and Bayonet Internet Cafe)

Since I have been here in Indonesia, I have gotten used to many things. Ironiocally, I have a friend from nearby Malaysia who is visiting the United States. She told me that she actually misses the humidity. As an American, I am very used to listening to friends telling me that the one thing they cannot handle in tropical climates is the humidity.

I am used to new diets. Despite my previous comments, I am actually enjoying some better health here. I am eating less, and not eating my old fast food diet from California. With the diagnosis of MS, I have become more accepting of these changes in my body. The heat and humidity here are harder on me than in times past. I am grateful, however, I have rooms with air conditioning, and still believe copious perspiration to be cleansing.( but here in Jogja there is a per item charge on laundry, so my sweating does have a dollar amount attached).

I remember in months past, I joked about eating burgers as a way to improve the myelin production in my body. Ironic, or perhaps intuitive that I should discover that myelin is the chief culprit in my challenged nervous system. My family has joined me in this process of discovery, as we hope to minimize the problems I will experience.

Today was a wonderful day here in Jogjakarta. I went shopping in local markets, looking at all kinds of crafts, and cloths. The process of batik is wonderful. These cloths are painstakingly drawn, painted on with colored waxes, followed by more wax detail, and then plunged in a chemical dye bath to finish the coloring. After drying, the fabric is then dipped in boiling water(gasoline is used for silk batik) to remove the waxes.

The market trip was exhausting. Getting in and out of my chair, I feel blessed I am not bound to it. Still, all the market is filled with people, and thin aisles forced m,e on my feet to get some exercise. The whole process of touring the market was exciting, though stressful. So after the market was lunch in a restaurant where we sat on mats on the floor, and ate rice, chicken and jackfruit off plates with our hands. Ricka ate a chicken's head, an d then ordered another one because she was still hungry. Chickens head can only be appreciated b y soeone willing to suck, chew and scrape the bones, to get a full experience. If you are not willing to eat the eyeballs and brain, perhaps this is not the selection for you.

Following evening Mass at a Catholic hospital chapel (delivered in English), we traveled across the str5eet to a sidewalk diner where we sat on mats on the sidewalk and devoured bowls of sop kabing (goat soup) served with sambal (chili based condiment), cut limes, and bowls of rice. The food was exquiusite, and I went to the hotel wholly satisfied with the day.

Thank you for reading.

I always wonder how suggestive my mind is. Upon arriving in Indonesia, I was told by Ricka that many travelers suffer from diarrhea. I never thought about this before, until I ended up in the restroom the past day. The angst I felt was minor, but I was already thinking of the implications:

Could this be the symptom of a greater problem?

What did I eat?

Will I end up at the doctors office again?

Indeed the implications are much scarier than the moment by moment reality. My vacation is not ruined. I even went on a city wide tour of Jogjakarta with a paid driver that loaded and unloaded my wheelchair everywhere I went. His name is Marmin. He does not speak any Engliush, but traveling with him he found many folk that were able to show me the sites, and explain to me Javanese culture, historical and religious significance of each place we traveled.

The first plaec we stopped I saw myself enveloped in trees, as we had climbed to great heights to find the viewing point of Mt. Merapi. Mt. Merapi is an active volcano, and draws many visitors. I bought one Tshirt, and one dvd. I enjoyed the view. Still, I watched several people climbing to a better viewing place while I saw enormous cloud cover, and no mountain.

The whole day I was focused on relaxing, seeing the sites, and waving off aggressive vendors. Upon purchasing a hat (USD 5) the lady looked into my money pouch as I opened it, and very confidently pointed to a set of bills, and said “It's the blue one!” I really appreciate her helpfulness in getting my money.

This was all done while my girlfriend stranded me to be in a remote village, and attend to family things. She then told me how concerned she was I was here in Jogja where there are so few English speakers. My experience having no problems getting what I need has done nothing to stop her worrying. Also, Jogjakarta is a small college town, and has a greater number of English speakers. This place is wonderful, and I also am pleased at its cooler weather, and the ready accessibility of malls, cafes , and restaurants.

In my trip today I saw batik fabric factory, Indonesian silver workers, the palace of an Indonesian sultan, and a building from 1758 where another sultzn had built with a huge pool to where he could watch, bathe, and house his many wives and concubines. Dining was delightful. I ate in one rumah makan (restaurant) where all my food was arranged on small plates at my table, and I selected and ate what I wanted.

