Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Being Mindful Everyday

Now, I didn't know that Jon Kabat-Zinn lives in Malaysia now. Did you? Do you know who Jon Kabat-Zinn is? He is the one who put "mindfulness meditation" on the map and is involved with the stress reduction clinic and Center for Mindfulness Medicine at U Mass medical school. He is also Professor Emeritus of Medicine. 

Dr. Zinn must be an extraordinary person. He is not only so well versed in mindfulness, he is also a teacher, scientist and clinician. Those areas make him sort of legit given our current ways of thinking in this modern world. I think his philosophy is not a difficult one to understand. Every moment to moment feeling and thought is what it is all about. Living in the present moment. I know...I know, not easy to do. However, think about the amount of time we waste living in the past which almost always causes sadness or feelings that may or may not matter. If we think about all the things we have to do or get done in our future, we get stressed, I do anyway. So, I suppose that leaves the present, doesn't it?

Amazon has one of his books at their site:  They have a kindle edition which I might think about getting. 

You know, I have thought about embracing this way of thinking too many times. Look at how inexpensive this is to do especially when healthcare is off the charts expensive. I will certainly start expanding my knowledge base with reading his book. I know nothing of the man except he has all my attention with this way of being.

Aside from just living in the moment and keeping our emotions from de-railing or our psyche from falling off the edge, Kabat-Zinn's practice has tremendous impact in health and chronic illness. 

Before I proceed, a disclaimer, please just keep in mind that this meditation may not take the place of emergency medicine if the situation calls for it. Your healthcare providers should be aware of your involvement in this practice if you take it on.

Chronic illness if such a hardship for many folks. People live with things that may plague them everyday, so what to do? Everyone treats these things differently. Some people live with enormous amounts of pain, others live with a lot of energy issues that causes them to revolve around schedules to accommodate this. A huge part of this form of meditation, besides in my mind being realistic, is the old cognitive behavioral method of changing your thoughts. You know that saying, "you are what you eat," similarly "you are what you think?" I don't think that far off. You behave and act in ways that your thoughts are setting you out to behave! I know that when I get in arguments over silly things like politics, environmental issues and the nastiness, resistive nature can be dictated by how steamed I am about something else! If I was already in a bad mood, you probably are no match for arguments I pull out of my head just to win an argument! Aaarrgg that is such an alarming way to be. Your "story" matters so little when you think about it. You need to have an impact by momentary interaction with relevant things, does that make sense? In other words, why would I try to make a point that doesn't matter in the moment?

Off I go now to live a little more in today and not yesterday or tomorrow. Let me try it -- it's all good!

Monday, September 24, 2012

To Do or Not to Do....

I am sure if a fairy walked in my door and asked for me to wish for something, I don't think I would say "get rid of the MS", I think I would say, "make me walk again." Well, there is no genie in a bottle in my life because I have to work hard at everything I do! Specifically, walking.

I have forever done searches on ways to make foot drop go away -- my searches yielded everything from the common orthotic options to a surgery that can correct this malady. Surgery, a simple option? No surgery is simple. A highly trained technician performs his or her magic and you can only hope they were not having a bad day when they work on you! What is foot drop? This is experienced by about 30% of people with MS, I believe, -- and in several others, including stroke, brain injury, parkinsons, cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions. What happens is the nerve that lifts the foot is paralyzed. So, your foot is paralyzed and you don't have a normal gait. I use a WalkAide to work the foot out because it is programmed to lift the toes when I walk. I also use a small brace that requires me to haul my foot around but prevents spraining a paralyzed ankle. This is how I have lived for over a decade.

So, then I read this:  Naturally one's first response is to get excited. I am 46 and still have the ability to recover -- I'm not 76. This is a 2008 article and this surgery has been around for a while. I'm sure they have only perfected it.

So, that is the first stage -- I see the article, get excited and think about walking again. Maybe I could go on vacation and walk on cobble stones? Maybe. Hey I could even walk up and down the street outside my house. Walking quite normally and looking up at things when I walk and not down at my foot that could turn at any moment. Right? I used to do all this so why not again? I'm sort of young so why not live a little?

