Thursday, December 23, 2010

Preparing for Christmas

read Christmas poem by Ferlinghetti here.




If moving from this house has no other benefit, I am assured to lose weight. Living in a home where good food is plentiful, I am the one forced to make the hard decisions. I have to tell them to make my plates light. Portion control is a necessity when aerobic opportunities are limited. Now in the days before Christmas I recall a friend asking me "Are your shirts fitting tighter lately?" Indeed they have. There is something about how these cheap fabrics shrink, and keep shrinking...

Still, it is exciting to watch the house alive with industry. The holiday effort includes the production of hundreds of tamales. Masa purchased in huge bags have been mixed to coat the insides of corn husk, a filling of chicken, cheese and jalapeño, then wrapped securely for steaming.

Also, on the stove, fresh jalapeños sit on the grill, turned until all sides are black, then tomatoes are roasted similarly. The black skins are discarded, and blended into the finest chili salsa with green onions, cilantro, and fresh garlic.


The kitchen comes alive like this every night under the guidance of my house manager. Paralyzed from the neck down, she guides all the work in her kitchen step-by-step.
Under her guidance many men and women have learned how to cook and manage time in the kitchen. So, in addition to the tamale effort, the kitchen will come alive tomorrow for the Christmas party.

My desire to get well enough to move out again is strong. Every day, I master new skills, and recapture pieces of my previous, independent life. Still, I am not as overly private as before, and my unsocial crust is falling off. I have come top like the people in this home. I guess I can stay a while longer.

Merry Christmas. Thank you for reading.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


From all my past employment, one thing, I never remember is joining a company Christmas party. The one company party I remember involved a circle of crapulous coworkers engaged in cutting loose from the self-imposed rigidity of the work environment. I always believed myself to be much the same person in and out of work. But the workplace Christmas party is a great tradition that happens all throughout the country.

I went to some workplace party years ago, and remember how stifling it seemed, and how uncomfortable I was. Everyone was all dressed up. I worked for a hotel at the time, so I believe the party was held at the Wyndham hotel. In deed, I cannot blame parties for my discomfort attending them. Still, going to the party has all the trappings of the movie From Dusk til Dawn. Do I really want to see this other side of these people I already see from nine to five every day?

Being around ten years ago, I remember going to the party, having found something worth wearing (besides my workj uniform), and looked at this chaotic mass of people, hoping to find someone with whom I could chat. I suppose office parties can be a chance to look inside myself, and ask who here do I really like enough to engage in conversation outside the context of work.

I read the last three paragraphs, and wonder how unsocial I really am. May be this writing is merely one chance to use the word crapulous before losing it in my mental lexicon of words I will never need. Still, company parties are strange.

I was encouraged to dance, so I danced. I watched others dance whom I felt should not have. I remember seeing people with glazed eyes that obviously were not sober enough to have a good time. To this end I have enjoyed seeing pictures of the yearly Christmas party. I never have to k now what my fellow employees are like when drunk. Ironically, the pictures tell me exactly what I am missing.

Perhaps you know about these things as I do. Maybe in your office there is someone hiding in the accounting office. Someone points her out, and say, "that is Yuletide Carol. " Watching the movement, the precision, the complete lack of social interaction, and you ask, "why is she called Yuletide Carol?" and you are told to wait until the party, the Christmas Party in December. Then, you will know...

I ought to get myself clothes appropriate for a good party. I do not have to attend workplace parties though to foster my sense of seasonal joy. In fact, maybe it is through not attending these parties that my sense of Christmas joy seems to get stronger.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Accessible Christmas

My family's homes are not wheelchair accessible. As much as I wanted to encourage them to build a ramp, widen their hallways, and rebuild their bathrooms to accommodate me, they have been resistant. I say this in jest, of course. With litigation pending, I would do well to not discuss this further...

But, something happened. I would have to ponder the odds that something like this would happen to me, and I believe many homes are not able to accept a person in a power chair. Thanksgiving lasdt year was around the time I stopped using a walker. This year, my sister called me to tell me she wanted me to come to her house, and celebrate Christmas! To accomplish this, she purchased movable ramps that will make it possible to go to her house again!