In my time here, I still refuse to eat fish eyeballs and brains. I ate a chicken's brain, and thought it seemed gross. Chicken's hearts feel icky when I chew them, and I do not always enjoy my food as much when someone explains its origin. This is my report for now.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I am having a hard time finding reliable WiFi hot spots, and still own a flash card sufficient to store pictures and writing files. I will have to change my modus operandi. I can get online, but Hot Spots are unrelable at best. I would hate to pay for meals, and settle down with my computer to find I cannot access my mail...

I am still n Jogjakarta, and having a great time. I will reprt mre later

Monday, June 22, 2009

Waiting For MyToe to Heal...

I am typing now from Pizza Hut, a central location where you can indulge in the finest in traditional Indonesian dining. I am not able to get online, as the router here in Pizza Hut is apparently connected to a challenged DSL line. So, I get a sterling connection to the router in Pizza Hut, but no connection to the Internet. I just finished an ice cream topped with whipped cream and peanuts. I delight in them as peanuts are practically becoming outlawed in the United States. Yes, we can buy them. Nowhere in Indonesia will you find peanuts referred to as “potential allergens.” Here they are content to call them peanuts, or the word in Indonesian that means 'peanuts.

Still, I am going to be off to Mass celebration where the service will be given in English, and I will be catching a cab in a few minutes to dress for that. I did have surgery on my toe the first couple days here, and my limitations walking became more exacerbated by my sore toe, which does feel much better thanks to a doctor who speaks English confidently, but incomprehensibly.

In the days to come, I will be traveling to a smaller province called Jogjakarta, about which I will have much to report. Asking for a second coffee is a challenge. Though I ought to relax, as my taxi will arrive soon.

(later on)

I arrived too late at the apartment to make it out to Mass. So, after reading the Mass readings, an engaging in appropriate solemnity, I went out in search of a good buy on a wheelchair. My sister pitched the idea to my girlfriend, Ricka, and she pitched the idea to me.

I love walking. I love the freedom it gives me. But, when all is said and done, walking Indonesian streets with bum legs is a killer. When I get tired my foot starts curling inward, and walking becomes impossible. Determined to enjoy my visit here, as well as my upcoming trips to Jogjakarta and Bandung, I am thrilled at having this new accessory.

This trip I was able to enjoy a meal at an outdoor diner, manned by several men with pushcarts that will all be gone by tomorrow morning. I had sate ayam (skewered barbecue chicken), nasi goreng gila (crazy Indonesian fried rice), dim sum, and a plate of very spicy fried tofu pieces,served cold in a sauce with big chunks of raw chili peppers. I am self-conscious, though, since leaving Redding weeks ago,my belly is noticeably bigger. At 24 Hour Fitness Center in San Jose I weighed in at 203 pounds. I am terrified to think what has shifted in the week since

I have to find a way to exercise while I am here, because I do not want to fill out all the extra space on this wheelchair. I now know how easy it is to lose my edge by moving away from the regular gym workouts, and my hours spent on the job. I am amazed, truly bothered by this. I will find a way, some way to burn some extra calories everyday. I will enjoy Jogjakarta more if I am working to stay in shape.

So, as I continue my tropical adventure, I reflect on my life history, following diet trends in America. I remember the Scarsdale Diet, the Grapefruit Diet (lousy if you are on many medications), the Atkin's Diet (and I know you Atkin's converts are still out there, the water diet, and many, many others. I can still watch the parade of spokespeople lined up for Jenny Craig, and the giant corporations built out from Weight Watchers, and Nutrisystem. I also have met many people that have lost weight participating in the 12-step group Overeaters Anonymous (which asks no money from participants).

I think about all these things as I remember this beautiful woman walking through Safeway years ago. I stopped her to comment on her shirt. She was working as a dietitian, and was wearing the message that changes my world today:

“It's the Calories, Stupid!”

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

my first three days...

I am sitting in a room, content in that I have my computer, a loaf of chocolate marbled sweet bread. I just finished taking a shower, sitting in a chair, with a plastic bag on my foot, scrubbing my leg with a loofah, and a bar of soap. I have moment to pause, and think how this evening is perfect, and I am thrilled to be where I am.