Now for the rub. Tendon transfer is what they do. They take the existing tendon that now pushes the foot down -- which happens to be just fine. It is the tendon that pulls the foot up that is the problem. They take this tendon (the one that works), I believe, splice it, thread it through the appropriate hole and use the spliced one to replace the paralyzed one. So, after the surgery, the brain has to be retrained to use this tendon to pull the foot up and not push it down. I have read varying recovery times. Lots and lots of rehab. There is recovery that goes with all this. I've seen numbers as much as a year. 

OK, foot drop is not the only issue here. You have heard me go on and on about spasticity. For god sakes, the left lower leg hardly bends. So, if I got this done, the spasticity will remain. I also have balance issues because of this. Looking at my feet when I walk -- that is more complicated than just staring at the foot. That has to do with "attention" a cognitive construct having to do with lots of environmental stimuli. The brain doesn't just la-de-da look at things and enjoy them! The brain has to compartmentalize objects and not get overwhelmed.

This puts the surgery in a different light, doesn't it?

For now, I will talk to my neurologist and keep thinking on things. Either I manage as I have been for years or I make a life change. I'll know to make the right decision, I hope.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Small Town Wonder

This morning was a treat, to say the least. It was my day to go into town, Worcester, NY, an absolutely charming town. Even though I am not involved in town anything, board, library etc. I have never felt more at home anywhere. Worcester is doing quite well in every way that a small town could. It has one local market, two real estate agents, The Worcester White House Inn with dining and lodging, a library (which also shows movies), a hardware store, a seamstress -- all on the main drag. It is precious, really. This morning I had to go to the market and then the seamstress to pick up my jeans that she had altered. I did not think to take my camera but will take some pictures tomorrow when I go in to see a friend. 

I forgot to mention that there are also two handicapped parking spots on Main Street. Thank goodness for that. Without them I would have difficulty getting around as easily as I do. The market has parking in back of the building and a ramp. Not in the best shape but I can manage. So, this is where I began my excursion. I exited my car to find the butcher and owner of the market on the back stoop taking a break. I was greeted as we exchanged how lovely Autumn in Worcester is! It is nice to be un-pressured as I walked through the store with a little cart and my back pack which helps with carrying bags back to the car. Free arms is what it is about!

More chatter inside, fun as I didn't realize how the butcher was very aware of what  I loved -- sundried tomato chicken sausages. I piled my little cart with things I needed to stock up on. I also got my sausages. The owner Bill, offered to help me with the bags but fortunately he had to carry only one. 

Well that just affirmed my reason for loving it here. My next stop was Elke, the seamstress. She is German and a hoot! Her workshop looks like a mad tailor's shop but organized chaos at best. I had called a few days ago letting her know that I had something to pick up and have learned as she tells me "I am not good at calling people!" I sat in a chair just to catchup as she showed me pictures of when she was younger and not "fat" as she puts it. I don't think fat but she is definitely built like a German! "I love to eat" she says unabashedly. Of course she was completely stunning in her younger years but she still is. I paid her and got prepared to leave for my little walk back to the car. She always shows so much concern for my welfare and always says I have so much "spirit."

I had to sit down once again as Elke started telling me one of her stories. This time she talked about moving up here from Long Island and just loving the property that she and her husband own. She walks about three miles a day with her dog and calls the great outdoors "her church." We then talked about health, medicine and life. She is not a fan of medicine even though her cholesterol is on the higher side. Then the phone rang as I heard a frustrated wife dealing with her frustrating "Italian" husband. I rested my legs a little longer because I had to walk back to my car.

What a  delightful morning. Most people wouldn't call this doing much but to me it meant the world.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nobody is perfect

Today I sat down with so many thoughts on my mind. I am troubled by the political situation today and how the 47% are all lumped together regardless of why they are where they are. Of course I have things to say but have resigned myself to the fact that certain things in my life will probably never change. Why? why? why? did things change the way they did is of course a puzzle for so many of us with chronic conditions. 

When I feel threatened or annoyed at someone insensitive (thank god there are not so many of them), I tend to go into my own mind about the times when things were "different". But the amount of work we have to do just to get on and feel positive in our own minds and environments is a real challenge. So, you have the challenge itself, the stages and phases, dealing with this debacle with new stages, being a nice person, working hard at whatever it is you do, fighting social stigma, dealing with healthcare issues, and just LIVE. Then you hear certain politicians who feel the need to separate us from success. I would not say someone like Dr. Steven Hawkings is not a success! Come on. Right now I feel that this political game has become a "survival of the fittest", rich and poor divide that I am having trouble tolerating.