I am feeling festive, and in my house there has been a flurry of activity. Two of the caregivers workeed together t0o create wreaths. The house is filled with decoration, and even I am reaching into my heart to find evidence of my own Christmas spirit! I will report more on this soon.

Thank you for reading.

addendum: here arre the ramps!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gunung Merapi Meletus! (Eruption)

A friend of mine in Redding used to live in a trailer near the southern border of Washington State in the beginning of the 1980's. In 1980, he was in his trailer when Mt. St. Helens decided to wake up after many decades of calm.. Apparently he lived a good distance from the volcano, because on May 18, 1980, the mountain erupted.

I have a hard time trying to comprehend 230 square miles of pyroclastic flow, or plumes of volcanic ash shooting over twelve miles above sea level. Yet, for me, this was a news story that settled on California television screens, and shy of my tenth birthday, I could hardly imagine what devastation was involved. My friend was in his twenties, and much closer to the action. From his trailer, he watched as bricks of hot ash landed outside his home, leaving him stuck inside until the bulk of volcanic fallout stopped.

At the age of ten, I did not realize what hot ash falling from the sky was like. Kids traveling through Washington would bring home- as a souvenir- a small jar of authentic ash from the eruption of St. Helens. Back then, I thought the eruption was an isolated event. Only now, three decades later do I understand that the activity of that mountain continued for months before quieting down.

The only volcanoes I ever experienced have been quiet for decades. For a short three years, I lived in Redding, California, wedged in between two active volcanoes, Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen. These two mountains form the southern tip of the Cascade Volcanic Arc. Neither of them have erupted in over a hundred years, so the ever-growing communities within Shasta County feel relatively safe.

So, I get online, and talk of my desire to walk again. I express this by affirming my desire to hike a volcano. I still have the interest. Just in the past weeks, though, I learned of the eruption of Gunung Merapi near Yogyakarta in Indonesia. Just seventeen months ago, I stayed at a hotel in Yogyakarta. I was taken on a tour, where I got to view Gunung Merapi up close. Videos and t-shirts bill it as the world's most deadly volcano. I can't be sure what standard was used to make that statement, but I am sure t-shirts touting a 'reasonably dangerous volcano' could be challenging to sell.
(follow this link for pictures taken after the Mount Merapi explosion)
I have gotten reports of the ongoing eruptions of Merapi. . For me, the eruption would have hastened my exit from the city. But for the people in the nearby areas, Yogyakarta is forced to create shelter for several hundred people. The air quality has declined due to the eruptions, and evacuation of several homes in Yogyakarta has also taken place. While staying in these shelters, many will wonder what to expect when they return home.

I met many beautiful people during my short visit, and it is sad to know that it may be a long time before life in Central Java can return to normal.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints Day 2010


Last night, we had an enormous party, a Halloween celebration with plenty of food, a lively (though disappointing) game on the screen, and steaming bowls of menudo with hot corn tortillas. The hours that our caregivers spent- cutting tripe and pig's feet, opening up cans of hominy, decorating cookies, and baking cupcakes - culminated in a delightful party. Even then, I took a quiet comfort in believing, knowing, this series would be won by the Giants


I was in Burger King earlier, and opened up a book when I heard the song "God Bless Texas" on the store radio. It occurred to me that some compassionate soul was anticipating tonight's World Series game. I believe whoever it is anticipated the imminent loss of the Texas Rangers, and wants peace for the team and their fans.

Last night's game settled my heart. I am not a sports fan, but when the Giants were playing the Phillies, I wheeled into the living room, stared up at the 52" screen, and discovered baseball. I went to a game many years ago, the only baseball game I ever watched through nine innings. My mother had tickets to watch the Oakland A's. It was a great experience. I watched the people in the stands. I watched the beer purchases of the people in front of us. I truly enjoyed myself at the ball game.

Still, my enjoyment was for being outside, the fresh air, the joy of the fans. Finally, well into the game, a hitter knocked a ball out of the park. I exclaimed quietly in response, and my mother grabbed my arm, and whispered that that is the wrong team. The A's lost that game that night to the Texas Rangers.