I had my girlfriend assist me by going to the nearby ACE Hardware on her motorcycle, and retrieve for me a transformer that makes it possible to plug in electrical devices designed to operate off 110 volt sockets, when the room I am in has nothing but 220 volt sockets. She also retrieved for me a surge protector that has sockets designed to accept either 220 or 110 volt electrical devices.

Until now, I have been unable to use my computer or recharge my camera battery. When I was with my sister three days ago, I did not think today was going to be how it is. My sister offered to take me to the airport, and now I am on the island of Java, sipping coffee in a beautiful room, back in my technology once again, enjoying my camera, and my computer. Three days ago my neurologist confirmed my MS diagnosis, and that did nothing to stop my travel.

So, after two full days here on Java, I have finally retrieved the gear I need to make my computer ready to use here. It is wild that with all this time I had to wait until now to get my techno gear intact. Of course,it is obvious that I was probably preoccupied with juice drunk by a straw from a cut coconut, endless beaches, and meals of rice and fish served wrapped in banana leaves.

While still in San Jose, my family in all their frivolity, bought me not one, but two walkers. They argued with me as to my need to take them (instead of my handy, high-utility cane), and then equipped one with two brand new Wilson tennis balls on the back posts. It is quite a leap for me to accept my health has come to this. But, before I left San Jose, my mother helped dress a wound where one of my toenails was ripped off, and I did not notice it.

So, now I will discuss why I was bathing with a bag on my foot. With the nerve problems I have experienced so far, I do accept that things can happen, like a toenail ripping off my foot with no pain. Still, that was cleaned up, and secured days ago. Yesterday, walking along with my girlfriend in Jakarta, I as aware of pain in my foot, and my big toe swelling up. I remember my mother talking to me foreboding of Indonesian doctors cutting off my foot in the event of a rampant infectiuon.

I decided to go to the doctor. So, my first full day on the road, and I am acutely aware of an ingrown toenail, and enormous pain from it. So, with little cash, and no insurance, I went to the hospital. The doctor confirmed my analysis, and told me he wanted to operate. Operate? No! I am thousands of miles away from home, and I asked him what such a procedure would cost. He looked at me, and told me it would be two million rupiah. Two million rupiah? (approximately two hundred United States dollars). In five minutes I was wheeled into a procedure room, and my foot was being swabbed down with iodine.

I did take issue with the doctor telling me that "some pain was acceptable. This was, of course after he pinched my big toe, and asked me if this was the right one. I let out a piercing yell, and he cheerily set about shooting my toe with Novocaine. The man raised an enormous chunk of toenail up, and showed me h fruits of his labour, and then quickly sewed my toe back together. All fear mongering aside, I am grateful no one needed to chop off my toe. I was given drugs, and sent happily on my way home.

So, my tropical vacation begins a bit rocky, but with all that is going on in my life, I am pleased that so far, this is not that bad. I love the smell of the humid, island air. I love the time I am spending here. I am very happy I have the Internet to share all this with you. More on my trip forthcoming.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I am back home again...

Sigh. I am back at home with my family in San Jose. I was on a train all night, and getting sleep was a lost cause.

I was grateful that the train was on time. Trying to get to San Jose is a challenge to my patience, bcause the train only passes through Redding once a day, and has to take a backseat to nearby freight trains that may be using the same tracks. For this reason, the Amtrack will regularly be late 30 minutes to three hours late for its 2: 20 AM schedule.

The train caught me off guard. I was coming out of the bathroo when I saw no one in the waiting area. I quickly gathered up my stuff, and hustled out to the train loading area where conductors were already calling off names for passengers with reservations. Hustling has become more challenging with my balancing issues. I gathered my bags, and hobbled out to the front door, where I was shown where to sit.

My seating reminded me why I like to travel with Vicks VapoRub. Vicks is indispensible when traveling with people who for religious or perhaps medical reasons do not bathe. A little Vicks goes a long way to making such situations more bearable. The man I was seated with was outrageously smelly.