I certainly hope that society doesn't feel the same way. There are so many of us on this planet that of course we can't all agree. One of the candidates wife has MS. Now there is a show stopper as she was during the convention, walking around all glam sham in shoes that I could only dream of wearing! How will she affect the political landscape? She, whether or not she likes it, is one of us. 

Where am I going with all this? I strongly feel that certain people who do not walk in the shoes of those with challenges do not need to pontificate and be so demeaning. I also understand that many many people "play" the system. I cannot elaborate because I tend to look away when I notice this happening with welfare fraud etc. but they should not be lumped in with the rest of us who did not ask for certain challenges not of our own making. 

Last night we were watching "Wallander," a Masterpiece Mystery and commenting on how dark Sweden and the Swedes are -- of course this is just our interpretation. Then I started thinking back to a previous life in graduate school and negotiating the Minneapolis airport. Interestingly, so many people in Minnesota are of Nordic stock. Aside from one of my trips down memory lane that I mentioned above when things were "different" with my physicality, I wonder if I saw more then because I was more mobile? Do I just rely on what my memory has in stock for the numerous occasions when I need to pull information out? Oh, I don't know. Now I've shot out on a tangent.

What I'm trying to say through all this, is that yes some of us might be lumped in to that 47% of people who are not perfect (for lack of another word) yet our lives are richer in ways that some people do not understand. We have had to make our lives -- sometimes all over again just so we can cope.

Monday, September 17, 2012


I am ready to travel to someplace disability friendly and fun. I searched everywhere for a place that fit those criteria and since I really didn't want to travel to Europe, specifically Sweden (well known for it's accessibility standards), I looked around for some place relatively close. Toronto would be about six hours from me. It is Canada and all I need to get in is my passport, gas and of course money.

What initially attracted me to Toronto was an East meets West attitude as well as being a truly diverse city. I listened to a piece on NPR this morning that talked of the influx of South Asian films into the Toronto International Film Festival, a real departure from the European films. The article also focused on Indian film director Mira Nair. She is well known for films like Salaam Bombay, Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake and others. A mix of some Bollywood but with a real story of Indian roots. Wow, how cool is that?

Now, like many other persons with difficulty ambulating and having to pay attention to needs that go along with traveling, my search seems to go beyond just finding a place to go. But I am so fortunate that I don't need a mobility device constantly. I can walk short distances and have trouble walking if it's too hot.

So, what seemed feasible to me is driving and parking the car in whatever lodging we stay in. Then, we can focus on things in the area so that David can walk and I can scooter. I found a site that has scooter rentals in Toronto:

Toronto scooter rerntal

I never thought about renting a scooter before. And the prices are reasonable. I already have a scooter but it is not tough, meant mainly for indoor use. This makes me think of the streets and sidewalks, how wide are they? Easy to navigate a scooter in a walking city? But given the "inclusive" philosophy of Toronto I am sure getting around would not be a problem. Also, I just need to scooter to a place, park it and then walk in with my assitive device. I wonder what the sidewalks look like.

Toronto sidewalks
Of course these are pictures found in a random google search. But this gives me a good idea what things are probably like. There seems to be enough space for pedestrians as well as pedestrians with mobility devices. So, I can only hope this is really what things are like.  Ok, now for what the city itself looks like -- some fun street scenes and the fashionable downtown area.

This blog had some nice cafe pictures and many of them are copyrighted so I am pasting the link here as the resource. Wow, these places seem really hip and fun to sit and eat, have a glass of wine. Interestingly, so many scenes have remenants of snow on the sidewalks but one can go during the summer months or the autumn when prices are considerably less.

Street Cafe
Agora Mediterranean Cafe

So, all in all it seems doe-able. Of course it is not as easy as just going anywhere and hoping for the best! One has to plan particularly if one has a challenge. Toronto is expensive like any other city but with a bit of planning, things could work out well. But it is important to note as I found out that May through July is a heavy tourist season which is the summer time but if you pack warm clothes, parka and all, the autumn time from October through November is also pleasant and a lot cheeper. For people in my situation it might be easier when it's cooler but if I am not trying to ambulate I enjoy the sun and warmth as much as the next person! If I start planning, I might just make it -- maybe next year!