Tonight I raised my newfound appreciation for baseball to a fevered pitch. My sister brought pizza, and we watched the game broadcast from Arlington, and my fresh enthusiasm for baseball had elements of bloodlust. Uncultured and immature, I felt devastated by last night's win to Texas.

Friends have told me that they wanted to win here, in the Bay Area. Impatient, and doubting, I wanted a quick kill. I was nott bothered by the silence from the bleachers as the last strike was thrown. I felt a joy, a peace, with waves of exhilaration. I ate pizza and orange soda. I write this to all you, with a quiet satisfaction that my sanity will mediate itself, at least until this time next year.

As for my responsibility to vote, my ballot has already been cast. So, this is my report for now.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

For just a while longer...

I was just listening to a podcast where the panel speaking were mus1ing on the ability of a whale to transfer and release nitrogen into the ocean through their feces. This was a question posed, and the questioner revealed that whales do indeed release enormous amounts of nitrogen into the ocean ecosystem by way of their bowels. These speculations truly appeal to a very juvenile part of my brain. Still, it is exciting to see how animals life functions change their environment. I will not dwell on the scatological aspects of this story any further.

I do love, however, the insights I glean from listening to science-oriented podcasts, and with some patience, I am able top find ones where the podcasters are not speaking from some technical level far above my head. My main interest is neurology, and as such, find myself to be a delightful case study, about which I have much to investigate.

I remember meeting with a doctor, peering down at my file, and she asked me, "You have Tourette's Syndrome, seizure disorder, and Multiple Sclerosis? No one has this many diagnoses..." I stared back at her, shrugged my shoulders, and smiled.

My tic disorder has mellowed out in recent years; through proper medication, my seizures have stopped; the MS symptoms were ascribed to spinal trauma, and the diagnosis was discarded. But, to this day, neurology remains very exciting to me. I love listening to the Brain Science podcast, and my curiosity gets fed. The discussions I find encouraging involve the nature of nerve stimulation.

The woman who manages my house is a quadriplegic who lost all function and sensation from her neck down. Through aggressive therapy, she regained use of her hands that she can direct her chair with the joystick, and feed herself. From her chair she directs all aspects of the house functioning.

With the house caretaker, she guides the preparation of the evening meal. She has taught several men to become competent cooks. Step by step, she instructs her caregiver to prepare an entree, all side dishes, and guides the preparation of each plate to the needs of each resident. Every few nights we run out of salsa, and we have tomatoes and jalapeño peppers roasting on a cast iron skillet, brought to the counter to have the blackened skins removed, and blended into the most flavorful salsa.

With exercise, I am gaining more use of my arms and legs. Problems I had when I moved here are diminishing. Through watching Rose, the house's manager, I am learning how to effectively direct my own care. The environment here has much to offer me. Even as my desire to live independent again grows, this house gives me many reasons to stay.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Saya Bisa Jalan: a goal


I was looking at my last set of travel photos. Here is a picture of me with my fashion consultant, a guard at the sultan's palace in the city of Yogyakarta on the island of Java. In the year that has passed, I have, only thought fleetingly of my desire to travel again. I have archipelago dreams again. I still want to climb a volcano. So much has changed in the past year.

I look at the picture above, and remember my exercise of the Indonesian language. Besides saying terima kasih (thank you), the phrase I remember using often was "saya bisa jalan" which means "I can walk." Walking was a challenge, enough so that I traded in my travel ready walker for a 140 dollar wheel chair from Century Health Care in Jakarta.

In Indonesia, I never had trouble getting help. But, I always wanted people to know my needs were slight. From a wheelchair, it was not unusual to find someone practically willing to carry me. That is when the importance of "saya bisa jalan" became clear to me. I could walk, and already was getting concerned when people viewed my difficulties as worse than they are. `

I started my vacation being misdiagnosed by a Redding neurologist as having Multiple Sclerosis. I sat with this news from the of my diagnosis in June until my first consult with a neurologist here in Santa Clara County. After my hour long consult, my doctors agreed my case did noit appear to be MS at all. Contrary to any rumors I may have started, he did not say my old doctor was on crack.