He was confused, and was not sure where he wanted to depart. He leaned forward, and made deep sighs, and smacked his gums a lot I closed my eyes, and tried to sleep. After Sacramento, though, he departed, and a couple arrived with a walker. The husband had walking difficulties and mentioned MS. I was amazed at how many of his symptoms matched mine. Him and his wife shared much information withj me. I do not still know if my diagnosis is MS, but I do at least know what resources are available to me if that is the case.

I moved my seat after Sacramento, trying to get away from the stinky man's seat. I curled up, and was able to use my night shades to get a couple hour's sleep. I arrived back in San Jose, where I await my trip to see Jakarta, Indonesia. Pictures are forthcoming...

Thank you for reading!

Friday, May 29, 2009

One day at a Time

My last roommate had an eclectic, but fleeting array of interests. He had books that covered a wild range of subjects. One book that I recall was a small book on finding invertebrate fossils. I told him the thing that consistently turned me against invertebrates was that they have no backbone. Spineless creatures all of them. Their only fossils, most of the time, come in the fossilized tunnels they created. Despite their seeming lack of substance, though, invertebrates do show how even they can leave a lasting mark on the world.

I do have a spine. I do have a backbone. There is nothing of jellyfish or worm in my day-to-day existence. I did get uncomfortable when the doctor told me he wanted me to get a spinal tap (lumbar puncture). This procedure would show different proteins in my cerebral spinal fluid that could serve as markers for multiple sclerosis. Apparently the fluid that cushions my brain and spine can carry markers for many problems in my central nervous system. I already discussed my old CT scans which revealed that my ventricles had closed up as slits in my head. I think maybe this fact may have implications for the problems I experienced yesterday.

As the day of my well anticipated lumbar puncture, I was assured that this is an apparently straight forward procedure. This is very true, except when it is not. I climbed on the table, and the doctor told me to curl up in a fetal position. I did as he told me. He started prepping my back. I felt as he lay covers across my back from the special, disposable lumbar puncture kit on the table. I could feel as he covered my back with Betadine.

The instructions were simple. I was told to curl up in a ball, so as to separate my vertebrae. I was then asked to tuck in my chin. The warning came before he started poking my back, loading it up with Novocaine. Then he started exploring. I felt the pressure as he poked, and poked my back again and again. It was clear that no spinal fluid came forth. Nothing whatsoever to indicate the health of my myelin sheath, the health of my nervous function as a whole.

The doctor gave up. He told the nurse that he needed to send me to people that could do what he could not do, divine spinal fluid. The people in question are the fine people in radiology with an exciting technology called fluoroscopy. With the fluoroscope, they were able to find with assurance the source of the fluid, and still the flow was slow. They tilted my table, until I was almost standing up, and still the flow was slow. It took minutes longer than the radiologist had predicted.

The spine is a low pressure system, and the one idea my mother suggested, is that possibly with my ventricles all shut up, the reserve of CSF was relatively small, and therefore making the downward pressure very small. This is only a theory, but after that I was sent to a room with a band aid on my back, and the orders to lie flat for two hours.

My doctor conducted electric nerve conduction tests, and sent me home. Still, after all that, walking was very difficult, and I went to bed to lie on a cold pack, and let my back rest. So, maybe there is an advantage to being an invertebrate. Grateful the tests are done, I await the news on what the results are.

Perhaps there are advantages to having no backbone.

I thank you for reading.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It is just a needle...

I called Northern California Catholic Social Services, and was assisted by someone who I met back when I was in San Jose. It is nice to know the people who are helping you. I am looking for an apartment, and I hope that with the people Im am calling are able to get me a place that is best suited for my personal disability. I am getting an application for one place, and I will be calling another organization to see what they offer.

But, in my search to find what is wrong, my neurologist has scheduled me two tests in one day, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap), and a nerve conduction test. I have to get out of bed early for this one. They want me in the hospital at seven-thirty in the morning. My mother assured me I am ridiculous in my anxiety over the spinal tap. Being mocked does give me enough irritation to ease me into the doctor's office tomorrow at Mercy Hospital.

So, the doctor might have information to share about my condition... Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Today's Jungle Reflections

Wow! Now I have had my brain scanned, I have the quiet comfort of knowing there is still one in my brain case. It is Thursday, and I have scheduled my nerve scan so I can get all these things done before my vacation. I want a diagnosis, but I hope what is learned does not mess with my mood too much. Sigh. I am saying that I know that maybe the news will not be all to uplifting. Still, I am excited about my upcoming trip.