I know they have these virtual tours and trips for many people with disabilities but I really think the world is coming around and making environmental barriers less obtrusive for many of us who just want to enjoy places like any one else. Getting on public transportation might be hard for some time to come but even that is getting better in some places. Until it is a reality we just have to accomodate our respective situations. I can do that, I'm at least an expert in that area!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Just Another Day!

Today started out strange. Let me explain what I mean. I had a great night's sleep, that was not the problem. I got too tired a little too quickly. Not hard to do when you have something like MS, trust me. For one reason or another, there is a great deal of physical fatigue that goes along with every other kind of fatigue. That is why occupational therapists teach energy conversation strategies. I went to OT school, I know, plus I live it. 

Looking back on what I did and what  I could change if I had my wits about me:  I thought it was going to be cooler than it was. So, I was dressed too warm, huge Heat for some reason is very destructive for most of us. So, I did some activities that I probably should not have when I was too hot. I swept, yes with a broom the kitchen and a hallway. Then I took my little basket of delicates down stairs to the laundry. More activity when I was too warm. I even used my cricket to go outside for a little while, even that felt like a struggle? Ooof, I have since changed my clothes, opened windows and am under my own orders to sit down -- and here I am.

My "gateway"
Every one blogs about nature, right? I am not blogging about it -- I just took a couple of pictures which I thought might be of interest. This is not the first time I have looked at this spot. I look at it several times a day and actually ride my cricket through it. It enters onto the field behind the house. Nature sort of formed a canopy of apple trees. Surrounding this are a group of day lilies which bloom in the summer and add to the magic of the gateway. In that grouping there are also blackberries and other berries that the birds know better than I do. I noticed two things in my ride this morning. One, the leaves are turning.....after all it is September 14th! and second, I am not an "overly" nature person, but I do have spots that I like. Below is another one: my shade apple tree for dog days of summer.

My "shade" tree
On beastly hot days I come here on my cricket with my kindle and just read. All I hear are sounds of nature. Wow, that sounded poetic! It is just utopia, and honestly getting overheated early can be remedied, I can find ways to cool down and maybe not walk to the mailbox today, cricket instead. It is blissful being able to escape the humidity everywhere else but under this tree. It really is quite amazing that little bit of shade is like air conditioning outside!

If you keep going on a straight path under that tree, there is another vegetable garden in addition to the one behind the tree. And beyond that, is a natural spring which feeds the house.
My phlox

The last picture I saved was of my phlox-- so happy and add such a delight when I pull into the driveway. Nice and white with a little bit of pink -- makes everything else look so nice. I have some other pictures but no need. There are so many lovely pictures out there that people take and have profound thoughts about. I just have my spots that I can view easily and feel great about.  I really wish the ground was a little more even or that I could walk better. But you know what? I am fortunate in so many ways that walking is just over rated! Cricketing is definitely more fun!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Botox for spasticity

I just got home from breakfast with a friend, who is a nurse and works with anesthesia for various patients who require certain procedures. We had a delightful morning just talking about our lives, how happy we are to live in our town, our activities and so on. We ate our delicious omelets and talked and talked over coffee. I was talking so much that I completely forgot I had ordered juice! Barbara is on vacation and had a bridge game to attend so we finally stopped chatting. Ah, it is so important to have friendships that matter and just help set the tone for the day!

Once we had to break away from the cozy spot we were in, I got up slowly so I didn't knock over the chair along with my cane and everything else, I stopped and explained how spasticity in my left leg hinders most everything I do. You find spasticity in many conditions including cerebral palsy, stroke, brain injury, almost any condition that involves the central nervous system in some way. Spasticity in MS can occur in the upper limbs or lower limbs. In my case my left leg. There are a number of involuntary muscle contractions that happen because of disruption of the central nervous system. My brain, disrupted in its signals to certain muscles, cannot tell the muscle to relax when it should instead making it contract. The result is too much tone and tightness. This link explains spasticity in a more medical way.

 I just talk of my experience with spasticity.  Now, how can I or rather, is there a way that I can reduce this tightness without suffering in a big way from the oral agents that they have now? Now everyone knows how I am not a fan of big medicine. I am also not a fan of temporary relief! So, my friend told me of all the people she had seen with cerebral palsy, including kids who needed anesthesia to undergo this procedure. Botox injections! I must say, she got me thinking.