This has been my journey. Perhaps I have shared too much. But since my last MRI made spinal decompression surgery possible, I have had dreams, and setbacks. as well as much frustration. Within months of returning to San Jose, I eventually stopped walking. I wonder if that was wise. Still, I have followed direction of my therapists, and believe I will walk again.

My new mantra is "saya bisa jalan", and rising out of each breath is the rise in my determination. In the standing frame, I constantly monitor my breathing and my posture. Each breath I bring in slow, through my abdomen. In the beginning, keeping straight placed a strain on my back. Each day, I feel my back straight with less conscious effort. Each breath solidifies my resolve, and I even smile. This is why this frame is so special. It makes this posture accessible, and I can even disappear into it, as each visit builds upon the gifts of the last one.

Exercise, and muscle development is slow, but since I have started using the standing frame, my body is becoming more limber, and stronger than it has been in months. I have been able to cut my use of muscle relaxant, which leaves me feeling more vibrant. Every day, I find my legs, my back, and my belly stronger than before. I still intend to start walking again. I plan to travel, and I will climb a volcano. My experiences now suggest this is all feasible. I missed visiting Mount Merapi before. I will not miss out again.

Besides, if I want my own pleated batik sarong, it would be cheaper to have it made in Indonesia.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Standing Tall (almost)



My development in physical therapy should advance quickly with th acquisition of my standing frame. Everyday, sometimes twice a day, caregivers at my house strap me into this contraption, and they let me stand. Amazing it is to have one of these of my own, I am able to experience the benefits of weight bearing exercise in a whole new way.

In physical therapy, therapists had introduced me to weight-bearing, and how it can help me therapeutically. They showed me how, with a rattled nervous system, muscles in my body were working against each other. For example, I walked with a walker, and my foot twisted in so violently, I was risking permanent damage to my ankle and knee by insisting on walking. By taking Baclofen, a muscle relaxant, I was able to almost control this level of spasticity.

Still, I was not walking. Muscles have a strange trait; they want to be used. I believe this spasticity, aside from being a response to spinal injury, is aggravated by lack of use. The spasticity is a revolt of the body against itself. But, it can look funny to see me riding around city streets, in my wheelchair with my legs fully extended for no reason.

So, this is why having this tool in my own home is such a special gift. This is not an exercise where you have to wait to see the benefits. Standing proper, just one time about ten minutes yielded a relaxation in my legs that felt wonderful. The feeling is enough to keep doing the exercise. But, there are effects which are cumulative. This exercise will help to properly develop the muscles in my leg, will encourage greater bone density in my legs, and will help improve trunk strength i my back and abdomen.

I think this is a success.

Thank you for reading.-

Friday, August 27, 2010

SCI: San Jose (weight bearing)


In a time that predates digicams, the Internet, VHS tape recording, or even color television, a woman made a request of her husband. She wanted a wall removed from their home, and she wanted this passionately. He looked to her lovingly, compassionately, and explained that it simply could not be done.

His reason was that the wall in question was a weight bearing wall, and that the structural integrity of their home rested on leaving that wall in place. She knew her husband was a righteous, discerning man, and she knew that walls were indeed placed in buildings to bear the weight of the structure above. Whether she doubted her husband's honesty, or if she doubted his knowledge is uncertain. But, one day she decided that his claim that this unsightly wall was vital to protecting their home needed to be put to the test.

She waited for her husband to go to work, and she found herself a big hammer; she brought that wall down. Then, she waited to see if the ceiling to collapse, and for her husband to return home. I know that only one of those events came to pass. Jamie Hyneman, Robert Lee, and Adam Savage regularly test ideas like these, and I believe that woman exhibited the same zeal that keeps the weekly show Mythbusters on television season after season.

It can be argued that she did not have a mythbuster passion so much as she had a burning desire to destroy that wall, but over fifty years later there are few people who could reliably testify as to her motives on that day.

I have my own take on weight bearing now. I have only in recent months considered what I want to do to start walking again. I am recovering from a spinal cord injury between cervical spine 5 and 6. Taking muscle relaxant to control spasm, and having close to a year pass since I last walked, there is a lot of work for me to do.