I am headed to a tropical destination and will be thrilled to hang where I have to change my shirt three times a day. I live in Redding, California, a small city (or a large town?) where many people living lives of leisure talk about “hanging out in the Tropics.” I would hear that, and was amazed at how many people here were into tropical vacations. Of course then I saw the Tropics with my own eyes.

I did not have to go to SFO. No 12 hour plane trips. Walking a short distance from the Good News Rescue Mission, I looked up and saw The Tropics.

I now know that the Tropics is a very popular dive bar in town, and I had my moment of clarity. I also noted that The Tropics is a short walk from the club where most of the Redding area Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are held. So, I read from my friend Anastasia who was sharing about the imminent extinction of Sumatra's people of the forest, the orangutan (Bahasa Indonesia: orang = people, utan= forest). So close to where I am headed, and so much of it is already gone.

Welcome to the jungle, indeed. The jungle God created is being destroyed daily to make way for palm plantations, and the poor orangutan is fast disappearing. I will not dwell on this small point. I am looking at teaching, and perhaps studying overseas. This trip will be a fine chance to explore this plan, and see what I have to do to make it a reality.

So, despite the fact that I can barely walk, I am sure I will find a way to hike a volcano, and reflect on the faux pas of American movie makers who named the film Krakatoa, East of Java. Krakatoa is a volcano, but it is not east of Java, and that mistake did cause countless dollars to be spent renaming the movie Volcano.

This time of reflection will be had while exploring Buddhist temples, and consuming fish with plates of nasi goreng topped with sambal (fried rice with hot sauce).

As for the brain scan, I have been scheduled for a nerve conduction test, and have heard nothing about a spinal tap (did I dodge this one?) I will find out.

In the meantime, I thank you all for reading.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Grey Matter

Today's selection is Grey Matter, by Danny Elfman. I am comforted to think my brain will be scanned again, this time on the MRI, Monday morning. I just hope they find what they need to make a diagnosis on me. This is a point of exhaustion. I started asking questions about my declining coordination over a year ago, and have experienced many problems since. I am tired of falling down.

So, today I listen to Grey Matter, and take comfort thinking maybe this investigation may reveal something. I can only guess what the doctor could find, but I suck at guesses. I am asking them to take the test, and determine quickly if I do need to have that spinal tap done.

So, I look to Monday, and I am staying patient. Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

This Is Spinal Tap

I am still in Redding, California, and have not yet found myself a new home. Soon, I will be leaving Redding, and am excited to see Jakarta. I will have a good camera, and promise to take many pictures when I visit Indonesia. I will get used to downloading pictures, because my friends in Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia take copious pictures, and set a standard I will meet.

After being here in Redding for the past eighteen months, I am thrilled to visit Asia from a point where I will be centrally located near the Philippines, Malaysia, and Australia. At two thousand kilometers, I will not be able to see Davao or Cagayan de Oro, but I will take comfortable knowing I am close to areas I recognize...

It is wild to embark on this trip, when, now I am functionally homeless, still working in a grocery store, still looking for answers in my health concerns. But in a month, I will come back to California to continue the rest of these investigations..

By the first of June, my neurologist will have my brain and cervical spine scanned on an MRI. They will do a spinal tap on me to test my spinal fluid for multiple sclerosis, and I will have nerve conduction tests to see how much the nerves in my arms are functioning. I have to admit that I look to my mother and the advice of the nurse at my doctor's office to stay ready for the spinal tap. It is not a comforting image the idea of anyone placing a needle in my tailbone.

Still, it is not the first time someone has done this to me. I just have to buck up and show up for the test.

The approval from MediCal came in, and now I get to see what the doctor can figure out after this line of tests comes in. So, though I do not have much to report, I remain excited.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When the still sea conspires an armor
And her sullen and aborted
Currents breed tiny monsters,
True sailing is dead.

Awkward instant
And the first animal is jettisoned,
Legs furiously pumping
Their stiff green gallop,
And heads bob up
Poise, Delicate,
Pause, Consent
In mute, nostril agony
Carefully refined
And sealed over.