My mind whirled around as I thought of regaining some of my range of motion in that leg -- which is now being blocked by increased muscle tone and central nervous system imbalance. The nerves in that leg are not firing right and the muscles are not getting the right signals. Forgive me if I sound repetitive, it is only because I'm thinking aloud. The substance in question is acetacholine, which is what Botulinum Toxin blocks so the muscle can relax. This is what the upshot of the conversation was. She made it all sound so routine. She also said that that Botox "takes" for about 3 months in most people.

So, I did some reading on how there are side effects with all this, including weakness in the muscle that is being relaxed as well as surrounding muscles. Anything invasive, I am pretty against. I think I will manage like this until something without side effects comes along. Yes, this would certainly bring me relief but in someway brings with it a whole new learning curve. Am I afraid to get on that curve and am I being silly by not trying? Maybe, but I think a good massage relaxes me too. I know it's not the same thing but it just doesn't sound appealing particularly since I've endured so much already. In my case, less is more.

I have tried oral agents and a host of other things that seem logical. But walking into an office and then having to return every so often is not the answer I seek. In the middle of the winter when I could be doing so many more constructive things, I do not want to sit in a doctor's office. Honestly, life is just too short. There are too many other things I could be doing!

More power to the young people with cerebral palsy and other conditions who go through this.

I will wait patiently, just like I have for 26 years but know what? I have learned so much along the way that I don't think I would have just going for ready answers.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Patience? You mean they have a problem?

Oh, I was in such a tizzy over the fact that someone had not acknowledged receipt of my email! It was a story I had worked hard on and just a "thanks, I will read it" would have done me just fine. Days went by so I re-sent my story to said person and waited patiently. After a while longer it was almost as though I was stalking this person just to see if they would respond. Of course they didn't. Now I didn't know how or what to think.

Of course life was revolving around me at the same time, i.e. there were other things I was thinking about. I then was on FB one day and read a post by a friend whose son has Aspberger's Syndrome, just like Dr. Temple Grandin who has put that disability on the map. Now there is a condition to be reckoned with. Aspbergers is in the very complicated autism spectrum -- which means that of all the degrees which autism represents, all the shades of the disorder, Aspberger's is definitely one that has criteria. 

While in graduate school, I did some clinical work in a facility, more like a school for children with autism. I was continually stunned by the differences and variations that I saw in these children. Some were young adults. They all had autism but some were high functioning and others were not as high functioning and exhibited strange, infantile behaviors that required constant staff supervision. I can't begin to tell of you of all my readings on autism over the years. But the one that fascinated me was Aspberger's syndrome. If you get a chance, watch "Dr. Temple Grandin", the animal behaviorist and scientist with Aspberger's who went on to her doctorate and now teaches at Colorado State University. The story is nothing short of fascinating. She has autism but is so brilliant and recognizes her struggles but is no less intelligent than someone without the condition.

My reason for bringing this up in the first place, was because a certain person did not respond to my email!!

After much discussion on this subject with someone who knows this person, looking at other behaviors exhibited over the years, plus age of course, we speculated that this person needs clear instructions on whether or not to answer my mail. In other words, if the person knows to answer back to me, i.e. I tell her to do that, she will respond appropriately. Interestingly also, this person has a history of complex childhood issues and absolutely loved the movie Temple Grandin. So, we pieced all this together and concluded as best as we could that maybe this person lies somewhere in the spectrum of autism. Of course we are not medical scientists and are not claiming to be but the behavior pattern, including other features fit Aspberger's or something remarkably close to it!

This was an eye opener for me. I was on my own rant regarding the habits of this individual and was almost taking things personally. This was a lesson to me, not to do that. People come in all flavors with disabilities across the map, physical disabilities with gray shades and mental disabilities with many gray shades.

I know, it takes enormous patience to deal with issues like these. At least now I am aware that this can happen!

Friday, September 7, 2012

All Disabilities are not Created Equal

This morning I heard of a friend who won the bronze  in the Paralympics -- in the women's 100M wheelchair race. Besides thinking how amazing a feet that was and admiring all the athletes who competed in the games, my mind started wandering. That is no surprise, I am a thinker!