One tool that is invaluable is the standing frame. Last year my therapists showed this to me, and I discovered immediately the value of it. By putting me up into a standing position, i am able to put weight on all the muscles in my legs and back. The frame straps me in, so I can stand for long periods of time without using my own balance, my own strength.

Regular use of the standing frame works on my body in several ways. I works to restore proper circulation in my legs. The weight bearing reduces tone/spasm in my legs. It increases bone density, and decreases my dependence on muscle relaxant. Most spinal cord patients take baclofen, a central nervous system based muscle relaxant. Regular use of weight bearing exercise makes it possible to gradually limit use of the drug as spasticity decreases.

My physical therapist wanted me to attend an adaptive PE class at a nearby college, so I could use a standing frame regularly. But, through the help of my family, and the encouragement of my cousin, my parents found a neighbor who as a great craftsman, built a standing frame which is now in my room, and I can use as often as I want. This is getting to be exciting...

Thank you for reading.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Register to Vote Today!


When I was shopping the other day, a man asked me if I wanted to register to vote. When I see them, I get to reflect on how current is my information with the voter registration people. In the last five years, I have had several addresses, and in spite of it all, I do remember my last time voting. In front of the store, the man smiled. I smiled back. I realized I do need to update my registration one mnore time.

As I held the clipboard in my hand, I noted there was no place to set the clipboard down. I looked at the thin Papermate pen in my hand, and the small boxes on the form. I noted the cardboard sign behind the man with the registration forms. The sign was written in thick black felt tip pen, the words simple and pure: legalize pot!

My hands are becoming more pliant and cooperative as I heal. Still, I am learning to write again with my more functional right hand. But, I write now with the aid of wide handled ink pens with a cushioned grip. I already was seeing the difficulty I would have trying to fill this out now. Before I decided to take the form home, the man said to me, "you know, I get paid if you register Republican... but, of course you can vote anyway you want."

I love the disparity. This is just a paying gig for this man. I support this man's right to spark up a roach while gathering people to vote for eMeg Whitman. Why not? The 1980's left me memories of marijuana, sitting in normal life situations, terrified for my life. I have known people that tried to convince me I did it wrong.... and I should give THC another chance. Of course this advisement comes from a select group of people who take vitamins, and wait to feel them take effect.

I have the voter registration in my bag. The satisfaction I feel is daily I see how I periodically forget about the difficulties I have. I still see the world through the eyes, my perspective, of years ago. I am also excited by the stories of other spinal cord patients. I listen to the prognosis of my doctor, and piece by piece, I gain through exercise abilities previously lost. The doctor believes I can regain nerve function over time. I look forward to proving him right.

In the meantime, I want to continue in my exercises to maximize my effectiveness today.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Marshmallows and Impulse control


One day, many years ago, I was sitting in a Starbucks, and I had a coffee with the reading I wanted to do. I saw a beautiful display of a book I wanted to buy a friend as a gift.The book was new, and an instant bestseller. This was ideal timing indeed.

Even as I looked at the display, I knew I would visit the local monster, corporate bookstore in a few days. My knowledge was greater still. I know that hardback bestsellers have a sizeable discount at that store. I knew in a couple days I would most likely be in a place where I could buy the exact same book at a five dollar saving.

I drank my coffee, and I stared peacefully at the book I just bought. I do not want this to be a celebration of impulsiveness I believe my goal is to transcend impulsiveness, and remember whatever it is my mother told me about deferred something or other. I can't remember everthing she says. Buying that book, there and then, felt good. I wanted to do it. That display was there for me. I felt it. I felt as if the stars were aligned. This was my harmonic convergence. Buying that book at that moment felt wonderful.

It feels better than my past choices to use an ATM card at the nearest bank , ignoring the up to five dollars in tolls, when -for th price of a pack of gum- I could stand in line at a grocery store, and claim the same amount of cash back at no penalty. Earlier in my life, impulse control was a much greater problem for me than it is today.

So, now I am thinking about Walter Mischel, a psychologist who while working at Stanford University in the 1960's told children in a controlled study that he will give them a marshmallow. The child was informed that if they do not eat the marshmallow before he returns, the child will get another marshmallow.