-Jim Morrison

When I first heard the poem above, I had no idea what it was talking about. It took me years to find out that on our globe between thirty and thirty-five degrees (north and south), the subtropics, are known for their lack of winds. There can be much activity in these latitudes, but for sailors, these areas are unreliable. Sailors are men who rely on the wind to take them tom their destination, and getting stuck in the wrong areas can lead to weeks at sea with little progress to their destination.

The horse latitudes receive their name, because in travel, sailors in despair would be forced to throw their horses overboard. The horses would be slaughtered, because their stewards are unable to feed them. The horses become a burden, and thus lose their life. Amazing that I could speak so casually of these ideas long before I learned what they meant. Jim Morrison penned the poem above, and many times I hav e heard people speak of their “doldrums”, the Doldrums refers to that same oceanic space of emptiness, that deadly calm, that makes progress impossible.

I stay cautious of the calm in my life. I see myself getting lost in my own “doldrums”, only to see periods of my life in a deadly calm. I listen to many people who talk about how “maybe you needed this time” or “this happened for a reason”; I know that when I am uncomfortable, I am inspired to make changes. This past couple years have been filled with many changes. I do not have to inspect these past years for “meaning.” It is exciting that I have enjoyed so much, and did not lose myself in overly calm waters of my life.

So, I am looking at the things with much hope. I have no horses to throw overboard. I am inspired by the love of my family and friends. I am thrilled that I am above ground one more day.

I moved from the apartment, and have a place to stay, but still am functionally homeless. One thing certain, and that is there is very little time to lose in doldrums. My groceries still need attending, and my blog still needs writing. So, the journey continues...

Thank you for reading...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Plastic Man

Tom Brokaw made a request. He said I should go to my web browser and type “neuroplasticity.” I was not with him at the time, so I could not tell him that I already did that. In fact, that is why I was listening to him that moment. From, I found one hour's worth of discussion on neuroplasticity, and learned about the current researchers learning about it. Scientists can rock my world, and I plan to include a couple science classes in my studies in addition to my major, because I have an obligation to know, understand, and appreciate the intricacies of this world of continuous exploration

Neuroplasticity refers to the versatility of nerve cells to learn, adapt, and change. Up to recent times we thought this plasticity , this versatility only existed in young brains. People with hydrocephalis were shown to be highly functional despite the loss of enormous parts of their brains. Specifically, a man with sections destroyed that were reserved for eyesight function was shown to see with great acuity. Portions of the brain are determined to have specific function, consistent from one person to another. Yet, when brain tissues are lost in formative years, apparently other portions of the brain take on the functions of the damaged, and impacted areas.

As a non scientist I am interested in knowing how to take these observations, and use them to elevate my hope, start new therapy, and let go of old ideas that when my legs stop working, I ought to start saving for a wheelchair.

When I was in science classes in high school around fifteen years ago (class of 1988? do the math!), I was taught that neurogenesis(creation of nerve cells) was something that came to an end after the formative years stopped. Nerve cells were of a fixed number, and when they died, there would be no replacements. For most of the nerve cells in the body this is still the truth. But, in a few cases, researchers were able to use functional magnetic resonant imaging (FMRI) to show that in parts of the brain, neurogenesis continues on into adulthood.

Still the issue I am thinking about, involves the brain cells remaining, and all the nerve cells they command. I am watching this stuff, do my reading, and listening to podcasts out of pure self-interest. I have symptoms being reviewed by a neurologist right now. My foot is dragging, and that is not a metaphor. My foot drags when I walk, and I am excited to realize I am empowered. What do I do? I listen to a coworker who, with chronic back pain, says he goes to the gym at college every day at six in the morning. He says he is stronger, and healthier than he has I a long time.

One thing he told me was that the six AM crowd is the winner's circle. He works out in the gym with seniors, and he tells me how motivated they are. I also know that the studies Tom Brokaw discussed involved evidence that neurogenesis is most active in people who exercise at least one hour a day. four times a week.

So, today a man walks up to me in a coffee shop, and he tells me about how he had lost massive brain tissue in the right hemisphere of his brain in an accident. He was told that coming out of a coma he would never walk again. Paralyzed from the neck down, he was told he would be confined to a wheelchair for life. Still, this man can and does, walk several miles a day. I am not missing major chunks of my brain, but I still know my improvement is my responsibility.