This is the chair my friend used. Look at the strength in the athlete, the arms so strong the face so determined. Wow besides that chair being so powerful on that track, it is downright itimidating to compete with that fierce determination! I am happy that the world has now come to recognize that persons with disabilities don't need to be put away but are to be reckoned with.
Look at this runner! What it must feel like to run on something that is not your own body. Personally I can't imagine. They are like all other athletes except that they are missing limbs. Missing limbs has it's own problems. I hear about phantom limb syndrome where the brain has trouble dealing with the missing limb and there is a great deal of pain associated with this. Isn't it amazing that humans can still use the remaining parts to do what is needed. 

There is a man in my town who is an amputee from the thigh down who uses crutches to walk up and down Main street. More power to him and although he continues to ask for rides, he is young enough to make his journey.

Now I want to show you my non paralympic mode of transport and explain why I am not like those athletes. People are interesting and they see a handicapped individual and may not have enough information to understand why some people can't just put on those legs or use a wheelchair with prowess.

My situation is not the same as those athletes. My brain is involved in this  neurovascular/degenerative condition. My brain  has been the target of attacks that have rendered some parts of my body quite hopeless. In other words, I can't wish my body to do certain things. Sad, I know. I won't go into lengthy clarifications but suffice to say that some "signals" are not reaching the brain so that it can tell the body what to do, i.e. lift the leg or quickly extend an arm to break a fall. Balance is affected, so is vision so that it is almost impossible to do some things too quickly or with flair and finesse. I just want people to understand this. I could don those legs but not have the balance required to walk on them. 

Life is not fair and I suppose if it was, we wouldn't have much to think about! Remember there are always shades of gray in most everything in life. When you get upset or angry at someone or something, stop and try to see the lines and what is between them. People always say that there are two sides to every story! Maybe there are more. Sometimes it is not about winning a race but about making some sort of race possible! My cricket takes me where I want to get to -- that might be my race. We always think of races and athletes but sometimes there are ordinary people with ordinary races who are also athletes. They may not look like athletes or win medals. 

The point here is that, I can't train to make something "stronger" that cannot be strengthened. I need to work within my limits and feel the power of what I do have, making life easier and better and be a good sport while doing it! Whatever my race for the day, which today the plan to go shopping did not work out simply because it's too hot and muggy and I chose to sit at my computer instead. I also want to go out on my cricket and pick some tomatoes. Is that a race? You bet it is. So, I have used my daily race to make my life better, possible and above all, enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sheer will

I had no idea what those words meant until now because that is what it takes every time I have to do anything -- sheer will! I remember in my running days I just mustered any strength I had to finish a race or the inner competitor who kept saying, "you can absolutely finish!!!". If one knew one's inner competitor before, one can find it again and make it's role more in line with where you are now. Make sense? Sure... it's not hard to understand at least for me.

Let me take you on a journey of my morning and the next time I will take you along for my day. This will be fun, promise -- and instructive I hope.

My mental & physical treadmill
These stairs are what I consider my mental and physical exercise machine, all 11 of them. They lie between most things I do. Come down to the kitchen first thing in the morning to begin my day, go up to my study to do some work, come down to shower and have lunch, go back up to work some more then come down for the evening. Honestly, on some days it is not that organized. In between I come downstairs to walk outside to check the mail, look at my flowers, make coffee, have a snack etc. 

Why should anyone care about my morning activity? Remember my blog about human occupation and working? If you don't that is fine, it's just that this is part of what I do. Also, sometimes I lower a basket of laundry down the stairs with a rope and then some more stairs to the basement to wash. Does all this take energy? Oh my goodness, yes. And as if this isn't enough, I sometimes want to take a cup of coffee upstairs to drink while I work. 

It is not easy for me to climb. I have foot drop and spasticity in my left leg -- so not only is my foot paralyzed, my leg doesn't bend!! What a dilemma. This is where sheer will comes in. Every step is a challenge but thinking I can...thinking I can makes it happen just like when I ran the 400 meter relay ready to pass the baton to a team mate. Except here the baton is internal because I just have to get from point A to B to do my business. So, the job doesn't have to be perfect, I don't have to win, I just have to get there.