Mischel, apparently not an impulsive man, proceeded to follow the children's development over the next fifteen years of their lives. The children that waited the twenty minutes without eating the marshmallow were students who in later life were well adjusted, performed better in school, and scored higher on SAT tests.

I never cared much for marshmallows, but even then I would probably have fallen in the impulsive group. Still, I ask myself what could I accomplish in life if I continue to practice reasonable restraint. So far I am just getting more grateful, and more peaceful each day. I remember a man telling me , "Keith, if you absolutely need to buy something today, wait."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

SCI*: San Jose

*SCI: spinal cord injury
Note: the picture to my right is not my neck, but does show hardware similar to what the doctors gave me...

Since I left the hospital on June 22, I became humbled by the events that followed. I remember the anxiety I felt in the week before I was discharged from the spinal cord rehabilitation unit. For four weeks I enjoyed the finest cuisine, daily therapy, gym sessions, counseling, classes, and stretching. All my care staff was kind and courteous. From my day of spinal decompression May 24, 2010, until I left, my days were all about preparing to go home.

My daily therapies regularly addressed functions I lost as a result of my surgery. Prior to the cutting day, I was still able to stand up to move my bottom from one seating surface to another. Now, I cannot stand up of my own power. Skills therapists tried to teach me in months' past are now a focal point in me regaining my independence. I never wanted to learn how to use a slide-board. This is a slick board placedunder my thigh to help bridge my move from one chair to another.

Also, I am taught by doctors (more convincingly than by my mother) the danger of sitting on my ass all the time. Of course, my mother was always concerned with my inaction. Doctors are now sharing how important it is to move my body to avoid pressure sores. Silly point is I no longer roll my body when sleeping anymore. Shifting my body from time to time is now imperative.

Yes, it is true I have to find my own motivation. But, with good information, I am learning how staying proactive will get me to achieve my goals. I am the one who has to continue to exercise, seek outpatient occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Piece by piece, and day by day, I can continue to progress towards safe transfers, standing, and eventually walking again.

So now I share a house with several men who all have mobility issues. We share care givers who help us with such things as getting out of bed, dressing, and bathing. Now the pressure is on, but I am grateful for all the help I have received along the way. From th social worrkers, to the therapists, the doctors, and the nurse that brought me to this point. The doctors will not promise me anything. I work fome my hope, and the hopes I borrow from others. I am learning from quadriplegic people the miracles that continue to occur in their nervous systems. I can only believe that great recoveries lie ahead for me.

My family has worked hard to help me the entire way. They helped me make phone calls, arrange appointments, collect my mail and set up my room at my new residence. One day at a time, I am adjusting. This is an exciting journey, and it would be terrifying if not for all the people working to help me succeed.

Thank you for reading..

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Preparing to go Home


By the time I return to my home June 22 this month, I will have been gone almost a month. Strange to say, with all I was told before this surgery May 24, I was not prepared emotionally for the effects of the procedure.

The surgery is considered a spinal decompression. My spine between cervical vertebra four and six had become compressed to where its diameter is just a small portion of what it was. It never occurred to me that my symptoms were so precise that a neurologist could successfully determine the points of distress even without looking at an MRI.

When I visited a neurologist last September he spent an enormous amount of time asking me questions, examining the function in my arms and legs, detailing my strengths and weaknesses. He also had a resident physician present who peered through my file, and took copious notes. They ordered blood tests and another MRI before rendering a diagnosis.

The quality of my care has been spectacular if it were not for all the waiting. Every referral means more waiting for appointments. The waiting between referrals was often two months or more. The last referral sent me to see a neurosurgeon who explained to me the nature of my situation. After over two months, and two rescheduled surgery dates, I was finally placed on a table, and cut open.

Despite all I had been told, I was not prepared for the immediate results. I was in a hospital room after one day's recovery. I noted that I could not lift my head from the pillow, and could not move my legs. The man who performed the surgery assured me I had no new symptoms, and was shocked that I did not feel ready to go home.

Today, June 15, I pulled myself into a sitting position unassisted for the first time since May23. I am staying hopeful. They are shooting botox injections in my legs to stop spasms so I can move about more safely. Maybe this will all be okay...