Today, I am learning how to balance myself. I am learning how to raise my leg. I am learning how to train my mind through exercising my body. So, after weeks in circuit training, I understand what my instructor means when she tells me I will get out of it what I put into it. Old words they are, and still for me they have new significance. My hope today rests on many things. I take muscle relaxants to reduce spasm in my legs. But, I also am now trusting my doctors. I am exercising more. I now see my returns will come from precisely what I discussed weeks ago, the elliptical cross-trainer. My resistance to using the machine comes from it being difficult, being awkward, and being exhausting. My hope comes from knowing that regardless the causes of my problem, this exercise can help.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Vigil

What's the good news? I enjoyed the Vigil service last night. My friends picked me up, and took me to St Joseph Church in Redding, and we joined in quiet prayer for a night in celebration of renewal. My friends have been helping me get to service, and I think this is truly about renewal. I love the time spent in church. The night's service was three hours long.

I got to sit in the church lit entirely by candle light. What a night! Easter Vigil shared in prayer with my friends became great as we listened to Bible passages, and watched as several people finishing their time in RCIA, got to experience the sacraments of Confirmation and first Communion.

After this service, I went to my home, and looked at the apartment, and settled in my thought that this is the last time I will sleep here. I am moving off this hill here in Redding. My destination is indeterminate, but I hope to find a long term room or apartment soon. I woke up, packed up the remainder of my stuff, and rode my bike away.

Of course, I reported many months back that I was being kicked out.... That did not happen. Then, after an argument in March, I decided to move out. Days later, before mentioning this to my roommate, he asked me to move. What a wacky month. So, with all set this way, I resolved to find a home with my own phone line, and my own Internet. Hopping from Internet cafe to library gets tiring. It is amazing how with my best planning, I set my departure for Easter Sunday.

As I plan on leaving the country soon, I am grateful to move somewhere that expenses wil be less, and comfort will be more. Well, we see what happens...

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Question: How many Californians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Answer: Five. One to screw in the light bulb after the other four complete a n environmental impact report

I heard a reference recently to Yucca Mountain. It is not a tragedy. It is not even a sad note. Still, I am listening to what, at one time, seemed a good idea. Yucca Mountain is a monument to abandoned projects. A mountain that was unknown to most of America, it sits alone, a desert hole. This mountain was dug into when many in America had it marked as a great future depository for the waste we produce in efforts to surplus low-cost, low-pollution energy.

Before this project was stopped, we had, as a nation, become embroiled in a wild discussion in the nature of nuclear waste, and whether the heart of a mountain can safely contain the waste, and keep Americans at peace as we try to reconcile new ideas in energy production.

I am nt an engineer, and I am poorly equipped to argue any side of such a controversy. I do know many scientists have convinced me that this was a great idea, and their ability to convince is noted. Several billion United States dollars were spent digging a hole in the core of this mountain. Still, at the end, doubt reared its ugly head, and controversy won in this battle. When doubt prevails, groups descend upon the decision makers to preach the doctrine of controversy. Science often takes a back seat when the controversy preachers come out of their churches to lobby the decision makers of the world.

Well, the controversy lobbyists that worry me exist within my head. The unfinished projects of which I am concerned are not as conspicuous as this eight billion dollar hole in a mountain. I want to do so much in my life, and it is amazing what happens when I open my mouth about my projects, my dreams, or my actions. People actually listen in bits and pieces when I talk of what I am doing. It is daunting to have people ask about the Yucca Mountains of my life, many of which seem at the outset neither big nor complicated .

When faced with controversy, these questions prevail:

1.Do you really have the resources to finish this project?
2.Do you have the backers to support the project?
3.Is this project one which looks good on paper, but may disappear once outside interest/support declines?
The fact is I heard about Yucca mountain many times in the past, but the passages were quiet, and I was shocked to find that with all the controversy, it progressed as far as it did. I hope that when I bring a bill before my own private legislature, I will have the ability to see exactly what I want to accomplish, and present my case with conviction, while still being able to stop; consider all arguments against what I want to do before taking radical action.

I offer this simplistic discussion to ask: what are the Yucca mountains in your life? I told my sister that I need to look at my goals list. I need to look at them fearlessly and ask myself why my projects are sitting on a shelf, or why I have kept goals which perhaps should have been scrapped long ago.