I know I said a lot of things but basically, this is how I organize my morning: I come down that treadmill, have breakfast with David, wash up, listen to some news, have my coffee and then get ready to bring a cup up to do some of my own work. Fortunately there is a bathroom on either end of the treadmill, i.e. stairs. I shut out the world, concentrate on what I have to do upstairs -- anything from making a bed to paying a bill online. Then I can hear the mail lady about an hour and a half later. This is my signal to tear myself away from my computer. Now it's down the treadmill -- a little easier than coming up -- collect myself for a bumpy walk to the mailbox (we live in the country). This is almost like that relay but at my own speed! I read the mail, listen to some more news and if the laundry is done (if I did it that day), I carefully bring it upstairs -- step by step -- basket up a step, take a step and basket up again -- just like the coffee. Sometimes, I bring the coffee up too if I am feeling ambitious.

I deal with hanging up the laundry, work a little more, put on my robe and head down for a shower. I come back up to do some more work or chores. I feel pretty accomplished at this point. I have read the NY times, communicated with the world, taken my shower, had my exercise and am ready for the afternoon. Oh, I think I just heard the mail lady's car. Time for my walk!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kate & Jeanette: Seeing the World

The dynamic duo does not even begin to explain these two! I have seen other duo's like this but Kate & Jeanette have been paired together as if they have one mind. Jeanette is a 3 year old yellow lab -- product of doggie school training specifically for the blind. Kate is a young woman in her thirties, maybe the same year as Jeanette in doggie years? I am not sure how that works but  Jeanette is a young dog, Kate is a young woman who just wants to do her best in life. In many ways they are helping the other to live happily, experiencing the best of life.

I have known Kate for a few years now. She is a licensed massage therapist with myriad interests in the healing arts. She is trying to grow her business which is a hard task for anyone young, newly licensed, with the indomitable spirit that comes from being talented, giving with an insatiable love for learning. I am not sure how I ended up on Kate's therapy table but she did craniosacral work on me as she learned and perfected her art. A placement of hands on different positions, with the pressure of a "quarter" with the intention of manipulating human tissue and bones that have been otherwise shifted or in need of re-arranging. Esoteric? I thought so when I first experienced this touch. But she learned as she gave me weekly and monthly sessions. And I learned too, mostly that I was feeling things. Of course I couldn't articulate what I was feeling but as the universe has a way of working, I just started feeling better. She played her magic week after week, month after month as she tried different manipulations.

 So, she had given me a gift.

Jeanette laid on her blanket in Kate's little office space very quietly as we nattered on about the world, our lives and our various aspirations. One time Jeanette licked my toes during a session reminding me that just because she was an esteemed graduate of doggie training school, she was still out to have a little fun. Kate & Jeanette came and stayed with us for a very brief visit just a few days ago and this was the first time Jeanette had experienced the great outdoors in our country heaven. She ran around the perimeter of the house like a million horses! I don't think I have ever seen a dog have that much fun! She would come in the house occasionally to make sure Kate thought it was OK for her to have this fun -- like she was asking permission! Needless to say, by the end of that day we had one tired dog! Later, Kate and I just nattered on and on about almost everything and decided to take a walk down the country road right outside our house. Kate walked along with my cane, I rode in my little golf cart and Jeanette walked along without a leash. We talked as Jeanette stayed close to Kate and wandered off once in a while but always came back to check on her, she also always came back when Kate called her. Impressive to say the least! Of course things that moved things like rodents -- gave Jeanette a chase or a mucky ditch was more interesting to Jeanette than anything she sees on a daily basis! But she was always close by and never let Kate out of her sight. But that is her life occupation, a seeing eye dog. In this case, a life companion as well. So we walked almost a mile, maybe more but once again Jeanette was a pooped dog!

Time was nearing for Kate & Jeanette to get on a bus back to Syracuse. Kate packed up and Jeanette watched knowing something was about to take place as she watched Kate place her working dog "harness" in the car. 

I'll be honest with you, we never give some animals enough credit for what they can do for us. Just watching a dog mold to her human's wishes and needs leaves me speechless. Jeanette never complained about anything but Kate is careful not to ever make a situation where Jeanette might cross the delicate line that is a part of their relationship. Kate also doesn't "coddle" Jeanette too much, just enough that Jeanette knows the value of Kate's love.