Note: when they were preparing to order me a wheelchair I was noting what
an ugly model they had for their products... Then I realized the pctures were of
me!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Just Say the Word, and I Shall be Healed


Many years ago I worked as a salesman with my friend Alvin's business, and working with him, he shared with me that a deal is never closed until you are driving away from the bank having deposited the check inside. I can smile today, because that thinking has saved me head aches and heart aches in the years since. Of course, this is just like saying "Don't count your chickens before they hatch."

Today is Sunday morning in California, and sometime today, the operating room from Valley Medical Center will give me instructions to prepare me for surgery. Not posted in the blogosphere, though, is how this surgery has been scheduled twice already. I want to protect my spine. I somewhat resent references to my surgery as being an "elective procedure" like protecting my spine is the same as a tummy tuck face lift.

Anyway, my surgery is to replace a disc in my cervical spine with a space holder that will allow my compressed spine a chance to relax, possibly even allowing some of the previously affected body functions to become more functional again. I have a marvelous nervous system, and would love to regain some of the applications I have lost.

Over a month ago, I was scheduled for this surgery. I had done my blood test, I went to my pre-op appointment. I had met with my doctor, and he showed me all I needed to know about the problems I have, and the solutions he offers. I arrived for my surgery, got called in by the nurse, was wheeled into a room where I changed into a gown, and a catheter was placed in my arm. Drifting off to sleep, while waiting to go to surgery, a man tapped me on the shoulder, and said, "Your surgery has been canceled. We need to prepare you to go home."

My surgery was canceled once more, and this week, they have supposedly bumped up my surgery time to Monday. When will I know the surgery is happening? I suppose that I will be certain when the anesthesiologist says to me "Count back from one hundred." I do not know what to expect from this procedure. I do know I have waited a long time for it.

Many people have offered me their prayers , including an uncle who commented that these canceled surgery dates are adding to his prayer time. So, I have a wealth of friends, and many people offering up good wishes, thoughts, and prayers. I have prayed for willingness, acceptance, and freedom. I would feel selfish to tell God how this one day should end. Still, I remain excited, and anticipate only the best.

Thank you for reading

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Prayers, Mysteries, and Hope


I began my day with a prayer. Many years ago I read that upon awakening I should think about the day ahead, that I should consider my plans for the day, and with this reflection, I should pray. The prayer is that I should ask God to free me from self-pity, dishonest, or self-seeking motives. Of all the prayers I have been offered, I think this one is so very valuable. In the eighteen years since I was given this instruction, I have only now began to say with discipline the prayer.

Perhaps that is a point on which I might gather some piece of humility. I can awake, proud, content with the righteousness of my actions, and secure in the thought I am giving back as much as I am receiving. I learn a lot about myself when I am "too busy" to say the prayer. Maybe I have a vested interest in cultivating my self-pity, dishonesty, or self-seeking motives. That vested interest comes from my own overwhelming selfishness. By asking that these traits be removed, I become willing to see the promise in living more honestly, and less self absorbed.

Ironically, I think it is my selfishness and self-pity that I have not written in my blog for around six months. I have become disappointed in the progress of my physical problems, and was not maintaining my excitement for life. Maintaining excitement can be a choice, and trying to find excuses to write seemed pointless. So, today I am writing, and I hope to continue sharing honestly about my world

When I began this blog in its current form almost wo years ago, I quoted Ken Kesey's discussion on warriors. He wrote:

" The answer is never the answer. What’s really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you’ll always be seeking. I’ve never seen anybody really find the answer—they think they have, so they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer."

So, today I am still in a wheelchair. I have a person that comes and helps me with my home concerns. I have seen a picture of my spine, and saw the point where my spine is constricted, limiting the function in my hands and legs. In less than two weeks, gifted neurologists will replace a disc in my neck, in hopes of taking pressure off my nerves. What can I expect?

The doctors cannot say. They will not say. No promises have been made, and thius time becomes even more exciting. I am content not knowing. Still, the idea, the hope that some 0f my nerve function may be restored, is very exciting!

So this is where we can cultivate our mystery. Today we can open doors, and leave them open. Let us wait, and see what comes through .